Saturday, August 23, 2014

German East Africa: Outpost Attack AAR

So Steve, Victor, and I managed to meet up for some African gaming today.  The local hobby shop was unavailable due to a swap meet, so Victor's wife graciously allow us to take over her dining room.  She even fixed lunch!

The game consisted of a raid on a German outpost (Steve) by native and British troops (Victor and yours truly).  To make things a bit more interesting, we also had some wild animals roaming the board, along with some cattle that could be captured and used to offset a failed moral test.

Overview of the outpost

 An advanced KAR unit deploys on the British left to flush out any hidden German troops.

British infantry prepare to start up the road.

 German askari prepare to move through the banana trees.  Lions have recently been spotted around the farm, so they have to be careful.

 Victor decides to don some appropriate headgear  as he deploys his askari.

The start of round one, and it's time to review rules as everyone is a bit rusty.

German troops safely snake through the banana trees behind a scout, while a puzzled rhino looks on.

The advanced guard of KAR troops spring a Masai ambush.

Native warriors break out of the scrub brush and head down the road towards the hotel.

The German command and a small group of native archers assemble at the trading outpost.  Askari have been stationed at the hotel windows to snipe at advancing forces.

British askari scurry out from behind the hill and manage to avoid the German snipers.

The KAR troops pull back and set up a firing line in preparation for the Masai assault. A European settler and the British forces also start to get into position.

Native horsemen and riflemen spring out of the bushes on the British right and head for the outpost.

In a panic, the KAR troops only manage to shoot one Masai before the onslaught begins. 

Native warriors rush down the road towards the German command.

The German scout leads the askari up a hill, where they have a prime view of battle between the Masai and KAR.

The Germans send out a witch doctor to spook the native troops, but he is quickly gunned down before he can cause a panic.

German askari continue their trek from the farm to the hill, managing to grab some cattle that had passed  through their line.  The rhino has wandered off, but is still in the area.

Spotting the natives coming down the road, the German command and the archers start to advance.

 The battle with the Masai is a bloodbath. The few KAR not slaughtered run like mad off the board.  The European settler looses his gun porter, but manages to survive. 

German sailors enter the farmhouse, only to discover there is no path from the back doors to the front veranda.  They will get bogged down trying to break through the walls.

 The natives and askari are almost to the hotel.  They manage to grab some cattle on the road, but the hotel snipers score some shots as they move forward.

The rhino has returned and though annoyed, it doesn't charge into the German askari. 

Not being stupid, the lone European settler will beat a hasty retreat from the Masai and look for a spot to hide.  In the background, the British command prepares for what they know is coming.

A firefight breaks out between the British askari and the German archers, while the German command runs for the farmhouse. The native chief and his warriors don't plan to let them get far.

The Masai slam into the British command, while troops head for the hill in hopes of establishing a firing line.

A lion appears, dragging one of the German askari to his death, while the rhino continues to be puzzled by the whole situation.

British askari engage the archers, while the British-allied natives chase down the German command.

Native horsemen and a witchdoctor head towards the sound of battle.  The German snipers try to hit them but fail.

However, the snipers do manage to drop a few members of the chief's entourage.

Last moments of the British commander. At least he managed to take one warrior with him.

 Hand to hand combat breaks out at the hotel.

The German askari and a sharpshooter (hidden in the banana trees) whittle down the British riflemen, while the Masai swing around the hill and eventually finish them off. The British settler hiding under the lower right tree manages to shoot down the German scout.

You can run, but you can't hide.  The chief's warrior surround the German command.

The German askari on the hill take out the sniper.

The native horse head towards the Masai, but come under fire from the sailors in the farm house, who have finally made it to the front of the building.

Some of the German askari finally emerge from the hotel (they had been trying to open the door for a few rounds) and engage the natives in the scrub.  The native horse suffer further losses and flee the field.

The chief watches with glee as his warriors dismember the German command.

At this stage we were out of time and had to end the game, but chalked it up as a German victory.  It was a lot of fun and I was really happy to have a chance to try out my new terrain. Plus the hotel veranda survived the trip to Victor's house and back, which was a great relief.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hotel Zur Neu-Moschi

The hobby closet is still in shambles while I wait for the drywall to be replaced, but the trim I ordered came in this week, so I was able to finish up the next building for my Deutsch Ostafrika outpost.

This is Hotel Zur Neu-Moschi.  Neu-Moschi (now just called Moshi) was a military outpost near Kilimanjaro and was the final stop on the Usambara Railway in the early 20th century. 

I haven't been able to find much in the way of photographs of this area from the Great War time period, so I'm building a fictionalized version of the outpost.  However, this hotel is actually inspired by another hotel in German East Africa, the Hotel Zur Stadt Dar-Es-Salam:

 When I first saw this photograph, I fell in love with this building and wanted something similar on my table.  I searched the web and also picked the brains of folks on Lead Adventure Forum, and nobody knew of 28mm buildings of this style.  I was advised I'd either need to get one custom built (out of my budget) or scratch build it myself (above my skill set and too time intensive).  I brought up the idea of converting Arabic buildings, since there seemed to be a lot of such influence in the architecture of Zanzibar and northern coastal cities. A few people chimed in that it wouldn't look right.

I stewed on this for quite a while, and as I continued going through old period photos of the colonies, I saw there was a lot of diversity in the architecture, from heavily German style buildings to very Arabic looking buildings.  And though Arabic design was much less prevalent in European constructed buildings, you could sometimes find elements in the arches and windows. So with limited options, I decided to ignore the naysayers and see what I could do with an Arabic building. 

My building of choice was the resin Townhouse 2 from Najewitz Modellbau

Delivery was relatively quick from Germany to California, and I had my building in about 3 weeks.  Rather than a solid piece of resin, you get four walls, the roof, and a series of pegs that represent the wooden beams that support the roof and floor (though no floor is included).  No instructions were provided, but it's a simple enough kit that I don't think they are needed.  The wall are about as thick as MDF board (my guess is the master molds were made using MDF) with relatively few air bubbles.  However, there was a little variability in the thickness of the walls and some warping, so filing and dry fitting before gluing was in order and  everything wasn't going to be perfectly square.  As I also ordered Townhouse 3, I discovered that 3 out of the 4 walls and the roof are the same between the kits.

The above photo shows how the pegs fit into the walls.  Some pegs slid in easily, but some were tight and I managed to snap a few during assembly.  My suggestion would be to slide them in first and then set them in place with glue.

 Here is the assembled building. As I mentioned, it wasn't completely square, so I needed to file the walls and roof to get everything to fit. There were also some gaps at the wall pegs, so you'll need to do some filling to make them less obvious. I left the roof unglued so figures could be placed inside.  However, I didn't go to the trouble to decorate the interior or add an internal floor on the lower pegs.

Here it is with a bit of paint on it.  Blue doors can be found in the buildings of Zanzibar, so I decided to do the same here (though not sure if it's accurate for this area) just to provide a bit of extra color.  Also, some photographs show colored bands around the base of buildings.  Since the photos were black and white I had to guess what they were, but I thought blue-grey was a reasonable choice. 

Now even in Zanzibar flat roofs are uncommon, so it was time to start scratch building some elements.  I wanted to be able to use this as a Arabic building as well, so my goal  was to build elements that could be removed for them building fairly easily. First up was a metal roof.

This was built using 1.5mm thick art board, with a covering of corrugated metal textured plastic that I picked up at a local model train shop. The edges were covered with strips of manila folder, and I trimmed the bottom with squared plastic rod that would form a lip that would fit over the top of the building.

To give the impression that the roof was made up of multiple metal sheets, I painted it using hobby masking tape.  The neutral grey primer was dry brushed with natural steel, then washed with diluted dark grey and red leather paint.  The tape was removed, touch ups made, and then further dry brushed with light grey, and two shades of orange brown.  The bottom lip was painted to look like stained wood.

After the roof, it was time to start construction on the veranda. This was again made of card and textured plastic.  As the building isn't square, I used the building as a template for the inner portion of the veranda roof, then tried to square the outside.

As I wanted the veranda to be removable, my plan was to rest part on the pegs protruding from the front of the building, then use plastic rod to create wooden posts to support the side and outer portion of the veranda. I was really worried about stability, so I thought it best to add an art card floor as well.  The building was again used to traced the inner edge and ensure a tight fit up against the doors. 

Even with the floor, the veranda wasn't as sturdy as I hoped. In fact, I managed to pull it apart as i tried to slide it off the building (learned I need to slide the building away from the veranda, not the other way around) and the posts had to be completely rebuilt. I did my best to keep everything square, but sadly some of the posts on the final product do lean a bit.  However, I don't think it will be that noticeable unless you are looking for it. Strips of manila folder were also added to the top of the roof line to further hide the gaps that appeared during reconstruction.

The veranda was painted according to the same methods used on the main roof.  I also put together a fiberboard base to hold the building and veranda together.

To help with the fragility of the veranda, I though it would be worth adding some brackets to the tops of the posts, along with a strip of decorative trim (this was present on the actual hotel).  I couldn't find an exact trim that matched, but I found something similar in O Scale (1:48) from Grandt Line, which I was able to order (along with the brackets) at the model train shop. Though I will still need to be careful with the veranda, both elements added some much needed strength to the structure.  Plus I think they look nice.

I wasn't sure if the trim would be metal or wood in that period, but I ended up going the metal route and painted it accordingly.   I also created two signs using a font (Gorgio) that was a close as I could find to the one used by Hotel Zur Stadt Dae-Es-Salam. I decided to leave "Stadt" off the sign, as Neu-Moschi was not yet a city at that time.  Though the signs were actually glued to the building, I used very little so I could easily pop them off if needed.

And here is a final peek at how everything can be disassembled.

So at the end of the day I end up with something that isn't completely accurate, but that I think is a reasonable facsimile.  Plus, I think it looks fairly impressive on the table, with a height of  almost  6 3/4" (16cm), and a footprint of 9" by 10 1/2" (22.5 by 26.5cm).