Being a treatise on VSF and Mars, and on 19th Century colonial warfare in general

(with a nod towards Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan, lest I take myself too seriously)

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Basing and Compromising

Confession time. I have been very lax at painting and basing for almost two years. Plenty of thinking, converting, green-stuffing and so on, but sod-all by way of concrete results.

The problem is that I've long been rethinking how to base my figures, so I've dillied and dallied, dallied and dillied, lost my way and  ... *cough* ... sorry, too many musicals on christmas telly.

Anyway, my figure size of choice is 15mm and the rules set of choice is from the Piquet stable. So far so good, and I've no intention of walking away from that. But one day (probably after I retire and move!) I might find opponents, and then the basing could be a bit restrictive - not to say the extreme reaction mentioning Piquet can have. Basically I want to have a bit of flexibility. Comments about having one's cake and eating it are unhelpful, by the way.

Piquet's DoB2 suggests a 3cm base width, with three foot figures to a base, but it's pretty flexible on this, as long you're being consistent within and between armies. Then there's the rules sets that use individual basing - TSATF, SC and SP for example, where three to a base would be a pain - I hate casualty caps. And ME is pretty fixed on 4cm bases.

I'm therefore rethinking basing, and leaning towards 2 foot figures on a 20mm frontage. This would allow me to use each base as equivalent to a 25/28mm figure for rules that work with individual basing. A 10-"figure" unit certainly LOOKS more impressive like this. As an aside, TSATF works well like this when using the Fastoso variant of 8 "figures" per unit. And 2 x 20mm would fit with the 40mm frontage that seems quite common.

So I'm working towards using 40mm base frontages as standard, with 4 infantry figures per base (or 2 x 2 if using 20mm bases), or 2 mounted or 1 gun on that frontage. The foot will be more fiddly to move, but I can maybe think up some decent movement bases to make this easier.

Of course that means a ⅓ increase in figures per infantry unit, so I might still change my mind as I start painting.


Oh, and a Merry Christmas all!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Fnuuk and Jee-oo

Some of the longer-term readers of this blog (two years and counting!) might recall that I decided that My Mars needed a bio-engineered form of bamboo that was used for things like musket barrels that I called Jee-oo.

Having just got my hands on the new production of Space:1889 by Clockwork Publishing* it appears that they have also come up with a bamboo-type plant.:
"... but across the steppes close to the equator grows a plant called ‘Fnuuk’. Known as the bamboo of Mars, it grows as tall as 25 feet and even forms real forests. Whilst the colder steppes of the Northern and the Southern hemispheres are easily accessible by mount or wagon, travelling the Fnuuk groves is true torture as the leaves of the Martian bamboo are as sharp as knifes."

Clearly Hill Martians use Fnuuk for poles and other building materials, and I could also believe it is used to create temporary zarebas such as those seen during the recent unpleasantness in the Sudan. Thankfully Colonel Burnaby was able to rescue Gordon (Hurrah!) without the need for a major rescue expedition which would have been an extremely difficult undertaking due not least to the geography of any route to Khartoum.

I am therefore happy to report that the latest publication of the Royal Martian Geographical Society has confirmed that various strains of Jee-oo appear to be domesticated forms of Fnuuk. I shall therefore be using the names interchangeably in future.

* This is essentially a translation of the Uhrwerk-Verlag production in German, which uses the Ubiquity system from Exile Games. The German release has been out for over a year, I think, and the artwork for their Venus and Mercury sourcebooks looks stunning - I can hardly wait for their publication!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hullcutter II

I have managed only a little more progress today.

That's the bits of the hull in one piece, with a triangle of balsa at the front to prop it up.

As you can see, I've smoothed off the top of the bow with a hot wire.

I glued some balsa strips half a deck-height to the lower deck, and then hot-wired the remaining angle of polystyrene away. That gets the same look as in the Sky Galleons illustrations.

The bow probably needs some more bulk to be added before adding a ram, but it's taking shape nicely.

It will need only a little more work to imitate the window openings - I guess it gets hot in there turning that crank!

However I am very aware that several problems are building up, so it's time to pause and note the lessons so far from this learning experience.

The Lessons, or "What I'll do differently next time around"

In no particular order:

1) lining up the various decks was a nightmare and, with hindsight, not done accurately enough. Part of the problem was that, in trimming the expanded polystyrene, it is just too easy to have the hot wire at slightly the wrong angle and slice too much off. Then the deck thicknesses aren't quite square, so you're lining them up by eye to get the best-looking fit - and that's not a good idea with my eyesight. This will now require some significant (and messy) sanding and filling to get things square - I'll wait for decent weather for that and do it outside - it's going to be messy! The panelling will cover it, of course, but it's probably a long way round for a shortcut and the rest of my fleet should really be built more efficiently.

2) Next time I might well consider placing balsa on the top and bottom of the layer of polystyrene (or foam) for the lower decks. If I can get these properly aligned then I'll have a much better match deck-to-deck - AND the hot wire trimming would be nice and square. Pushing pins through the polystyrene to line up the balsa wood might help with this.

3) Care will be needed with the weight of the ram. The basic build of the craft is very light, so I'll have to avoid a heavy ram if at all possible or the whole thing is going to get very unstable. It's probably going to be a compromise between solidity and weight - too much weight will raise the centre of gravity and pull it well forward at the same time. Both are bad ideas. I might make the rear keel a bit larger to add a counterweight, but there are limits. In my mind this is the knottiest problem I have to solve. I may try laminating thin balsa wood - hopefully by crossing the grain and soaking the white glue through it will make it robust whilst still fairly light.

4) I really should have planned in the flying stand before I started, and build it in as I went along. Polystyrene doesn't take a drill very well. I mean, it REALLY doesn't.

5) The more I work with the polystyrene, the more I think that using a heavier foam makes better sense. This should compress a lot less than expanded polystyrene, and will be a better anchor for propeller housings and the flying stands. I'm toying with the idea of using bbq skewers thrust through the hull to act as anchors for the prop housings, but I'm not confident that the current construction will be sufficiently robust to hold them firmly in place. Time will tell.

So, bottom line, I need to pause for thought and solve some of these problems before going further - the ram, keel and flying stand in particular. I suspect the ship will be a bit scrappy in the end, but it's been a good test so far and it will be interesting to see how to firmly attach propellors.

nil desperandum!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Hullcutter I

All I can say in my defence is that I blame DLI and his To Infinity and Beyond blog; he started making liftwood ships'n'things. And I'm nothing if not easily distracted.

It's been one of my long-term plans to make some sort of Martian liftwood galley. You know, one of those "OK, I'll do it right after I finish painting these, and base those, and then after I have added some of them, and ..." long-term plans.

Anyway, DLI's blog inspired me to drag it up my list of priorities. He's used balsa wood for the hull, which I probably wouldn't (I have neither the tools not the patience), but I find that seeing how someone else has done something always gives me ideas of how I might go about it. That's often because of a different set of skills or materials, and sometimes because I might want to achieve a different goal, but it's all good information. In fact that is why I often blog about how I build or convert stuff. It may be amateurish and you might not want to copy it, but it might just give you an idea about an alternative/related use for it, or trigger an idea for a better way to do something else, and good luck to you.

I decided I'd make a screw galley for my first attempt - I might manage to figure out cloudship masts and rigging in another lifetime - and I picked the Hullcutter from the "Cloudships & Gunboats" book as a fairly simple(?) one.

Next thing was to convert the deck plans. 18mm is about 6 feet in scale terms for my Peter Pig 15mm earthlings, so I fiddled with Word until I'd made a table with a 18mm grid. I then drew the Hullcutter decks onto copies of these grids.

I could have gone for a 20mm grid, but that's bigger by another 10%, and the length (14 squares-and-a-wee-bit) wouldn't fit onto printed A4 paper. Providence therefore dictated 18mm squares for my first attempt.

I also added some tabs towards of the rear of the lower deck to act as housings for the propellors. I know DLI had a few problems with getting these fitted, so forewarned  is forearmed!

I then cut the deck shapes out and glued them to 2.5mm balsa wood that I had lying around.

The next step was to carefully cut out the shapes on the balsa wood.

I glued the Lower, Bridge and Drag decks to some offcuts of 30mm expanded polystyrene sheet, cut out slightly oversize with a hot wire cutter. The main deck I left for gluing at a later stage.

I used white glue, which wasn't ideal due to the non-porous nature of polystyrene, but I scored it well (hopefully getting a better key for the glue), used lots of pressure and left it to dry well at each stage. Next time I might use a hot glue gun for a faster process!

Foamboard might turn out to be a better option that expanded polystyrene, but I used what I had lying around.

Once everything seemed to be dry, I used a hot wire cutter to trim some of the the polystyrene to the shape of the decks, especially where I needed straight lines to align the various decks. That was actually the entire thinking behind using the balsa wood in the first place - it would act as a guide for the hot wire cutter and make sure I didn't remove too much polystyrene by accident. (Yes, some thought really did go into this!)

Next step is to glue the layers together, and the main deck goes on top of the sandwich. Same glueing process.

I've left the drag deck off at this stage (this photo is with the glue only just on) so I can put some weight in top, but you can see it starting to take shape.

It's also quite obvious that I should also have added tabs to the main deck for the propellor housings! Ah well, next time ...

That is the result so far, but it's time to sign off soon, and the glue needs to dry.

The next stage might well be the trickiest as I will start to shape the hull and keep it as symmetrical as possible; angling or curving from the lower deck up to the main deck. Ultimately you won't see a lip of polystyrene round the edge of the main deck, and having the balsa wood decks will ensure I don't take too much off. Well ... it's good to have a plan anyway.

I still have to figure out a few more things before I'm done:
1) I'll have to cover the polystyrene for greater durability and a better look. I might use thin balsa strips for that, like planking. Or I might get a life and just coat the sides with some water-based filler.

2) Ram and keel. The ram in particular will have to be fairly sturdy as it will undoubtedly take some bashing as the model keels over (no pun intended ). I'll probably use thicker balsa wood, or a sandwich of balsa wood and/or mounting board to get the right thickness. A composite of the two materials might be the best solution for strength too.

3) Propellor housings. No idea how I'll do these yet - à voir.

4) Flying stand. For that I'm thinking of using a slow hand-drill to make a hole up into in each of the forward and the rear parts of the hull. The internal balsa wood layers should give the holes a shape and solidity that expanded polystyrene alone wouldn't. Or I might just embed the flying stand in the ram and keel if I make them solid enough.

5) Handrails. I've ordered some wooden stanchions from a model boat supplier in the UK, and I'll wait and see how they look. Alternatively I could use cocktail sticks or barbecue skewers for the uprights. It will probably be more balsa strips for the handrail bits (and I may add some heavier footings for the stanchions too).

6) Guns! (Two heavies, two rogues and one lob gun to be precise.) I'll probably bug Rodrick Campbell over at Highlander Studios, as he's been teasing us with pictures of 15mm Martian artillery that are in the pipeline.

But I'm happy with the start I've made. More to follow.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Hojaan-nuu I

The latest invention of my febrile imagination, whilst on holiday, is to be mixed in with my jingals for the skirmisher units.

The Hojaan-nuu is a crossbow that is used to launch a small rocket and is another example of the Martian's apparent backwardness actually being an inventive way to adapt older technology in their straitened circumstances.

The crossbow itself is fairly standard and lightweight, and can even be used as one in extremis. It is usually cocked with a lever or just by hand, but heavier ones have also been seen. Principally it is used as a device for launching a rocket ("Hojaan"). Most such rockets propel shrapnel-type shells, but others are explosives, flash-bangs, fragmentation devices or even solid projectiles. The crossbow launches the rocket in the desired direction and elevation, with the rocket igniting as it is fired - an ignition lanyard is wound round the crossbow string and is pulled out as the rocket parts company with the bow. This means that the missile is already about 10 yards away before it truly flames, ensuring that the firer is not fried, and quickly increases the velocity of the missile from about 180 ft/s to nearer 750 ft/s.

Shrapnel munitions
The shrapnel rocket is a tube about two fingers in diameter (2 inches) and two palms in length (8
inches) and is composed of thin bambuu. The front cap is usually conical and additional to the length of the tube. The shrapnel (typically ¾ inch heavy ceramic cubes) is packed round a fireproof fibrous inner tube in the forward half of the rocket, with a disc separating this from the propellant in the rear half. The inner tube extends down most of the length of the tube.

The firer is able to select he range of the shrapnel projectile by altering the angle of the launch, clearly, but also by pricking a hole in the side of the tube at a particular point and piercing the inner tube. The outside of the rocket is usually marked with approximate ranges to help the firer - the nearer the propellant end, the shorter the range. The inside of the inner tube is coated with an explosive that burns much faster then the rocket propellant. When the flame of the propellant reaches the hole in the inner tube (at the selected distance) the explosive is ignited and flares rapidly, blowing the rocket cap off. This causes the sides to fall away and releases the shrapnel to spread out in a cone. Et voilà - a long range shotgun!

The rockets will usually burn for no more than about three seconds, which puts the rocket range at about 600 yards, but the shrapnel will still be deadly for a further 100 yards. The minimum effective range is about 150 yards - less than that and the shrapnel has had little time to spread. But there are also shorter range 'grapeshot' rockets that are far more effective at short ranges (20 - 100 yards).

Clearly these weapons are not particularly accurate, but they are useful for harassing and breaking up enemy formations at long range and, with luck, can be quite deadly at any range. It should also be noted that these weapons can be quite deadly to their users too, and strolling around a battlefield with a dozen-or-so explosive tubes strapped to your body takes a certain sang-froid. In Parhooni these troops are jokingly called "fire-throwers", but the term used is also a pun on the word for "cooked" in Son-Garyaani.

Modelling the Hojaan-nuu
I will be using the ubiquitous Black Hat Imperial Martians with guns, with the muskets cut down, and a deeper stock built up with green stuff. Once that is nice and hard, a gentle filing at the end will create a smooth seat to superglue a bent piece of brass rod for the bow. Then a wee bit more green stuff to extend the stock beyond the rod, just for luck. I do fear that the join might not be very robust, so I will have to be careful how I base them to minimise accidental pressure on them. I'll mount them two per base plus one other figure to maintain the three-to-a-base ratio; two bases of these plus two more of jingals and I'll have a complete skirmish unit.

Other implications
The Daa-nuu (see one of my May 2014 offerings) is capable of firing similar munitions, but with greater payloads and over longer ranges. (Think the Congreve Rocket, but safer for the crew.)

Safety note
Frankly I have no idea if it would really work, but don't try this at home children, just in case!

EDITS: fixed a few of the typos, plus added a couple of hyperlinks now I'm not limited to my iPad

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Martian Woodland - proof of concept

Isn't it amazing what you find in DIY stores?

I was wandering through the crafts section of my local Hela the other day, and happened across a pack of wooden spatulas.

"I mean, why would anyone other than a doctor or dentist want a pack of spatulas? Was there a much-feared tonsillitis epidemic that never took off?  "*Hmph* I guess they packaged them up for sale to idiots who ... *embarrassed cough* ... OK, maybe I'll pick up just the one packet ... you never know when they might come in useful."

The spatulas are 15cm long and a bit under 2cm wide. That's close enough to, and might even be, 6" by ¾" in old money, which is probably a medical standard. I had no clear plan of what to do with them, but they did nudge me into having a bash at some woodland for My Mars. I had some "reduced to clear" aquarium plants, picked up a while back, in a very fetching orange/brown colour. No doubt they were remaindered because the colour prompted panic attacks in any fish that swam near them but, be that as it may, I had been at a loss as to how to base them so added them to my "future projects" shelf.

What follows is something of a proof of concept, trying to make woodland that is
1) stable enough not to be knocked over,
2) dense enough to look convincing,
3) sparse enough to get figures in amongst it, and
4) modular so that it can be varied from game to game.

I happened to have my mortice joint cutter guide thingy set up (I'm sure it has a proper name, but I did Latin rather than woodwork at school - audaces fotuna iuvat and all that), so I was able to saw some 45° angles across the spatulas to get them to have a gap that could fit snugly with another spatula cut in a similar fashion. That was the plan, anyway, and it was close enough after a bit of sanding for my rheumy eyes.

This photo shows one whole spatula in the centre with a second with the angles already cut, ready to be glued together. On the left is a cut spatula glued to a whole one, and at the right is an assembled stand (totaling four spatulas, if you've been counting), with guide holes already drilled. I wasn't interested in making the legs even and symmetrical, which certainly made the cutting process simpler.

The gluing (I used normal white glue) was a fairly messy process, and I'm glad I had some clamps to apply pressure while the glue set. However with the double-layering and the angle joints the bases are good and rigid, and unlikely to snap or warp.

While they were setting properly, I set to work on the aquarium plants. separating them from the "stalks"to which they were attached, and trimming the ends so that they would fit the guide holes snugly. Then it was just applying some contact adhesive (or UHU vielzweck-kleber at any rate) and allowing it to set.

I tried it out with three bases - one of which I made with 3 legs rather than 4 (it's the one in the middle) - and here are the results.

I probably need to add some modelling putty or similar round the base of each trunk for additional strength, and some of the trees could do some warm hairdryer treatment to straighten them. but it's coming together well.

And this photo is with 15mm Peter Pig figures to give you an idea of scale.

Not too shabby, and I think I'm on the right track.

The stands are about 3mm thick when assembled, which happens to tie in nicely with the 3mm mdf (from Warbases in the UK) that I use to base my figures. I need to add a bit more weight to the stands to help anchor them, but some filler/plaster, paint and scenic stones should do the trick.

Overall this was pretty successful, and a good return on my investment of €1.99. (OK, plus the cost of the aquarium plants, but they were bought ages ago - and in a sale - so they don't really count, do they?)

Of course now I have about 40 wooden spatulas looking for a home. Is there anyone out there with a sore throat?

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Green Martians - backstory

Here's a topic that is so far off-canon for Space:1889 that I almost hesitate to mention it.  Almost ...

Black Hat EMP401

The Meandering Intro
The fact is that I love the look of the four-armed giant green martians from Black Hat and I've been looking to find a way to squeeze them into My Mars somehow. I mean, what could be more typically Martian that a big green creature with four arms? No, I never mentioned Barsoom, not me!

But, being a slave to rationality (not to mention one with time on his hands), I needed to have some justification or backstory to have them on my oh-so Chadwickian Mars.

Black Hat Octosaur vs Hexosaur
The solution came to me when I was tinkering with a couple of ocotosaurs (stop sniggering at the back!), basically removing the rear pair of spindly legs and converting them into hexosaurs.  I think it's quite an improvement for a small investment in time. Just my ha'pennyworth.

But I digress.

The said tinkering led me to thinking about the triceratops-like hexosaur which looks like it might worm its way into my collection if I'm not careful. And how the giant martians also have six limbs. And how their mounts have six limbs as well (or they will once I chop the rear ones off like I did with their smaller cousins). Then the thought occurred that this might be a very different branch on the Martian evolutionary tree; one with six-limbed creatures, hexapods if you will, rather than the "normal" four that is seen elsewhere.

So far so good, but how had these escaped the notice of Earth explorers and, more importantly, how are they absent from Martian records?

Then ideas fell quickly into place, involving some sophisticated selective breeding, experiments that-are-not-permitted-for-a-very-good-reason, rioting mobs, coverups, evil geniuses (genii?) looking for the Ultimate Weapon, and other pulpy goodness in general. I think there might also have been a "bwahahahaha!" in there for good measure.

The Backstory Bit
The rapid evolution of hexapods was kickstarted millennia ago, as the seas receded and Canal Martian scientists were looking for a way to improve drought resistance in domesticated animals. Their experiments mostly involved selective breeding of a variety of six-legged rodent-sized creatures that already survived well in arid conditions. Some of their work was very successful indeed, enabling them to breed quite large creatures that could be bred for food or used as beasts of burden and yet still survive extremely dry conditions. In fact the experiments were so successful that some scientists strayed across a line-that-should-not-be-crossed, and attempted cross-breeding between Canal Martian and hexapods. Against all the odds they were successful. How it was achieved is not known - those records were destroyed long ago - but they had succeeded in breeding creatures about the size of a roogie that were fertile and even bred true. The creatures had a bipedal stance, and both pairs of upper limbs had the standard Martian hand (three fingers and a thumb). The upper pair were capable of finer manipulation than the more muscled lower pair. Their intelligence was soon bred and trained to the level of a young child. And there the work stopped. The hubris of the scientists knew no bounds, but the religious establishment determined that abominations had been created. Overnight there was a huge backlash against the scientists. Laboratories and breeding centres were attacked and razed. Anything that moved, whether it had four or six limbs, was killed and thrown into cleansing fires. Records were destroyed. It became a taboo topic. It never happened.

Of course not all of the more remote research stations were ever found; stations that became more remote year by year as the waters receded and the lands dried ever more. Some of the breeding stock survived, and even thrived in the dry conditions. They were never huge populations but they were large enough to be self-sustaining and life was challenging enough for the bipedal forms to evolve in size and in intelligence.

Then about two Martian centuries ago (that's about 300 Earth years) the Worm Cult came across some strange writings concerning a time of cleansing, and started to look for remnants from that time. For some years there had been tall stories from Hill Martians about large green devils erupting from the desert. Not unnaturally these had been discounted by civilised types, but the hints were suggestive enough for the Worm cultists to locate a couple of tribes and to nurture them, hoping to develop them into a tool to destroy civilisation and return the planet to the chaotic state they craved.

And what a tool they have found! By dint of further breeding they developed warriors that now stand over three metres tall, and that can tear a man's head off with their bare hands. They are not rocket scientists, but they certainly aren't stupid either. They are hardened desert warriors, with cunning and a natural gift for combat. When they ride to battle, it is on large aggressive war mounts. They can appear from the deep desert, strike hard and then disappear again as if they never existed.

The next step in the appearance of the Giant Martians was when the Worm Cult was able to negotiate agreements (alliances would be too strong a term) with several High Martian clans, and migrated some Giant Martians family groups to live in the rugged canyons of the highlands where they would be difficult for sky navies of civilised states to find. That was the point at which their numbers started to explode - what looks rugged and parched to a Canal Martian is a land of milk and honey to a Giant Martian.

The Wrap
This all explains why the Giant Martians have only been a problem for Canal Martian for the last 40-or-so Martian years, since about a generation before the arrival of the Red Men. Any records that still exist are either buried very deep or phrased in such a way as to mean nothing without knowing a lot about the context. And if anyone does know the context, they aren't about to have their dirty racial laundry washed in public - it would again be a matter of great shame to the Canal Martian psyche. Thus the Giant Martians have, in effect, burst out of nowhere, and they are starting to run amok.

The Worm Cult now works hard to keep them supplied with weapons, ensuring they cause general mayhem and destruction where they will. High Martians recognise that they can get their Giant Martian neighbours to do a lot of hard fighting for them and will often tag along, providing airborne support (an area where Giant Martians are vulnerable). If the Worm Cult have a specific task in mind for their Giant Martian allies (for they are no longer clients) they will deploy small detachments of their robed cultists to maintain focus.

Linguistic footnote - the Parhooni word for a Giant Martian translates as "man-and-a-half", referring both to their height and to the number of limbs.

This post has rambled  on quite long enough, but I'm quite happy that the general outline will let me add Giant Martians to My Mars without it disrupting the background. In fact I think it makes it a lot richer for the purpose of wargaming, but I'm biased.

If you're unfortunate enough to game the Space:1889 background in 25/28mm, you don't need to feel left out - there are several figure suppliers out there who are ready and willing to help you bust your budget! *evil cackle*

Comments and improvements always welcome!

Sunday, 18 May 2014


Per the Space:1889 canon large quantities of metals, and thus cannon, are fairly rare on Mars. I have posited elsewhere that this is not due to lack of skills, but a shortage of resources and lower levels of atmospheric oxygen (which make smelting that much more difficult). It's not that the Martians are backward, it's just that they can use their limited supplies of metal more efficiently on other things.

But being an ancient and inventive people, could they not have come up with other ways of protecting missiles with an intent to do damage? (That's "shoot things" for those of you who aren't yet awake.)

Why not torsion engines? Basically we're talking giant arbalests or "Daa-nuu" as they are known in Parhooni

Classical Antiquity
Here is an interesting site with a ¾ size working model of a Roman stone-throwing engine. It mentions that the model (a "medium" engine) can throw a 3-pound ball 200+ yards. Without intending to belittle their efforts in any way, if weekend reenactors can achieve this performance then I am quite sure that thousands (or even a few tens) of years of practical development would easily top that. Josephus mentions a Roman engine with a range of up to 400 yards in his Jewish Wars, for example.

These engines varied in size, from 10 minas (over 9lb missile weight) up to 2-talent monsters (over 100lb). These were the field and siege artillery of classical antiquity! (Lots of wiki goodness here!)

The Daa-nuu
OK, but how would these fare on My Mars?

Wood to make the frames isn't exactly abundant on Mars, but it's not scarce either. Metal could be used for the small parts where required (nuts/bolts, clamps, ratchets, ...). The skeins used for the torsion by greeks and romans were hemp, hair, leather or animal sinews, and I could see the tendons of gashants and ruumet brehrs easily being of the size and strength necessary. Alternatively my jee-oo is a material that naturally resists deformation, so perhaps if properly harvested and preserved it acts as the perfect skein for a torsion engine.

So what might be the downsides of such machines?
- Maintenance was apparently difficult in classical antiquity, with damp being the number one headache. That one's not much of an issue on Mars at least! Wear and tear on the arms and the skeins are also mentioned, but these are at least renewable resources, and I'm sure that Martian skill and ingenuity could get round some maintenance issues. It's still a weapon that requires some technical expertise, but so are cannon.
- Range might be a problem, being outranged by cannon and not out-performing martian muskets by much, if at all. This reinforces the need for daa-nuu to be area effect weapons: there's no point one engine trying to outshoot ten musketeers if all it can fire is a 10lb rock, and that more slowly that a musket can reload.

Missiles - what would daa-nuu fire?
They can fire stones obviously.  If you want some obstacles knocked over they'll do the job, but they aren't going to have much effect on anything solid like a city wall or an entrenchment. I'm pretty sure a 20lb rock travelling at speed would give even a ruumet brehr something to think about.

How about an explosive shell? Space:1889 canon is silent on these as far as Martian technology goes, but perhaps that's the fault of extant Martian metallurgy, with shells being unable to survive the pressures of being fired from a cannon. But being fired from a daa-nuu is a very different prospect and should be a simple manufacturing job. They could even be a ceramic casing, with a simple burning fuse to light the breaching charge. Pack in a few sharp objects as well, if you want lots of shrapnel. That should keep musketeers' heads down!

How about gas of some description? Or smoke shells? Perhaps flashbangs (or caltrop-filled) to disrupt gashant charges? The only limit is Martian ingenuity.

I would see daa-nuu being deployed behind walls and in entrenchments, and masked from artillery fire until the enemy starts to close. Their main use is to break up enemy attacks.

They might be wheeled for improved manoeuvrability, but they are tall and bulky by the nature of the drums/skeins, so I can't see them being horse artillery analogues. You might be able to mount them on a solid cart, but this just raises their profile and makes them an even easier target for artillery. That might still be a handy way to use them against the more backward hill martians, of course.

Daa-nuu would work well on the back of a ruumet brehr as well, as there is far less recoil than with a cannon, and they are also MUCH quieter.

In terms of modelling, there are plenty of companies that make them, with the Essex "30 mina bolt or stone thrower" (XEQ12) being a good size for my Black Hat figures. Unfortunately there's not a photo on their website, so you'll just have to believe me!

Again, that's my shilling's worth.  All comments and suggested improvements gratefully received.

Edit July 2015
See my Hojaan-nuu I post discussing rocket-assisted munitions that would work well fired from a Daa-nuu. But bigger, of course!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

When is a sepoy not an askari?

When he's a Johnny Martian, of course.

Locally-raised troops on Earth were variously called Sepoys, Sowars and Askaris, these terms (and probably others) deriving from corruptions/transliterations of the local usage for a warrior or soldier of some description. I see no reason for the derivation on Mars being any different. But what would the term(s) be? I have never seen anything in the canon that comes close, and the only guide I have is that something with one or more double-vowels would be a good start. So here goes ...

In Parhooni the term for a warrior or soldier is "Sa'anshi" (pl. Sa'anshaya).  In the time-honoured tradition of English-speakers everywhere this has become garbled as Sanchi.

Mounted troops are known as "Qua'anshi" (pl. Qua'anshaya), but this term is only ever applied to Canal Martians and never to Hill Martian mercenaries. The Red Men have garbled this as Kwanchi.

The terms for artillery troops are many and various, depending on the type of gun they serve, and even where the gun is located, but the Red Men have cut through this again, calling all such troops Panchis (sing. Panchi), derived from the Parhooni "Pua'anshaya", or gun soldiers.

Friday, 11 April 2014


A quick bit of googling tells me that a Martian solar year is about 687 terran days long, or 668 Martian days.  That's near enough to 2 terran years for me, so I'm happy to say that a 40 year old Martian is the equivalent of an 80 year-old human.  You could also infer that 8 years is the age of majority for Canal Martians (remember, octal number systems?).  It also allows me to make estimates of terms of military service.  (Yes, it actually is vaguely relevant to wargaming.)  And that little tidbit has set me to wondering what a Martian calendar might look like.

The Martian week is 8 days long.  It is common for workers to have a 2-day rest period during a week, but there are no standardised "weekends", these depending on local custom.

Months are a problem, as the Martian moons move too quickly to be measures of extended time.  However it makes sense to have an analogous grouping of weeks into something shorter than seasons.  I'll call them months, each of which is 4 weeks long. 

So far so good, but  this is where it gets a little more complicated. Sit back and bear with me as google and I get this to work.

The axial tilt of Mars is quite similar to that of Earth (25.19° vs 23.44° if you must know), which should give it a similar seasonality. In addition the orbit of Mars is significantly more eccentric than that of Earth, and this adds to the differentiation of seasons between hemispheres. Based of perihelion, aphelion, (closest and furthest from the sun respectively) and equinoxes, the Martian year breaks down as follows:
- Northern spring, southern autumn: 193 days.  
   - 6 months long, each of 4 x 8 day weeks (192 days)  
- Northern summer, southern winter: 179 days. 
   - 6 months long as above, but with the midsummer/winter week only of 4 days (188 days)
- Northern autumn, southern spring: 143 days.  
   - 4 months long, each of 4 x 8 day weeks (128 days)
- Northern Winter, southern summer: 154 days.
   - 5 months long, each of 4 x 8 day weeks (160 days) 

The northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun when the planet is at its perihelion, and toward the sun when at aphelion. Because of this the temperatures are less extreme in summer and winter than in the southern hemisphere.  

That gives me a standard calendar system (no doubt instituted by Seldon) with very regular seasons that are a close fit to "average" seasons. 

In Space:1889 the year is split into the seasons that vary from place to place, and depend on the flow of water in the canals.  These are: 
 - Flood: a short season when meltwater rushes down and overflows the canal system, whose end marking the beginning of the growing season;
 - Flow: normal levels of water in the Canals - equivalent to Summer and Autumn on Earth; 
 - Low Flow: dry season, when no more melt is coming off the icecaps and water is at its lowest, and 
 - Surge: as might be expected tom the name, a surge of water that occurs during low flow and reflects the Flood water lapping up/down from the other hemisphere.

No doubt each city state will have local holidays and celebrations to mark the start or close of these phenomena.  

From the above I'd also guess the following:
1) Flow will be longer in the north than in the south as the heating of the icecap is spread out over a longer period.
2) Flood will be faster and higher in the southern hemisphere as the heating will be more rapid as it approaches closer to the sun when tilted towards it at perihelion.
3) Surge will be correspondingly more apparent in the North than in the South.

OK, that's enough theorising.  Back to wargames soon.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Big Guns

As I collect my minis and pile up an absurdly large painting queue, I got to thinking about guns and cannon.  As you do.

I have several of the Black Hat guns, and they are lovely, but the hover sled idea doesn't really do it for me.  I can't see liftwood in My Mars being used in this way.  It's pricey stuff, it wears out over time, and just think of the recoil - it may negate gravity, but inertia's a killer! So I had resigned myself to using the crew with some Old Glory SYW Ottoman cannon (in 3 sizes) I had lying around.  As you do.

So there I was, reading the latest post on the Warlords of Mars blog here, and revelation struck me.  He mentions "heavy guns" and "Martian artillery stationed in the Keep and the gun towers" and I realised that the models really are of quite large guns, and that my Martian guns might be placed into fixed positions.  The grav sled was suddenly converted in my mind to the return carriage of a fortress gin.  Simple!    

All I would have to do is build the recoil carriage and a way of traversing the gun ... something along the lines of the is 10" Columbiad from Freikorps, but make it more Martian.  As you do. 

Nice concept.  But what was I going to use?  It took a couple of days to collect ideas, but in the end the materials were surprisingly easy to amass. 


- A 3cm x 4cm base (all my figures will be mounted on 3cm frontage bases)
- A couple of matchsticks
- An old coke fizzy soft drink bottle top
- Two 15mm diameter MDF bases (mine are 3mm thick), but I'm sure washers would do the trick just as well
Oh, and the Martian gun of course. 

First I marked out the approximate dimensions of the assembly on the base, drawing a cone (actually the segment of a circle) with a 2cm diameter for my purposes.  The degree of traverse is limited, but I'm only looking to make an impression here rather than a fully functioning model.

Then I cut the matchsticks to length (30mm) and inserted the offcuts as spacers to add some width and stability. The two round bases were glued together to create the impression of a rotating drum. This will also add some height, and also allow the gun to fire over a 1/2 inch parapet. The depth of the base, the two disks, the matchsticks and the height of the gun model itself come to about 14mm below the barrel.  You may prefer to have the gun nearer to the ground, but this arrangement works for me.

I cut a segment out of the coke bottle top.  This was to represent a runner to support the rear of the gun while it traverses.  I cut it slightly taller than the height of the drum to allow the rails to angle down towards the front, and sanded the edges smooth before glueing it over the end of the cone. The curve isn't a perfect fit, but it will look fine from a distance!

Then I drilled a guide hole through the centre of the rotating drum and at the apex of the cone, and then threaded a piece of wire through both to help position the drum in the right spot.  The matchstick "rails" were then glued to the underside of the gun sled.

Then I glued the gun sled and rails to the base assembly.  Once dry I also used the guide hole for the drum to drill and pin the sled to the rest of the assembly. just to give it a bit more solidity.  

Add the barrel, and hey presto; one fortress gun!

Not the clearest of photos, but it should look good behind a wall.  

I'll still use the Ottoman wheeled carriages for my field artillery, but I am truly glad to have found a use for the Black Hat guns. 

Thank you Warlord Mike for the inspiration!

Thursday, 6 February 2014


Yeah, I know, not the stuff to set the heather on fire, but I thought I would share a clever little thing I found in our local Auchan supermarket just before Christmas.

Upper and underside
It's made by MyVillage (see, but they don't appear to do mail order) who specialise in making bits for twee model christmassy villages as seasonal decorations.

Basically it's bits of gravel stuck to a rubberised underlay.  No doubt railway modellers have known about this stuff for years, but it was a revelation to me.

4cm strips
It's sold in strips of approximately 14cm x 30 cm - although the edges are pretty rough and need trimming if you want a straight edge, as I did, so be prepared to lose some of the width.

Cutting from the rubberised side (I decided on some 4cm-wide strips) is fairly straightforward, although it is not kind to your blades as you are constantly scraping against the gravel.  In all of the cutting process I didn't lose any of the gravel that I didn't deliberately remove, so there shouldn't be too much of a worry over longevity.


It looks good from a distance, and close up has it a pleasing rocky/cobbled surface.

What you have then is a fairly weighty material, that is unlikely to move when placed on a rough surface, and it doesn't really require any further finishing.  I have plans to cut X- and Y-junctions and curves to allow the pieces to join up easily.

If my memory serves me well, they were €3.99 per strip, so not a bad investment for just under 1metre of road.

Over hill and down dale

But the kicker is how it shapes itself over terrain, as shown in the next photo - this is two sections butted together on the top of the hill.  As you can see, it draped rather nicely thanks to its own weight, and required no mucking about on my part.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Gashants III

Yes, I'm still in the land of the living, but this working lark has taken its toll on hobby time.  It's hard to believe that it's over 6 months since the last posting.  Anyway, the inestimable Rodrick Campbell fired off my order of gashants in very quick order, but they have been languishing on the work table since then.

However  today I bestirred myself to actually do SOMETHING, and that something is shown below.

There was a certain amount of clipping and filing to do on the saddlecloths of the Black Hat figures, and  I also had to trim around the reins and saddle on the gashants, but all of it was quite simple. The most difficult is the pinning of the rider to his mount, but I imagine that's just me. After an hour's work for the first four, it's looking like a good fit and I'm glad I went down this route.  

They still need some filling with green stuff around the edges of the saddlecloths, but they're almost ready for the painting queue.

So a big thumbs up from me for the marriage of Black Hat riders and Highlander gashants.

EDIT 15 May 2014: I should also add that Mike Lewis at Black Hat was happy to send me packs of eight riders (without Octosaurs), so this is looking better cost-wise too!