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)

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!