Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Friday, June 19, 2020

New Map, Kotals Complete, 23rd Sikhs Painted, Etc. (Kandahar Game Prep #6)

I started blogging about this project exactly three months ago, on March 18th.  That was one day before the state of California, where I live, enacted its Stay At Home order in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

I'm sure everyone reading this has been dealing with variations on the same theme.

A few weeks ago our youngest child, Sarah, graduated from high school.  As you can guess it was different from her older brother's and sister's graduations from the same school.  Our family of five got into the car, arrived at the appointed time, took our spot in a parade of cars and drove around campus, past socially-distanced and masked cheering teachers and staff.  Then we all watched as Sarah got out of the car, posed for a photo with a life-size cut-out of the Principal put her mask back on and was handed her diploma by the real life human version of the same guy, via a reacher grabber held in his gloved hand.

We spent a little under an hour in the car from driving on campus till driving off.  We're all very proud of Sarah and happy she got to enjoy some version of a graduation.  It was kinda crazy but so much better than nothing.

Things could be a whole lot worse for my family and myself and I'm grateful for our good fortune.  I hope everyone reading this is doing well, staying healthy and safe & sound, and also sane.  If you or someone you care about is suffering from coronavirus, or any other illness or injury, you have my most sincere and heartfelt best wishes for a quick and full and as close to painless as possible recovery.  And as I've said before and will say again, if you're a medical professional, thank you and Godspeed.

Meanwhile, on the tabletop hobby front, I'm happy to report lots of progress is being made on my Battle of Kandahar 140th Anniversary Game.


I must again thank my old friend, fellow Brooklynite and fellow history lover James "Jimmy G." Garzillo, for sending me photos he took of the fold-out Kandahar "Battle Map" from Howard Hensman's book shown below.  He did this a while back but I haven't managed to post about it until now...

The map is in PART II, Chapter III, P. 503

The map has some interesting details that are not on the map in the Official History, which I included in an earlier post.  I think this version provides a clearer view of how the central rocky ridge lay out, and the path the Mirza Kotal takes across the ridge.

Thanks again, Jim!

Spurred on by Jim's version I was able to track down a digitized version online, which you can find here:

...and which I will also tack into this post here:

1st SEPTEMBER 1880
Taken from the 1-inch Map of Kandahar
by Major Leach R.E., and Lieut. Longe, R.E.


Meanwhile I've managed to do a lot more work on the terrain, including finishing both the Baba Wali and Mirza Kotals.

Here are some pics:


One night after finishing real world work I was happily surveying the table with its 2 nice new mountain passes and I remembered how in the few play-test turns we've managed to play, it turned out my son, Skylar, was operating under the misapprehension that his Anglo-Indian troops would be able to advance through the one contour high TROUGHS between the RIDGE LINE of ROCKY HILLS.  This was not the case!  But I hadn't explained that to him before we started.  I filed that away as an important LESSON LEARNED and planned to put it into the SCENARIO BRIEF for all players prior to the game.

But that night when I was surveying the table it suddenly hit me there might be a feasible way for me to make it actually look right, so the layout accurately told the story of the battlefield terrain, by making the heights of the rocky ridge CONTIGUOUS, rather than interspersed with those pesky troughs, courtesy of the fact that the ridge was actually a series of separate hills, lined up in single file as well as possible, with some scatter pieces of ROCKY TERRAIN added around the edges.

The thing that hit me was that I could maybe add CONNECTOR PIECES of rocky hill to really link them all together.  This would only require 3 such pieces -- 2 larger and 1 small.  And I might be able to do it without damaging or even overly littering the IN SITU terrain, which was a vital requirement, since I didn't want to do anything that would make me spend even more time cleaning up after myself, and might put the already laid out terrain pieces at risk of any damage.

The answer was that other kind of foam.  I wish I knew its official name, but I don't.  It's kind of a cross between styrofoam and foam rubber, with more elasticity that styrofoam but more rigidity than foam rubber, so it maintain its shape in the face of more weight and/or pressure.

Luckily I had JUST ENOUGH of that stuff stashed away with other packing material to make this effort possible.  Each piece took about one night to cut/carve into shape and then hot-glue wood-chips onto.  Then came the slog of applying wood-filler and some ground cover, spray-priming black (I did a test and luckily the foam I was using was not eaten away by standard enamel matte spray paint, which saved me some time and effort on base-coating), and then applying the standard 5 color dry-brush paint scheme for my rocky hills:

2. HONEYCOMB (a caramel color for ground-cover areas only)
3. DRAB STONE (homemade 50-50 mix of HONEYCOMB & BLACK, for rocky areas only)
4. MUDSTONE (for rocky areas only)
5. SANDSTONE (light highlight dry-brush for everything, to tie it all together)

The hardest part by far was trying to make sure each "connector" fit as close to seamlessly as possible between the 2 pre-existing rocky hills on each side.

About 5 years ago I had some experience doing this when I built my Afghan Hill-Fort in a way that allowed for it to be added and removed to one of my pre-existing rocky hills (if interested, you can jump to that post by CLICKING HERE).  This gave me some confidence that I might be able to make these 3 "connectors."  I'm happy to say I think they turned out pretty well, and now no one playing the game or even just seeing pics of the terrain will think it will be possible for troops to cross from one side of the ridge to the other -- EXCEPT by way of the Baba Wali or Mirza Kotals.

Earlier tonight I applied a heavy dry-brush of BROWN above the black base-coat.  That's always one of the most enjoyable steps in my rocky hill terrain making process, because it's the first time all the effort I put into layering the textures really start to come to life.  Now, with each successive dry-brushed coat of paint, it should only get better.


I now find myself one step away from finishing the 3 Connectors.  Just 2 dry-brush highlight coats left to do -- the Mudstone and Sandstone final touches.


Over the past weeks I've also made progress on new troops for the game.  This includes having the 23rd Sikh Pioneers painted for me by my friend Frank Patterson.  Amongst Orange County wargamers Frank is a somewhat legendary figure painter and terrain builder, and I was very happy when he volunteered to help out by painting some figures for me.  He has a hobby-related Instagram account called "LED Army" which -- if you are on Instagram -- I highly recommend!

Here's a LINK:


Here's a period reference photo showing the 23rd Bengal Native Infantry (Sikh Pioneers) in Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War:

And a color plate from the Osprey Men-At-Arms title: Indian Infantry Regiments, 1860-1914...

...and here are some pics of the figures.  They are Wargames Foundry Darkest Africa Sikhs, with Empress Zulu War accessory folded greatcoats and Eureka Punjabi Pioneer picks and shovels super-glued onto their backs.  The 2 Indian officers were conversions I made using heads from Foundry NWF Sikhs and bodies from Foundry Darkest Africa British Officers...

For the officers I gave Frank this color illustration by A.C. Lovett, to use as reference for the turban pattern, which was yellow and brown...

...But being Frank he decided yellow and RED would look better and help the figures to pop, so...

As a button-counting grognard type when it comes to my own figures, I considered trying to paint over the red turban stripes with brown... but I couldn't bring myself to do the deed.  Frank also took it upon himself to paint SASHES on both officers, using the aforementioned red and yellow.  If I'd repainted the turban stripes I would have also had to repaint the sashes.  So for now at least, the red remains.  Not so historically accurate, but looking mighty fine.

In the event, Frank also gave the NCOs full color turbans in place of brown...

As I write this Frank is at work on my Artizan 92nd Highlanders and 24th Punjabis, to add to the Kandahar army list.  Thanks again, Frank!

Meanwhile at the other end of the country in Florida, my buddy Jeff "Sgt. Guinness" Baumal has specially painted a unit of the 2nd Battalion 60th Rifles, and is almost done with the 3rd Sikhs, both of which should be here in Los Angeles in time for the game.  THANK YOU, JEFF!

Moving West from Florida my friend Bob Ridenhour -- known as Rhingyll on the hobby forums -- has been kind and generous enough to box up and ship me several units of Indian Cavalry: Central India Horse, 3rd Bengal Lancers (Skinner's Horse), and 3rd Punjab Cavalry -- PLUS a unit of Gurkhas!  The Gurkhas are needed to supplement my own two units, since the Anglo-Indian army list calls for no less than three.  I'm very happy to report that Bob's troops all arrived safely over the few days, none the worse for wear, aside from some loose lances I have to glue back into the hands of some Sowars.

So as you can see, with some vital help from my friends, the project is advancing at a good pace.  The one major hurdle left for me to cross will be finishing the 10'x2' of bare blue terrain boards with ground-cover and 3 shades of paint, but I think there's enough time left for me to get it done.

As the Age of Coronavirus grinds on, it's still uncertain if the Kandahar 140th Anniversary Game will be played in-person or remotely, or as some combo of the two, and all three options remain on the table.  If I had to guess now it looks like the combo may get the nod, with a few of the players traveling to visit Los Angeles and play in person while the others stay home, from where we will hopefully come up with an easy way for them to participate via long-distance.  More on that in the future, as arrangements are nailed down and the game plan comes into better focus.

I hope to be back with a new post before too long, showing the final version of the razorback ridge, complete with three completed"Rocky Hill Connectors" in place, and maybe some more newly painted figures.  I'm also close to finishing an illustrated reference document on 19th Century Afghan Military Flags, that I hope to make available here in the not-too-distant future.  More on that when I manage to dot the i's and cross the t's -- some of which are in Arabic.  I'm pretty confident it will be done by the end of this Summer.

Be well and stay healthy, and keep carrying on.