Friday 5 March 2021

The Man-Eaters of Bomini Wells...

A Wee African Jaunt.

Having set up the "timed" table for the previous "How To" post; a quick game...

The Tale:

Col. Jack "Biggin" Hill has set off for the rocky outcrops near the railway Watering Stop at Bomini Wells at the behest of the Durani Pans Railway Company; it having been reported that a man-eating lion - possibly more than one - has been putting the wind up visiting maintenance crews. His mission; to search the area and deal with any human-hungry felines.  

He is accompanied by his good friend Major Barker-Hinds, his bearer Mingo M'bosi, their cook, washerwoman and general camp helper Bountiful Misuri and a donkey (name unknown) to carry the stuff Bountiful can't manage. 

The environs of the watering stop consist of a number of low hills, riddled with stony outcrops and possible small caves (ideal lurking places for dangerous critters) 
scrub and a couple of small fields.

Also near the watering stop is the home and shebeen of independent, gun-totin' Mam'selle Fifi La Tour; a lady of some considerable reputation, whom, it is rumoured, is apt to take considerable violent offence at any refusal to accept her hospitality.

The group is aware that as soon as a shot is fired this is likely to draw Ms. La Tour from her lair to investigate. If she encounters the party they will be delayed while a polite refusal to sample her wares is negotiated (any failure on the Colonel's part to successfully talk his way out of this will mean the remainder of that day's hunting is lost). 

A shack, inhabited by Fifi's handyman and gardener, "Railway Jim", also lies nearby. He is not likely to cause a problem, but will support Fifi if there is any trouble.

Our party has only three days to scout the whole area twice, dealing with any dangerous lions encountered. At some point they must set up camp (one move to set up, one move to strike) for overnight. Ideally out of sight of the shebeen.

Technical Notes

My usual rules and routine for this kind of adventure.  A movement allowance of 6" plus 1x6D in inches for fast walking, less terrain effects. More distance (an extra 2" and an extra dice) for running. 2" for sneaking. Simple dice-driven shooting conventions, with tests for individual speed/initiative. Simple ad hoc dice tests where actions or decision tests are called for. Personality activation by character-modified dice throws as soon as there is any conflict.

A card-driven Events Table, prompted by a throw of a "6" on a 1x6d die at a move end, similar to the "Bug Hunt" one will tell if any animals or other hazards turn up.

Mid game notes in italics (below).

The Game

Day One: Our party move along the east side of the table, to avoid the shebeen and intending  to set up camp towards the north east end of the area. No issues for a couple of moves, then, breasting a small rise, they see some dust near some scrub.

They deploy; but it turns out [Events Table check] to be a couple of Wild Dogs, which make off....

The two hunters press on; crossing the railway and making their way towards one of the rocky outcrops. Mingo and Bountiful [dice test] follow; bringing the donkey.

As the move ends [there is another Event Test] the Colonel spots something moving in the shade of the rocks.

 Colonel and the Major spread out, approaching the suspicious movement carefully [in the pic the "puff" of "dust"; normally I'd use one of my "wee birds" blind markers, but their box is under a load of others]. 

The Colonel creeps closer, covered by the Major. 

What the !!!!!

Suddenly an enraged hippo - presumably drawn by the pool at the Watering Station during the night, and now resting up in the shade of the rocks - rushes out - and straight at the Colonel [type of animal, direction and attitude diced for].

At this distance running is no good (anyone who has seen an angry hippo in real life will know that where it is you don't want to be...). As the hippo rushes at him the Colonel looses a shot - a hit, but only a wound. We now have a wounded angry hippo.... 

[Priority, initiative and effect on the above diced for. Simple dice tests.]

The Major fires; again hitting the animal, but like the Colonel only winging it.
The animal crashes into the Colonel, swinging it's mighty jaws, and he goes down.

The Major tests, and fires again - again only wounding the thick-hided beast. Maybe his aim was off given the proximity of the Colonel ? [Yep - dice modifier].

The stricken creature makes off, leaving the Colonel with three massive wounds; he is VERY lucky to still be alive but is definitely out of the game.  

The shooting has drawn the attention of Fifi La Tour. Grabbing her trusty elephant gun and a pair of pistols she rushes out of the shebeen, being quickly joined by Railway Jim.  They watch the hippo rush off, and make their way to where the shooting occurred without incident.

The hippo attack has seriously upset the proceedings. Fifi and Jim help safely carry the Colonel to the shebeen, where he is tended. He may live, but his wounds are VERY serious. 

It is likely to be five days trek to the nearest town, but a train to Ambolini will pass though in three days. It is safer to tend the Colonel here, and wait for the train. 
The party will rest at the shebeen. Day One has NOT been a success.....

Bountiful tends to the Colonel's wounds. Railway Jim and Mingo take a bottle to Jim's shack. The Major will bed down at the shebeen. Fifi IS pleased....

Day Two

Leaving the Colonel at the shebeen, in the care of Bountiful, the Major decides that rather than sit around he will try to complete the Colonel's quest.

He and Mingo set off but, surprisingly [dice decision], Fifi and Railway Jim elect to accompany him. They move north, crossing the railway tracks and moving up onto one of the rocky spurs without incident.  

But not for long. About three moves in the Major spots something suspicious [usual move end dice test]. He signals to the others and they creep up. The next move the movement seen is revealed as the extremely dodgy character Wallace Morg-Rhys and a group of what look like gun runners..!! [Event Test result]

Not at all what anyone was expecting... (Especially me)

Fifi is enraged that this party are on her land, but Jim and Mingo are reluctant to get involved. The Major, however, senses sport...

[Determination tests all round].

There are three gun runners at the head of the column, some five or so bearers, and two more criminals at the rear. The Major and Fifi sneak to suitable positions flanking both sides of the group. 

The criminals are not looking for - or expecting - trouble. As they turn to head towards the rail crossing Fifi, hidden among the rocks on their flank, jumps up. She fires.. 

Was it meant to be a warning shot ? Who knows, but whatever the case it wings Morg-Rhys himself. Shocked and surprised - as well as hurt - he staggers, throwing his arms up in surrender.

One of his henchmen shoots; hitting Fifi, who falls badly wounded. The Major fires, dropping the shooter. The last of the leading trio drops his weapon, and following his leader's example, raises his hands. These guys are made of very poor stuff after all...

Or are they ? The two at the rear test. One panics, and runs off, but the other has more grit, and rushes through the group of bearers towards the front of the column.

Railway Jim, who, overcoming his own fear at seeing Fifi fall, runs up to join in.

There is a short, sharp fire-fight with the last fighting gang member. Jim is himself hit in the arm - a flesh wound, as the Major wings the last active gang member; whose courage doesn't last. Although just wounded he drops his weapon - possibly thinking the rocks hold more good guys than is actually the case...

Mingo runs up to help herd the captives. The gang, hands tied, are rounded up and made to carry the stricken Fifi back to the shebeen.

The Major decides lion-hunting will have to wait; it looks like there will be several passengers for tomorrow's train. The group may not have bagged any lions, but there is likely a reward for grabbing the villains....


Well that was a short, sharp exercise - with a totally unexpected result. Great fun. 

Rules were VERY simple. Lots of very basic dice tests once the action got flowing for initiative but fast and didn't get bogged down. 

I'll likely have a replay and mess about on this set up before stripping the table. 

Or maybe tweak it and the action shifts to Arabia for some train-blowing...? Hmm...


Tuesday 2 March 2021

Making a Scrubby Table...

 How I did the last one...

On the Facebook groups where I occasionally post there seemed to be a lot of interest/questions re. the table for the last set up ("How do you do it?", "is it a sand table?" etc.), so here's a quick "How I do it" post..

Now, this table was for a specific 6mm set up (from Featherstone's book on wargame campaigns - though the original was for 1/72 scale) but I use similar methods for all my "scrub/semi-desert" type games of all scales.


1) Books, oddments and bits of wood to provide the basic high-ground profiles.

2) Some kind of "underlay" material and off-cuts (old blankets, other battlemats etc.) to soften edges. 

3) A sheet of cheap, cream coloured "fleece"; the kind of stuff they make fleeces/hoodies out of. Lightweight, slightly textured but no actual "pile". I "dyed" mine with watered down Pound Shop acrylic, mixed with odds and ends of DIY acrylic and artist's acrylic.

The material I found has a slight nap to it (see pic below with 6mm bods), which can be raised with a sued brush if desired for "long grass" (I sometimes use this for selected "fields" then flattened again after). The material holds sand and scatter on slopes well, isn't too thick, nor too thin.


4) A shoe-box of sand/gravel mix from the beach. 

5) Odd bits of flock and clump-scatter in various greens (home made and bulk-bought cheapest quality model railway stuff).

Dried tea leaves (from used teabags) for tracks and buildings, fields, crop lines etc. for colour. 


1) Lay out the table and place books, blocks and whatever for the hills required. As I've said, the previous project was to a specific plan, so took longer. Usually I'm more random or less picky about placement. 

2) For this layout I wanted the re-entrant/spur and gully effect you get in the part of the world where this was set, and the shapes of the "peaks"and ridges on the original plan.

To help achieve this I cut up an old cardboard box into lengths, which I then bent or taped into a "Toblerone shape" for ridge lines/watersheds. These were placed at salient points on the book, wood and oddment piles. 

3) I then put off-cuts of material on the "hills" to soften the outlines of the peaks and spurs.

I wanted two small, flat-topped peaks and a "saddle" on Djebel Kourine, so a book and a couple of can tops were pressed into service for this. 

4) On top of this went the fleece itself; pressed down in the valleys, smoothed and pulled around till I was happy with the effect.  The trick is to just press lightly with your fingers, smoothing any unwanted ridges and adjusting the fleece edge as you go. Doesn't take long once you've got used to it. 

5) I then added the clumps of trees and sand from the beach - pouring by trickling half-handfuls of mixed sand/gravel onto the higher areas and letting this roll and scatter randomly. By doing this the sand and "rocks" fall and gather "naturally", as they would in real life. If I want a smaller selection of granules I have an old kitchen sieve which I shake the sand through. If I want bigger rocks I sieve over the storage box and use the large bits that stay in the sieve. 

Where I wanted extra weight to further pull down the gullies and "passes" I simply added more stones and sand (esp. fine, sieved sand) in a more targeted way, pushing them about with fingers, and old comb (to separate sizes of stones)  or a bit of card.  

I carry on doing this in stages, brushing with my hand or a comb/brush where necessary, until I feel things have a pleasing, "natural" look.

6) Next came the clump scatter - again poured/scattered by hand in "lightly thrown" handfuls or trickles through the fingers.

From pictures of the actual geographical area for this scenario the bushes etc. seem to concentrate on the slopes (not the steep peaks) and the gully/valley bottoms. I tried to replicate this - the nap of the material holding the clump scatter well on the slopes.

To a large extent the clump scatter, like the sand and gravel, heads for the gullies and happens to end up where scrubby bushes etc. grow naturally (i.e. where there is water run-off in the rains), so you get more "green" where the ground is better for growing things.

Again, a little extra scatter was added where I wanted it (the line of some of the nullahs etc.). I kept adding scatter until I was happy with the overall effect and got something like the pattern I was seeing in photographs of the areas (Google Images and Google Maps is your friend here) .

7) Last came the "set dressing" of additions trees, buildings, concentrations of gravel etc. where "tors" or collections of big rocks were felt to be necessary for cover or "geographically appropriate". Basically large terrain items are just set down as normally, with sand dribbled through fingers or funnelled using card to conceal edges of terrain pieces. 

I then added the tracks (simply "pinches" of tea leaves run in lines) and field boundaries - made by running a bit of card lightly over the sand and gravel to build up simple "walls", occasionally "pinching" the lines here and there with fingertips. This works with 6mm. Also looks in scale for the kind of rough "token" field boundaries you see in various parts of the world in 1/72 scale.

I do have proper 6mm "walls" for terrain features, but didn't feel they were appropriate to this set up (too European-looking). 

And that was that...

All simple enough stuff, but quite effective I feel - and storage is easy; the books go back on the shelves after, the oddments and buildings back in their boxes (as always it's the buildings take the space), a shoebox for the sand and scatter (collected when the fleece is shaken over a newspaper). The fleece is just folded away. 

If I want to separate out the clump scatter from the sand I just shake the box and the different materials sort themselves (like panning for gold, but less lucrative)

It probably sounds time consuming, but actually isn't. I stripped the above today down to table level (5 mins.), then built the simple random set up below (1/72 Old West cum Colonial cum whatever?) which, with the "field building" and "prettifying"took about 25 mins - inc. about five mins. lost messing about with the railway lines (Grrrr) and thinking time..

There are lots of pics of other examples of this method scattered on the blog (in fact you can probably trace my "learning curve" by going through in sequence...).

It is possible to go overkill on the sand (pic below :) ) - and to get drawn into too much "prettifying", but hey, it's a hobby, I enjoy setting up a table - and I recycle/multiplay a nice table from time to time, so no real loss......

This method is best used as a base for desert/scrubby terrain rather than more temperate countryside I feel. 

Perhaps for the latter use of model railway scatter instead of sand would have a similar effect (?), but I have never tried that. I'm currently using Teddy-bear fur for 1/72 Temperate - and having not had out my ACW & 7 Years War/AWI 6mms for many many moons... Watch this space...?

So there we are. How I do my scrub and deserty tables. As always, any queries please ask. 

In Other News....

My Table... The last couple of days I've had a number of queries online regarding how I made the table shown in the recent battle report...