Generic 17th – 18th Century Fortress

Three decades ago WR had a scenario involving a 17th-18th Century fortress on the tabletop. Looking about the slim terrain offerings back then, it quickly became apparent that WR would have to build the fortress from scratch. Build a simple fortress outline, small and compact but have the look and feel of a 17th-18th Century fortress plus be able to store the finished project. The project must allow placement of miniatures on the walls (with their basing), be compact in size (approximately 2 feet square), and be adaptable for different basic configurations, town layouts, and entrance gate locations. A tall order of construction and gaming priorities for the wood worker rabbit.

WR Vauban fortress under construction. Basic wood walls done many years ago. Recently found some scaled brickwork textured paper (from Greece) to complete the decade old project.

WR Vauban fortress under construction. Basic wood walls done many years ago. Recently found some scaled brickwork textured paper (from Greece) to complete the decades old project.

Looking at the WR library collection on european fortresses (pre-internet days back then), old photographs taken from european fortress visits in his youth, WR sketched out a basic design on paper from old notes written while in Costa Rica. WR even placed miniatures on the flat drawn walls, thought about the length of the curtain walls, ability to place fortress cannon, tabletop march the actual 28mm miniatures about within the fortress wall perimeter and position miniatures firing over the ramparts… basic gamer stuff. WR quickly determined that the glacis outside the fortress would have to wait for now.

So, first stop was a cheap and local material source to complete the underlying wall structure. Easy step after a brief thought… just took a walk around the local Lowe’s or Home Depot or similar DIY store wood molding department. The same stuff everybody uses for cabinets, wall boards, ceiling trim, door trim etc. After pawing thought the shapes and sizes, three styles or molding shapes together formed the walls. WR bought 16′ lengths for the walls, assuming and making allowance for manufacturing (angle cutting) mistakes. Additional wood materials are balsa or basswood sheeting (1/8 and 1/4 inch thick) and various wood strips for the fortress gate construction. Wood glue, some basic undercoat paint, hobby tools,, sanding paper (various grits) or Dremel tool for sanding the wall joints.

With material on hand, the next step was draw the fortress outline on the half-inch plywood under-base. Simply sketch the curtain wall outline and length, the bastion shapes, and other design notes for construction. I kept a small scrap piece of wall wood molding styles handy for wall dimension calculations. WR should note the bastions in the end all came out slightly different in size and shape, adding character to the finished fortress but Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban would have fired his junior engineer for shoddy bastion work.

Cut out the wood molding material to shape and length then wood glue the fortress together. This took several evenings since the horizontal levels required some pin work to hold in place while the glue dried.


Cutaway of the fortress curtain wall showing the three molding wood strips and basic dimensions. Fortress is mounted on a plywood sheet for rigidness and easy transport.

Close view and molding angles to complete the bastion "entrance". Finished bastion will have entrance across the opening.

Close view and molding cut angles to complete the bastion “entrance”. Finished bastion will have entrance across the opening. Note the flat surface glued joint lines for the curtain wall esplanade. Bastion upper esplanade surface is cut balsa or basswood cut to shape of bastion.

Basic outline of the fortress "half" without ravilins.

Basic outline of the fortress “half” without ravelins. Twelve inch ruler for measurement. WR made the fortress in two halves for easy storage in a file cabinet drawer.


The ravelins. WR made four ravelins to place before the exposed fortress curtain wall and cover the fortress gates. Same materials from making the curtain wall but sheet balsa or basswood for ravelins esplanade surface.

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Nebelwerfer smoke trail markers

During our two recent Flames of War scenario games both Daniel and WR completely forgot that American artillery could have counter-battery the hidden NW41 nebelwerfer battery stationed behind the Hill 105 (see my Assault on Hill 105 scenario AAR’s). Rocket launchers leave telltale smoke trail pointing back to the NW41 launcher location. So to remind our forgetful brains I quickly created and built some smoke trail markers to place before each firing launcher.

Nebelwerfer battery firing their NW41 rockets.

Nebelwerfer battery firing their NW41 rockets.

Materials list:  Smoke trail markers are simple to come by. Material list includes:

1) Off white pipe cleaners purchased from Ebay under “pipe cleaners”. A packet of 50 pipe cleaners was very cheap from China and with free postage too!

2) Bass wood strip 1/4″ by 1/2″ for the black vertical bass wood support.

3) I used vinyl floor tile for my bases cut to size. Gives a little weight to all my FOW plastic miniature basing. Base size is 2″ x 1.5″ which matches my FOW nebelwerfer 2″ base frontage.

4) Cotton ball for the small cloud of smoke at base of smoke trail.

5) Various hobby tools, Dremel drill, white PVC glue, and some small clips to hold the pipe cleaners while gluing.

6) Tea lite candle and small bowl of water.

7) Flat black and various shades of grey water based paint. Base paint if needed.

8) Base ground covering and terrain flocking of choice. Woodlands Scenic material is my common choice for the ground texture and small rocks, bushes etc..

Note: I purchased two 50 pipe cleaner packs since I plan to make other smoke trail markers for my Sherman Calliope tank model, my Russian Katyusha launchers and various other rocket launcher equipment used in WWII and modern era.

Also I should note that I play FOW in 20mm scale (not the standard 15mm) so my basing method for infantry and small miniature cannon, mortars and other equipment doesn’t match common FOW basing. This was noted in my AAR “Assault on Hill 105” at end of article. Continue reading

Vineyards and Barbwire

Several readers of my WR blog has questioned me on my vineyards and barbwire construction. So a brief overview of my terrain usage and construction discussion for my readership. Materials needed can be found in your local hardware store and hobby shop:

Bass wood strip of any length with bevel edge. The bevel edge avoids a vertical edge showing on the vine model wood base. White household glue (PVC) in a bottle, Zap-a-gap cyanoacrylate glue*, wire brads (nails), galvanized wire 28 gauge, a wooden dowel, a small hand drill, small light weight hammer, a hand file or sandpaper, and hand pliers. Woodlands brand flocking, small rocks and clump foliage materials for the ground texture and the actual foliage on the vines. I added in a beer and TV/DVD for background entertainment.

Material used for vine and barbwire construction. Bass wood strip, brad nails of 3/4" length, galvanized wire and hand pilers (not shown).

Material used for vine and barbwire construction. Bass wood strip, brad nails of 3/4″ length, galvanized wire. Not shown is Woodlands foliage materials, white household (PVC) and Zap cyanoacrylate glues and tools.

Vineyards: Cut the bevel bass wood to the length desired and then slightly round off the corners using a file or sandpaper block. I used three different lengths (6″, 4″ and 2″) because my underlying vineyard terrain mats outline the terrain feature on my tabletop. The actual bass wood bevel strip used for the vines was 5/8″ wide and 3/32 depth.

The actual vine model lengths are for show and can be displaced if the miniatures require additional space. The underlying terrain mat determines if the miniatures are in the vineyard or not for LOS and combative actions. The majority of my vine models are 6″ lengths. Continue reading

French Compagnie d’Aeronautiers

WR is thinking of using his French Aerostiers unit in another French republican tabletop battle soon. Been several years since this unit has seen action and spied the Die Kaiserliks battle dispositions.

Before the intrepid Captain Coutelle flies again, some details on WR’s model. The aerostiers unit consists of two parts; the flying balloon model and a weighted French semaphore station base. Normally, the French aerostiers “marched” their airborne inflated balloon to the battlefield with tethered ropes held by soldiers. But WR couldn’t devise a model base, of marching miniature soldiers, with sufficient weight to hold the model balloon above the tabletop. Hence, the thought of a weighted semaphore station to “receive” Captain Coutelle’s messages became a fun project.

French aerostiers model, include all the nice French tricoloured ribbons for propaganda.

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