Saturday, January 26, 2013


Tri-City Laser has created a line of laser-cut wood building kits that are relatively easy to assemble and etched with detail that look fantastic when given the kind of dry-brushed highlighting technique that is in every gamer's basic skillset. I was tasked with creating painted samples of the entire line and photographing them for the sell sheets which make up the line's basic promotional package. That meant finishing a lot of buildings quickly. This experience helped me build the following technique which I have found gives the neatest, cleanest result the most efficiently.

The foundation of this technique is painting the building before it is assembled. By doing so, you don't have do as much fiddly stuff around the details and can more or less slap the paint on. You must be warned that it can cause some swelling in the wood, especially if you use too much paint; but although I've had tight fits at time, I've never had a building that failed to go together.

The building I've chosen to illustrate my technique is the newest release, a small store with a fancy stepped-front. First off, lay out all your unpainted parts and give it a dry test-fitting to make sure you know how everything goes together.

Let's start with the exterior surfaces. The front, sides, back, roof, and floor need a thin coat of dark sepia brown paint. Because I need large quantities for terrain and buildings, I mix this color myself with black and red craft paints (make sure they are a good quality, opaque variety). Use a fairly stiff brush and work the paint into all the cracks and crevices.

Once this coat has dried and the missed spots touched up, it's time for the first dry-brushed layer. I use a medium brown craft paint which is a bit like raw sienna. Michael's craft store sells it by the exciting name "brown."

This will be brushed over all the surfaces which are meant to be plain wood. (Isn't it interesting how wood looks more like wood when you paint it?)

I also do a bit of dry-brushing and dappling on the roof, making a pattern that suggest a sun-baked spot in the middle of the surface.

The next shade for the plain wood portions of the building is a very subtle mustard-yellow-brown; something like yellow ochre. At it's most basic it is a mix of brown and yellow. This is dry-brushed over all the surfaces that got the brown treatment earlier.

Now on to the more colorful parts of the building. Often times, the false front was only part of an Old West building that was painted. I've chosen green with yellow trim, but these are very subtle, muted colors and not GREEN! and YELLOW!

I want the final highlights to give it an olive aspect, so I begin by adding black to olive (you can create olive from black and yellow, just like Napoleon did for his gun carriages) to get a nice dark olive drab. Paint the top half of the front and the back of the front (the part that shows above the roof when viewed from behind). The lower half of the front will get a different treatment.

The lower half of the front and all of the trim pieces will receive a basic coat of yellow ochre, the mustard-brown color mentioned earlier. Notice how I do all the windows very thoroughly with this coat, working it onto every surface of the window sashes, and painting slightly beyond the window frames, but not so far that it will extend beyond the trim piece, which will be glued on later.

This will be followed with a dry-brushing of a lighter version of the same.

The interior of the walls recieve a tan which you can dapple and highlight to your heart's content to simulate a smoke-stained white wall.

Now you're ready for assembly with white glue. You will need to use rubber bands or clamps to hold it together tightly while it dries. You can us superglue, but you may run into problems getting everything lined up before it dries.

Once everything is put together, I look for more highlighting I can do to really make details pop. I add some light tan dust on the wood surfaces in strategic places, and even a little fine dusting on the green front (carefully).

And there it is! I plan on making this into an undertaker's shop; Rigor and Mortis, Undertakers (for you Bugs Bunny fans).

Take a gander at the whole collection at There are painted samples of all the buildings in this collection in the catalog pages of the shopping cart.

Friday, January 25, 2013


US M1813 Shako (missing its lefthand plume)
     In February, 1813, the US Army issued a new shako; one made of leather and featuring a false front, much like the British "Belgic" shako. This durable article became very popular in the Army and quickly supplanted the earlier simple felt design.
     There were two models of this shako issued. The M1813 was the first. Its front was fairly square in appearance, and was sometimes outlined in white paint. It featured a large shako plate, and the crown seems to have varied in height.

 The second model was the M1814. The examples I've seen are more conical in appearance than the M1813, and feature a crown that was considerably more rounded; I honestly don't know if this was a universal change for the 1814 model, or a case of different contractors interpreting the specifications differently, but every M1814 I've seen so far was of the conical type, and every M1813 example I've seen had a front that presented a more flat and square appearance. The 1814 model also featured a smaller and lighter shako plate.

US M1814 Shako
The subject of uniforms of the War of 1812 is very complex. Uniforms changed considerably throughout the war and units didn't always receive new items immediately when they became available. This shako is a good case in point; the 9th, 11th, 21st, 22nd, and 25th infantry, which comprised Scott's brigade, did not receive any supplies in the spring of 1814, except for the infamous grey roundabouts and pantaloons. Scott's bitter rival, General James Wilkinson, diverted all other clothing issues to his own command, which would have included the new 1814 shako. It can be surmised that Scott's command was wearing the 1813 model during the Niagara campaign.

Knuckleduster figures in M1813 shakos.
Chartrand, Rene. A Most Warlike Appearance: Uniforms, Flags and Equipment of the United States in the War of 1812. Ottawa: Service Publications, 2010.



A good friend of Knuckleduster, Tim King, has put together a PDF guide to battles in the Niagara campaign using Black Powder Rules and kindly offered it to me to post on the blog.

This document provides detailed scenarios for Chippewa, Lundy's Lane, Fort Erie, St. David's, and Cooks Mills.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Blood was first spilled at Lundy's Lane by canonballs from the mouth of the British guns, and our game begins with the British side attempting to do the same (and generally succeeding). The batteries in the graveyard could have been represented with a section of six-pounders, a congreve rocket team, and a ridiculously-large 24lb gun; however, a 5.5inch howitzer was present in the British OB, and we chose to give the British player this toy to play with instead of a boring old six-pound gun.

Drummond's gunners take aim . . .
The three different types of ordinance present the players with a lot of rules to manage, and we wrote up an alternate cheat sheet that added a table of artillery rules (how many dice at what range with what to-hit number for which gun). We used the rules for artillery chapter and verse from the Black Powder rulebook, with the exception of giving the 24lb gun a couple of advantages. The heavy gun's fire dice are 2-3-4 (long-med-close). Additionally, there is no -1 penalty for long-range fire.

Glengarry light infantry advances. This unit was divided into two small units; we have found a normal-sized unit of skirmishers to be too powerful. These troops are considered Marauders in Black Powder.
Inevitably, Glengarry light infantry is pushed out on the American left flank by any British player with the slightest grasp of the Art of War, and anyone not in possession of a good set of loaded dice fails the command roll necessary to get the York and Lincoln militias to follow suit. A player given Rialls's command  who is impulsive, recklessly brave, drunk, or suffering some kind of fit will break ranks with the Incorporated Militia and march them forward, a mistake that becomes apparent at the beginning of US turn 2 (as you shall soon see).

In a year-and-a-half of running this game, the first round of British artillery fire has not caused an American unit to break entirely, however Scott's Brigade is routinely rendered a disordered mess incapable of mounting a general advance on the hill. Some players have managed to push one or two units raggedly toward the British line, but most will hunker down and refuse their left flank to fend off the green coats worrying them from the fence line.

Towson's US artillery; the gun is by Elite, which I have found too large for my figures; I plan on replacing them with either Front Rank or Perry. The figures are Knuckleduster late-war artillery.
During this first turn, the American artillery will try to place fire on the hill, however a -1 penalty is assessed due to the elevation; not in the rulebook, but necessary to portray the difficulty with which Towson had trying to get roundshot to do anything but bury itself in the dirt.

At the beginning of Turn 2, the British have the opportunity to be patient, continue pounding the hapless grey coats, and perhaps run some skirmishers into the orchard to their immediate front. Most players will trust to the strength of their position and wait for the Americans to come on, however a few will lose their heads and turn loose the Royal Scots or, God Forbid, the 89th from their snug spot supporting the guns.

The American "surge." Ripley's division arrives.
In the distance can be seen Porter's militia brigade, equal in every way to the US regulars.
An aggressive move by the British early in the game, before the Americans have shown their hand, is punished during the beginning of the US turn 2 when the American reinforcements arrive. Brown arrives with Ripley's brigade on the road in the US rear. It's wise to give them one free move on the board in order to them into action as soon as possible, but we've also required command rolls to bring them on the table; your choice. Simultaneously, Jessup's 25th, supported by the skirmishers of Ketchum's company (a tiny unit)  enters in any formation  they wish astride the road on the British left flank, just inside the deep dark woods. 

The British response to this action can be quite amusing, especially if the Incorporated Militia has been pushed forward, bringing the Americans on the board behind them. We are very generous with units that must extricate themselves from trouble, knowing that well trained troops with good discipline can execute any number of maneuvers to reorient themselves. We employ a house-rule, apparently a popular one among Black Powder players, giving a disordered unit the chance to make one move backward in lieu of rallying in order to extricate itself from peril. We instituted this fairly early in our experience with the rules after watching a French dragoon unit trapped and annihilated by rifles; an entire regiment completely unable to run away and save themselves being nibbled into oblivion by a handful of skirmishers.

Glengarrys pelt the American left. They always prove a distraction to the
Americans far  beyond what their numbers justify.
The middle-game consists of firefights on the British left, Scott's brigade totally consumed with rallying units and fighting off the threat to their left, and American and British reinforcements filtering forward into action. Here the key to the battle becomes apparent; the Americans must get Ripley's brigade to the hill as quickly as possible and must charge the guns with alacrity before the British can reinforce the graveyard. 

Marching up and down the square. British reinforcements arrive . . . 
All of this time, visibility is reducing. Turn two it falls to 24 inches, turn three 12 inches, and turn four a mere six inches. By this time, both armies are heavily engaged and a long painful night has begun  . . .