Sunday, February 14, 2021

A Vauban Style Star Fort

 This is a terrain project that I completed last July when I was able to work in my garage and set up a work table for sawing and painting. It is a star fort that my father made in 1966 as a Christmas present. The walls had been constructed primarily from the wooden ends salvaged from apple boxes. This became the focus of my initial dive into wargaming, although at the time my brother and I used spring loaded metal tubes my father had made to launch wooden projectiles at each other's troops. 
The base measured 1.2m by 0.8m. Originally the fort and base were all grey, but I had painted the base green at some point in the 1970's so it would look better on the wargames table. The large size of the base meant it was still a bit unwieldy, so it was time to trim things smaller as well as repair and improve the overall appearance. The impetus for the project came from watching a video by the Terrain Tutor on flocking gaming boards. I used a number of techniques presented in that video to do the upgrade.

The black lines are the cutting guide for my Skilsaw to trim the base as close to the bastion corners as I could. You can see a lot of the cracks where the wood had split over the years, and the grooves on the outside of the some of the bastions. That was supposed to be where the interior platforms were to slot in, but these were accidentally cut on the wrong side.

 The base was trimmed, and the sharp edges sanded to give a more rounded profile. All the cracks and the unnecessary grooves on the outside of the bastions were filled with plastic wood, and everything was sanded smooth. The 'stone work' (rectangles of heavy paper and cardboard of varying thicknesses) was glued on using PVA. I also used pieces of self-adhesive address labels sent to me over the years by various charitable organizations. I cut them to the desired size and stick them on to give a hint of stone or brickwork.

The entire fort was repainted in a dark grey with highlighting and drybrushing of the stone work in lighter shades. Then sand was glued to the base using PVA and painted brown after the glue had dried. The paints used for all the colours were latex paints from Home Depot. They often have smaller containers for sale in the 'Oops' section of the paint department. Anytime I pass through there, I have a quick look for shades of brown, green, and grey that might be useful for wargames terrain projects.

I constructed three ravelins from polystyrene foam and mounted them on cutoffs from the original base that were trimmed to give an equilateral triangle. To get a consistent size and shape for the pieces of polystyrene, I first cut a pattern out of cardboard that was used as a guide for my handheld hot wire cutter. The simulated stone work was done in the same manner as the main fort.

 After the brown paint on the bases was dry, I flocked them as outlined in Mel's tutorial video, mostly using a medium green blend, with patches of darker green near the bottom of the walls, and lighter green where 'high traffic' or drier areas might be. A few clumps of lichen were added here and there,  just to give some variety. The gates were constructed using balsa wood and match sticks, and then given a coat of dark brown paint followed by drybrushing on lighter shades. The bridge that spans the moat was originally something my father had made for a sand table he had constructed for training soldiers. It was originally just a 1 by 2 cut with a curve and some square arches. It has been augmented with popsicle sticks on the sides, and coffee stir sticks for the planks. It was painted in the same manner as the gates. 

 With the ravelins being separate pieces, it is possible to use the fort without a moat, or without the ravelins completely, depending on the scenario.

The fort was originally designed to be used with Airfix American Civil War Union and Confederate Infanty and Artillery, so the the barrack doors and windows are HO scale. Here's a view of the fort interior.

When I repainted the base many years ago, I thought I might use it for 15mm Napoleonics or Seven Years War, which would have made the barracks too large. I made some 'quick and dirty' facades using cardboard and felt pens to cover the fronts of the barrack blocks and look like buildings that butted up against the fort walls. The buildings in the center are 1/160 scale resin models. I may do some more elaborate facades at some point in the future, as well as some 'battle damage' pieces to place against a wall section or bastion to show where a breach has been established.

This was a project that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time, so it gave me considerable satisfaction to finally get it done. Now all I need to do is find a good set of wargame rules for sieges in the 17th to 19th centuries. I know Conscript Dave is already thinking about doing the 1565 Great Siege of Malta. The possibilities abound.
I hope you have enjoyed my little journey down memory lane. Until we can meet across gaming table, stay safe and healthy.




Bluewillow said...

Fantastic table piece I must say!

French Wargame Holidays

MurdocK said...

simmering on the back burner since 1966!


(Kym) + Warburton + (Classic40K) said...

Great story and project!

Anton Ryzbak said...

A brilliant bit of work and a great way to keep a childhood memory alive

Neil Scott said...

A fantastic model. Great to see it refurbished

Anonymous said...

if you wan't climb guns on the bastion you should add a ramp in your forteress. Have you never climb a staircase with a stroller? Ask your wife, I'm sure she knows the answer !!!

French follower

Bartek Zynda said...

A great metamorphosis of an old project into something new. Amazing stuff!

Greg B said...

Wow, Frederick, this is really, really something else! Great work!