In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hill Forts!

I've been wanting to make some North West Frontier hill forts for a long time now. Probably ever since I first started Colonial gaming. In the North West Frontier small tower houses and forts dotted the countryside like the border castles in Scotland. "Every house in this valley, and there are hundreds of them, is as I have described elsewhere, a little fortress. Each has thick strong walls, loopholes, and one or more lofty towers." (The Campaign in Tirah 1897-1898, Col. H.D. Hutchinson, p.79) Capturing them to clear a pass or blowing them up to punish a wayward clan chief was the objective of many an Imperial column from the 1850s until Independence and Partition in 1947.

So I've been perusing the internet and pouring over pictures on blogs of the lovely hill forts made by Chris the Model maker. How do you make them 'hill forty' and Afghan and not look too western like Fort Zinderneuf? I planned, and sketched and pondered. And planned some more and put it off. Plus it's a lot of cutting and gluing and takes up space. My work bench is also my gaming table, so having to clear things off to make some room puts me off too. But every time I have a game I'm forced to clear my table off which gives me a chance to pause and rethink my projects too. A cleared off table after a game is like a blank canvas and I get inspired to bash on with the next thing on my list of projects.

A month or two back I started on a British fort. I was going to experiment with something other than foam core (I only had one sheet and didn't want to go buy more if I could avoid it). I had some nice fibre board which had a brick like texture on one side which I thought could work for me.  I was also going to try cutting the towers out of this thick plastic board used by the local theater festival for posters. Cutting out the narrow firing slits was problematic. Then disaster struck, the knife slipped and I was finding out how nice our new Emergency Ward is.

So that project got set aside again...

This weekend though, I am enjoying my FIRST long weekend of the summer. So yesterday, while Mrs. Rabbitman was reading a book and recovering from our taking Daughter No.2 up to University, I cleared up from last week's game and inspired by the blank table, said "Damn it! I AM building a hill fort!"

I decided to go with corrugated card. It's easy to work with. I get lots for free at work, it's lightweight and it's fairly thick and strong. Yesterday's frenzy of hacking and gluing resulted in this:
hill forts 003

hill forts 002

I figured to get the ramshackle, organic Afghan look I didn't measure very precisely which resulted in some odd angles and a few gaps that had to be covered over or filled in. The roof on the tower lifts off so riflemen can fire from the loopholes and the roofs on each building also lift off. The long building is divided into two rooms. I figure the British might need to search for a captive or something, so adding some rooms was a good idea. The downside to corrugated cardboard is all the holes which had to be filled with caulking.

But that went so well I took the lessons learned and made this today:
hill forts 001

The tower isn't glued down yet, I still need to fill the gaps in the rocky outcrop I made from my box of off cuts. Once again the tower roof comes off to give access to the upper floor. The roofs on the outbuildings also come off.

With the first fort I started with the tower and added to it and finally cut a base (from that thick plastic poster board) to fit. With the second tower I cut the base, built the rocky outcrop and then fit everything else to it. I wanted a smaller more 'cozy' feel to this one. It's the home of a smaller chief. The first fort is obviously for a much bigger fellow in the neighbourhood, and it can hold a unit of 20 or so tribesmen.


  1. James, I think that looks really excellent. I like the slightly ramshackle feel to the Tower. I also really like the quotation from Colonel Hutchinson's book and the way that you've organised the model so that you have different areas in the model for gaming (outhouses, etc. Top class stuff, Sir. Looking forward to it progressing.

  2. These look fantastic James.Looking forward to seeing them painted up.

  3. Looks good, I'd like to see the work once concluded

  4. James

    Nice looking forts. I looking forward to seeing them on the table.



  5. Beautiful work James. I can't wait to hurl your Afghan chieftain from the tallest tower!

    1. Funny, considering you usually play the Pathans! :)
      But painting is coming along, I hope in a couple of weeks or so for a small starter skirmish.