Recently, I saw a blog post online about a card model of a dhow that was suitable for 28mm figures I'm very annoyed with myself that I cannot remember whose blog this was; my sincere apologies to the author. However, this is something that I had been considering for myself as a useful adjunct for my Arab slavers (for the Congo game) or possibly for Pulp Alley games set in East Africa.
Once the idea was there, it didn't take much effort to find the source of this kit: it was made by a Russian outfit called "Umbum" and sold through the "Russia Best" website.
Interestingly, this website is in English [at least when I view it] and so it's quite easy to navigate. Even more interestingly, their catalogue lists a number of other ship models which might be suitable for wargames:
- Arabian Dhow
- Greek Bireme
- Medieval Caravel
- Russian Ladja (like a small Viking ship)
- Hanseatic Cog
- Oriental Junk
There's no scale given for these kits, but the dimensions of the finished models are usually available on the web page. I thought that I'd take a chance and so I ordered a dhow and a bireme [for my Greek Argonauts]. This article is about the dhow; more on the bireme another time.
Costs & Delivery
I was a little bit nervous ordering anything from Russia, as their postal system doesn't have the best reputation in the world. However, I figured that at $8 (USD) for each kit plus about the same again for postage it wasn't too expensive to take a chance.
I ordered these models some time before Christmas and in due course, 6 or 7 weeks later, I received my package with various customs seals and labels attached to it. It's not clear to me whether this timescale is normal when ordering goods from small Russian companies, or whether the Christmas holidays [and their associated effects on postal services] contributed significantly to the delay. Anyway, I now had my kits...
The Dhow Kit
The Dhow kit came in a very large, very flat box. On opening it, I found the following:
- 1 large sheet of printed parts. This is quite heavy cardstock, but nicely printed on both sides and die-cut very well.
- 1 instruction booklet.
- 1 sheet of paper (?) or plastic (?) sails. I couldn't quite work out what the sails were made from; these are a very different material from the rest of the ship - much thinner, though still quite strong.
- A hank of cord to use for rigging.
- A set of "standee" figures and [oddly] foam bases for them.
- 1 sealed toothpick! This is nominally to help push out any small parts, though I didn't find it to be necessary.
I was very impressed by the instruction manual for this model. It's easy to follow [it uses colour and simple diagrams very effectively] and it is language-neutral throughout. Quite a delight!
A Suitable Size?
When I bought it, I took a chance that this model would work with my 28mm figures. In the picture above, you can see the 15 (!) standees alongside a few of my Foundry Arab slavers. Allowing for stylistic differences and the unusually thick foam bases, I'd say that the kit's card and my metal models are extremely compatible in size.
Construction of the dhow was extremely straightforward. The parts fitted well and were designed to be simply pushed together.
If I had done a "dry" build, I don't think the kit would have taken long to complete. However, I intended to make this a very permanent model and so I used a paintbrush to apply white glue along the seams at various stages in the construction. This meant that I had to leave it to dry quite often, thus slowing down the build quite a lot.
|A sharp knife cuts off the tabs that protruded from the deck|
One other issue that I wished to address was the presence of tabs. Due to the push-fit nature of the model, there were occasional tongues of cardboard intruding onto the deck or the sides of the hull [Note that these should NOT be confused with the protruding rigging points or the supports for the bases of the masts!].
|Tabs/tongues cut flush and then painted with deck colour. See if you can spot them all!|
Once the glue was dry, I cut these tongues/tabs flush with the surfaces from which they protruded. I then applied some paint to the exposed edges of the cardboard to hide them.
|More construction tabs, this time on the sides of the hull.|
After tackling the tabs on the deck, I assembled the hull. More construction tabs stick out of the sides; these were also cut flush and the raw ends were painted to match their surroundings.
When the assembly was done, I painted all the remaining exposed edges of cardboard with a colour to match the surroundings. Mostly this was one of two shades of brown, though the decorated prow of the ship, rigging points and some parts of the waterline needed a dark grey.
|The completed, fully rigged dhow|
There's a lot of ropework on this ship! It may look complex, but the instructions were very clear and easy to follow. Two things are probably worth mentioning, though:
- The stays for the mast are not symmetrical! The mast is braced differently depending on which side the sail has been placed; I had to redo some knotwork when I realised this.
- The string supplied with the kit was quite thick, inflexible and possibly wax-coated. This made it difficult to tie the knots which were suggested in the instructions. I ended up doing simple hitches instead, with glue to hold them in place and clamps to keep the tension whilst the glue dried.
In hindsight, the rigging took rather longer than the rest of the construction [and wasn't as much fun, either]. However, it does add greatly to the appearance.
I bought this model to assess its suitability for wargaming. I'd say that in many ways it has surpassed my hopes in this respect:
- It's cheap. Even with the cost of international postage, the dhow should be within the financial reach of all but the most impoverished wargamers.
- It's sturdy. This model is really designed as a toy, so it's built from heavy-duty materials.
- It's easy to build. Apart from possibly the rigging, the parts went together quickly and easily.
- It's a perfect scale, at least for 28mm figures.
- It's pre-coloured, even on the inside of the hull [which cannot be seen in the finished model!]. The only painting required is to touch up the raw edges of the cardboard; I'd recommend strongly that you do this.
Of course, I have to balance this with a disadvantage or two:
- Because of all the [realistic/unavoidable] rigging and deck clutter, it's actually quite awkward to place 28mm figures on the ship. I managed 3 or 4 on the foredeck without too much trouble, but could only place a single Arab on the aft deck - and that required some dexterity.
- There are no instructions or alternate parts to permit a docked or anchored ship [i.e. with the sails furled]. I don't imagine it would be too hard for someone to make such an adaptation, though.
So, if you want a dhow, or a whole fleet of them, for gaming then I'd certainly recommend this Russian kit. I might replace the string provided for rigging with something a bit thinner and softer, though.
Now all I need to do is find somewhere to store the model...