Wednesday, November 25, 2020

It’s the Libyans!

 I see that it has been a few weeks since I posted anything.  I actually took a week off from work back on the 9th, but my desk had reached this state...

...and it was therefore difficult to get anything done, except for one scenery piece.

I have been gradually working on improving my scenery collection, and decided a while back that I was going to build bases of trees and the like, to save wear and tear (at the expense of storage space, of course). As I worked toward the goal of staging a game with all-new pandemic era gear, I realized that I would need some walls.  These plastic walls from the Mantic Terrain Crate Kickstarter look reasonable, but are so thin that I can’t imagine how I would keep them standing on the game table. I decided that I would just go ahead and group them into a few permanent enclosures and base them on some of the irregular masonite bases I picked up last fall from an Etsy dealer.  There was some space left at one end, so I planted a few trees to make use of it.  The pictures above show the walls with a handful of the Prince August figures I’ve been painting.  When time permits, I have two more enclosures to go, plus a single spare broken down wall to enhance some other scene.

When that week was over, I had to clear the desk off to go back to using it as my work from home space.  When the next break started, I decided that I would depart a bit from my usual home desk procedures, by putting out ONE (and only one) thing to work on.  While there are plenty of Prince August figures awaiting my attention, my son has been working on DBA Bronze Age armies.  I have been one stand short of a complete Bronze Age Libyan army for months (I/7b, if you’re into that sort of thing), so I thought that it would be a good time to finish it.  I’ve had the pieces for a light chariot general stand sorted out since spring.  Our Bronze Age project is staffed by the beautiful and inexpensive Caesar Miniatures 1/72 scale plastics.  However, as extensive as their range is, there isn’t a “Libyan” chariot.  I built this one using an Egyptian chariot body, horse from one of their Mitanni chariots, and some of the Libyans as the crew and runners.  I thought about trying to jam in a driver as well, but it was looking too cluttered, so I didn’t.

This is what I ended up with.  

In keeping with the usual artists’ rendering of the Libyans (e.g., the New Kingdown Egyptian Osprey guide), most of my foot figures are painted with cloaks representing the hides of spotted cows with the hair left on.  I wanted to do something a little more upscale for the commander, so I went looking around for contemporary images, and came up with this:

I attempted to render the alternating lines of “arrows” and “eyes” from the second and fourth figures, and then echoed the same pattern on the chariot sides.  In the absence of evidence, that seems as good as any other possibility. 

With the completion of the command chariot, I now have all twelve DBA elements needed for my army:

My son has been pretty consistently building all the variable elements for his DBA armies.  For the Libyans, I could have a second chariot in place of the four man Sea Peoples blade stand, and three more “psiloi” in place of the stands of warriors (“fast auxilia” in the game).  I’ll probably build the chariot at some point, but I need to play some more DBA 3.0 to decide whether there is any reason I would choose to add three more psiloi to an army that already has five.

The next project on the desk will probably be fantasy rather than Bronze Age, but I do have a DBA army of Nubians sorted out, to give me another historical Egyptian opponent.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Down the Rabbit Hole — Part 6

 After a couple of weeks of using my painting space for work-at-home, I finally cleared it off during my day off yesterday for its primary purpose.  As mentioned in the previous five installments in this series, I have been attempting to put enough new stuff during the pandemic to run a game.  The ultimate goal may be to have a force sized for Osprey’s Oathmark rules, but in the near term, I’ll settle for a skirmish.

I have finished eight humans, which should give me enough for a basic warband in A Song of Blades and Heroes. I got as far as cleaning up and priming a dozen or so trolls, goblins, orcs, and hobgoblins from the Prince August molds a few weeks ago.

With inspiration having arrived yesterday, I pulled them out and did a quick paint job on six of them, two trolls and four goblins, all from Prince August mold #656.

They are shown here with a barbarian warlord from Prince August mold #670, to give a sense of the scale.

While I usually paint my orcs olive drab, my son’s recent orc painting prompted me to try something a little different, so the orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins for this project are going to be in a yellowish khaki.  I did the two trolls in the “traditional” olive, because it’s fantasy.  I still have another half dozen of the orcs, hobgoblins, and goblin wolfriders on the desk, and will need three to six of them to be ready for a skirmish game.  Back to painting...

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tiny Library — A Bookish Digression

This has not been a particularly good month for hobbies.  I have ended up with enough time to daydream a bit, but not much more.  We have been spending some decompression time watching some relatively kind and calm television series, including Tiny House Nation, which got me thinking about a Tiny Library (not a Little Free Library although that’s a good idea in its own way), but something that would fit into a tiny house, or, more practically, be suitable for hauling along on an extended retreat (or, as my son noted, 

suitable for an emergency evacuation...we used to live in a flood zone).  This Tiny Library would presumably be supported for the retreat by a painting package, and a miniatures package (the Portable Fantasy Campaign).  It’s also implicit in the selection that I might have access to another gamer or two...

So here’s how it breaks down.


1) The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (India paper edition)
2) The White Company, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Books of Wonder edion with Wyeth illustrations)

The fiction section requires no particular explanation.  These are my two favorite most reread books.  To some extent, they also support the “wargaming retreat” theme as possible sources of scenario inspiration.


3) How to Cook Everything:The Basics, Mark Bittman

This one is a practical choice, intended to carry me through an extended period of civilized meal preparation, i.e. not camping nor in survival mode.  If I did need to camp, I have a couple of specialized camping cookbooks geared toward Coleman/Primus stoves and campfires.

4) Histories, Herodotus (tr. Robin Waterfield, Oxford World’s Classics)
5) The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides (Landmark edition)
6) The Expedition of Cyrus, Xenophon (tr. Robin Waterfield, Oxford World’s Classics)

The main history of Greek and Persian conflict before Alexander is covered by these three books, all of which are editions with good academic supports (i.e. footnotes and commentary).  I have ben looking for time to dig deeper into this period, and a retreat/sabbatical would be a perfect opportunity.


7) Dungeons & Dragons, Gygax and Arneson (original edition with supplements)
8) The Traveller Book, Mark Miller 
9) Fate Accelerated Edition, Valentine et al.

There are several thoughts going on with these selections.  The Traveller Book is the most complete one-volume version of this classic science fiction RPG.  I’ve been a fan since the first printing in 1977, and it’s always good to have a version of the game along on a trip because of the amount of inherent solo play there is in character creation and world building.   The Dungeons & Dragons set has been chosen for the practical reason of being the fantasy game I would wish to run next.  Preparations for such a game would be a reasonable retreat activity, but it can also be used for some random setting solo play with the aid of some early random dungeon tables.  The original rules were reprinted in 2013, so I usually carry around the reprint edition when I’m working on something.  Bringing my tattered original copy from 1976 is a sentimental move.  Fate Accelerated is here because it is generic with respect to genre, simple, and very thin.  If other people were not along on this retreat, it probably would not see use, but it also takes up very little space.


10) Dragon Rampant, Dan Mersey
11) De Bellis Antiquitatis 3.0, Phil Barker
12) Setting Up a Wargames Campaign, Tony Bath
13) One Hour Wargames, Neil Thomas

Among the four categories, this one is probably the most subject to revision.  Part of this is due to the category needing an additional support package to be of use at all.  So, anticipating that the aforementioned Portable Fantasy Campaign would be the basis of the support package, Dragon Rampant is one of the main rule sets which ordinarily goes with that.  (Practically speaking, this doesn’t really need to be here; the actual physical box with the miniatures stuff has Dragon Rampant, Hordes of the Things, and A Song of Blades and Heroes already tucked in the box.) 

DBA is on this list as the current family favorite ancients rules to support the painting project implied by the Greek history books.  

One Hour Wargames is included for two reasons.  The primary reason is that its scenario collection is already scaled for small armies and for a 3’ by 3’ game surface (which is what I have for the Portable Fantasy Campaign).  The second reason is that there are simple rules for a variety of periods in case one needed a bit of a break, and was open to improvising a game using cardboard counters or some such in lieu of actual miniature troops.

There are three alternates that would be reasonable choices in this category.  My signed sentimental copy of Donald Featherstone’s Solo-Wargaming has some ideas on how to get through a period without other gamers around.  A copy of Morschauser’s How to Play War Games in Miniature could be a direct substitute for the “all periods” aspect of One Hour Wargames, and is something of a sentimental favorite even though I am not attached to any particular physical copy of the book.  If One Hour Wargames were replaced, a need for C.S. Grant’s Scenarios for Wargames would be greater.  The “Green Book” is also both rather rare (in general) and sentimental (in the form of my particular worn and much annotated copy).

Different choices in miniatures would imply different rules; choosing to paint 1/72 scale 18th century figures rather than Greeks and Persians would call for A Gentleman’s War instead of DBA; bringing along some Dark Ages figures to work on might call for Dan Mersey’s Dux Bellorum, and so forth...


As mentioned, the choice of cookbook has to do with what sort of kitchen one might be able to access; having just an Instant Pot would imply a different cookbook, as would expecting access to be restricted to just a camp stove.

The role-playing games would necessitate a bag of dice and a stock of office supplies (notebooks of quadrille paper, notecards, colored pencils, etc.).  The would also benefit from access to the miniatures in the miniatures support package.

As mentioned the miniatures books imply access to a package of miniatures.  This should include at least a basic painting kit, some tools and basing supplies, and some miniatures awaiting painting.  

I haven’t double-checked it lately, but I had pulled out eight boxes of Zvezda plastics, which I had calculated had the troops necessary to support the four basic armies which might be needed for the project (two slightly varied Greek armies for the Peloponnesian War, two different Persian armies to do Cunaxa, and the Persian War to be done with a mix of them).  I haven’t sized them, but they should fit in a 9 or 12 litre Really Useful Box along with the basing supplies and tools.  My travel paint kit would probably suffice, although I’d want to make sure that the bottles were full before heading off on a six month retreat.

So, there you have it, a thought experiment made (somewhat) real ...

(Edited 10/29/20 to remove typing errors...)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Down the Rabbit Hole, Part 5

 This is a little behind the times, but last week I was tied up GMing a LARP for work...

I picked up some cheap brushes and craft paint the other weekend, and returned to a project on hold for a few months: the fantasy scenery upgrade expansion and Prince August casting project.  I finished several buildings back in July, but still had a few left.

Doing these ones reminded me of how irritating it is trying to neatly edge half timbered buildings.  However, they got done...

While getting ready to put them away, I pulled out the earlier ones.  That should make a reasonable village for the first outing of the Prince August figures.

I cleaned up and primed a dozen or so Prince August orcs and goblins, so the next task is to get them painted.  Happily, I have taken next wek off from work...

Monday, September 21, 2020

54mm Fantasy?

 While I have been casting about for inspiration this month, one other idea (other than Prince Valiant, that is) has been given a new push.  I have noticed recently that there are now two boxes of soft plastic 1/32 scale fatnasy creatures available on Amazon (and probably elsewhere). The Series I box was $20, and the Series II box was $25, within my impulse purchase range, so I decided that I would order them and have a look.

Series I contained orcs, griffins, skeletons, unicorns, minotaurs, wizards, dwarves, two headed somethings, snakey medusas, dragons, centaurs, knights, faeries, and elves, in a mix of light and dark plastic. Numbers were fairly even; 7 of each although I was apparently short a faerie.  For scale, they are shown below with a knight from Accurate Miniatures from my Medieval Mayhem collection. The sculpting on the figures is fairly basic, but the human-sized creatures are not a terrible match.  The dragon is a bit small, and would probably be more comfortable looming over some 1/72 scale figures.  There are no pose variations, so any units would end up with a bit of an old school Minifigs aesthetic going on.

The Series II figures were more of a mix.  They included Cerberus, Amazons, frog-men, wolves, lizard men, cyclopes, a second unicorn pose, a headless horseman, a phoenix, a militant mermaid, a berserker, and a harpy.  The numbers were more random.  I was short two figures of the 56 promised, and had 1 Cerberus, 2 phoenixes, and 2 frog-men.  As with Series I, size of the humans is a reasonable look next to the Accurate knight.  The cyclops, like the dragon, would be happier with the 1/72s, and one phoenix may also find his way into that project as a roc.  

The plastic is pretty soft, so a test of paintability will need to be done.  There are plenty of spares of things I won’t need in units to test compatibility with spray primers...

I’m not sure what I would use for rules; adding a bit of fantasy to Medieval Mayhem seems possible, and playing Dragon Rampant (perhaps with half-sized units—a default of 6 foot or 3 mounted rather than 12 or 6).

In addition to these new figures, I also actually have a bucket of plastic toys laid by when Toys R Us closed out in 2018.  They had a bucket of Mythical Warriors in their “True Heroes” line (there’s a mis-naming...).  It had included 7 different figures, a female rogue, a hero, two witches, an orc, an elf drawing an arrow, and a dwarf(?) with a hammer (who is big enough to pass for human, so possibly equally usable as a berseker).  

Each bucket included some rudimentary toy scenery; a bridge, a couple of pillars, a prisoner cage, some rocks, some machine gun nests (?) and a pile of candlesticks, plus an odd structure I’ve dubbed the “mystic gateway”.

As you can see from the picture above, the mix of figures was pretty random.  I got one rogue, three heroes, four orcs, and thirteen elves.

They also are not a bad match for the Accurate knight.  Unfortunately, with Toys R Us out of business, the molds are currently idle, so there’s no chance of acquiring more rogues or orcs.  

There’s more to follow on this, but I am enjoying considering whether I could finally have a 54mm D&D game...

(For the record, I am aware of Irregular Miniatures 54mm fantasy line...I may end up with some of those if I do get started on this; the humans tend to be rather taller than the Accurate figures, at least going by the Irregular 54mm medieval civilians I have for Medieival mayhem.)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

“We’re sorry, all available Muses are busy inspiring other artists...

 ...Your inspiration is important to us.  Please be patient, and you will be inspired by the first available Muse.”

That’s what it has felt like this past month.  However, I mentioned in my Gencon post that I had the opportunity to play in a session of the Prince Valiant roleplaying game.  After the convention, I ordered a boxed set of the first three volumes of the Fantagraphic reprints of the Prince Valiant comic strips, covering the years 1937 to 1942.  When I reached Volume 2 and saw this cover... call to the Muses was answered.  (I might note that I feel like this falls within Calliope’s portfolio for “epic” rather than Clio’s portfolio for “history”.)  In fact, my cup has overflowed slightly...

Last year at Barrage in September, I picked up a Zvezda “Royal Castle” model.  It was rather large and intimidating, so I went out looking over the usual sources for something a little smaller, and turned up one of these “Medieval Castle” models as well.  I have several boxes of Zvezda siege machines, inclujding two siege towers, a trebuchet, and four or five boxes of the smaller pieces, such as ballistas, rock throwers, rams, and mantlets, all in 1/72 scale, of which I have great store.

In fact, my son Norman recently posted about the Zvezda ballista he’s finished for his Mongol army.  So one possible route which the Prince Valiant inspiration could take me is down the path of expanding the 1/72 medieval/fantasy project to include the castle(s) and siege engines as scenario seeds.  I would not end up using the Prince Valiant background, but would translate this into the ongoing Northlands/Portable Fantasy Campaign.

However, there is another somewhat reasonable possibility for a more direct inspiration.  Back in the 1990s, when I was first gaming with large scale figures, I bought a bunch of 60mm knights and such, classic toys whose molds had been put back into production.  Most (all?) of them were Marx Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham figures, and various Reamsa and Jecsan figures from Spain and France.  

This was a project which mostly did not pan out, mostly because the conceptual space for it ended up occupied by the Medieval Mayhem project.  I had at one point intended to get the kids involved, and painted character figures and retinues for each of them.  I think we got one game in before it got set aside. According to my game logs, I hosted one game for a HAWKs meeting in 2004.  I had, in fact, decided to sell them off a year or two ago, so I pulled out the two character figures for my sons, handed them off to them for display, and boxed up the rest, along with the stock of unpainted figures. However, nobody bought them, and I brought them home (all 60 foot figures, 2 mounted figures, and the unpainted stocks) and stowed them away again.

Now, Ross Macfarlane has his Prince Michael project using 40mm Elastolin figures, so I knew that Elastolin once had a license for Prince Valiant figures, which they made in 40mm and 70mm.  However, I also recalled that somewhere in my unpainted stock of 60mm figures, I had a Reamsa Prince Valiant figure. I have no idea whether it was a pirate copy, or whether they had a propoer license.  Anyway, I did a little basement archaeology, and found these two:

The Valiant figure, on the left, is not quite in the same pose as the Elastolin, but Sir Gawain is nearly identical.  So, it would appear to be possible to do something with those, in a skirmish line, given that I already have 60+ figures painted ... We’ll see what the future holds. 

Meanwhile, I’m into Volume 3, and a boxed set of Volumes 4-6 arrived this week.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Since Gencon Online ... catching up

It has been a bad month and a half for blogging, and a rather middling one for hobbies.  Hence, I have decided to go ahead and catch up on what has been happening lately.  

Inspired by Gencon, my brother was kind enough to run a Chaos Wars game on the 8th of August, with Ral Partha elves vs. orcs.  Run remotely from his house, I took the elves, and for the first time in a number of remote games, the home player (i.e. NOT me) won the game.  Chaos Wars makes a reasonable remote game; it doesn’t involve a lot of units (usually) and it’s not too fussy about geometry.

(Screen capture from my iPad near the start of the 8 August Chaos Wars game)

It was my turn to host a game the following weekend, and Ross Macfarlane and Norman, my older son, took command of my collection of 40mm home cast Renaissance figures for an “imagi-nations” Civylle Stryfe in Ardenn game.  We used Scenario 22 from C.S Grant and Stuart Asquith’s Scenarios for All Ages.  Without actually looking it up, it’s called something like “Best of a bad lot”, and involves a tired column running into an army in camp, so that neither side would have chosen to fight under the circumstances.  

Ross ended up with the column, as Duke Frederick (the usurper; see As You Like It, by the historian Shakespeare), and Norman ended up with the camp (the loyalists, commanded by Italian soldier of fortune Mercutio). We were trying out a new variation of the Rough Wooing home rules designed for 40mm home cast figures using 1 stand = 1 company of ~100 men.  This turned out to be fussier than expected, and perhaps need a few more tweaks. On top of that, it was not a scenario we’d tried with these troops, so my attempt to implement the scenario conditions and impose a mechanical penalty for the tired attackers was perhaps too much.  So, a reasonable game, but it could have been better.  As the central gamemaster in a remote game, I ended up too busy following both sides’ orders to take as many pictures as I would have liked.

The camp’s defenses (to the right) have formed up to meet the Usurper’s tired troops

Screen capture from the central game server...

Theat wasn’t a bad weekend for games; I also finally set up and played a Dragon Rampant scenario generated by my solo campaign, which had been awaiting resolution for several months.  The nice thing about a solo campaign is that the opponent doesn’t get bored while waiting for the next move to be resolved.

I used some orcs borrowed from Norman and some of my general purpose fantasy/medieval 1/72 scale figures to resolve an encounter out on the eastern borders of the human kingdom of Darmis. I ran the “Into the Valley of Certain Death” scenario from the rule book, in which both sides have stumbled into some inhospitable territory.  In this case, I considered it to be an area of traps left by the elves, who are happy to wear down either or both parties.

The board is supposed to have 50% of the area covered in scenery, and any unit entering a terrain feature for any reason takes hits.  The units were, for the most part, able to maintain control and stay out of danger, so I was glad to be playing solo. I don’t think that it would have been too much fun as a regular two (or more) player game.

Captain of the Darmish forces (upper right) faces off against two companies of orcs

Nevertheless, it wasn’t a bad way to while away a pandemic era afternoon, and the path was clear to resolve the next month in the campaign.

Norman provided the fourth (and final) game of the month on the 30th.  He has been working on various Bronze Age DBA armies, so we tried out his Sea Peoples (a new army to us) against the Egyptians. We played two sessions, because my Egyptians were quickly smashed by the Sea peoples in the first session, and I wanted to see it it was bad luck, or whether my plan was flawed, so we just did a partial reset back to the starting positions.  In DBA terms both armies are “Littoral”,  which gives them the option of an amphibious landing on their first turn.  We both reserved troops for this; switchin up the actual landing locations for the two games.  I lost the second game as well, though by a somewhat smaller margin, but I am nevertheless forced to conclude that my plan was probably fatally flawed. 😕 

There hasn’t been a game yet this month, so that’s it for recent games.

I’ve gotten a little bit of painting done.  Inspired by Gencon, I painted two more relatively random figures for my proposed Urban Fantasy game:

Leon is a Reaper Bones Chronoscope figure, rebased, and Lucia is a Hero Forge custom figure.  She’s a fae character of some sort, with faun legs and big ears, though dressed in imported human styles.  That’s hoof polish, by the way, not pink slippers.

The next time I sat down with a brush, I ended finishing up a stand of Hordes of the Things “beasts” for the Portable Fantasy Campaign, consisting of a Caesar Miniatures elf sorceress...

... and two Reaper Bones “saprolings” as tree creatures of some sort.  This is the second (of two) of these stands.  The first was finished back in March.  

For my most recent micro-project, I stayed with the 1/72 scale fantasy theme with some baggage and a camp follower/NPC.  While cleaning up recently, I found a group of figures I had washed prior to priming some months ago.  Included in the group was a small flock of sheep, which I had started when I did a campaign battle last October, for which I had needed three baggage train items for an escort mission.  I had two, and filled in the third with a mounted Maid Marian from the Airfix Robin Hood set.  The sheep are from the Pegasus farm animals set. I decided after I had started them that I wanted a shepherd of some sort, so another Robin Hood set figure was drafted for the purpose.  For figures the Plastic Soldier Review lists as having been released in 1964, they hold up very well considered alongside some of the modern manufacturers.  The pregnant woman came from the Linear-B/Strelets Roman transport set.  The review notes that her costume isn’t particularly accurate for Roman times, but she fits right in to the generic fantasy themed collection.

I’ve got several things on the painting desk this weekend, so I shall hope to finish something tomorrow.  I have been using the desk as my work at home space, and I will need to be cleared off again by 7:30AM on Monday.