Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lunch projects

I finished up a couple of fantasy figures at lunch today. The cyclops is from current Iron Wind production (ex-Ral Partha Imports). The lady will be the lead singer in the group of bards recently finished...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ral Partha/Iron Wind Goblins

I am, unfortunately, continuing to have technical problems in posting to the blog. I'm not much of a computer adept, and when it comes down to a choice of using scarce leisure time for tracking down computer problems or for painting miniatures, the latter is always more appealing.

That said, even the painting has been a little slow lately due to general busyness in the real world. I have, however, started working toward getting some of the units painted from last year's Iron Wind Metals and the first of these finally got a varnish coat yesterday. I will be running a Chaos Wars demo at Harcon, a game day run at the local community college, in a couple of weeks, and I thought that it would be nice to have a few units on the table representing things that interested gamers could actually buy. A lot of my units are composed of out-of-production vintage figures.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


For a little variety in gaming, I met with my at Cincycon, outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, this weekend. He drove in from Bloomington, Indiana, and we both spent the weekend helping to run demonstration games of the revived Ral Partha Chaos Wars mass fantasy battle game. We also had a fascinating tour of the Iron Wind Metals factory facility, source of so many of my old favorite fantasy miniatures.

Cincycon was a well-run local convention, and occupied two large halls at the local fairground. While I was preoccupied with Chaos Wars, I saw a wide variety of boardgames being played, and other miniatures games in a broad range of genres and periods, with historicals being well represented.

I would certainly recommend giving Cincycon a look if it's within your comfortable travel range!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Italeri Stone Bridge

As I have been working on my 25mm fantasy lately, I realized that I had disposed of my Hovels or Gallia resin bridges during a previous purge. I went looking for easily available replacements, and turned up this hard plastic kit from Italeri, available online for about $15. This bridge came in six pieces and went together quickly with no serious fit issues. The roadway is just over three inches (~75mm) wide, so will easily fit my 60mm width mass fantasy bases. I may end up with another one or two for flexibility in scenario design. On to painting ...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

For Janus: Looking ahead and back

2015 was an interesting year for wargaming, at least for me.  I started the year intending to work on 1/72 scale plastic ancients and homecast Dux Bellorum warbands, as well as finishing off the Portable Fantasy Game (PFG) skirmish project. I got off to a good start toward those goals, but, as usual, no plan survived contact with reality.

My Bones 2 Kickstarter package arrived with a ton of fantasy plastic, and the PFG completion got sidetracked while I quickly painted up a Bones undead warband, using some of the new Bones 2 figures.

However, the vast mass of Bones 2 was a little overwhelming, and the limitations of the material are becoming more apparent as I continue to paint and play with them.  One of them is that spindly parts are going to be a problem, and the Bones 2 cavalry and centaurs are not very satisfactory.  Reaper apparently agrees; there were no new cavalry figures in the Bones 3 Kickstarter. Figures suitable for arranging in units remain scarce in the line, so my notion of building new fantasy forces in modern (i.e. BIG) 28mm for mid-sized games, say 120 figures per side, is not working out.  So big plastic fantasy is headed toward the back burner, with a few minor exceptions I'll get to.

The next unplanned shift in emphasis came in March, when my long-time friend and fellow gamer from back in the day, Joe, came out to the East Coast for Cold Wars.  With a little encouragement from Joe, I ended up coming home with about twenty vintage 25mm fantasy figures from McEwan, Custom Cast, Minifigs, and Ral Partha for the nostalgia value.  That got me looking through my old fantasy figures.  Added to my issues with the Bones, I started looking around on eBay for figures I had once had, then figures I had once wanted, then figures that I might have wanted had I ever seen them or heard of the company that had once produced them....Somewhere in the middle of that exercise, which, by the way, was reinforced by my brother deciding to do the same thing, Ironwind Metals decided to revive some of the classic Ral Partha fantasy army lines and the old Chaos Wars rules.  I bought into that Kickstarter in May, and it happily delivered right on time at the end of the year.

At Huzzah, in May, I picked up a lot of reinforcements for my 25mm Byzantine/fantasy armies, mostly Hinchliffe with a smattering of Minifigs. That was the first "new" army I picked up this year.  I also got Aquilonians and Turanians (old Ral Partha Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age) from Classic Miniatures, and the Ral Partha Kickstarter elves and orcs.

I have mostly sworn off Kickstarters, with exceptions made only for established companies, or companies whose previous Kickstarters went well. In 2015, that meant that I signed up for three, Bones 3, the Ral Partha Chaos Wars, and Stonehaven Halflings.  All of them have either delivered or are on schedule, so that's been going well, except for the amount of painting stacking up, of course.

With all of this going on, I have been attempting to pick up the pace on army painting.  The thought that I had at the beginning of the year, that I might spend more time on painting some superior (not Superior, though I got some of those this year too) miniatures has been overtaken by the press of the amount of work I've taken on.  The good news is that it has been an excellent year for painting, with 205 25/28mm figures (and 27 1/72 scale plastic figures) completed.  The bad news is that I am going to need to reach toward some previous records (achieved back in the early oughts) if I want to see these armies on the table anytime soon. I also need to seriously up my game on the painting of horses, because I've got a lot of cavalry to paint.

It was a pretty good year for conventions; I made it to Cold Wars, Huzzah, and Gencon, and took games to all three.  I had friends at all three, which made each of them a good experience, and I am looking forward to doing at least as well next year.

I was involved in 33 miniatures games, which is a little below where I want to be.  With both sons out of the house, though, pickup games aren't as easy as they have been in years past.  Ross and I got in a couple of remote games this year, but technical issues have been keeping us from doing more. I hope to fix that in the coming year.  As might be expected, the 33 games included a lot of fantasy.  We played multiple games with four sets of rules, Chaos Wars, Frostgrave, Song of Blades and Heroes, and our home rules under development.  We also had single games of a couple of others.  There was still some time for historicals; we played several games of Warhammer Ancient Battles leading up to running it at Cold Wars, and several Charge! games with the Not Quite Seven Years War figures, leading up to Huzzah.

As far as games and rules went, that mix made it a fairly typical year, with just a couple of exceptions.

One was Osprey's release of Frostgrave, and several of my fellow HAWKs members immediately jumped on the bandwagon.  Since it uses warbands of no more than 10 figures, it was pretty easy to get a team on the table by simply reaching into the box of finished Bones.  In 2016, I want to line up a purpose built faction with appropriately themed basing, and see if I can get it painted in small batches in between 25mm fantasy. It will be mostly Bones, with a few other Reaper metal figures to round out a couple of figure types that are a little scarce in Bones.  I've also started my own set of paper model-based scenery so that I can run it at home.  My older son has also started working on a Frostgrave band, so there are some family games in the future. I don't usually buy into these small specialized sorts of games, but it seems to me that most of this can be easily recycled into something else if everyone gets tired of it. I'll try to post more on Frostgrave in the near future.

The second was also an Osprey release, Dragon Rampant, right at the end of the year.  A couple of the other HAWKs have been talking about trying its medieval precursor, Lion Rampant, but haven't yet done so because they are still working on figures.  Translate that concept to fantasy and, behold!, I have troops for a dozen warbands/retinues immediately at my fingertips.  So that allowed me to throw a game on the table (as described in my Christmas trip report) even before my pre-ordered hardcopy of the rules caught up with me, which is not at all my usual experience in testing something new.  I expect to be playing more Dragon Rampant in 2016, since it makes use of stuff that's already in place.

For 2016, I have already mentioned that I want to work on getting the 25mm fantasy armies painted.  After spending much of the past year stripping paint from eBay purchases, I am looking forward to working with figures that haven't been painted previously.  Beyond that, I want to get back to building the Dux Bellorum warbands with the homecast figures, partly just because I am interested in the period (thanks, Rosemary Sutcliff), and partly to take the opportunity to practice my conversion skills on small scale figures, using ones that are cheap and easily recycled in the event of any unfortunate occurrences.  I also want to get back to working, even if only gradually, on some NQSYW figures again.  I have been working toward a project goal for many years without yet reaching it, and I hope that running some NQSYW games will provide the necessary inspiration.  There is also some chance that this will be the year that I do some more with the 40mm Renaissance figures.

One final observation: much of the last third of the year was a little stressful at work.  I was interested to see that the way this played out in my hobby was to get me painting more in my available time, because painting was a complete break from the sort of thing I was doing at work.  Setting up scenarios and doing army list calculations seemed way too much like work for it to be relaxing, which contributed to the fact that relatively few games got played post-Gencon, right up until work things got finished, just at Christmas.  If a lower stress level at work were to translate into less painting and more playing next year, I think I would be at peace with that.

So, with that, 2015 is a wrap, and it's on to an exciting 2016.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Speed Painting Binge

My 2015 retrospective will need to wait for another day; I ended up spending 9 hours yesterday on doing this Chaos Wars unit for Ironwind Metals. I volunteered to paint three at Gencon, and it's high time that got done. The whole effort took my from 9:30 to 6:30, but there was a lunch break and a couple of stretch/coffee breaks in there, too. Norman came up today and we played a trial of Frostgrave; more on that later, too.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Road trip recap

In the previous post I mentioned that I made a road trip to Michigan to celebrate Christmas with my family.  My brother and I have been working on a fantasy gaming project most of the year, with the intention of running some games at conventions in 2016 using our vintage miniatures collections.

This was supposed to have been a simple operation, but was complicated this year by the Ral Partha/Ironwind Metals Kickstarter to revive Chaos Wars and put a lot of the Fantasy Collector Series elves and orcs back into production, and by a related urge to go into collector mode and recreate the armies that I owned and/or longed for as an adolescent gamer back in the mid-1970s with the help of eBay.

Because my brother lives in Indiana and I live in Maryland, our opportunities to put games together have been limited.  He visited here in May, and we met at Gencon in August.  We started discussing the possibility of doing some gaming around the margins of the Christmas visit, and things started falling into place when my aunt offered to let us use the game room in her basement, so we had a 4x6 table available without having to bring folding tables.  At that point we decided that we could play Chaos Wars, but that we would not reasonably be able to put on a Ringbearer test game.

My brother offered to bring the terrain, based around a Cigar Box Battles ground cloth, and some troops, and I packed up my travel kit as well.  I've showed pictures of elements of this before.  I did some research and concluded that a 12 liter Really Useful Box was the largest that would fit under the seat in a typical airline cabin, so I built my 1/72 scale fantasy skirmish project to fit into one.  It is all ready, just "grab and go", and I brought it this time to provide the basis for scenery for a 25mm skirmish game, just in case.  For this trip, I also added the original edition paper copy of Chaos Wars.

Since I was driving, not flying, I also loaded two 6-liter Really Useful Boxes with a selection of multiply-based vintage Ral Partha figures from my collection.  I strapped the whole assembly together with a couple of lengths of nylon webbing and a "Strap-a-handle".  The final dimensions were about 11x17x12 inches.

Most of my mass fantasy armies are based on 60mm square wood bases, with flexible steel bottoms (from Litko).  My boxes are then lined with sheet magnets.  As can be seen from the photo below, the 60mm square bases do not tile the box with 100% efficiency.  I can fit 18 bases per box, which leaves some extra space.  I filled that with figures on individual steel washer bases, or some of the newer Aurora Project bases, which are one inch wood circles with Litko flexible steel bottoms.  This seems to hold pretty well.  The two box pictures were taken at the end of the return trip, after an eleven hour drive, and everything is still holding.  I did deliberately leave home one or two taller figures that past experience as shown to have insufficient "grip".

I also had to leave at home a couple of units of lancer cavalry whose lances are a little too tall to fit in the 6-liter boxes.  Eventually, I expect to have a 12-liter box with the magnet sheets for overly tall figures, but the dimensions will limit that to road travel rather than air.

In the previous post I gave a link to a battle report on our Chaos Wars battle, which I posted to the Ral Partha forums.  Since my brother had brought troops and had a scenario plan, we only ended up using about half the units I brought with me, but the package is easy to carry once all loaded and assembled, so it wasn't a big deal.  While we didn't end up playing an individual figure skirmish game, I will note that I chose the individually-based figures with an eye toward that, just to keep options open.

With all of the figures showing up from eBay, and with the expectation of the imminent arrival of the Ral Partha Kickstarter box with 200 more, I have been trying to keep up with painting at any opportunity.  I took my full travel paint kit with me (rather than the TSA-compatible flying kit), and had a couple of mornings to work on things.  I only finished two figures, though.  The left-handed elf archer is a Tom Meier sculpt from the old Ral Partha 98-006 Dungeon Party boxed set, an eBay acquisition, and the female on the right is an H-21, a warrior woman (looks more like a rogue to me) from the Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age range, one of three figures from that range that I stripped and repainted this year that have been in my collection since they were new.

Basing is still in progress on those two.

I bought a copy of the Osprey wargames rules Lion Rampant when they were released, but time management got away from me, and I still have yet to try playing them.  They have received some good buzz online, though, and we have a couple of HAWKs members who are working on retinues. When it was announced that Osprey would be publishing a fantasy variant, I went ahead and pre-ordered a copy on speculation.  One of the club members sent out a link to  a review of Dragon Rampant just before Christmas.  It looked like this was going to be something I would play. Unfortunately, my pre-order copy was due to arrive after our departure on the day we drove to Michigan, so I splurged on a Kindle copy and was able to read it on the trip up, during the periods when it wasn't my turn to be the driver. (Thank you, Irene!)

My older son was also staying at my aunt's house, where we had staged the Chaos Wars game on Saturday, and was kind enough to assist me on Sunday morning in playing through the rules, with a couple of warbands I built with what was in my travel boxes.  He is not a fan of games using activation rolls, so I knew that he would be a bit dubious, and we did have a couple of turns where we passed the dice back and forth as we each failed to activate anything.

Dragon Rampant uses a freeform system for representing things on the table.  In the medieval/historical version, units have either 6 or 12 figures (generally corresponding to mounted/foot), and casualties are intended to be removed.  In the fantasy version, units have 6 or 12 strength points, and you are free to depict the unit with whatever seems appropriate.  If the unit does not have 6 or 12 models, casualties/damage are shown by markers on the table.  Since I didn't grab my gamemaster box for this trip, we made do with dice.  This ends up reminding me (favorably) of Hordes of the Things, in that you can generally find some game category (with the possible addition of special abilities) to allow you to assign values to pretty much any miniature you might wish to use.

I took a band consisting of a dragon (greater war beast with optional flame attack and flying), a land dragon captain (heroic elite cavalry, depicted as a single figure), some lizard riders (javelin armed rather than bows, with reduced range and a cost break), and some goblin infantry (being green-skinned, they were deemed to be a sort of reptile-man for the day).

Norman's warband had six units, a heroic single-figure heavy rider leader, some heavy foot elf pikes, some sharpshooting elf bows, a spell-slinging single-figure elf princess using the "scouts" profile for stealth and ranged attacks, and allied centaur heavy and light warriors (using the heavy and light rider profiles).  As expected for a trial game, we had to flip through the rules a bit (difficult with the Kindle edition, I'm afraid) and I'm sure that we missed some options as far as our actions went.  There is a quick reference sheet in the book, so I expect that having a couple of those on the table will reduce the need to flip pages considerably.  In fact, I tend to expect that one will be able to play this from memory and your warband profile sheet by the end of the first game.

I'm looking forward to trying this out with the other interested club members soon.  I note that there is a (joke?) rule in this game giving a glory (victory point) bonus to warbands consisting entirely of pre-1984 miniatures.  My centaurs in this game are right on the borderline, but everything else on the table was well within that, so I expect that will not go over well with the rest of the club when I try to (habitually) claim that bonus...

We drove home on Monday, and I was pleased to find that my Ral Partha/Ironwind Chaos Wars Kickstarter box had arrived while I was away, so that made for a nice post-Christmas surprise. (OK, not that much of a surprise--they were very good about keeping us updated on shipping.)

Mine was full of all manner of Chaos Wars goodness.  I'd ordered the large version of the starter set, a package of additional command figures, a unit of elf pikes, an elven colossus, and the new figures sculpted for the Kickstarter.

They threw in samples of skeletons and dwarves, which will apparently be the next Kickstarter.

We also got a handful of bonus figures, originally all from the Personalities and Things That Go Bump in the Night range.  The winged panther is new to me.

The elven colossus, shown here with the new sculpted Tom Meier elves, was originally sold in the early years of Ral Partha as part of a small series of 54mm painters' figures, and resembles, in larger scale, the earliest of the Ral Partha elves.  They suggest using it as a giant animated statue with the 25s, and I think that I'll do mine in verdigrised bronze, a technique that I'll being trying out on some Bones designated as Frostgrave statues before I try it on this.

I'll try to post some New Years project thoughts tomorrow.  While I am really enjoying this revisitation of fantasy gaming, I also want to make time for the Not Quite Seven Years War again in the new year.