Sunday, August 12, 2018

Some Painting

I've been painting with the travel kit this weekend, and have finished the figures for a couple of stands for the Portable Fantasy set in 1/72 scale plastic. They are seen here on base mock-ups.

I have also been attempting to write up my Gencon after action report, but have been experiencing technical difficulties, and it may have to wait.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Renaissance Reinforcements (and more)

I had some painting time yesterday, so I finished up the other three pikemen, all in unusually subdued colors for this project, loosely inspired by the Medici Black Band.  Given that the practical minimum size for a unit of pikes in our rules is probably 4 stands, I'm thinking I'll aim to do three more eventually, with the remainder of the reinforcements being back to the usual colorful style.  

First stand of my "Black band" pikemen


May was a slow month for painting, although I did manage to game while visiting my parents one weekend, and got to Huzzah on another, so it wasn't a bad month for gaming overall.  At the start of the month, my top project was vintage fantasy, and I finally finished the basing and varnished these three Minifigs NS-range figures as part of a small batch of individually based berserkers/bandits/brigands to fill out the original D&D encounter tables for a future D&D revival game supported by all vintage figures.  

Minfigs NS figures from around 1978

I was also digging through my old notebooks recently, looking for information about the molds I've been using for the Dux Bellorum project, when I found that I had ordered a one-each set of Vikings/Saxons/Normans from Foundry in 1996 some time.  Many of these figures were finished up promptly, and have served in various Dark Ages games since, but a batch of Normans got sidetracked somewhere along the way, and have been languishing on painting sticks in primer for the better part of the past twenty years.  I had a break at lunch one day the week after Huzzah, and I have had a few of them with my portable painting kit at my desk since I was inspired to buy the Saga rules last year. With the Saxon/Viking game I'd played on my mind,  I finished up one Norman archer. I suppose I should sit down with the rules again at some point soon and figure out what I would want to paint to be able to deploy a pleasing Norman war band.

Foundry Norman archer
 Unfortunately, of course, shortly after I bought the rules, the 2nd edition was released.  The local Saga players seem to have stuck to the 1st edition for the most part, so I'm in no hurry to 'upgrade'.


Friday, June 1, 2018

The 16th Century Project


A Visual Inventory of my 16th Century Project

As I was writing my Huzzah report last weekend,  one thing led to another.  Ross and I agreed at the convention that next year's game(s) was(were) going to be something using the combined resources of our 16th century home cast 40mm projects.  So, yesterday I dug out my bags of castings to see what I should start working on, and I decided that the proper thing to do was to muster the troops on the table and see what I really had. (My last inventory is both hidden somewhere and probably suspect anyway.)

So, there they are: 4 artillery pieces, 18 assorted cavalry stands, 10 stands of pikes and pike command, 5 stands of swordsmen, 4 stands of improvised converted crossbowmen, and 8 stands of musketeers. 

The story that goes with these figures is this:

I have been interested in the 16th century, and the warfare of the 16th century, for longer than I can remember.  It's probably a combination of being an early music enthusiast and being exposed to Sir Charles Oman's History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century at an impressionable age.  In the early years of the current phase of my interest in the miniatures hobby (starting around 1987, say) I would play 16th century games at the conventions when I could, but never started my own project, being intimidate by painting all those Landsknechts.  

By the time our club, the HAWKs, had started in 1994, I was already casting some of my own figures from commercial molds.  Chris Palmer, also a member of this board, and I both had fairly extensive mold collections, including two non-compatible 40mm 18th century sets.  Mine were Prince August, and his Nuernberger Meisterzinn. He also had a Meisterzinn catalog.  I don't know much about Meisterzinn, but they were already a zombie company (things kept in production but no new products) by 1994.  They had a small range  of 16th century molds, and I thought that it would be an interesting challenge to collect them, cast up some figures, and put a game together.  (If one follows that link, I might note that there are two molds no longer in production; an artillery piece, and a musketeer with a choice of three separate heads.) A set of rules called Armati had just come out, with a Renaissance section and provision for playing with a single stand as a unit, so I used that as the basis for my casting.

It took, as these things do, a couple of years to get things done to the point of playing games with them.  Not long after that, Chris decided to build some 40mm Leonardo da Vinci machines to go with them, inspired by a number of games of Leonardo Plus which were run at the cons for a few years.  Those rules didn't suit our collections, though, so we ended up staging a game using home rules at Cold Wars in 1999.  

After that, the figures got put away for a while, until Ross and I ended up in discussions about how difficult it would be to convert enough of the figures to form the basis of a 16th century English army (still using the longbow).  From there, we ended up deciding to put on a game in 2004 using a scenario from the Anglo-Scots Wars of the 1540s.  The siege of Haddington in 1548 was nearly a perfect match for our hodgepodge collections, with mercenaries from all over Europe participating on one side or the other.  Once again, we had to write rules to suit our collection of miniatures.  My pictures of that game are unfortunately pre-digital, and buried somewhere.  We even got an award from the convention for that one, because it was unusual and eye-catching.

Since then, we dust them off every few years, revise the rules again to taste, and set to.  If I'm at home, I'm limited by the total size of my collection, but I can still put on a decent two player game.

I still haven't managed to get to the Siege of Malta in 1565, but Ross wants to do Turks this next year, so we'll see what happens.
Some reinforcements


So, meanwhile, I pulled out the castings for a stand of four pikemen, since pikes are relatively speaking in the shortest supply in my collection, and a three man command stand for swordsmen or other light foot.  As far as I can tell from my records, I haven't painted one of these figures since about 2011, and I don't think I've done an infantryman since we staged Haddington. I thought that I had better start small and see how this felt.



I roughed out one pikeman at lunch one day this week, and it didn't seem too difficult, so perhaps there will eventually be a second pike block (of nine or so stands).  I have also ordered some molds from Berliner Zinnfiguren for more fully round landsknechts in 40mm, and I'm very curious to see how they'll look side by side.  Irregular Miniatures has also added an Italian Wars range since I started this project so many years ago, and I may end up adding units of those as well, rather than fiddling with converting so many things from so few basic poses.








Monday, May 28, 2018

Huzzah 2018 After Action Report

I have been in the habit of attending Huzzah, in Portland, Maine, for several years now.  This got started when my friend Ross Macfarlane had been unable to make it down to a Cold Wars for a while, and suggested that we meet somewhere halfway between his home in Nova Scotia and mine in Maryland.  It's a twelve hour drive for me, or a relatively short flight, which seems like a long way to go for a local convention, but between an opportunity to stage games with Ross and the fact that the Maine Historical Wargamers put on a great show, it's worth it.

This year I had planned to fly, so Ross and I ended up deciding to run a Dragon Rampant game, using my portable 1/72 scale plastic fantasy set.

Portable fantasy game configured for an air trip the week before Huzzah

I've been working on the 1/72 scale plastics a fair amount this past year.  For air travel, they have the advantage of being light enough to carry around, and also light enough that the bases stick to the magnetic travel boxes very firmly.  The configuration shown above was from the Detroit trip mentioned in the previous post, and I had to dismount the top box to get it jammed into the overhead compartment.  This time, I left that at home and just brought a 6 liter box with three war bands worth of troops (about 35 60mm x 40mm bases) and the 12 liter box with support gear such as scenery, dice, tokens, and rules.  I had some curiosity from the TSA agent boarding in Baltimore, but no problems.  Norman showed up with a fourth war band and some spares in a 4 liter box, so we had two thirds of the game in hand.

My older son, Norman, elected to come up with me this year, so I met him at the airport on Friday morning, and we had an uneventful flight to Portland, arriving at the hotel and convention venue around 10:30.  Huzzah has elected for easy planning, and has each day set up with gaming time slots, so that there are two on Friday, after lunch and after dinner, three on Saturday, one after each meal, and one on Sunday, after breakfast.  I have not typically had much problem getting into games, but apparently Huzzah is getting to be more popular, because most of the games were fully signed up throughout the weekend.  As a gamemaster, I was registered and had a badge, but I hadn't gotten around to signing up for anything in particular.  I did a quick search through the registration books and found a few open things, which is how I ended up playing in a 1973 October War tank game using "picoarmor" and the Spearhead rules, an old set by Arty Conliffe.  I was reminded that Arty's design philosophy was that commanders were constrained in their abilities to control events, so, like Armati (his ancients rules), Spearhead seems really designed to be a two player game.  There aren't really enough decisions to spread them among multiple players.

Picoarmor, more visible en masse than I expected

I elected to take the Syrians, which turned out to be functioning in the role of ducks in a shooting gallery.  The Israeli Centurians were effectively indestructible, so it wasn't my best game of the weekend.

Ross and I neglected out "best practices" handbook a bit this weekend, mostly due to my real life being a bit hectic recently, so we had not staged a trial game of Dragon Rampant by Skype beforehand.  Therefore, when he proposed that we should do a warm-up game in the Friday evening time slot, it seemed like a prudent idea.  We recruited a few other players and grabbed an empty table for a simple head to head slog between the six war bands we were using for the morning game.  As a result, we made some pen and ink changes on the hand out sheets; for unfamiliar players the terminology used by the game seems to be difficult to pick up.

Ross had originally proposed that we use Scenario 10, The Alliance, from C.S. Grant's Programmed War-games Scenarios as the basis for our Dragon Rampant  game.  After the Friday night test, I was generally unworried about the scenario; the game tends to be a little swingy anyway, so sticking to scenario victory conditions was unlikely to be a main concern.  

Barbarians of the Cold Islands in action
We modified the rules for multiplayer games by using side activation; each of the three players on a side got to act until a unit failed its activation roll, after which play passed to the enemy.  We issued each player three reroll tokens, good for an activation or morale roll, so that they had some luck mitigation available in the event of bad rolls.  Nevertheless, this game does work better as a two player game, and six is pushing the upper limit of what can remain fun.  As Ross noted, the point values are approximate, and I'm not sure that our war bands were actually balanced as intended.  On the barbarian right flank, for example, 30 points of Cold Islanders with "bellicose foot" (essentially berserkers) were unable to make any headway at all against a 24 point war band of Robin Hood-Style archers and scouts.  Nevertheless, the players seemed to be enjoying the game, so we'll call it a success and plan better next year.

I had the tables turned on me, as it were, in the afternoon session when I found myself appointed commander of a Saxon force in a six player Saxon/Viking Lion Rampant game on account of my familiarity with the rules.  I was able to get in a few solid attacks with my household mounted force, but, on the whole, the Saxon fyrdsmen seemed to be outmatched by the ferocity of the Vikings.  The gamemaster used a similar concept to the reroll tokens, except that he gave out two per player and they were automatically worth a successful roll.  As with my game, six players seems to me to be about the practical limit for any game in which players are acting approximately one at a time.

54mm Accurate AWI foot in action

After a leisurely supper, I was invited to play in a pick up game of Osprey's Honours of War, which I picked up on speculation a while back (as I already have figures) but which I hadn't read.  This was hosted by Al Coughlin, using 54mm figures from Accurate and All the King's Men.  I do love the toy soldier look of the big figures on the table, but the rules were probably not anything that I see using in the future.  

Ross's 40mm homecast WWI
On Sunday morning, after the traditional breakfast at Cracker Barrel (next door and an easy walk from the hotel), we ended up doing a reprise of Ross's Friday game, a 1914 scenario using home cast 40mm figures and a gridded map.  I'm not a big fan of gridded maps, but I think that has more to do with not wanting to fuss with constructing one than the actual games.  I took the Germans on the offensive against my son Norman's French and British.  Apart from some success on my right flank, where I was able to push my scout cavalry and bicycles up through the woods, attempting to attack the redoubt in the center of the board was a costly mistake.  It needed a lot more artillery preparation, and I see how WWI offensives ended up starting with weeks of bombardment.  

Ross, Norman and me, at departure time

I managed to avoid most of the shopping for the weekend, spurred on by the knowledge that everything had to go back with me as a carry-on.  I did end up picking up a few books from the flea market, something on the 30 Years War, something on the Ottomans in the 16th and 17th century, and a copy of the old WRG guide to Armies of the Greek and Persian Wars, one of the few I don't already own.

Ross and I agreed to work toward a 16th century game using our 40mm collections again next year, so I guess I am committing to driving next time, as that project won't pack in flying luggage very well.  I decided it was time to add to my mold collection for the period, and ordered some sample Landsknecht molds from Berliner Zinnfiguren, which carries a range from Artidee/Creartec, while I was sitting at the airport waiting for our return flight.

Overall, it was a fun convention, as always, and I am looking forward to next year.






Saturday, May 12, 2018

Heir of Rienne Inherits

I still need to write up a proper battle report, but a game in the Northlands campaign was fought today using the Dragon Rampant rules and the travel miniatures box.

As seen here on the left, the Count of Rienne was surprised by a Cold Islander raiding party during an attack on the province of Rienne. The Cold Islanders (right and top) caught the Count on the road home. His bravery was never in question, though his good sense was. Leading from the front turned out to be his downfall. Survivors of his retinue were led to safety by Adelle, the Blue Sorceress.

The victory was not without cost for the Cold Islanders. Their leader, Olaf Longhair, Thane of High Valdland, was captured by the Count's foot guards, and most of their forces were dispersed and would need time to rally...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Busy Weekend

On Wednesday I finished the back rank Saxons for this group of old Minifigs (NS range).  


As part of my current project to run some games with Minifigs Mythical Earth figures, they will probably initially see action as part of this war band of the northern allies from after the Battle of the Five Armies:


In Dragon Rampant terms, the two elf units on the left will be light foot with mixed weapons (i.e. bows and swords) at 5 points apiece; the elf king and guard will be a "reduced model count" heavy foot unit (rated more for skill than for armor) at 4 points; the dwarves elite foot at 6 points, and the humans another light foot at 3 points.  That adds to 23 points, so I suppose the dwarves will use the odd point for enchanted weapons (usually useless) to bring the band up to the "standard" 24 point starter level.  

Senior son Norman came up for a visit this weekend, and had the opportunity to join the monthly Ghost Archipelago campaign game currently running among the HAWKs.  He's been busily painting a bunch of Reaper Bones fantasy figures, so was able to field a crew of his own.  I am finally caught up with paperwork for this as well, and also fielded a Reaper crew, containing as many of my Gencon speed painting competition figures as I could.  


Six crews headed into the Lost Isles in search of various prisoners being held by the local bronze age petty kingdoms.  


One of the nice things about being part of a club is the availability of large amounts of scenery, which is very helpful for Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago, both of which call for very cluttered boards.  I'll leave the storytelling to the more talented members of the club, but it was a very good day for my Heritor.  His ability to throw large rocks downed the opposing Heritor who was contesting the prisoner cage with me, but the game ended before I was actually able to collect the prisoner.  Our Frostgrave games had gotten to be a bit diplomatic; Ghost Archipelago seems designed to encourage direct conflict among the crews, so makes for a better game, in my opinion.

After the Ghost Archipelago game, Norman and I put a small Dark Ages game on the dining room table, using the Osprey rules Dux Bellorum.  We have tried the game before. I hadn't intended to take five years to get it back on the table, but sometimes these things happen.  In the intervening years, I have been gradually painting away at various home cast figures (most Prince August) for the Saxons, and Ross Macfarlane gave me some vintage figures he wasn't using as the core of a Romano-British band.  While I painted some Romano-British cavalry skirmishers on Wednesday, the only new figures used in this battle were the massed archers, seen at the far right of the overview picture, just entering the bog.  Norman decided that if he was investing most of his points in his noble cavalry on imposing horses, he was just going to run down the Saxon invaders, and so it was.  As it turned out, the ability of his ordinary shield wall troops on his right flank to withstand the charge of the Saxon nobles was important as well, but most of the damage was in fact done by his charging horse.


On our way down to the Ghost Archipelago game we had a chat about what made a game interesting or not, and Norman's point was that he liked to play the game and be in control.  The opposite position would be that one liked to see the battle simulated, which could involve a loss of player control due to activation rolls, contagious morale, or similar mechanics.  We noted that Dux Bellorum gives enough player control to be a reasonable game to his tastes, mostly through the mechanism of allocating the abstracted leadership points.  As can be seen by the picture, most of what is happening on the ground is a fairly linear clash.  

Now that we have some rules familiarity again, I hope to have the game on the table again sooner than five years from now, and with some additional troop choices.  Once familiar with the mechanics, I think we'd get through a game in an hour and a half, so playing two sessions should be a reasonable expectation for an afternoon's gaming.






Thursday, March 22, 2018

Snow Day

An unexpected winter storm gave me a snow day off from work yesterday. I made use of the time to complete two stands of cavalry and a stand of bowmen for my Dux Bellorum
project, and two three figure stands of old Minifigs spearmen to represent Laketown men or dismounted Rohirrim for my Middle Earth project.