Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another lunch another figure...

Another Marx merry man...

Review: Wargaming on a Budget

I bought Iain Dickie's Wargaming on a Budget when it came out in late 2010, and pulled it out to reread recently. I must admit that I was not impressed when I first read it, and I wondered whether my impression would change after letting it sit for a while.

Let's start with some particulars: This is a small format book (digest or A5 sized) of about 165 pages. Chapters are included on Resources (5 pp), Basic DIY (8 pp), Making a Table (11 pp), The Playing Surface (9 pp), Figures (20 pp), Terrain (18 pp), Man-Made Features (32 pp), Ships and Planes (11 pp), Storage and Transportation (11 pp), and The Game (37 pp). The book is available in the US for 30 dollars and in the UK for 15 pounds.

Mr. Dickie's sense of humor is very apparent in the book. Interspersed with practical suggestions (e.g. collect twigs or hedge clippings for various purposes) are samples such as this (on the subject of proper precautions to be taken when going outside): "Before you do this I want to offer some much-needed safety advice. Gardens are dangerous places and as soon as the Health and Safety Executive catches on they will be closed down, I'm sure. There are plants that will sting you or stab you; insects that will bite, poison or sting you too; slimy things that will make you slip up and birds that crap on you. You should wear stout industrial boots, water and poo-proof clothes, gloves, and protection for your head. Full NBC kit should do quite nicely." This should give you an idea of what you will be in for as a reader; personally, I find that a very little of this goes a long way, and I found it irritating for page after page.

The chapters on DIY, tables, and storage in particular, and portions of the material on man-made scenery are heavy on woodworking instructions. This appears to be thorough, although it would benefit from a few more diagrams. However, I don't have easy access to table saws and other power tools that would be necessary for what amounts to large scale furniture construction, so I can only make limited use of it.

The sections on scenery are also thorough. There wasn't much in the terrain features that I wasn't already considering, or which isn't already covered by other books in my collection, such as the Games Workshop scenery books, but there was an interesting section on the rationale behind ancient and medieval farm, village and town planning and evolution that isn't intuitive to a North American reader such as myself, living in an area where a building over 50 years old is practically ancient. I can see some of that being incorporated into work to be done on the medieval skirmish project in the next few months.

The chapter on games had some discussion of maximizing the utility of your figures by careful choice of projects so that things can be made to do double duty (e.g., unshieded men in tunics armed with javelins can serve in numerous ancient armies), and some basic thoughts on games that can be played with limited numbers of figures (gladiators, raids and skirmishes, etc.) This last is the only thing in the books that seems to justify the subtitle about gaming in small spaces.

On my second read, then, my impression is that there isn't much in this book that is new or innovative. What there is is generally going to be of more use to someone fairly new to the hobby, who won't have run across all these ideas before. It's not a bad book, even if the humor grates on me, but, for me, it was expensive for what I got out of it, which is not a high recommendation for a book on making the most of a limited budget.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lunch Project

Sorry about the picture quality...finishing this fellow off (an old Marx Robin Hood figure) was today's lunch project.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thoughts at the New Year

2011 has been a difficult year for wargaming. I am happy that the fortress was completed in time for Historicon, but very little else has been done. I do not foresee the time available increasing in 2012, so the real question is how to make the most out of the time that I expect to be available.

Following a suggestion by Hal Thinglum in MWAN many years ago, I have kept track of my painting completions fairly regularly now for the past 15 years. I haven't bothered adding up the results the last few years, as the numbers are so much lower than they were ten years ago. In the first few years after that, I drew up lists of the top five projects that I intended to work on in the coming year. More recently, I've listed the top three at the beginning of the year...but have then gone on to paint whatever I felt like that day without any consideration of the January 'plan'. In fact, I just advised my sons this week to paint what they felt like painting, since to do otherwise starts to feel more like work than like fun. At least they have been working quickly enough lately that such an approach would still lead to new projects appearing on the table in a reasonable amount of time.

I'm currently thinking that I should spend more time painting with other people, and having two painting sons at home should make that fairly easy. Certainly the fact of collaboration was instrumental in driving the fortress project toward completion this year. The other thing that has been successful in moving projects forward has been the formal challenge of some sort. The Medieval Mayhem skirmish project started as a challenge to create a convention game with a $100 budget limit. We've tossed around the idea of issuing a challenge for creation of a convention game that would fit in a plastic shoe box, which would be ideal for a convention that involved air travel using only carry-on baggage.

If I follow the whim of the moment in doing what seems interesting, it seems likely that this coming year is going to be a mix of 54mm medievals (which I was working on yesterday, which the kids have been working on, and which I'm committed to running at Cold Wars) and 40mm Renaissance, which Ross and I intend to run at our next meeting. Beyond that, the kids are working away diligently on 1/72 scale Hordes of the Things, my Herodotus project has been the focus of much reading, and I have some Bronze Age miniatures in two scales on the desk.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I'm dreaming of a White ... Company

Merry Christmas to all!

Miniatures at the Dean house have been somewhat disrupted these past two months as our game table has been dismantled (temporarily) while workers stowed our laundry equipment in the war room while the utility room has been remodeled. We finally got the washer and dryer out of the war room on Friday, so I am hoping to see some gaming in the near future.

In the meantime, I have signed up to run a couple of Medieval Mayhem skirmish games at Cold Wars in a few months, and have devoted some of my limited painting time to trying to add some figures to that. My son Norman, though, has already done me one better, by painting these character figures of Sir Nigel and Alleyne Edricson from The White Company for me for Christmas.