Monday, January 24, 2022

Some thoughts on the hobby for 2022

 2021 was a bit of a slow year for gaming.  I am hoping to have a bit more fun in 2022, and have been thinking about what that might look like.

I have been trying to separate my desire for painting from any particular “get a game ready” goals, figuring that everything that gets painted will be used sooner or later, and there are enough periods and projects that are already “table-ready” to keep me pleasantly occupied painting.  That said, it would be nice to finish up the Bronze Age Nubian DBA army I started over the summer:

I would also like to add a few units (mostly specialized troop types) to the Not Quite Seven Years War. The last unit I added was an artillery piece and crew back in 2018 (or 2019 …).

  I started a group of six Prince August figures which are intended to be a light infantry detachment (for the reduced scale rules we have been using lately), but I’m still a painting session or two from finishing them.

I also have various 1/72 plastics ready to hand to fill roles in the Portable (solo) Fantasy Campaign, and a selection of vintage 25mm fantasy figures.  So whatever gets done will be good.  I had a nice string of “one figure per day on average” months, but it does look like January is going to be a break in that chain.

I did no casting in 2021, although I bought a fair number of used molds.  I would like to start casting again, when the weather is warm enough to work outside, and figure out which of the vintage Schneider molds will cast reliably.

That will allow me to decide whether I will be doing a mostly historical toy-style Franco-Prussian War project, a 19th century imagi-nations project, or neither.  I hope that this effort will resemble my 2020 project to cast from all of my old Prince August fantasy molds.  

As far as gaming goes, I have accumulated a stack of new rules that I would like to try.

I’ve also got a few older favorites (e.g. Knights and Magick) which I would like to dust off and get on the table.

I also have the ongoing solo fantasy campaign to play with, and am considering what it would take to put together a workable campaign on some sort. I suspect that the KISS principle needs to be kept firmly in mind…

I’m currently in a Dungeons and Dragons (5th edition) game, which has been running approximately biweekly.  I have posted a few things about my interest in reviving my original D&D campaign, so it seems likely that there will more RPGs this year.  

The elephant in the room, though, is downsizing.  I’ve accumulated more than I can reasonably expect to use, as each shiny new thing flashes in front of me and captivates me briefly.  Norm, over on his Battlefields and Warriors blog, has described his downsizing, and I need to take a serious look this year at what I can get done, and get some of the excess moved on to people who might be able to make use of it.  

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Battle of Newkeep

There was a brief discussion this past week over on the Reaper Forums about solo games.  This reminded me that I had left a battle pending in the Northlands campaign.  Since the last Northlands related game I played was a skirmish game back in June, that probably means that it has been pending since some time in July or August.

So, I decided to set it up.  I had been avoiding it because it looked like a blow-out; one kingdom’s army had advanced into another’s territory, and, due to bad intelligence (as provided by occasional die rolls to assist in decision making along the way), was attempting to attack without realizing that they were outnumbered about 2:3.  But, having been reminded, I thought that I would like to resolve it, so as to clear the way for something more interesting down the line.  


I decided to roll at random for one of the 30 scenarios in Neil Thomas’s One Hour Wargames book, and got scenario 7, “Flank Attack”.  Not only that, but the dice decreed that the larger force was the ambusher.  I thought, “well, that’ll be that”, but then noticed one little peculiarity in the line up.  The smaller force (the King of Darmis and his army) had a Magician unit, and the larger force (the King of Verdance and his army) was led by a Hero (i.e. the King, in this case).  This being a full scale battle, the rules to be used were Hordes of the Things, and a Hero is particularly vulnerable to a Magician.  Hmmm…could be more balanced than it initially appeared, I thought.  I rolled a die to see whether the Verdancers were aware of the presence of the Magician, and they were not, so I set the King up to be boldly leading the flanking force.

The Darmish army is on the two hills at the bottom of the picture, facing down the road, and the Verdancers are on the hills by the tower and the edge by the woods, prepared to roll the Darmish up from the left flank.  To make this short, the battle lasted two turns (so two moves by each side).  The attackers rolled up the hill immediately destroying the unit on the left end, and pushing back the remainder.  This brought the King (Hero) within range of the the Magician (Cassara, the Blue Sorceress), and her side got enough activation points each of the two turns to move 1 unit and make one magical attack.  The second try succeeded, and, having lost 4 army points (in the form of the Hero/General) to 2 army points (one stand of bows), this amounted to “more and the commander” and the battle was over. Had the Verdance attack killed a second foot soldier unit on their second turn, it would have been 4 and 4 (i.e. not “more”) and the loss of the general would have been serious but not immediately fatal.  


This made a good solo game; if someone else had come over to play this, I would have felt bad about giving them either side, knowing from experience that it was going to be a pretty random thing as to whether the magic attack would succeed.

Since the actual game only took a few minutes, I decided that I would write it up in proper style.  Now it’s back to the map and notebook play, to finish out the campaign year’s record keeping, and figure out the next map moves.  With the capture of the King of Verdance, I suddenly have a need to know more about his family and possible factions within the kingdom.  

I also note that the campaign year included only two pitched battles, with the other one being the Battle of the Crossroads, which was fought all the way back in May 2019.  Both of these battles were ended when Cassara the Blue Sorceress took out the opposing general.  Perhaps the Blue Order will be looking for some increase in its standing within the Kingdom of Darmis as well?  I have considered the question of whether I might use this campaign map for a roleplaying game as well as a wargames campaign, and it is starting to look like adventure hooks just write themselves …

I am hoping that the second campaign year will move along a little more quickly than the first.  

Friday, January 7, 2022

Last Stand of 2021

As I mentioned before, I took a couple of hobby projects with me at Christmas, but ended up working on the maps rather than painting any miniatures.  December had already been a good month for miniatures, in the grand scheme of things.  However, after recovering from the trip, I wanted to get something done before the end of the year.  My desk was clean, so I decided I would use the travel paint kit to keep my choices down to a reasonable level, and inspire some creativity by accepting limitations.  I had one Strelets (006, Henry V’s Army) axeman in my travel miniatures box with a few colors on him, so I started off on the morning of the 31st by finishing him up.  After painting the last sorceress, I did a bit of quick ear surgery to turn a Caesar elf into a human, and that figure was also primed and ready to go, so finished up quickly.  

Hordes of the Things (and Dragon Rampant) are both very open-ended about what a stand might consist of.  I’ve done a couple of stands with two foot figures on them, and they look just a little thin to my eye, so I decided I would go for a third figure.  The archer is also from the Strelets set 006.  I had to stick him to a painting handle, prime him, let the primer dry, then paint.  In between I took a nap and played some online board games.  Before supper, all three figures got a layer of brush on varnish.  I pushed the basing a bit, handling things while still wet where I would ordinarily let things dry between steps.  

Nevertheless, what with staying up late to welcome the New Year and all, I was able to allow enough time for everything to dry and to put on the final spray varnish coat before I went to bed.  So, it went into my painting log as a 2021 accomplishment. So, there you have it, another Hordes Magician stand, bringing me to a total of 164 things (figures, buildings, and other scenery pieces) finished for the year.  This is the fourth year in a row with between 150 and 200 figures painted.  What that says about future projects is for another day…

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A regional map for the Original D&D Campaign

 I showed off some of the material from my original D&D game back in April. While I had hoped to revive a D&D game this year, I ended up involved in a D&D 5th Edition game with a set of HAWKs players instead.  Nevertheless, I am still working toward actually doing this.

So, I took a few potential hobby projects with me, to fill any potential down-time during the family Christmas get-together.  Happily, there wasn’t a lot of that, but what time I did have I spent on drawing the Myzantine Empire map.

Since I was on a roll, I decided I would pull something off my D&D to-do list, and draw a more decorative map of the region in which the adventurers will be based.

My original maps were drawn on SPI hex paper in the late 1970s, before I had done much reading in medieval demographics and agricultural history to get some sort of “realistic” grounding.  I ended up a little skewed (perhaps not inappropriate for a map which probably doesn’t owe much to surveyors), but attemtped to translate approximately the section above into a more fantasy style:

As with the Myzantine Empire, I added color with watercolor pencils, again deliberately keeping the colors somewhat less saturated.  I think this will do for a player handout … now I just need some players.

2021: A Gaming Year in Review

 We’re almost to the end of another year.  As with most everyone else, it’s been an odd year, and not at all what I would have planned.

First a few numbers: According to my log, I was in 28 miniatures games this year, a combination of refereeing, playing and solo games.  I finished painting 160 miniatures, which were (as usual) scattered over seven projects (and sub-projects).  These included individually based 25mm Prince August fantasy figures, 54mm Russian flats, vintage 25mm Minifigs MEs for a Tolkien game, figures for a Stargrave crew, 1/72 fantasy/medieval figures for the Portable Fantasy Campaign, 1/72 historical Bronze Age figures for DBA, and a small group of 25mm Ral Partha orcs for miscellaneous fantasy work.

The year started still under stay-at-home mandates, for the most part, so I set up a few remote games. I was vaccinated in April and ready to get back to some face-to-face gaming.  The HAWKs started meeting again in late May or early June (my first meeting was in June).   All of the early year conventions were cancelled, although we did have a virtual ScrumCon in April.  Gen Con eventually made the decision to reschedule from August to September, which put it on a week that I was already committed to a major work event.  As it turned out, Barrage in September was my sole live convention for the year.  

January NQSYW Remote Game

Things got busy as the year drew to a close, and it looks like my last logged miniatures game will be the Stargrave game we had on the 30th of October.  On the other hand, I managed to finish an average of one (plus) miniature per day for September, October, November, and December, so the end of the year was good for painting.

Ups and Downs  

The “ups” for the year included a return to face-to-face gaming, a (solo) game played entirely with stuff built or painted during lockdown, a few games for the 1/72 scale solo fantasy campaign, a fair amount of painting done, and getting involved in a D&D5e game run by fellow HAWKs member Kurt Schlegel.   

The “downs” for the year include buying three new projects (1/72 DBA Dark Ages, 54mm Russian flat medieval/fantasy, and 54mm English Civil War) when my goal was zero, not firing up the melting pot and casting anything, not painting anything for the Not Quite Seven Years War, not finishing a DBA Bronze Age army, and doing no work toward getting a formal NQSYW campaign on the table.

54mm ECW cached for the future

I could have blogged a bit more, commented on other people’s blogs, played a few more solo games, gotten my own D&D revival game on the table, and done more toward miniatures campaigns.

However, under the circumstances, I’ll close out the record books, and call it a good year.  

Thoughts about 2022 objectives will hopefully be done soon…

Friday, December 24, 2021

A Myzantine Empire Campaign Map

 As mentioned recently, I have been considering the question of why some things are easier to find the inspiration to paint than others, and wondered if having the background map defined would help with inspiration.  While my recent painting has been for the (already well-defined) Middle Earth project, I noted that I had three larger 25mm fantasy armies, “fantasy Byzantines” (The Myzantine Empire, with a nod to Jack Scruby), “Easterners” (currently a mix of Ral Partha Moors and old Ral Partha Hyborian Age Turanians), and Orcs. So, I decided to take a stab at creating a map for them.  I started one once before, on a larger sheet of watercolor paper, but it got out of hand and remains stalled and stowed away somewhere. This time, I tried to keep it smaller and to the point.

As with my Northlands campaign map, I used techniques from Jared Blando’s How to Draw Fantasy Maps, simplified to match my limited artistic skills (and to speed things up), starting with pencil work on cold press watercolor paper, and inking as I went.

Earlier this summer, I was experimenting wtih watercolor pencils.  I liked the way they worked,so that’s what I used on this.  I roughed in the colors.

After a good night’s rest, I got out a #1 natural sable brush and worked my way from the upper right corner to the lower left corner with water, smoothing out the colors. Behind left handed, that kept my brush hand mostly away from the wet part of the page.

I haven’t entirely decided on campaign mechanics, so I left the map without a grid or area overlay.  I can add that electronically after scanning for use, or draw something in on a photocopy.  There is room at the edge of the map for not-Varangians to appear at the mouth of the River of the Plains, for horse (or lizard) nomads to appear north of the ruins of Marlantia, and for Westerners to appear up the Traders’ Road.  The Easterners are poised beyond the Easterner’s Gate, and three orc polities are spread across the western edge.  The overall situation is inspired by the Byzantine position in the late 11th century, just before the arrival of the 1st Crusade.

We’ll see whether that sparks any painting.

As far as January plans go, I just finished listening to and reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Lantern Bearers, so I am thinking it would be nice to paint some stands of figures to go with my Dux Bellorum project. Ross has been painting some French Revolutionary figures, and I wouldn’t mind getting back to adding some of those, too.  So, perhaps I will be pouring a New Year’s libation to Clio, Muse of History, rather than Calliope, Muse of Epic (fantasy), but I’ll be appropriately grateful if either of them deigns to grant some inspiration…

Monday, December 13, 2021

More Mythical Earth

 I’m afraid that I have always been a little ambivalent about the Christmas season.  I approve of the feasting and the getting together with families, but I’ve felt for years like the commercialization has gotten way, way out of hand.  Additionally, the expectations placed on people can become overwhelming.  One of the reasons I haven’t sung in a choir in a while was that music preparations got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying what was left of my time with my family.  Anyway, that Grinch-y preamble is just to explain why I suddenly had time on my hands this past weekend to do more painting, while my wife was singing, and I had cancelled other planned events due to a somewhat stronger than expect vaccine booster reaction…

After finishing the spearmen and miscellaneous goblins, I gave myself permission to play a bit, by finishing off a small group of vintage Minifig NS (Norman/Saxon) range figures originally produced in 1976.  They apparently weren’t in production all that long before being overtaken by the DA (Dark Ages) range within a year or two.

There was an ad for them in The Dragon #3 in the fall of 1976.

Given the look of the Mythical Earth figures, I would expect NS figures with round shields to make reasonable dismounted Rohirrim, rustic Gondorians, Laketown men, Sharkey’s thugs, Dunlendings, or even Easterners of various sorts.

I finished up three, an NS9, NS25, and NS12, from left to right.

With that accomplished, I turned back to the dozen true orc archers, originally primed in January of 2020. I decided after I was done that “Past Rob” should probably have filed the mold lines on the tops of the figures’ heads a little more carefully, but past experience would indicate that it won’t really show much when a whole batlefield is laid out.

With that, I am left with a single primed unit ready to paint, a mixed group of Rohirrim lancers and archers.  I have to give some consideration to the question of what to set up next; getting a warband of Gondorians on the field (albeit with mounted Rohirrim support, perhaps) is the highest priority, so it probably won’t be man-orcs or wolf riders…