Monday, May 29, 2023

May Painting (mostly Mythical Earth)

 I have been painting this month, for the first time in a few months.  I have also been trying to clean some of the unfinished (and unstarted) projects out of my basement, so I have been doing some thinking about what I am actually most interested in working on and playing.

I have mentioned before that my start in the fantasy miniatures end of the hobby with Minifigs Mythical Earth figures, which are (arguably) the earliest fantasy range cast.  In addition to a few handfuls I have left from the early 1970s, I have been accumulating them diligently since I ran across a small batch for sale at Cold Wars in 2015.  As of today, I have about 280 painted, and another 500 unpainted, including a batch of 40 hobbits which arrived a few weeks ago from England.  Anyway, there are enough to play some games already, something I should schedule in the not-too-distant future.  As I consider what I want to do in fantasy, it’s pretty clear that I want to indulge this nostalgia project, and finally have the armies (and games) that I visualized as a kid back in 1975.  I posted some pictures of this month’s first project to the Lead Adventure Forum, and someone sent me a link to Rick Priestly’s blog Notitia Metallicum, where, coincidentally, he is also working on a Minifigs Mythical Earth project.

ME33 Ithilien Spearmen and ME34 Ithilien Archers

View from the other side

My first selection this month was Faramir’s Ithilien Rangers.  There are only six official Gondorians in the range, and the Ithilien archer is the only one armed with a bow.  As my brother will tell you, I like my wargames armies to be able to reach out and touch you (as AT&T used to say) before they get stuck into hand-to-hand combat, so it seemed like a good time to paint these.  Like the Wood Elves I did a few years ago, I did them in a semi-random assortment of browns and greens.  Having their faces hidden behind masks, they were relatively simple to paint. I still have a unit of Citadel Guards, another unit of spearmen, and a unit of Gondorian knights on foot to go, plus some extra figures not neatly divided into twelves. 

I am going to try to alternate the Free Peoples with the forces of Sauron and Saruman, so I chose to build a unit of “man orcs” next.  While these are presumably intended to represent Saruman’s troops, I have no qualms about using them as larger orcs in the service of Mordor, or as Bolg’s bodyguards and similar in the Battle of the Five Armies.  There are three poses of these figures, varying mostly (entirely?) by the weapons with which they are armed.  I picked a packet of a dozen spear-armed orcs from my painting reserve, and then added one axe-armed orc to serve as an officer.  While I have dozens of the spears and swords, I have only a handful of the axes, so I’m mixing them in as officers.  While I am pretty sure that all three poses are currently available in the Minifigs current production revival, I don’t intend to order any more orcs unless I finish all of the ones that I have and find that I still need more.

The man-orcs are not the most detailed and attractive figures out there, and I have painted a few already in this project, so I knew that like most fantasy/ancients/medieval figures, what you see is mostly the shield when you look at them on the table.  They do have large generally flat shields, so I decided that I would concentrate my painting effort on the shields.  As every Tolkien fan knows, the main iconography associated with Saruman is the white hand, and the main iconography associated with Mordor is the red eye.  While I have seven units’ worth of these figures, and will eventually do a unit with white hands and a unit with red eyes, I thought it best to avoid both of those to start with, so that these troops will comfortably fit into any of the three possible armies I might deploy.  Since I had thirteen figures pulled out and cleaned up, I painted one as a quick test of the shield design, and based him individually.

I didn’t really think that I could reproduce that design faithfully 13 times, so I decided to embrace that, and make each one of them an individual variant on the “gaping maw” theme. The spears are quite long (and will present a bending hazard in play) so added a flag to the command stand.  Don’t think too hard about the wind conditions that would cause it to display like that…

I am thinking that it is time to add some mounted troops to the mix, and I have had a dozen Rohirrim primed and ready to paint for quite a while, so, in keeping with my plan to alternate, I think that will be what I try to do next.  I have also pulled out a batch of ME28 Southron mounted swordsmen, several of whom will become lancers as they need weapons replaced.

While it’s not quite the end of the month, it looks like I am probably not getting another game played, so I’ll be at three.  The first of those was some Saga, and I needed a couple of figures to replace proxies used for a Norman warband.  In addition to the Tolkien work, I did also get these two finished up:

My sons and I are planning to meet for another games day next weekend, so I am hoping there will be a few more games in June than there were in May …

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Scrum Con IV

 Yesterday was Scrum Con IV at the Silver Spring Civic Cetner in the suburbs of Washington.  Scrum Con is a small one-day local convention which aims to be split about evenly between miniatures and role-playing events.

As noted before, I ended up deciding that the best course of action was to modify (and hopefully simply, for convention purposes) a recent version of Rough Wooing/Gathering of Hosts by Ross Macfarlane.  The original is generally intended for two players and goes by a unit by unit card activation.  I divided each of the sides in this game into three sections and let them activate three units per side with each turn of the card (one per player).  This still wasn’t quite as fast as I’d like, but we got through six full turns.  Some of the unit activations could take a while.

It was fun to see Chris Palmer’s war machines on the table after an absence from conventions of over 20 years, and I hope to use the inspiration to get some project expansion painting done.  

Landship “Celia” tussles with the Duke’s gendarmes

The “Romeo” advances in the center…watch out for the solar ray projector!

The players were all engaged, and not all my age…

Away from the landships, conventional troops had a place

I had a lot of interest in the Nuernberger Meisterzinn home cast figures in the game.  I suppose that not many players are casting their own pewter anymore…

Sunday, March 26, 2023

March Madness

  To some extent, I am feeling like we are in middle of the long decline of the personal blog, but that might be just because I am having trouble getting anything posted lately …

March has actually been a good month for some gaming.  I met with my brother at Cincy Con the first weekend of the month, and had the opportunity to play in several historical miniatures games as well as a big game of Ral Partha’s Chaos Wars.

Chaos Wars on Sunday morning

Philistines against Israelites

Scrum Con in Silver Spring, Maryland, is coming up on the 8th of April.  I volunteered to run a 40mm Renaissance game with Leonardo da Vinci-style war machines, from my collection of stuff that hasn’t been on the table at a convention too recently.  However, I had been uncertain about the rules I was going to us, so I arranged to meet with my sons on the 11th for another game day.  

 Landships and Landsknechts for the first time in over 20 years
The DBA tournament continues

We continued the ongoing DBA preliminary elimination tournament with a few games, then set up the 40mm Renaissance (enhanced) using Nic Wright’s Fantastic Battles rules.  Unfortunately, despite having provisions for Renaissance troop types, and customizable war machines, as well as being designed for troops on 60mm square bases, the rules were not going to work for the convention game that I need to run.  I would like to try them again with something closer to their intended purpose before I say too much more about them.  However, vis-a-vis Scrum Con, it was back to the drawing board …

I missed a HAWKs meeting on the 3rd while I was at Cincy Con, but I made it out to the meeting on the 17th.  Duncan Adams was running one of the legendary “Space Station Accipiter” games, using the HAWKs collection of 54mm semi-flat Buck Rogers figures cast from vintage molds sold for home use in the 1930s.

That send me down a nostalgia trail, and I spent some time the next day reorganizing my Buck Rogers figures.

Possibly there will be more about that, too …

My brother and I have volunteered to run several games of Burrows and Badgers for Gen Con in August, so we decided to take a little time on the 19th to set up a remote game (using his table and figures) to remind ourselves of the rules.

Screen shot from the game in progress

Finally, I rounded out the month by meeting with Chris Palmer on the 25th for another try at the Renaissance game.  Chris had built all of the amazing war machines back in the late 1990s.  We ran at least one game at a Cold Wars using home rules, after which that project went off (for me) in a different direction.  

For this game, I decided to use the usual Rough Wooing, Ross Macfarlane’s home rules, with some war machine rules improvised from what I remembered of what we had done in 1997.  We also set it up on a full 6x10 table to see how things fit.

It worked well enough, so I just need to type up the Rough Wooing modifications into something neat enough to use with players on the 8th.

I was amazed, though, to find that Chris still had a folder of rules and handouts from 1997 through the convention game we did in 1999.  

That included a copy of the page from my notebooks of record with the basics of the rules, so I was able to pull the appropriate notebook off my shelf and see what else was occupying my mind in late 1997.

Not much painting has been getting done, but I have no complaints about the gaming this month …

Monday, January 16, 2023

Dean Con 2023

 Perhaps it wasn’t an “official” convention with a proper name, a program, and all of that, but I had the opportunity to get together with my sons for a two-day game gathering this weekend.  All three of us are employed by organizations that observe all federal holidays, so this was a three day weekend for all of us. That allowed us to seize the day(s).  We had been awaiting an opportunity to do so since younger son William arrived back in this general area in October.  Elder son Norman’s house was the obvious location, as he has been able to take over a finished basement room as his gaming and hobby space, with an adequate 5x6 foot table. 

Norman’s space, with the inevitable Really Useful Boxes neatly organized on shlves

As it worked out, we didn’t need the whole table, since the main program was a series of DBA games using various historical armies from our joint 1/72 scale plastic collection.  Norman had noted that we have at least 20 armies available to us at the moment, so he has decided to pit them against each other in an effort to determine which is the most powerful/successful.  He has divided them into four divisions of five armies each.  Each division will see each army play the others in a round robin format, with the two most successful armies in each division advancing to an elimination bracket tournament.  Some quick math will show that the divisional tournaments will consist of ten games each, and the final elimination will have three rounds of four, two, and one game respectively, for a grand total of 47 games.  This will not be a one-weekend effort.  Perhaps he will write something up about this eventually on his blog…

Between Saturday and Sunday, we completed the ten games of the first division.  Since William doesn’t own any of these armies, and Norman owns most of them, we tend to play somewhat objectively, and do not generally treat this as though it were a map campaign, with a strong personal identification with the fortunes of a particular army.  

Bronze Age Libyans face off against early Arameans

Once we had enough of DBA and needed a break, Norman set up a 19th century imagi-nations scenario.  We used (again) the rules in Neil Thomas’s book Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe.  As with our Thanksgiving weekend, Norman chose one of the included historical scenarios, the battle of Oeversee from the Austrian/Danish War of 1864:

Neil Thomas is a proponent of fast, compact games.  This scenario is intended for a 2’ x 2’ space:

We had set it up on the 3’ by 3’ ground cloth we had been using for the DBA games before we looked closely at the scenario and concluded that the table was even smaller.  That’s how we ended up pulling a second ground cloth out of our ready supply of ground cloths and resetting. The town and bridge were provided by the usual toy soldier-appropriate Castle Blocks and the trees are from Norman’s old collection of 6mm scenery.  Wooden trees seen in some earlier battle reports are part of my collection of childhood toys, and weren’t part of what I was requested to bring.

As can be seen from the set-up above, there was little room to maneuver.  The “Danish” forces, at the bottom of the picture and represented by Norman’s white-coated Elabruners were a rearguard.  Their orders were to hold the “Austrians” (represented by Norman’s Occiterrans) for ten turns to allow the remainder of their army, off-board, to retreat.  The Occiterrans were restricted by a doctrinal preference for the bayonet over firepower, but also started with their artillery deployed on a hill safely beyond a stream, and with the range to bombard the Elabrun infantry from the beginning.  William commanded the Occiterrans, and pushed aggressively forward, clearing the road in just six turns, so the game did not take long.

We had some supper, and spent the evening with some board games.  We played several rounds of 
Kingdomino, which I received as a gift from my parents at Christmas.  It’s a fast and engaging Eurogame, and I’m not surprised to find that it received the Game of the Year (Spiel des Jahres) award in 2017.  We also played a round of Azul.  We’ve been playing quite a bit of Azul on Board Games Arena, one of our favorite online hangouts since the plague, but this was the first time I actually played with a physical copy.

I will have a separate post soon about my recent revisitation of some 6mm projects.  I took my 6mm Hordes of the Things/DBA collection, handily contained in a large tackle box, with me this weekend.  On Sunday morning, Norman and I continued with the DBA 3.0 theme, but switched over to 6mm and pitted some early Franks against 3rd century Romans.

Both games were routs, one for the Romans, and then one for the Franks.  I have had the Roman fortress for many years (a TCS Model, now sadly no longer in business, but once a mainstay of the Historicon/Cold Wars dealers’ room), but I believe this may be the first time it has actually featured on the table as an active fort.  In any case, I enjoyed seeing the “little guys” out on the table.  They were most recently on the table as fantasy forces in an experimental playtest game we had at Huzzah in 2015, and, according to my records, were most recently deployed as actual ancients in May 2012, also at a Huzzah.  As I recall, that was also a test, of the Basic Impetus rules.  These figures used to be my usual portable set, and were therefore along at conventions as a contingency game.

Huzzah 2015 6mm fantasy playtest

I asked Norman this weekend whether he recalled how it was that we got away from this well-used project, a staple of my kids’ childhoods.  He noted that, to the best of his recollection, we started down the path of recreating a Hordes of the Things set up in 1/72 scale after he realized, while fiddling with the wargaming impedimenta around the house, that an Italeri Saracen was just the right size and shape to ride a plastic dinosaur from a Jurassic Park board game.  On such chances do the fortunes of our lives depend …

We closed out the weekend with a game of the popular board game Terraforming Mars, which took a little longer than we had estimated.  I look forward to a rematch, now that I have some slight idea of what I am trying to do. 

It was a good start to the gaming year, and I hope that we will be able to gather again soon, even if not for a two day extravaganza.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Reflections on 2022

 My brother and I had a chance to play a couple of games during our family Christmas visit.  We had agreed that the game this year would be Dragon Rampant, and that the theme would be “No Ral Partha”.  I certainly have nothing against Ral Partha, but we have been playing a lot of Ral Partha Chaos Wars in a demo game context, and we usually feel obliged to stick to Ral Partha figures when we do. We thought it would be nice to allow some of the other figures a chance to shine on the table.

My 1977 Minifig NS spearmen fend off my brother’s Archive wolfriders

1974 vintage Minfig ME Gondorian spearmen face some Adina hobgoblins

As you can see, we were restricted to a small space

We had intended to set up on a larger table at the local games store, but they have not yet re-opened their gaming tables post pandemic, so we made do with a space of about 4’ by 3’ at our parents’ house.  It was good to see all the very vintage figures on the table.  We had each brought two warbands, and, apparently inspired by the same thought, each had a warband of orcs and a warband of humans.  It was a bad day for orcs all around; my humans defeated his orcs, and my orcs were defeated by his humans.

While there are a few days left in the year, and while I do have a Five Leagues from the Borderlands solo skirmish game pending, it is likely that this will have been the final game for the year. (In my counting, I generally count multiple sessions of a single rules set played back to back as a single log entry.) If so, it was number 40 for the year. While short of the 52 games that are my notional goal each year, it is still a respectable total, and one that I am pretty happy with. Similarly, I might get another miniature or two painted, but if I don’t, I finished about 173 figures of 1/72 scale or larger this year, plus a handful of 6mm ancients which can’t be counted in the same way as larger figures.  It’s a few more than I completed in 2021, but it is a number which should prompt me to a bit of caution when it comes to taking on new projects.  

There was a thread on the Lead Adventure Forum recently, and someone was musing about whether the new projects that we are all prone to take on would ever see the table, and, if so, how many times.  I realized that I had some actual data on that.  Being a very Old School gamer, my logs are hand written, and contained in a series of notebooks.  I dug them all out, and was interested to note that I have been doing this for longer that I remembered, with the first year logged being 1999.  So I have 24 years of data (less the balance of December after the 5th when I did the counting) covering 805 games.  With an average of 33+ games per year, this year’s 40 is solidly above average.

Attempting to answer the question of which of my collections of figures had been on the table more frequently, I might be off by a few games here or there.  The results were tallied by hand, and the data was spread across about 15 different notebooks.  Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether a 25mm fantasy game played in 2003, say, had any of my own figures in it.  These counts are divided by the miniatures, and most of them represent the same collection being used with multiple sets of rules.

As you can see, the 25mm fantasy collection takes the top prize with about 96 appearances on the table, followed by the Not Quite Seven Years War collection with 74 appearances.  By the time you get down to a tie for 6th place by 25mm Dark Ages and 40mm Renaissance at about 21 games each, one might note that those projects have been on the table less than once a year on the average, and with a frequency less than a quarter of that of first place. I should note that both of those projects have been in a playable state since before 1999, when the records start.  Two of the most frequently played projects, 1/72 scale fantasy/medieval/ancients and 54mm medieval, are younger than the records, both having been started around 2003.  I was also interested to note that the French and Indian War project is still solidly in 4th place, despite not having been on the table since 2016.  There were a lot of F&IW games early on in the records.

When you put all those numbers together, I think that I am coming to the conclusion that it would make sense to try to concentrate on doing more with the top projects.  I would like to work on one side project which isn’t yet playable, with the main candidates being 54mm medieval/fantasy flats and 40mm 19th century/Franco-Prussian War from Schneider and other vintage German molds.  This is where this year’s painting numbers are a caution flag; even a simple One Hour Wargames pair of armies would amount to 10 units of 2 stands each per side (well, not the artillery), with 4-6 figures per unit, or something like 88 foot, 16 horse, and 4 guns with crew total, which would represent somewhat more than two thirds of the total I painted last year.  That’s not unthinkable, but would be a major commitment.  I suppose it’s time to paint a few of them and see what I really think about working with them.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Home Cast 40mm Renaissance Revival and Other Random Events

 A lot has been going on since I last blogged, both in life and in hobby activities.

My younger son has returned to this part of the world, so, with both sons relatively nearby, we are looking forward to some family wargmaing time.  However, moving just before the holidays has meant that everyone has a lot of activity already scheduled.  We did manage to get a good game in on the margins of the Thanksgiving feasting last week:

We played the Battle of Montebello scenario from Neil Thomas’s Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe. There’s a full report on elder son Norman’s blog.

I managed to get my limited French Revolution collection on the table for a solo game recently.  

This was in service of a playtest of some new horse and musket large skirmish rules currently in development, so I won’t comment on that part of it, but it was good to see these figures on the table.  While Norman ran a game with them at an HMGS convention in the mid-teens, I personally haven’t had them on the table since 2009.  Until November, they had been my second longest unplayed project, topped only by my neglected little 6mm Spanish Civil War collection, which was last on the table in 2005.  I plan to bring out the French and Indian War figures (last played in 2016 when Ross came down for Fall In) for the next playtest, but with the holidays, that might be a few weeks yet.

A few weeks ago I visited Days of Knights, my friendly local game store, and was surprised to find that the latest release in Osprey’s series of role playing games was a “clockpunk” Italian Renaissance game, set in a 1510 that included advanced Leonardo da Vinci technology.

Now, as it happens, I have a 40mm 16th century toy soldier project already in hand, and I am currently the possessor of some Leonardo-type machines built by my friend Chris Palmer back in the late 1990s. I dug them out to take a look, and found them all to still be in good shape:

We used these for a year or so and then got distracted (as is so often the case).  Chris dug out some print pictures of them in action back around 1998.  Here’s a sample:

So I have spent much of my reading time these last few weeks gathering inspiration to jump back into the period, with a historical book on the early Italian Wars, and a historical novel (Prince of Foxes) on Cesare Borgia.  In podcasts, I’ve been listening to quite a bit of the Yarkshire Gamer’s Reet Big Wargames Podcast lately, and Ken Reilly, the eponymous Gamer, has been displaying his Italian Wars project lately, for additional inspiration.  So, we’ll see what becomes of that.  I am always glad when the Muses grant some inspiration relating to something already in my collection at a playable level.

I have been trying out the “slapchop” painting technique on some old Hinchliffe Byzantines.  That deserves a separate report later…

Sorry about the picture quality there…

I tried out Nordic Weasel Games fantasy solo skirmish campaign system, Five Leagues from the Borderlands, a topic which also deserves its own post.  Just for fun, I am playing it using my collection of 1/72 fantasy/medieval figures.

And, last for today, I sent Ross Macfarlane the one good copy of a semi-flat lady riding sidesaddle recently.  This is from a mold by the Adolf Hoehmann company, which apparently operated up into the 1990s and produced a series of molds, both copied from Schneiders and originals.  Information on them was found in the book on German molds I obtained in the summer.
Here’s the catalog page, as provided in the electronic add-ons to the book.  The lady is part of a series of molds making a convey and escorts, and is really intended to be 16th century, although her dress looks generic enough to me to pass for other time periods.  It is unfortunate that these molds are very scarce; the lady was the only one from this series in an estate being broken up on eBay this year.

So, that’s the news from here; lots happening, for a pleasant change!


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Some recent 1/72 scale painting

I would suppose that there is not a wargamer out there who ever gets as much painting done as they hope to.  Most of the summer was occupied by other activities this year, and the fall is getting off to a slow start as well.  I was responsible for running an emergency response exercise for the office last month, which was taking up most of my crerative energy, but, when it finally came time to run it, I ended up with a long weekend in Tooele, Utah, with not much to do except to settle in with my portable painting kit.  I finished up 22 figures in a weekend, including this little dragon which I bought from the local game store while I was there. (The dragon also came with the large skull, which I painted up figuring that I could find a use for a giant/ogre skull for something.)  I have been trying to fill out my planned orders of battle for the five countries involved in my Northlands solo campaign, so I particularly wanted to get some orcs done.  I also had a group of cows (a very small herd, I suppose) that I wanted to add as a baggage element.  Beyond that, I was willing to go with whatever inspired me.


I wasn’t sure what to do with the cows.  My wife suggested that I look at “belted cows”. I hadn’t heard of this as a color pattern, and there aren’t any that I have noticed locally.

However, it looked like it would be very easy to paint, so, belted cows they are.  Since they are usually going to be deploed into a fantasy setting, I don’t need to worry about when the breed was developed or any of the rest of that “realism” stuff.

In addition to the bases, I finished up 7 individuals.  The orcs are destined for the Rangers of Shadow Deep campaign I am playing co-op with Chris Palmer, and the rest are an ecelectic assortment of Strelets, Caesar and Dark Alliance figures.  The 8th figure, at the far right, was finished before the trip but finally based up with the rest when I got home.  

As mentioned, at one point I took a break from the painting to walk down the street to the game store, Game Haven, where I picked up the Wizkids dragon and a couple of bottles of paint.  There was a Joann’s fabric and craft store next door, so I ducked in there to see if I could find something that would work for scenery.  I had the sudden notion that I might play a skirmish game with all of the freshly painted figures. 

I came out with a camoflage bandanna, a plastic plant, and some tan cardstock, and whipped up this. 

My son Norman looked over the available troops and suggested that the rational scenario was humans and orcs squabbling over cattle … until the dragon arrives.  I think that would have worked out, except that time and energy ran out before I could implement it.  Nevertheless, it does seem that it should be possible to have some sort of starter game on the table fairly quickly, should one need or wish to.

After getting home and getting the basing done, it took a couple of weeks to get back to the painting table.  I started in on some Dark Alliance orcish warg riders, but set them aside briefly to allow a heavy wash to dry.  Before I knew it, I was finishing up two “big guys” who had be in progress for a while.  The big eared one is a troll (or “bunyip” in the Dean family) from the sadly out-of-production Caesar Adventurers set, and the other is a Dark Alliance cyclops.  The Airfix Robin Hood figure is just there to give an idea of the scale.

With both sons due to be back in the area, family conversation has turned to DBA/Hordes of the Things armies, so I decided to try to make some progress on an ancient Nubian army (DBA I/3 if that helps) to add to the family Bronze Age collection.

I managed to finish up two warband stands and a skirmisher, so I have two skirmishers and nine bow stands (including a general) to go.