Sunday, August 1, 2021

Thoughts on the 1/72 scale ancients/fantasy/medieval project

 I have been fully vaccinated since mid-May, and the two and a half months since then have been pretty good for gaming.  HAWKs meetings have started up, my son has been up for a visit with his DBA armies, the monthly skirmish campaign has arrived, and I’ve gotten in a couple of solo and remote games as a bonus, a total of 12 games in 10 weeks.  A HAWKs sub-group also started a D&D 5th edition game this weekend, and therein hangs a tale.


5th edition allows the players fairly complete control over character creation, so the gamemaster asked what I was thinking about playing.  I said I thought that I’d like to try a bard, and, knowing the group likes to use miniatures, I thought about painting something new.  Despite the arrival this week of my Bones 5 Kickstarter package (originally ordered back in the fall of 2019), I didn’t have a figure from Reaper that I particularly liked. As one of my son’s said, I was basically looking for a male in doublet and hose with a lute. So I thought I’d have a look at Stonehaven Miniatures, a company whose miniatures I have backed on Kickstarter in large numbers, but of which few have been painted. I found just what I was looking for, and, better yet, found that I had backed that Kickstarter and threrefore had it around the house somewhere.  
However, ransacking the basement did not produce the box of “Stonehaven 2020 Adventurers”. Considering that it might take an arbitrary amount of time to find a single miniature in the hoard, I ordered  a spare.  Naturally, the box appeared on the next delve into the basement. 😳. When you reach the point where you are ordering spares of things you know you have rather than search for them, you’ve probably gone too far…

All of the gaming has cut into painting and preparation time, so that has had me considering the question of whether it would be better to decouple painting and playing…that is, play with what’s already done, and paint what I feel like painting without worrying too much about when it might be on the table.

That line of thought suggests that I have four “favorite” projects.  These are the 40mm home cast Not Quite Seven Years War, which I mused about recently, the 40mm home cast 16th century project, most recently played last September

Most recent 40mm Rough Wooing game; time to get these guys out again

small/true/vintage 25mm fantasy, which contains the majority of my oldest surviving miniatures,

These lizard riders have been in my armies since ~1977

and the 1/72 scale project.  Whether this is one project or several is open to debate. As far back as ten years ago, my son proposed that we deploy all the existing or planned 1/72 forces on a single map, along the lines of Tony Bath’s classic Hyborian campaign.  With all of the work he has been doing on the Bronze Age lately, he produced a draft of what he’s called “Myboria, the Second Age”, with the medieval, classical, and chariot armies generally divided up geographically.  Elements of the original map remain, but there have been some shifts in what miniatures we are considering likely to appear.

Myboria, the Second Age

I am currently splitting my very limited painting attention between two different sub-projects in 1/72. I am trying to fill out the other two Northalnds armies (elves and orcs), as well as add a historical Nubian DBA army for the ongoing Bronze Age expansion.

My Northlands map was an adaptation of northwestern Myboria

So, why 1/72 scale plastics? 

There is a nostalgia element.  I actually have a few of my own original pre-1976 Airfix Robin Hood figures in among the single-based fantasy figures. When I started wargaming with historical seriously again in the mid-1980s, I was finding the newer 1/72s (ESCI, Italeri, etc.) in the hobby shops.  This constantly tempted me to have a side project in 1/72.

Vintage Robin Hood figures from Barrage 2019 flea market

However, as I see it, there are two more objective reasons why one might take up 1/72 as a gaming scale.  The first is the transportability.  The light weight of the figures, even when based (as I do) on wooden bases, makes them easy to carry to conventions.  The second is cost. Even with increases in the prices recently, the average box is still about $15, and you can usually put on some sort of reasonable game with 2-3 boxes per side.  Less objectively, I also like the fact that most of the figures are cast in one piece (occasionally two) so I don’t have to try to assemble them, that their proportions are generally less exaggerated than the typical run of wargaming-specific figures, and that, for me, they represent the lower limit of what I can comfortably paint well enough for my taste, so are at a good spot for the combination of taking less storage space and being fun to paint.  

The Portable Fantasy Game headed to Gencon in the Before Times

There are a few downsides.  Because they are sold to a mass market, there is a tendency for the producers to stick to the tried-and-true topics, World War II, American Civil War, Wars of Napoleon, Romans and enemies, and the Hundred Years War, for example, although those topics have covered in some remarkable depth. (Anyone need some WWII German bicycle troops?) However, I guess that most of us are probably interested in at least one of the “common” periods, and if you have a yearning to refight King Phillip’s War, you may have difficulties even in metal.  The Plastic Soldier Review, in case you might not be familiar with it, has an extremely thorough coverage of historical (but generall not fantasy) sets that are, or have been, available. That is another downside; sets come into production and then disappear again quite quickly sometimes, and the recent disruptions to global commerce have not helped.  I have been trained, therefore, to buy promptly when there is something that fits into an existing project, but also not to start a new project unless you can buy everything you need to start all at once. 

The wide array of sets that have been released does give me a nice microcosm effect for fantasy.  I’ve got wagons, civilians, and farm animals, so I can set a scene in a variety of contexts, which is handy when you might be supporting a role playing game as well as a battle game.

Fantasy civilians gather for the market day

So, there you have it, why this works out to be one of my favorites…now back to some playing or painting!



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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Recent battles

 We are currently enjoying what I suspect may turn out to be a respite between pandemic waves here, so while my vaccine remains effective, it has been time to do some face to face gaming.  As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to get the NQSYW on the table at a HAWKs meeting (back on the 16th), so I figured that “With MacDuff to the Frontier” would be a better fit for table size and time available than Charge!

On the day of the game, I had a look through C.S. Grant’s Scenarios for Wargames, looking for something that would be suitable for the expected limited number of players, and ended up deciding to use Scenario #4, Holding Action (2), which I had never tried before.  


I elected to translate the suggested force ratio to 12 infantry, 6 light infantry, 6 cavalry, or 1 gun with 4 gunners per unit.  Scenery, apart from the river, is relatively sparse, which also made a good choice for an away game.  This was just as well, because, despite my best intentions, I did not allow enough time for traffic and arrived at the meeting in time for a very hasty set up, and then launched right into the rules explanation and game.  As a result, I did not end up taking very many pictures, nor any notes, so reconstructing a detailed battle report is impossible.

Soldiers of the Schoeffen-Buschhagen Adelmann Regiment seize a Hesse-Hattemstadt battery

Western League defenders prepare as Fredonians assault the western bridge

Schoeffen-Buschhagen Hussars discover a usable ford

As the battle played out, the forces of the Pragmatic Coalition (Schoeffen-Buschhagen, Wachovia, and Fredonia were represented on the table) were able to successfully assault the bridges, and the Western League defense was crumbling by the time the Coalition light cavalry discovered a ford and crossed, with the aim of cutting off the retreat of the league forces.  However, the cost of assaulting the bridge was not insignificant, and there was some question as to how closely the Coalition force would have been able to press the pursuit.  All of the recent NQSYW games have been described as part of the campaign to knock the Archbishopric of Schluesselbrett out of the war, and it would appear that the Coalition has finally forced the defenses of the city of Schluesselbrett.

I spent some time last weekend working on NQSYW figures instead of working on my Stargrave crew, so I was compelled to take the field in yesterday’s Stargrave game, the first game that will “count” in our annual campaign, with the same test crew I used last month.

The battlefield; a squabble over a wrecked spaceship

We are still finding our way through the rules, so the game took a little longer than we expected.  It’s rarely my turn to be the lucky one for the day, but my crew brought home three loot markers, which turned out to be quite valuable in terms of the game’s currency.  I did have my captain put out of action at the end of the game, but, happily he merely had a “close call” on the post-game out-of-action survival roll. (Unlike host Chris Palmer’s captain, who was put out of action in the final turn, and died as a result of the survival roll, wiping out all of Chris’s gains in the game…)

As expected, everyone had a look at the rules, and there was a lot of smoke grenade throwing going on.

A brief moment of glory for runner Leftie, who put Don Hogge’s flamethrower man out of action with his knife

Captain Toby, Holly, and robot casecracker G357 looking for loot

Captain Toby reminds Holly that she will have minions to climb trees when she is captain…

Except for Chris, nobody had any catastrophic post-battle results, so most of the “out of actions” were temporary, and things weren’t quite as grim as several players had feared late game.  I hope to get a few more new figures painted up by next month, as well as some additional scenery.

Testing out the new “locked” markers

I think that I noted that one of the differences from earlier games in the series is that loot markers in Stargrave start “locked”, and must be unlocked before they can be carried off.  After last month’s game I went looking for some clear plastic hemispheres which I hoped would look like force fields, to use as “locked” markers. I found these  “bath bomb molds” on Amazon.  There were not very expensive for 30 of them in three different sizes, and seemed to work reasonable well.  With the different sizes, we were able to cover most of the treasure markers we were using.





 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Considering the NQSYW …

 Ross Macfarlane recently noted, regarding last week’s “Encounter at Steinbruecke”, that small games with big figures had become his preferred gaming style somewhere along the way.  While I don’t want to lose the ability to occasionally maneuver with 60-man Charge! regiments, it is a fact that home games going forward are either going to be on my 3x5 gaming table, as last week, or on a 4x6 temporary table in the library, as with the “Pass at Gelbehuegul” last summer:


In either case, the games will be more fluid and interesting if the unit sizes are smaller (e.g. the twelve man infantry units and six man cavalry units used in A Gentleman’s War), which gives the opportunity to deploy five or six units across the wide side of the table and still have some open space to either flank.

My Charge! infantry units are generally built from a single pose of Prince August castings (or two poses for the “firing line” units) plus command figures. A full foot regiment includes 48 musketeers, and three each of the various command figures.  So, I am considering, among other things, whether it would make sense to paint a few extra officers so that I could get a nice uniform look among the four derivative units each regiment could form.  On the other hand, I had long considered using a different pose for each of the companies in future Charge! regiments to make it easier to track companies on the table where desirable, and that would limit “pleasantly visual” deployment to three derivative units per regiment rather than four.  It’s been a few years since I painted a new infantry unit (hmmm….2012), perhaps because there are already enough units to more than fill the table.  So I am also considering whether it would be more fun and interesting to paint a few units designed to be twelve figures from the start, since motivation to paint 12 rather than 19 might be easier to find, and it’s likely that is how they are going to be deployed anyway.


To assist in considering this, I dug out the actual partially painted stock yesterday, as well as the box of partially unit-organized castings.  I have notes from last year, after a couple of games of A Gentleman’s War, which show that I was considering adding a couple of additional generals, and it looks like I got as far as priming some extra command figures on at least one occasion. Since primed figures on sticks have a  sad tendency to be set aside for years at a time, I should really get in the habit of writing some notes about my intentions on the bottoms of the sticks, so that I can figure out later what I was thinking … 

The other thing I noticed about the NQSYW, as I was looking through old blog posts for inspiration, is that the first game we ever played with the figures was some time in August 1996, which will be 25 years ago next month.  Here’s a copy of the notebook entry on the game:


We even have a photograph, a happy chance for the film era:


So, somehow, I think that we will mark 25 years of this next month …






Monday, July 5, 2021

Encounter at Steinbruecke

 Following the defeat at Gelbehuegel (during the War of the Western League), General Nordstrom (commanding the Pragmatic Coalition’s invasion of Schluesselbrett) sought an alternative route to the capital city.  A scouting detachment of light cavalry brought word of a possible route, although it was not without difficulty.  The river Blauwasser presented a considerable obstacle, but there was a damaged bridge at the village of Steinbruecke which might be repaired by the army’s engineers, as long as both banks of the river were held.  Accordingly, a reconaissance in force under the command of Colonel Schultheiss was ordered to seek a possible ford and, if found, cross the Blauwasser to secure both ends of the bridge until engineers were brought up to effect repairs.  Schultheiss’s force was a mixed bag, consisting of a battalion of his own infantry regiment, a battalion from the Adelmann Regiment, a detachment of the King Rupert Jaegers, two squadrons of dragoons from different regiments, and a battery of artillery.

With any luck, this maneuver would go unnoticed by League forces, who were occupied defending the main approaches to city…

The situation develops: cavalry seeks a ford on both sides

Unfortunately for the Coalition, the League was alert to the danger presented by the bridge, and dispatched a force to secure it, under the command of Brigadier Regelnmann.  Curiously, its composition was much the same as the Coalition’s force: two battalions of line infantry, two squadrons of dragoons, and a battery of artilley, all native Schluesselbrett troops, plus a small detachmanet of Saxe-Kirchdorf jaegers.

Advancing toward Steinbruecke from the north (right side of illustration), Regelmann set his dragoons ahead to determine if the river was fordable anywhere.  


General Regelnmann leads the infantry advance

Finding no usable ford upstream of the bridge, the League’s forces continued downstream.  As the Saxe-Kirchdorf jaegers neared a third possible crossing point, they saw a squadron of Schoeffen-Buschhagen dragoons on the south bank.  Preparing to open fire on them, they were surprised when the dragoons splashed across the river and charged them!  The jaegers were unprepared for the onslaught, and hastily retreated.  


As both sides converged on the crossing point, a squadron of Schluesselbrett dragoons hastily attacked the now-disorganized S-Bs, who in turn retired back across the river.  By then the lead elements of S-B infantry were able to drive the League dragoons off with musketry.  The S-B artillery battery was soon deployed and was able to bring the northern (lower in illustration) side of the crossing under effective fire.

For some reason, General Regelmann’s League infantry was slow to deploy, and the Coalition infantry was able tgo cross the river.  Meanwhile , the League cavalry discovered, upon questioing a local farmer, that the river could be forded with some difficulty upstream of the village (left of illustration), and a portion of the League force was dispatched to make the attempt.


The sun was sinking as a ferocious firefight broke out between the two infantry lines.  Both commanders were in the thick of the action, rallying their men.  On the south bank, a cavalry fight broke out, as a single squadron of Schluesselbrett dragoons, eventually aided by the Saxe-Kirchdorf jaegers and the long range fire of their artillery, faced down the remnants of two squadrons of their Coalition counterparts.


As the day ended, the situation remained in doubt.  The Coalition was in possession of both sides of the crossing, but the damaged bridge was contested, and their cavalry had been very roughly handled by the League.  Both sides sent messengers seeking reinforcements in the expectation that the fight would be  renewed in the morning…

Player’s Notes

With the HAWKs back to holding face to face meetings, I would like to dust off the Not Quite Seven Years War project, and give the other club members an opportunity to see their forces on the table.  It’s been a few years since some of them have been out. While I’m not done with Charge!, there is no doubt that it would be more practical to use some other rules, preferably with smaller units, for a club night game.  We have been playing A Gentleman’s War for the last couple of years, which I like well enough, but I haven’t been able to make it work for multiple player games to my satisfaction.  Therefore, my expectation is that I will use Ross Macfarlane’s home rules With MacDuff to the Frontier for this.  

With that in mind, I invited Ross to join me in a remote game to get the rules fixed in my mind.


Since the last time I hosted an NQSYW game remotely, I’ve upgraded my remote player set-up.  I can now put the iPad in a clamp on my heavy-duty photographic tripod.

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day around the house, so my preparations were not as thorough as I would have wished.  I looked through the Grant green and red scenario books for something suitable.  My desire to try something new was conflicting with my need to get set up, and I decided on Scenario 13, Finding the Ford, from Scenarios for All Ages (the Red Book).  I kept the scenery to a somewhat expedient level, without a lot of extra detail, and using the subscale 3D printed buildings I’ve painted up during the pandemic, since I was both short on set up time, and in need of fast clean up so that supper could be eaten afterwards.  There are some challenges with using your gaming table as your dinner table.

Nevertheless, despite the challenges, the game eventually got played.  We used Discord for a change, since Google Hangouts, the conference system of choice these many years, is being obsoleted by Google. It was good to see the figures out, and I have some ideas about optimizing large figure games on a smaller table which I need to write down while I still remember them…








Stargrave Test Game

 Before I forget about it, the HAWKs Saturday morning group played a trial game of Stargrave last weekend (26 June).  We had five players in attendance, and used the rule book’s first scenario, “Botched Deal”, to set up the game.



The Saturday group played two campaigns of Frostgrave followed by two campaigns of Ghost Archipelago, so the basic mechanics were fairly familiar.  I’ll hold off on doing a rules review until after I’ve actually read them carefully, but the initial impression is that the fact that all crew members will have ranged weapons, and that loot is “locked” when found (and can’t be carried off until someone successfully unlocks it), will combine to add more conflict to the game in comparison to the earlier entries in the “*grave” series.

I had a handful of figures already painted from an abortive attempt to play Rogue Stars a few years ago, and supplemented them with post-apocalyptic figures.  Following the game, I expect that I am going to need some heavy weapons figures.  I ordered a dozen or so figures from Reaper, which arrived on Friday.



I spent Saturday morning doing a bit of painting, for the first time in a couple of months.  The generator will be a treasure token, and was part of the Friday delivery, which may set a record for shortest time from delivery to painting.  The other fellow has been sitting around with a primer coat since the Rogue Stars game didn’t pan out.

Our next session is scheduled for the 24th of July.  I hope to have carefully read the rules by then, put some additional thought into crew design, and painted the requisite figures…






Monday, June 21, 2021

Market Day at the Watchtower Inn (Solo battle report)

It was market day at the Watchtower Inn, in the Darmish borderlands near Wardenskeep.  



 However, unwelcome visitors were about to arrive.  Uccsai of Varkrek was leading a band of foragers far out beyond the fringes of the main Orcish army.  Attracted by the distant sounds of the market, and the smells of good cooking, he led his warriors toward a bridge.

The humans were watchful, though, in this uneasy border region, and from the top an an old tower visible across the river, a horn call sounded.  Not abandoned after all … Uccsai ordered the troop to forget about the bridge; the river looked shallow enough for safe crossing if they were quick about it.  His warriors were not.  Exhausted from the days’ march, they were slow in reaching the ford, and quickly fell in a line, as a few eager yopungsters, anxious to prove themselves, pressed ahead, while the rest lagged.



Meanwhile, at the Inn, the market goers quickly gathered inside the thick stone walls and prepared to defend themselves.  Happily for them a Darmish officer, Lieutenant Zanther, and his bodyguard of four soldiers was present today, looking to buy supplies.  He quickly took charge, sending the lightly equipped men of the local militia out to the hilltop to see what was happening.


One of the local militiamen reached the ford just as the first orc, one of the eager youngsters, was splashing across.


Life is hard in the borderlands, and the local warrior was able to hold his own against the orc.  As more orcs waded the stream, a couple of Zanther’s soldiers arrived.  Two orcs quickly fell, but a shudder of fear ran through the humans, for they could see that a troll was eyeing them from the far bank of the stream.


Hungry and tired, but still possessed of the ferocious tenacity of life that was the mark of their kind, the troll waded across the stream, to be met by three humans.  The troll fought hard, but the combined efforts of the humans were too much for it.  A ragged cheer rose from the human soldiers as they slew the troll.


Uccsai looked across the stream in dismay as the troll fell.  He suspected that the day was lost, but raised his mace of command to urge his straggling warriors to one final effort.  At that moment, a human militiaman took careful aim, and, as though from nowhere, an arrow pierced Uccsai’s throat, and his last command remained unspoken.  The surviving orcs fled the field, seeking only to return to the safety of the main army.


As the soldiers and local militia returned to the Inn, the grateful people came out to greet them with gifts of food and drink.


Gamemaster’s notes: My intention yesterday morning was simply to unload the Portable Fantasy game box, iron the groundcloth, and then pack everything away neatly, since the box was in a bit of disarray after the DBA extravaganza the other week.  However, there have been a couple of threads on various gaming fora this past week about scenery (and whether it should be a collaborative effort between players) and use of scenery in role playing games, so I decided that it wouldn’t take much longer to actually lay out a battlefield before sorting and storing.  With the previous Dragon Rampant game having produced a draw, I am considering this skirmish to be a tie-breaker, indicative of the overall situation in the province during this strategic turn in the campaign. I don’t ordinarily expect that man-to-man skirmishes will be reflected in the strategic map situation, but this one is an exception.

After that, I ended putting out some of the non-combatants for a couple of pictures, and then decided that I might as well use a couple of the prepared war band lists (for A Song of Blades and Heroes) that are in the box to stage a quick solo game.

My general experience with A Song of Blades and Heroes is that the point values given are a bit optimistic for troops with a quality of 4, as most of my orcs were.  I was surprised the last time I played with the rules to see an orc warband win.  This time was less surprising.  The orcs were having trouble activating, and ended up scattered and unsupported, and the humans just mowed right through them.  No human figure was killed during the game.  I haven’t played enough of this in recent years; it’s possible that there are tactics which would compensate, but I haven’t generally found them yet.  As with that game in march, the unpredictable shifts of initiative make this a pretty fair solo game out of the box.


Speaking of boxes, I did get everything cleaned up and neatly packed away in the travel boxes afterwards, so I’m ready with a pick-up game for the next convention or club night where one is needed.  I didn’t get as far as the next project, though, which was to unload the 1/72 group base figures and sort them into a couple of Dragon Rampant warbands, so that I can add one 6-liter box to the stack and be able to do a pick-up Dragon Rampant game as well.  Eventually, I’d like to have a selection of pre-printed and laminated warband sheets in the travel box, for improved readiness.





Sunday, June 20, 2021

Recent Activities

  Norman wrote up a report on the “bracket campaign” for the DBA forums after our visit over the Memorial Day weekend, now three weeks ago.  My intention to blog about this sooner was completely overwhelmed by quotidian reality.

It was nice to see all of his painstaking pandemic painting placed in play.



While bad for blogging, I made the decision at the time to be “present in the moment”, and therefore did not take notes, nor too many pictures.

The following Friday (June 4th) the HAWKs met for the first face-to-face club game since this all started. Since our regular meeting location was not yet open to the public, we met at a member’s house, and we played a D-Day American paratroop scenario in honor of the date (or nearly so).

Irene and I then took a road trip to Michigan to visit my parents and my son in grad school.  It was good to see them, and we had a nice dinner out as a combined celebration of all the events that we missed over the past year. I got in a shopping trip to the Michigan Toy Soldier company and picked up a few things for Norman as well as a box of 1/72 scale Ultima Ratio medieval Italian civic militia, who may eventually appear in my solo fantasy campaign.  While I did take a hobby kit with me, the only thing I actually managed to finish was another settlement map for later use in my D&D game:


It was a (successful, I feel) experiment in using watercolor pencils to put some basic color on the pen and ink drawing quickly.  While I intend to do the next trial map with regular watercolors, the ease of putting down fairly precise colors with the pencils makes me think that will be the technique of choice for this work going forward.

There was another HAWKs meeting on the 18th (the day before yesterday…seems longer already), and I took my 54mm medieval skirmish game.  I had it out for ScrumCon last year, so it hasn’t been too neglected.  



Since it seemed to be a good week for gaming, my brother and I finally resolved a pending skirmish (using Dragon Rampant) in my solo campaign.  I had pulled out the troops and sent him the war band sheets months ago, but the game just never got played.  I decided that I had better keep the set up simple, so that it actually got done.


The situation developed as the result of an orc incursion near Wardenskeep, in eastern Darmis.


In accordance with my usual methods, I had determined that a skirmish was occurring, randomized an order of battle for the two sides, and then randomized a scenario.  Because I have not yet painted enough 1/72 scale orcs, and my son’s orcs (used for a previous encounter) had been returned to him, I ran this battle with 25mm lead figures, which are not in short supply here.

We ended up playing an ambush scerario.  The Darmish forces (consisting of a unit of axemen, 4 units of archers, and a unit of scouts) ended up as the ambushees.  Looking at the table above, their objective was to make their way down the road and exit at the end with the town, while the orcs entered from the sides, by the hills, and attempted to cut them off.  



The orcs sent their light wolf riders (with javelins) out to skirmish with the lead humans, but the archers out shot them.  The battle was fought cautiously by both sides…we frequently passed the play on a failed activation roll, but the (dis)honors were pretty evenly distributed, so it didn’t feel like either of us was particularly disadvantaged.  Eventually the Darmish commander’s guard (the axemen) stood off the wild charges of two bands of goblin berserkers before retiring from the field and leaving the fight to the archers.  The archers were equal to the task; eventually shooting drove off all the orc/goblin units.  Casualties among the humans were also heavy, though, and the game was pronounced a draw.

Again, I neglected to take enough pictures for a proper battle report.  At any rate, though, I’m glad to have that behind me, and will return to map maneuvers this week, as the first campaign season in the Northlands winds to an indecisive close.

I’ll leave this as a teaser: