Friday, January 24, 2020

December and January

I had been back to blogging regularly for a while there, but the Christmas season preparations overwhelmed me this year, and things got out of hand again.

I only got a little bit of painting done during the month.  My 1/72 scale fantasy campaign collection started from a core of Airfix Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood figures I had painted around the turn of the century for a kids’ game, and I have been using it recently with both Dragon Rampant and Hordes of the Things.  While Hordes uses single bases as the maneuver elements and any random stand can take its place in a battle line, Dragon Rampant is generally geared for units of 12 normal infantry.  I’ve had 6 of the armored archer from the Sheriff set (with 2 per box) and the recent Encounter at Terril’s Tavern wanted a distinguishable archer unit of 12 (two stands), so I finished up another stand of 6 for the next time.

My son and his wife came for a weekend of cookie baking, which seemed to fill most of my crafting urges for the month.

Dean Family Christmas Cookie Assortment 2019

I did get a few games in.  I even took miniatures on the road, and we had the now-traditional family Christmas battle with my brother and both sons.  We borrowed a table from the nice folks at Pandemonium games in Garden City, Michigan, for a try at Chaosium’s 1978 rules Perilous Encounters.  My brother has been collecting old rules to go with his vintage miniatures, and had been wishing for a test of these rules for some time.  Unfortunately, we didn’t really care for the results, with the morale rules, in particular, being a bit dd.  It was still good to see all the vintage lead on the table.
My brother and younger son commanding the Younger Sons Alliance

My ancient McEwan lizards supported by Broadsword rangers

A Superior lizard moves up in support of Minifig archers; RAFM wizard overseeing 
Elder son Norman received a copy of DBA 3.0 for Christmas, and thought that it would be interesting to dust off our somewhat neglected joint 1/72 scale Bronze Age project to use with the rules, so as the calendar turned over to January, he started painting Caesar Hittites to put on regulation bases. Our previous efforts were mounted as the 6-8 man 60mm by 40mm infantry bases we have been using uniformly across our 1/72 scale projects, and chariots were mounted on the same bases oriented toward the 40mm edge.  DBA wants chariots on 60mm by 80mm bases, so I cautiously pried four of them loose from their old bases for rebasing, rather than building sabots of sort sort.  They looked a little lonely on the large bases, so I started my efforts to support his enthusiasm by painting a pair of chariot runners for each base:

With that done, I could field an Egyptian army, as long as I didn’t mind using the original double rank infantry stands.  While I will probably paint single rank Egyptian infantry on regulation-depth stands fairly soon, I then turned my attention to the first of the opponent armies.  I should be able to do Libyans, Sea Peoples, Nubians, Syrians, and my own Hittites eventually. I have the stockpile of miniatures already, at least, even if the inspiration sometimes comes and goes...I decided that the Libyans would be first, and began with their 5 (?!) light infantry stands:

Libyan archer psiloi for DBA 

Libyan javelin psiloi for DBA

They also get two stands of swordsmen (‘Warband’ by the rules):

That leaves me three stands of warriors at three figures each, a commander in a chariot, and a stand of Sea Peoples swordsmen to go before a test game.

The  other things that has been occupying my paint brush this month has been vintage Minifigs “Mythical Earth” figures.  I’d had a unit of little goblins on the work bench for a couple of months, and finished them off as the “skull” tribe at the end of my vacation, before going back to work on January 6th.  I based them in 3s for flexibility.

I also finished off eight “true orcs”, based as single figures, which should give me a round two dozen for use with Dragon Rampant or as opponents for the heroes in some potential retro-style D&D game.  

Inspired by the rapid success of that effort, I tackled the next dozen goblins, of the “red hand” tribe:

With the completion of that unit, I was down to the last dozen on hand (and they are not presently available from Caliver Books collection of old Minifigs molds) and had the pattern of painting them worked out, so finishing up the sixth (and final, for now) “mountain” tribe did not take long.  I had based the first tribe on 1” individual bases, but thought that it might look better if they weren’t in quite so loose an order. I therefore chose to mount this last group on individual 3/4” bases, which will make it easier to use them in that potential future D&D game as well as in Dragon Rampant.

There’s still one more weekend left in the month, so it’s possible that I’ll get some more Libyans or the next Mythical Earth true orc unit done, but even if I don’t, it will still have been a solid month.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

November activity

November has been a month; not an especially good one, but better than some.  I got started for the month with the intention of working up some scenery for games.  I had a package of fantasy scenics from the Bones 4 kickstarter, and started off with two pieces.  Bother required some boiling to encourage them to assume their proper unwarped shape.  Boiling large pieces is problematic; it’s hard to fit them in the pot without contacting overly hot surfaces, hard to cool them quickly without further twisting, and hard to pull them out of the water with kitchen tongs.  Nevertheless, I managed it, only to find that the spray primer I used on them remained tacky.  A coat of paint and some final varnish seems to have contained it, at least for now.

Scatter terrain is always useful, so the first piece I did was this ruined doorway, originally (judging from the curve) part of a round tower.

Bones 4 ruined doorway

The set also included this attractive ruined temple.  Once I was done with it, though, I wondered a bit at the scale.  I have fantasy figures in three similar scales which I don’t generally mix (1/72 plastic, vintage “true 25s”, and modern Reapers, whatever you want to call that scale).  I’ll show the comparison pictures, but to my eye, it looks like it would be more comfortable with the 1/72 scale plastics than with the Bones.

Bones 4 ruined temple

Bones 4 ruined temple with 1/72 Caesar Adventurer

Bones 4 Ruined Temple with Bones figure

My brother and I bought a village worth of resin buildings from Apocalypse Miniatures about two years ago, and I hadn’t gotten any of them painted yet. So I dug out a couple, and decided to start with the simplest...

Apocalypse Miniatures building

And the other side...
Unfortunately, the other two I unpacked haven’t seen much work yet this, and other, more urgent matters will soon overtake them.

In an effort to clear my desk, I finished off a vintage Minifigs Ent.  This fellow is ME37, the “large” ent.  I attempted to suggest a more bark-like patter, based on the tree in front of my window at my desk at home.  I wasn’t displease, but possibly a finer brush and longer strokes next time.

Minifigs ME37 Large Ent

Large Ent again

After that, all done the first weekend, things rapidly spiraled out of control.  I had arranged to take a week off from work and expected to get some painting done, but we ended up getting a new furnace installed instead.  So, I had to restack all of my storage boxes to be out of the way of the work crews, and then the house was rather cold for two days.  Rather than paint, I ended up spending my time baking, including getting a start on my Christmas cookies.  That still counts as “productive”, but wasn’t what I had been planning.  

With all the baking going on, I managed to spend enough at the local grocery store to qualify for a free turkey.  My older son, Norman, was hosting the joint family Thanksgiving dinner, so he came up last Saturday to collect it.  We took the opportunity to play a game of Dan Mersey’s Dux Bellorum, with Saxons against Romano-British.  The Romano-British, consisting mostly of figures given to me by Ross Macfarlane, gained a narrow victory over the Saxon hordes.  I looked through my records...this is only the third time Norman and I have played, but I finally felt like I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the leadership points, and I am hoping that the next game will both be sooner, and include a few more figure choices for each side.

Norman and a Dux Bellorum game

Romano-British holding off the Saxons

And that was November...

With time off coming up in December, I really need to get back to the French Revolution project, if I hope to bear my part of a six player game for Huzzah.  At least the casting has ben done...

Friday, October 25, 2019

Painting: 1/72 fantasy individuals

Posting time has been a bit limited this the previous post were pictures of the figures I finished up on Columbus Day.  Last Friday was not a scheduled work day, so I was able to sit down and do something with paintbrushes.  Most of the time, I find that trying to ignore the Muses doesn’t come to a good end.  So, having finished a nagging project in 1/72 scale, I found that I was inspired to paint a few more figures just for fun.  Here are two Caesar adventurers, two Caesar 13th century knights, and a Reaper Bones “saproling” done up as a 1/72 tree-thing.  Attempting to freehand the lion’s head on the central figure was a bit chancy, and the shield on the other knight was pre-embossed, so more practice on 1/72 heraldry will be coming up.

With this additional handful of figures, I feel like it’s time to play some sort of single-figure game with them. 1/72s are about at the limit of the practical for individual figure games, in my opinion. My basing system should probably have been designed to put a little more weight into the bases, to encourage the figures to stand through minor table bumps and so forth.  I am looking over Rangers of Shadow Deep as a possible near-term game, but haven’t done an order of battle to ensure that I have most of the miniatures needed yet.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Painting: 1/72 Dark Ages and 25mm Dux Bellorum

 Monday was a holiday, and I was able to finish up a couple of things on my work desk.  I have had 12 of the 16 figures wanted for two stands of spears for my Cold Islander army (Dark Ages mostly Vikings) for the Northlands/Portable Fantasy Campaign, and I finally received the inspiration (thanks be to Calliope) to finish off the last four.  They have been stalled for many months at this point.  However, as usual, once finished I usually have no trouble getting them based, varnished, and logged in my painting register.  That completes the originally planned Cold Island army (3 heroes, 2 blades, 6 warbands, 2 spears and 2 shooters in Hordes of the Things), and I can now move on and start working toward fielding the other two incomplete armies.

I also finished up and based a stand of 8 Romans (or Romano-British) from various Prince August and Dutkins home casting molds.  At this point both the Saxons and the Romano-British have some options in a Dux Bellorum game, so I am looking forward to an opportunity to get that on the table, hopefully before Christmas.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Encounter at Terril’s Tavern, part 1

I hope this will be a preliminary report, to be followed by some version of fiction.  I have had a battle in my solo “Northlands” campaign pending for a couple of months, and I was baking some bread this morning.  That gives me about three hours to wait while things rise and bake, so it seemed like a good time to resolve the battle.
Different hobby project

Overview of the field near the end
 The background for this is a raid launched into enemy (Darmis) territory by the King of Verdance, while Darmis was occupied with an invasion of Cold Islanders.  The last game played resolved the Cold Island invasion (in favor of Darmis), so the raiders were generally looking for one good score before heading for home.  As luck would have it, my battle generation system generated a skirmish (to be played with Dragon Rampant), and the forces turned out to be fairly general medieval groups. I therefore decided to use a scenario from Lion Rampant, the Dragon Rampant scenarios being not terribly generic.  I ended up with a convoy action (what else, eh, Ross?). Darmis, with a force of three knights (elite riders), an archer and a scout unit, had the convoy, and the Verdance raiders (a knight, an offensive heavy foot unit, an elite archer, a regular archer, and a scout) had the task of preventing them from getting it across the table.  The convoy player is allowed to attach his three transport elements to any unit, so I put two with the archers (carts I painted in August), and one (an Airfix Maid Marion as a Darmish noblewoman) with a unit of knights.  Having a transport element keeps a unit from being issued attack orders.  It’s not clear whether a countercharge should be allowed, but the Darmish situation was bad enough, in my opinion, that I thought I’d better allow it.  As a solo game, I knew the opponent wouldn’t complain...

As is usual for a Rampant-series game, there were a few turns where initiative turned over quickly, but they pretty much balanced out.  Both sides had their commander with a unit of knights, and lost them to repeated wild charges.  It might have been worth paying the extra points for the command units to be rated as “steady”, not subject to the wild charge rule.  At the end of the game, the Verdance raiders had both of their units of archers pouring arrows on the Darmish archers, who failed courage checks for casualties twice and rallied both times before ultimately routing.  It did prevent them from effectively returning fire.
Last of the Darmish units fails a morale check and abandons the convoy
 So, with the noblewoman and her attendants captured, I expected that the raiders will be heading home in the next map move.

Near the end; Darmish archers attempt to shoot their way through the roadblock without success
All in all, it was an entertaining little game.  It fit in well with the baking, and advanced the campaign a bit, which is pretty good for an afternoon’s entertainment.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Works in progress

With Barrage preparations having been taking most of my attention this past week, I didn’t get around to posting some recent work pictures.  I am halfway through a stand of 8 later Roman auxilia for the Dux Bellorum project.  The lead group is seen here along with a random Foundry Norman finished up one day when I forgot to bring more Romans to where I was painting.  I’ve still got a dozen or two Foundry Dark Ages figures which have been on sticks for handling, and primed, since about 1998...

Dux Bellorum later Romans
 The weather was good back on Sunday the 22nd of September, so I set up my casting gear outside and ran up a couple of dozen additional infantrymen (and parts) for the French Revolution project.  That should give me enough pieces to potentially fill out my planned order of battle over the winter.

Results of the most recent casting session

Monday, September 30, 2019

Barrage 2019 Report

The Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers (HAWKs) ran our annual game day/convention, Barrage, this past weekend, 27 and 28 September.  This is the second year that we have extended Barrage to a second day, and the experiment seems to be working out.  Unofficially, it was looking like we had about 190 attendees, up about 30 over last year.  We wanted to make sure that there were enough games to keep everyone playing, so our event organizer encouraged us to offer something extra.  I signed up to run three games, two 54mm medieval skirmish games, and one 40mm Not Quite Seven Years War game.  My elder son, Norman, volunteered for two sessions of mass fantasy battles with his home rules using 1/72 scale plastic figures.

Norman’s fantasy game on Saturday

Since this is only the second year that we have had the extra day, I was unsurprised to find that attendance built a little slowly on Friday, so I cancelled my first medieval skirmish game and jumped in a guest GM’s modern microarmor game, with a NATO vs. Russians scenario.  (Norman ran his six-player game for two players about that time.) The tank scenario was a night action, so spotting was difficult and ranges short, giving it the flavor of a knife fight in a phone booth.  It was interesting, and not my usual cup of tea.  I was absorbed enough in the play that I forgot to take any pictures, but the GMs had pre-assembled the battlefield from hexagonal tiles in a traveling case, a very clever technique.

As the afternoon progressed, more attendees were arriving, so I was able to run the second scheduled session of my skirmish game with all six positions filled.  This was done using my home rules, “Medieval Mayhem”.  The whole project was originally built in 2003 for the HAWKs’ Battles for Beginners Contest, a showcase of things that one could do with a limited budget—one hundred 2003 dollars, equivalent to about $150 in 2019.  I ran games with it regularly for quite a while, but the figures hadn’t been on the table since Historicon in 2014.  I’ve added a few bits and pieces since then, and I have a few more left to do, so I’d like to get this back into the rotation for conventions.  The only difficulty in that is that the 54mm terrain is bulky, so I can’t really take it too far away unless I’m driving. I used my usual scenario for this game, involving a group of French soldiers attempting to prevent an English foraging party from returning to a besieged castle (which is off the table).   This was a bad day for the English; their longbowmen were generally ineffective, so only a single knight from the foragers made it off the table on the castle edge, which that player considered to be a personal victory, given the circumstances. I discussed the rules with Ross Macfarlane before the convention, and have edited a slightly updated 2019 version, which I’ll try to figure out how to post here.  Mostly, though, the rules are still the same as the prototype version we wrote on a napkin over dinner just before the convention in 2003.

Medieval Mayhem game in progress

 After a night’s rest, I loaded up the car (with assistance from Norman) with all of the Not Quite Seven Years War figures we needed for the game.  The scenario was a riff on a game I fought with second son William a couple of months ago, in which a relief army (provided in this case by Schoeffen-Buschhagen and Wachovia representing the Pragmatic Coalition) needs to seize a set of three objectives defending by the besieging army (provided by the the forces of the Western League) in order to raise a siege.  We used A Gentleman’s War for the rules, setting it up with one of the recommended multi-player techniques—using one activation deck per pair of players. I was kept busy shuttling from one end of the table to the other refereeing, so I don’t have a good grasp of the overall action, but none of the three Coalition columns took their objectives.  After two and a half hours of play, the attackers were pretty thoroughly depleted, and we called it a resounding League victory.  I was unsurprised to find that one wing and the center ended up in an overlapping battle, and the players concluded that they needed to be on one activation deck.  They took care of that without my intervention, showing that they had a firm grasp on the rules by then.  Everyone seemed to be having a good time, but I feel like I could do a little better on the rules explanation.  The melee system is the fussiest part of a fairly simple set of rules, with three steps necessary (determination of advantage, melee, casualty recovery and results).  None of them are especially difficult, but it did seem to be the cause of most of the refereeing, so perhaps more practice on the explanation would help.

Norman finished his second fantasy mass battle game before I was done with the NQSYW, so he was able to help me clean up quickly.  We had some extra incentive to do that, because we were both signed up to play the next game on the table: Matt Kirkhart’s Bridge of Khazad-Dum.  Matt makes amazing miniatures from bits of wood and craft foam, and has been coming to Barrage since 2009 or so.  He started off doing ancients with these figures (styled “crafties”), but has brought fantasy lately.  Last year his dungeon crawl feature the idol from the cover of the AD&D 1st edition Player’s Handbook, and this year he went full Tolkien with two Moria scenarios, Balin’s Tomb and The Bridge of Khazad Dum.  Unfortunately I missed seeing the first.

In The Bridge, the nine chararacters of the Fellowship were played by five players, and Matt played the opposition, making it a co-op game.  I had Merry and Legolas.  The Fellowship simply had to cross a hall and the eponymous bridge, which looked easy enough until goblins started swarming everywhere.  Things looked grim as Gandalf was felled early on by a lucky hit by a goblin arrow, leaving us with nothing which would actually wound the Balrog, which presently showed up.  As can be seen from the pictures, he was an impressive bit of crafting, standing nearly a foot tall.  As we retreated step by step across the hall, cowed by the menace of the Balrog, we were lucky that the Balrog couldn’t roll a good die...we just ended up being pushed back, and, in fact, nobody was wounded.  Eventually, eight of the Fellowship made it out the door, just as in the clearly they must have told Galadriel a tale with a few, um, embellishments, to give us the story that we have today.

After that, it was all over for me except for the clean-up.  One wind-down game of Roman chariot racing was going on as we broke down our tables, but everything was well in hand when I pulled out at 9:30 or so.  I needed to unload when I got home, but left things in piles until this morning. Running two different games with big figures and big terrain really tested my loadmaster skills with respect to my Toyota Yaris...Norman remarked that I should consider writing a sequel to our earlier book, Big Battles for Little Hands, which I should title Big Battles for Little Cars.