Saturday, October 9, 2021

September Overview — Zorn and 1/72 Fantasy/Medievals


September turned out to be a busy month in several ways, and I thought that I would blog about some of it as it was happening.  That, of course, did not turn out to be the case.  

I’ll start off with a disucssion of painting.  Included above is everything I painted for the month.  There are three 8-figure stands of 1/72 scale medieval city militia, from Strelets and Ultima Ratio, a single 1/72 scale Strelets axeman done as a fantasy individual, 3 Ral Partha orc leaders or champions from the 2015 (already?) Iron Wind Chaos Wars revival Kickstarter, a new Reaper science fiction drone for my Stargrave crew, and a couple of small pieces of scatter terrain. That’s 31 figures/pieces in a 30 day month, a rate I haven’t hit since the Before Times. I will do what I can with October, but matching that seems unlikely.

We had Barrage 24 on September 24th/25th.  I was involved in five games, and had eight total for the month, so that was good too.  One of the Barrage highlights was an opportunity to play in a game run by local GM Matt Kirkhart, who has been building his own miniatures out of bits of stuff from the craft store for many years.  This year’s scenario was a recreation of the climactic battle from the 1982 Conan movie, run as a 4-player co-op game.

We managed to save the captive princess and Conan survived, though it looked like he wasn’t going to be as effective a fighter as his companions for a while…

It was going to get its own blog post, but in the interest of getting the information out there at all, I wanted to mention that I have run across several references to the Zorn palette recently.  Anders Zorn was a Swedish painter of the late 19th/early 20th century famous for doing many of his painting with four colors of oil paints, a bright white, a bright red, an ochre yellow, and a bluish black.  With some advice my son gleaned from Internet painting discussions somewhere, I emulated this with four Reaper hobby paints:

The only blue you get is a faded denim/slate blue from mixing white and black; green is an olive from the yellow and the black, and caucasian skin tones are red and yellow with just a dash of black.

You end up with a somewhat subdued color range which seems to me to work well with medieval sorts of fantasy figures.  In the group shot that opens this post, the two stands of spearmen at the left rear were all done in Zorn colors.  It was a fun and relaxing little exercise, and a Zorn color selection is going in my travel paint kit next trip.

There are lots of ideas on my mind right now.  Norman has been working on Bronze Age DBA armies, so I am trying to get some Nubians painted.  Adding several 1/72 stands has me thinking about rounding out the planned armies for my Portable Fantasy Campaign, especially with the prospect of running something with 1/72 figures at Huzzah next year, and the Ral Partha orcs were intended to fill out a nicely themed one manufacturer orc army to give Nic Wright’s Fantastic Battles rules a try.  The Stargrave campaign is settle down as we learn the peculiarities of the rules and of our crews’ particular abilities.  I was in a co-op Rangers of Shadowdeep game at Barrage, and I’d like to get the pieces together to start playing the introductory scenarios.  So there’s lots to do, and I’ll try to be better about posting some of it…


Friday, August 27, 2021

1/72 Scale medievals for Fantasy and Ultimate Dungeon Terrain

 I might have mentioned that I am trying to relax a little about the painting, and just do whatever the Muses inspire me to do, confident that I always have plenty of things that have already been painted that I could be playing.

I spent most of my hobby time the week after my previous post finishing up the Ultimate Dungeon Terrain board.  One side is paved in stone:

The other side is painted green and flocked for outdoor encounters:

There is a Dungeons & Dragons (5e) game tonight, so perhaps we will have a chance to try it out, even if the scenery assortment available needs some expansion.

I painted a WizKids “bounty board” for potential use with this.

I wanted to try using extremely fine line permanent markers to create the notices. Expecting that they might not be “permanent” to the propellant in the spray varnish cans, I decided to protect them with a layer of  brush-on varnish, and was a little disappointed to find that the varnish was causing the ink to run a bit.  I finsihed it up by dabbing it on carefully, but the notices still look like they have been running a bit in the rain.

I finally finished a troop of eight mercenaries for the Portable Fantasy Campaign.  They are mostly Italeri Knights with a couple of supplementary figures thrown in.  When I started, I thought that the livery (sable, three bezants) would be simple to paint, but it turned out that putting down that many clean circles (or almost clean circles) was harder than I expected, and they kept getting set aside.  I finally completed them by the expedient method of painting one figure at a time to the finish.

Inspired by that success, I decided that I would paint some more stands for this project.  My order of battle says that I want a few spear stands, so I dug out a box of Strelets Medieval City Levy. This is a mixed box created from two of their earlier sets, one primarily spear armed, and one with a variety of mostly two-handed melee weapons,

Naturally, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and just take the spearmen, but selected a group of other weapons as well.

I also picked a group of 8 figures, with mixed polearms, pavises, and crossbows, from the Ultima Ratio Italian Militia set.  I posed them on a standard 60mm by 40mm base before getting started, to make sure that they would fit, and so that I would have an idea of how I wanted them to look when I finally finish them.

I had a slight skating mishap (toe pick!) last week, so using my lunch breaks at work for painting this week, rather than some sort of exercise, seemed like a good idea.

I finished three across two days, one Ultima Ratio militiaman (on the left), and two of the Strelets city levies.  They are shown here with a standard Reaper figure for size comparison.  As usually, I put a coat of thinned acrylic varnish on with a brush, to protect them while waiting for the rest of their stands to be finished.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Scenery Day

 My elder son lives about two hours drive south of here.  Usually he and his wife are the ones who make the trip this way, so I thought that it was time to be the travel team.  So, this past Sunday my wife and I packed up the car with two tubs, a bag, and a stack of scenery tools and materials and headed south.

I grouped the materials for a couple of projects in ziploc bags so that I didn’t have to dig for them, and could decide what I felt like doing on the spot. While our wives headed off for a museum visit and antique hunting expedition, we laid out the folding tables and tools and got to work.  For the past year or so, I have been starting to upgrade my scenery by building bases, especially for things that have a tendency to get knocked over a lot, such as trees.

I started with a couple of enclosure bases using up some rather thin stone walls from the Mantic “Terrain Crate” Kickstarter.  They won’t stand by themselves, so this is really the only option to use them.  From our Ghost Archipelago campaigning in 2018-2019, I had a leftover cage for a prisoner (needed for one of the scenarios), which I also based up.  Norman was working on scenery for the upcoming Stargrave game.

We got three bases each roughed out.  His science fiction bases got as far as priming, and my fantasy bases were somewhat further along (but will need some touch-ups).

We set all of that aside to dry and broke out the Hot Wire Foam Factory set.  Norman carved a series of hills, and I started in on building the base for the Ultimate Dungeon Terrain following the procedures in the linked YouTube video.

The next scheduled D&D game I’m in is coming up this Friday, so I’m afraid that it won’t quite be ready, but at least it’s well along.

We cleaned things up after that, and then set up a quick game of Hordes of the Things.  Norman had recently completed some dwarves and wanted to try a scenario based on the Battle of the Five Armies from The Hobbit, so he set that up while I was repacking my boxes.

I’ll let him give the details later, but the orcs were facing down an allied amry of dwarves, humans, and elves, with a behemoth representing Beorn and the Eagles (represented as a HotT “God” element) available under certain conditions as reinforcements.  We had time to play and then switch sides for a second play before the ladies returned and we headed out for some dinner

It was a good day overall; I hope to get the touch-ups done and the Ultimate Dungeon Terrain platter finished up this weekend.

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!


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…