According to my painting records, the last time I finished anything was toward the end of August. Now, for purposes of my records, "finished" is defined as putting the final spray varnish coat on figures that have been based.
A couple of years back, I started having trouble with the Krylon 1311 matte spray sealer I had been using for a long time, in that it kept fogging on me. I can't help but think that they changed the formula somewhere along the way, and that it was now more sensitive to humidity than it had been, but, in any case, it stopped working for me. I invested in a humidity meter, and also changed to a Krylon Low Odor matte spray varnish, which seems to be less sensitive. Nevertheless, this weekend was the first time in two months that the relative humidity dropped below 60%, and I therefore felt confident in spraying everything that I've been dabbling with lately.
I continue to be working on vintage fantasy and related figures, for the most part, and the group shown above includes some Hinchliffe medieval Pecheneg horsemen (from the flea market at Huzzah in 2015), some old Heritage figures of a couple of different ranges, a Minifig Dark Ages warlord (though actually from their Imperial Roman range) an early Grenadier elf, a Ral Partha horseman, a couple of stray 1/72 scale plastics, and a fairly modern Reaper fantasy crossbowman, in the back (based for my Frostgrave war band).
I have been considering the question, without much of an answer so far, of whether I should write down a plan for the vintage fantasy project...that's probably a post for another time.
In the meantime, Fall In is coming soon, and I will be shifting back to historicals for a couple of games co-hosted with Ross Macfarlane.
This year was the third year that the Dean family team attended Gen Con, and we are beginning to feel like we have a handle on the planning. We were ready for the opening of the hotel room registration back in January, and, with four of us in the room lottery we drew a good position and were able to secure a room in the J.W. Mariott, at the northwest corner of the convention center complex.
With the room in hand, my brother was confirmed in his decision to try his hand at gamemastering this year, and, accordingly, he signed us up for four miniatures games (three Chaos Wars demos and a session of the 1975 Lord of the Rings game Ringbearer), as well as a classic board game night (Cosmic Encounter) that he did solo.
As the travel plans were finalized, I decided to arrive in Indiana on Tuesday, so that my brother and I could be there for the semi-official pre-convention events on Wednesday. I was tasked with bringing some of the miniatures for Ringbearer, but Norman had the majority of the prep work in hand. The kids would arrive on Wednesday night, and they also booked a somewhat early departure, around 2:00 on Sunday.
Arriving on Tuesday, I found that the literal welcome mat from previous years had not been rolled out at the airport, but the street signs were all up.
My brother and I arrived in good time on Wednesday morning after spending the night at his place in Bloomington, and we started right off with a board game demo, of a space-themed game called Destination Neptune. It was a bit of a time-management game, reminding me of Puerto Rico, and I am still considering picking up a copy eventually. I was also signed up for a (Classic) Traveller game in the evening, which was a bit of a bust. The GM thought that it would be fun to try a combat scenario, which ultimately reminded me of why I try to avoid combat in Traveller. Most of our party was wiped out in short order. (My son was in one of the GM’s other Traveller games the next day, and came away speaking highly of the experience, so I’ll write this one off as a good idea that didn’t quite pan out.)
The convention proper started on Thursday. We were signed up to run one of our Chaos Wars games first thing, with the idea that we didn’t want to be part of the crush in the exhibit hall opening. Gen Con is an interesting environment for miniatures games.
As can be seen from the pictures, there are seemingly endless rows of 5 x 16 foot table set ups, each representing two 5x8 games, so it would be helpful for planning purposes to consider that you only have access to three sides of the table.
The background noise could be described as “thunderous”, so it’s a little hard on the voice. On the other hand, despite the limitations, we noted that there were over 950 miniatures games in the program, so splitting the miniatures off would make a respectable miniatures convention. They just feel a little lost in the 17,000 other events. We had six players for the first game, a battle to evict a trio of wizards from a stronghold under construction. The players were three younger and three older, and that demographic distribution was the pattern for the rest of our minis games. I’m not really concerned about the graying of the hobby overall; miniatures has always skewed a little more toward the older and more established players.
I scurried off to an art workshop (on using Copic markers for mapping) after our game, which was in one of the distant outlying hotels. Upping my game on map making remains on my to-do list…
After that it was time to set up Ringbearer. This game was printed in 1975, and involves a compressed War of the Ring on a single wargames table. We ended up with four players (of a possible five), so that worked out pretty well, with players for Mordor, Isengard, Gondor and Rohan, and with the Fellowship split between the “good” players.
We thought this went pretty well, with the Fellowship taking a long detour through Rohan on their way to the Cracks of Doom.
We didn’t quite finish, though, so that part still needs some work. The Ringbearer game was the tough one to transport and set up, so we were glad that the kids arrived in time to give us a hand in the tear down. I’ve been using my sons as a support crew for years at the historical miniatures conventions, but that’s going to be more difficult going forward, so I’m going to need to think about my gamemastering strategy with respecting transporting stuff.
I set Friday up to be my play day in the schedule. I was in a Fate Accelerated role-playing game in the morning, involving unicorns mediating between humans and spirits in a magical forest, then did the majority of my Gen Con shopping. I signed up for two speed painting sessions, back to back, in the afternoon, and was pleased to find that one of them, for painting Reaper figures, qualified me for a final round on Sunday afternoon.
I was fairly happy with how the other figure, an Iron Wind Metals (aka Ral Partha) elf warlord, turned out, but it didn’t get a prize.
Everybody had a schedule gap on Friday, so we set that up as our team dinner, after which I headed over to Games on Demand to see what was on offer. I ended up in a session of The Fall of Magic, a GM-less storytelling improvisational game with some interesting potential. Two hours was just scratching the surface, though, so I put a copy on my wish list for later.
Saturday was booked solid. I started off in the morning in a game with my older son, a scenario using the original 1823 Prussian Kriegsspiel rules, played on a topographical map with scaled counters.
There were a few issues with the scenario design on this one, but it was as interesting experiment in hobby history. My brother and I then ran two more Chaos Wars games (with the same scenario) back to back, with five and four players respectively.
My throat was about shot by the time that I was done, and we were again glad to accept some help from the kids on the clean up.
I hadn’t started the convention with anything scheduled for Sunday, but ended up with the final round of speed painting at 2:00. We looks at the kids’ departure time and concluded that we could probably manage a two session at Games on Demand at 10:00. My older son and I ended up in a session of The Quiet Year, a game of post-apocalyptic community building, which we had tried and liked last year.
After that, the kids scurried off to the airport and I did a little final shopping prior to my Reaper speed painting final.
I didn’t place in the final either, but I did end up with two brushes, three miniatures, and a fourth miniature as a prize for my combined entry fee of $4, so I had a great time with it overall.
I got to ease out of the convention slowly; the majority of the plane was filled with other Gen Con attendees headed home, so we got to talk about games all the way back to Baltimore, and I prudently took Monday off to recover.
Now that we have tried GMing, we are already discussing plans for next year’s games…
The members of the HAWKs have been running a Frostgrave campaign for several months, so I am finally catching up by painting and basing some specifically Frostgrave themed miniatures. My goal was to have all ten done by next weekend, so I've done that. It would also be nice to finish my matching treasure markers.
At this point, I am thinking that am ultimately going to do about 30 figures for this, which will give me two bands for use at home, plus some flexibility.
My younger son is headed away to grad school shortly, but he and his brother were both at home for a game this weekend. Ross Macfarlane and I are expecting to sign up a couple of 40mm French and Indian War games for Fall In, so it seemed like a good time to break those figures out (for the first time in about two years) and remind ourselves of the rules.
We played that old stand-by, The Wagon Train from C.S. Grant's Scenarios for Wargames (aka The Green Book). In this action, the French raiders were successful in their attempt to destroy the convoy, though it was tense.
As usual, I'm behind on blogging, but at least I've been getting some painting done. One of my projects this weekend was this unit of Minifg Byzantine archers, who will do double duty as part of my "fantasy Byzantine" forces. These were part of a group I picked up at the flea market at Huzzah in 2015. These IR range figures (IR142, to be precise) and their companions, the DA range figures, are a little more detailed than the old Mythical Earth figures I started with, but not so much so that they become difficult to paint.
As I attempt to add masses for big battles, looking decent quickly is a real plus.
Having found a system for updating that seems to work, I thought that I might as well take this opportunity to catch up with a few pictures from games that have taken place since March.
My brother Norman, shown below in the light blue shirt, has gotten back into gaming within the last two years, after a hiatus of a couple of decades. He has been wanting to run a 1975 game called Ringbearer for a long time, so we arranged to try to put it on at Cold Wars this year. Ringbearer compresses the Lord of the Rings onto a single table, as seen below. Mount Doom is at the near corner and the road to the Shire is diagonally opposite it, by the younger gamer. We will be staging this again at Gencon this year, but we are regrettably going to have to abandon the idea of using the original rules as is. We discovered the hard way that what looked fine on paper didn't actually work when we put it on the table. I regret the lack of playtesting, but we did warn the potential players and give them a chance to back out.
We staged a couple of Chaos Wars demonstrations as part of our Iron Wind Metals Chaos Wars demo team activities.
In mid-April, both of my sons were up for a weekend visit, so we took the opportunity to finish off a mini-campaign Norman (son) had set up, which ended, rather to my surprise, with my army victorious. We were using Hordes of the Things, and our 1/72 scale fantasy armies.
I have been experiencing technological difficulties in updating this blog lately. I will leave this up if it works, but, basically, I'm tring links to photobucket to allow me to email an update with more than one picture.
The Reaper Forums, as I mentioned in the last post, sponsored a Memorial Day binge painting event. Some of the other participants were also painting some vintage figures, so when I cleared my desk of what I had done, I finished scaling off the old paint on a couple of Garrison Sword and Sorcery figures, plus a Minifigs ME elf archer.
I didn't check the Lost Minis Wiki for the identity of this fellow until after he received the blue and white paint job, so he's probably not really going to be used as a "Follower of Set" when he goes on the table.
(So, that didn't work, but I did manage to edit the links in...)
Back around 1990, I had the opportunity to pick up about 8 packs (48 figures) of Ral Partha elves from their 1976 Wizards, Warriors and Warlocks range. These figures were some of the first that Tom Meier sculpted for Ral Partha, and I've always felt that they had a certain rustic charm, as well as matching the general style of a lot of the other early figures in my collection better than the beautiful highly polished Collector Series elves that he sculpted just a few years later. I've always wanted more of them, and I recently successfully petitioned Iron Wind Metals to remold these. My brother and I are starting some planning to do a Battle of the Five Armies scenario next year, to cap our fatnasy revival project, and I now have the army of the elf king.
I finished up a couple of fantasy figures at lunch today. The cyclops is from current Iron Wind production (ex-Ral Partha Imports). The lady will be the lead singer in the group of bards recently finished...
I am, unfortunately, continuing to have technical problems in posting to the blog. I'm not much of a computer adept, and when it comes down to a choice of using scarce leisure time for tracking down computer problems or for painting miniatures, the latter is always more appealing.
That said, even the painting has been a little slow lately due to general busyness in the real world. I have, however, started working toward getting some of the units painted from last year's Iron Wind Metals and the first of these finally got a varnish coat yesterday. I will be running a Chaos Wars demo at Harcon, a game day run at the local community college, in a couple of weeks, and I thought that it would be nice to have a few units on the table representing things that interested gamers could actually buy. A lot of my units are composed of out-of-production vintage figures.
For a little variety in gaming, I met with my at Cincycon, outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, this weekend. He drove in from Bloomington, Indiana, and we both spent the weekend helping to run demonstration games of the revived Ral Partha Chaos Wars mass fantasy battle game. We also had a fascinating tour of the Iron Wind Metals factory facility, source of so many of my old favorite fantasy miniatures.
Cincycon was a well-run local convention, and occupied two large halls at the local fairground. While I was preoccupied with Chaos Wars, I saw a wide variety of boardgames being played, and other miniatures games in a broad range of genres and periods, with historicals being well represented.
I would certainly recommend giving Cincycon a look if it's within your comfortable travel range!
As I have been working on my 25mm fantasy lately, I realized that I had disposed of my Hovels or Gallia resin bridges during a previous purge. I went looking for easily available replacements, and turned up this hard plastic kit from Italeri, available online for about $15. This bridge came in six pieces and went together quickly with no serious fit issues. The roadway is just over three inches (~75mm) wide, so will easily fit my 60mm width mass fantasy bases. I may end up with another one or two for flexibility in scenario design. On to painting ...
2015 was an interesting year for wargaming, at least for me. I started the year intending to work on 1/72 scale plastic ancients and homecast Dux Bellorum warbands, as well as finishing off the Portable Fantasy Game (PFG) skirmish project. I got off to a good start toward those goals, but, as usual, no plan survived contact with reality.
My Bones 2 Kickstarter package arrived with a ton of fantasy plastic, and the PFG completion got sidetracked while I quickly painted up a Bones undead warband, using some of the new Bones 2 figures.
However, the vast mass of Bones 2 was a little overwhelming, and the limitations of the material are becoming more apparent as I continue to paint and play with them. One of them is that spindly parts are going to be a problem, and the Bones 2 cavalry and centaurs are not very satisfactory. Reaper apparently agrees; there were no new cavalry figures in the Bones 3 Kickstarter. Figures suitable for arranging in units remain scarce in the line, so my notion of building new fantasy forces in modern (i.e. BIG) 28mm for mid-sized games, say 120 figures per side, is not working out. So big plastic fantasy is headed toward the back burner, with a few minor exceptions I'll get to.
The next unplanned shift in emphasis came in March, when my long-time friend and fellow gamer from back in the day, Joe, came out to the East Coast for Cold Wars. With a little encouragement from Joe, I ended up coming home with about twenty vintage 25mm fantasy figures from McEwan, Custom Cast, Minifigs, and Ral Partha for the nostalgia value. That got me looking through my old fantasy figures. Added to my issues with the Bones, I started looking around on eBay for figures I had once had, then figures I had once wanted, then figures that I might have wanted had I ever seen them or heard of the company that had once produced them....Somewhere in the middle of that exercise, which, by the way, was reinforced by my brother deciding to do the same thing, Ironwind Metals decided to revive some of the classic Ral Partha fantasy army lines and the old Chaos Wars rules. I bought into that Kickstarter in May, and it happily delivered right on time at the end of the year.
At Huzzah, in May, I picked up a lot of reinforcements for my 25mm Byzantine/fantasy armies, mostly Hinchliffe with a smattering of Minifigs. That was the first "new" army I picked up this year. I also got Aquilonians and Turanians (old Ral Partha Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age) from Classic Miniatures, and the Ral Partha Kickstarter elves and orcs.
I have mostly sworn off Kickstarters, with exceptions made only for established companies, or companies whose previous Kickstarters went well. In 2015, that meant that I signed up for three, Bones 3, the Ral Partha Chaos Wars, and Stonehaven Halflings. All of them have either delivered or are on schedule, so that's been going well, except for the amount of painting stacking up, of course.
With all of this going on, I have been attempting to pick up the pace on army painting. The thought that I had at the beginning of the year, that I might spend more time on painting some superior (not Superior, though I got some of those this year too) miniatures has been overtaken by the press of the amount of work I've taken on. The good news is that it has been an excellent year for painting, with 205 25/28mm figures (and 27 1/72 scale plastic figures) completed. The bad news is that I am going to need to reach toward some previous records (achieved back in the early oughts) if I want to see these armies on the table anytime soon. I also need to seriously up my game on the painting of horses, because I've got a lot of cavalry to paint.
It was a pretty good year for conventions; I made it to Cold Wars, Huzzah, and Gencon, and took games to all three. I had friends at all three, which made each of them a good experience, and I am looking forward to doing at least as well next year.
I was involved in 33 miniatures games, which is a little below where I want to be. With both sons out of the house, though, pickup games aren't as easy as they have been in years past. Ross and I got in a couple of remote games this year, but technical issues have been keeping us from doing more. I hope to fix that in the coming year. As might be expected, the 33 games included a lot of fantasy. We played multiple games with four sets of rules, Chaos Wars, Frostgrave, Song of Blades and Heroes, and our home rules under development. We also had single games of a couple of others. There was still some time for historicals; we played several games of Warhammer Ancient Battles leading up to running it at Cold Wars, and several Charge! games with the Not Quite Seven Years War figures, leading up to Huzzah.
As far as games and rules went, that mix made it a fairly typical year, with just a couple of exceptions.
One was Osprey's release of Frostgrave, and several of my fellow HAWKs members immediately jumped on the bandwagon. Since it uses warbands of no more than 10 figures, it was pretty easy to get a team on the table by simply reaching into the box of finished Bones. In 2016, I want to line up a purpose built faction with appropriately themed basing, and see if I can get it painted in small batches in between 25mm fantasy. It will be mostly Bones, with a few other Reaper metal figures to round out a couple of figure types that are a little scarce in Bones. I've also started my own set of paper model-based scenery so that I can run it at home. My older son has also started working on a Frostgrave band, so there are some family games in the future. I don't usually buy into these small specialized sorts of games, but it seems to me that most of this can be easily recycled into something else if everyone gets tired of it. I'll try to post more on Frostgrave in the near future.
The second was also an Osprey release, Dragon Rampant, right at the end of the year. A couple of the other HAWKs have been talking about trying its medieval precursor, Lion Rampant, but haven't yet done so because they are still working on figures. Translate that concept to fantasy and, behold!, I have troops for a dozen warbands/retinues immediately at my fingertips. So that allowed me to throw a game on the table (as described in my Christmas trip report) even before my pre-ordered hardcopy of the rules caught up with me, which is not at all my usual experience in testing something new. I expect to be playing more Dragon Rampant in 2016, since it makes use of stuff that's already in place.
For 2016, I have already mentioned that I want to work on getting the 25mm fantasy armies painted. After spending much of the past year stripping paint from eBay purchases, I am looking forward to working with figures that haven't been painted previously. Beyond that, I want to get back to building the Dux Bellorum warbands with the homecast figures, partly just because I am interested in the period (thanks, Rosemary Sutcliff), and partly to take the opportunity to practice my conversion skills on small scale figures, using ones that are cheap and easily recycled in the event of any unfortunate occurrences. I also want to get back to working, even if only gradually, on some NQSYW figures again. I have been working toward a project goal for many years without yet reaching it, and I hope that running some NQSYW games will provide the necessary inspiration. There is also some chance that this will be the year that I do some more with the 40mm Renaissance figures.
One final observation: much of the last third of the year was a little stressful at work. I was interested to see that the way this played out in my hobby was to get me painting more in my available time, because painting was a complete break from the sort of thing I was doing at work. Setting up scenarios and doing army list calculations seemed way too much like work for it to be relaxing, which contributed to the fact that relatively few games got played post-Gencon, right up until work things got finished, just at Christmas. If a lower stress level at work were to translate into less painting and more playing next year, I think I would be at peace with that.
So, with that, 2015 is a wrap, and it's on to an exciting 2016.
My 2015 retrospective will need to wait for another day; I ended up spending 9 hours yesterday on doing this Chaos Wars unit for Ironwind Metals. I volunteered to paint three at Gencon, and it's high time that got done. The whole effort took my from 9:30 to 6:30, but there was a lunch break and a couple of stretch/coffee breaks in there, too. Norman came up today and we played a trial of Frostgrave; more on that later, too.
I post a little about my ongoing projects, recent games, how I got to where I am, and where I'm going, as time away from the workbench, and a somewhat busy life, permits. I'll try to keep cooking and ballroom dance down to a minimum, but they do seem to take up a lot of time.
This is my really short, no explanation included, list of projects: 54mm Medieval Mayhem (skirmish), 40mm French and Indian War, 40mm NQSYW, 40mm French Revolution/Scarlet Pimpernel, 40mm Renaissance, 25mm Dark Ages (Saxons and Vikings), 25mm Historical Arthurian, 25mm Fantasy, 1/72 scale Bronze Age, 1/72 scale 2nd Punic War, 1/72 scale fantasy (Portable Fantasy Campaign), 6mm Ancients (travel DBA), 6mm Fantasy (travel HotT), 6mm Spanish Civil War.