Saturday, March 28, 2020

...Improve each shining hour...Reprise

 The first full week of working at home ends, and I can turn my attention to other things for a couple of days.  I had hope to get outside and do some scenery work or possibly even a bit of casting, but the weather is not cooperating.

A wet gloomy day

Happily, it was a beautiful early spring day yesterday, so, when work ended, I grabbed my untested new Hot Wire Foam Factory kit and a sheet of pink insulation board and took it out into the back yard to give it a try.

Hot Wire Foam Factory tool kit
 I cut a three level hill for a corner of a table, and one small single-level hill.  I had hoped to get to the home improvement store for some household latex in some sort of green to match the mat I’ve been using on the table (see, for example, the Dragon Rampant post two back from here).  However, that didn’t happen, so I have whatever resources I have around the house.  In any case, I’m probably going to have to try a couple of different techniques.  The good news was that the cutting was really easy, so additional batches will not be difficult.  These will probably end up painted with whatever cheap craft paint I have and then covered in sand and/or Woodland Scenics ground foam flock. My brother also recommends gluing the pink board together with Alene’s Tacky Glue, so I’ll give that a try on the stacked hill.
Some test pieces
It’s a commonplace of the current crisis, but I like to bake bread even in better times, so that’s what I’m up to this morning.
Bread rising...
 However, the next bread project is going to be a try at some French baguettes rather than more whole wheat sandwich bread, because the whole wheat flour container is down to less than half.  I still have a five pound bag worth of all-purpose flour left after Christmas baking and some bread flour.  Dinner is likely to be curried lentils today.
...but the flour container is getting low.
With everyone discussing solo wargaming, I took a look at the blog of the Solo Wargamers Association, and decided that it was finally time to join.  I also picked up a few of the recent issues of The Lone Warrior, so I can be gathering some inspiration whether or not I can get anything on the table this weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

...Improve each shining hour...

I’m glad I have a job that permits me to work at home in this current situation.  However, I was a little surprised to find that the two hours a day that I am not commuting has disappeared immediately into a vortex of minor life maintenance activities.  I finally got to use my nice clean painting desk yesterday, with a start on two dozen Ral Partha medieval spearmen and crossbowmen to eventually be fielded as a fantasy civic militia, plus a couple of personalities to support them.  I hope to have them finished by the end of the weekend.

At least the food has been good.  I made a vat of ham and navy bean soup last night, enough for three meals for the two of us, and froze the leftovers for later.

I feel like soup needs some bread to go with it, so I made a batch of a quick soda bread (2 cups flour, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir, knead lightly, bake at 350F for about 20 minutes).

On to today...

Monday, March 23, 2020

Dragon Rampant Remote Game — Raid on the Myzantine Frontier

My brother Norman and I took some time out of our busy schedules yesterday (ahem...) to play a game.  After our recent Cincycon outing, I was in the mood for more fantasy, so I suggested that we have a game of Dragon Rampant.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, an advantage of Dragon Rampant in a remote setting is that each player has a relatively small number of maneuver elements to concern himself with, and the exact angle and positioning of those elements is less important than the general idea of which other unit (or piece of terrain) their activation is intended to address.

My solo campaign has a battle pending which I have already determined will be resolved using the DR scenario “The Crystal Gale”, so I thought it might be interesting to try it with two players first, and my brother was agreeable.

Accordingly, I set up my 3x5 table with a little slice of the borderlands of the Myzantine Empire, in the northern reaches where it borders on the Orc lands.  (This is a bit of background from an unfinished fantasy map, intended to give some structure to my collection of older “true” 25mm figures.)

My first observation was that my table was too small to have much flexibility with respect to the placement of the objective markers (the royal crystals by the scenario write-up, reskinned here as information tokens).

The battlefield, as seen from the east, from whence came the Orcs

The battlefield, as scene from the west, from whence came the Myzantines
I chose two forces from my collection of figures which were all Ral Partha, out of respect to the inspiration provided by Cincycon.  The orcs, shown below, had a reduced model unit of elite foot as the warlord and his bodyguard, a unit of orcish heavy foot, a unit of goblin berserkers (bellicose foot), two units of goblin wolfriders (light riders downgraded to javelins rather than bows) and a swarm of rats (lesser warbeasts).

The Orcish force
The Myzantines had the Governor’s bodyguard (elite cavalry with the level-headed advantage), a unit of allied horse (heavy riders), a unit of heavy foot spearment, a unit of light spearmen (with added javelins—which never got thrown), and a unit of light archers.

The Myzantine force
We decided that we would use the rules that we have been putting off unit we were more familiar with the game, particularly the leader personality roll and the availability of additional victory points for the fulfillment of quests/boasts.  My brother, after seeing the army lists, elected to command the orcs. I rolled a leader who was immune to fear (less than helpful since no enemy unit caused fear), and my brother rolled a “commanding” leader who was allowed an activation reroll once per turn.  We randomized the direction of approach, as per the scenario write-up, and I ended up entering along the short side of the table partially behind the river, as shown above.

My second observation, as we got started with the game, is that it was going to be very difficult to reach objective/information markers when his force had faster units than mine, and he had an activation advantage.  

Nevertheless, we pressed on.

Orcish wolf riders advance boldly to open the action
I realized after the first two moves, when he already had 4 of 10 information tokens in the bag, that my only chance of pulling out a victory was going to be to succeed at my quests/boasts.  For me, that meant that I couldn’t afford to have anyone rout, and I needed to destroy more units than I lost. Since the game would end when the last information token was collected, I realized that I was going to have to leave one on the table and protect it in order to have a chance to beat up his units.

So, I attacked as quickly as I could with my elite riders, and followed them up with the allied horse.  The heavy spears were sent to the right flank to keep him from circling around toward the last objective marker, and the light spears with their javelins and the bows came up on the left to soften up his units for a decisive charge by the elite riders of the Guard.
The Governor’s Guard faces down the goblin berserkers
Norman’s rat swarm was subject to the Wild Charge rule, and they ended up getting into a protracted charge/response cycle with the allied horse, which wore both units down.  Eventually the allied horse were wiped out, but at least they didn’t rout.
Allied horse takes on swarms of rats

I got involved in the mechanics of running the game, and didn’t get a picture, but over on my right flank, my spearmen were under heavy attack by javelin throwing wolfriders, and even repulsed an unexpected attack by the orcish heavy foot, who waded across the river at a disadvantage to come to grips with them.  Eventually they were routed by the unanswerable rain of javelins.  It turns out that one of Norman’s chosen quests was to destroy that particular unit...
The Governor’s Guard in pursuit of the Orc Warlord and his Bodyguard
Having achieved his side quests and collected 7 of the 10 information markers, he decided it was time to withdraw.  As my only hope of losing less ignominiously was to pursue him, hoping to destroy another unit or two, I pursued with what I had archers (who were very unhappy about being ordered forward), and the Governor’s Guard, reduced to half-strength. The warlord and his bodyguard, taking up the rear of the orcish force, exited well ahead of my pursuing cavalry.  Assuming that I got the two information markers left on the board, my final score was 3 minus 2 for the failed quests/boasts, a total of “1”, while he had 7 plus 3 for his quests, for a total of “10”.  Ouch.

However, the real primary objective, of taking my mind off of things for a little while, was achieved.  The total elapsed time was two hours, which left me with time to prepare dinner.

I’m sure that more remote games will be on the agenda in the near future.  I will try to take a few more pictures next time I’m hosting.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Recent painting — Mid-March

The last four things I finished (and in things go in my log as finished when they have been based and receive the final varnish coat) were from four different projects.

The first up was a stand of 4 Caesar 1/72 Sea Peoples, a single (blade) stand of which is available to a late Bronze Age Libyan DBA army.  It might be a while before my son Norman and I face off in a DBA Bronze Age game, so I’d like to have at least one new army ready. The Libyans are still going to need a command chariot.  I have the pieces set aside for one, but haven’t assembled them yet.

Caesar Sea Peoples stand for the Bronze Age Libyans

As part of my continuing effort to assemble forces of Minifigs Mythical Earth figures as a nostalgia project, I set aside the next unit of orcs and finished up a unit of their opponents, the “official” men of Gondor.  There being relatively little in Tolkien about Gondorian iconography, I decided to borrow some inspiration from the Spartans, and decorated the shields of this unit with the usual Elvish character for “G”.  They are somewhat oddly posed, looking off to one side a bit, and I tried them both shield forward (as finished) and faces forward before gluing them down.  I should check the Gondorian spearmen and consider that question in advance.

Minfig ME44 Gondorian Swordsmen

While Huzzah has not yet been cancelled, I have strong doubts that it will actually happen this year.  Nevertheless, I’m trying to make some progress on painting figures for the 40mm French Revolution project.  This sample Frenchman was built by adding a bicorne head from a Meisterzinn multiple piece mold to a body from a single piece running musketeer, with the neck drilled out to accept the plug in the head casting.  He’ll be part of a unit of troops in relatively fresh regulation uniforms, one of four visually distinct Garde Nationale units I’m hoping to create.

Meisterzinn figure with a head swap as a French Garde Nationale

The latest figure to be entered into the log is a current Iron Wind Metals production copy of a Ral Partha thief, sculpted by Tom Meier sometime in the early 1980s.   Playing Chaos Wars at Cincycon last week has me inspired to work on my Ral Partha collection.  Starting with an individual is not, perhaps, the best way to get the next unit painted, but it was what the Muse offered, and I don’t like to throw inspiration back in the Muse’s face if I can at all avoid it, lest she not come by again....

Ral Partha 01-114 Thief, sculpted by Tom Meier

At least the desk is relatively clear for when I next sit down to paint.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Convention Reports

So, like many people, I have been transitioned to telework for an indefinite time.  Getting ready to ride this out at home has taken some time, and so far I have not been able to find a dedicated block of time for hobby activities.  Perhaps this week I will have the time management worked out better.  For the moment, that’s all I’m going to say about the pandemic.  Stay safe; stay sane.

Before this, I had been to two conventions in two weekends.  Scrum Con was put on in Silver Spring, Maryland, by the Second Saturday Scrum Club.  This was only its second year, and I missed last year.  It was a one-day event featuring both roleplaying games and miniature games, and I was one of several HAWKs who were hosting games.  Scrum Con was set up this year on a time-block system, in which the majority of the games started at the same time, with two time blocks, morning and afternoon.  Due to a late cancellation by another GM, I was afforded the opportunity to run my game in both time blocks, so I got to the facility comfortably early.  The venue was the Silver Spring Civic Center, which was clean and well lit, though lacking so much as a vending machine for onsite refreshment. Free parking was available in the municipal parking structure immediately across the street, which was pretty good.  Carts for GMs were recommended, and I have one, so that was not a problem.  I should have rehearsed how I was going to stack my boxes and bungee them in place, though, as I was running a 54mm game with some large boxes a little precariously arranged on my cart, and my bungee cords turned out to be shorter than I had thought.  That wasn’t the convention’s fault, of course. Scrum Con was spread out over three function rooms, which had been set up with round tables for RPG events, and rectangular tables for the miniatures events.  Two rooms were downstairs adjacent to each other, and the room I was in was upstairs.  An elevator was available to get my cart to my table.  

I was mildly disappointed, though not surprised, to find that I didn’t end up with players for the morning game.  At least my table was already set up and ready to go.  I jumped into Duncan Adams’ Space Station Accipiter game, a perennial favorite HAWKs offering showcasing the large club collection of Buck Rogers semiflat figures from vintage 1930s home casting molds.  This was the first outing for a vintage Princess Ardala figure my son William found and painted for me a couple of years ago.  
Princess Ardala and her Tigermen of Mars minions skulking around Accipiter
 For my own game, I chose to run a 54mm skirmish game with Medieval Mayhem, the home rules that Ross Macfarlane and I put together as part of the HAWKs Battles for Beginners contest/project back in 2003.  I had just dusted off in September, after a rest of a couple of years, for Barrage 2019, about the same time that Scrum Con was soliciting for games, so I had been reminded that it was just the sort of easier to approach game that would be appropriate for a mixed genre convention.

Defenders of the village take position
Attendance may have been suppressed by the growing concern over the corona virus, but, in any case, a couple of my pre-registered players were among the folks who did not pick up their badges.  The scenario I was using is easiest with an even number of players, so, with five who showed up to play, I took a role in the action myself.  The original purpose of these rules (and this project) was to provide a game which any player would be able to pick up in a few turns, and I was pleased that was the case at Scrum Con.  By the third or fourth turn I scarcely had to adjudicate anything, and everyone seemed to be engaged, with some side discussion about the possibility of using the rules at home.  So, from my point of view, a success.

Once I had the game packed back up, I figured out where the nearest Starbucks was, dropped my boxes back off at the car, and wandered over to recaffeinate.  Generally, it was a good day, and I look forward to attending/GMing again next year.  I would recommend it to anyone within driving range.

The following weekend found me in the Cincinnati area for Cincycon.  My brother and I had talked about going.  It’s somewhat local to him (two hours) and is the designated gathering for the Chaos Wars Demo Team.  I had about decided not to go, when my partner urged me to go and spend time with my brother. It’s a very good local convention, with a reasonable selection of dealers, and a program of all three main tabletop genres—miniatures, RPGs, and board games.  I flew in to Indianapolis on Friday morning, where my brother picked me up on his way.  We were on site by the middle of the afternoon.  He set up his Chaos Wars demonstration scenario, and we played through it a couple of times while waiting for the crowd to build up.  Unfortunately for Cincycon, the coronavirus concerns were rapidly growing, and it looked to me as though attendance was down considerably from the other two years I’d gone.  

Chaos Wars demo armies in action
It’s always nice to see a bunch of classic Ral Partha miniatures in action. 

My brother, commanding intently

Paint and take table with classic Ral Partha
As it seems like Cincycon may be my last gaming convention for a while, and, as two weeks have elapsed since then with symptoms, I am glad that I went.  I came home with a bunch of notes about how to display miniatures gaming for a broader audience, and an urge to paint some miniatures, so we’ll call it a success.

I had intended to go to Cold Wars the following weekend.  While it occurred, the fact that the state governments were already calling for cancellation of large gatherings before it was time for me to go reinforced my decision to pass.  Huzzah, out in mid-May, is starting to look like it is going to be within the timelines for social distancing.  More to follow, I suppose ... I’ve gotten some painting done the since the previous post, but I’ll save that for next time.

Monday, March 9, 2020

1/72 Fantasy — Some Recent Painting

Time got away from me a bit in February.  After painting 40+ old Minifig Mythical Earth figures and most of a DBA army of 1/72 scale Bronze Age Libyans in January, I had intended to finish up the Libyans, relax a bit by painting a few 1/72 scale fantasy things for the Portable Fantasy Game/Campaign, and go on to some 40mm French Revolution.  Unfortunately, I got as far as “relax a bit”, and suddenly ran out of month.

For the Portable Fantasy Campaign (PFC), I most recently completed the army of the Cold Islanders, and can generally make do for the two basically medieval armies.  I resolved to work on bringing the Orcs up to strength, so naturally ended up painting elves instead...

The PFC is being built to use Hordes of the Things as the mass battle rules.  I am a little short on the more fantastic elements in plastic, so when I painted on of these Reaper Bones “saproling” figures the other month, I got the idea that it would be nice to do a pair of them with a Caesar elf sorceress as a Beasts stand.  The saprolings drybrush easily, and the sorceress is in a pose that invites a little freehand on her dress.  My son Norman and I had come up (at his inspiration) with a set of “seasonal” elf units, the Springblossom, Summerbough, Autumnleaf, and Winterbranch Guards, so I painted her with a design suggesting that she’s attached to the Springblossom Guards. 

Elvish Beasts stand

Two tree creatures and a sorceress of the Springblossom Guard
I have the saprolings on hand to do one more stand, and would expect to vary the sorceress’s attire to one of the other seasons, probably the Autumnleaf Guards.

The Red Witch and retinue, part I

...and the other side
In a recent roleplaying game, we were up against a broom-riding witch, and I tried my hand at a little bit of greenstuff work, changing the staff on a Caesar Adventurers female magic user to a rather rustic broom.  It came out usable, and I painted her in a red/black color scheme.  To use her in a game, I felt like she should have a guard/retinue, so I picked a few figures for that, a Caesar Adventurers rogue, a trio of Accurate men-at-arms and a knight, and a Caesar archer.  I did them in the same red/black theme, and gave all the shields a matching household badge design. (Per pale, sable and gules, a crescent argent...)

Two Accurate figures and a Caesar archer on the right

I recently received a box of Strelets Roman Transport figures, intending to use the pack mules as part of my baggage train.  However, my eye was also drawn to these two figures.

I’m not sure how Roman they look, but they do look like they will do double duty as a possible rogue and mage, to add some variation to the PFC’s player character collection.  Since they are for a fantasy purpose, I didn’t worry too much about whether the colors were achievable with historical vegetable dyes, the sort of thought process that most people somehow manage to avoid getting wrapped up with...

I’ve been to two conventions in the past two weekends, with one more to come, but that’s a topic for a different post.  I’m working on finishing up a stand of Sea People blades for my Bronze Age Libyans as well, which will also be for a different post.