Thursday, December 31, 2020

The End is Nigh ... of 2020, at least

We are finally almost to the end of this annus horribilis.  The year end is traditionally a time to reflect on how things went, and consider how one might improve things in the year to come.  I should note that I am grateful that I have remained employed this whole time, and that we have had what we needed.

My plan for the year had included several conventions which were cancelled, of course, and my effort to get back to regularly attending club meetings failed due to the lack of club meetings. Irene and I had been planning a wedding, too, but that did get done, albeit in an appropriately down-sized and socially distant format.  

Some people managed to get additional miniatures painted and additional games (solo or played with remote players), but I ended up taking advantage of my former commute time to brush up on my baking skills, and to learn how to make sourdough bread.

At the beginning of the year, I had been working on the Bronze Age project with my son, using the DBA 3.0 rules everyone got for Christmas last year.  I had also planned to be working on French Revolutionary Wars figures for a joint game with Ross Macfarlane at Huzzah, but the cancellation of Huzzah! for this year pushed that project to the back burner. 

Norman and I had a test game with DBA 3.0 in February, the most recent time that we have been able to play face to face.  We’ve gotten in a couple of remote games of DBA this year, although we dusted off the old HaT Punic Wars figures for one of them.  My painting time was more limited than I had expected, but I did finish up my Bronze Age Libyan army. My son is much farther along with his painting.

Instead of the French Revolution, I ended up working on scenery improvement, on Prince August home cast fantasy figures, and on 1/72 scale plastic figures for the Portable Fantasy Campaign.  Without regard to size, which ranged from 1/72 scale sheep to medium-sized 28mm resin buildings,  I will have finished about 165 miniatures for the year. That’s not too bad (I’ve certainly had slower years, especially when I was a sports parent), but it doesn’t support too many new projects...

Here is my thinking.  Most of the “battle” rules I gravitate toward have units of 12 infantry or 6 cavalry (which are about as hard to paint as 12 infantry). Examples would include Chaos Wars, Dragon/Lion Rampant,  and A Gentleman’s War.  All else being equal, 12 units is a good force size, allowing for some variety in scenarios. Years back, Brent Oman advocated for the 12 unit army in the pages of MWAN, and I thought that made good sense and have adopted the idea for planning purposes. I usually anticipate that I will need to provide both sides of a project. Put all of that together, and a completely new project is approximately the equivalent of painting about 12 x 12 x 2 (or 288) infantry.  At this year’s painting rate, that would make a new project the equivalent of a little less than two years’ worth of painting. That’s not impossible, but it does suggest that these things should be considered carefully, and not started on a whim. (My record years, by the way, back around the turn of the century, ran closer to 600 figures; starting a new project when it amounted to less than half a year of painting was a bit more casual.)

Of course, all of my painting is seldom concentrated on one project for more than a few months.  Smaller projects would be a possible answer, I suppose.  With DBA becoming the house standard for ancients gaming, army sizes seldom top 80 figures, but, on the other hand, project planning tends toward three or four or five armies instead of two.  I am intermittantly working on some sort of urban fantasy skirmish game, which will most likely not exceed fifty figures, but which will need some scenery.  That’s the sort of thing which is a nice break from ranked units.  

As of right now, I have three potential new projects that look interesting.  The first was mentioned recently, the potential 19th century project using home cast figurs of one sort or another.  The second was alluded to in an earlier post as well and is some level of DBA classical Greeks and Persians using 1/72 scale figures.  The third would be a completely new start, a portable Not Quite Seven Years War for conventions, using 1/72 scale Zvezda plastic figures for the Great Northern War as the basis for imagi-nation armies.  The rules would probably be A Gentleman’s War.

Ongoing projects that keep getting paint include the French Revolution expansion, the Not Quite Seven Years War, the 1/72 scale Portable Fantasy Campaign, and the 25mm vintage fantasy collection (in which I have been primarily working on a Middle Earth collection using the original Minifigs range from 1974). 

So, there is a lot to do in 2021, and I’m sure that by March I will be totally derailed into something else...

According to my gaming log, I was involved in 24 miniatures games in 2020.  After March, of course, they were all solo or played remotely.  Somewhere in the summer I ran low on enthusiasm for remote games, and the lack of a space to leave a solo game set up for a week or two has made it more challenging to use solo gaming to make up for the lack of conventions.  Nevertheless, I did play a couple of games generated by the Portable Fantasy Campaign this year, most recently an encounter between the humans and the orcs, and will be keeping that going.  To encourage solo gaming in general, I joined the Solo Wargamer’s Assocation early on in the lockdown, and have been gradually reading through back issues of The Lone Warrior to try to collect some inspiration.

Another PFC game, played remotely with Chris Palmer
Back in April, I went through my projects list and noted that I had 16 projects that were available to play at home (i.e. had at least two forces and scenery), of which 7 had not been on the table in over two years.  We were able to address one of those project with some remote 2nd Punic War DBA,  and one project was 

thanked for its service and sent on its way (28mm colonials).  So I will be entering 2021 with 5 projects which haven’t seen service in over two years, three of which are 6mm portable projects, and one of which (French Revolution) is being worked on, however slowly. (The 5th is the 40mm French and Indian War project; I’d like to try that with A Gentleman’s War sometime soon.)

Going forward into 2021, I have hope that we will see conventions again by the fall.  I still want to do more with solo games while waiting for the world to open up again, especially games that advance the solo campaign.  I am also looking through material I started preparing recently (ok, 2013 still feels somewhat recent) for an NQSYW campaign.  I’m sure there will be more on that as it develops.

2021 holds three significant anniversaries; I will be 60 in March, and my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons will also be a multiple-of-five at the same time, since it will be 45 years since I was given the game for my 15th birthday.  Even more significantly from a miniatures point of view, though, at some unremembered date in early 1971 I was introduced to the idea of rules for toy soldiers when a friend lent me a copy of Terrence Wise’s Introduction to Battle Gaming.  Since I don’t have a specific date, the whole year will be a celebration of 50 years in the hobby.  I think that it would be fun to put a small game on the table using these original rules, however odd they might seem to be by modern standards.  Perhaps an updated version of the 2nd Punic War as demonstrated in the ancients section would be the most appropriate. It would only be updated in the limited sense of needing a tweak or two to use the multiple-based figures I already have, and, of course, being fought with HaT figures instead of Airfix Romans facing Carthaginians improvised from Robin Hood figures.



Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Portable Fantasy Game/Campaign box

Earlier this week, Norm, over on his Battlefields and Warriors blog, posted an interesting look at his effort to put a whole wargaming project in a single box.  In a comment, I was going to post a link back to my blog, to a post I had done on the recent upgrade of the scenery in my Portable Fantasy Game/Campaign box.  I was a little surprised to find that I had never actually posted it.  Since I’m on a bit of a painting hiatus for a few more days, I thought it would be a good idea to post it now.   So, without further ado, here is what I should have posted back on the 29th of April:

I spent my extra time this morning (when I used to commute) doing one of the nagging little hobby tasks on my list: repacking the portable fantasy game.  This task became necessary last week when I received a package from my mother with new terrain pieces.


The original set-up started with a double-sided ground cloth and a group of double-sided hill/pillows (fabric over upholstery foam) done for me as a custom project by an Etsy craftsperson who was in college with my son:




What I got from my mother (whose main hobby is quilting) was the scenery bases.  Linear pieces are double-sided to serve as streams or roads.  The large irregular circle pieces are all backed with woods base material on one side, and brown, grey, or blue on the other side to designate rough ground, town areas, ponds, etc. as necessary.




The scenery package also includes a bag of small stones for scatter decoration and to marks fords or whatever, and lichen to enhance the appearance of stream banks, woods bases, or to serve as hedges as needed.




There is room in the box for about 10 trees, mounted on steel washers to engage with rare earth magnets placed under the scenery bases to give them a little stability...




There are also a half dozen plastic rocks, which are very light, and also nest for travel.




...and a couple of stone heads, because I don’t seem to be able to have fantasy scenery without stone heads.


A few old resin low walls, nicely sized for 1/72 scale figures, have been repurposed for this.




And, to keep things light, there is a collection of card model buildings (all Dave Graffam models printed at 75% of base size):




As I noted above, I expect to carry one or more supplemental figure boxes for a trip to a convention, but there are two boxes internal to the main storage box:




Since this is intended to be a ready-to-go gaming kit, there are rules, and a set of laminated orders of battle and quick reference sheets:




And a set of dice, markers for various games, tape measures, rulers, and measuring sticks:




Once it was all laid out and trimmed of extra rules, handouts, etc., it was time to pack it back up.




Buildings, troop boxes, and trees form the lowest layer, with small bits like tape measures and dice forming the next layer.


On top of that go one layer of hills, the rules, the ground cloth, and the other two hills.  Happily, the hills are fairly compressible.  Everything is stacked to avoid compressing the buildings at the one end:




And finally, to prove that it can be done, the lid goes on:




The lid has a thin steel sheet with a dungeon floor pattern attached above it, so that a dungeon environment can be deployed in a pinch.


And, there we are, ready to head to a convention...if there were such a thing right now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Teaser — New Project —Semiflat 19th Century from Vintage Molds

 This is just a teaser for the latest thing that has caught my attention.  I have been acquiring various vintage Schneider semi-flat toy soldier molds, mostly in approximately 45mm, and I think there are now enough to put together some sort of reasonably historical Franco-Prussian War project.  If things don’t cast well enough, I suppose I’ll have to field what I do get as a late 19th Century imagi-nations thing.

There will be more about the Schneider molds in a future post, but, as can be seen, the smaller size of cavalry is a bit smaller than a Prince August 40mm semi-flat figure.

Along with the 19th century figures, there are a few knights, farm animals, zoo animals and so forth. I cast a bunch of farm animals for use with the Not Quite Seven Years War figures in one session last summer.  With the new lead-free alloy I was using, they generally cast well, so I have hopes for this.  Until the weather warms up and I can take the casting gear outside, though, I won’t know for sure.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Bronze Age Remote DBA Games in 1/72 scale


My sons and I got together yesterday on Google Meets (Hangouts is apparently dead) for a couple of games of remote DBA.  I hosted the first game, with the two of them playing, using my new Libyan chariot to command a Libyan army.  For those conversant with DBA, this is army I/7b, and I don’t have the figures done yet to provide any choices, so all the warriors were deployed as “auxilia” and there was a Sea Peoples stand rather than a second chariot.  There were up against later New Kingdom Egyptians (I/22b) whose only choice is whether to deploy the Sherden guard as “fast” or “solid” blades.  William was in command of the Egyptians and elected to make them “solid”.  A dice off for attacker/defender and for terrain left the Egyptians invading Libyan territory, so they were away from the water in a wilderness of rocky ground (represented by the brown cloth shapes) and a difficult hill.  Since we often have a hard time seeing things remotely anyway, we kept the terrain layouts pretty simple. If this were a convention demonstration game, it wouldn’t be hard to improve the table dressing. The Libyans deployed with most of their more capable troops to the left of the hill, and covered their right flank by deploying their skirmishers on the difficult hill.  The Egyptians were impeded somewhat by their need to carefully pick their way through the rocks and scrub.  They were deployed with most of their chariots out on their left flank in a bid to demoralize the enemy quickly by taking their camp.

Eventually the battle lines met at the edge of the rocky ground.  The Libyan swordsmen wilted under the hail of Egyptian arrows, losing one of two stands as soon as they were within range.  The usual DBA shoving match started, and the Libyans rapidly lost their fourth stand, ending the game.

I don’t know for sure what the screens showed at the far end.  For these family DBA games we have generally supplemented the  screen view with occasional cell phone pictures sent by text message, to clear up any difficulties in understanding the tactical situation:

We played a second game, with Arameans (I/6c) against Syro-Canaanites (I/20b) using Norman’s collection and board.

Unfortunately, however, for much of the game, it looked like that.  The Syrians (played by me) quickly rolled over the Arameans (William), aided by the fact that his general died in the first combat round in an attemtp to roll my army up from the flank before my chariots could make a difference.  As he said, in most games he’d have conceded right then, but we’d already be online for about two hours and I suggested that it would probably only take one more turn to actually decide the game by the rules.  I was right...

We wrapped it up after that.  I was glad to see my armies out; perhaps I’ll get a few more painted by the time we are ready for some face-to-face games again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

November Painting Summary


This is just a quick place holder.  November saw some painting done, though n ot what I expected, nor as much as I wanted.  I ended up working on a few things for the Portable Fantasy Game in addition to the Libyan chariot previously shown.  The Reaper “Sir Forscale” in the back row is not new this month; he’s just in for scale, as usual.

The fantasy campaign setting needs armies of orcs and elves, so I started by finishing up a couple of orc warrior samples from Caesar Miniatures.  The elves may get the tree things (more Reaper “Saprolings”) as reinforcements.  

Other than that, the merchant on the mule is from a Strelets Crusader transport set, and a Celtic Warrior Queen extra is doing new duty as a green-haiored dryad.  It’s time to put on a game featuring some of these things...