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!