Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A regional map for the Original D&D Campaign

 I showed off some of the material from my original D&D game back in April. While I had hoped to revive a D&D game this year, I ended up involved in a D&D 5th Edition game with a set of HAWKs players instead.  Nevertheless, I am still working toward actually doing this.

So, I took a few potential hobby projects with me, to fill any potential down-time during the family Christmas get-together.  Happily, there wasn’t a lot of that, but what time I did have I spent on drawing the Myzantine Empire map.

Since I was on a roll, I decided I would pull something off my D&D to-do list, and draw a more decorative map of the region in which the adventurers will be based.

My original maps were drawn on SPI hex paper in the late 1970s, before I had done much reading in medieval demographics and agricultural history to get some sort of “realistic” grounding.  I ended up a little skewed (perhaps not inappropriate for a map which probably doesn’t owe much to surveyors), but attemtped to translate approximately the section above into a more fantasy style:

As with the Myzantine Empire, I added color with watercolor pencils, again deliberately keeping the colors somewhat less saturated.  I think this will do for a player handout … now I just need some players.

2021: A Gaming Year in Review

 We’re almost to the end of another year.  As with most everyone else, it’s been an odd year, and not at all what I would have planned.

First a few numbers: According to my log, I was in 28 miniatures games this year, a combination of refereeing, playing and solo games.  I finished painting 160 miniatures, which were (as usual) scattered over seven projects (and sub-projects).  These included individually based 25mm Prince August fantasy figures, 54mm Russian flats, vintage 25mm Minifigs MEs for a Tolkien game, figures for a Stargrave crew, 1/72 fantasy/medieval figures for the Portable Fantasy Campaign, 1/72 historical Bronze Age figures for DBA, and a small group of 25mm Ral Partha orcs for miscellaneous fantasy work.

The year started still under stay-at-home mandates, for the most part, so I set up a few remote games. I was vaccinated in April and ready to get back to some face-to-face gaming.  The HAWKs started meeting again in late May or early June (my first meeting was in June).   All of the early year conventions were cancelled, although we did have a virtual ScrumCon in April.  Gen Con eventually made the decision to reschedule from August to September, which put it on a week that I was already committed to a major work event.  As it turned out, Barrage in September was my sole live convention for the year.  

January NQSYW Remote Game

Things got busy as the year drew to a close, and it looks like my last logged miniatures game will be the Stargrave game we had on the 30th of October.  On the other hand, I managed to finish an average of one (plus) miniature per day for September, October, November, and December, so the end of the year was good for painting.

Ups and Downs  

The “ups” for the year included a return to face-to-face gaming, a (solo) game played entirely with stuff built or painted during lockdown, a few games for the 1/72 scale solo fantasy campaign, a fair amount of painting done, and getting involved in a D&D5e game run by fellow HAWKs member Kurt Schlegel.   

The “downs” for the year include buying three new projects (1/72 DBA Dark Ages, 54mm Russian flat medieval/fantasy, and 54mm English Civil War) when my goal was zero, not firing up the melting pot and casting anything, not painting anything for the Not Quite Seven Years War, not finishing a DBA Bronze Age army, and doing no work toward getting a formal NQSYW campaign on the table.

54mm ECW cached for the future

I could have blogged a bit more, commented on other people’s blogs, played a few more solo games, gotten my own D&D revival game on the table, and done more toward miniatures campaigns.

However, under the circumstances, I’ll close out the record books, and call it a good year.  

Thoughts about 2022 objectives will hopefully be done soon…

Friday, December 24, 2021

A Myzantine Empire Campaign Map

 As mentioned recently, I have been considering the question of why some things are easier to find the inspiration to paint than others, and wondered if having the background map defined would help with inspiration.  While my recent painting has been for the (already well-defined) Middle Earth project, I noted that I had three larger 25mm fantasy armies, “fantasy Byzantines” (The Myzantine Empire, with a nod to Jack Scruby), “Easterners” (currently a mix of Ral Partha Moors and old Ral Partha Hyborian Age Turanians), and Orcs. So, I decided to take a stab at creating a map for them.  I started one once before, on a larger sheet of watercolor paper, but it got out of hand and remains stalled and stowed away somewhere. This time, I tried to keep it smaller and to the point.

As with my Northlands campaign map, I used techniques from Jared Blando’s How to Draw Fantasy Maps, simplified to match my limited artistic skills (and to speed things up), starting with pencil work on cold press watercolor paper, and inking as I went.

Earlier this summer, I was experimenting wtih watercolor pencils.  I liked the way they worked,so that’s what I used on this.  I roughed in the colors.

After a good night’s rest, I got out a #1 natural sable brush and worked my way from the upper right corner to the lower left corner with water, smoothing out the colors. Behind left handed, that kept my brush hand mostly away from the wet part of the page.

I haven’t entirely decided on campaign mechanics, so I left the map without a grid or area overlay.  I can add that electronically after scanning for use, or draw something in on a photocopy.  There is room at the edge of the map for not-Varangians to appear at the mouth of the River of the Plains, for horse (or lizard) nomads to appear north of the ruins of Marlantia, and for Westerners to appear up the Traders’ Road.  The Easterners are poised beyond the Easterner’s Gate, and three orc polities are spread across the western edge.  The overall situation is inspired by the Byzantine position in the late 11th century, just before the arrival of the 1st Crusade.

We’ll see whether that sparks any painting.

As far as January plans go, I just finished listening to and reading Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Lantern Bearers, so I am thinking it would be nice to paint some stands of figures to go with my Dux Bellorum project. Ross has been painting some French Revolutionary figures, and I wouldn’t mind getting back to adding some of those, too.  So, perhaps I will be pouring a New Year’s libation to Clio, Muse of History, rather than Calliope, Muse of Epic (fantasy), but I’ll be appropriately grateful if either of them deigns to grant some inspiration…

Monday, December 13, 2021

More Mythical Earth

 I’m afraid that I have always been a little ambivalent about the Christmas season.  I approve of the feasting and the getting together with families, but I’ve felt for years like the commercialization has gotten way, way out of hand.  Additionally, the expectations placed on people can become overwhelming.  One of the reasons I haven’t sung in a choir in a while was that music preparations got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying what was left of my time with my family.  Anyway, that Grinch-y preamble is just to explain why I suddenly had time on my hands this past weekend to do more painting, while my wife was singing, and I had cancelled other planned events due to a somewhat stronger than expect vaccine booster reaction…

After finishing the spearmen and miscellaneous goblins, I gave myself permission to play a bit, by finishing off a small group of vintage Minifig NS (Norman/Saxon) range figures originally produced in 1976.  They apparently weren’t in production all that long before being overtaken by the DA (Dark Ages) range within a year or two.

There was an ad for them in The Dragon #3 in the fall of 1976.

Given the look of the Mythical Earth figures, I would expect NS figures with round shields to make reasonable dismounted Rohirrim, rustic Gondorians, Laketown men, Sharkey’s thugs, Dunlendings, or even Easterners of various sorts.

I finished up three, an NS9, NS25, and NS12, from left to right.

With that accomplished, I turned back to the dozen true orc archers, originally primed in January of 2020. I decided after I was done that “Past Rob” should probably have filed the mold lines on the tops of the figures’ heads a little more carefully, but past experience would indicate that it won’t really show much when a whole batlefield is laid out.

With that, I am left with a single primed unit ready to paint, a mixed group of Rohirrim lancers and archers.  I have to give some consideration to the question of what to set up next; getting a warband of Gondorians on the field (albeit with mounted Rohirrim support, perhaps) is the highest priority, so it probably won’t be man-orcs or wolf riders…

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Return to Mythical Earth

 I have watched the wargames blogosphere for a long time now, so I know that I am well in the mainstream of gamers with respect to the way inspiration will suddenly shift.  November turned out to be a month entirely devoted to 1/72 scale fantasy:

However, after I finished the orcs and sorceress posted in the previous entry, the only additional work I got done was to mount some cheap plastic flies obtained from Amazon on flight stands for use in Rangers of Shadowdeep. We drove up to Michigan to visit my family over the Thanksgiving holiday, and I took my travel paint kit with me but didn’t use it.

When I regrouped after the trip and got ready to do some painting, Ross Macfarlane had started rebasing vintage 25mm fantasy figures for a game for his Gathering of Hosts blog.  This got me thinking, which, of course, is always a dangerous business.  I’ve gotten more 1/72 painted this year than I have vintage 25mm fantasy.  Looking at Ross’s blog, I started wondering if this might be because the 1/72s have an overarching backstory, and I am stalled on creating that level of background for the 25s.  From that thinking, I had a look at the force levels I have in 25mm fantasy, and concluded that I really only have three “large” armies: pseudo-Byzantines, orcs, and pseudo-Saracens.  So, it would make sense to set those three as the primary combatants in a campaign (whether an actual map campaign or a conceptual narrative framework).  That also pointed out to me that my vintage Minifig Mythical Earth figures clearly formed their own separate project (even if the orcs might see dual service elsewhere occasionally).  And I don’t need to write their backstory…

After a brief consideration of painting some more pseudo-Byzantines, I ended up digging through all of my boxes of primed figures cleared in previous desk sweeps trying to figure out what I had done with the last batch of MEs that I had been working on.  I eventually found them, which reminded me that I needed to do a better job of keeping track of works in progress…

Last year I painted some Gondorian swordsmen (ME44), and I had pulled out a dozen Gondorian spearmen (ME43), thinking that they would be easy to paint. I hadn’t gotten as far as doing metal cleaning on them, though, so that’s what I started with.  They did turn out to be pretty straightforward.  In retrospect, I wish that I had drybrushed the cloaks a little more smoothly, but they’ll serve, and I’m sure it won’t be too obtrusive on the table.

I had picked up a lot off of eBay last year which had six more ME50 goblins in it, as well as a few “true orcs”, a Beorn (ME36),  and some early Grenadier figures I can find a use for.  In this ME revival project, I’ve painted 60 of the goblins already, so I didn’t expect it would take too long to paint another half dozen.  Since I didn’t have twelve (the default unit size), I decided to base them individually.  They got their own shield theme — flames— based on a suggestion by my brother.  The two true orc swordsmen (ME24) didn’t take very long either.  I’ve got one spare archer as part of that lot, which will probably be finished this weekend, along with a unit of a dozen, which has been in progress for almost two years:

I’ve probably mentioned before, but the MEs were the first metal figures I owned in any numbers, and therefore I do have a nostalgic fondness for them.  I am enjoying the opportunity to finally put something on the table that makes real my adolescent daydreams.  More to follow …