Friday, September 2, 2022

Gen Con 2022 — Better late than never …


We (myself, my brother, and my wife) made it to Gen Con  again this year, after being on hiatus since 2019.  I did participate in the 2020 virtual convention, and I would have gone last year, except for the pandemic-related rescheduling that moved it to a weekend when I could not travel due to work commitments.

After the usual participation in the planning phases starting in January with the room lottery, it was finally time to pack things up and get on the road on the 2nd of August.  My brother had signed us up to run two miniatures games, a Burrows and Badgers skirmish, and a Chaos Wars mass battle.  I was to provide one of three B&B battlefields, and three of six B&B war bands.  That didn’t take up much space, so I was able to strap it all together in a stack of Really Useful Boxes, a 12-liter, a 4-liter, and a 2.5 liter (the latter my usual GM paraphenalia box).

While we chose to drive this year, that would have fit into the overhead compartment of a passenger aircraft, so I was pleased to be able to keep things compact.

Irene and I got in late on Tuesday, the 3rd of August, after having struggled with accidents and construction along the way.  The map software estimate a 10.5 hour trip, but we nneded about 13 hours, with the disruptions. Our plan had been to check in, get our wristbands from the vaccination check station, and have dinner with my brother, but that did not end up happening. The vaccination check station was already closing when we checked into the hotel.

We ended up with a room at the Conrad downtown, way up in the air.  The Conrad is more or less at the northeast corner of the collection of hotels attached to the convention center by an enclosed skywalk.  Judging from my walking times, it was about three quarters of a mile over to the far end of the convention center, where we would be running miniatures.

As usual, Indianapolis was more or less ready for the influx of nerds.

We got our wristbands bright and early on Wedneday, with no waiting.  On top of that, Will Call (where I had a few paper tickets from late-added events to collect) opened early, so we got through that with no wait either.  There was a wait for purchasing Gen Con merchandise, and attendees were pressed into service as gonfaloniers (there’s a word you don’t need every day …) to allow folks to rally appropriately on the end of the line.

We all had lunch at the District Tap (which did have the Sun King Gen Con beer on tap), and then my brother came back to our room for a quick round of Burrows and Badgers for practice.  

Wednesday events are free, though ticketed.  There seemed to be fewer of them this year. Nevertheless, we were all signed up that evening for our first scheduled event, a demo of a card game called Usurp the King.  It was, uh, interesting.  There were six rounds of card laying followed by a resolution phase ordered by card type.  After that was all over, the table situation was compared to a hierarchical chart of victory conditions.  While there was technically no randomness and only a little bit of hidden information, there was also very little ability to predict whether a play would be useful or not, so I didn’t feel like I had any control over winning or losing. Ultimately, not recommended …

Irene and I had a seminar on ballroom history (with a section on how to use this in your LARP) to start Thursday, after which my brother and I ran the official B&B game.  We got 5 of 6 registered players, which I thought was pretty good.  There have been conventions where the pre-registrant appearance rate was under 50%.  B&B is optimized for two-player play, so we got a six-player game by running three simultaneous two-player games. We used the same scenario on all three tables, a “Capture the Paychest” thing where finding and dragging off a treasure chest was the objecctive, regardless of the terrain. My brother had to fill in to even up the number of players.  I have to say, despite being a somewhat detailed set of rules, all of our public B&B games have gone very well. Kudos to Michael and Jo Lovejoy for the rules and the charming miniatures!

After the game, I ended up having enough time to drop the miniatures off at the hotel room (the Conrad being about a 12 minute walk each way from the ICC) and get back in time for the one speed painting round I had signed up for. These involve painting a pre-primed miniature with a limited palette of 12 colors using two brushes of dubious quality in 45 minutes. The figure we got was a Reaper Miniatures “Persephone”.  I was fortunate enough to be first in my round, and so maintain my streak of qualifying for a final every year I’ve tried this, despite the dubious brushes. I had to decline the actual final this year, though, as I already had another event scheduled.

After the speed painting, I did a quick recon of the Exhibit Hall.  I ended up having dinner from the food trucks (reasonably familiar Mexican street tacos) before heading on to my one scheduled RPG event of the weekend.  This was a Monster of the Week game (a Powered by the Apocalypse implementation) run by the folks from the Crit Show live play podcast.  As with the one I played at Gen Con Online 2020, we quickly built characters, formed a team, and tackled a mystery, improv’ed to the extent that the team wasn’t predictable in advance.  I played a time-traveled magician from Arrthurian times, and the mystery involved finding and destroying the “anchor” keeping a malevolent ghost in a haunted house.  I’d play with them again.

On Friday, Irene and I had two sessions of dance with the ladies of Counts to Nine.  We have danced with them before, and they were thrilled to see Irene (and me) back.  The second of these was an intro to Celtic dance, which is very energetic.  They had been hoping for a couple of years to be in a position to offer an intermediate class and go a little deeper, and we were signed up for that on Saturday. 

I followed up the dancing with some 6mm SYW action, Prussians versus Austrians.  This got off to a slow start due to a decision to have the sides choose their set ups sequentially from scratch.  This is not a decision I would make for my own games unless the number of elements each player was deploying was, say, five or fewer.  The rules, from The Games of War by John Bobek, were ok; my side lost, but it was nice to see some historicals there.

On Saturday morning, my brother and I had five players for the Chaos Wars game; unfortunately we had one player elect not to continue before the end, so I jumped in to take over the abandoned position for the last hour.  The scenario was an elf/human punitive expedition into the territory of the orc/undead/lizardman alliance.  In retrospect, there might have been a few too many monsters on the table for a satisfying game.

After Chaos Wars, Irene and I had enough “leg” left to get through the Intermediate Celtic Dance class, but Michael Flatley doesn’t need to fear for his job on my account.  Irene and I had a quiet (early) dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory after a brief foray into the Exhibit Hall. By Saturday night we were both hitting the wall, but I did hobble over to the JW Marriot to look at open gaming set up in one of the ballrooms.

While “open”, there was some organization to assist you, and various flags and cones were available from a headquarters desk, to assist you in recruiting the appropriate people for your table.

I’m not sure the wide angle lens is providing the proper impression of the scale of the open gaming area, so you might want to tap on that picture and take a closer look.  Most of the tables were playing various board games, both new and classic, but I saw a few roleplaying games going on, and a table of Gaslands miniartures as well.

We finished up with ticketed events on Sunday morning with one more dance, after which I finished shopping.  I didn’t really intend to do a lot of shopping this year, but I came home with a few t-shirts, the annual pin, a few odd little indie rpgs, and a few other bits and bobs.

We took a commemorative picture, had a farewell meal with my brother at the restaurant attached to the Downtown Marriott, and then headed home, with a planned overnight stop in Columbus.

By the way, after it was too late to do anything about it at the convention, I learned that the Pin Bazaar event event this year included a pin memorializing the rather distinctive carpet pattern from the Indianapolis Convention Center, as seen in the picture above.  Happily, I was able to acquire one after the convention.

Overall, it was a good con, and I was glad to be back among my tribe for a while.  It looks like the vaccination requirement, the masking, the handwashing, and perhaps an element of good luck, were sufficient for us to avoid the plague.

Now it’s time to start planning our events for next year …


Saturday, July 16, 2022

A Test of Army Painter Speed Paints with 1/72 Caesar Elves

 I’m usually a little behind the latest trends, so I finally picked up a few Army Painter Speed Paints for a trial.

I picked up five colors from Critical Hit Games in Abingdon, Maryland.  I was actually expecting to do a test of some skeletons, so that’s why the pallid bone, and I’m honestly not sure why I chose red.  The brown and the green, I thought, would be a fair test for some “traditional” wood elves.

Since I would like to get an elvish army on the table as part of my plan for the Portable Fantasy Campaign, I pulled out a dozen 1/72 scale Caesar Elves earlier this week and washed them up as usual.  Yesterday after work I primed them with a Reaper brush on white primer, in keeping with the general instruction to use these over white.  I pulled out a cheap brush from a Dollar Tree craft section, which was unmarked, but about the size of a typical #2 round brush, since I didn’t want to risk any unforeseen side effects with a more expensive brush. I also pulled out an oatmeal container lid to use as a palette. I then queued up the latest episode of the Yarkshire Gamers Reet Big Wargames Podcast (which is appropriate because the host always asks guests what they think about contrast/speed paints), and started brushing.

Before the 1.5 hours podcast was over, I had paint on everything, with figures and sand on bases.  I did touch up some belts and metallics with conventional paints within that time block.  The Speed Paint seems to do a reasonable job of staying where you put it, so you can probably paint trousers first and a tunic after, if that made sense.  The one point that I should have considered before starting (but did not) is that the lighter colors do not cover darker colors.  Add that to the paint staying put once applied and it is clear that the correct order of application is “lightest to darkest” rather than “innermost to outermost” or “bottom to top”.  So I should have started will all “pallid bone”, then done the flesh tone, then the brown, red and green in any order that made sense.  That would have required me to consider the whole paint scheme first rather than starting (as I did) with the cloaks (because I knew what color I wanted them to be).  

I had not necessarily intended to paint figures entirely with Speed Paints.  If I had thought about this in advance, I would have bought one more neutral-ish brown or light green or something “elvish”.  Once I got started, though, I ended up “leaning in” to the speed aspect. As it was, half the figures got green tunics and brown cloaks (with the other half the opposite), half of the figures got pallid bone trousers and the other half got red, and the brown cloaks got red quivers while the green cloaks got hardened leather quivers.

I had a certain amount of touching up to do.  I usually paint over black primer so that a missed bit looks like a shadow, so I was not surprised to find that white primer with speed paints works about the same way as white primer with conventional paints.  I ended up tapping any white bits in out of the way places with the hardened leather, as being the most inconspicuous.

Once finished, I broke the figures off the craft sticks I use to handle them with (4 to a stick) and glued them to the movement stands with the usual Walthers Goo.  As soon as they had set enough to handle the base I added the usual mix of white glue and Nova Scotia traction sand to disguise the integral bases.  Since my white glue is fairly wet at that point, and since this was a speed test, I used a dropper bottle of water to wet the sand before it finished setting so that capillary action would pull enough glue to the surface to get some flock to stick.  In the interest of speed I did not add any additional small scatter (rocks, tufts, etc.) to the bases.

I then left them to dry overnight, and sprayed them with the usual Krylon Low Odor Matte Varnish I customarily use.  This does not appear to have had any adverse effects.

If you tap on the pictures, I have uploaded larger versions of them as usual, so that you may draw your own conclusions about whether this worked.  Keeping in mind that the whole purpose is to put tabletop quality units together quickly, it is to be expected that they are not optimized for close-up viewing.

Just for my own amusement, if I were trying to optimize 1/72 scale figures for closeup viewing, they would end up looking something like this sorceress and her guards I painted earlier this year (pre-basing…).

I decided to set them up next to some of the elves I did five or six years ago using my usual techniques.  Now, I will not that I did not really like the way these figures came out vis-a-vis how I had envisioned them.  They were done as regular speed paints, and I see that I skipped eyes and other fine detail not visible at table viewing distances.

And here is one stand of each with my elvish commander stand, which was painted as though each figure was intended to be viewed as an individual.

So, what’s the overall verdict?  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Speed Paints seem to work as advertised, and, with a little more practice for the peculiarities of the paint, would allow you to throw some basic units on the table pretty quickly.  It’s probably worth getting a few more colors, and, just for fun, trying them out with some 25/28mm figures as well.


Friday, June 24, 2022

Information on Schneider Molds


I really should know better than this, but I realized the other day that I might have more luck in finding some information on Schneider molds if I Googled in German.  (“Schneider Giessformen” …) In the process I discovered that this book was available through Amazon.  Since it is a print-on-demand, it came promptly, and even has a text (in smaller print) in English following the German.  I’m still absorbing it, but there is more information (and more molds…) out there than I had imagined.

Prompted by last week’s Not Quite Seven Years War game, I decided to return to the painting table, and dug out a partially completed unit I started working on sometime last year.  All the way back in 2011 (??!?) we acquired someone else’s partial imagi-nations project.  Most of the units have been rounded out, but there are still some partial units that have never been regularized and brough to the tabletop. These red coated troops will be a second regiment of infantry (or part of one, at least…) of the Archbishopric of Schluesselbrett when completed.


Monday, June 20, 2022

Battle at Gaithersbruck : A New Blog Post (?!)

 I decided to take a break from keeping up the blog earlier this year, and, if truth be told, I haven’t done much in the last few months that was particularly interesting. However, elder son Norman and I met yesterday to play a few games in his new basement gaming space. By his request, I brought down the Not Quite Seven Years War troops.  As is customary when  playing with just our own collection, though, the battle is set in the somewhat earlier War of the Western League (174x), rather than the actual NQSYW (175x).  All of last year’s NQSYW games were played with smaller units, using A Gentleman’s War or With MacDuff to the Frontier.  For this game, we returned to Charge! despite the limitation of using a 5x6 table. (I will note that Norman’s basement is big enough to deploy a 6x10 table, should we have four folding banquet tables available.)

I chose the scenario from C.S. Grant’s Scenarios for Wargames, as usual.  I have been gradually working through the ones that we have not yet tried, and I settle on scenario 20, “Reserve Demolition”.  This bears some resemblance to the Battle of Sittangbad in Charge!, although the actual Sittangbad scenario is more closely captured by Scenario 8 in Scenarios for All Ages, “The Vital Bridgehead”.  We used the usual proportions for scaling a C.S. Grant scenario to our 40s; about 2 scenario units per Charge! regiment. 

(North at the bottom of the overall picture below)

With the only sappers readily available to us being those of Schoeffen-Buschhagen, that cast the Pragmatic Coalition (S-B and Wachovia) in the role of the defender, attempting to withdraw their forces and demolish the bridge, and the Western League (Hesse-Hattemstadt, Schluesselbrett, and Saxe-Wiolenz) as the attackers.  Given that the last battle we saw in the War of the Western League resulted in a Coalition victory, forcing a river line on the road to Schluesselbrett, it would seem that the League forces managed a counterattack.

In accordance with the scenario book and the rules, we chose a 16 turn day, and diced for the arrival times of two approaching League columns.  As it happened, the first League column, composed entirely of native Schluessebrett troops, did not arrive on the scene until late morning (turn 6), about the same time that the sappers informed the local commander that the demolitions were in readiness. 

The first column was compelled to deploy under a galling fire from the small village at the crossroads, garrisoned by a detachment of converged S-B grenadiers, the Wachovian light infantry posted in the small wooded area west of the crossroads, and a battery of Wachovian artillery.  The cavalry swept around the defensive perimeter set up by the coalition, looking for a weakness.  

A freshly raised detachment of Schluesselbrett light infantry attempted to bring the village under fire, but were soon compelled to withdraw by heavy fire from the grenadiers.

The attacking infantry regiment was also quickly forced to withdraw.  

On the eastern flank of the Coalition perimeter the colonel of the Schluesselbrett dragoon regiment thought that he observed a gap in the Coalition defenses, and order his leading squadron to attack.  

However, the S-B Prince’s Dragoon Guards were ready for them, and sounded the bugles for a charge of their own.  The typical sprawling cavalry melee, of charge and countercharge, with battered squadrons retiring to rally followed.  Fate (or skill) was not with the red-coats that day, as each of their attacks was thrown back in disorder by the Guards.  

As the cavalry battle developed, the Coalition commander (a Wachovian, it might be noted) took advantage of the lull in the western zone of the battlefield to begin withdrawing some of his forces.

Soon (~turn 9) the lagging second column of the League began to arrive by the eastern road, and started to push in the Coalition defenses.  The stolid Wachovian infantry and the S-B grenadiers held firm, but more League troops continued to arrive.  Clearly, this second column represented the main effort.  

It was now time to sound the retreat. 

However, as the remaining Wachovians formed up to cross the bridge, covered by the battered grenadiers, a squadron of League cavalry appeared from around the village and swept down on the infantry.

Seeing little chance that the remaining infantry could extricate themselves from the desperate fight in which they now found themselves, and with the League infantry pushing in steadily from the east, the Wachovian commander ordered the fuses to be lit on the bridge demolition charges.

With a tremendous explosion, the span of the bridge collapsed into the river, leaving the remaining S-B cavalry and grenadiers (as well as some of the Wachovian infantry) on the north (enemy) side of the river. Casualties were heavy on the Coalition side, but history records the action at Gaithersbruck as a Coalition victory, albeit a somewhat Pyrrhic one.  

There were probably stern letters exchanged between the higher commanders of the Coalition force, about the fact that the majority of the troops safely withdrawn were Wachovian, while the Schoeffen-Buschhagen elite troops were sacrificed in the rear guard action, but history records that the Coalition did not splinter over this incident.

It was good to get Charge! back on the table after a hiatus.  We were done by turn 14, having actually started at turn 6, so had nine turns of actual play, not unusual in our experience of the game.

Once we had that cleaned up, we played a couple of shorter games.

Norman pulled out his growing collection of 1/72 scale 19th century imagi-nations figures and we played the small battle scenario from Neil Thomas’s Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe using the rules from the book.  Then we finished up for the day with a quick Bronze Age DBA game.

Over on the Tradgardland blog there has been discussion of old Schneider molds lately.  My other activity for the weekend was to try casting some of the ones I’ve acquired this past year.  It was a cool windy day, thouigh, so keeping the molds warm was difficult, and things weren’t too successful, unless you need a pine forest:

I hope the gun will work on a better day, as well as this interesting mold I have on an 18th century lady on horseback:

I hope the next post will be sooner than six months from now. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Some thoughts on the hobby for 2022

 2021 was a bit of a slow year for gaming.  I am hoping to have a bit more fun in 2022, and have been thinking about what that might look like.

I have been trying to separate my desire for painting from any particular “get a game ready” goals, figuring that everything that gets painted will be used sooner or later, and there are enough periods and projects that are already “table-ready” to keep me pleasantly occupied painting.  That said, it would be nice to finish up the Bronze Age Nubian DBA army I started over the summer:

I would also like to add a few units (mostly specialized troop types) to the Not Quite Seven Years War. The last unit I added was an artillery piece and crew back in 2018 (or 2019 …).

  I started a group of six Prince August figures which are intended to be a light infantry detachment (for the reduced scale rules we have been using lately), but I’m still a painting session or two from finishing them.

I also have various 1/72 plastics ready to hand to fill roles in the Portable (solo) Fantasy Campaign, and a selection of vintage 25mm fantasy figures.  So whatever gets done will be good.  I had a nice string of “one figure per day on average” months, but it does look like January is going to be a break in that chain.

I did no casting in 2021, although I bought a fair number of used molds.  I would like to start casting again, when the weather is warm enough to work outside, and figure out which of the vintage Schneider molds will cast reliably.

That will allow me to decide whether I will be doing a mostly historical toy-style Franco-Prussian War project, a 19th century imagi-nations project, or neither.  I hope that this effort will resemble my 2020 project to cast from all of my old Prince August fantasy molds.  

As far as gaming goes, I have accumulated a stack of new rules that I would like to try.

I’ve also got a few older favorites (e.g. Knights and Magick) which I would like to dust off and get on the table.

I also have the ongoing solo fantasy campaign to play with, and am considering what it would take to put together a workable campaign on some sort. I suspect that the KISS principle needs to be kept firmly in mind…

I’m currently in a Dungeons and Dragons (5th edition) game, which has been running approximately biweekly.  I have posted a few things about my interest in reviving my original D&D campaign, so it seems likely that there will more RPGs this year.  

The elephant in the room, though, is downsizing.  I’ve accumulated more than I can reasonably expect to use, as each shiny new thing flashes in front of me and captivates me briefly.  Norm, over on his Battlefields and Warriors blog, has described his downsizing, and I need to take a serious look this year at what I can get done, and get some of the excess moved on to people who might be able to make use of it.  

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Battle of Newkeep

There was a brief discussion this past week over on the Reaper Forums about solo games.  This reminded me that I had left a battle pending in the Northlands campaign.  Since the last Northlands related game I played was a skirmish game back in June, that probably means that it has been pending since some time in July or August.

So, I decided to set it up.  I had been avoiding it because it looked like a blow-out; one kingdom’s army had advanced into another’s territory, and, due to bad intelligence (as provided by occasional die rolls to assist in decision making along the way), was attempting to attack without realizing that they were outnumbered about 2:3.  But, having been reminded, I thought that I would like to resolve it, so as to clear the way for something more interesting down the line.  


I decided to roll at random for one of the 30 scenarios in Neil Thomas’s One Hour Wargames book, and got scenario 7, “Flank Attack”.  Not only that, but the dice decreed that the larger force was the ambusher.  I thought, “well, that’ll be that”, but then noticed one little peculiarity in the line up.  The smaller force (the King of Darmis and his army) had a Magician unit, and the larger force (the King of Verdance and his army) was led by a Hero (i.e. the King, in this case).  This being a full scale battle, the rules to be used were Hordes of the Things, and a Hero is particularly vulnerable to a Magician.  Hmmm…could be more balanced than it initially appeared, I thought.  I rolled a die to see whether the Verdancers were aware of the presence of the Magician, and they were not, so I set the King up to be boldly leading the flanking force.

The Darmish army is on the two hills at the bottom of the picture, facing down the road, and the Verdancers are on the hills by the tower and the edge by the woods, prepared to roll the Darmish up from the left flank.  To make this short, the battle lasted two turns (so two moves by each side).  The attackers rolled up the hill immediately destroying the unit on the left end, and pushing back the remainder.  This brought the King (Hero) within range of the the Magician (Cassara, the Blue Sorceress), and her side got enough activation points each of the two turns to move 1 unit and make one magical attack.  The second try succeeded, and, having lost 4 army points (in the form of the Hero/General) to 2 army points (one stand of bows), this amounted to “more and the commander” and the battle was over. Had the Verdance attack killed a second foot soldier unit on their second turn, it would have been 4 and 4 (i.e. not “more”) and the loss of the general would have been serious but not immediately fatal.  


This made a good solo game; if someone else had come over to play this, I would have felt bad about giving them either side, knowing from experience that it was going to be a pretty random thing as to whether the magic attack would succeed.

Since the actual game only took a few minutes, I decided that I would write it up in proper style.  Now it’s back to the map and notebook play, to finish out the campaign year’s record keeping, and figure out the next map moves.  With the capture of the King of Verdance, I suddenly have a need to know more about his family and possible factions within the kingdom.  

I also note that the campaign year included only two pitched battles, with the other one being the Battle of the Crossroads, which was fought all the way back in May 2019.  Both of these battles were ended when Cassara the Blue Sorceress took out the opposing general.  Perhaps the Blue Order will be looking for some increase in its standing within the Kingdom of Darmis as well?  I have considered the question of whether I might use this campaign map for a roleplaying game as well as a wargames campaign, and it is starting to look like adventure hooks just write themselves …

I am hoping that the second campaign year will move along a little more quickly than the first.  

Friday, January 7, 2022

Last Stand of 2021

As I mentioned before, I took a couple of hobby projects with me at Christmas, but ended up working on the maps rather than painting any miniatures.  December had already been a good month for miniatures, in the grand scheme of things.  However, after recovering from the trip, I wanted to get something done before the end of the year.  My desk was clean, so I decided I would use the travel paint kit to keep my choices down to a reasonable level, and inspire some creativity by accepting limitations.  I had one Strelets (006, Henry V’s Army) axeman in my travel miniatures box with a few colors on him, so I started off on the morning of the 31st by finishing him up.  After painting the last sorceress, I did a bit of quick ear surgery to turn a Caesar elf into a human, and that figure was also primed and ready to go, so finished up quickly.  

Hordes of the Things (and Dragon Rampant) are both very open-ended about what a stand might consist of.  I’ve done a couple of stands with two foot figures on them, and they look just a little thin to my eye, so I decided I would go for a third figure.  The archer is also from the Strelets set 006.  I had to stick him to a painting handle, prime him, let the primer dry, then paint.  In between I took a nap and played some online board games.  Before supper, all three figures got a layer of brush on varnish.  I pushed the basing a bit, handling things while still wet where I would ordinarily let things dry between steps.  

Nevertheless, what with staying up late to welcome the New Year and all, I was able to allow enough time for everything to dry and to put on the final spray varnish coat before I went to bed.  So, it went into my painting log as a 2021 accomplishment. So, there you have it, another Hordes Magician stand, bringing me to a total of 164 things (figures, buildings, and other scenery pieces) finished for the year.  This is the fourth year in a row with between 150 and 200 figures painted.  What that says about future projects is for another day…