Saturday, November 4, 2023

October Wrap-Up


In keeping with the now-traditional hobby theme of “Orctober”, one of my projects this month was a plastic 54mm orc from the Toys R Us “Mythical Warriors” bucket.  

There is only the one pose available, and I have a dozen or more of them available to work with.  I don’t intend to do too many of these fantasy figures, but my goal is to try to make each one unique. The easiest quick change seemed to me to be re-arming them.

We had one late warm day a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I would try a very abbreviated casting session.  In my collection of molds, I have a weapons sprue for the Britains knight molds originally sold by Castings, and now back in production from Dunken.  To my surprise, the first pour into the mold came out nearly perfect, minus a shorted haft on the spear-thing.  

So it was not difficult to choose three more orcs and give them different weapons.  I intend to play around a little with shields and an arm repositioning, but haven’t gotten there yet.  While I was digging around in the molds and castings boxes, I came across a reasonably complete example of the knight on the left from this vintage metal mold. 

The upper left corner of the shield didn’t fully cast, so needed a little greenstuff repair.  However, I was glad to be able to put one of these into a (potential) game and therefore have an excuse to justify owning this mold.  (For the future, I note that the knight on the right, shaking his fist at the enemy, could be given a weapon from the replacement weaposn sprue as well…something for the spring.)

Earlier this week I was able to base the figures from the Italeri tournament set (i.e. the budget challenge project), the home cast knight, and another figure from the “Mythical Warriors” bucket.  I looked over my storage situation recently, and concluded that the 54mm fantasy will probably go beyond the approximately ten spaces currently empy in my 54mm Medieval Boxes.  The upper limit would be to add one more 11-liter Really Useful Box, which would have space for 56 40mm square bases.  So, we’ll see …

Monday, October 23, 2023

Gaming Weekend and Some Painting

I have had a couple of busy weeks since I last posted anything.  I flew out to visit my brother for a few days the week before last, and we did quite a bit of gaming.  We ended up playing six games of Dragon Rampant, trying all of the scenarios in the rulebook, and also found time for a couple of games of Burrows and Badgers.

 I was flying on Southwest.  They have been adding more Boeing 737-800s to their fleet.  If you wonder why I would pay attention to a detail like that, the 800s have a new configuration of the overhead luggage racks, one that tilts your bag at a 45 degree angle in flight.  My magnetic storage box configuration calculated to fit in the overhead rack is not guaranteed to hold the troops steady if the attendant slams the bin shut at an angle. For this trip I decided I would be safe and limit my troops to a package of 2 4-liter Really Useful Boxes, which will fit under the seat. I could do this because I knew that my brother had plenty of terrain, so I didn’t need to bring any.  One box had the Burrows and Badgers collection, and the other had the selection of vintage fantasy figures shown above.  Without using too many reduced or single model units, I was able to deploy three different warbands over the weekend, without too much overlap.  I figured later that I could have done an opposing pair as well, but my brother has plenty of his own figures he wanted to see on the table.  As it worked out, I was glad that I did this. While the trip out to Indianapolis was on a 737-700 with the older style overhead bins, the trip back was on an 800.  For the future I would like to play around with fitting scenery into a 4-liter box, so that I could safely fly with one troop box and one scenery box and have a pickup game for a convention, or even a multi-player skirmish.

We played the Dragon Rampant games on his 4x6 Alpha Gaming Table, using a lot of Monster Fight Club scenery.

Here my Broadsword Miniatures rangers (ca. 1980) defend a Monster Fight Club rocky hill…

Here a pair of old Adina giants (not very big ones!) attack my brother’s early Ral Partha sea elves…

And some anthropomorphic animals scuffle amid the ruins in Burrows and Badgers…

It was a good visit overall, and I hope that we will have the opportunity to do it again sometime relatively soon.

Since the last update, I have picked up the brush again after unintentionally taking a couple of months off. As I previously noted, I started down the path of building a 1/72 medieval skirmish on a budget as a challenge. (It’s also compatible with the existing 1/72 fantasy figures, so doesn’t need to stand completely on its own).  My sons and I got together for a painting day this weekend, and I made some additional progress on the budget project:

Painting with a limited color selection and some cheap Chinese brushes has turned out to be a bit of a challenge, so I will have more to say about that in some future post.  In the meantime, I am compromising a bit; for budget purposes, you could mount these figures on pennies and use sand and paint for basing, but I am going to base mine on composite Litko wood/flexisteel bases so that I can use my magnetic boxes for transport.  More to follow on that …

Monday, September 25, 2023

Barrage XXVII (2023) After Action Report

 Barrage XXVII (27!!?) is now in the books.  Held in Havre de Grace, Maryland on 22 and 23 September, and hosted by the HAWKs (of which club I am fortunate to be a member), Barrage was attended by something over 200 people, and was originally scheduled to host about 60 miniatures games and events.

Last year I was required to be traveling for work on the Friday of Barrage, but this year I made it to both days.  What I didn’t do was to get organized enough to run a game, so I was there ready to fill in and make sure that other peoples’ games ran.  I also had a secondary objective of getting some space back in my basement by moving some things that did seems likely ever to be painted or played with to new homes.

After setting up my flea market sales Friday morning, I ended up in a Second Punic War game using 10mm figures and Simon Miller’s To the Strongest rules, run by veteran HAWKs gamemmaster Kurt Schlegel.

This was only my second game of To the Strongest, but I recently acquired a 6mm English Civil War project and have bought the related rules For King and Parliament. Unfortunately for the Romans under my command, the wily Carthaginians had outflanked us, so I spent my time attempting to hold off a swarm of Numidian and other Carthaginian allied cavalry, with no great success.

Later in the afternoon, I joined a 25mm 1904 German-Herero War game (Southwest Africa), using a lightly modified version of The Sword and the Flame run by veteran gamemmaster (and author of a book on wargaming the Herero wars) Roy Jones.

Despite being ambushed by the Herero, the Germans were able to push forward and capture the hill in time to win the game on points. (This was a scenario balanced by victory conditions; the Herero were not going to rout the Germans.) This turned out to be the only victory I was involved in for the weekend. TSATF remains a reliably good rules set, and is capable of absorbing all sorts of tweaks and customizations, so I wasn’t surprised that this was a good game.

Our region was hit with a tropical storm on Saturday, which may have depressed the turnout somewhat, but both of my sons were able to make it up from the Washington, DC area.

We all ended up in a 15mm game pitting a 6th century Byzantine army against the Sassanid Persians, run by Jesse Scarborough and using a set of home rules.  The rules worked well enough, but the Byzantines (whom I immediately espoused, of course) found the persian cataphracts hard to deal with, and being outflanked atthe beginning by the scenario wasn’t helping.  We had a good time before Norman and I went down to a sad defeat at the hands of William and his colleagues.  

Later in the afternoon, William and I were in a 25mm medeival skirmish game run by HAWKs gamemaster Greg Priebe and using the Feudal Patrol card-driven rules.  Unfortunately for me and William, skirmish games can sometimes enter a death spiral due to the (not unrealistic) level of randomization, and it was our turn to be on the wrong end of that.   

We ended up fleeing (those of us who hadn’t already) about two hours into the game. While we were playing this, Norman had been in a reprise of the To the Strongest game I’d played on Friday.

There were still a couple of games going on; I think the last start was around 5:00PM.  

William wanted a picture before we split and went our separate ways.

So, that was barrage from my foxhole.  In addition to playing the four games (#42-#45 in this year’s log), I must have priced my flea market stuff appropriately to sell, since I went with a project in three boxes (60mm medievals, fare well in your new home) and four document boxes of stuff, and brought home nothing of that except one bag of old Ral Partha Renaissance troops, a set of rules, and an unbuilt card model of a castle.  I picked up some terrain, a few 1/72 plastics for a future DBA early Byzantines and opponents set, and a couple of used board games.  Even with that, the balance went to “less stuff than I started with”, so it was a success.  Overall, it was a great convention, and I am looking forward to our Cold Wars replacement, “Cold Barrage”, now scheduled at the same location for 2 March 2024.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Not Quite Seven Years War with One Hour Wargames

 I am not making much progress with my resolution to blog more this year…perhaps I can alter my habits by January, a more traditional time for resolutions.

At any rate, I have a list of rules and periods I have been wanting to try, and I had some time this past Sunday to check another one off the list.  At some point during the pandemic, I bought some magnetic movement stands from Litko, sized for units in One Hour Wargames. My intention was to use them to temporarily mount stands or figures from other projects; I should be able to do some sort of ancients, Dark Ages, Pike and Shot, and Horse and Musket.  First up (finally!) was Horse and Musket.  I randomly selected a scenario from the book, which turned out to be Scenario 1, Pitched Battle, based on Ceresole in 1544.  I used figures from my NQSYW collection to field a Red (League) army of 3 infantry, 1 skirmisher, and 2 cavalry aganst a Blue (Coalition) army of 3 infantry, 2 artillery and 1 cavalry.

While not the best idea, I looked at that and decided that the League either had to withdraw or attack, since they would otherwise be worn down by artillery fire without being able to respond.  The 3x3 table doesn’t allow a lot of maneuver, and the horse and musket rules give infantry a 12” range, so it was a die rolling contest for the most part.  The game ended on turn 11 with a charge by the Coalition dragoons scattering the last League infantry.

I followed the suggestions in the short chapter on campaigns, and did a follow-on game by allowing the winning side to choose which position they would take in randomly determined Scenario 12, where an army defending a town is about to be outflanked by an attacking force which discovers a usable ford.

I elected to have the Coalition play blue, the attacker, and thereby relegated the League to the role of Red, the defenders.  The dice gave the same force composition for Blue (obviously they just continued the advance after the first battle), and Red now had 4 infantry, one artillery, and one cavalry.

The attacking army is prohibited from shooting on turn 1, and must set up within range of the defenders, so things got off to a bad start for the Coalition; three League units concentrated fire on one Coaltion infantry unit and broke it immediately.  The Coalition cavalry rode for the objective hill and were met by the League cavalry. By the rules (as I understood them) this resulted in an indecisive melee on the hill for several turns.  The Coalition artillery was generally ineffective, and the final situation saw all units broken except for the League cavalry and one Coalition artillery surviving on Turn 15.  Without the hill in their possession, victory went to the League.

This was only my second experience actually laying with this rules, and the previous time we played the 19th century version.  They seem reasonable for a first introduction, but I do have an urge to complicate them a bit … perhaps next time.  It wasn’t a bad way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon, though, and, as is usually the case, I was glad to get some figures on the table.

Monday, September 4, 2023

An old favorite on the table

I had the French and Indian War collection on the table yesterday, for the first time since Ross and I hosted a couple of games at Fall In in 2016.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Gen Con 2023 After Action Report

 My wife and I did all the necessary Gen Con planning (badges, hotel reservations, flight arrangements, and event sign-ups) at the appropirate intermediate milestones this year, so we were able to pack up calmly on Monday, July 31st, to be ready to head to the airport on Tuesday morning, 1 August 2023.  Since we were flying, I had to keep the miniatures down to what I could easily carry on.

My brother and I were signed up to run three sessions of Burrows & Badgers, so I didn’t need more than two dozen miniatures and a single 3x3 foot terrain set-up. That all went into two Really Useful Boxes, a 9-liter and a 4-liter, which I banded together with a transverse strap and a “Strap-a-handle”. This configuration fits in the overhead compartment without difficulty. We had an uneventful flight, and checked into our hotel with enough time to spare to meet my brother for dinner.  Since only a few of the con-goers are arriving on Tuesday, we figured that we could have anything that we liked, and ended up at The Social Cantina, not far from the convention center.  It’s new since last year, and I wonder how the rest of their weekend went. 

We enjoy being at Gen Con on Wednesday for the unofficial Day 0. This year my younger son, William, made it in on Wednesday morning, so we started the day with a brunch at the Cafe Patachou, anticipating that Wednesday was probably the last day where we could find seats at that hour. After that, we headed off to our first ticketed event.  It has been our custom for the past several trips to sign up for some board game, usually something still in pre-production.  This year we tried Eureka Science Academy, a card game themed around recruiting historical scientists and developing and defending scientific theories.  It has some potential, and I enjoyed the idea of trying to defend the phlogiston theory, so I will keep an eye out for the final version. We finished the day with a visit to the Block Party.  While we were able to get the special Gen Con pizza from the folks at Hot Box Pizza, the line to try the Sun King special Gen Con beer was longer than I could stand in.  One of William’s grad school gaming friends attending this year arrived while we were eating.  We left them to explore the convention on their own, as my brother and I needed a good night’s sleep before our early start on Thursday.

As noted above, we were running three sessions of Burrows & Badgers, for six players each.  The first of these was scheduled for Thursday at 0900.  This year our games were out in Lucas Oil Stadium.  As can be seen from the shot below of our setting up, there was still extra space on Thursday morning.  We have

not GMed out there previously, and we have agreed that it’s not a bad place to run games.  (For the historical miniatures gamer, I might note here that we were setting up just beyond a large group of tables where an event organizing group called Able Company was running a large Flames of War event.) With the dome ceiling, sound does not bounce around as badly as it does in the event halls, so my voice was not as damaged as it has been some years.  With a game at 0900, we know that we are not trying to get into

the Exhibition Hall for the 1000 opening, and all of the players have presumably made that decision as well.  We were pleased to find that all six of our preregistered players showed up.  The session went well, and we had an hour to reset things for the afternoon session. In between, I ran down to the Exhibition Hall to get a copy of Free League’s Dragonbane, an English translation of the latest edition of the earliest roleplaying game in Swedish, Drakkar och Demoner, itself originally derived from Chaosium’s Basic Role-playing and Magic World as presented in Worlds of Wonder in 1982.  The crowd was very heavy, and that was as much as I could do in the limited time available.  Like the morning session, the 

afternoon session was also full, with all six players appearing.  Another fun set of games was played.  We set these events up, by the way, as three parallel one-on-one tables, all playing the same scenario, “Seize the paychest”, though on different terrain and with different war bands.  We do this so that we are flexible.  If an even number of players shows up, we pair them off and both of us advise and adjudicate.  If we have an odd number, one of us can jump in and play, so we are ready for anything from just one up to the six players planned.  My wife found us just as we were finishing and packing things up, so we headed back to the hotel.  We met up with our favorite dance instructors, Whitney and Reesa from The Revel Alliance.  We had some supper with them, and then I headed off to my evening game, a Pendragon (6th edition) adventure that William was also playing.  We managed to save some part of England from being ravaged by a dragon by putting it to sleep with a well-fed magical panther, so I guess we’ll call that a success.

On Friday morning, I met by brother for breakfast at the Lincoln Square Pancake House.  It is far enough from the Convention Center that it wasn’t too crowded.  After breakfast we took a quick look at the Auction’s consignment shop.  This year, it seemed to be mostly recent Euro-style board games, so the only thing I came away with was a copy of a vintage GDW Series 120 game, 1940, which turned out later to be short the rules.  (I expect I can find them online somewhere, but haven’t had time to search yet.). Then it was time for my main foray into the Exhibition Hall.  As with Thursday, it was quite crowded and two hours was as much as I could stand.  I ended up with some pins, some Games and Gears paintbrushes, some Dryad Tea, some Campaign Coins to use as fate tokens in Burrows & Badgers, a few little games from Indie Press Revolution, and a few more coins from the Shire Post Mint. 

Friday afternoon was scheduled for dancing.  Irene and I were signed up for four sessions of dance run by the Revel Alliance.  We have been doing their events since they started in 2017, and they are always fun.

After four hours of dance, I was a bit worn, and didn’t make it to the fantasy miniatures game I had scheduled. (My apologies to the event organizer … )

My brother and I ran our third Burrows & Badgers session on Saturday morning.  We had five of the six

registered players, so we were 17 for 18 for the weekend.  I believe this was our best show-up rate ever for Gen Con.  After that game I had no choice but to carry my miniatures boxes to my next events, the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff live podcast, and another dance session.  At that point things caught up with me, and I carried my boxes back to the hotel room, stretched out on the couch, and fell asleep.  I woke up just in time to make it to the pre-scheduled family dinner.  Our previous customary location for Gen Con family dinners had closed during the pandemic years, so we made reservations after the event sign up weekend for the Weber Grill, conveniently across the street from our hotel. We try to schedule one dinner, usually Friday or Saturday depending on how the gaming schedules work out, to allow us to catch up on what everyone has been doing for the con.  After dinner, William and I took a walk to the other end of the convention world, the JW Marriott, to see how the open gaming looked this year. One ballroom is

dedicated to open gaming, and it takes a wide-angle lens to capture it.  I was too tired to actually play anything, but there was a wide variety of board games as well as a few pick-up roleplaying games on offer.  Perhaps next year I will actually schedule some time to try this out.

By Sunday morning, I was dragging a bit, but I still managed to get up before my alarm went off so that I could go play my final scheduled game.  My son William has been playing a great deal of Crusader Kings 3, from Paradox, and decided that he was interested in playing Kingmaker.  I had played quite a bit of Kingmaker, in the original British edition and the Avalon Hill version, back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so it wasn’t hard to convince me to join as well.  The only issue was that signing up for an 0800 Sunday game made sense back in May, but was a little daunting in August on the fifth day of the convention. We both made it, though, and it was a good game, pleasantly more dynamic than I remembered it being. 

There is a new edition about to be released, and I have a copy on order.  In the meantime, we can play the Avalon Hill version. There was time for one more dance session after that, and a final quick peek (with no purchases) at the Exhibition Hall.  We all had lunch together after that, and then headed to the airport, where the traditional departure game tables were set up:

The official Gen Con press release says that over 70,000 unique individuals attended, a new record.  The crowds in the high traffic areas bear this out, and they sold out their limit of 4-Day and Saturday passes.

So that was Gen Con; this was my tenth consecutive year including the two virtual pandemic years.  With the crowds and the general uptick in Covid, I was not surprised to hear quite a few con crud/Covid 

stories.  I’ve had some serious con crud this week, but have tested negative for Covid. Next year I may need to reconsider my masking decision and mask more consistently.  But who knows what the viral environment will look like by then … 

I’ll throw in one random background fun shot.  Among the other Gen Con traditions, a large balloon sculpture is built, starting on Wednesday.  This year the balloon sculpting team built a life-sized model of the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module, which was amazing.

Hope to see you in Indianapolis next year!

Saturday, July 15, 2023

6mm Games and a New 1/72 Challenge

 In the previous post I was painting some 6mm characters and commanders with the intention of using them in a game of Fantastic Battles by Nic Wright. I had mentioned back in March that my sons and I had tried them for a Renaissance game with Leonardo machines, and that the rules were not what I was looking for to run a multi-player convention game.  I wanted to give them another try, and my friend Chris Palmer agreed to be my guinea pig, er, opponent.  As I noted, I am interested in squeezing more gaming out of small spaces at the moment, so I wanted to use the 6mm troops.  I took my box of 6s and a Cigar Box Battles general purpose mat to Chris’s house and we played on his dining room table.  We used armies of orcs (basically impetuous barbarians) and Romans (doughty and drilled).  Allowing for some first time rules look up, we got through a battle in about two hours. As anticipated, this worked better in a more standard fantasy context, and as a two player game looking for that 1-2 hour game.  I look forward to playing it again, and will hold a formal review until we get at least one more game in.  As for an informal review, Chris ordered a starter army of 6mm elves from Baccus Miniatures after the game, so I think that it is safe to say that he was favorably impressed.

View from the Roman right flank as the battle opened

Another view, from behind the Roman center

This past week business took me to Colorado.  Since I knew that the first leg was going to be over three hours in the air, I decided that I would take the tray table game with me and try it out as intended.  Apart from the fact that the Roman legionary infantry did not make it back into the travel box after the fight against the orcs and I was compelled to improvise a bit on the order of battle, I am happy to say that it worked splendidly. The children’s play organizer did a good job of keeping dice and damage tokens confined.  I played two games, with each side (Romans and Sassanid Persians) having one win.  (I should go put the infantry back in the travel box before I forget about it again … ) It was nice to have something to distract myself from the fact that I was packed in a thin-walled metal tube hurtling through the sky six miles above the ground for a little while.

Now, on to the challenge.  Most of the miniatures content on YouTube is Games Workshop related, so I’m always interested when something shows up that isn’t.  There was a video posted on the Tabletop Minions channel last week (Friday, 7 July 2023) in which Uncle Atom presented a route to get into the hobby from scratch with a budget of $100.  The HAWKs presented a similar challenge back in 2003, although our $100 budget then specifically excluded the tools and painting supplies that were necessary to build the projects.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the $100 November 2003 budget translates into $165 in June 2023.  Add that to the excluded paint, glue, and tools, and it looks like we were pretty generous in our conditions back in ‘03.

Uncle Atom’s budget includes paint, brushes, and tools.  After considering the matter for a while, I went shopping.  Here’s what I came up with:

I decided to follow Uncle Atom’s advice and start at the Dollar Tree.  For $5.50, I came home with a craft knife, some glue, and a package of cheap brushes that I won’t care about when they get messed up.

For rules, I decided that I would use Nordic Weasel’s Knyghte, Pyke and Sworde, which is available at Wargames Vault for $9.99. KPS is a skirmish game using only standard six sided dice, with forces of up to 20-30 figures per side, but still usable at smaller levels.  So, as troops get painted, the games can begin before all the figures are finished.  Uncle Atom allowed that d6s were probably available for scrounging, so we’ll count them as free although I could have bought a package of them a the Dollar Tree for $1.25.

For figures, I decided that this was a good excuse to paint a set of 1/72 scale figures I’d been wanting to do anyway.  For $25 (including shipping!) on eBay, I was able to find a box of the Italeri Medieval Tournament.  This set was originally pointed out to me over on Benno’s Figures Forum when someone posted pictures of the civilians from the set they had painted.

This set includes some tournament knights and specators, plus a viewing stand and the barrier for jousting.

In addition, it comes with one set of the Italeri Hundred Years War English.

It also comes with one set of their opponents, the Hundred Years War French.

The box contains a total of 55 foot figures and 20 horsemen, which should be plenty for a reasonable KPS game.

In order to paint these figures, I would need some primer.  I already have a can, but I priced Krylon Fusion matte black at $6.98.  I’ve used this successfully on 1/72 plastics before.

Uncle Atom used an Army Painter starter set with 10 colors and a brush for $30, but in looking around on Amazon I found a pack of 16 Vallejo “Medieval Colors” for $28.74.   It includes a black and a white for mixing and an assortment of metallic colors, but is a little short on browns, so I’ll have to see what I can do with mixing.  At least most of the horses are caparisoned, so the lack of horse variety will be less apparent.       

To finish the miniatures, a large (60ml) bottle of Vallejo satin varnish cost $7.96.

I ordered a set of three small brushes from some unknown supplier on Amazon for $6.59. I am dubious about their durability and ability to hold a point, but we shall see.  I intend to use the cheaper Dollar Tree brushes as much as possible to save wear and tear on the little brushes.

I priced felt for a ground cloth from Joann Fabrics.  They’ll sell you a yard of 72” width felt for $7.99.  I haven’t gotten over to the local Joann to see what they have in stock yet. That would give me a 3’ by 4’ battlefield with some left over for other possible uses in a potential Phase 2.

So, there we have the plan. The grand total for all of that is $98.75, leaving a surplus of $1.25, enough to buy one thing at the Dollar Tree if necessary.

I am going to count a few things as free which might be reasonably found around a house.  I will need some sand for base texturing.  If I wanted the easiest and cheapest circular bases I could find, I would mount the troops on pennies.  Since I intend to use these troops after I paint them, I will mount them on steel washers which will engage with my magnetic transport boxes, but the pennies would actually work as well for most people.  I will use some white glue.  I will also mount the troops on large craft sticks for painting as I usually do since I have a huge box of them, although strips of corregated cardboard could easily be salvaged and would work as well.

The scenery situation is a bit dire, with nothing but the contents of the box and a ground cloth.  I’ll also count as free some buildings from the  Dave Graffam Models free sample selection. Those are still some way off in the future.  

Given the scenery situation, if I actually get this completed, my Phase 2 challenge will be to enhance the game with a $50 scenery budget.  That will still be under the $165 current value of the 2003 challenge. 

By the way, I might note that my 2003 challenge entry was a 54mm medieval project, using figures that are now out of production.  While I’ve added a few things to the original set, it remains one of my top 6 most played projects since I started keeping records in 1999, so I count it as a solid success. 


Monday, June 12, 2023

Playing Around With 6mm

 In the current age of the world, my nice gaming table has a 3’x5’ playing surface.  While we have had some fun games using 40mm Not Quite Seven Years War figures on it, it has occurred to me (more than once) that it might make sense to use some smaller figures, at least some of the time.  Since I had the troops out for the FP3X3PW digression, my thoughts turned to 6mm fantasy.

My 6mm fantasy/ancients collection is based for De Bellis Antiquitatis and Hordes of the Things.  Across all the DBA/HotT armies, I’ve got about 200 bases of troops.  That turns out to be enough to field two armies each with two ranks of stands from table edge to table edge, which ought to be (more than!) enough to give this a try.  The only question is “What rules should I use?”…

One of the candidates is Fantastic Battles by Nic Wright. It does anticipate that you will have some individually based heroes, wizards and rogues to lead your armies, and some other candidate rules probably do as well. Since I recently got some fantasy reinforcements from Irregular, I thought it might be fun to paint up a few individuals.  

So, yesterday’s project was a group of four wizards, an ogre, and a large demon (tap to enlarge):

I have some knights and such to use as leaders and heroes, so I’ll give them a try next. I apparently still have the brush control to do this, but it would be nicer to be able to brace my arms at a higher level and not hunch over the painting desk.

Friday, June 9, 2023

And now for something completely different … “FP3X3PW”

 TL;DR : A wargame to play on an airline tray table…jump down to the pictures if you don’t need the background…

Last weekend was a good one for gaming.  There was a meeting of the HAWKs on Friday night.  I played in a WWI 1914 battle with Duncan Adam’s collection of 28mm WWI miniatures using the Square Bashing rules for a gridded game.

On Saturday I drove down to the Washington area to play some games with my sons.  We had a couple of rounds of DBA in an ongoing tournament of most of our existing 1/72 scale armies, followed by a 19th century imagi-nations game using Norman’s Proxia armies and Neil Thomas’s rules from his book Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878. He noted that this was our fifth game with these rules, so I am starting to have a grasp of what my forces should be trying to do.  We played scenario 41, “The Dominant Hill” from C.S. Grant’s Scenarios for Wargames (a.k.a. The Green Book).

On Sunday, one of the other HAWKs members hosted a monthly Saga day at Critical Hit Games in Abingdon, Maryland, so I took my pair of freshly painted Normans to try them out along with the rest of my Norman warband. (It needs another batch of cavalry and enough archers to fill out a batch to really shine, I think … )

Four sets of rules in three days is almost a convention level of play, so I felt that the month had gotten off to a very good start.

However, that’s not really the topic of today’s post.  In the usual convoluted way in which the Muses work, two weeks ago I was reading the Nordic Weasel Games Discord discussions, and conversation turned to Demon Ship, a hot new game from Black Site Studios. It doesn’t really look like anything that would be to my taste, but it was noted that one of its features is that it has a small enough footprint to be playable on an airline tray table.  I like miniaturized things in general (hence this hobby), so I search the web to find out what the dimensions of a tray table might be.  (About 15” by 10”, by the way…) The algorithms decided that I must really want a kid’s folding tray table play organizer. While I had’t realized that such a thing even existed, it did seem like it might be a good idea for keeping miniatures and dice contained, were one actually to wish to play a miniatures game in flight. There followed a rapid group brainstorming session, and one of the other posters suggested that I look at the 3x3 variants of Bob Cordery’s Portable Wargame. Bingo! That mapped neatly onto a set of 3” squares with a reserve zone at either end.  I figured that I could use my existing 6mm DBA/Hordes of the Things troops based on 40mm frontages. I promptly ordered the organizer and the two Portable Wargaming Compendia, all of which arrived over the weekend while I was playing other games.

When I got back from the Saga game I started getting things organized, starting (naturally…) with the organizer:

I dug into my scenery supplies and came up with a piece of sage felt, already somewhat mottled by spray paint, in the approved HAWKs manner.  I cut a piece to size, and marked off the grid:

Since the scenery requirements are fairly minimal, I thought that I could borrow scenery from the 6mm project box along with the troops, at least for long enough to get an idea of what it would look like.

The hills in my 6mm box are a commercial product, purchased at a Historicon when it was still at the Penn Harris…approximately 1989.  They didn’t quite fit neatly within the grid.  I scrounged around the basement looking for more blue felt, to cut a piece for a river which wouldn’t hang over the edges, but I am apparently out of blue felt right now.

I cut a couple of somewhat abstracted hills out of foamcore and covered them with more felt, simply glued in place with white glue. In the absence of blue felt, I dug around in my cupboard and found a roll of disused neoprene stream from Deep Cut Studio.  Since I wasn’t using it for anything at the moment (a little too straight for my taste), I decided that sacrificing 10” of the six feet I had was acceptable. I cut it with some curve to it, about half of the original width.

Conveniently, when Mark Cordone originally proposed the 3x3 grid version of the Portable Wargame, two of his sample armies were Romans and Sassanid Persians, both already painted and among my 6mm collection.  So the next step was to give it a try.

The suggested scenery generation table gave me the river with no other terrain.  It took about four turns and perhaps twenty minutes for the Sassanid army (to the right) to break the Roman left wing.  As played, Roman reserves had one turn to re-establish a presence in their left sector, and failed.  Round one to the Persians…

I’m not sure that a steady diet of this would be satisfying, but as something to stick in my carry-on bag to while away a flight, or to be available in the evenings on an otherwise dull business trip, it seems to be good.

After that, it was time to consider how I was going to render the troops portable.  Most of my troops are on steel bases of one sort or another, and the storage/travel boxes are lined with magnets.  The 6mm troops, however, go way back and are on matteboard.  I considered cutting foam for a while, but decided that it was probably better to dip into my stock of flexible steel bases and go with magnets.  I already had a small plastic box earmarked for a game that was supposed to fit in a carry-on, about 5x8x2 inches, or approximately the size of a reasonable trade paperback book. I added some flex steel to the two buildings borrowed as a built-up area, and the trees were already on steel washers.

Here’s the box, packed with the two armies, the scenery, dice, and damage tokens:

Opening it up, the hills are on top of a piece of foam.  While I didn’t want to try to fit the miniatures into the foam, having some foam as a back-up to help stabilize anything that might come loose seemed prudent.

Once the hills and foam are removed, we reach the troop layer.

While the rules found in the PW Compendia don’t contemplate using too much scenery, I decided that the extra set of trees wasn’t really limiting things too much.  Even if they weren’t there, there isn’t enough room to squeeze in a third army.

In the near term, I would like to type out a quick reference sheet to fit in the box, and I have some metal Roman buildings from Irregular which I could paint to swap for the generic English/fantasy thatched cottages currently in place, and I have seven other armies, both fantasy and historical, which could be magnetized and would be available to choose before a trip.  The two PW compendia include a couple of different takes on PW fantasy, including a 3x3 Hyborian Age version, so I see no reason not to include all the available troops as options.

If the Muses choose to inspire me to paint some additional 6mm troops (or monsters or heroes), well, I also have somewhat limited gaming space at home these days (with my main table being 3x5 feet), so some 6mm mass fantasy combat might be fun.

Meanwhile, all I need is a flight …