Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Recruits-The Captal de Buch

At the Battle of Poitiers nearly the entire English force was dismounted. Arrayed in the traditional three battles of medieval warfare, Edward, the Prince of Wales, the Earl of Salisbury, and the Earl of Warwick commanded roughly equal sized forces mixed between longbowmen and men-at-arms. Though the exact numbers are unclear, it is likely the English army numbered about 7,500 men.

Not all the soldiers, however, were English. Some were Welsh, a few were German, and some were French, Gascons from Guienne, or Aquitaine, an English possession in France since the marriage of Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152. Among the Gascon participants at Poitiers were knights/men-at-arms, crossbowmen, and the tiny mounted force under the Captal de Buch.

The Captal was a feudal title. His actual name was Jean de Grailly, one of the Black Prince's loyal knights that like Sir John Chandos, Sir James Audley and a host of titled soldiers remained companions throughout his life. At Poitiers the Captal led his command of perhaps 180 mounted Gascon knights and crossbowmen around the French left flank and into their rear while they were engaged with the English to their front. This led to the disintegration of the French main battle and the capture of King Jean. The Captal continued in English service until his capture in 1372. He was deemed too dangerous to be ransomed and died in French custody in 1377.

The figures are Front Rank mounted knights from the Hundred Years War range. I bought these in a deal with David Sullivan some years ago, and I am thrilled to paint up most of what I had left. I decided to make this army as colorful as possible by trying to paint historically accurate heraldry to the best of my limited ability, and providing a fair number of banners. The banners those that I downloaded from Dansk Figursspilsforening and painted over. They are mounted directly on the sizable lances included on the figures. The Captal is mounted on the black caparisoned horse with the gold and black banner.

I also remounted some figures for Medieval Warfare. It's likely they will be the only figures I remount from my singly mounted pile of HYW miniatures. These are Irish kerns, originally made by Corvus Belli, but since picked up by Crusader Miniatures. Crusader/Corvus's HYW very nice, if pretty abbreviated. I've painted up the knights and mounted command figures, as well as a pack's worth of the kerns. Kerns were Irish skirmishers, noted for their skill as foragers, er, pillagers, em, looters, armed chiefly with javelin and clucking chicken.

New Product: Gorilla Super Glue

I was chatting with David Sullivan on Sunday. Our topics are wide ranging, from game projects to cats to work issues. David talked about a Gorilla Super Glue, a new product from the Gorilla Glue folks. Gorilla Glue is not a CA glue, but it is tougher than white glue. However it takes a while to dry, and wouldn't be very good at holding together those fiddly bits that CA glues together instantly. There is a new product out from the same company, however, that is a super glue. It's difference from other CA products is that it is less brittle, so that if something strikes the bond it isn't as easily broken. Though Gorilla Glue is widely available, the super glue isn't so easily found, so I used the store locater to find a vendor nearby. It was reasonably priced at $3.99 for .53 ounces. That's a little less than what I pay for Zap CA glue.

Of course, I had to try it out right away. I actually had some painted knights that needed mounting to their painted horses. Yes, I know that's a no-no, but for these figures it was just so much easier to paint everything first before mounting. There is a big drawback to the glue--there are no fancy schmancy applicators. Before I could say "Oh shit!" I had a Lake of the Woods sized puddle on the back of my dappled gray horse. My advice is be very careful, the glue comes out in torrents. The bonds took immediately. I'm anxious to see how well they hold-it is always embarrassing to have George Washington falling off his horse in one's Continental Army.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dansk Figursspilsforening

I'm always hoping to stumble across free resources on the web--like posted copies of the Journal of Medieval Military History that cost $95 bucks a pop. Yeah, right. Every now and then, however, I do stumble across something truly useful that fills a need, saves money, and saves hours of work. One of these is Dansk Figursspilforening. No, I can't say it, and I don't really know what it means-I just know it has something to do with Danish miniature wargaming. It appears to be club site, perhaps with tons of information, all in Danish. However, It does have some super cool downloads. The site has many flags for a variety of periods including the American Revolution and American Civil War, Russian Civil War and the Crusades. Along with the downloads is information about printing and resizing in English.
For my money, however (ironic, since everything is free) the most valuable downloads on the site are all of the heraldic banners from the Hundred Years War. The site offers banners for Crecy and Poitiers. Obviously they have English and French heraldry, but they also include Gascons, Flemings, Germans and other mercenaries who made an appearance. Not ten or twenty different designs, but hundreds. Below are a couple of examples.

As you can see, many of the banners often come with a certain amount of narration explaining if the noted knight or noble carried that device into other battles as well. Typically, I paste these into a word document and size them in a way I can best use them. Then I paint over the colors to give it more of a hand painted look before gluing them on to a brass standard, finishing off everything with a gloss varnish. I'm thinking about looking into different printer paper that may look more standard-like.

In any case, I hope you find this a useful site as well. It's linked on the right. I think the site owners have done a super job and provided a very handy resource.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Trouble With Ancients

I am a battle guy. When I think of miniature wargames I've never been one to get stuck on points or equal sides, I more often get set on scenarios and particularly historical battles. Maybe it's just the history geek in me, or too many readings of The Face of Battle, but that's just where I am. When I take on a project, what usually drives my interest is a famous battle. Cowpens in the American Revolution, Battle of the Wabash in the Wayne's Legion era, Chippewa in the War of 1812, those are the visuals that helped me get going. I also was able to either find rules, or create rules that helped me realize my visions.

Ancients are different. I have purchased more sets of Ancients rules than any other period, or maybe I should say periods. WRG 6th and 7th editions, Legion (you're probably too young to remember them), The Universal Soldier, Tactica and Tactica Medieval, Warhammer Ancient Battles, DBM, others unnamed, and now Fields of Glory and Medieval Warfare. The problem with each of these rules sets are points. Everyone wants to play them as a competitive set of rules-make your army, set up the terrain, line your troops up and have at it. I guess what I want to see is Chaeronea, Pharsalus, Clontarf, and Agincourt. Maybe it's because ancients rules cover such a wide range of history-4,500 years-that such is necessary, I don't know.

Yes, there are some rules systems that have catered to specific epochs of the ancient/medieval millieu-WAB and FoG come immediately to mind. However, with some special exceptions, those are still tied to the rules and point systems, which may not effectively represent historical armies. Those that come immediately to mind are Republican Romans and Hundred Years War combatants. Naturally, I beef because these are the armies I have or am building in 25mm. However, no rules set have ever properly allowed the Roman Quincunx to exchange ranks, and I haven't seen much that convinces me that English longbowmen function properly. It would be nice if there was something more period specific. Even the army lists recommended in Medieval Warfare and Fields of Glory show the English and French knights as mounted, though the Goddamns never mounted their knights except for a small reserve according to a well established system, and les Crapauds decided that arrowstorms were too tough on horseys to fight mounted after Crecy. Excuse the notable exceptions. This is all a product of catering to the ancients at tournament generators crowd. Makes me a little crazy. Just give me a set of rules in which I can fight the battles with lots of little men.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reports From Afar

This post has a number of purposes. First, it is my 100th post. I know they were pretty few and far between the first couple of years, but I'm pleased that I've settled into a system of regular posts in 2008. Maybe it's my own form of journalism now that I'm a student journalism adviser (yes that's the correct spelling in journalism-land.) The other fact I'd like to point out is that nearly 1700 visitors have landed on this blog, and I'd like to thank you for visiting. Thanks too for those of you who have had something to say. It's been nice to have posts to respond to.

Next, there are a couple of events coming up if you happen to be in the proper neighborhood. In eastern Washington SpoCon is a multi-genre convention at Gonzaga University in Spokane August 1-3. Information about the con is here http://spocon.us/ . Though this is more a sci-fi convention than anything else, there appear to be board games, rpg's and historical miniatures as well. Mike Clinton has mad noises about hosting Watch Your Six! air games, and there seems to be some Flames of War and other games planned.

The following weekend is Dragonflight in beautiful Bellevue, WA. Again this is a multi-genre gaming convention, probably the largest in Washington state. It's a good con, though historical miniatures are frequently under-represented. It's a tough gig. The con isn't cheap unless one pre-registers, and not only are games needed but gamers are needed. Information about Dragonflight is located here http://www.dragonflight.org/

My good friend Doug Hamm likes to keep me posted about game nights at the Bonsor Centre in Burnaby, B.C., home of the Trumpeter Club. They meet one Friday per month and host some fabulous games. The Bonsor Centre is a community center with lots of stuff going on, and it is a very practical, affordable venue for a gaming club. This month Doug and others played a 15mm Fire and Fury ACW game. How long has it been since you dragged your 15mm ACW out of the closet?

Doug wrote:
Here are a few photos from the recent game of the fictional "Cedar Run" 15mm ACW game hosted by me.
As usual it seems, I remembered most things one needs to put on a good game: terrain (woods, roads, fences, houses etc etc) but forgot the more obvious: like the dice and the rules!! Luckily, my friend Dennis brought his so all was good. Had more players than anticipated but I was making up the scenario anyway :-)
Will not bore you with all the details suffice it to say that my die rolling was a poor as ever as my two brigades never got into action as I rolled six 1s in eight attempts to get any of them off the road!! (the remaining two throws were a 2 and 3 - again not helpful! For the "Fire and Fury" rules 1s are bad and thus I could not even shake out of road column (I was in reserve). Luckily the Union were not in position to hurt me and the other Confederate players were busily defeating a Union force almost twice their size!
I used many of my 'special' units for this game; brigades represented by actual regiments of the war. The picture of the clash in front of the barn shows Wheat's Zouaves defending again the 165th NY Zouaves in the foreground. The close up shot from the back shows the 146th NY Zouaves (please be kind to the painter as these ARE 15mm and I paint fast) and another unit of 72nd PA moving through the woods. The final shots shows part of the action.

If you don't know Doug, he is a fabulous painter and creates some very nice, very practical terrain pieces. He is also half of the creative team of Larry Leadhead, and yes one is the most likely number Doug will roll regardless of the game system he is playing.
Finally, David Sullivan has begun writing a blog. David is another dear friend, possibly the smartest person I know and he loves ancients, cats, conservative politics, and shooting his cool collection of firearms. He is currently the director of Enfilade and has done loads of stuff for NHMGS. I've put a link to David's blog "I Live With Cats" in my links section. He is a great writer and a wonderful photographer. His entry on FoG is awesome.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thunderboats!--the Extended Version

Yesterday seven of us gathered at Game Matrix to run out Daveshoe's revisions of Thunderboats for cup racing, meaning multiple heats. Dave ran the games while Dave Demick, son Casey, Mark Waddington, Dale Mickel, Chris Bauermeister and I pushed around the boats. Any excuse to race hydroplanes makes for a good day, but the additional rules for pit crews, enhanced build points, and the fickle nitrous bottles were especially fun.

I don't know what strategies others used, but building a boat with 21 points to spread over three heats was a challenge. I took Miss Wahoo, one of my favorite boats, and chose a top driver, a top pit crew, three engine points, four hull points, a couple of re-rolls, and one nitrous bottle. I figured it would allow me to take some extra chances, and the strategy worked pretty well-through one heat.

In heat one I finished third. I was actually positioned pretty well to compete for the win, but stalled just before the finish line. That's a tough place to crap out. I had good die rolls-no, great die rolls-until the bad card draw. Unfortunately everyone else had good die rolls too, so I couldn't recover. Dale won the first heat. In heat two, in the first turn, I took hull damage and lost three of my four boxes. I stayed pretty conservative for a full lap and decided to take a few more risks. This became more difficult when my driver lost his nerve, so his plus three die modifier became a plus two. Mark Waddington won, but I used my nitrous bottle on the final corner and rolled a perfect twenty to pass Dale and take second. I hadn't won any heats but with nine points was still competitive. I needed to win the last heat to win the race. Didn't happen. I had pretty mediocre speed rolls, and lost my nerve again, so I was only a plus one driver. That meant taking risks were, well, risky. Through a series of card draws and a nasty collision roll Wahoo got pretty well beat up. Worse, I just couldn't get a decent die roll and was in danger of becoming irrelevant as I fell further off the pace. Finally, on the last lap, I rolled a fifteen, trusted to luck and made a move that pushed me right into the crowd of leaders. The downside is I had five rolls to make for engine pushes, corner pushes, roostertails and the like. I only passed one and my boat's fragile hull sprung a major leak and my racing day was over. Mark won the race in a close finish with Dale. Well done. All seemed to enjoy the new rules. I thought they demanded a lot more strategic thinking.

I should explain the pictures. First-as usual-I nearly forgot to take any pictures. The camera remained in its bag until the third heat. The first picture is coming out of the first turn--probably turn two of the heat. Everyone is still racing. Hawaii Kai leads the pack. I'm the brown boat running second on the outside with Mark's red Miss Exide running inside. In the second pic Dale and Casey are counting hexes as Casey prepares to move his blue Revenge. "Ah geez my driver lost his nerve, can I manage to push that corner?"

Below, Dale's Mariner Too has a mishap with his nitrous bottle. Not many drivers took them as there was a chance that they could result in an engine fire. I only used mine once, and it was very successful. Dale used his twice, and the second time, bingo, engine fire. I happened to have a Litko fire marker to decorate his boat with. Dave contemplates the cluster of racers in the turn second turn of lap one. His Hawaii Kai is still leading, but he'll suffer engine damage in the second lap and have to drop out. My boat is in hanging in there, but in fifth place.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tomorrow's Big Race

Lots going on tomorrow. We have an Enfilade wrap-up meeting tomorrow in Fife. I don't think there are any big issues, just the opportunity to de-brief the convention. After that we head to Game Matrix for a running of Thunderboats! This time we are doing an extended version with heats, pit crews and the option of purchasing nitrous bottles with their attendant risks. It should be fun. There is room for twelve players, but I only know of seven or so who have committed. We'll see. I'll have a report and pictures for this weekend.

I've made more progress on my English HYW army for Medieval Warfare. I finished fifty archers to go with the Black Prince. I'm going to paint up my dinky mounted contingent before moving on to work on some dismounted men-at-arms. I feel my enthusiasm waning slightly, but I'm trying to stay focused by painting a little something different than archers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Painting with BB's

I dunno about you, but I really like Vallejo paints. Yes, they're expensive, but they are also really pigment heavy and cover everything. Even those problem colors like yellow and orange are so much better than anything else out on the market. In their little bottles, they last seemingly forever. I have some bottles that are probably five or six years old and they aren't dried out or even particularly thick. I don't use them for everything, still favoring a lot of cheap craft paints, but they are definitely a great tool in the toolchest.

I do have an issue with them however, and that is getting the paint out of the bottles. The pigment tends to stay at the bottom of the bottle, and sometimes no amount of shaking seems to mix the paint very well. And the tiny pin-hole spouts clog--ack, don't get me started.

On TMP I've heard others suggest dropping a BB in the bottle and using it for an agitator that flies around when the bottle is shaken, moving the pigment around and mixing it with the fluid inside. While at Long Beach, at a general store with BB's handy, I picked up a tube of Daisy's best steel shot. I've been using them since I got home, and eureka!! it works. Another measure I've taken to make my Vallejos a bit more user friendly is actually a little tool I've pilfered from my wife. She's a quilter, and uses long pins with a big head to pin her quilt squares together. These work much better to clean out the spouts than my collection of straight pins.

Anyway, these make me much more inclined to use my collection of Vallejo paints. Which means I'll use them up, and have to buy more at their inflated Spanish prices, meaning I'll be spending more on paint. I guess I can't win.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Loafing in Long Beach

Our sojourn in beautiful Long Beach, WA is nearly over. I can't say it's been the most fun vacation I've ever had, but it hasn't been bad. I've gotten some down time. I've read a couple of books. I've purchased six books. I've also been able to make it to some of my favorite Lewis and Clark sites. We brought the dogs with us, which has been at best a mixed blessing. It's been fun, at times to have them, but it's hard to leave them in the house-they hate being crated in a strange place, and taking them around in the car is no fun because they bark incessantly at almost anything on the street. So we've gotten out a bit less often than I'd like.

I brought a display figure to work on. It's a 75mm AWI figure of Glover's Marblehead Regiment. I have about another twenty unpainted display figures. This one took about ten or twelve hours to finish. I think this is an Imrie-Risley figure cast as a bicentennial keepsake. It's an okay figure, but more than anything else I liked the subject. I kept the miniature's dress as unconventional as possible with a blue sailor's coat and simple shirt and trousers. The miniature is based on a Charles McBarron painting for the Company of Military Historians. That figure was dressed in pretty much linen everything, the dress being pretty much non regulation. From the same series, I have a figure from the 3rd New Hampshire regiment, and that will likely be the next display figure I take on.
We return home tomorrow, Saturday. I'll be back at work on the Hundred Years War. I just finished reading Hewitt's book on the Poitiers campaign. It seems that about 600 or so of the 3,000 English archers from Cheshire and North Wales wore the green and white shirts and hats of the Prince of Wales' retinue, so there's something to focus my painting a bit.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Slidin' off to Long Beach

Lorri and I are leaving for Long Beach, WA today. Yes I know, Long Beach isn't sexy or popular, but it should be a good place to grab some down time. I'm taking paint and a 75mm AWI figure, as well as some books. I'll make time to drive over to Astoria and Fort Clatsop, two places I consider holy ground, with their close connection to Lewis and Clark and early northwest history.

I got a few more pictures taken last night. The first is of of my first twenty four archers. They are mounted for Terry Gore's Medieval Warfare rules. They turned out well and are a combination of Foundry and Old Glory figures. The OG minis come from the Agincourt range. I love the Foundry figures, but tend to stay away from the because of the cost. The Old Glory figures have enough variants to keep them interesting.

The last two pictures are of my command stand. The general for my English army is Edward, the Black Prince of Wales. Because my army is modeled along the one that fought at Poitiers in 1356, I decided I needed to have a miniature Black Prince to run the show. I chose to make something of a vignette for my command figure. Edward is simply a Front Rank knight mounted on a caparisoned horse. He wears the quartered arms of France and England on his caparison and his jupon. I gave him a nice, big standard carried by a Perry knight from their Agincourt to Orleans range. The flag was downloaded from the files section of the Warflag yahoo group and then handpainted. Edward is attended by a shield bearer pilfered from Henry V from the same Perry range. I didn't quite know what to do with the very large lance, so I quartered that too. All of the heraldic devices also carry the silver "label" (label argent) that denotes the owner is the Prince of Wales rather than the king.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hydroplane Pictures

I've taken some photos of a couple of my newest hydroplanes. The first one is Casey's boat, the Revenge. It's not a historical boat, and the only one I've painted that is not historical. He likes the game and wanted a custom craft. We shared some ideas and agreed on a pirate theme, hence the Jolly Roger and the name Revenge in Old English characters.

The second boat is the Mariner Too. It was an entry in the 1965 Gold Cup and was driven by Fred Alter.

Just a reminder, if you are a regular reader and live nearby, we're running a hydroplane race on the 19th at Game Matrix around 11:00 Daveshoe has put together some rules for multi-heat races including pit crews and a rule for nitrous oxide bottles that should make racing a bit more strategic and interesting.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Buckets of Dice

Got together today with Gene Anderson, Dale Mickel, and Scott Murphy for some mid-week summer gaming. Aaahhh, nothing better. We met at Game Matrix and I dragged out my 25mm HYW figures. We actually planned to play a Zulu War game with Mark Waddington, but due to a family emergency he wasn't able to make it.

It gave me an excuse to pull out the figs, and re-run the Storming Party scenario I've had success with in the past. It actually makes a great three player game and using the old Tactica Medieval Siege rules, it's also very easy. There's just enough decision making in the scenario to give a non-playing GM something to do, plus the guys are just a lot of fun to play with. The scenario is easy: The French are defending a barbican at a river crossing and the English have to take it. Both sides have some goodies they can buy. The English have a loads of bowmen, some knights and a fair number of men at arms. The French have half as many troops as the English, but the English are faced with making a ladder assault. I have the Miniature Building Authority gatehouse and towers, so it looks good too.

The English opened by raining death on the French defenders, forcing them to seek cover in the protection of the fort. However when the English tried to scale the wall they were met with a cascade rocks and boiling water they never recovered from. They could never seem to stay on the wall long before some French defender either ran them through or tossed them over the wall. It was a lot of fun, everybody had their moment, and all got to roll buckets of dice. The only sad thing is that I forgot to take my camera.

On the painting front, I'm making some progress on more HYW figures for Medieval Warfare. I've got 24 archers painted, with more primed. I'm currently working on the general stand, painting up the Black Prince with a standard bearer and shield bearer. I hope to get some pictures up before I leave for vacation on Sunday.