Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Farewell to Summer

If you're an American teacher, this weekend means the end.  Beginning Monday I'll be back at school for a few days of workshops, and on Thursday students arrive whether I'm ready or not.  It's 8:00 Saturday morning and I'm busy counting up the things I need to do this weekend.  There's a deck to finish staining, some things inside to help Lorri with, a toolshed door to rebuild (ack, two toolshed doors to rebuild.) There's also the matter of doing some schoolwork to get ready for those 137 students I'll see on Thursday.  Bummer.
Dean's British riflemen, higlanders and a smattering of guerrillas march toward waylaying a French column.

French cavalary and voltigeurs waiting to be waylaid.
I'd like to lament the passage of summer vacation, but actually it's been enjoyable.  Not quite as much gaming as I'd like, but I've enjoyed the ones I've played.  Yesterday was our fourth and final Truant's game, unless those who are retired or have Fridays off choose to continue.  I didn't actually get to play.  We changed internet/phone/television carriers this week after ten years with Comcast, and the resulting snafus kept me too busy to actually play Dean's awesome looking Sharpe Practice game.  It looked nice and I have a couple of pictures, but I had to go.

 This morning I finished painting the last of the Hallmark British for the first Jacobite Wars.  I'll work on mounting them up this week and get some pictures posted as soon as they are done.  I have 30 gunners and British cavalry to paint to wrap up the project (except for the baggage which will come later.)  Another check mark on my things to do list.

After the Jacobites are done, it's on to the Mississippi.  I've begun assembling the Perry Hussars to make my Texas Hussars.  Very nice figures and a lot less fiddly than the Victrix Brits.  I also ordered some more of the Spanish militia types I used in my Lewis and Clark adventure- the soldados de cuera mounted as well as dismounted-and some Spanish artillery and gunners. I'm looking forward to something new, just like the coming school year.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Burlington Races--The War of 1812 on Lake Ontario

American fleet in their starting positions.  The cards by each ship note the movement order.  The Pike is the lead vessel
Last Friday we met for one of our Truants games.  Dave Schueler and Mark Waddington teamed up to play an age of sail game based on Jim Moulton's Prevailing Winds rules.  Mark Waddington shared his magnificent hand-made sailing vessels with nine players, none of whom had ever played the rules before.  This was a play test, so it was clear from the outset the game might have some rough edges.

First of all, it needs to be said, this game was a real gamble for the hosts. Not many of us play a lot of age of sail games, so we were easily confused.  The wind system was not difficult, but without hexes to visualize wind direction, it could occasionally be tricky but doable once I figured it out.  Movement was based on a card draw system that made things pretty random and difficult to stay in formation, and was my least favorite part of the game.  I thought gunnery was the easiest and best part of the game. The lack of familiarity with the rules led to some unnecessary crabbing, which was unfortunate.

 The War of 1812 lake battles are pretty interesting with some pretty unusual ship types.  First, they are generally smaller than we'd find in Napoleonic battles, with sloops, brigs and lots of small gunboats.  There is also the matter of armament as both side try to ship the biggest broadside for their small vessels.  Many vessels carry carronades instead of long guns to boost their broadside weights, but sacrifice gun range.  In our battle that was a problem as the Brits, with generally larger ships but few long guns faced a bigger fleet with more long guns.

I was an American player running the sloop Madison, following behind the American flagship Pike captained by Mark Waddington.  The Pike was armed with all long 24 pdrs., and simply ruled the lake.  As the British struggled to close the range, Pike easily dismasted the British flagship Wolfe, and had its way with a couple of the smaller British schooners.  Madison got off a couple shots with long guns, and fired off the carronades once as the British tried to close, but could not match Pike's hitting power.  Mark clearly had the most fun of the game.  The gunboats had their own little scrum going with a couple of the smaller British ships.  The British had a little more success fending of this mosquito fleet, sinking a couple of them and dismasting another.

I really enjoyed this game, and would love to play it again.  I only took one picture at the beginning, which doesn't do justice to either the game or Mark's beautiful ships.  Hand-made from balsa, with scribed decking, and handmade brass guns and gun carriages, they are simply magnificent.  I believe they are scaled at 1/600. We played with sixteen ships, and he had another eight or ten in his carrying case.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Figures, Follies and Foolery

It's August 14th and back to school is just around the corner.  My summer game plans have not gone well. I just haven't been able to do as much as I hoped.  First, I'd like to offer my litany of excuses.  Come on, Congress had the debt ceiling fiasco, we're entering a political campaign season, everyone's handing out excuses, it's only fair I share some of my own.
Hallmark English regiment nearly complete
Three partly completed regiments.  I have these four pictured units left to complete.  Would love to be done with them by Friday August 19th.
First, I made some painting plans for the summer.  They were to finish my 15mm Hallmark Jacobite project and move on to my interesting 1797 hypothetical war in Mississippi project. Let's just say I haven't gotten as far as I'd like.  I ended up having a lot more British troops to paint than I thought, in fact more than actually served in Scotland in 1689.  That's okay.  The fact of the matter is that I'm getting close to finished painting all 180 figures.  That still leaves cavalry, guns, gunners and various accoutrements to paint as well, but when they are done, they're done.  It's a finite, finished project.
Ahh, my messy painting table. One Hallmark unit finished, but not based. To the right are some Old Glory Wayne's Legion figures patiently waiting their turn in the painting queue.
While I haven't finished a damn figure for my Mississippi project, I am acquiring some new minis.  Many of the figures I'll use for scenarios for this project will be drawn from other activities.  Wayne's Legion figures and militia types from Lewis and Clark and Fallen Timbers;  Spanish figures from Lewis and Clark; Indians from Fallen Timbers.  However, using some birthday bucks and a bit of my stipend from my Ellensburg teaching gig I've ordered some new toys.  First, I ordered (and have received) a box o' Perry French Napoleonic hussars.  Remember this picture? Those figures, with their mirliton options, can be made with the Perry hussars by adding a round shield-the perfect accessory for catching Comanche arrows. Nice stuff, definitely less fiddly than the British Napoleonics I was assembling earlier this week.  I also ordered more of the soldados de cuera figures that London War Room produced.  They are now made by Dayton Painting Consortium.  While I've provided a link to their website, you won't find pics of the cuera soldados there.  I ordered enough figures to add one figure to each of my two existing units, and one more unit for a total of three.  In addition I added a mounted lance armed cuera unit to go with the hussars, and some guns. I'm kind of itching to work on these guys, but Jacobites first.
Boxes of figures!! The Victrix Brits I packed off to Ellensburg lie below the Perry Hussars I received for my birthday.  "Our day will come . . . "
 In terms of the follies, I announced the purchase of a new set of ACW naval rules a couple weeks ago.  I've watched patiently as the mail carrier has driven off each day without dropping off my long-sought rules.  Finally, Friday, after I had not received my rules, I called old friend David Sullivan because he said he had ordered them after reading my blog post.  He told me he'd received his order from Bay Area Yards.  Gah!! I went back to the Bay site, and still sitting in my shopping cart was my order.  I'd never actually sent it in. I, of course, immediately remedied that problem.  So Sail and Steam Navies should arrive soon, I hope.

 There is some upcoming foolery this week as Dave Schueler brings his naval game down to Game Matrix Friday for a truants game.  I believe this may be a Barbary Wars game, one of Dave's obsessions, and it should be fun.  This is more of a playtest than anything else as I know he's been searching for the right rules.  I'm really looking forward to it and will be sure to pass a report along.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Victrix Napoleonic British WIP

I'm over here at Central Washington University in beautiful Ellensburg.  I opted not to bring a laptop with me, know I have my iPhone and will have access off and on to a computer lab.  I'll have some down time so I opted to bring along a box of my cherished and well-buried Victrix Napoleonics.

A few years ago at Enfilade I spent some of my earnings from the bring and buy on a few of boxes of the newly released British, the flank and center company boxes.  I purchased these to form the British troops that fought in the Chesapeake region during the War of 1812.  You know, burning of Washington, rockets red glare, those British.  Unfortunately, they've lived quite happily in my garage, never saying a word, until I moved most of them into my painting room this spring.  They cheered a little.

This past Tuesday I opened a box of the little fellows and looked carefully at all the little men and all the little sprues of heads, backpacks, and arms and quickly put them back in the box and put them away.  I was scared.
The Victrix British come with eight sprues.  Four are mostly bodies with backpacks and heads.  The other four are full of fiddly bits-standards, half-pikes, muskets and arms. Don't be daunted.
A sprue of fiddly parts.  There are three more just like these.
This morning, while I packed, I stuffed a box of Victrix center companies into my handy messenger bag in the place my laptop would have gone. After checking in to my room early, I opened my box and looked at the sprues of bodies, arms, heads and equipment.  Oh my God, where to begin?  I eschewed my typical male response to reject the instructions.  The instructions have tons of information, including a rulebook. Most importantly they have a diagram showing how to make the various body styles with the multiplicity of arms, legs, head styles and equipment.
The assembly instructions.  Keep these around; they'll make your life easier.
After looking at the body styles, and all the bits that would be glued to them, I decided the best course of action was to cut out the full bodies and separate them into types.  There are four slightly different body styles for the privates.  There are drummer figures, nco figures and officer figures.  Be sure you have a sharp hobby knife, and remove all mold marks because fit is so important when it comes to gluing. I found all the parts to be relatively free of flash.
I sorted my miniatures into four groups-basic infantrymen, drummers, nco's and officers.
Once the figures were sorted, I decided to assemble the special figures first, and that is as far as I'll go with this entry.  I began with the drummers because they were the most distinct and with few options.  First I assembled the drums.  They come in two halves with a hole for the peg on the figure.  These halves fit together quite neatly, but they have to be wiggled around a bit to snap into place.  I used Zap CA glue to assemble my figures, but plastic cement might work better. After assembling the drums, I glued them on to the figures.  Mistake!  I encourage you to glue the arms on first, let them dry a bit, and then glue the drums on.  With drum on, there is much less room to fiddle with the left drum arm in particular.  The drum pose seems odd to me, the drumsticks seem to cross a bit too much, and I feel like the drummer is sending out some strange gang sign I don't understand. I also gave the drummers a knapsack and blanket roll.  There are some nice choices here.  Cut them out and clean them and you're ready to glue them on.  I encourage you to put your glue on the belting on the back because it's more likely to touch the knapsack than putting glue on the latter.
Completed drummers.  These weren't difficult to finish, but I encourage you to put the arms on first.
Next I chose heads to finish the figure off. There are a number of different head styles: the standard with shako plate and plume, shako with oilskin cover, and even bareheaded.  Gluing the heads on can be kind of tricky.  The heads fit very precisely.  Be patient and move the head around in that recessed collar until it snaps into place.  Be sure you've trimmed the neck properly.  I spent a lot of time picking heads off the floor

You can see the standard with its tassels in the middle of the photo.  Take care cutting it away from the sprue, though it was not as fragile as I feared.

Completed standard bearers.  The officers have their sashes to the right, the nco's are sashed to the left.
When the drummers were done I moved on to creating standard bearers.  Each box of mini comes with four nco's and four officers and I used these figures to make my standard bearers.  The standards themselves are quite nice, but they are spindly, and I always worried about snapping the flags poles or the tassels that come with them. These figures went together pretty easily.  The nco's have their sashes on the left (facing the figure) and the officers have their sashes on the right.

This left the remaining nco's and officers.  You can choose to create your sergeants with a musket or a half pike.  My choice was the latter in order to make them stand out.  Again, I was very cautious cutting the half pike out to avoid breakage. You also have a choice of right arms (facing the figure,) either across the body or at his side.  I chose the latter.  For the officers the choice is mostly regarding the sword arm.  The sword arm can be urging the troops on or at attention.  I decided to make one of each.
Nco with halfpike, more assembly to come.
Sergeants with half-pike, the finished product.
Completed officer figures.
I've assembled twelve figures.  I won't say it's been easy, but it's not difficult either.  It simply requires some patience, and it is imperative to learn while you're working.  Careful with the glue, and some tweezers might help.  There are only a couple of times I felt like Edward Scissorhands.

Next up the kneeling and striding figures which require some additional work.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Reduction of Fort Powell

Today the Truants met in Tacoma for an Ironclads game.  I decided to build a scenario around the aftermath of Mobile Bay.  It's a semi-historical scenario centered on the reduction of Fort Powell near the southern entrance to the massive bay.
Rhode Island trading shots with Fort Powell.  Rhode Island suffered considerable damage including a level 5 fire, which Dean extinguished just before the ship exploded.
I designed the scenario for five players, and as luck would have it we had six, but that worked out fine.  The Union players, Mark, Dean and Chris had a difficult job.  They had two missions to pull of successfully.  They had three wooden vessels, a sloop and two small 90 day gunboats returning from a mine clearing operation who needed to make it off the south edge of the board, some 64" away.  They also had the monitor Chickasaw, the captured Confederate ram, and wooden vessel Rhode Island that were pounding away on Fort Powell, a brick fort with eight guns.

Confederate forces consisting of the ironclad ram Nashville, the semi-engined Tuscaloosa, and the gunboat Morgan appeared on the north board edge at daybreak, not far behind the retreating minesweepers.  These were run by Scott, Bruce, and Tom respectively. Tuscaloosa immediately began firing on the trailing 90 day gunboat, Huron, and set her afire.  Chris was able to do little as the other two vessels also began effectively shelling her.  Huron caught fire and on turn three sank. The other two wooden vessels also struggled.  Towing small boats that served as minesweepers, Dean and Chris had to decide whether or not to cast them adrift to increase their speed, and hence sacrificing victory points.
Chippewa is madly burning, while the ram Nashville races toward Kearsarge

The same view from a different angle.

With the wooden vessels in danger of being rapidly overrun, Mark, commanding the Union ironclads, chose to pound the fort circling it in a clockwise fashion and effectively silencing Powell's guns as he traveled.  The scenario rules indicated the fort would surrender when six guns were knocked out or their crews killed. Unfortunately his direction of travel took him away from the minesweepers.
Union ironclads are beginning to peek around the corner of Fort Powell.  Nashville is visible in the background

Nashville is headed toward a ram with Kearsarge.  Kearsarge avoided the ram, but the two ships collided with both suffering damage.

 Chris's second 90 day gunboat, Chippewa suffered a fate very like Huron's.  Starting with a small fire, the little vessel quickly absorbed all the Confederates' attention and it sank in a few turns.  Chris had a generally bad day with lousy luck shooting and absorbing fire. Kearsarge, the larger sloop, began to lose guns,  suffered critical steering hits, and just missed being rammed by the massive Nashville. Things looked very bad for the Union minesweepers.

 At about this time, with the fort looking largely subdued, the the monitor Chickasaw emerged from the shelter of the fort and began lobbing 11 inch shells at Morgan.  With the wooden gunboat beginning to take serious damage we agreed to end the game and tally up the losses.

 The Union agreed the wooden minesweepers were likely lost.  The Confederates conceded the fort would surrender and the Morgan probably lost as well.  The ironclads could safely retire.  The fort also did significant damage to Rhode Island, setting her seriously ablaze and doing considerable damage before forcing her to withdraw.  With that, all recognized a minor Confederate victory.

 Though all struggled with the rules at first, everyone eventually seemed to get the hang of it.  However, this may be my last Ironclads game.  I'm looking forward to Sail and Steam Navies and determining whether it is a useful substitute.

I'll be away most of this week in Ellensburg for journalism camp.  Hope to reconnect when I get back.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

My Ironclad gamble: Sail and Steam Navies

I've probably gotten more use out of ACW ironclad miniatures than any of my other projects.  I began with the old Lyzard Grin 1/1200 ships by Richard Houston, and immediately began buying 1/600 ships from Thoroughbred when they became available.

 My Lyzard's Grin ships are long gone, and I have a fairly sizable collection of 1/600 ships.  A lot of Toby Barrett's fine Thoroughbred vessels, some of the more serviceable Peter Pig ships, though I'm pretty choosey about those I purchased.  I also have some hulls for some of the Bay Area Yards, though I haven't been adventurous enough to do anything with them.  Love their accessories though. I also acquired some wonderful scratchbuilt miniatures from Larry Enoch

 Coming up on my birthday next week, and because I'll be teaching in Ellensburg on the actual day, the family all got together last weekend to celebrate my b-day along with daughter-in-law Michelle's.  I received some cash and decided to make a couple of ironclad investments. I ordered the Sail and Steam Navies rules from Bay Area Yards along with the USS Mississippi kit I mentioned in an earlier post.
Peter Pig fort with Thoroughbred guns

Larry Enoch's scratchbuilt U.S.S. Vanderbilt.  A beautiful model and a great ship to have in my collection
I've always played with the Ironclads rules, originally a board game published by Yaquinto in 1979.  It's a set of rules I've always enjoyed.  I have a couple sets of Ironclads, the original Yaquinto game and Expansion rules from the 70's and the Excalibur reprint.  They aren't in the best condition and I would love to replace them.  I've held off however, because Mr. Barrett, whose work I admire and whom I consider a long-distance soulmate owns the rights to the game and committed  to creating  miniatures version of the game with some computer managed features including shipcards and game sheets. I am well into the second decade of waiting.
U.S.S. Kearsarge. by Thoroughbred.  One of my few fully rigged ships
Scratchbuilt Niagara, again by Larry Enoch.  I should rig this bugger too.  An enormous ship; at one time the largest wooden vessel in the world.
Many years ago David Sullivan and I fiddled with the rules to make a miniature game sans hexes.  This was especially important with the larger vessels due to scale issues and allowing hexless maneuvers.  David created turning circles to represent shorter and longer turning radii.  We agreed to increase gun ranges to better represent scale, and converted hexes to inches.  There are so many things I like about these rules.  The fire resolution is great, matching real gun types with possible/probable armor ratings.  The hit location and damage resolution are time consuming but seem more realistic than rules that tend to create generic guns and armors.  Admittedly the rules work less well for large fleet actions, but honestly I find Mobile Bay and New Orleans to be a little cliche anyway.
Thoroughbred's Scorpion.  At one time destined to be North Carolina

Thoroughbred Tennessee.  After its capture at Mobile in August  1864, the Tennessee joined the Union Navy two weeks later.
One last scratchbuilt example.  The Rhode Island was a member of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron

We made these changes to the rules with knowledge and hope that we would have a true miniatures version of these rules. With all due respect to Toby, I've decided to head in a different direction.  My sense is that Sail and Steam Navies is similar to Ironclads, with all the features I hoped in e-version of the latter would have.  Computer generated ship cards will make game prep easier and the game should be easier to run at cons. I anxiously await delivery