Monday, September 26, 2011

The Mississippi Project: the Why and Wherefores

I don't know if gamer friends understand me.  Sometimes I feel they think I choose projects just to see how weird I can be.  (Of course, I played Bruce Meyer's Jurassic Reich game, and there ain't much weirder than that.  Fun but weird.)  What usually draws me in is my interest in historical circumstances.  The Lewis and Clark project rose out of my interest in the expedition, but also that Spain actually did make an effort to intercept the Captains and their charges.  My latest project I'll simply call my Mississippi Project.  Again, another hypothetical conflict between the United States and Spain, but based very much on historical circumstances.

1794 map of the southern United States showing border with Spanish territories.  Spain rightly feared American encroachment in Spanish possessions, particularly an effort to wrest New Orleans from their control.
Between 1797 and 1807, U.S. and Spanish armies faced off several times over the official borders between the upstart, covetous Americans and the fading Spanish empire.  In several cases the U.S. government rushed elements of its tiny regular forces to enforce its claims.  At other times conflict could have been precipitated by frontier militias anxious to pry loose Spanish fingers from the Mississippi River chokepoint of New Orleans. The Burr Conspiracy of 1806 was just such a potential conflict. From Florida to Louisiana, from Texas to New Mexico (Spanish provinces, not states,) both sides provided ample provocations to raise the ire of the other.  The Lewis and Clark expedition and  Zebulon Pike's exploring party, both organized and equipped by the U.S. military, were considered tests that had to be met to sustain the Spanish empire in America at the same time the Americans extended their imperial aspirations across the continent.

This project will also weave together two other semi-projects.  When they first became available I bought some of the Old Glory Wayne's Legion figures and didn't really do much with them.  It didn't help that the light infantry figures were incorrect and I wasn't sold on Darryl Smith's Our Moccasins Trickled Blood rules.  Eventually I painted up some of the figures for Virginia militia in the War of 1812 and others for Lewis and Clark.  This project will allow me to paint all my remaining Wayne's Legion figures in the 1796 pattern uniform, but I'll also commit to playing all three periods.  I can do actions from the Fallen Timbers campaign, it keeps Lewis and Clark alive but no longer a one trick pony affair. And then there is the war of nerves between the U.S. and Spain in which American uniforms change drastically, but I'm not sweating it (and nobody makes them anyway

The really nice part of this project is that it's already partly completed.  The Spanish troops are all painted except for a pair of irregular cavalry units and some guns and gunners.  I do need to paint more Americans but not that many.  My Indians are all finished and desperate to be let out of their box. I would like to buy another 30 of the wonderful Perry Southern militia figures from their AWI range, but otherwise I own all the figs.

In posts that follow I'll share some of the troop types and provide pics of completed units.  I'll also share my ideas for a mini-campaign I have percolating, as well as sources in case something like this piques your own interest.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fix Bayonets: My first game of Sail and Steam Navies

Today was the second installment of Fix Bayonets.  Held at historic Fort Steilacoom, it's a nice little gathering at a great location.

I hosted a small ACW naval game using the Sail and Steam Navies rules I bought last month.  While I'd read the rules pretty thoroughly it was the first game I'd actually played.  I chose a scenario I'd run before with Ironclads featuring the large Union wooden vessels Niagara and Vanderbilt intercepting the Stonewall with wooden consorts in stormy conditions headed for Havana.
Confederate fleet enters the board, looking something like a hydroplane race.  From top:  Texas (Thoroughbred Alabama), Bat (Peter Pig blockade runner), Thoroughbred Stonewall, scratchbuilt blockade runner masquerading as Tuscaloosa after I left my actual miniature at home! Dopey me.
The Union squadron.  From top: scratchbuilt Niagara, Thoroughbred Kearsarge, and scratchbuilt Vanderbilt.  All scratchbuilt ships by Larry Enoch.

I hadn't counted on the small table (6' X 5'), which was kind of cozy for 1/600 scale, but due to the scenario conditions it worked out-visibility and movement were both reduced to 42"

There are some real advantages to S&SN.  The rules can be played off the ship cards and a one page quick sheet.  At least in theory.  The ship cards are color coded and are provided as part of the rules package that come in a 535 page .pdf on a CD-ROM.  The ships are rated throughout the war, so many have more than one card.  Because the game is basically played on the ship cards, it's important to have the capacity to print them out in color, which can be an expensive proposition.  I printed out the cards I needed and then laminated them with my handy home laminator.
This single exchange of broadsides between Tuscaloosa and Vanderbilt resulted in a magazine explosion and plunge to the bottom for the tiny Confederate ship.
Far in the background, the sloop Niagara is pounding the Texas to splinters, while the Kearsarge and Stonewall prepare for a one sided exchange.

Stonewall has sailed through her Union adversaries and isn't looking back.  On to Havana and victory.
The game itself is somewhat less important as I was trying to to get a handle on the rules and especially to see if the players liked them.   Nevertheless, a quick blow by blow is in order.  The Confederates entered the table somewhat the worse for wear due to storm damage.  The Stonewall, accompanied by the steamers Texas (freshly escaped from a French shipyard and fitted out in the Azores), the Tuscaloosa, and the blockade runner ran headlong into the open arms of the an American squadron searching for the French-built vessels.  The super-sloop Niagara, Cornelius Vanderbilt's armed steamship Vanderbilt, and the Kearsarge.
USS Kearsarge ignominiously ramming USS Vanderbilt.  Kearsarge, with her steering destroyed, had little choice in the matter.
 The game opened outside of the limited visibility, due to rain and fog.  Speed was reduced by 1/3, and gunnery suffered a minus due to high seas.  On turn two that changed as Niagara devastated Texas with her massive broadside.  Kearsarge and Niagara continued pounding Texas, while the diminutive Tuscaloosa tangled with the massive Vanderbilt.  Meanwhile Bat and Stonewall seemed to slip through the Union net.  Stonewall connected once with her massive 12 inch Armstrong rifle, tearing through Kearsarge, causing a boiler explosion, damaging steering and killing crew.  This bit of good fortune did not prevent Tuscaloosa from suffering a mortal magazine explosion after a one sided exchange with VanderbiltKearsarge, out of control, eventually collided with Vanderbilt, nearly sinking in the process, while Bat and Stonewall steamed for Havana--only to be interned and sold by the U.S. Navy.  Based on the scenario rules, the Confederates won.

I found the rules to be more playable than Ironclads without much loss of authenticity.  There are a couple of clarifications needed to some language-as with all rules. Everyone liked the simple order writing requirements.  Some differences in the game really did unbalance the game.  In Ironclads, Niagara's 150 pdr. Parrotts and 11 inch smoothbores would fire every other turn, as would Stonewall's Armstrong rifle.  In this game only monitor guns fire every other turn.  I truly don't have a problem with this but it made Niagara the grim reaper against wooden ships.  However, against armored Stonewall, hits pretty much pinged off with little opportunity to do serious damage. 

I'm anxious to try a bit more evenly balanced game in the near future.  I think Sail and Steam Navies is a winner.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Do Overs

I don't know about you, but I'm contemplating re-painting some figures.  Twenty years ago I painted in a completely different style.  I was a paint stainer.  It was a style I learned from a friend of mine, Bill Stewart.  He was, and remains very good at it, is highly productive with this technique, and continues to produce lots of beautiful  figures with it.  I had some success with that technique, but I also produced some very light colored figures I no longer like, and I'm thinking about repainting them.
The two figures in the middle are painted for the Legion system in the Fallen Timbers campaign.  The two outside figures are in the later 1797 regulations.  The figure on the right is in the all-blue winter dress.
With the Jacobites and their enemies finished, I'm beginning work on my next project-my hypothetical war on the Mississippi River between the U.S. and Spain.  Many of the American figures will come from the Old Glory  Mad Anthony Wayne range.  I painted figures for the Fallen Timbers campaign many years ago, staining them.  Today my technique is more of a block color with highlighting way of painting.  I like it better because the colors look more, well, colorful.  I've include some of my old figures, along with some of my newer figures from my Lewis and Clark project as comparison. The other reason for re-painting was that the U.S. uniform regulations changed in 1796 with the reorganization of the Legion of the United States and the end of its odd color-coded style.  With the reorganization of the Legions into four regiments, the army retained many of the features of the previous uniform, but with simple red facings for all units, the colored bands on the round hat were eleminated, and everyone had a black bearskin crest on their headgear, rather than white for some.

These are the same uniforms the Lewis and Clark Expedition wore on dress occasions, and were in service from 1796-1804, and the figures could do double-duty for L and C and my Mississippi campaign.  So I'm likely going to do the repaint.  The alternative would be to buy more of the Anthony Wayne figures.  To be truthful, I have a lot of these figures painted, together with bazillions of OG Woodland Indians, but I've never played a game with them.  They've lived in their box for years!  That is a shame.  With lots of excitement about my project, which could become a nice weekend mini-campaign, I'm leaning toward the repaint.

I've also included a poll.  The question is would you consider re-painting some of your figures?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Moving Along: Hallmark Jacobites finished.

Last night I finished painting flags for five units to put the finishing touches on my Hallmark Jacobites.
The Highland Army

This has been a difficult project to struggle through.  For one thing, I know little about the period-always a little dangerous-and was attracted more to the figures than anything else.  As I've said before, the entire range-Highlanders, League of August figures, and extensive baggage and fortifications-are very nice.  They never practiced the steroid induced figure creep of other 15mm ranges, but despite their small size retain considerable detail and character. 
Five of the English Battalions I've painted.  Mostly the Scots Brigade

The Scots Brigade with their commander

Militia Horse
The Highland center with Viscount Dundee

Right flank of the Highlanders
Left flank of the Highlanders.  Not super close, but you do get an idea of the figure quality
Attracted to the Battle of Killiecrankie, I acquired more figures than I needed, but painted them all anyway. About 375 figures total with most painted this summer.

For the Highlanders I have eight warbands.  In the rules we'll play King's War, they have no shooters and are superior melee troops. They also have the a single light gun, a small troop of horse and the Viscount Dundee.  The Scots are only allowed a single leader according to the special rules.

 The English have ten battalions including two Scots units in plaid and bonnets.  I painted the Scots Brigade from Holland-they're the ones with the cool flags.  In addition they have three light guns and two small units of militia horse. They have one mounted leader, a couple of dismounted commanders, and some grenadiers.

 I'm anxious to try out the rules to see if they work.  Written locally, the rules are really intended for the pike and shot era, but this may call for something a little more period specific.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Logging Off TMP

I've been a member on The Miniatures Page since 2002, supporting and not supporting, but I've decided to part company with that forum.  Don't get me wrong, I believe it's a useful resource for our niche hobby, but times change, and so did TMP

The past few years have kept me busy and I've spent less time there with more commitments required to school.  However, there were more boards and more non-miniature related shenanigans going on which I found annoying.  Some of them I enjoyed-any talk about music or movies usually gets me blathering.  But there also seemed to be more of an edge to the posting, more needless nastiness that seemed unwarranted.  Sort of like American politics without the destruct button.

 The last straw for me, however was the harassment of a member through polls and in posts that I felt was completely unwarranted.  When the actions continued and reached their inevitable and ugly climax, I expressed my views in the forums and contacted the editor directly.  It was clear that this behavior of baiting and harassment was okay, and that was all I needed to be persuaded my time at TMP was over.

TMP wasn't always this way.  I've watched the editor ban others who were a pain.  I've seen him ban those who harassed him.  I've always believed him to be a fair and considerate person, but this latest issue leaves me with a different view. I've been a school teacher too long to condone such behavior with my support.  We're done here.

Note:  I've decided to backtrack on my decision to boycott TMP just a bit.  I have determined to post on blogs of war when I have something of significance to share, but I'm staying out of the forums.