Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yes, There's Magic in the Air

It's February 27th and there is snow on the ground outside my little house.  It's been a week of winter.  Though I've managed to get some figures painted while avoiding burst pipes sliding on the ice, the late for Puget Sound snow has been weird.  But today, February 27th marks the beginning of my favorite time of year--baseball season.  The M's play the Padres, who share their training facilities in the Peoria, AZ, in their annual charity game before opening the Cactus League season in the coming week.  Better still, it's on the radio.  So, my big plans to spend the morning at work correcting assignments will take a bit of hit, as I only work a couple of hours instead of three. Ball game is on at noon, and I'll be painting a Hasslefree figure as well as my languishing unit of British loyalists while listening to Rick Rizzs and the boys.

Ahhhhh, I love baseball.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The PT Dockyard Sale

I haven't bought any new stuff for my WWII or modern coastal fleets in a while.  I get a lot of my toys from PT Dockyard in New York.  Dave Gregory's business fills a nice little niche in the hobby, offering vessels from WWI, WII and the modern era.  He specializes in coastal vessels for the "narrow seas" but also has his Shangri-la line of 1/1200 ships of might-have-beens, including a what if modernization of the armored cruiser Seattle that is quite spiff. Gregory is a super vendor, one you can always feel safe doing business with.  The models aren't always a snap to assemble, but they are quite nice.
PT Dockyard vessels from the med.  An Italian torpedo boat leads escorts into battle with British and Americans on the narrow seas.

Sometimes it gets quiet around PT Dockyard, and I get a little e-mail from Dave announcing new releases or some short term deal.  He sent off an e-mail last week announcing a 15% off sale.  Good deal, and last night I took advantage of it.  I ordered three Fairmile B MGB's and a re-released model of an American motor gunboat on a subchaser hull.  It keeps alive my commitment to some day doing the Raid on St. Nazaire and adds a valuable little piece to my American coastal fleet.

Good bye American Eagles

We got the word a couple of weeks ago that American Eagles in Seattle would be closing its doors. That's too bad, not because Eagles was a big loss to the gaming world--it's not.  I think it's just symbolic of what seems to be happening to hobbies like miniature gaming, plastic modeling and model railroading.  These are hobbies that seem to have generational appeal and unfortunately the generation of enthusiasts is slipping away.
American Eagles in Lake City.  Currently holding a closing business sale, its last day is April 9th.

I'm not going to bash younger people for their interest in video games or other interests.  Nor will I bark at those of my age for not doing more to interest kids in their prized interests.  I've been out there and recruited and it's really hard.  I feel for people like my father, who is a lifelong Freemason, and represents generations of Masonic members, but couldn't draw me in.  My generation walked away from service organizations like the Elks, Lions, and Kiwanis in droves, and now for whatever reason, our interests too may be doomed to the utter fringes of hobby interests.

American Eagles will be missed.  I was a frequent visitor in the late 70's and early 80's.  Though I never found it to be the mecca for gaming supplies, I was also forgiving of this failure.  As miniature lines grew, Mike Edwards simply couldn't stock 'em all.  Like many of my friends, I ordered from Modeler's Mart and other catalog operations.  Still I bought what I could there.  Rules, books, the Courier, were all frequent pickups on the way home from my job in Crown Hill.  For a while we held monthly game days at the Ballard store.  But the gentrification of Ballard forced the move, and Mike's retirement pointed toward the end for AE.  It was just too far out of the way for me down here. What the move didn't kill, the internet did.
Seattle Times photo of George Edwards contemplating.  Like me he's probably wondering where the next axe will fall.
In the  South Puget Sound community I worry about losing those bricks and mortar stores.  Where can we get simple hobby items, the foundation of what we do like, CA glue, Testor's spray paint (which I use for primer) and Dullcoat, sheet styrene without having to find an online source, or resort to craft shop giants like Jo-Ann's and Michaels which are completely under resourced.  We see this in the shrinking number of paint lines.  While miniature ranges have exploded and we have more choices than ever, those fundamental building blocks are more difficult to come by.  The last hobby shop in Puyallup closed nearly a decade ago.  The Hobbytown store in Parkland, a delightful shop catering to RC aircraft enthusiasts, where I can get styrene, brass wire and tubing, and CA glue is frightfully quiet and located on a recovering Garfield St.

 In any case I wish George Edwards well.  There was a great article on the closing of American Eagles in the Seattle Times this morning.  I don't believe he could have done more than he did, and while I'm sorry to see the shop go, I understand.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Field Trip: Dick Blick's on Capitol Hill

In my February 10th post I lamented the condition of my brush collection and the difficulty of getting replacements.  I also commented about the opening of the region's first Dick Blick art supply store on Capitol Hill in Seattle.

I've been scheming for a way to get up there, but I really needed another reason to drive the 35 miles or so.  Wednesday was the end of our newspaper cycle, and I usually pick up our finished product in South Seattle on Thursday night.  Because this is a four day weekend for me, I decided to put off driving to Pacific Publishing on a Thursday night and head up this morning.  Casey and I decided we'd go out for breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe (highly recommended) pick up the JagWire and check out some neighborhoods in Seattle as Casey looks for a place to move.  Capitol Hill is on his list, so we agreed to stop by the big Dick's.

We picked up the paper, grabbed some good eats and headed over toward Broadway.  After some creative parking solutions we walked in and I immediately began searching the brush aisle.  They did indeed have my Master Kolinsky brushes and on sale 50% off.  The only problem is they don't stock all brush sizes, so the Number 1's that I really needed weren't available.  They did, however, have 0's and 00's and 50% off is 50% off so did grab an 0.  Because I really did need some 1's I looked really hard at what they had.  The brush selection was super, though there really wasn't much in that size.  I picked up a couple of Da Vinci 1's, which unfortunately weren't 50% off and also used synthetic bristles.

Two Da Vinci Cosmotop No. 1's flank a Blick Master Kolinsky 0 from Dick Blick's Art Supply.  Located at 1600 Broadway across the street from Seattle Central Community College.
Aside from that we didn't spend much time.  I did ask about the Master Kolinsky 1's which could be special ordered, but I didn't feel the need.  They also showed me their behind the counter collection of Windsor and Newton series 7's, also Kolinsky brushes, but they demanded Casey as collateral.  I offered, but he refused.  Honestly, I don't have as good a result with the W and N brushes, so Casey made a good choice. There was one upside.  Like all vendors, they offered to make me a preferred customer.  When I asked if there was a cost, the said not if I was a teacher or student.  Bonus.  10% off my purchase.

I didn't look at anything else, no paint or acrylic gels.  It was great to go to a real art house with real art supplies as opposed to Michael's or JoAnn's. It was a worthwhile trip.

Time to 'Fess Up

I have done a much better job of posting on the blog since December, but I haven't been really good with my counting stats--figures painted and figures purchased.  That's not quite true either, I do update my painted stats regularly, but I haven't included my figures purchased stuff.

I really do try to keep purchases to a minimum.  Like you, I just have too many unpainted figures for too many unpainted projects in my drawers of shame.  My chief culprits are the American Revolution and the Hundred Years War, but I have lots of other figures for lots of other projects.  So, I make it point to try to only buy figures that round out units I need for a specific game, and try to avoid buying lots of other figures that will sit for years waiting for brush to apply paint.  I've kind of done that-sort of-almost.

I've made two figure purchases since the first of the year.  The first was to RAFM for some of their Martians.  I needed a couple of figures to finish out a unit, and, being a firm believer one can never order just two figures no matter the excuse, I added another unit too to make my order a still paltry, but more acceptable thirteen figures.  Have I painted any of the thirteen?   No, but they are sitting on my painting table primed and very much on my to do list

My other order was to the where all Perry figures worth having live.  Son Casey gifted his mom and I each 60 bucks when he got a big bonus from his employer and I combined that with thirty five or so simoleans I'd stashed away for a future order.  I could get some serious stuff with that much cash, and I really wanted some limbers and wagons for my AWI projects, particularly Hobkirk's Hill where an encampment, artillery pieces and transport was really important.  So I did order a couple of the Perry two-horse limbers, and a powder wagon.  It would have been fine to stop right there and reinvest the leftovers in paint brushes, but I just couldn't help myself, and I spent the rest too.  I snapped up two packs of the very nice Lee's Legion foot, which I'll eventually need for Eutaw Springs.  I had just enough left over to pick up the Indian Cavalry Command figures from the Sudan range--just what I need for one of my Martian units I've got a-building in my mind.  I have all the remaining figures for the unit--just need a commander.

 There, I've come clean.  Do you have any purchases to confess?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Look Ahead

It's a short look ahead.  Mostly to the weekend.  Because of President's Day and the extra Friday the district provides us, I've got a four day mid-winter break holiday coming up in a couple of days. What do I have planned.  I remember the days when we'd run to Whistler or stay in Seattle, leave the house for a few days. Well, we're broke, so that's not going to happen this weekend. 

What better to do than watch movies and paint figures this weekend?  Lorri's mom gave me the entire collection of Harry Potter vids, so I could check those out.  I don't recall what's in the old Netflix queue.  I dunno, I have plenty to watch.  I also have some painting to do.  I have eight or nine Hasslefree miniatures I need to paint.  I should have role-playing this Saturday so they need to get done--plus I need to work on my Serenity adventure. 

Looking father out, those sixteen semi-painted Perry AWI guys are calling my name and I really need them for Hobkirk's Hill.  And cogs, more cogs, I need lots of cogs, though not quite as many as I painted for the English. 

In any case, I'm on deadline right this very minute, so I could use a break.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cogs: The English Fleet

Edward III's cog Thomas lead's the English fleet to Sluys

Hoo boy,

I've finished my English fleet for the Sluys game.  I haven't talked too much about the rules or the scenario, but it's based on one laid out in David Manley's Medieval Fleet Action Rules.  I don't know if David has plans to publish these, but I've reviewed them and I like them a lot.  In the rules he provides an order of battle for Sluys.  The rules are simple.  There is an artillery fire phase, a missile (arrow) fire phase, and a boarding/hand to hand phase.  All the phases are adjudicated a la DBA, with a fighting factor combined with a die roll.  If your die roll exceeds that of your opponent that's good.  If your die roll doubles that of your opponent, it's very good.

 The scenario calls for 22 English cogs, plus Edward III's flagship Thomas, which can be seen leading the parade.  I painted far more cogs than called for--there are 43 of them out there.  The only thing I want to do is to put together a cannon, so one model can be cannon armed per the scenario.  You can see the large, medium and small sized cogs.
Another view of the English fleet

This is a project I'm really proud of.  My goal was to hand make everything, and I've succeeded.  I'm really not much of a scratchbuilder, as any of my friends can tell you.  The minis are far from perfect, but even so, they work.  My next big challenge is to figure out how to come up with a workable galley, though I have some ideas.
All 43 of my English cogs

 The project is only half completed at this point.  There is a small Flemish fleet with five small cogs, and 28 French fleet.

 The English decisively won Sluys, but it wasn't a walkover.  They fought all day and into the night and the French casualties were horrendous, as you could imagine.  The English cleared the decks with arrow fire and then fought hand to hand, throwing the losers, in armor overboard.  Not a good battle to lose.  However the scenario is very well constructed and poses some real problems for the English to resolve.  My hats off to David.  I've admired his work for years and I really like this scenario. 

Friday night at Enfilade.  Be there or be square.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Don't you hate it . . .

That great brushes are so hard to come by of course.  For the past five or six years I've bought Dick Blick's Master Kolinsky sable brushes.  They are really good brushes that last about a year before I wear 'em out.  I take pretty good care of them but eventually the bristles start to shed a bit, and the points get uneven.  I know, others claim to make them last for years and years, but I ride 'em too hard. 

Love the brushes, but the cost and getting them make me a bit crazy.  When I began buying brushes from Dick Blick, they cost a little less than five dollars a pop on the web.  Not a bad deal.  Unfortunately the price has skyrocketed to just under ten dollars, though one can occasionally get them much cheaper if the big Blick is running sale, which is most of the time.  What really makes me crazy is the shipping cost.  I never order fewer than five or six brushes because they're shipped in a little padded envelope and the shipping is ten bucks!! My weighty miniatures from the Warstore only costs six dollars and they are fast and well padded for the journey.

However, I did see that Dick Blick opened an art supply shop in Seattle on Broadway, so I'll have to check'em out.  I'll bet I can get the brushes alright, but they'll cost an arm and a leg.  What I save in shipping I'd lose in gas.  We'll see.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Poll Closed: Woo Hoo!

The poll was really fun.  I was always tracking it, so if you took the time to post your choices thanks.  I look forward to more polls.

It's also influenced my thinking for the convention.  So it looks like I'll go with:
  1. Sluys on Friday night using David Manley's DBA-based Medieval Fleet Action rules
  2. Hobkirk's Hill Saturday night using Regimental Fire and Fury
  3. Closing Wilmington Sunday using the Ironclads rules.  
It will be a spring time of playtesting, and I may be forced to do more solo efforts as I work the games out.  Of the three Sluys will require the most work.

 Cog Update--I have twenty two cogs a building including Edward III's flagship the Thomas.  I should have them done this weekend if not sooner.  However I do start deadline again tomorrow, which is a deterrent to serious painting progress. When these are finished I'll have 43 painted English cogs at a cost of less than twenty bucks.  Not bad.

Monday, February 07, 2011

In My Dreams

Do you ever pass the time thinking about projects you'd love to do if you had unlimited abilities, time, money, and creativity?  I do, often in the car driving home from school.  I only drive about two and a half miles, so they're fleeting thoughts.  I gave some thought to cool movie scenes I'd like to do, so here is my list and commentary:

Khartoum-The Final Assault.  Khartoum with Charlton Heston and Lawrence Olivier is one of my favorite movies and I have fond memories of my parents taking me to see it in the theater.  It would be awesome to game the final assault with the city garrison diminished by starvation and dervishes everywhere.  It would be good.
One boom among many
 The Lighthorsemen-Desert assault on Beersheba.  This probably wouldn't game very well, but skazillions of Australian light horse charging entrenchments and into the city would be so cool.  It sure looked great in the movie.  Of course my itchin' to do this is complicated by the fact that my old VHS copy of the movie doesn't play on my DVD player and a region 1 DVD is simply not available-legally. Crap.

That this movie is unavailable in the States is an incredible injustice.

 April Morning-Retreat from Concord.  Yeah, this is an old hard to find Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on the Howard Fast novel.  It's at least twenty five years old. It could be a great skirmish game or Brother against Brother game.  Concord is an important action at the beginning of the AWI, equally hazardous to both sides.  It could be an interesting game.
This 1988 movie has a great cast with Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Urich, Rip Torn, a young Chad Lowe, and Susan Blakely

Return of the King-Battle of the Pelennor Fields.  I actually don't much care for the movie version of this, but it's one of the three battles I've always wanted to do-Cowpens and Agincourt being the other two. Tolkien's description of the action is so interesting.  No army of the dead in book, but lots of Oliphaunts.  It's a 15mm game for sure with lots of Riders of Rohan, Orcs and men of Harad.
Eomer gets ready to ride to ruin.

Henry V (Branagh)-Battle of Agincourt.  I love this movie.  I love everything about this movie.  It's so much better than the Olivier movie.  I've sort of surrendered Agincourt to Chris Craft, and I'm more focused on Poitiers-someday.
Edward the Duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk, Sir Richard Kikely, Davy Gam Equire; None else of name; and of all othermen but five and twenty.  O God thy arm was near.

The Wind and Lion-Desert Fort.  I still love this movie too.  Candace Bergen, Sean Connery and Ken Kanaly trying to chop up the German nasties from the inside, while the Riffians attack the fort from the outside.  Come on, admit it you love the dueling artillery pieces too.  Sword and the Flame, it was made for Sword and the Flame.
President Roosevelt promised the Raisuli

The Natural--Knights vs. Pirates.  Little did you know I already have three painted Reviresco teams and two unpainted ones in my drawers of shame.  I love this movie, and the final scenes are so great. Don't know about scratch-building Knight's Field though. 

Saville Slugger's rain of destruction, courtesy of Roy Hobbs

The Patriot--Ha ha!! Fooled ya.  I hate this movie.  

Oh well, back to the cogs.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Block 20 Cogs

This is the next dozen cogs I completed tonight.  The chief difference from the earlier batch is that the fighting platforms are facing in the proper direction.  There are also a couple that are longer.  One got pretty thin which left a little too much overhang on the fighting platforms.  My goal is to create a kind of tubby effect and the long, skinny guy looks like a cog on a diet.

I'm going to do one more batch of cogs, ten or so, including some longer, chubbier ones.  I hope to have them done next week. I've run out of my templates for fighting platforms, so that will take a bit more time.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Enfilade: What to do?

Enfilade is still a ways off, but I need a plan for which games to host.  I have six games I'm considering, and unfortunately I can only manage three at most due to my responsibilities as convention director.  I've posted a little poll to allow you, my faithful readers, to guide my thinking.  No guarantees of course, but I'm interested to hear what you're thinking.
  1. Gold Cup Hydroplane racing-These are with our home grown hydroplane racing rules, Thunderboats. It's a pretty long game and probably could only be run on Sunday morning.  This is an oddball game, but the boat racing game has a lot of faithful followers and generates a fair amount of enthusiasm.  Usually I run a design the boat/driver race instead of a historical game, but both have their proponents.  
  2. Hobkirk's Hill-This little battle is a perfect size for Regimental Fire and Fury with the AWI expansion.  I love Fire and Fury.  I love the AWI in the south.  The only problem is there isn't much flash here.  The terrain is kind of a snooze and the Americans have to have some bad luck in order for things to break right for the Brits. 
  3. Sluys-This would require a lot of work to get ready for an end of May convention.  I have a fair number of cogs painted with more building (Block 20 cogs posted soon.)  I'd also need to figure out how to scratchbuild some galleys.  And what about the land representing the estuary?  Nevertheless I think everything is doable in enough time to play test a couple of times. 
  4. Closing Wilmington--Last summer I ran a couple of ACW naval games using Ironclads on a fictional battle to eliminate Confederate defenses on the Cape Fear River after the fall of Fort Fisher.  It's a fictional battle using naval forces in 1/600 and 6mm land forces.  I had fun with it, but it would still need some tweaking to make it work. 
  5. 1962 Air Strike on Cuba is loosely based on an air action that could have occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I am really intrigued by this event.  It would be built around air recon, an interception and ground attack.  We'd use the Airwar C21 rules which I am increasingly fond of.  It is a great convention set of rules. 
  6. Lewis and Clark is the same Arrest Captain Merryweather and his Followers scenario I've done before using the Brother against Brother rules.  These are much more appropriate for a convention setting than the Black Powder Battles I've used in the past. I take this game fairly personally because I'm the only person looney enough to do it therefore it must be fun or I become vaguely suicidal. 
The balloting is at the bottom of the page.  You're allowed to vote for more than one game, but please try to vote just once.  The links will take you to my previous posts on these games or projects so you can make an informed choice.