Sunday, October 07, 2012

So how many figures have you painted again?

I always set a goal in each calendar year to paint a certain number of figures.  I'm always hoping to buy far fewer figures than I paint so I can cut into my fairly substantial figure stocks.  I'm usually fairly fastidious about keeping track of the figures I buy and paint.

I have know idea exactly how many figures I've painted this year.  I also don't really know how many I bought.
Getting close to finished.  Old Glory British Marines from the War of 1812.  Decent but not brilliant casts.

Old Glory Men at Arms with shortened lances.  More very serviceable figures by Old Glory

There's a place for me to record all that stuff right in this here blog, but I've failed in my duty to myself.

Not the end of the world.  My blog shows just over 200 figures painted for the year.  I stopped recording about the end of June, just about time we left for Virginia.  Since that time, I've painted the following figures:

17 Wayne's Legion figures
24 Victrix British Light Infantry (War of 1812)
20 Old Glory Kentucky Mounted Rifles (Wayne's Legion range)
10 Mounted Archers
15 HYW Crossbowmen.

So that's about 86 figures.  Not bad.  My goal for each year is always to paint 400-600 figures in a calendar year.  I'm about 120 figures away from meeting the bottom end of that range.

That said, I'm painting pretty consistently every night.  At the present time I have two units primed and in progress.  I have twenty more French HYW men-at-arms cooking.  I also have sixteen British Royal Marines light infantry about a third done.  Both should be easily completed before the end of October.  Both are Old Glory figures.  I'm thinking I'll paint another twelve Marines as black soldiers of the Colonial Marines that arrived late to Bladensburg.

Between now and Enfilade my painting goals are pretty straightforward.  I really want to finish the vanguard at Poitiers.  That includes the Marshals' ten stands of mounted knights, plus the other stands of infantry-five bases of men at arms and seven bases of crossbowmen, plus some militia types.

I'd also like to complete a bunch of War of 1812 figures.  I'd like to finish my two smallish Marine units.  I have the Old Glory figures for these.  Not brilliant, but passable.  I also at least need to complete the two battalions of Baltimore militia that show up un-uniformed.  Ideally I'd also take a crack at one more Victrix British infantry battalion.  I started cleaning up one of these during the debate on Wednesday. (No I did not contemplate seppuku.)

More to come.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

September Days

I'm about to start my third week of school.  As my friend Doug noted, getting used to the schedule is a little bit difficult.  After a summer off, getting new students used to what I do is a little challenging.  Even so I seem to have a pretty good group of kids, so it should be a good year.

Old Glory Mounted Archers.  Pegasus large medieval cottage in the background.
That said, I've been working on a number of units this month.  First up are some mounted archers.  I bought 40 of these a few years back when I had an Old Glory Army membership.  These 28mm archers are pretty nice and relatively easy to paint. Unlike many Old Glory mounted figures, the riders fit their horses pretty well.  I've gotten to the point where I glue the riders to the horse before painting.  I don't know if it will work in every case, but I did for these figures.  I'll use these for semi-skirmish level games, so I didn't put them in any kind of fancy livery.  I figure scruffy figures for random encounters and town sackings would work best.

The second unit I painted was a crossbow unit.  There are ten stands of crossbows that go accompanied the vanguard at Poitiers.  I decided I didn't want them to be utterly boring, so swiped the pavises from my pack of Old Glory pavisiers and had at it.  These are pretty well equipped Genoese crossbowmen.  But I also determined I didn't want them to be just Genoese, so I decided two of the bases (six figures) would be the Italian mercenaries, and three of the bases would be city militia.  Thankfully, the Perry website shows some pavise colors for twelve different cities.  I settled on Soissons, with the large fleur de lys and the Meaux, with the red and green shield.  They were fun to paint and it added color and variety to the crossbowmen.
Line of crossbowmen.  Genoese, Soissons and Meaux from left to right.
I'm continuing to paint.  I have one more bag of Kentucky riflemen for my American-Spanish project.  I still have another thirty mounted men to paint, and that will finish up what I have until I get around to adding more infantry for both sides.  That's not at the top of my list at the moment.

I've actually got several more entries in the can to add.  I have a quick review of last week's Fix Bayonets get together, as well as some pictures of my first completed wooded terrain pieces.

Laura McCoy's plastic plant mats.

I've held off working on my woods bases because I want to add something more three dimensional than just my Woodland Scenics trees. Mark had some great plastic aquarium plants he ordered from Laura McCoy.  I don't quite know the name of Laura's business, but I do know I was really intrigued with Mark's collection of plants.  He sent off a pdf. catalog of Laura's stuff.  She has a wide variety of plants that come in many different heights from 4" to 24".  They come molded on to 5" X 5" mats, and in the 4" tall plants are 25 plants per mat.  The cost per mat is only $2.99, a bargain.  I ordered three different plant types: coral fern, linden and springeri, two mats of each.  There are many more to choose from, but I thought these were the best choices for a forest.

Very nice, very useful stuff. 
4" Linden

4" Ferns
4" Springeri
 If you have an interest in acquiring some of these goodies, send me a message.  Laura doesn't have a website.  However, I do have a nice PDF with color photos and descriptions.  She is very responsive to e-mail.  I received my order within four days.  Shipping costs are very reasonable.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Terrain making the Mark Waddington Way Part II: Rough Terrain

It' been a while since my first post on terrain making, and I've learned some lessons along the way.  When last we left our terrain bits in making they were slathered in spackle waiting to dry.

Lesson Number 1.  Don't slather your bits in spackle.  A couple of different reasons why.
  1. It's not necessary.  Just slather your shaped bits of pink foam, particularly where the foam joins the mdf shapes.  You do have to apply spackle to all the pink foam so it won't melt when you spray primer on it. 
  2. Slathering your mdf with spackle will warp it!!.  Just slightly, not quite pretzel-like.  Just enough to be embarassing.  Doh!
After your spackle is dry you have to sand it relatively smooth.  I just used medium grit sandpaper and that worked fine.  Of course if you haven't covered your shape with spackle it goes much faster.

When your sanding is done make sure you've completely dusted your shape.

Lesson Number 2. If you don't completely dust your shape for spackle debris the primer doesn't stick very well.

For the most part I did this pretty well, but there were still a couple of places I had to go back and fix.  I just used an old surplus house painting brush, but you could also vacuum it with a hand held or shop vac, whatever's handy.
Shapes are spray-primed and ready to go.  I've foolishly glued the rock material and it's awaiting its coat of Ceramcoat Burnt Umber.
The next step is to spray prime your shapes.  I used an inexpensive Rustoleum gray spray primer.  Any primer will do.  You may prefer white or black.  Mark suggested this was to prevent warping as you applied liberal quantities of PVA glue later in the process.  It was a little late for me, but that's okay.

While you're waiting for your primer to dry, it's important to start thinking about what you want to go on your pieces.  All those terrain bits you've been hanging on to for years should salvaged from wherever they've been hiding.  Go on.  Fish them out.  You've got time.  Found it? Good.  Those aquarium and terrarium bits you got from the pet store when it went out of business.  All the Michael's and Jo Ann's pieces you got after Christmas. 

That said, I didn't have as much as I thought I did, or I got rid of it.  (Dopey me.)
My Woodland Scenics rock mold sits in a Tupperware container filled with kitty litter.  This insures the mold will sit level and the bottom of the rocks will be more or less flat.
One thing I did get rid of that I truly regretted was my collection of rock molds from Woodland Scenics.  Mark showed me his while I was working with him at his place.  I'd had poor luck working with the lightweight hydrocal plaster WS sells, and in a fit of dumbness kept the hydrocal and tossed the rock molds.  It turns out there is better plaster, and Mark generously shared a bit with me.  I wish I could tell you exactly what it is, but it works pretty well.  I went back out to a Tacoma train shop and bought one set of molds that made rocks in usable sizes and prepared to cast stuff.There are about five or six different sets of molds.  I chose one that gave me the right mix of large and small rocks. Each mold costs about ten bucks and is re-usable.

After you've gathered up all your Woodland Scenics cool stuff, those rocks you picked out of your lawn because they looked better in your collection rather than flying through your front window when you were mowing and etc., it's time to start thinking.

My first two pieces are rough terrain pieces.  I wanted to use some cast rocks, and a little bit of scrubby vegetation.

My first step was to cast some rocks in the WS mold.  I'd already experimented with casting some with limited success. Part of the problem is making plaster of the right consistency.  Mark suggested something about the same thickness as a milkshake.  My initial response was "McDonalds or Frisko Freeze?" Somehow I didn't think he'd understand and just moved on.  It is tricky mixing the stuff up.  I did it in a small tupperware bowl large enough to supply mixture to all the rocks but not so big I couldn't easily pour it out. I also added the paint color I wanted the rocks to appear in.  I used a base Ceramcoat gray for one set of rocks and Ceramcoat golden brown for the other set. This is definitely worth the effort.

Lesson Number Three: Getting the rock mixture right is really hard.

I used a popsicle stick to stir with, and I was really conscientious about stirring the water and plaster very carefully so I'd get a nice milkshake-like consistency.  Unfortunately it seemed to settle so fast that the liquid was more like water than milkshake and at the end of the day I was left with lots of plaster crud at the bottom of my little tupperware doohicky. I was able to add a little water to my plaster sludge and thicken things up a bit but I wasn't really happy. My first set of rocks game out pretty weak and easily broken.  My second batch was a bit better, but I still had the crud problem. 

The  next thing to do is scout out your shapes.  What do you want to have on your pieces and where do you want it?  For rough terrain, start with some loose rock bits.  I decided that I would have some really small stones and some larger ones.  The small ones are like bits of ballast sized.  You can use lots of different items, so there are lots of choices.  I have a mixture of Woodland scenics railroad ballast in different weights.  You could use kitty litter.  I was stupid and chose some planting material my wife has for growing succulents (no don't ask.) I liked it because it had a really nice bunch of bits in it.  I just scooped some out her bag o' stuff.  Unfortunately it also had some dirt in it.  Not good. 

Choose where you want it on your shapes.  You might want one really big area of gravel, or a number of smaller patches.  It's really up to you.  I chose numerous small patches on my pieces.  Don't ask me why.  I also have a box of aquarium gravel, which are small stones, but much larger than ballast.

These are some examples of the material you can use as small stones on your pieces.  The upper left is the planting mix I swiped from my wife.  It wasn't very effective. The right hand box is aquarium gravel.  It's larger and I use them as individual stones. I use a mix of different grades of ballast from the bottom left.
 I glued the small bits and large bit using PVA glue for the aquarium glue, and Woodland Scenics cement for the smaller stuff.  The WS cement is just watered down PVA, and I only use it because I have it.  Let it dry.  

When everything is perfectly dry paint the whole thing using Ceramcoat Burnt Umber.  This is a very dark brown color.  It goes on pretty thick and you're really not trying to paint anything, you're just slopping on the paint. Let this dry.
Two kinds of paint I like to use are Burnt Umber on the left and Light Ivory for dry brushing on the right.
Lesson Number Four: Get some large inexpensive paint brushes just for your terrain making.  JoAnn's and Michaels both sell these.  Loew Cornell makes a bag of twelve brushes called Simply Art that are mostly sizable, round and flat, that cost $6.99.  I bought a smaller bunch of flat brushes from Le Jour that cost $2.99.  Often these are on sale, or if not you can use your weekly coupon for 40% off.

After your burnt umber slop job has tried, dry brush your gravelly bits with Ceramcoat Trail Tan.  I am bad at this.  I rarely dry brush anything and I'm not very comfortable with it, as I know many others are.  I do more washing and highlighting, so it's just not in my paint style. It took me some time to figure it out and I am resisting my tendency to not create a big enough contrast.  You decide. 
These are the types of glue I use.  PVA glue is just another name for white glue, or Elmer's glue.  Tacky glue is thicker and more viscous, great for sticking stuff like clump foliage or lichen.  I also use Woodland Scenics cement which is great, but it's just diluted PVA.  I even have a Woodland

Use a hot glue gun to glue down your cast stones. I just use your garden variety hot glue gun, nothing fancy.  Be sure to let it heat up enough so that it doesn't become a lukewarm glue gun, because that doesn't stick very well to anything.  Use lots of glue, it won't hurt anything.

Lesson Number Five: Your plaster stones are  porous and washing them doesn't help.  I thought my Golden Brown stones were a bit bland and needed some bands of color so I decided to wash them with some nice Autumn Brown.  This has a lot of red in it, and I thought it would add some nice reddish tones.  Wrong.  the stones just sucked that color right up, it didn't run onto the stone anywhere.  After being wrong about washing, I dry-brushed them with Ivory white and that worked better.

What else do you want in your rough terrain?  I have some clump foliage and lichen.  I also have some coarse turf and WS fine deciduous foliage I'll use for wooded pieces.  Mark has some very nice soft plastic pieces for aquariums/terrariums offered by Laura McCoy.  I've ordered some of these.  They are very reasonably priced and will go a long ways.  These should be glued with either the hot glue gun or a "tacky" form of PVA. 
I wanted to keep these pieces fairly desolate looking.  They are fairly two dimensional but that's okay. 
I call this piece my cookie.  I't's about eight inches across.  I used my cast stones as well as the aquarium rocks and fine planting stones. 
When your're finished applying your bits use some thinned PVA and apply your turf.  I chose plain old Earth Blend and dry.  I sprayed the Woodland Scenics to the lot when I was done, but there are some less expensive alternatives.

In the next few weeks I'll be working on my wooded pieces and share those with you too.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: Christopher Teutsch's Victory at Poitiers

I try to pick up new books on the Hundred Years War as they become available.  If they're affordable. I passed by Peter Hoskins' In the Steps of the Black Prince: The Road to Poitiers 1355-56 at ninety bucks.  However I did receive the hand-selected Victory at Poitiers by Christian Teutsch for my birthday.  On Amazon the book is recommended as a new account of the battle, and my hope is that Teutsch's 2010 work might do for Poitiers what Anne Curry did in her 2006 reassessment of Agincourt.

Though Teutsch provides a fresh look at this important 1356 battle, the book itself is a bit of a disappointment. Though Teutsch's assessment of the battlefield and particularly English movements during the battle are new and fresh, the vast majority of the book's pages are not devoted to the study of Poitiers or events particularly related to this battle.

First, just a little bit of information regarding this book.  It is part of a military history series, the Campaign Chronicles published by Pen and Sword Military in the U.K. Series, especially military history series, leave me a little uneasy.  It usually limits length and scope to something a little more formulaic.  Consider any Osprey series book.  Generally they are strictly page limited and and come with a specific format with regard to what is presented and the way it is presented.  Unfortunately, the breadth and depth of what the author has to share is limited in favor of the publisher's format.  I fear that is what may have happened here.

Victory at Poitiers is a mere 141 pages of text.  It has several pages of useful maps, and begins notes and index on page 143.  There is no bibliography.  Teutsch makes reference to sources, primary and secondary, throughout the text and one can determine his sources through his extensive end notes.  I don't know about you, but I really like a bibliography.  I build my own collection of sources on them. Not a killer, but certainly an annoyance. Even Osprey books have a list of sources.

Too much of what Teutsch attempts to do is provide context.  There are six pages devoted to medieval warfare and eight pages devoted to an extremely shallow understanding of the origins of the Hundred Years War.  I'm not sure this is necessary unless the publishers believed this little bit of information was going to suck in a few non-specialist readers to buy a $30 book about a, let's face it, little known battle from the 14th century.  The battle analysis is followed by a mere 14 pages devoted to the aftermath of the battle.  But most of that is a description of events that came generations later, including the final defeat at Castillon.  I'm not sure this is a productive use of space. Or see my previous criticism about audience. Toss in the six blank pages that appear at the end of each chapter, and there are 34 pages of 141 that, in my view are wasted space. 

The book gets interesting when Teutsch examines the battles of Crecy and Neville's Cross and begins to apply the lessons learned from these action to the movements and motivation of the Prince of Wales at Poitiers.  Warning: this has been done before.  Clifford Rodger in his excellent War Cruel and Sharp: English Strategy Under Edward III, 1327-1360 also examined the lessons the King Edward learned from his Scottish campaigns and applied them to the Hundred Years Wars.  Teutsch simply fast forwards to Prince Edwards lessons from more recent battles, though he was not present at Neville's Cross and applies them to Poitiers.  In a nuthshell those lessons were threefold: 1) Reluctant armies can be brought to battle given the right incentives. 2) An enemy might be brought to battle if he trusted more in weight of numbers, but victory was more dependent on a tactical rather than numerical superiority. 3) A battle, if won, could insure the domination of a larger and economically superior nation by a smaller, less developed nation. Definitely worth a look, especially if the reader hasn't thumbed through Rodgers.

The real value in this book, however is not all the context setting, it is the 60 or pages devoted to  the description and analysis of the campaign of 1356 and the battle itself. In a painstaking review of the contemporary sources such as Froissart, Geoffrey LeBaker, the Chandos Herald and others, and the more recent scholars including Alfred Burne, H.J. Hewitt, Richard Barber, Jonathan Sumption, Teutsch offers a new interpretation of the battle. Particularly with regard to the location of the battle itself, and the nature of the final battle with King Jean's division, this is new to me.

Without giving too much away, Teutsch effectively makes the claim the English positions were not completely set as the battle opened.  Salisbury's battle was still moving into position as the cavalry of the vanguard struck.  He also alters the Prince's original position to a hilltop adjacent to the heights occupied by Salisbury and Warwick.  Another important difference from other accounts is the suggestion that after the initial French attack on the English defenses, the Anglo-Gascon forces responded quite aggressively, effectively launching a counter attacks. Warwick's division effectively mounted to pursue the Duke of Orleans's division and returned to the field just in time to fall on the flank of King Jean's final attack. 

Despite the book's shortcomings, there is enough new stuff here that it is reshaping my approach to the battle and kind of options I might offer to the players in a Poitiers battle.  Taking the good with the not so good, the book is a worthy addition to my Hundred Years War library.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finished at last: Victrix British lights

I've scribbled already about assembling Victrix British Napoleonics, but I finally sat down and painted the little boogers.  I feel they turned out reasonably well, but they do pose some interesting problems.
This a 24 figure converged light infantry unit.  I based them on 20mm X 40mm bases from Litko.
First some nuts and bolts observations.  On metal figures mold marks can be a real problem.  They require your attention in getting them ready to paint with your file and X-acto blade. Usually they can be clearly seen.  Plastic figures are different, and there definitely is some flash and mold marks down the leg on these figures.  They're also kind of stealthy.  Often they aren't seen until primed, and even then some are hard to locate.  My least favorite are the little bits of flash that hang onto the canteens or bayonets.  I'll have to look harder next time.

Another issue is the casting differences between metal and plastic figures.  When a metal figure is in an advancing pose, the arms are usually molded close to the body.  The arms become part of the body, and that's that.  Certain parts aren't paintable and we don't worry about it.  Plastic figures are different.  With the arms glued on separately, every part of the figure is accessible . . . sort of. It's still hard to reach everything with a brush, so I painted what I could.

That said, Victrix figures are very nicely detailed.  The figures are well proportioned.  The shakos are nicely shaped, with nice cords and plate.  The myriad belts and straps are all there, and it's pretty clear which is which.  The muskets are nice, though the barrel was a bit too fine for me to blackline.  The face is nice, but very small.  I went with a simple wash for the face and hands rather than trying to brush detail it.

A somewhat tighter look.  Most of my units are based 40mm X 40mm, but because they can form a single line, i.e. extended order, they are on the shallower bases.
The tunics are painted Vallejo vermillion, with Vallejo orange-red highlights.  The haversacks are Ceramcoat ivory white and lined with Ceramcoat gray-brown.  The belts are Ceramcoat white.  The trousers are a mix of your basic Ceramcoat gray and ivory white. I reasoned some of the British were issued white linen trousers during the summer in Spain, and they may have brought them with them to the Chesapeake during the summer.

If I have one beef with these figures, it is the figure mix.  In the effort to provide considerable figure variety, Victrix has made it more difficult for those of us who create units on stands.  What do I mean?  For each figure sprue (there are basically four sprues per box, with another four sprues of equipage,) there are two in a march/attack pose.  That means eight march/attack figures per box.  There are similar numbers of firingish (yes I know that's not a word, but you get it.)  Some figures advancing plus command figures.  It seems to me I should be able to cobble together three 32 figure units out of three boxes of miniatures boasting 52 figures per box.  Yet, that's not at all clear to me. The figure selection is great if I'm mounting them individually, but if I'm mounting them four to a base, there needs to be a bit more uniformity. 

I did manage to complete the three War of 1812 units I had on the docket this summer and I'm going to fiddle with some mounted troops from my Mississippi and HYW projects before painting more Baltimore militia types. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Crysler's Farm playtest

I've mentioned before that Doug, Mark and I are interested in playing a series of War of 1812 games at Enfilade over the next couple of years during the bicentennial.  It looks like Crysler's Farm and Sackett's Harbor are on the docket for 2013.  We played through an out of the box Crysler's Farm at Enfilade last May, and nobody was happy with the result.  So Mark, Doug and I talked through some potential changes. We played with the Regimental Fire and Fury rules using the QRS for 1812. These are written for 15mm figures, so for our 28's we made a couple of changes.  First we agree to keep the movement distances the same.  However, we did double the firing ranges.  One can discuss how this alters the ground scale, etc., but we found it didn't unbalance the game, didn't make it a shooting game, it worked fine.

Today seemed like the perfect day to give our changes a playtest.  It's my last Truant's game as we begin heading into the school year.  Mark, Joe, Al, Rocky and I gathered at The Game Matrix for one final hurrah.

Mark, Doug and I talked up some changes that would make the game more competitive for the British.  The battle was the age old story of a veteran, well-led small force wreaking havoc on a less talented, poorly led large force.  The small force was a British army defending outside Montreal against a larger American force led by the nefarious James Wilkinson, sick in his bed on a barge.

In our Enfilade game, the Americans arrived on the table, set up, all at once and just rolled over the Brits, despite the difficult terrain. For this scenario, we added some house rules and staggered the American set up.  The big change we allowed in the rules was to give the British veteran units a +1 add to their fire, and the one crack British unit a +2.  A departure to be sure, but it offset the size of the American force overall, as well as the size of the American units, which was also sizable.

The Americans began with Swartout's brigade in position to fight the unit of Canadian Fencibles and the 89th across the ravines on the left, and Cole's small brigade ready to take on the Canadian Voltigeurs in the woods on the right flank.  Covington's brigade was marching on to the table, while Boyd's British regulars were holding the center behind a rail fence.
Cole's brigade dances with the Canadian Voltigeurs on the American right.  Eventually the American numbers told and the Voltigeurs were driven off.
The best hope for the Americans is to be very aggressive.  Their units tend to be larger, but once they start taking casualties, will become much more likely to become tardy or stall altogether.

I ran Swartout's and Coles's brigades.  Both are poor commanders, so a -1 for their command rolls.  This didn't make a big difference on the right as I pushed Cole's two regiments pretty rapidly against the Voltigeurs in extended order in the woods.  Though Joe peppered me pretty good, I also had a pretty good turn of fire, and when his command roll made him tardy, was able to charge him, and scatter him.

Against Rocky, on the left, however, things didn't go quite so well. I lined up my brigade and advanced across the ravine, took some pretty effective fire and then the units in the center and on the right broke. I generally rolled poorly for command on this flank, averaging something like a 3 or less, while with Cole's brigade it was a 7 or more. I also misinterpreted the rules for in command and out of command, and the upshot is two of my three units in Swartout's brigade broke, could never recover their morale and routed off the table.
Swartout's disaster.  The last American unit (left) dukes it out with two British units as its two brigade mates broke (center) and fled the field.
In the center, Al moved his units as quickly as possible into the center, and took on Joe's two British line units with some assistance from Rocky.  Al also used the two American gun sections to stabilize my situation on the left, as well as the small unit of American light dragoons, as Rocky overextended himself in driving my remnants off.  Joe was gradually being overwhelmed in the center as Cole's brigade emerged from the woods and threatened his flank left (our right right.) As Rocky's command lost contact with Joe, the gigantic American Boat battalion appeared to his front and the light dragoons prepared to charge the 89th in the flank.  We called the game as it became clear the British would have to withdraw or be destroyed.
D.C. militia impersonate U.S. regulars as Al advances Covington's brigade in the center.
The situation at game end.  The American center (far) has advanced past the British right, isolating the 89th and Fencibles.  American reinforcements move in for the kill.
Though the British gun (right) has just nailed the remnants of Cole's brigade, holding off a catastrophic flanking movement, the two redcoat units holding the center are wounded and badly outnumbered by Covington's troops and will have to retreat.

There were lots of things that had to go right for the Americans to win.  First, we played a very aggressive game.  As a result, we took loads of casualties.  Cole's success in the woods was also a pretty lucky break.  Things had to go right in order to actually get my hands on Joe there.  Rocky didn't help things by advancing beyond support range for Joe, and made a fight in the center, where the real battle was going to be, much more tenuous.

All in all the game went well, but deserves additional play just to be sure for Enfilade.  Just as a note, neither Mark or myself had any of the actual units at the battle.  We substituted what we had for the units in the game.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Terrain making the Mark Waddington way, Pt. 1

I'm tired of my terrain bits.  I have some trees, use felt for the shapes of woods/forests/rough ground.  Bleah.  It's easy to schlep around and doesn't take much space, but it also looks blah.  Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty proud of the pieces I made for Chickasaw Bluffs, but it also primed me for doing something more.
I moved the show out to the garage.  This is just a quick photo of all my gear.  Mark's gear is far more impressive.
I was really impressed by the pieces Mark Waddington used in his Vietnam game.  I figured I could also do something for the wars in the American woods.  However, I confess to a general feeling I have making stuff, whether it's projects around the house or building wargame scenery, and that's ineptitude.  I lack self confidence, which leads to lack of motivation, which means no follow-through, which leads to a collection of crappy terrain.

When I inquired about Mark's method, he quite generously invited me to his home in Duvall to try my own hand at making stuff. He walked me through his process, and I'm going to share that with you as I try to do it on my own. 

It starts with some mdf, or medium density fiberboard.  It's available at Home Depot and Lowes.  I have some 2 X 2 sheets that are usually available, and I know they are willing to cut larger sheets for you at no cost, if, like me, you are truck-impaired.  It's recommended you use 1/8", or 1/4" mdf.  I bought some 1/4" stuff to make DBA boards with, and got some of the thinner stuff as packing that came in a large box of whatever-we-don't-need Lorri ordered.
A couple of mdf shapes I'll use to make terrain.  This is the 1/4" mdf that's been cut with a jigsaw and sanded out with an orbital sander.
The next step is to lay out your mdf and draw the shapes you'd like your terrain to be.  I like bigger pieces, but remember they also take up space on the game board.  You just want them to be representational of woods or rough terrain, and will move them around as troops move into or through the terrain, so big may not be practical.  When you're finished, cut them out using a jigsaw, or whatever else.  My handy jigsaw hasn't seen much use in the many years I've owned it, but it was perfect for this task.

After cutting, smooth out your shapes using some kind of sander, preferably some kind of power sander.  Mark uses a portable belt sander.  I didn't have one of these, but I do have an orbital sander, a veteran Ryobi fellow used many times for stripping my deck.  Try to but a sloped edge on your shapes and smooth out all the jagged edges you may have left on your shapes during the cutting.
A couple of shapes with the shaped pieces of pink foam on them.  They're larger pieces with smaller bits of pink foam.  Maybe I should have gone bigger.  Hmmm.
 Next step is to make some choices.  Do you want to have some elevated areas in your terrain.  Hey it's your terrain.  Make it as busy as you want.  Lots of elevation, no elevation, it's all up to you.  I used pink foam left over from another project. I made my chunks fairly small, you may want something different.  I cut a chunk of it out with an X-acto knife, though I'm sure another tool would be lots better.  No matter.  I glued it down with some white glue and let it dry.  When I was ready to work with it I used a combination file I bought at Fred Meyer for two shape it into the relative shape I wanted.  I had eight mdf shapes and put pink foam bits on four of them.  Why?  No particular reason
Four pieces slathered in lightweight spackle awaiting sandpaper.  I'll probably spackle all eight pieces before I begin sanding.
Last, for this entry, I slathered my shapes with spackle.  I used the lightweight spackle Mark recommended.  You can get a nice sized tub of the stuff for six bucks. I applied mine with a metal putty knife.  My chief complaint is the spackle tends to stick to the knife, and I wonder if it would do the same with a plastic implement.  Oh well, I tried to use what I have.  In any case, be sure to get a good coat of that on to the mdf and the pink foam. 

In my next entry I'll show you my experience sanding, priming and painting (and hopefully my pink foam won't melt (??!!)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Knuckleduster Maryland Militia

Knuckleduster Maryland militia figures.  Much more enjoyable to paint than their Marines.
It's hard to figure out what American militia looked like during the War of 1812.  That's probably because most militia was a joke. It was almost more of a social and drinking club than a military institution in many places.  Some units had elaborate uniforms and others didn't.

One of the better known militia units is the 5th Maryland.  It's known because of the famous Don Troiani painting of the battalion at North Point pictured below.  It's a great uniform, and has even attracted some 5th Maryland re-enactors in the Baltimore area.  What's not clear, however, is whether this particular uniform was worn by Maryland militia across the state. According to sources, we're not even certain the 5th Maryland wore this uniform, or if each company in the unit was different.

In any case, Knuckleduster released their version of this unit in the spring, and I ordered them to represent the Annapolis militia that appeared near the end of the Bladensburg battle.  I enjoyed painting these figures much more than the KD Marines.  They are simple and clean.  They're in that basic march attack pose that opens all the detail on the figure up to easy painting.  The uniform, with its blue tunic and red facings, is attractive but straight forward.  I painted the white turnbacks with red piping according to the pictures of re-enactors, but which I suspect is also incorrect. I chose to give them a white turban and a plume that is white over black.  I'm not certain of the turban and plume colors, only that these colors likely represented differences between companies. 

I enjoyed painting these figures quite a bit, much more than the Marines.  I've included a couple of pictures: one of the KD guys alone, and one alongside the OG figures as a comparison.  I still think the Old Glory figures are a bit better, but the Knuckleduster figures are good too.  Sizewise, there isn't much of a difference.  The poses really wouldn't allow much opportunity to mix within a unit, but in the same army no problem.  My painting style has changed since I painted the Old Glory figures long ago.  I'll probably use the unit on the right as one of the Annapolis battalions.  The Knuckleduster unit sports a Maryland flag from Quindia studios.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

My WAB experiment

Ahh, to drag out my HYW figures today.  It's been a couple of years.  Hard to believe.
Off to try my hand at Warhammer Ancient Battles version 2.0 today.  Or maybe it's Armies of Antiquity, I really have no idea.  Anyway, there's a fairly active WAB group in the Pierce County area, and I can easily put together and English and a French Hundred Years War army for skazillions of points.  Unfortunately, I'm limited to to just 2,000 points with pretty limited and expensive troop types. 

I'll just be playing with HYW English today.  My goals are simple:
1.  Try the rules and learn the system a bit.
2.  Can my WAB army expect to function like a historical army?

This number two is really important to me.  That doesn't mean I should just show up and win.  It doesn't mean my counterpart should just set up and get shot to pieces, but I want to see if an English army composed of longbowmen and men at arms functions pretty much like an English army composed of longbowmen and men at arms.  I have a suspicion it won't, but I'll give it a few tries to find out.

Battle report tomorrow

Sunday, July 29, 2012


On Friday the Truants gathered at Game Matrix to try out Mark Waddington's Vietnam War game.  We did a Vietnam game in 15mm last summer, but not so these.  They were 25mm figures and the game was spectacularly beautiful from the miniatures to the Hueys to the amazing terrain. Mark and his son Joe have obviously worked through a lot of what they want to give the proper period feel to the game while trying to keep the rules relatively simple.  They've done a great job.  I was pretty much able to run my troops easily from the charts.  They still have some time management tweaks to work out, but nothing needs a ton more work, just some more play.

What follows are just some examples of Mark's superb hand made terrain.  The mat is made from "teddy bear fur" as are the roofs to the buildings. 

The terrain bits are mounted on mdf bases.  The plants are all aquarium plants.

The felt forms the actual outline of the jungle at left.

The pieces provide the feeling of generally difficult terrain without a lot of clear lines of sight. It also makes the terrain movable for ease of play.

On to the game.  Adrian Nelson and I ran the Americans.  Our troops, basically two reinforced platoons came on in a corner of the board.  Our objective was basically to capture an objective in the opposite corner.  Our plan was to secure a nearby hunk of jungle  and clear a fire zone with one platoon, while the second platoon was choppered into a position where they could advance on the objective. Adrian mostly ran the first platoon, while I would command the chopper-born troops. 

Actually, we agreed to shift the M-60 LMG's from the air dropped force to Adrian's platoon, while I commanded the first of three squads in his unit.  Of course, we immediately ran into hidden VC.  While they bloodied our nose on contact, we were fortunate to fairly quickly take the jungle, our first objective.  At that point we choppered in the second platoon and landed them in the middle of another VC squad.  Thankfully, they were quickly suppressed and dispersed with little loss.  Unfortunately, at that point the game ended, with the Americans flanking the nasty NVA units 
First contact with the Viet Cong. Al waits to get his NVA regulars into the action.
My troops enter the jungle in the background after an initial ambush.  Adrian's squad cover my flank and rear while engaging another VC squad in the swamp.

A look back from the VC at my American squad.  We took some losses, but eventually ejected  and dispersed the Viet Cong unit.
A second platoon overflies the jungle, where the Americans have pushed out the defending Viet Cong.
The Hueys, haven deposited their cargo in the village fly off
The only flaw in the rules is the speed of the game.  Mark loves card driven games--and honestly I do too.  In this game however, I think there are just too many cards, which really slows things down.  The rules are easy enough to pick up and learn, but the variety of cards simply defeats the simplicity of the mechanics.  I know they're working on this, and I can't wait to play again. 
The board at game's end.  North Vietnamese regulars can be seen streaming to the rear as Americans in the jungle establish their free fire zone.

Be sure to take a look at the photos, because the game is flippin' amazing.

Final Assemly: The Victrix Converged Lights

I've just begun painting these guys as I complete the Annapolis militia.  Just flesh and hair so far.
Yesterday I finished assembling a 24-figure unit of converged light infantry using the Victrix British flank companies.  The big question about the Victrix figures is-was spending less per figure worth the extra time and effort to assemble the figures?

Just to refresh your memory, I bought these figures three years ago at Enfilade.  My decision was based on the desire to get more figures cheaply for my War of 1812 project.  I bought three boxes of centre companies and one box of flank companies and believed that should be plenty.  Bladensburg has three line units and that should be enough. Anything left over could make some more units for the Baltimore campaign.

I posted last August about assembling the command figures while I was working at J-camp in Ellensburg.  Then I pretty much allowed them to languish until the spring when I dragged them out again and assembled a few more bits and put them away again. I made a deal with myself this summer that I would finish at least three War of 1812 units-the Marines, Annapolis militia, and the British unit of converged lights.  Well, the Marines are done, the militia is coming right along, and the summer is moving right along, so I thought it was important to get these guys ready to go.

Wednesday night I sat down in earnest and began assembly.  I'd already cleaned up all the bodies, but just hadn't worked out an effective way to assemble the miniatures.  I finally decided the thing to do was to assembly line it the best I could.
Is it just me or do these figures seem a little small.  The facial features are definitely miniscule; no eyes on these guys.
There are about eight sprues per box of figures, and they come in two types.  One has all the bodies and a some of the accessories, such as back packs and half-pikes for the sergeants.  The other has all the arms in their various poses with muskets and the heads.  I finally decided to cut off all the heads and the backpacks because they are on every figure except officers.  I glued the heads on first.  After that, I'd strip off all the alike arm/musket poses from each sprue and  glue those on.  When each sprue was done I'd glue on the backpacks.

There are some important lessons I learned along the way.  The lessons are important because I have three more boxes of center companies to assemble.  First, I assembled the lot with CA glue.  Probably not a good idea.  I know that is not recommended, but I also couldn't deal with not having an instant bond.  However, with many of the arm poses requiring two different pieces that meet in the middle, that requires some adjustment and coordination that CA glue just doesn't allow.  I'll be using my trusty Testor's model cement from now on. A second lesson I learned that may be useful regardless of what cement I use:  Glue on the rifle arm first.  It's easier to conform the support arm to the rifle arm than vice versa.

I've only primed these figures; I haven't begun painting them.  I'm hoping I might be able to get a start on them before I leave for J-camp on the 8th.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Knuckleduster War of 1812 U.S. Marines

With the War of 1812 bicentennial approaching-er, actually it's here-Mark Waddington, Doug Hamm and I are committing ourselves to hosting several games at Enfilade 2013-14.  You can count on Crysler's Farm and Sackett's Harbor for 2013, and likely Chippewa, Lundy's Lane, and Bladensburg for 2014.  Doug probably has enough figures to do all of them himself, but he's letting us in on the fun anyway.

As I've mentioned ad nauseum, I'll supply the figures, British and American for the Bladensburg game.  I have some of the figures done already, but I'll need to build and in some cases re-do some of the units.
U.S. Marines at Bladensburg in 1814.  Commanded by Joshua Barney in the third American line.  One of the few dependable units at the battle, there were only 120 on the field.
One of the units I'm rebuilding is the U.S. Marines.  I've already painted them once, but honestly the figures used were minor conversions.from Dixon's Napoleon in Egypt range. Nice, but skinny, and not quite right. Doug's written to me and on his fine blog about the Knuckleduster War of 1812 range over the past year.  He alerted me to the fact that KD issued its Marines.

There aren't very many 25mm War of 1812 ranges. It's pretty much Old Glory and Knuckleduster, with the latter becoming a late arrival on the scene.  In some cases KD has recreated many of the same figures OG issued decades ago, but it's real value is in the troops OG omitted.  Canadian militia types, American frontier militia, the American marines, and most recently, Joshua Barney's flotillamen. I've ordered enough figures to complete two units, both relatively small: the U.S. Marines at Bladensburg and a unit of Maryland militia I'll use for one of the Annapolis battalions.

I've completed the Marines.  They are definitely a step up from my Dixon place holders. Their uniforms are distinct with their long gaiters and yellow lace.  The miniatures are anatomically correct.  Not a lot of poses.  For such a small unit (only twelve figures on three stands) I wonder if it would almost be better to have just one pose, or a bunch of poses.  Anyway, I could probably have grouped them differently on the bases.  The heads and faces are very nicely formed, as are certain parts of the torso.  I'm less wild about the strapping that is very hard to get to, as well as some of the lace.  The unit might be better served with shouldered arms.  The command group with officer, drummer and NCO are probably the nicest figures in the lot. 

 Are these great figures?  They are necessary figures for this battle.  I don't mean to give faint praise.  They are well proportioned, but for some reason I didn't enjoy painting them.  I felt myself painting around things, which is frustrating.  Some of the details, like the canteen, shako and faces were awesome.  Others, such as the the strapping, were a crapshoot. I've begun painting the Marylanders, and they seem to be going much better, so maybe it's just these guys.

I painted the long tailed jacket in Vallejo dark Prussian blue, lightened with white for the highlights. .  Pants white, with simple gray in the creases.  The gaiters were in Vallejo light gray washed in Ceramcoat charcoal.  Facings and the drummer's uniform in Vallejo flat red. Yellow lace is Vallejo Deep Yellow which give decent coverage over the dark jacket and shako.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Daveshoe's Sail and Steam Navy Adventure

We've probably played a half dozen games of Sail and Steam Navies from Bay Area Yards.  I have to say I like it. As with any other miniatures game it requires fairly regular play to master.  Still, it's easier to play and introduce to other casual players than Ironclads.

It's also become a great vehicle for converting to a sail only game for the War of 1812.  Though we chiefly remember this conflict for the great frigate actions between the Constitution and the Java or the United States against the Macedonian, the war had two important campaigns: the war against British merchant shipping and the campaigns on the Great Lakes.  It's the latter, in my view, that has the most potential for great games.  Unfortunately, most Age of Sail rules focus on large numbers of large ships, such as 74-gunners and up, and leave out the small schooners, brigs, and sloops altogether that constitute the vast majority of the lakes games.

The American schooners race across the table, as the British sail in two lines to cur them off from their objective.
Dave Schueler, a game designer himself, is always able to see the value in rules to get where he wants to go.  After playing S and SN for ACW, he saw no reason the rules wouldn't work for War of 1812.  Using Mark Waddington's beautiful handmade 1/600 ships, Dave tinkered with other rules, including Prevailing Winds to host the Burlington Races game last summer.  These were clunky and Dave moved on to work S and SN to make them suitable for his project.  I missed out on his playtest and Enfilade scenario, so I was really excited to play in a one off game on Saturday.

The game was fairly simple.  The Americans had six small schooners laden with supplies headed for Sackett's Harbor to aid in the construction of the frigate General Pike. A British force went out to intercept the Americans, including two schooners and the 20-gun corvette, Royal George plus the 18- gun brig Earl of Moira.  The British had the weather gauge and a short table to cross to intercept the American convoy. It was wolves among the sheep.  However, creeping onto the table were the American 24-gun Madison, and the 18-gun brig Oneida. The American schooners were chiefly armed with long guns, including larger 24 and 32pdrs, while the British were almost entire armed with shorter range, but deadly carronades.  The two larger American vessels were also armed almost solely with the stubby and nasty carronades.

As the game began, the British players made one fateful decision-double shot their carronades which required them to be fired at short range or six inches. They proceeded with their plan to cut off the schooners.  As they did, the smaller American vessels opened fire as their long guns came into range.  While the schooners, mounting between 2 and 10 guns, didn't have the heavy broadsides the larger square rigged vessels mounted, they usually had a couple of heavy guns on pivots with a larger field of fire.  There were plenty of opportunities to shoot, and with shooting comes hits, and with hits damage.  One of the British schooners took a broadside from Madison, hulling it badly.  The smaller schooners focused on Royal George and its schooner escort, plinking away at both ships, while the British could only plink back in return because they were out of range for their double-shotted, death dealing carronades.

Though the American schooners raced along along the shoreline to reach their objective, the British eventually succeeded in cutting the American line in two.  Three of the schooners, including some of the smallest tried to fight their way through the British while the others dodged the Brits to the north, shooting as they went.  At this point the Brits were finally able to unleash their broadside, badly damaging the  3-gun Ontario and also hitting the 3-gun Conquest.  In the exchange, however, the British schooner Sidney Smith was badly holed, and forced from the action. 
The tiny Ontario fouls the Royal George, bringing both to a stop.  Though Ontario would be sunk, the remaining American vessels would pound the large British ship into submission.  In the foreground, the sinking Sidney Smith sails for the shallows and beaching.
In the ensuing turns things came to a rapid conclusion.  The second British schooner, Beresford, already damaged by Madison, was sunk, leaving only the two large British vessels, both pinned against the shoreline.  Royal George, with significant mast damage, sailed off to the east ahead of the American schooner line.  However, Ontario, with a damaged rudder, fouled Royal George as it attempted to pass astern.  Though Royal George dispatched the smaller ship with its stern chasers, the two vessels remained motionless for a critical turn as the remaining American ships closed in.  Earl of Moira was sunk without a whisper.  The game ended with Royal George nearly dismasted and the Americans circling for the kill.

It was a fun game.  I ran the Ontario and somewhat larger Scourge. Despite their lack of size and relative frailty, I never felt like I was out of the action.  The larger ships always had to cope with the lack of long range weapons, so the small schooners always had the opportunity to be an important part of the fight. I really liked the flow of the rules with its two movement and fire phases, and the opportunity to fire specialized ammunition such as chain, grape or double shot provided some important choices.  Dave, did a good job of adapting the rules over to sail, and I hope he shares it with the Sail and Steam Navies Yahoogroup.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Truants visit Venus

Our weekly truants game found four of us playing in Scott Murphy's treasure hunt on Venus scenario. The players divided into three factions-British, Venusians, and Germans. The Brits and Germans each had to struggle over rivers with limited crossing options. The Brits immediately opened fire on the Venusians when they came into sight. The Venusians, charmed by this friendly gesture, became instant enemies.
Scott's very nice Stonehouse Aztec Temple.  I have bits of this, but not the whole shebang. Al places his Venusians, while Steve and Rocky set up the Brits across the river.
 While Brits and natives tangled on the far side of the board, the Germans, run by yours truly, carefully crossed the river, only to encounter native wildlife of the large, reptilian Jurassic variety. First, a single Allosaurus kept me tied down as I tried to cross the a rope bridge in single file and keep my force intact.  Then a persistent pack of smaller, but more aggresssive velociraptors  pinned me down as formed a firing line to mow the little beggars down.
The nasty Allosaurus held up my initial advance across the rope bridge.  It also gave me a platform to provide myself plenty of fire support.
Thankfully, I planned to shoot my way across the river by placing my Seetruppen to on the river bank.  Slowed me down, but prevented a disaster with the big critters
A short lull in the action finally allowed me to move to one of the several treasure sites on the board with my unit of Schutztruppe, while my askaris and Marines advanced toward the chief objective, the large temple in the middle of the board.

All the while, the Venusians and British continued to tangle.  Generally, the limeys got the worst of this exchange.  The Venusians don't shoot much, but are difficult to kill. Both of them got to a treasure objective before I did, but often distracted by their fight were much slower about extracting wealth.  A giant crocodile that emerged from the river they fought over and repeatedly disrupted both forces kept things even more interesting.
A view of the Brits tangling with the Venusians.  While Sikh reinforcements rush to aid the failing British lines, the giant crocodile keeps both sides on their toes.
Despite a final Allosaurus attack on the German seetruppen, it was determined at the end of the game I was the winner. Yippee.
Slowly making my way across the bridge, the advancing velociraptors are visible in the distance.  Fresh meat tonight boys.
Moving slowly by the left to establish a firing line, I was eventually able to establish a firing line, with the schutztruppen on the left moved off to mine a treasure site.
This was a really fun game.  The rules, based on the Sword and the Flame, were the same as our Martian games.  We all had the right number of units to run-generally three infantry units and I had a Gatling as well. I really liked Scott's terrain, which was flashy enough to be interesting and attractive, but sparse enough to get around the board easily.  We agreed a fourth player, a second Venusian from a different faction, would give the Germans a little more to think about, and simply complicate the situation on the table.  Even so, a very fun game I would play again any time.