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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kentucky Mounted Rifles

Another unit I finished painting but didn't get mounted before I left on vacation was a pack of ten Kentucky mounted rifles from Old Glory.  These are from the Mad Anthony Wayne's Legion range, and featured prominently in Wayne's campaign that ended at Fallen Timbers.  However, these troop types likely would have featured prominently in any late 18-early 19th century conflict in the American west.  Offering the advantages of speed and dismounted rifle fire, they would have appeared in a conflict with Spain, or if there had been some kind of military action tied to the Burr Conspiracy.

The Old Glory figures aren't special.  The riders are relatively simple and easy to paint.  They do have the virtue of sitting their horses properly without a lot of filing, sanding or drilling, which is not true of many OG mounted miniatures.  The horse are adequate.  While this doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, they do fit the bill and at a per figure cost of $3.50 are quite reasonable.

At the present time, I am wrapping up some more Wayne's Legion infantry, but I've written about them before.  These are mainly unit fillers for my Mississippi project.  Ideally I'd like three companies or twelve 12 figure units.  This brings me up to about seven and a half.

Also on my painting table are a couple of Knuckleduster War of 1812 units.  First up, and currently underway is the U.S. Marines at Bladensburg.  I hope to have something up about these guys by early next week if not earlier.  The second unit is the Knuckleduster version of the Maryland militia.  I will paint them as Annapolis militia, not that I know what Annapolis militia looks like or how it's different from the 5th Maryland.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

German Men at Arms at Poitiers

Before I left on vacation, I was able to get a start on my Poitiers project.  I began working on the vanguard infantry.  The vanguard was led by Constable Brienne and was the only combined arms command at the battle.  There were the two mounted units led by Audrehem and Clermont, a significant number of crossbowmen, and a fair number of dismounted knights and men at arms. It's also likely that the crossbowmen were divided between Genoese mercenaries and feudal levies each fighting on a wing of the command.  Also divided were the men at arms, divided between a foreign contingent of Germans led by the Count of Saarbruck and some Scots, and French knights.

I've painted up my German command.  The figures are Old Glory from the Crecy and Poitiers range.  These are the French dismounted knights with shortened lances combined with the command figures from the same range.  They are relatively easy to paint.  The figures wear the jupon over their armor, which often makes painting the heraldic emblem a little difficult navigating around various arms.

The flags were printed off a color laser printer.   They are available free from Dansk Figurspilsforenings, a Danish miniature wargame site.  The site itself is in Danish, however there are many high quality flags available for download including AWI, ACW, the Crusades, later middle ages and others.  They also include a fine collection from the Hundred Years War, including specific standards/banners from Crecy, Poitiers and miscellaneous French, English and Gascon flags, as well as those from the guilds of Ghent, and the kingdom of Aragon.  I like my banners visible, so I left 'em big.  They are mounted on Northstar lances, shortened for the occasion.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Farewell Virginia: It's been fun

We left Charlottesville on Monday to spend time with friends in Montclair. John indulged my desire to get to sites I haven't seen.

See, I was here.  Marker outside visitor's center at Chancellorsville
Tuesday we went to the Chancellorsville battlefield, wandered through the visitor's center and caught the movie. Because the battle was one of movement, John picked up the CD and we took the driving tour. The tour wound through large swathes of rural/suburban Virginia. Though we spent at least a couple of hours and were assisted by a map with written directions, it was a bit confusing to keep track of movements, positions and scenes of fighting. The driving path mostly focuses on Stonewall Jackson's famous flank march.  It is well marked and winds through what is still mostly wooded terrain. Nicely preserved, well presented, Chancellorsville is managed by the National Park Service and the cost is only two bucks.

John and I walked out to see the large monument to Jackson's accidental shooting by his own men, and happened upon a tour led by a park ranger.  She indicated that markers commemorating Jackson were plunked down on the believed site of the incident in the 1870's and again in 1904.  However, an interview with a member of the 14th North Carolina, the unfortunate authors of this famous "friendly fire" incident indicated the locations of these markers were likely incorrect.  Based on this later testimony, the ranger said,the site of Jackson's fatal wounding was likely close to contemporary storm drain located behind the visitor's center.  Of course as we drove about the march route and encountered numerous storm drains, John wondered aloud which soldiers each one memorialized.
1904 marker indicates spot where Stonewall Jackson was wounded, with inscription below.

Thomas J. Jackson memorial storm grate  marks the more likely spot where the 14th North Carolina fired their ill-fated volley that mortally wounded their commander in chief.
Three-inch ordnance rifle marks the Confederate gun lines firing from Hazel Grove.

Wednesday the fourth,  John and I drove down to Manassas and stayed near the visitor's center.  Frankly the weather took its toll on us.  Having spent plenty of time outdoors in temperatures ranging from 95-100+ degrees off and on most of the previous week we'd had enough.  Thankfully the visitor's center is located right on Henry House Hill where most of the climactic action for First Manassas is located.  The visitor's center is okay with lots of period artifacts.  However, most interesting are the pictures of battle participants or their close relatives with  a couple lines regarding their experience in the battle and their subsequent lives.  Some are quite moving, and it adds a human face to man's most terrible proclivity. We also watched the inevitable movie, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss.  The battle is, again, one of movement and on this day we were just too cooked to move much, but trails toward the Sudley Ford crossing and Stone Bridge sites are available for exploration.  The cost for three day pass to Manassas is three dollars.
Equestrian statue of former VMI instructor, Stonewall Jackson

Gun line marks the spot where Jackson's brigade stood like a stone wall. Looking back at Federal positions.
I'm finishing this post from the comfort of my home computer early Friday morning.  We traveled most of the night and I am, shockingly, having a little trouble with sleep.  It's good to be home, mostly because the heat of Virginia was ridiculous.  I saw almost everything I hoped for, and a little more while I was in Maryland and Virginia, and enjoyed myself immensely.  I'm sure if I lived there I'd have become a National Park Service ranger working one of the battlefields.  My desire to see those sights and touch the history was overwhelming.

Monday, July 02, 2012

New Market Battlefield.

New Market was fought on May 15, 1864. It was the first of several important actions that year fought to control the Shenandoah Valley. William C. Davis wrote a wonderful little account of the battle, which has intrigued me ever since. Yesterday, with a little time on my hands, I determined to drive the 85 or so miles to the battlefield state park.

Traveling from Charlottesville, I can assure you the highway is great-interstate all the way-and signs clearly mark the way. The State of Virginia preserved 900 acres to showcase this relatively small battle. The grounds also house "The Virginia Museum of the Civil War" which, in the grand scheme of things is no big deal. However, the do have examples of a Williams Gun, and an Agar "coffee mill," early machine guns that pre-date the better known Gatling. The life-sized vignette of a 12 pound Napoleon and crew was a nice touch too. Along with the artifacts in the museum is a theater with a lengthy movie on the battle, emphasizing the connections with VMI, and rightly so. I didn't stay for the entire presentation because I felt pressed for time.

The battle was smallish, 6,200 Union and 4,100 Confederates, and the park preserves the complete action, which straddles I-81. It was a very hot, humid day (95 degrees) and I spent a bit more than an hour walking the field. Informational maps are available from the museum which correspond nicely with markers on the field.

The terrain east of the interstate is accessible by a tunnel and most closely represent conditions on the day of battle. The western side of the battlefield is mostly grass. On the rainy day of battle many soldiers struggled through plowed, muddy fields that became known as "The Field of Lost Shoes." in the middle of the field is the nicely preserved Bushong farm which served as a hospital for both sides.

The state of Virginia did a great job of preservation with the New Market site. The cost for touring the battlefield is $7 and another $3 to visit the museum.