Saturday, March 22, 2014

Opening a new front

As I alluded to in my Cold Wars report, it looks as though I have a new project on my hands. (A new miniatures project, that is.) It started with a flea market purchase: my dad and I ran across a set of blocks called "CastleBlocks," seemingly intended for building somewhat stylized castles and towns. For the most part, they are little pinewood cubes, printed with doors or windows, but there are a fair number of cylinders and arches to liven things up a bit, as well as a variety of roof pieces, all a nice cheerful red. They didn't exactly seem historical, but they sure looked fun.

All 102 CastleBlocks, along with the helpful diagram showing how to fit them back in the nice wooden box.

As I mused over these, it all just sort of coalesced. The blocks might not work for any of my existing projects, but they had a nice toy-like look to them. They would fit right in with a "classic toy soldier" armies--stiff poses, glossy paint, plain green bases, etc.--which is a look that I've idly considered exploring before. The size is about right for 1/72 scale, and I had a box of Emhar 19th century French infantry left over from a previous project--the red-roofed buildings had a vaguely Mediterranean feel to them; I could pit them against the Lucky Toys Austrians in a sort of "Italian Wars of Independence" setting. One problem, easily fixed: I know very little about the Italian Wars of Independence--but I'd much rather do it with "imagi-nations" anyway. And so the imaginary nations of Occiterre and Elabrün were born. (The other two are more notional for now, but it's surprisingly hard to leave empty space on an imaginary map...)

Now, painting time since the convention has been pretty scarce, but yesterday evening I finally had time to sit down and start working on first of my Occiterrans. They aren't quite finished yet, as I'm planning to do the bases somewhat differently than my usual sand and flock--that will probably get done sometime after next weekend, when I pick up the shipment containing their Elabrünese opponents.

There is one additional touch I have added so far: town bases. I was at my local craft store this morning (who doesn't need a couple more bottles of paint?) and noticed some little pine boards. Recalling a similar sort of thing from H.G. Wells and his "Floor Games," I picked up a couple to use with the CastleBlocks. With a little black line decoration and some varnish, I think they fit right in. (I'll probably leave the other sides blank for flexibility's sake.)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to this--hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in some time to work on it over the next few months. I still owe a post to the few units I finished before Cold Wars, so look for that sometime in the next few weeks, along with more from Occiterre and Elabrün...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cold Wars 2014

It's been a busy few months for things not gaming-related, but I am still alive. (And in fact, I have managed to get a certain amount of painting done--I hope to get a post on that done sometime before the end of the month...)

Anyway, Cold Wars report time! On account of my brother's class schedule, he and I did not make it up to the convention until Saturday morning, by which time it appears that the parking situation is pretty dire. We do find a spot eventually, and head over to registration, where I am thankful that I have a game to run, as the line for gamemasters is basically nonexistent, whereas the line for general admission is a figurative mile long.

My game is not until 2:00, so I have a couple of hours to spare--not enough time to play much of anything, but plenty of time for Dad and I to look through the flea market and dealer's area. The only thing that grabs my attention is a set of something called "CastleBlocks," pretty much like the one shown here. Dad notices it as well, and after a little discussion we decide that we can probably find something to do with it, especially for just $10. (More on my plans for this later.)

Over in dealer's hall, I pick up a box of Orion Cossacks, as I'd been thinking of restarting my "With Fire and Sword" project. Unfortunately, when I open them up later, I find that there has apparently been an error--despite the box art, it actually contains Orion Basmachi, and a number of the horse legs are broken. Fortunately, I was able to get back down to the dealer's hall and get a refund before it closed for the day. So it appears the Cossacks will have to wait for another day.

Anyway, I head back up to our club's room and set up my game--a Bronze Age battle, using my N.U.R.D. rules, basically a repeat of the one I ran at Historicon. A few people wander by and comment on the figures, which generally make a pretty favorable impression. I'm still not sure why I don't see more 20mm plastic stuff being played at conventions. By 2:00 I have my six players all lined up, and we get started.

Everyone seems to catch on to the rules pretty quickly, and by the time the game ends the players seem to be handling most of it themselves, which I usually take to be a good sign. Now that I've run this a few times, I'm starting to contemplate a minor overhaul of the rules, but that's a topic for another time.

As far as the battle itself, it ends up being a very tight Egyptian victory. The Hittite allied light chariots over on their right started by charging straight at the Sea Peoples mercenaries on the Egyptian left, who I think may have been a tougher target than they expected. The maryannu chariots did a fair amount of damage, especially to some of the lighter units on that side, but were unable to crack the elite Sea Peoples. (Presaging the historical end of the Bronze Age, perhaps...)

In the center, the Hittites fared somewhat better--the Hittite commander there managed to keep periodically pulling back and rallying his units, which left him with a fairly intact force by the late game, and probably helped him grind down the Egyptian chariots opposing him.

The Egyptian chariots fared much better on their right against the Hittite left--the Egyptian commander there kept his chariots together and used them to punch through several units of Hittite foot, while his own infantry did a somewhat better job of keeping the Hittite chariots tied up.

Table set up pre-battle

The Hittite players confer.

The young Pharaoh is advised by his commanders.

View from the Egyptian side.

Chariots advance.

View from the Hittite right.

After putting everything away, I had some time to stroll around and watch other games, and to find some dinner. (This was also about when I discovered the issue with the not-Cossacks.) William and I had signed up for a naval game in the evening, so we headed over there. We found the table all set up, but the allotted time came and went and there was no sign of the gamemaster or any other players. At last we decided to go see if any of the H.A.W.Ks needed spare players, and so it was that we found ourselves in the seedy 25th-century space bar aboard the Space Station Accipitor, the site of many a dastardly plot against Buck Rogers and innocent bystanders.

As the villainous Killer Kane, I had demanded a ransom for the release of Buck's lady-friend Wilma Deering--except that Wilma had actually been kidnapped by my somewhat unstable compatriot Princess Ardalla. (Who had plans for winning Buck Rogers' heart by bisecting the helpless Wilma with a ray-saw.) Anyway, for once everything went off without a hitch--the gullible good guys came right up and handed me the ransom money, then dashed off to rescue Wilma while I slipped away up the elevator. Even my Tigerman minions managed to escape unscathed--a vanishingly rare occurrence  in a game of Blood & Swash.

Princess Ardalla and her trussed-up captive.

Blue and Green Tieko-men don't much care for each other...

Wilma narrowly avoids the ray-saw.

A Depth-man who tries to stop me gets zapped into smoky fish-sticks.

All in all, a fun convention, and I'm looking forward to doing more miniatures stuff in the near future. Hopefully I'll be posting again soon with a painting rounds up and my plans for those "CastleBlocks"...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A 2-D detour

Well, the painting and gaming has been a little slow so far this year, but I finally finished up a little side project I had sitting on the back burner. A couple of years back, I did some art for a timeline on which features some fictional Australian civilizations. This is a sort of companion piece, featuring one of the civilizations which did not get an illustration the first time around: the Bungudjimay kingdom of Daluming on the eastern coast. Since they're about to become relevant in the story again, I figured this was a good time to finish this up:

For interested parties, more information can be found here: Part I and Part II.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Thanks-gaming" Weekend

This past weekend was Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and following the ritual consumption of turkey and associated side dishes, we were left with three or so days to devote to other pursuits--preferably those that didn't involve too much vigorous activity. Both gaming and painting fall neatly into this category, so we resolved to do a bit of both--a painting bee on Friday and an NQSYW game on Saturday.

My brother William and I had been tossing around the painting bee idea for the past month or so, but I think it was I who suggested upping the stakes by making it a contest--one point for each 20mm infantryman painted within our time limit, and three points for each 20mm cavalryman, with the loser to buy pizza for everyone afterwards. Apparently the promise of pizza really energized Dad, as he managed to crank out seven Punic War Spanish cavalry in the alloted five hours.

My competitors ready their paints and brushes.

Painting montage...

William: five points

Me: eight points

Dad: twenty-one points!

A closer look at Dad's cavalry...

William finished up some Almoravid auxiliaries, while I completed some Bronze Age spearmen (more Robin Hood conversions) who had been cluttering up my painting desk for a while. We were all pretty stiff by the end of five hours of painting--next time we do something like this, maybe we'll agree to take a break in the middle...

The next morning, we set up a battle with the NQSYW figures. The scenario saw both sides trying to take and hold a small town and a large walled inn. Dad and I took one side, opposed by William and an iPad with Ross Macfarlane's voice. Our opponents were given two regiments of heavy cavalry, a regiment of line infantry, and a battery of guns. On our side were 1 2/3 regiments of heavy cavalry, a regiment of light cavalry, and a light infantry battalion. As it turned out, this was probably not a good mix of troops for this scenario, but matters were only made worse by abysmal die-rolling on our part.

Setting up the table.

Some initial maneuvering.

First cavalry action, off to the left.

Our light cavalry.

Cavalry lining up on the other flank.

The ensuing melee.

Hussars waiting to charge.

The last picture before my camera battery died...

The initial plan was to try to get the advantage with our cavalry, while depending on the superior marksmanship of the light infantry to overcome their line infantry. Unfortunately, we lost almost all of the cavalry melees, and the light infantry just hung out in the woods getting shot by enemy troops in the town. At one point I attempted to charge the enemy infantry with my hussars, but was repulsed when they formed square. After that, I pulled the rest back to attempt to turn the tide of the cavalry actions in the center and on our right flank, but to no great success. The lack of a third company in the right-flank cavalry unit really told, as they were able to hold troops in reserve and catch us while we were rallying after the first round of melee. We did eventually come out on top in the center, but casualties were too heavy and we were forced to withdraw.

Once again, my poor hussars got drawn into fights with heavy cavalry and butchered. At least my cuirassiers were able to put up a better fight--apparently I should paint more of them...

And speaking of painting, after getting home this afternoon, I based my spearmen from the painting bee, as well as finishing up another little side project: the first of the MiniArt Germanic Warriors I picked up at Cold Wars this year. They'll eventually feed into another 20mm fantasy army, suspiciously similar to the Riders of Rohan...

Riders of Roham?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fall In! 2013

Last Saturday I went up to Lancaster, PA, for a quick visit to the HMGS fall convention, Fall In! Dad had originally planned to come along, but was drawn away by other concerns, so it was just my brother and I. After a fortuitous stop at a gas station which provided us with an opportunity to supply ourselves with Thin Mints and Tagalongs from a local Girl Scout troop, we arrived at the site around noon. We made a brief survey of the flea market and dealer's hall (no purchases of note), then sat down to assess the Saturday afternoon gaming options.

William was of a mind to play something medieval, and after some searching we both ended up with tickets for a Wars of the Roses game using the "A Coat of Steel" rules. The game was short a player, so William and I ended up taking command of the Lancastrian army (seemed appropriate given the venue) against a trio of Yorkists. (In retrospect, this was probably a mistake--the Wars of the Roses are an obscure enough conflict that anyone interested enough in it to run a game is probably has Yorkist sympathies...)

The scenario was fairly straightforward, but the game had a couple of interesting mechanics. First was the orders: each command had a limited pool of orders to start with. Once an order expired or was replaced, it was gone for good. (With the exception of a default move/attack.) While I do like the concept of orders being a finite resource (and my own rules, N.U.R.D, have a vaguely similar mechanic), I had a couple of issues with this in practice. For one thing, this particular scenario gave everyone basically the same selection of orders to choose from, which made things somewhat predictable. For another, I kept wishing I could give different orders to the various units under my command, rather than one for the whole force--so that my archers could keep firing while my Irish kerns moved up, for example.

As it was, our army basically advanced while the enemy stood in place and shot at us. After a few turns of this (occasionally pausing in our advance to return fire) we got to within melee range. This was where the other interesting mechanic came into play--when two units met in combat, each player would select one of about six "strategy" cards. The combination of the two players' strategies would determine how much of each force engaged, what the stakes would be, and would possibly provide some bonuses to one side or the other before the dice were rolled. After a couple of rounds of this, I started to get a feel for the rock-paper-scissors aspect of this, and started to gain the upper hand in the card selection. Unfortunately for us, there was still dice-rolling involved, which didn't go so well, and our lower starting morale combined with the effects of their archery meant that all our units broke first. (Not to mention a couple of our leaders managed to get themselves killed at inopportune moments.) So much for the Lancastrian cause.
My commander. What a guy!

We begin our advance.

These things were basically useless.

My units on the left were confused (see: my commander) and couldn't advance.

William's Welsh go in.

Scuffling in the center.

After that, we took another look through the flea market and dealers' (William picked up some HaT El Cid figures for one of his projects) and took a look at some other games that were running. I had other plans for Sunday and did not want to stick around too late, so rather than looking for an evening game, we found spots in a workshop on 3-D printing for wargaming. While I'm not a convert yet, I'll be interested to see what things will look like as this technology continues to improve, and I may look into the possibility of having some accessories commercially printed--20mm shields and spare weapons seem like they'd be within the realm of possibility, and could come in handy when doing conversions like my Byzantine cavalry earlier this year...

Civil War riverboats

Roman "Archimedes-punk"

...including some sort of flying galley. (Sky-reme?)

da Vinci's war machines in action.

All in all, an interesting trip, though a brief one. Haven't been doing much painting lately, and what with the holidays and other factors my time may be limited, but a NQSYW campaign remains on the near horizon...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Armies for the Archbishop

With another campaign in the Not Quite Seven Years' War on the horizon, Dad and I have been working on filling out a few more units--the other weekend we based up almost two full cavalry regiments (as seen here) and found that they would need a few more command figures. I ended up taking home the officers needed for the Archbishopric of Schlüsselbrett's cavalry regiment, and now they are complete:

I ended up painting these mostly in my own style, rather than trying to match the one existing officer, though I did try to keep to the original color scheme. I'm sure that when deployed en masse, they'll fit right in. The colonel on the black horse had some mold defects on his face, hence his somewhat squashed nose and extra-bushy mustache.

I haven't quite decided what I'll be painting next after this, but whatever it is, it'll probably end up some shade of blue: between these and my previous fantasy figure, I'm feeling a bit of red/yellow fatigue. Then again, once the campaign starts up, I may need to paint some more Wachovians...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Picking the Bones, part I

A brief diversion from my usual line here--some time back, my dad bought in to the Reaper Bones Kickstarter and ended up with quite a large box of 28mm plastic fantasy figures. Despite the dubious noises I made at several points along the way, he's actually been making good progress at getting this pile of plastic painted (as you can see by his blog)--nonetheless, I was invited to select any that I cared to paint.

Though in the past I have generally steered clear of 28mm individually-based fantasy figures, and though a lot of the Reaper figures are a bit too... spiky... for my tastes, I did pick out a small band of adventurous-looking types. After sitting around on my work table for a month (luxuriating in a nice bath of soapy water) I have finally gotten the first of them painted--a rather fierce-looking woman in sensibly heavy (if perhaps somewhat impractical) armor. Some Googling tells me that she is "Seelah, Iconic Pathfinder Paladin," or something like that.

I started with the cloak, which I decided to paint yellow. After looking at her facial features (those which were discernible on a head only half an inch tall, anyway) I decided to go for something other than my standard "acorn brown" and went with burnt umber instead. Possibly subconsciously inspired by a number of V-shaped elements in her armor, I ended up using a zig-zag motif on much of her gear, including the cloak pattern and the stylized lightning bolt on her shield. I found her helmet to be the most difficult bit--the way the figure is sculpted with it held tucked at her waist, I couldn't really get a sense of what the thing was supposed to look like--is that a visor or a crest? is it open at the bottom?--so eventually I just winged it.

Anyway, all in all this one was reasonably entertaining to paint, and I got to play with some different techniques. The other three will be along at some point, though probably not until after I've done some more 20mm stuff and possibly some NQSYW figures.