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.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Barbarians of Myboria

OK, yes, I'm still alive--August and September were busy months for me, and I didn't end up doing much bloggable stuff. However, painting has proceeded slowly--I've been adding to the nomadic hordes of Myboria, who are currently a little too dependent on their yakatheriums, and need some more actual cavalry. So in the last few months, I've added a couple units of light cavalry and a second unit of heavy cavalry to their ranks. These guys are a mix of Italeri and Zvezda figures, for the most part:

At some point, I took a break from the horse nomads to paint a different sort of barbarian--the strong-thewed heroic type. This guy from the Caesar Adventurers had been sitting on my painting desk in an unfinished state for many an age until some inspiration finally struck--what he really needed was a scantily-clad knee-hugger! Fortunately, the reclining woman from the old Atlantic Greek Life set seemed to fit the bill. (An Antediluvian priestess, perhaps?) These two were fun to paint--especially trying to suggest translucence on the woman's garment. (I did a bit of playing around with "Conam's" skin tone as well--at one point in the process he was an appalling fake-tan orange color...)

Anyway, hopefully it will be less than two months until the next update...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Historicon 2013

It was a hot weekend in Fredricksburg, VA, but not hot enough to melt lead. Through a quirk of my schedule, I came up from Norfolk rather than down from Germantown this year, and arrived on Thursday night--too late to register for anything, but with a few hours to wander around, look at some of the games on display, and play a quick pick-up chariot game with Dad to remind myself of how my rules work.

Friday morning was more of the same, along with initial visits to the dealer's hall and the flea market. Aside from some dice, my only significant purchase this time around were some "Arcane Legions" figures that someone was selling in the flea market. I must admit that I'm not at all familiar with the system, but I'd heard about the figures on the blogosphere--they're fantasy & 20mm scale, so I figured they might be able to fit in with our "Myborian" Hordes of the Things armies. I ended up with about a dozen centaurs (the main attraction), some Egyptian beasties, and some disappointing "Mongols", and three green-skinned fellows riding some sort of bear-cats who I may or may not find a use for. The factory paint jobs are nothing to write home about, so it may be a while before any of these reach the table.

Friday afternoon we set up the first of Dad's three Not Quite the Seven Years' War games, featuring one of his favorite scenarios, The Wagon Train. Unfortunately, I did not end up taking any pictures, but hopefully some will appear in his report, as my Wachovian cavalry finally had its day of glory--the hussars held up the enemy column by throwing themselves in front of the cavalry escort, while the cuirassiers arrived just in time to mop up and capture the lead wagons. The wagon train had the misfortune to stop about a foot shy of where they needed to be in order for their relief to arrive from the fort, and by the time the 33rd North Polenburg Dragoons showed up on their fine white horses, the wagons were already burning.

Saturday morning I ran the first of my two chariot games using N.U.R.D., which went pretty well--I had four players plus Dad, who got to command the Egyptian left. The scenario was pretty basic, with a chance encounter between Hittite and Egyptian forces trying to determine the loyalty of the nearby city of Jerboa. (Appearing as my newly painted city wall off on one edge of the board.) It was a close fight, but eventually the Egyptians worked their way around the Hittite left and pretty much destroyed that command. The final score was seven Hittite units destroyed to four Egyptian, though both sides had a few more that were in pretty bad shape by the end.

Board set up--Hittites to the left, Hittite allies in the foreground, Egyptians on the right.

Hittite players consider their deployment.

Egyptian players moving.

Light troops clash with Hittite chariots on the Hittite left wing.

The Hittite ally player arrives, with his four units of light chariots.

Part-way through the game.

The Hittite center gets a respite.

Chariots clash on the Egyptian left.

I was relatively pleased with how the first game went--everyone seemed to be picking up on the rules, the game moved at a decent pace, and the outcome remained in doubt until near the end, when the Hittite casualties started to pile up on the left. My rules adjustments mostly had their desired effect--the battle lines were generally more properly linear than in the Cold Wars game, rallying and moving was no longer the obvious choice, and we had a couple of leaders die. (The Hittite commander, in fact, got potted early when he joined a unit of archers that were a little too close to their breaking point.)

After the first game, I had about an hour to reshuffle the terrain a bit and grab some lunch before the afternoon game. This was to be a reprise of the Cold Wars scenario--the Hittites are attempting to escort a prince and his baggage train off the board, but both sides have some less-than-reliable elements--the allied contingents are more interested in fighting each other, and the Egyptian mercenaries are more interested in looting the baggage train than killing the prince. 

With the success of the morning game, a previously tested scenario, and with several people standing by for an open position, I was feeling pretty good about this, but for some reason it didn't quite seem to come together as well as the first game had. A couple of the players had a bit more difficulty with the rules this time, and despite the differing goals, the game ended up as more of a slugfest back and forth across the river. I may have to take a look back at how I set up the board for Cold Wars to see if differences in terrain might partly account for the later. Anyway, in the end, the Hittite ally player killed his hated rival (the Egyptian allied player) and cleared a path across the river for the baggage train, so it was a Hittite victory to balance out the morning's defeat.

The Egyptians advance.

Hittites move up the road.

Fighting along the river.

One of the players brought along his dice tower, which blended right in...

Anyway, at the end of the game a delegation came by to inform me that I had won an HMGS "Pour Encourager Les Autres" award, which was a pleasant surprise. (Though with somewhat sinister connotations, for those familiar with the origin of that phrase...) I also garnered a number of compliments throughout the day on the figures, the buildings, and... the groundcloth. (Not that I can claim much credit for that one--it's just spray-painted felt, and I didn't even do the spray-painting.)

I didn't have much energy left after the second game, so Saturday evening I mostly spent helping clan up the casualties as Dad ran his third NQSYW game. (The second one was running Saturday afternoon opposite my second game, so I have no idea how it went--except that apparently my infantry ended up in the first wave of an attack on some buildings, which presumably didn't go so well.) This one was a repeat of a scenario from last Historicon, with the Pragmatic Coalition trying to capture a hill before a Northern relief force arrived, which they succeeded in doing.

Pragmatic troops formed up before the battle.

My brother's Wiegenburgers

Wachovians storm the hill!

Sunday morning, after one last trawl through the flea market, I sat down for nice quick jalopy race, using the old "Future Race" rules. (I have fond memories of playing in pod racing games with these when I was abut ten years younger.) Alas, somewhere along the way I seem to have lost my knack for it, or maybe it's just that I was bringing a truck to a car race, as I came in dead last. (Though not actually dead, mind you.) After that, it was time for one last lunch with the rest of the H.A.W.Ks and then homeward bound...

Dad plays a naval game. Despite the shirt, this was the Mediterranean, not the Pacific...

My red truck is in the foreground. This was early on, before I fell behind...

All in all, it was a sort of strange convention--unlike Cold Wars, neither my brother nor my miniatures crony Marc made it down, I didn't buy much, I ended up running more games than I played, and I was pretty exhausted by the end. I still don't know if I'm sold on the Fredricksburg location, even after the second year--the main hall is still echoing and cavernous even with the curtain barriers they put up this year, and the dealer's area seemed kind of under-filled as well. Constantly trekking back and forth to the off-site hotel or the nearby Wegman's gave it an odd atmosphere as well, compared to Lancaster where games, lodging, and reasonable food are all found in the same building. Still, it was an opportunity to play games and run games, and I have a new knick-knack for my shelf, so at least it was not all in vain.