Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 in review

So... what have I got up to in 2011?

Well, first off, I started this blog! The first post was on Jan 25th 2011: I never expected much from it other than a place to gather my thoughts and waffle, but it's been very gratifying to watch the followers count increase and some posts even occasionally garner the odd comment or two. I'm more than a little pleased to note that December is my first 1000+ pageview month, and my review of I Ain't Been Shot Mum kicked the blog well past 5000 pageviews. So a huge thank you to everyone who's read, even more if you followed, yet more again if you commented or linked. I'm going to try and be a bit better at acknowledging new followers and commenting on other folks' blogs generally in 2012.

Painting-wise, I seem to be the master of the last-minute paint job: arriving at club with a Really Useful Box some of whose contents still smell of Army Painter Anti-Shine seems to be a bit of a habit, but... at least they're painted. It's kind of amusing that, as I put the finishing touches to this post at about 10.50 on New Year's Eve, I've also just dipped 11 28mm Panzergrenadiers for Monday night's club session.

I do occasionally tease people at club for non-painted armies - it's a bit of a thing with me, and I think it goes back to playing WRG Ancients at my school wargames club using just cardboard bases and wishing very hard that I could actually afford figures other than Airfix plastics. Not that I'm that good a painter - as I've said before, I don't claim to be. I don't have the best eyesight (not seeing in 3D doesn't help!), nor am I the best at fine detail work, so the products of those nice Army Painter people are an absolute godsend to me. The height of achievement for me is getting a Red Cross armband on a Wehrmacht medic, or most of the belts, straps and harness on a ECW cavalryman: passing the 'two feet test' is what I aim for. Having said that? New and not el cheapo brushes? Win!

Arny-wise, I'm happy that, as I aimed for, I can raise 2000 (rulebook) points of WAB EIR. Things I'd probably be surprised by if you'd told me in January, are the decent 1500 or so points of WECW Royalists, and the still-growing group of Brigantes. I've been playing the latter a lot as Cartimandua's Rome-loyal tribe (or the 'psycho red-head', as she's affectionately known down the club), with two or three units of Auxillae in to help. On top of that, the recent major discoveries have been, firstly, Operation: Squad, which I absolutely love, and seems to be a major, major, hit at the club: I have Wehrmacht and British Para squads, and should have a Panzergrenadier squad before 2011 is done. Second discovery, definitely Napoleon at War - I'm slowly crawling up the top posters list on their forum, and that's without, as yet, having played a game. Though it's only a matter of time. Third discovery - while I've been drafting this post between Christmas and the New Year, in fact - I Ain't Been Shot Mum: again, not had chance to play it yet, but thoroughly taken by it and most certainly will.

As for the wargamers pledge for 2011... let's see: hrm. I need to get painting, according to the magic spreadsheet! 642 figures in, 381 painted. I suppose it's over half. And that isn't counting the 283 I had at the start of 2011! There are, though, another 100 or so primed and ready to paint, and another 40 on top of that most of the way to assembled.

Outside of gaming, I lost a very good friend in a car accident, entirely (as these things are) out of the blue. Rest in peace, Keris - I don't think you may ever have known how much you'd be missed by everyone.

On the good side, my new job leaves me with notably more disposable income, and 90 minutes less commute; our son has started secondary school and taken up drums (and is good enough for this not to be painful), and is also displaying an interest in wargaming.  Can't be bad.

And that, my friends, was 2011. A Happy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year to you all. See you in 2012 in about... a minute, if this scheduled post goes according to plan.

How to create raving fans....

There's a theory I learned back when the subsidiary of EDS I worked for was doing QA/QC/Leadership training, called the Raving Fans theory of customer support (I recommend the book, by the way).

It's really very simple: it says that spending relatively small amounts of money, time, and effort to do that bit extra for your customers is worth the same as spending many times its cost in marketing. If you screw up, customers will let their friends know, loudly and often. If you just deliver according to expectation, no-one bothers to mention it. If you go the extra mile... magic happens. And it really isn't rocket science.

A few examples (bear with me - this is about wargaming, honest!):

  • A while back I bought a second-hand Marshall guitar effects unit from my local music store, and happened to ask if they had the manual. They phoned Marshall, passed me the phone to a nice lady who asked for my address. Less than 24 hours later, free of charge, a manual (for a product on whose sale Marshall were making no money, remember) dropped through my letter box. Cost to them, one large letter stamp, one manual. About a fiver.
  • I buy guitar strings from Strings Direct. Why? Because the first order I placed on a friend's recommendation was for a dozen sets: twenty minutes after I placed the order online, there's a phone call from Tony at Strings Direct, to say they've only got three sets in stock - the rest will be on their way as soon as they arrive, no extra postage. The three sets arrived the next morning. The rest arrived the following day. Cost to them, one 0.5kg parcel, one phone call - maybe £1.50?
  • I ordered a set of drumsticks one evening, online, this Christmas for my son from Newcastle Drum Centre - they called back the following morning to say they weren't in stock, but there were some equivalent ones for a little bit more: they'd cover the difference, but would that be OK? Cost to them, one phone call and about £2.
In all three cases, they've probably spent under a fiver, and in return they have bought themselves a loyal customer who is going to sing their praises (like I am now) every time the subject comes up, to everyone they know. In the first two of those cases, I've been singing their praises for over a decade, and I don't intend to stop. 

(As an aside, the reason I'm not an eBuyer customer is they had a chance to do this, to rectify a mistake of theirs, at the cost of maybe £3 to them, and blew it. Which is also why they don't get a link from here, and why they didn't get the hardware business from one of the biggest single-sport websites in the world. And that was most of a decade ago.)

What's this got to do with wargaming, I hear you ask? 

Well - if you remember the unboxing shots I did for the Napoleon At War figures, you'll note I mentioned that there was a cavalry figure and an artillery limber missing. It's nice to know that Man At War read my blog, and even nicer when a couple of days after the post I get a forum PM apologising for the missing pieces and asking for my address. They arrived just before Christmas! From Spain! 

So, I'd just like to use this opportunity to say a big thank you to Ricardo and the rest of the guys at Man At War for going that extra little bit. You have a raving fan here.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Why I don't like Flames of War

I'm pretty open about the fact that I really want to like Flames of War, but I don't and can't.

I really want to like it because I grew up on a cracking set of home-grown company level WW2 tank rules to which I contributed the air rules and IIRC helped with the infantry rules. To a large extent that, along with Napoleonics and 'cardboard' WRG Ancients, are my first loves in wargaming. Back in the day (turn of the '70s/'80s), we were restricted to what we could scare up from Messrs Airfix and Matchbox as regards AFVs, along with a few other obscure things (I still don't know where the lone 1/72 M4A3E8 HVSS Sherman or the JagdPanzer IV came from, although a little research suggests they might have been Hasegawa kits), so just simply the idea of the massive range of 15mm tanks and vehicles available from Battlefront is enough to make me drool, let alone the other manufacturers.

I really want to like it because there's a hell of a lot of decent people at club who play it, as well as a bunch of nice 15mm scenery: no shortage of opponents, no shortage of people who have and know the rules, have the supplements, etc. And I'm completely unashamed to admit that if I could like it, I'm the kind of person who'd be buying every book and add-on, and shedloads of vehicles and figures.

But I can't.

I've tried, but I can't.

I can't at least in part because they don't feel to me like rules that actually reflect the conflict they're representing. They seem to encourage things like massive blocks of on-table artillery that would, historically, have been about three more tables away, and infantry seems to be just a speed bump for tanks (as someone I recall reading put it).

I can't because the army lists seem to encourage mini-maxing down to the last point, and the rules seem to encourage fine-tuning the position of a piece to the last mm to get the best possible dice modifier. And knowing the rules seems to be more important then knowing the capabilities of the units the miniatures represent in real life. As I said in a previous post, it seems more like very complicated chess with model tanks than an actual simulation of warfare, and little or no simulation of 'friction'.

I can't because it has that ghastly system of plonking down an objective marker at some arbitrary point on the board, and that seems to be the sum total of its nod to any concept of larger scale situational awareness. And yes, I know Napoleon at War has that in its tournament rules, as well. I don't intend to use it!

I'm well aware that folks who do like Flames of War are going to tell me I'm wrong (heck, who knows, they may just ignore me completely), and I should point out that this post doesn't reflect on the folks down the club, or elsewhere among my readers, who do play it, and clearly enjoy it. It's just not for me, guys.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

I Ain't Been Shot Mum 3 (aka IABSM3)

And here was I thinking I was safe from further Christmas spending! Had a lie in on Christmas Eve morning, listening (finally) to the latest Meeples and Miniatures podcast, courtesy of Neil "The Man Who Reviews Things I End Up Buying" Shuck and Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies. Up till now, I'd been listening to M&M on my longish commute to London, but since that ended in October, I've been short of two hour slots in which to listen - I did try the 'go to bed early and listen' approach, but that just resulted in my falling asleep, which is, I hasten to add, no reflection on Neil's talents!

Topic for this episode was the new "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum" rules, version 3 thereof. I'd already had my curiosity a little piqued by the scenario in Battlegames issue 27, but was still a little sceptical of the card-based semi-random activation system. While I do like systems that allow for a little unpredictability, there can be the potential for a degree of frustration - see, for example, some of the lousy dice I've had with both Blitzkrieg Commander and Hail Caesar (in the absence of a battle report for this one, I should just note that I had the left flank cavalry in one of the example scenarios, and pretty much never moved).

The podcast, though, was an eye-opener, in terms of Rich explaining the thoughts behind the design and the system generally: if you don't have time for a good listen (which I do strongly recommend), check out his article on the Too Fat Lardies blog on the subject. Definitely has me convinced that the system is workable at the company level it's designed for, and doesn't cause you to wind up sat in a corner of the battlefield beating your head against the wall as you throw 10s and 11s repeatedly.

In a nutshell, for those who haven't time to read either: the core system relies on a deck of cards, one for each platoon/armour section on both sides, plus a 'Tea Break' card. Cards are drawn, and units get activated when their card is drawn, but the Tea Break card ends the turn. So far, so random. Except that there are extra cards for the leaders (what IABSM calls 'Big Men') allowing them to give actions to units within their command radius, and other extra cards that tune the balance of the game. It's very neat, and I'm certainly more than willing to give it a shot in action.

I was also struck by a review comment on, of all places, IABSM's Wikipedia page:
"Most games on the market, in general, pre-suppose that you will be playing with reasonable people with whom you are at least quasi-friendly. IABSM takes this supposition and advances it even further. These are NOT tournament type games rules because frankly they rely on players being more concerned about having fun than winning a trophy."
A-bloomin'-men. For all the assorted armies and periods I've been playing, the one I miss most from my school club was company-level WW2 with a set of homegrown rules. I keep casting envious glances at the gorgeous Flames of War miniatures that various folks spend a lot of time playing at club, but my one look at FoW put me off for life, as to me it felt more like abstract chess with tanks and minimaxing the rules as much as one could. That and massive batteries of on-table artillery firing over open sights, Puh-leeeze. 

IABSM seems to be everything FoW isn't, and seems also to be the perfect ruleset for the next level up from Operation: Squad, and below Blitzkrieg Commander (which I also like in 6mm for really big sweeping actions, despite the command activation rules - we have, in the past, tweaked these at club with extra command actions COs can hand out... gee, that sounds familiar!!).

And just to further entice me, there's a PDF of the rules available specifically formatted (with lots of links) for use on tablets: works a treat on iBook for the iPad. So, erm... thanks again for the dent in my credit card, Neil and Rich. :) And I'll be picking up the cards and tokens when I have an army to use them with, unless I can borrow someone's Flames of War company to try them out (usefully, it's quite OK to use FoW-based units with IABSM).

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A horse of a different colour part 4 - coloured horses

Yes, it has been a long time, but here we are with part 4 of the horse genetics series, and here's where the fact that I'm an Englishman will be obvious.

We're going to discuss what over here are called 'coloured' horses - that is to say horses which have coats which are white with solid patches of another 'normal' coat colour. In the UK, black and white is called 'piebald', and brown/bay and white is 'skewbald' (bay and white - i.e. black mane/tail, brown patches on white - is sometimes called 'tricoloured'). Across the Atlantic, they're all called 'pinto'. However, this is a different pattern to Apaloosa horses (which are not unique to the US), and then there's the American Paint horse, which is another can of worms entirely.

The genetics of coloured horses is complex, and I'm not going to go into it in great depth. If you want a more detailed look, have a peek at the Wikipedia page on pintos. From a painting point of view, what really matters is the pattern of white - collectively, these genes are white-patterning genes.

Skewbald bay with classic
Tobiano markings.
Image by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
CC-BY-2.5 
The main 'coloured' gene is Tobiano (To/to). It's a pretty normal dominant gene, so if your horse has one copy of it it will display coloured/pinto characteristics. The A/a and E/e genes (from article 1) will govern whether it's a black and white, brown and white or bay and white pinto/coloured. 'Classic' Tobiano markings are white legs, and vertical patches of white, with coloured chest, face and rump/withers.

Next up is Overo. This is somewhat complex, as there are several genes making it up, and we're in the realm of the American Paint breed, which means I need to tread carefully or I'll probably offend someone by getting it not 100% right or grossly over-simplifying.

Well, tough. 'Cause I'm going to over-simplify a bit. :D

Classic Overo pattern.
Image by www.horsevet.co.uk
CC-BY-SA-3.0
Overo patterning is different to Tobiano in that it's much more jagged and horizontal. It is a term used by the American Paint Horse Association to describe a number of 'coloured' horse patterns that aren't pinto/piebald/skewbald.

The most common genetic cause is the Frame gene (O/N). As you can guess from the fact that it's not uppercase/lowercase, its slightly different - it behaves like a dominant gene in that horses with one copy of O display the overo patterning in some form or other. Unfortunately, horses with two copies of O display Lethal White Syndrome - similar to the way Dominant White is lethal, except that the foal is born with a pure white coat and dies after about 72 hours due to an underdeveloped digestive system (and are usually put to sleep sooner).

[Edit: realised I'd missed an important one.]

Sabino patterning on a Clydesdale.
Note, this is not caused by SB1.
Public Domain photo.
Another relatively common (as these things go) patterning gene (or rather set of genes) is/are known as Sabino. They fall into the Overo category as far as the American Paint Horse Association is concerned, and the most common one, SB1/sb1, is another incomplete dominant gene, in that SB1/sb1 (i.e. one copy of the gene) has a different effect to SB1/SB1. Specifically, one copy produces irregular white patches on the face and extremities, and often 'belly spots'. Two copies, on the other hand, are yet another way of producing a white horse! Unlike both Dominant White and the Overo Lethal White, this isn't unpleasantly fatal, though.

Sabino-type patterning, however, doesn't always result from the SB1 gene - there are a number of similar patterned horses that don't test positive for the gene, so there's clearly more research to be done. It is a classic pattern in draft horses (Shire, Clydesdale) although whatever the gene is that causes it, it doesn't produce a white horse if the animal has two copies: it's also a pattern found in Arabian horses, again caused by yet another gene.

Appaloosa with one of
the many possible
patterns.
Wikipedia - CC-BY-SA-3.0
The Appaloosa is a whole different ball game - they display what's called 'leopard' spotting, a much more mottled pattern than either Tobiano or Overo. This is caused by a family of genes collectively giving rise to the 'Leopard complex'. The principal one is Lp/lp, which is an incomplete dominant gene, in that animals with one copy of Lp display different patterning to one with two copies of it. Generally, one copy of Lp produces more, larger spots than two.

I'm not going to try and describe all the possible spotting patterns here, but, as ever, Wikipedia will come to your rescue. It is worth noting that the Appaloosa patterns are not unique to the classic 'Indian pony' - there are records of horses with leopard spotting patterns from as far back as Ancient Greece.

As I said, by this article we're now in the realm of quite complex and not-perfectly-understood genetics - if you want to learn more, Wikipedia is the place to go. But otherwise, hopefully I've covered enough to allow you to get a paint-brush out and produce convincing coloured horses (as well as convincing-coloured horses!)

And I'll leave you with a question to see if you've been paying attention. Why do Romanies have black and white horses?

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Seasons Greetings

As seems to be a tradition among most of the wargames blogs I follow, may I take this opportunity to wish all my readers, both regular and occasional, a merry and peaceful Christmas, and a happy, prosperous and gaming-filled 2012.

So far the Christmas break, apart from Midnight Mass at church (for which I was doing sound) appears to have involved a lot of experimenting with a model trebuchet (not quite the one linked) for James' history homework. He and the rest of us have learned a lot about the physics of how the thing works, and we did manage to get it tuned to fire a good 20' across the length of the living room - you'd be amazed how much extra range fine-tuning the sling fixing and release point gets you! Her Majesty and he are currently busy in the dining room, working on a post-Xmas dinner assembly of one of the Usborne card castle kits. I have a copy of Paddy Griffiths' "Sprawling Wargames" for after-lunch reading, and then we're aiming for a game of either Shadows Over Camelot or Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome.

My belated Christmas presents to the lot of you will be the last two or three parts of the Horse Of A Different Colour series of posts - part 4's research notes ('paint' or multicoloured horses) are tabbed in the browser as I type, and my plan (and I have witnesses here to nag me into it) is to get them done by the end of 2012.

As for a New Year's present... you'll just have to wait and see. I intend to get busy with my partner in crime on this one Real Soon Now, and we may be looking for beta testers. Watch this space.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

WAB2: Armies of Antiquity review

OK, so now I've had the book for a few days, it's been passed around the club members at our Christmas bash (yes, the committee can organise a pissup in a brewery!), and I've absorbed various folks comments elsewhere.

So, what do I think?

I'm coming from a background of not owning most of the WAB1 supplements, as I'm a late arrival to WAB itself, and my choice of ancient armies were fundamentally driven by what Warlord and Wargames Factory produce, which I suspect was also in part driven by what lists were in the base WAB2 rulebook. In a way, then, I'm possibly not the typical customer.

Basically, what you get for your £28 is a 200 page hardback book, in a pretty-much identical style to the core rulebook, packed with roughly 100 army lists. If, like me, you can do the maths, you can work out that that averages out to two pages a list, and you'd probably guess, and you'd be right, that that doesn't leave much space for pretty pictures and flowery text. Personally, that's not what I bought it for, anyway. Some folks on the fora have been moaning that for the content, they'd expect a £15 softback, or a bunch more content - while I can see their point, it does work out at 28p per well-researched list.

And they are, as far as I can tell, well-researched. I've been following the History of Rome podcast of late on my (now much shorter) commute, and I'm definitely pretty happy with the armies and enemies of early and Republican Rome (though the lack of a Samnite list will, I hope, be rectified in the lists Martin Gibbins has promised to post next year).

What's in the lists?


A rough check of my Brigantes army (the rulebook Barbarian list) vs building it on the British Tribes list suggests it'd come in around one and a half times the points for the same figures, partly because the warband now have the Light Infantry rule and are 10 points a pop. Equally, my 1500 pt rulebook EIR army kicks in around 200, at a rough first glance, with AoA - it is, though, a more varied list, including options for Numidians and Equites Alares, among others. There are a few subtle changes - for example, legionaries are now Raw, Seasoned or Elite - Seasoned and Elite get Drilled, only Elite get Stubborn, and Veteran is a +1pt extra buy for Seasoned or Elite. Also, no slingers, unless you take them as allies from the Armenian list.

Several of the lists have variants - they're either expressed by variations in the balance rules (percentage of cavalry etc), or by restricting some troop types to particular sub-lists. Even more lists for your money!

I should note, I wasn't expecting the points to remain the same - the whole point (no pun intended) of AoA2 is surely to balance out the lists, whatever it takes, unlike the WAB1 supplements. The Macedonians, for example, seem to be a little pricier than they are in the original supplement, but I think I've made it clear that's no bad thing in my book (sorry PhilF!) :D

What's Missing?


As I said in my earlier post, the contents page will give you a good idea of what's in the book. What's clearly missing - by design - is all the 'Biblical' lists (New Kingdom Egyptian, etc), and a more annoying omission, which I gather from Martin's forum post is not deliberate, is any French opposition for the medieval English list at, you know, places like Crécy and Agincourt.

There's only one real 'Dark Ages' list - I don't (as yet) play that, but several people have commented that the list covers a long time (75AD-800AD), even though it's divided into several variants.

Also missing, according to Martin, is his last batch of errata, which is a bit more of a fundamental cockup from Warhammer Historical/ForgeWorld. especially after apparently committing much the same sin with the core rulebook.

In Summary?


Gripes aside, this does pretty much what it says on the tin: definitely worth the money in my view, and has me considering several lists in addition to my planned Parthians.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Battlegames issue 27

So, to my considerable delight, as I was pondering what to do with the afternoon, an email dropped into my inbox from the new publishers of Battlegames Magazine with a link to my first subscription issue. [And, quite surprisingly, the previous half-dozen, which I wasn't expecting, and did cause me to double check when my subscription expired!]

Now, I've downloaded and devoured most of the freebies available on the site before, so I'm pretty familiar with the house style - having an entire afternoon's worth of reading after a week of madness at work was just what the doctor ordered, even if I probably should have been getting stuck in to the figure painting I have queued up.

Unlike previous issues of Battlegames, which were, I gather, available as PDFs, the new publisher makes them available via a web app or a similar iPad app. Being the happy owner of one of the late Mr. Jobs little babies (which, unsurprisingly, has a number of Battlegames' free PDFs on it!) I went for the latter approach. The app's OK - it did fall over on me a few times, but didn't lose my place on restart, which was nice - basically it's yet another digital document viewer. Pages are at print quality, zoomable in, with clickable links, which is definitely a plus - this includes contents page links, which is even better.

Content-wise? It's Battlegames - by now, I know what I'd be getting: nice production quality, nice photos, articles written by gamers with their heads screwed on right. High spots for issue 27 for me were the continuing narrative of the Grenoussian Intermezzo campaign (so itching to have been a part of this), and Neil Shuck's taking over of the Forward Observer column. Neil's Meeples and Miniatures podcast (see top right links section!) as well as his and Henry Hyde's View From The Verandah kept me sane during my long commutes to London (which thank goodness I don't do any more!), and I love his style. The I Ain't Been Shot Mum scenario intrigued me, and I was very impressed by Mike Stewart's "Wargaming Blind" piece - there but for the grace of God go I. The review of Saga has done nothing to dissuade me from buying it, either!

All in all? My kind of wargames magazine. And I really must get my thoughts about wargames campaigns vs leader-board "campaigns" down in an article for this blog sometime. So, in a nutshell - if you are into more than points-based tournament battles? get your credit card out and subscribe. Now!


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

WAB2 Armies of Antiquity is out

Unsurprisingly, not in the Warhammer Historical sale :D but it is available, and I have succumbed, since I'm still angling to put together a Parthian and probably a Norman (12th Century) army before next year's out.
Available from here, and, being Warhammer Historical, here alone, for £28 + P&P. Sadly, no bulk postage discount either. The list of armies is one to three pages per army, starting with the early struggles of Rome and going through as far as the Wars of the Roses and the Ottoman turks. I gather from comments on the WAB Forum that the author (Martin Gibbins) has said that he will publish a couple of PDFs after it's out, one containing about 20 Biblical lists, and the other 40 or so 'uncommon' lists.

I guess from other comments that the idea is that the lists will (unlike those dotted around the various original WAB supplements) be balanced relative to each other, and also not be as powerful point-for-point. This definitely wasn't the case with the original supplements, from some painful memories of getting roundly hammered with a bunch of Assyrians and Danes when playing WAB2 rulebook EIR. 

Battle Report - 19-Dec-2011

Operation: Squad again - Rob and I have been hankering after a Stalingrad session using some of the Battlefront and GW buildings we have. Sadly, no photos, as I was having way too much fun getting killed. I was joined by Dewi, who ran half my squad, against Rob's Plastic Soldier company Russian Guards squad.

Game 1 was a bit of a disaster - I managed to leave my Wehrmacht squad's sniper where Rob's sniper had a pretty much free shot at him, and needless to say he didn't survive. From there on in, it was pretty bad for the Germans: we had awful luck with the dice, and that damn sniper basically picked off people at will, and we conspicuously failed to spot him...

Game 2 started better: one imagines the dialogue went something like this:
Gefreiter Schmidt: Grenadier Müller, how would you like to earn an Iron Cross?
Grenadier Müller: Sir?
Schmidt: Just pop across the road to that building.
Müller: Jawohl...
Sniper Aleksandrovitch: Hrm. *sights* *blam*
Müller: arrrghh... *dies*
Schmidt: Ah. Did I not mention it would be posthumous? *makes spot roll on sniper* *hoses his location with MP40*
Aleksandrovitch: Ow. *much swearing in Russian* Not fair! *dies*


Which was fine. Except that about half a turn later a very similar event happened to the German sniper, being spotted and pretty much pinned down with a Russian DP LMG. The second game went on quite a bit longer, and did continue to reveal just what a cracking system Op: Squad is for squad level battles. However, once the wounded German sniper got on the receiving end of a grenade toss, we were pretty much done for... again.

Great session, though: I also came away with a couple of Rob's spare sprues of Russians to paint up, and a batch of 40 Celts and 9 Numidian cavalry ready undercoated from Phil. All in all, a good evening.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Primers

Doing a batch of undercoating on a load of Warlord and Wargames Factory Celts/Ancient Britons - going a variant on a way suggested on the Army Painter website, where they actually undercoated torsos and legs of a bunch of figures in various different primers to save painting. Having decided on this after I'd spent an afternoon gluing, I went for a range of assorted primers for the whole figure, with the bare-torsoed ones in some of my remaining AP Human Flesh (hard to get, as AP have discontinued it!).

I've been doing the mail-armoured guys in Citadel Skull White spray, and I have to say? NOT impressed in a direct comparison with the Army Painter. Doesn't cover nearly as well. Seriously considering re-priming in the last of my AP Black.

You'd get pictures, but they're all outside in the workshop, and it's blasted freezing out there :D

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The plan for 2012

Inspired by a similar post on Tim's Miniature Wargaming Blog I thought I'd set down my aims for 2012 and onwards... Since I changed jobs, I now have an hour or two every evening between me getting home and James finishing his homework, which has proved surprisingly productive - for example I managed to get a dozen Red Devils from undercoated to ready to dip in two hours the other Friday, setting something of a record for me - from just-bought to on-the-wargames-table in four days. As motivation, I'm entering two painting contests: Curt at Analogue Hobbies' winter challenge, and the La Bricolage forum contest. There - no escape now, I've said it in public.

Completing existing armies:
  • Add a couple more cohorts and another unit of cavalry to my 28mm EIR
  • Add another two warbands, some more cavalry, fanatics and chariots to my 28mm Brigantes
  • Add another squad with support weapons to my 28mm Wehrmacht (for Operation: Squad)
  • Add another regiment of pike and shot to my 28mm Royalists
New armies:
  • Napoleon At War 18mm French - at least two infantry brigades plus cavalry plus artillery
  • 28mm Parthians (largely Wargames Factory Persian light cavalry plus A&A cataphracts). Waiting on Armies of Antiquity 2 to see what else I need.
  • Some 28mm Gladiators for Warhammer Historical's ruleset
  • 28mm British Commandos for Op: Squad
  • 28mm Russians ditto
  • 28mm Normans - for SAGA and a possible club campaign
Scenery
  • I should buy some so I can game at home
  • Paint up/flock the Citadal modular hill I have
  • Try constructing some 28mm buildings 
  • Ditto bocage for Operation: Squad
Rulesets to acquire/check out
  • Buy 
    • Operation: Squad - Vehicles (and Reinforcements when it's out)
    • Hail Caesar
  • Test
    • Napoleon At War
    • Gladiator
Other stuff
  • Get the *deleted* workshop organized so I can keep track of all this stuff!
  • Sort out some means of spraying indoors while it's cold!
  • Wargamers Pledge. Watch this space!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Napoleon at War French - unboxing

So, having reached the end of the month with, to my considerable surprise, some money left, I grabbed a couple of boxes of the Napoleon at War figures - specifically the French foot artillery and the light cavalry brigade. They arrived today, in a surprisingly heavy (yes, I know - I'm used to Warlord / Wargames Factory / Conquest Games plastics. Sue me!) and small (18mm, not 28mm) box.

And here's what you get - apologies in advance for the less-than-perfect iPhone camera pics.

Good looking boxes - the back contains a parts callout and a very basic but useful painting guide: there are front and back pack shots on the Man At War store site, so I won't bother reproducing them here.

French Light Cavalry Brigade


The box claims 2 regiments, and 2 mounted officers, which is, indeed, what you get. It breaks down as
  • 2 mounted officers, both pointing, 
    • one in a bicorne, 
    • one not, 
  • 2 unit commanders, 
  • 2 trumpeters 
  • 20 regular cavalrymen, 
    • 15 with shakos 
    • 5 with bearskins
  • 9 cavalry bases (one too many, I think!) 
  • 2 officer bases
These are all packed in a two-compartment clear plastic tray with some foam padding: a few sabres were bent, but nothing too serious. I gather that some infantry boxes have arrived with broken muskets and bayonets, though.

The bearskinned troopers are, I assume, for elite squadrons - as there are only 5, I guess I'll be basing 3 on a base, and the odd two each with the trumpeter and unit CO on the command base. 

Moulding detail is excellent, but I'm not going to put any detail photos out this time round - once I get the DSLR charged and the figures undercoated, I'll stick up a round of photos.

French Foot Artillery Battery

Same again - plastic tray with foam padding. The box contains:
  • 18 artillerymen
  • 5 guns
    • 10 wheels
    • 5 medium gun barrels
    • 5 heavy gun barrels
    • 2 howitzer gun barrels
  • 4 horses
  • 2 drivers
  • 1 limber base
  • 4 gun bases
What it doesn't contain, and is visible on the box, is the trail axle and pair of smaller wheels for the limber. Whether this is an oversight in the box art or the box contents, I don't know.

Again, nice detail, pictures later :D

Summary

These are great, and (despite the fact that they're a LOT smaller than the stuff I'm used to painting) I'm really looking forward to getting some painted troops for Napoleon At War. Watch this space for the next stages.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Battle Report - 28 Nov 2011

A bit of a departure here - I refereed/acted as rules consultant on a club game of Operation: Squad, to introduce five new folks (AndyH, Carl, Grahame, Dewi and Rob) to the system.

No photos, as I was having way too much fun :D Basic set up was a slightly stretched version of the "Take The Town" scenario, with six buildings either side of the main road across a 6'x4' board, and two British squads (Paras and regular) controlled by Andy, Dewi and Carl (to whom full marks for also managing a speed painting job on his Brits) facing a squad of Fallschirmjäger and regular Heer controlled by Grahame and Rob.

Lessons learned - as I think we figured out last time, things get a bit slow with two squads a side - it's not impossible, but it's generally easier if they wind up split squad vs squad, which they did this time.

The short summary: in the opening rounds, Grahame's Wehrmacht advanced through the wood to take one of the buildings. Andy's Para half squad opposing him spotted the sniper he'd left on a corner of the wood, and thoroughly suppressed him with Bren and rifle fire - a very convincing demonstration of Op: Squad's system, I thought. Dewi's half squad of the Paras came across the MG34 from the German squad, and took a fair hammering, losing their corporal and getting a couple of others pinned behind a hedge.

Meanwhile, Rob's Fallschirmjäger and Carl's British engaged in a firefight between buildings, resulting, largely, in a lot of chipped stonework, except for the British medic who got caught in the open and wounded.

About then, Grahame asked, idly, about the grenade rules. And, as I recounted to AndyM afterwards, "It was all going so well until they discovered grenades." In Grahame's defence, though, Carl started it.

Grenades in Op: Squad are refreshingly lethal, since they're 4d6 + VT and largely ignore cover. Over on the left flank, several grenades got tossed, wounding Rob's MG34 gunner and loader, and killing another, and taking out a couple on Carl's side. Back with the Paras, they unloaded on and managed to pin that damn MG34, just after it ran out of ammo. One of the Germans tossed a grenade towards the hedge the Paras were hiding behind, and it fell just short enough to afford them its cover, pinning one but otherwise largely ineffectually showering them with dirt and foliage.

Next round, the now-unpinned Para, clearly motivated by the fact that it was nearly closing time, retaliated by jumping the hedge and heading for the building containing the Jerries, pitching a grenade through a window as he came. The German at the window was sufficiently surprised at this reckless attempt to gain a posthumous mention in despatches that he failed to react in time, and got pinned by the resulting grenade blast. However, his comrade two windows down put paid to any thoughts the Para may have had of surviving to read his own commendation.

Over on the other flank, Rob's squad managed (with another grenade or two) to clear out the building on the British side of the road and occupy it, just in time for the end of the game, it being 10:30. Result, a German win, occupying 3/6 buildings to the British 2/6, with Grahame's Obergefreiter having made it across a gap covered by the Para's Bren and being only a move short of making it 4/6 for the Germans.

All in all, a cracking good time was had by all - several mutterings of 'must buy a box of....' and 'where can I get the rules?' I loved it, and I wasn't even playing!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

28mm Op: Squad figures

As I've said before, I don't claim to be the world's best painter. But I'm quite proud of these for "wargame standard"...

Denison smocks are a sod to paint, too!

The science bit:

Wehrmacht (Warlord Games 28mm plastic):
  • primer - Army Painter Uniform Grey
  • tunics - assorted colours, see earlier post!
  • equipment - Citadel Commando Khaki, Bestial Brown, Black
  • entrenching tool handle - mix of Snakebite Leather and Commando Khaki
  • helmets - Tamiya German Grey
Paras (Warlord Games 28mm metal):
  • primer - Army painter fur brown
  • trousers - mix of Bestial Brown, Snakebite Leather and a touch of Knarloc Green
  • Denison Smock - Commando Khaki base, camo colours Knarloc Green and Scorched Brown (actually, I ran out of the latter, so it was a colour mixed to match)
  • webbing - Tamiya Field Grey
  • beret - Red Gore
Dip was brushed Army Painter Strong Tone (after a false start in which I forgot to shake/stir the new tin!). Base is my usual - Tamiya Dark Earth textured diorama paint, dilute PVA to fix Javis Moorland Scatter, then a few Gale Force rock fragments. Finally, some Javis static grass - I find that this works remarkably well if you grab a pinch in your fingers and sprinkle it - it seems to stand up much like it was dropped from a puffer bottle and is much less mess (more Wife Points).

The final step is a spray of Army Painter matt varnish, and we're done.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Quest For Field Grey

Current painting project is a squad of 10 Warlord 28mm Germans for Operation: Squad. I started out undercoating them in Army Painter 'Uniform Grey', which is great as an undercoat, but it's clear once you've got it on the figure that it isn't by any stretch of the imagination 'feldgrau'. By no means blue/green enough.

So, off to the web for various folks' ideas of what makes a good feldgrau.
  • Vallejo Model Colour 102 - "Field Grey"
  • Vallejo Model Colour 165 - "Grey Green"
  • Vallejo Model Colour 112 - "Yellow Green" good for faded/late war
  • Vallejo Model Colour 113 - "Khaki Grey"
  • Humbrol 27 - "Sea Grey"
  • Humbrol 75 - "Bronze Green"
  • Humbrol 79 - "Blue Grey"
  • Humbrol 106 - "Ocean Grey"
  • Humbrol 111 - "Field Grey" (discontinued)
  • Tamiya XF-22 - "RLM Grey"
  • Tamiya XF-65 - "Field Grey"
  • Citadel... well, nothing really.
Of course, it doesn't help that by the end of the war, feldgrau meant 'whatever you can lay your hands on to dye the cloth that's greyish'. And some weren't very grey :D

"Field Grey". Honest.
In the end, I was constrained by what I can buy locally on a Monday. Which means Vallejo is right out (no-one within 70 miles, as far as I'm aware). GW don't do anything that really looks right, our only Humbrol Acrylics stockist doesn't open on Mondays... so it was Tamiya XF-65 from Hobbycraft, and I'll probably do some mixing so not all 10 figures are the same colour. Photos to follow when I get cracking.

[Addendum: of course, not long after I posted this I remembered that we have a local Flames of War stockist (The Rift - Hi Trev!), and the FoW paints are actually Vallejo. Ah well.]

Monday, 21 November 2011

"The Games Workshop Hobby"

Just received a link from the GW newsletter to a survey, with prizes.

I find myself both amused and a little disturbed that the questions all ask, not about wargaming, but "The Games Workshop Hobby". It's like the WWE not calling it "wrestling", but rather "sports entertainment".

Let's have a look:

1. How important is the Games Workshop hobby to you?
See.. the Games Workshop hobby isn't. I have a small LOTR Rohirrim force, and two sets of rules (WAB2, Gladiator) from a part of GW that they seem to be desperately trying to disown and don't play in the shops because it doesn't sell figures. How do I answer that?

2. What other hobbies do you have? Tick all that apply.
"Wargaming"? Not an option. 3's a followup.

4. What was your main hobby/hobbies before you got into the Games Workshop hobby. Tick all that apply.
Uh... I'm not into "The Games Workshop Hobby"? Again, 5 is a followup.

6. How important are the following aspects of the Games Workshop hobby to you?
List includes most of the things us wargamers do - painting, collecting etc.

7. How important are the following aspects in making the hobby enjoyable to you.
List includes things like being creative, actually using physical models, hanging out at the store[!!], socialising, etc. Again, things I do but not within the WH/GW setting. 

8. Imagine you couldn't do the Games Workshop hobby any more. What wold you do and why?
Wargame :D

And so on for about 20 questions. You get the idea. 

Hard to answer, and I suspect they won't like the answers they got.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Battlegames saved!

From the Battlegames homepage:

[...] Battlegames is in the process of being acquired by Atlantic Publishers and will therefore become a stable-mate to Miniature Wargames. Deals of this kind obviously take time, but negotiations are proceeding extremely well and we are aiming to complete the handover by early December.
After six years of hard work to establish Battlegames in a highly competitive market, I am delighted that the magazine will now have the backing of Atlantic's highly professional and experienced team to help ensure that it has a bright future.
Battlegames will remain a stand-alone, bi-monthly publication [...]
 Woot. Yay. If you're reading this, Henry, I'll be subscribing next month.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A small grumble

Dear TMP. 1998 called, it'd like its forum code back.

Particularly the bit that requires downtime for daily maintenance.

I mean, really. Sheesh.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Battle Report - 07 Nov 2011

Finally got to play a game of Operation: Squad last night, thanks to Andy from the club. Basic set up, with Andy umpiring, was four squads, one British Paras, one American and two German, set up with one in each corner and the Germans opposite each other. The German objective was for my squad to get off the opposite corner...

My Germans eye the killing zone between them and safety
We played a slightly simplified set of the rules, in part because all of us hadn't played before and in part because we missed a few bits.

In a nutshell? Brilliant, brilliant set of rules. The reaction rules are what make Operation: Squad, and it's just fantastic.

Here's how it works. Players move alternate figures, so let's suppose German A is making a dash for cover across a street. At this point, the British player can say that Brit X leans out of a window for a potshot at him. The German player can then react to that, and have German NCO B, who's covering A, take a pop at Brit X. And so on, until each side has committed no more than 3 figures. All the figures involved then have an initiative roll-off (2d6 + VT stat): highest goes first, ties are resolved by who declared first, and actions happen in that order. So, if, say, German A rolls 4+4 = 8, German NCO B rolls 8+5, and Brit X rolls 7+4, B goes first and sprays the window with MP40 bullets. If he gets a pinned or better result (wounded, killed), X won't be able to fire back: if he doesn't, X will fire before A makes it to cover...

All in all, elegantly simple and brilliant.

Oh. The battle? The Germans lost, due to getting caught from both sides. But I didn't actually care.




Saturday, 5 November 2011

Battlegames magazine.

It would appear that the excellent Battlegames magazine is no more, at least as far as a print version goes.
Sad news, with a twinge of guilt, since a paper subscription was high on my list of things to purchase with my new extra disposable income.
Henry Hyde does seem to be an all-round decent chap, and it's a crying shame. Hopefully he can salvage what he needs to keep the financial wolf from the door from the wreckage.

Napoleon at War

I've been keen on the Napoleonic era for a long time. My school wargames club used to play Bruce Quarrie's rules from one of the Airfix Magazine Guides, and occasionally a set of (dreadful) home-grown rules that were entirely my fault. For a while, I started painting a bunch of Airfix figures as well as some Lamming Miniatures British light infantry, but in the end, university and D&D won out. On top of that, I absolutely aced my final (3rd year of secondary school, or year 9 to you youngsters) history exam before dropping the subject, largely due to getting to write scads and scads of stuff on Waterloo (based on the account in Ugo Pericoli's 1815: The Armies at Waterloo).

As I have commented in the past, I\ve been toying with shelling out on a bunch of Victrix and Perry 28mm Napoleonics and having a crack, probably with Black Powder. Gavin at the club has most of the Penninsular order of battle in 6mm, which is another way I could get a fix :D However, I was skimming a wargames mag last month when I happened on a full page ad for Napoleon At War. In a classic case of the Bader-Meinhoff phenomenon (look it up!), this was rapidly followed by an in-depth review in the most recent Meeples and Miniatures podcast which had me definitely intrigued.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the rulebook arrived on Tuesday :D Lovely presentation, in the modern tradition of colour hardback with pictures and diagrams. Well-written, clear and interesting ruleset - has some nice touches, particularly in the handling of reserves/unengaged troops, and of skirmishers, and in the national characteristics of each army (boy, that takes me back to Bruce Quarrie!). In fact, the latter are, to a degree, what makes the rules - British line vs French column would appear to take on the atmosphere one expects.

It's designed for tournament play, but will clearly lend itself to handling scenarios/recreations of battles. Army lists are quite nicely done - currently available from the website for the Hundred Days, and a Hundred Days campaign book is on its way, and then (one assumes) other eras of the war.

The other key thing? They're producing box sets of brigades of figures for the Hundred Days - in some ways this is intended to be Flames of War for the Napoleonic era. The figures are heroic 15mm (i.e. about 18mm, matching AB and Eureka, and maybe other ranges at a pinch), and the basing is a little idiosyncratic. It could be scaled to 6mm or 28mm, provided you adjusted ranges etc to match. The figures look, from the photos, to be very nice, and comments on the forums suggest that they're sculpted well and take paint very easily.

In short? I think this has real potential. I've (sadly) blown this months disposable income already on some figures and paints for Operation: Squad, but next month (unless a couple of eBay sales pan out) I'll be picking up some French.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Rumours of my death...

...have been for the most part greatly exaggerated, honest.

The Roundhead cavalry mass at Slat Mill Ford, ready to
prevent the Royalist rearguard reaching Hay's Bridge
Three weeks vacation in the USA, followed by a week back at work which involved handing in my notice (new job, 20 min commute rather than 1 hour 45 mins!), followed by most of three weeks off with a vile imported American strain of something that landed me with a nasty chest infection, no voice and worse almost no brain. Last week at current job this week!

Hopefully, I'll get caught up soon. Did manage to paint 5 Renegade ECW artillery crew and a culverin over the weekend, though, and then used them in a refight of the Battle of Cropredy Bridge at club last night. I'll gloss over the details, suffice it to say that the Royalist rearguard (me) didn't make it to Hay's Bridge...

Monday, 8 August 2011

Army Painter

I cannot tell a lie, I am an unashamed fan of Army Painter. For a self-confessed mediocre painter (compounded by the fact that I don't see in 3D!), it's a godsend. All I ask of my armies is that they pass the 'two-feet test' - do they look decent from normal gaming distance? I'm never going to win a best-painted army contest at a tournament, but... at least mine are painted, and you can tell what they're meant to be. So the Army Painter approach of blocking on the colours and letting the dip pick out some of the details is by far and away the best for me.

The small corner of my desk dedicated to spray cans has been growing of late, and for good reason - the current stash runs to:

  • Matt Black - horses, character figures, sometimes Romans
  • Human Flesh (had to buy this on eBay as Army Painter have discontinued it - c'mon, guys!) - Celts/Ancient Britons (man is THIS ever a timesaver!)
  • Dragon Red - ECW
  • Navy Blue - ECW
  • Fur Brown - chariots, artillery (again with the massive timesaver)
  • Army Green - WW2 Brits
  • Matt White - everything else (I've flirted with the Citadal black and white sprays, but I don't think they cover quite as well, or dry as fast).
  • Anti-shine spray - everything!
As I have some Normans and possibly some Parthian cataphracts coming up, I may well invest in the Plate  Mail spray as well. 

I'm also hearing good things about the AP superglue, of all things, from Trev at Rift, and their brush line. My one gripe is the dip does seem prone to dry up unless you're super careful with the lid of the tin, which means not wiping the brush on the edge, and using subtlety and a hammer to re-close the lid. 

Running out, and goop

Made a sizeable dent in the unpainted stash this past couple of weeks - a unit of EIR Auxillae (Warlord), as well as a start on an army of Brigantes tribesmen (and women) (mixed Warlord plastics and metals and Wargames Factory). The latter is for the narrative WAB campaign just starting at the club to replace the original planned Roman Civil War campaign (get well soon, Phil), It should be interesting since my army is a mix of the aforementioned Brigantes led by the much neglected Queen Cartimandua, with assistance from a bunch of Roman Auxillae. Usual last minute painting job - first session is tonight!

In doing this, I found myself running out of assorted stuff right, left and centre - black undercoat spray (horses), white undercoat spray (most other things), dark brown, red, grey, black acrylics, usable brushes, and worst of all the Tamiya dark earth textured paint I use for basing.

Most of this was no problem - Trevor down at the Rift in Peterborough is our Friendly Local Games Shop proprietor, and he usually has a decent stock of most things - but the only local stockist for the Tamiya paint is our other excellent local emporium, Trains4U. "No problem", I thought on Saturday, "won't need it till Sunday, can nip out and grab some after church tomorrow, and win Wife Points by having gardened today..." Imagine my unconfined joy to discover on Sunday lunchtime their Sunday opening is quote "winter months only."

Right. Time to cook up a replacement - basically the Tamiya stuff is a thick earth-brown goop containing sand-like particles. A quick trawl of various blogs suggested everything ranging from coloured Polyfilla to a mix of PVA, acrylic sealant, sawdust, paint and casting plaster, but in the end I plumped for a fairly simple recipe: roughly equal parts sand, PVA and dark earth paint. (The one downside of this is that the only dark earth paint I had to hand is a jar of Citadel Graveyard Earth, which is pretty much now an empty jar of Citadel Graveyard Earth - note to self to buy something suitable in bulk from someone other than Citadel).

And it worked - obviously, it does dry in the mixing pot over time (nothing that a surprisingly small amount of water won't stave off), but if you get the proportions right it's better than the Tamiya in it can be worked with a brush around feet and bases, and has the great advantage of containing enough PVA to allow me to dip straightaway in my favourite Javis Moorland Scatter.

All in all? Happy. And I'm done bar the last coat of Army Painter anti-shine, which I'll spray on when I get home from work and should be dry in time for club. It would be the same without an army smelling of varnish, anyway!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

In the painting queue....

Just undercoated (in black, in the hope that a bit of careful drybrushing will bring out the rarher soft detail in the mail) 18 hybrid Wargames Factory legionaries with Warlord heads and shields. In the end, I went with a small piece of sprue and heavy application of liquid poly solvent to make the Warlord heads sit right.

Behind them in the queue are two Renegade ECW 9 pdrs and crew for my Royalist army, as well as two boxes of Wargames Factory Celts and a box of chariots - my son (who is 11) wants to wargame, so I figure some adversaries for the Romans seems like a good plan.

Also on the way from eBay are a box of WF Persian Cavalry, which I have designs on turing into the start of a Parthian army. I really need to get the master spreadsheet up to date just to prove how... erm... well I'm doing on reducing the stash? *winning smile*

Sunday, 26 June 2011

EIR Legionaries with lorica hamata....

Given I have umpteen boxes of Warlord Romans, and a spare box of Wargames Factory Caesarian Romans which are a little out of period for the rest, I thought I'd have a play.

The detail on the WF bodies is a bit soft, but they are wearing mail (lorica hamata) rather than lorica segmentata, so I figured that a unit of EIR legionaries with mail (maybe for use as raw recruits) might not be a bad idea: the helmets, however, look wrong and the shields are oval.

So... take one WF legionary body and arms. Add either a WF Roman auxiliary cavalry head or a spare Warlord legionary head and a blob of green stuff, and a spare Warlord legionary shield (I have loads, due to buying a couple of dozen of their metal ones.

They seem to look OK - I'll have some pictures up when I get some painted.

In other news, I've painted 16 Warlord Eastern auxiliary archers and a couple of small bolt throwers and crew, and knocked together some movement trays for my two ECW Royalist pike and shot regiments prior to a battle on Monday. Also took part in the Norman Cross club's interclub tournament a few weekends ago with Grahame from the club - WAB pairs. We ran into a couple of interesting sets of opponents - the Danes+Assyrians were particularly lethal! Suffice it to say, we get trounced, but the club as a whole came second, and Dale won the Flames of War. 

I haven't forgotten the horses, and I will try and get the next article up soon. Work's been busy, and frankly when I get home, being a vegetable in front of the TV is about all I aspire to.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Battle Report - 11 Apr 2011

I aten't dead...
...just rather busy at work and home, with a musical project that sees me off to Germany over the bank holiday weekend. The next installment of "A horse of a different colour..." should appear later this week, though.

However, I do have time to catch up with a battle report from back in April.

WAB Ancients again, a warm up for our Roman Civil War campaign against AndyH's Romans - 1500 pts a side. I tested out an experimental rule we're using for the campaign where a limited allied cavalry can have Parthian Shot.

Fat lot of good that did me. Foolishly got the barbarians in question stuck behind another unit of cavalry which routed.

In general, this was a knock 'em down, drag 'em out affair - at this remove I can't remember the precise details, other than to note that the 4 points/figure extra for veteran legionaries makes a hell of a difference. We continued long past army break point (at which I'm pretty sure Andy would have won), with my veterans getting clobbered on three sides by Andy's troops, and just refusing to die or run away - that's them in the middle - all 6 of them at that point! This did include the die roll on the left, which was actually necessary for their continued survival at one point.

All in all? fun game, and Andy is a gentleman.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

WIP (cont'd)

Just a short note to prove I haven't dropped off the face of the planet. Spent the weekend researching Norman castles (Castle Rising and Castle Acre) for future wargaming purposes, am now busy finishing off the ECW stuff - yesterday I finished off 40 pike and shot and a dozen firelocks bar the dip, assembled and undercoated 24 cavalry, and painted 24 horses....

Today, the rest has to be ready to dip by about 5pm, so any other blogging activity is going to have to wait :D

Thursday, 21 April 2011

WiP

Ran out, in rapid succession, of Humbrol French Blue and EMA Plastic Weld over the past couple of sessions. The former easily fixed by a trip to Hobbycraft, the latter... some will be turning up on Saturday courtesy of Jacksons Models on eBay...

Note that I've tidied some more of the desk, and acquired another couple of feet of space where the figure stash was. Still needs a better tidy, but it's a start. And dear oh Lord, but that window blind needs replacing.

In the meantime, I've assembled and undercoated the firelocks, and assembled all 24 horses for the cavalry with the last of the Plastic Weld - all except for the saddle holsters, which are waiting on some more Plastic Weld, as the Humbrol stuff takes too long to set for such things.

...and, as you can see, I've run out of bottle tops.


Note also the new brush holder, and the bits drawers, currently full of spare Roman bits of various sorts, and in need of labelling.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Work area and work in progress

I could use a bit more space still, mind...
Finally got some desk space cleared in my office - we have an old (1860s) house with some connected outbuildings down the side of the garden, one of which is my office (the other's a music room) - so now I can officially not upset the Domestic Authorities by taking over her kitchen table. I just upset her by not being in, instead.

I have another desk to the left of that one, which I can use as well once its tidy. Needful purchases soon include a decent daylight lamp and magnifier, since the only light in there at present are a bunch of fluorescents. Missing from the photo is the cheap and cheerful brush holder I picked up from HobbyCraft this afternoon.

The paints are sitting on a monitor stand, under which are a couple of Really Useful Boxes holding a bunch of small (ex LOTR partwork) paint pots. The two bigger boxes to the right hold 20mm x 20mm (plus multiples) and 25mm x 50mm (plus multiples) bases, after an orgy of de-spruing a whole load.

The BBC bottle cap mountain is reduced a bit...
To the left is the figure stash (I've given up trying to hide it from 'er indoors) as well as a box of plastic bottle caps for use as painting holders - I scavenge these (saving them from being thrown away!) from work at a rate of about half a dozen a day.

Current work in progress is the Warlord Pike and Shot Battalia, being painted as ECW Royalists. I'm doing these the lazy man's Army Painter way - spray undercoat (actually Humbrol French Blue for this batch, since I don't have a local stockist with the non-boring Army Painter colours in), then flesh, belts, boots, hardware, hair and hat, dip, base and varnish. This is actually another race against time, as I have until Royal Wedding Day to paint as much as I can - which basically means all painting needs to be done in a week from tomorrow.
Also note my favourite liquid poly cement...

Useful note for anyone else assembling the infantry:
  1. The correct left arm for each right arm + musket combination is the one nearest it on the sprue
  2. Your sanity will be preserved much longer if you attach the left arm at roughly the right angle first!
Note the already-undercoated figures PVA'd to bottle tops ready for detail work. I've undercoated a full unit of infantry (40 pike and shot) and should have the firelock group undercoated by the end of tonight.

For spray undercoat, I Blu-Tak things to what's affectionately referred to as the 2"x1" of many colours... currently it's blue :D

The next sprue ready to paint...
Someday, I should clear out the clutter under the table!

Anyway, so that's my painting setup. Hope you like it.

Coming soon - next instalment of the horse colour saga, and the last two weeks' battle reports.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Why I won't be buying "Kampfgruppe Normandy"

ZeroTwentyThree has just drawn (via a blog post) my attention to Kampfgruppe Normandy. All I can say is, I'm afraid, "How &*()(*&^%$%^&*(ing much?"


Flames of War is pricy enough - Battlefront seem to have the WW2 captive miniature-collecting audience well and truly sewn up: I'll save my thoughts on the game itself for another day, other than to note I'm not a fan.

If I were to invest seriously in WW2 gaming, I'd either go 6mm with the excellent Blitzkrieg Commander, or find one of the many good sets of skirmish rules and shell out for some of the nice Bolt Action 28mms from Warlord. It's bad enough paying £30 (and being restricted to buying it from Warhammer Historical) for WAB: the only reason I'm similarly tempted by Black Powder and Hail Caesar! is, I'm completely unashamed to say, the sheer volume of figure and scenery porn in both volumes - they're as good as coffee table books. Either way, I'll pay forty eight quid for KN about when hell freezes over.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Followers and the like

A big hi to my scattering of new followers - I won't pick them all out individually, but will note that this blog is now linked from (and supporting) Wargaming Tradecraft - there's a bit of a GW bias in the articles, but the more generic ones on painting and the like make excellent reading. And it's another source of good blogs to read! (As if I didn't have enough!)

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A horse of a different colour part 3 - duns and roans

Time to deal with the genetics and colours of a couple of common horse colour variations. First up, duns.

Dun is what's known as a colour dilution gene - the D gene. 
  • D is dominant, and if present in a horse which is bay, black or chestnut lighten the base colour of the coat. Unlike the G/g grey gene this isn't 'going grey' - the horse's coat is lighter from birth, and it doesn't matter whether the horse has a DD or Dd pair.
  • d means you get the standard bay/chestnut/black colour as per normal.
The other key aspect of a dun horse is what are known as 'primitive markings'. These are, in order of most to least common/visible:
  • The 'eel stripe' - a black stripe along the centre of the back.
  • Leg stripes - often faint horizontal striping on the back of the (fore)legs
  • Shoulder stripes - much rarer
In addition, the face of a dun is often darker than the rest of its coat.

The three basic coat colours interact with DD or Dd as follows:
  • Bay (AA or Aa, EE or Ee) produces a bay dun or 'classic' dun with a light brown coat and darker main and tail, and primitive markings. 
  • Black (aa, EE or Ee) produces a "blue dun" or "grullo", with a grey coat and darker markings, points and often face.
  • Chestnut (aa, ee) produces a "red dun", with darker red points, markings and face.
A dun with the G (gray) gene will exhibit normal greying behaviour with age.

Roan, on the other hand, is not the product of a colour dilution gene, but it does produce an effect which can look similar at a distance. 
  • Rn (guess what, it's dominant) manifests itself as an even mix of white hairs and those of the original coat colour on the body, which (unlike a grey) does NOT lighten with age (and again, because it's a dominant trait, it doesn't matter whether your horse has an Rn/Rn or Rn/rn pair). Note that the head, mane, tail and lower legs remain dark.
  • rn means you get the standard bay/chestnut/black colour as per normal.
In a similar way to a dun, the three base horse colours produce named variants:
  • Bay + roan produces a bay roan 
  • Chestnut + roan produces a red roan, although the paler variants can be called a 'strawberry roan'
  • Black + roan produces a blue roan.
The key difference at the kind of scale we're likely to be painting figures at is that a dun has the 'dun face', the often darker colouring about the face, and the primitive markings, whereas the roan's head, mane, tail and lower legs remain dark. Another difference is that if a roan's coat is damaged (by, for example, a cut or a brand), it tends to grow back in the base colour without the white hairs.

So, that's duns and roans. Next, what are variously called 'paint' or 'coloured' horses.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A horse of a different colour part 2 - specifically, white.

I'm going to cover two things in this post: first up, white markings.

Many horses with a dark base coat colour (i.e. the ones we were talking about in the previous post) have white markings on the face, as well as one or more white 'socks'.

Facial markings range widely from almost none to the whole face - they're actually areas with different colour skin and hair pignment - note, for example, that when the white extends all the way to the nose, the underlying skin colour is pink, not dark.

Leg markings can extend as far as the knee, or as little as just above the hoof. Note that the hoof colour on a leg with white markings is going to be a shade ranging from flesh to pale khaki, not dark.

[Both images in the public domain, via Wikipedia's article on horse markings]

Ok. So that's white markings. What about white horses?

To begin with, a lot of the white horses you see aren't white. They're actually greys - even the famous Lipizaners (of "White Horses" fame, if you had the same schoolboy crush I did!) are grey, not white. Grey is produced by the grey gene, G or g.
  • G means the horse's coat will tend to go grey/white with age, much like a human's hair.
  • g means it won't.
Again, simples! Grey horses start out one of the principal colours as determined by their A/E genes, and as they age, they go greyer, until, eventually, they can end up white. The skin colour, however, remains dark (except under markings that were white at birth), so you can often tell whether a white horse is genetically a grey by looking at the shading round mouth and eyes, which will be dark. That is, if its mane and tail don't give it away by greying at a different rate to the coat, which can happen. 

A 'bloody shouldered' grey
Picture by Kumana @ Wild Equines
The grey colour goes through a stage of being a mix of dark and light hairs, leading to some interesting colours:
  • Various shades of grey
  • Dappled, where the intermixing of dark and light isn't uniform
  • 'Flea-bitten', where a red/brown base colour starts to re-emerge after the horse has become white, leading to a horse with a white coat with speckles of red throughout.
A rather spectacular variant of flea-bitten is known as 'bloody-shouldered', where the red is highly visible, usually on the shoulders.

There are a number of other genes that produce 'white' horses. One of the most common is the 'Dominant White' gene, W and w:
  • W is dominant, and produces a genuinely white from birth horse irrespective of the A and E genes - this can be distinguished by the skin around the mouth etc being pinkish, not dark. 
  • w doesn't - normal coat colouration genes take precedence.
Pure white horses are Ww, because the WW combination is fatal - an embryo with WW is reabsorbed and never goes to term.

There are other genes which can produce the appearance of white, but I'll cover those in a later article.

Next, duns and roans.
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