Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cretan Archers

This is the bonus battle group for my 7-day FOG Battle group painting self-challenge. It's a unit of eight stands of Cretan archers painted quickly and simply. I had intended on trying a darker color scheme, but after pushing myself outside my color comfort zone with the Gauls, somehow I managed to fall right back into place with this unit. I went a little too heavy-handed with the Citadel sepia wash, but once it was on it didn't want to come off all that easily so I left it as-is. There's a possibility I might go back and hit some highlights on these to bring back the brilliance of the colors and pick out some additional facial detail.

The Old Glory 15s Cretan figures are quite good - minimal flashing and three good poses. The Bows are proper ancient short bows and not just a simple curved bow. The only complaint I have with the figures is that the quivers seem too short for my tastes, almost cartoonishly so. I realize they're carrying shorter arrows, but on at least one of the poses they wouldn't even carry a crossbow bolt! Also none of the figures is carrying any sort of blade, sword, dirk, dagger or otherwise. It would be nice if they had a little something for when things get up close and personal.

This challenge was a fun exercise. It motivated me to press through what would have been a slow and difficult unit to paint had I been left to my normal schedule, and also motivated me to complete the week by pushing out this additional quickly painted unit for my upcoming Magnesia game later this summer. I think I may do this challenge again, next time I'm facing a unit that I find particularly challenging. Next up on the painting table, another quick unit - 6 stand battle group of Velites to add to my Magnesia army.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

FOG Gaul Battle Group Challenge - Day 5

Here is the final product after 5 days. Sorry about the shoddy lighting in the photos, I didn't realize my flood lamp was too close until I got back to the PC to post this entry. I'll try to get better pictures using natural light as soon as I can. Here are my thoughts about the Old Glory 15s Gaul figures:

Pros: affordable, animated, Lots of variety in poses
Cons: some of the animation comes in the form of just bending the figures over, one of the poses has a base that's 16mm long, which is a bit difficult to fit on a 15mm deep base

I was very worried that my color selections would end up being too dodgy, but the end result looks pretty good thanks to the shield decals and some creative basing to hide the bits I don't like.  While the variety of poses makes for a wild looking bunch, it does present somewhat of a problem in deploying the unit in a two-deep formation as the chaps leaning forward on the rear base get in the way of the spears of the chaps in the front. In hindsight, I should have based most of the spear-throwers on three bases and the sword-swingers on the other three. Between the shields and the clothing I think they look wild enough to hide the fact that I only added stripes and plaids to 25% of the figures.

I still have two days left. Here is a quick snapshot of one stick of the next unit on the painting table. So far I've only blocked in the tunics and flesh, but there's not a lot on these figures to paint and it's a small unit. I'm hoping I can finish painting this in the next two days. If you haven't been following Scott MacFeee's blog, he actually finished painting his 247 ACW figures for his personal challenge A DAY EARLY! Check his work out over on his blog.

Monday, January 25, 2010

FOG Gaul Battle Group Challenge - Day 4

I was able to sneak back down to the painting table last night after I posted yesterday's update and get another 90 minutes at the painting table to do the final prep work on the base colors of the shields. Tonight after dinner I was able to apply the Veni Vidi Vici transfers. I got these transfers from a friend and they've been aging a while in his collection which made them a bit finicky to apply. They're also sized for a different brand of figures so some of them had to be creatively modified to work. All in all I think I got them down good enough. As I only had two different color transfers I decided to leave a few shields plain without any transfers.

Tomorrow night I'll add my normal wash using Citadel sepia wash, which I like when the figures are showing a lot of flesh or natural cloth colors. Depending on how long that takes to dry I may be able to base these up tomorrow as well. While they're drying I think I'll start working on my next unit: a FOG battle group of Cretan archers. I'm picking them because they should paint quickly and I should be able to also finish them within the 7 day challenge period.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

FOG Gaul Battle Group Challenge - Day 3

Other than posting the first entry on this project to the blog, I wasn't able to accomplish anything else yesterday on this project, making this the day three post for the challenge. Yesterday I spent the entire day out of the house and got home to late and tired to paint. This morning I made up for lost time by putting in a couple hours, finishing up the detail work on the clothing. I'm not much for color selection, and my thought was every extra color added is another chance to bodge things up, so I kept these simple, only adding stripes or plaids to 1 in 4 figures. I'm hoping with the addition of the shield patterns they'll still look sufficiently 'crazy' to pass as proper barbarians.

After the clothing was finished I painted the footwear or bare feet, belts, weapons and sword scabbards. I still have to do a pass with gold/bronze to detail these, but I'll be doing that last after the shields are done. I've also made sure to have a good base color on all the shields - either white, off-white, or brown. This should give me a good mix for painting up the shields.

I have some Veni Vidi Vici transfers which will help, but I don't think I have enough for the whole unit, so I'll be hand-painting some of the detail work as well. Since I seem to be well ahead of schedule to finish in my one-week deadline, I've primed up a unit of Roman Velites and a unit of Cretan Archers, one of which will follow the Gauls to fill up the rest of the challenge week.  Hopefully I'll be able to get the shields painted up in one more session, although I expect them to take almost as long as the figures themselves!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

FOG Gaul Battle Group Challenge - Day 1

Scott MacPhee runs one of my favorite wargaming blogs, MacPhee's Miniature Men. Scott recently challenged himself to paint 250 ACW 15mm soldiers in ONE WEEK! This is a task that mere mortals wouldn't even consider, but I'm confident that not only will Scott reach his goal, but the figures he produces during this challenge will be beautiful. I knew Dennis Rodman was an alien from space, but I didn't think alien worlds would be clever enough to hide themselves as a wargamer. I think Scott's un-natural talent and painting speed is proof he's an alien from another world.

Not that this is any type of proper response to Scott's personal to himself, but I used his challenge to motivate myself to try to set a more humble personal goal: Paint twenty-four (24) 15mm Gauls in the same week as Scott is working on his 250. No comments from the peanut gallery about being 10% of the painter Scott is...I already know that!

These photos are after yesterday's first day of work. I've base-coated the flesh, pants, shirts/tunics where applicable, and the backs of the shields a plain wood color. A few shields also got base wood on the fronts while I had the color out. I've also painted the hair, including facial hair, and dry-brushed the lye into the hair of figures who appear to be sculpted in that style.

Today I'll get only a little bit of painting time as I will be out of the house all day. Hopefully I'll get enough painting done to warrant another update.  If I get enough time, I'm hoping to get some of the clothing decorated with stripes and plaids, and hopefully base coat the fronts of all the shields.

I know a lot of people paint their barbarians in bright primary colors, but for this unit I'm going for more natural colors while still having what bright colors I though would be available. Think of these as the Gauls who headed out to battle, but their wives stopped them an said, "You're not going to wear THAT to the battle are you? It's after Labor Day!" Hopefully I can step up the colors a bit more on the shields. My thoughts are it would be a lot easier to brightly color a shield than it would be to keep your textiles vibrant on the march.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Second Carnage and Glory AWI Game

Last night I ran my second Carnage and Glory AWI game at the Northern Conspiracy's monthly game night. The scenario was a slightly revised version of the Bemis Heights scenario I ran last last August. During the first playing of the scenario the British artillery was very effective and I felt it may have made attacking the British position too difficult for the Americans, so I changed the OB to have William's Battery withdrawn off table to the British camp. I also made a small modification to the Hessian Jagers, increasing their number of men slightly to allow them to perform more historically. The other major change was I remembered to bring the large hill I made for the scenario, which I forgot at home last time. Both the hill and the initial battlefield deployment are shown in this photo.

Carnage and Glory (C&G) is a computer-moderated rule set which allows for some very interesting elements in a game. The computer adds a large component of 'fog of war' and also can track fatigue. No longer can you expect your elite units to wade through 4,5 or 6 enemy units without worries. With C&G at some point your troops will get tired and eventually if pushed far enough, they'll falter simply due to exhaustion. The addition of the computer does, however, introduce some additional complexity, and unlike riding a bicycle, if you don't play C&G often, your skills in operating the software atrophy. During both the set-up of the OBs in the software and during the running of the game I made several mistakes, which I hope to learn from so that I don't repeat them when I run this scenario at the Huzzah! convention this coming April.

I start the scenario at approximately 10:00 am as Poore's brigade engages the lead elements of the British 'reconnaissance in force'. During the first two turns the rest of the American forces follow Poore's brigade with the exception of Morgan's command which enters from the west through the clearing on the British right flank in this photo.  The British have an advantage in terrain including two redoubts and in quality, but are severely outnumbered by the American force. The Americans have the responsibility of attacking the British force and destroying it. To do so requires them to apply their strength of numbers to their best advantage.

Here we see the British team of Ralph and Andre who are helping the third British player, newcomer Ross, understand the C&G rule system while also planning out their defense

This is the American team of Byron, Earl, George and Dave (waving his hand out of frame).

The initial turns saw Morgan entering and threatening the Hessian redoubt while Dearborn's troops advanced through the woods towards the Hessian Jagers. In the center the British lights slowly withdrew in front of Poore's brigade. On the American right the American reinforcements chose to advance through the woods instead of following Poore's brigade through the clearing. This delayed their entry by a couple of turns.

After his own off-table flank march which also took several turns, Earl 'The Pearl' arrives just in time to halt the British pursuit of Morgan and Dearborn's battered units. Morgan faltered after receiving heavy artillery fire and a British charge. George withdrew Dearborn's unit voluntarily fearing that the prolonged firefight with the Jagers and the close proximity of a British line regiment with bayonets was putting his riflemen at undue risk of being skewered without the ability to stab back at the British in a melee.

At the same time Poore's brigade was advancing, but in doing so had absorbed several turns of artillery and infantry fire. While his units were still advancing, many were now in disorder and some were only advancing under direct supervision of Poore and Arnold. Still they pressed on. On the right American flank the final American brigade finally emerged from the woods. Slightly tired and disordered from their long march through the disruptive terrain. Although the flanking force threatened the British lights in the center, the British managed to escape to their main battle line during their movement. The exhausted flanking forces made one attempt to charge the British defenders on the hill but lacked the strength to close. Their flanking march through the woods, and repeated British artillery barrages had taken the fight out of them.

The final assault attempted by the Americans pitted a militia unit against the Hessian redoubt and it's infantry and artillery defenders, while a sole New York regiment closed with the German detachments who were also supported by a nearby howitzer firing double canister! The results were not encouraging for the Americans. The New York regiment was repulsed before it could close to melee and ended up routing from the engagement. The militia weathered the storm of fire from the redoubt, but was unable to dislodge the occupants in the resulting melee, partly because of the beating they took from that battery's canister fire.

At the conclusion of the battle the Americans lost a total of 84 men killed and 4 captured while the British lost only 28 infantry and one artilleryman. An interesting additional feature of C&G is it tracks casualty figures and battles end up being resolved with very historical casualty totals. With their forces completely in tact and successfully having defended their position this battle was a total victory for the British.  My thoughts as GM on this scenario is that the simplest application of the American numbers is to rush one of the two redoubts by double-timing your troops in successive waves in a direct assault. As the defenders tire you will succeed on the second or third attack. Attacking across the board allows the British quality and artillery to rule the battlefield. During the first playing of this game the Americans did suffer greatly in their approach, but were able do push the Hessians out of their redoubt after two attacks.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wargaming Rooms Virtual Tour

This is something I've been promising to post for a few months, and I've finally had time to take all the necessary photos and write up the post. A couple of years ago a bunch of us on the World War I Modeling Mailing List that I've run for the past 15 years posted photos of our workshops. We all enjoyed it very much, and I drew from that some excellent ideas on how to better organize my space. This post is going to be a virtual Tour of my wargaming and modeling spaces. Please pardon the mess! I was very fortunate when we purchased our home that although the basement was finished, my lovely wife allowed me to commandeer the basement as my 'man cave'. This was a huge upgrade from the small unfinished basement in our previous home.

I'm going to start in my modeling and painting room, at where else, the painting table. As you can see, I have a lot of stuff fighting for space here, but when I'm winning the battle, there's still sufficient space to paint. On the wall is a clip board I use to hold reference pictures. It's currently holding printouts from Scott MacFee's blog of some mid-Republican Roman cavalry he posted. It can also hold an Osprey or a copy from a plate from one of my larger references. I use a large organizer to hold works in progress, supplies and detritus that might find its way onto bases as scenery. On the primary workspace is a sheet of tempered glass to work on, my thinners and cleaners and an empty box to catch flocking when basing. Currently I'm using a 100-watt incandescent light, although I also use a 300-watt torch light in the room for additional light. I'm saving my money for a full-spectrum light to replace this soon.

Next up going counter-clockwise around the room I have a small bookshelf. This shelf holds my wargaming rules, Osprey and other dedicated painting reference books and some 15mm and 25mm terrain I haven't found a proper home for. On top are organizers that hold magazines for my various hobbies that I haven't felt able to part with yet (there's gold in them there books!) Also on top is my footy sailboat. It's sitting it the class regulation sized measuring box. Although this isn't normally supposed to be used for storage, it seems to do nicely for that for me. On the floor is the tackle box that holds all of my footy sailboat tools, supplies and paraphernalia. Beside the bookcase is a set of plastic organizing shelves that quite disorganizingly holds a myriad of items I use for building RC airplanes. Eventually I hope to find proper homes for these items so that I can remove this eye sore. Up to now I haven't been able to bring myself to tackle the job.

Continuing around the room, the next item is my computer workstation. The primary purpose of this laptop is to drive my CNC laser engraver, which will be the next stop on the tour. This laptop also allows me to design new items to cut on the laser such as wargaming terrain, new R/C models and new WWI modeling details for R/C. I can also use it to draw new bases to cut for my wargaming units. Scrap wood for test cuts on the laser sit beside the PC as well as micrometers and other tools for the laser. Beneath the table is a large computer-safe fire extinguisher - a necessity for anyone operating a CNC laser engraver. Please excuse the trash can, which usually sits by my painting table.

This is my CNC Laser Engraver. It's an Epilog Legend 24TT which houses a 30-watt CO2 laser that is computer controlled using CNC software.What does that mean? Well simply put, you 'print' to it like a normal printer, but instead of putting ink onto paper, whatever you print draws with the laser in varying power. This allows you to cut, or engrave anything that can be burned. This isn't something I bought for wargaming, but it's very handy to have to cut bases and terrain items like fences and buildings. The primary use for the laser is to manufacture the kits I sell through my company, Wright Brothers R/C. The laser sits on a cabinet which holds all the items I cut on the laser: balsa wood, plywood, plastics, acrylics, etc. Additional supplies of these items also live in large bins hiding underneath my wargaming table. The switches on the wall operate the exhaust fan and air compressor that are necessary to operate the laser. Both of these items are housed in the mechanical room and service the laser through ducting run through the wall. As one side note, if you need bases or other wargaming items laser cut or engraved, I can provide these services to wargamers through my R/C business. No job is too small, and unlike most laser engraving companies, I know and understand the unique needs our hobby presents.

Next up is my R/C airplane building table. The large flat surface, covered with a cork board allows me to build straight, true structures. Hanging from the windows are some of my smaller, indoor R/C airplanes. Under the table, more balsa wood storage for personal (non-company) use. The drawers in this table house my R/C airplane building supplies, and will eventually house most of the items in the ugly white organizer beside the laptop. On top of the table is my R/C 'field box' containing all the tools and supplies I bring to the field with me when I fly.

The final stop in my modeling room is a small desk I use for all my electronics-related work. My R/C models are all electric-powered, so this is where I charge my batteries after flying, solder the electronic components and do other electric-related work. In the desk are all of my unused electronics parts for RC airplanes: motors, speed controls, servos, unused batteries, wire, etc. This desk also holds anything I can fit in any of the other storage areas in the room. On top of the desk is my power supply for powering my chargers and my soldering iron station.

Outside of my painting room is the main portion of our finished basement. Half of this is space is dedicated to my wargaming table. When I originally built this table it lived in an unfinished basement. Although it didn't look out of place there in it's rough, unpainted 2"x4" state, it now does seem somewhat out of place. I've promised myself when we moved into this new house, that I would sand and paint the table an appropriate color, and ask my lovely wife to sew a skirt for it that can be attached with Velcro, to hide the storage underneath. That was seven years ago. I still intend on doing it, really I do!  I store my table cover folded over to keep dust and other unsavory particulate from messing it up. For this photo it also allows you to nicely see that the table is actually two tables, each 6'x6' in size. This allows me to separate them if I want to host two games at the same time. Above the table I've opted for track lighting which allows me to re-configure the lighting should I separate the tables.

The last room on the tour is the basement mechanical room. This is where I do all of the dirty or dusty work. This photo is where I installed some very inexpensive cabinets from the home center. They store my spray paint, all the supplies for my business including my ready to ship inventory, my terrain making supplies and my larger tools such as my Dremel mini table saw, drill press, scroll saw and bench top sander. It took me a couple of weekends and a few hundred dollars to install these cabinets, but I can honestly say that it has paid off tenfold in the additional storage space and organization it's provided. I would highly recommend this project to others in need of additional hobby storage space.

Here's our final stop, a small workbench where I do my spray painting during the cold winter months when I cannot do it outside. This is also the workbench I use any time I have to do any heavy pounding, grinding, sanding, etc.  This bench was actually purchased from one of those companies that supplies boxes, tape and shipping supplies to businesses. It's called a 'packing table' and was much less expensive and more sturdily built than the workbenches sold at the home center. It has adjustable height legs, and can be wired for electricity if installed permanently.

Well that's the tour, I hope you've enjoyed it. I'd love to see some of my other favorite bloggers' workspaces sometime!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 - My Wargaming Year in Review

I've been enjoying the year in review articles from several of the other wargame bloggers that I follow and I thought it might be nice on this new years day to look over what I've done in the hobby over the past year. For me 2009 was a great year for wargaming. Most of my friends know that I'm a man with many hobbies: Wargaming, Radio Controlled Airplanes and Gliders, Board and Computer gaming and traveling, especially in our RV in the summers. Of all of those hobbies I tip back and forth as to which is my 'primary' hobby between wargaming and model airplanes. This year Wargaming has definitely been #1.

It's obvious from reading some of the blogs out there that a lot of wargamers enjoy the collecting and painting of figures as much, or even more than playing and hosting the games themselves. Although I enjoy collecting and painting figures a lot, the primary allure of the hobby for me has always been the gaming. I enjoy the social aspects of wargaming even more than the competitive aspects of them and I'm starting to enjoy hosting games a lot, both at my home, and at our club's monthly game nights. This year was a very active one for me. I hosted the following games:

  • 28mm Volley & Bayonet Battle of Yorktown (alternative history scenario) in my basement
  • Three 15mm Napoleonic Volley & Bayonet Road to Glory 'tournament' games in my basement. One session we had two different games running on my split 12' wargame table. 
  • WWI Blue Max air-to-air combat game that I ran at Historicon with my good friend Rich Oster
  • 28mm AWI Carnage & Glory (computer moderated) Battle of Bemis heights game I ran at our club's game night
  • 15mm Napoleonic Volley & Bayonet Road to Glory Dennewitz game in my basement in January
  • 15mm Napoleonic Volley & Bayonet Road to Glory Dennewitz game at our club's game night in February
  • 15mm Napoleonic Volley & Bayonet Road to Glory Dennewitz game at our club's game day in September. The Dennewitz game was the most photogenic of all my games and earned the 'photo of the year' honors at the top of this post.
  • I started a 15mm Napoleonic 1813 campaign in October that will continue into 2010 and has already generated two battles
  • 15mm Napoleonic Volley & Bayonet Road to Glory 'Battle of Muttenz' game for the campaign - hosted in my basement
  • 15mm Napoleonic Volley & Bayonet Road to Glory 'Battle of Muttenz/Nyon' game for the campaign - hosted in my basement 
In addition to all of these games, I played in a lot of GREAT games with my club, both at our game nights, and at friends' homes. These included several Field of Glory ancients games, WWII ship combat using Axis and Allies War at Sea (slightly modified), Crossfire WWII and DBA ancients in our club's 'First Man of Rome' mini tournament. In  the tournament I was the best Roman player and declared the first man of Rome. This mini tournament is a lot of fun. Although I won for the Romans, the enemies of Rome collectively did much better than the Romans did this year. I think all four enemy players had better win/loss records than I had!

In addition to having a lot of fun hosting and playing in games, 2009 was a very productive year for me as far as my figure collection is concerned. This year I purchased a large amount of 15mm Napoleonic Prussian figures from GAJO and Dragon Painting Service which comprised the majority of a new Prussian army that I built almost completely in 2009. I also purchased the entire infantry and artillery of the Old, Middle and Young guard for my French army. Volley & Bayonet in 2/3 scale, which we use, is quite economical as far a figures are concerned. A typical infantry brigade only requires eight (8) figures, so purchasing units is something I can afford to do as long as I also paint figures for my armies as well, which I did this year. Here's what I painted myself in 2009:

  • 44 Foot, 19 Mounted, 4 Guns - 15mm Napoleonics - Including a complete corps of Saxons for my Dennewitz game, Prussian Landwehr and Dragoons
  • 25 Foot, 6 Mounted, 2 guns - 28mm AWI - Including two batteries of American Artillery, Six American and French Officers, two battalions of American Rifle skirmishers and the British 33rd Regiment of Foot
  • 84 Foot - 15mm Ancients - Roman Velites, Roman Triarii, Italian Extraordinarii, Italian Light Foot
  • 6mm Terrain - I modeled and painted 8 sets of town walls and painted a dozen houses and a couple bridges for my Dennewitz game to start my 6mm terrain collection
  • 15mm Terrain - 43 15mm Trees for Muttenz/Nyon game, made a dedicated terrain mat for Dennewitz that also doubles as a Volley & Bayonet Road to Glory generated battle ground cloth
  • 25/28mm Terrain - Built a large hill and two redoubts for my Bemis Heights game.  
Finally, the one wargaming thing that I'm most happy about in 2009, I was voted our club's 2009 Sportsman of the Year. I believe this was mostly due to the large number of games I hosted at the club during a year in which scheduling games was unusually challenging but also I'm happy to be recognized by my friends as a good sport. This is something I'm sure I haven't always been very good at but as I've aged, I've tried to work on this aspect of my wargaming. I only hope that I can continue to be worthy of the honor in the future. Our club is a great group of friends that I'm very lucky to have.

Here's to an even better 2010 for everyone!