Monday 31 December 2018

2018 Round Up and then 2019...

I quite like these round-ups that bloggers are doing. It is nice to mark the hobby successes and then make plans for the next year. It will be fun to look back and see what plans I have, and just like work appraisal objectives - see how much I was completely off the mark!  I'm currently sat here with the biggest fireworks going off outside feeling somewhat like Von Paulus at Stalingrad but far better fed and considerably warmer.



For me 2018 was a big year of  'To the The Strongest', Simon Miller's excellent ancient rules.  My 10mm armies are now very playable and I look forward to playing more and painting more for it in 2019. I quite fancy a Gallic or gladiator army to take on my late Roman republican armies.

I made some significant progress with my WW2 British Normandy collection in 15mm but didn't actually play a game with them this year.

Another 28mm English Civil War Regiment was added to my army of Parliament and a good collection of artillery pieces now take their place too.

Much of the year was given over to re-basing and re-finding my old interest in 15mm figure - something which surprised me, but I am so glad I did. I have re-based literally thousands of figures in the latter half of this year and used new and improved (and quicker!) basing methods. More on this in another post to come.

I did also manage 4 x 28mm Norman command stands which was very pleasing to do.  This makes the collection 'playable'.  From now on anything else added is just really nice.

...and 12 Blood Red Skies planes - a lot of effort for planes with bendy wings.

Games played this year:

Jan - Panzergrenadier - 1940 France (15mm)

Feb - Hail Caesar - Wars of the Roses - Battle of Barnet (28mm)

March - Black Powder - American War of Independence (28mm)

April - None

May - To The Strongest - Roman Civil War (10mm)

May - To the Strongest - Roman Civil War - Philippi (10mm)

June -  To The Strongest - Roman Civil War - Thapsus (10mm)

July - None

August - Pike and Shotte - English Civil War - Battle of Monkton Farleigh (28mm)

'Baaaa Waaatch ouut - The Welsh Royalists are on their wayyyyy!'

Sept - Black Powder - French and Indian War (28mm)

Sept - Black Powder - Napoleonic (15mm)

Oct - Blood Red Skies - Battle of Britain (and Warhammer 40k Skirmish)

Nov - None

Dec - Warhammer 40K skirmish & Black Powder - ACW (15mm)

Actually that was an interesting read through for me at least - I made the assumption that I had played mostly 28mm but that was far from being the case.

Painting plans for 2019

It will probably be very random as usual! However I would like to make progress with:

  • 15mm Normandy WW2 for  Panzergrenadier rules
  • Add a few more units to my now playable 28mm Hastings armies
  • Paint up more British command stands for my 28mm AWI collection and maybe a unit or two
  • Add command stands to my 28mm Franco-Prussian collection to make it properly playable
  • Make progress on my WW1 skirmish armies for Chain of Command
  • Add lots of command figures for my 15mm ACW collections and some more units too (currently on my painting desk!)
  • Build a 15mm early Russian WW2 collection
  • Add a few more Blood Red Skies Aircraft for my bastardised rules
  • Add a few more 28mm Samurai and make my armies playable
  • Add to my 28mm ECW collection
  • Double the size of my 28mm FIW collection as the units are all 12 man stands currently
I think that is enough!  It looks more like a 5-year plan!  In addition there are a three projects which I would love to start but it would be at the expense of not doing some of the above

  • Little Big Horn - yep the whole thing - ideally in 10mm but maybe 6mm - I want to see how the command choices play out and to get more understanding of the battle
  • 15mm Desert War - I have started and stopped in so many scales for this. I think 15mm is the way forward but I am prepared to go 1/285.  Rules would be Panzergrenadier
  • I have great desire to do the Jacobite Wars and I think it would be in 15mm having really enjoyed the sight of my 15mm ACW all re-based and looking great
  • Boer War in 15mm would be really interesting too but I think that might be a project too far for this year
Enough now! There are thousands of hours of painting time shown there! It will be really interesting to see what actually happens and what progress is made. It's an interesting observation for me that I don't feel like doing new 28mm projects.  But... I am a wargamer and at the end of the day - I will be tempted by 'The Shiney' (or the plasticcy) as is the modern thing.

I wish you all a happy 2019!

Saturday 29 December 2018

Bishop Odo - Battle of Hastings

Here we have Bishop Odo, brother of William the Bastard of Normandy.  The figure is from the excellent Gripping Beast range with a fine banner from Flags of War.  The shield designs are from Little Big Men Studios.

I was going to give Bishop Odo the Papal Banner, but it does seem that Eustace of Boulogne was given the honour of carrying it with him.  I have given Odo a different very bright and expensive looking banner to reflect his high status.

There were weapon options in the pack and I decided to go for the wooden mace option as per the Bayeux Tapestry. I have read that it is thought that Bishop Odo may have commissioned the tapestry, in which case one would have thought that he might have wanted to have been represented fairly accurately in terms of armour and equipment.

The quilted armour certainly stands out on the tapestry.

Hopefully a 1066 Battle of Hastings can be recreated on my wargaming table soon. I started my little collection in the early 1990's but progress has been slow.  I think a few more troops and it might soon be playable.  Unusually I now have enough commanders to make it feasible.

...And finally a little joke which I thought of earlier.  This is how it might look if the Kubrick movie 'The Shining' had been made in 1066...!

Monday 17 December 2018

Blood Red Skies Game - Initial Thoughts

Sometimes you want something to work really well, like a relationship or a new car  or a new job and you invest a lot of time and effort into it and you really WANT it to work.  Well this was me with Blood Red Skies.

The reviews I read online were very positive. I never like to buy anything cold these days. I will read up and research and accept the caveat that biases will exist, however you hope that you can sift through these.  Interestingly I have not found a single negative review about the whole game overall.

So with that in mind I bought the Battle of Britain boxed set game and on reading the rules I thought I would go the whole hog and buy a very nice 6 x 4 ft mat from Deep Cut Studios too (I have another purpose for the mat too so that will multi-role'). 

I watched a couple of videos on You Tube for the tutorials and thought - 'Mmmm ok that has some promise - looks a bit confusing in places but that's new games.'  Though the confusion of the experienced play testers in one game did leave me wondering.

The box is beautifully presented. I love the Art Deco design and the use of colours in the art work. The rules are in keep with the era and I like the scenario books and the simple play sheet. The mechanics look very simple. 

The models themselves are nicely scaled and have lovely panelling - not too deep but enough for a good wash to get into the low lights and make a paint job look great.   The wings are very bendy though and some of the fuselages are bent like bananas as the plastic has the feel of cheap Christmas Cracker tat.    Still plastic is a new medium so experimental materials can be forgiven. 

STOP ...REWIND.....The wings and fuselages of the plastic planes were bent!!!!  Airfix were making plastic kits nearly 70 years ago and in the time since plastic technology on models is now amazing.  I mean what the is utterly inexcusable.  Hot water did allow me to bend the wings straight but they warped back to bent.  I do now wonder whether the paint job effort was worth it.  I am pleased to say that the latest Mosquito planes boxed set are made of a much better grade of plastic and are superb but really this should have been done from the outset.

There were some basic decals included in the Battle of Britain boxed set but one did have to buy the decal sheets for the squadron markings.  Annoyingly the new Mosquito set (not pictured here) comes with the Spitfire markings decals (why?!)

The game system works on an 'advantaged, neutral and disadvantaged' system symbolising height and skill of the superior planes at any particular time. It is quite possible for a plane to go through all 3 of these states in one game turn. The stand cleverly pivots forward and back from a central position to show these states.  It does feel a bit like a car gear stick after a while and can be a little tiresome rocking the planes back and forth constantly but the simple system does do away with having to use card chits, which is no bad thing.

The dice system for shooting and saves is great. Nice and simple.  Number of dice depend on various factors.  If the Ace of Clubs/Spades or whatever it is (I'm not a card player) appears in the slack handful of dice then either good or bad things happen. I like this - it makes the game chug along nicely without adding complexity.

The rules do work mostly quite well and the quick play sheets are a helpful tool but it is necessary to look through the expanded rules and the scenario book to pick up on all of the rules. This can be a bit annoying in a game to to have 3 books open on the desk and hunting through each to find the right bit.  Clouds effects are in the scenario book....

There are a different cards that can be played during the game but this appeared confusing even to the play testers on the You Tube video that I decided not to use these in the first couple of games.  Having read through it since it is still as clear as mud.  The rules for attacking multi-engined planes (common in WW2) has some confusing rules, indeed, a new FAQ sheet on the Warlord Games website, devotes some questions to clearing this up and the answer that things depend on whether the plane was on a bomb run or not does seem to muddy the water somewhat.  In the main rules it seems that to shoot down a bomber appears really difficult.  I was confused and still am.

I think the worst aspect for me is the way the planes manoeuvre.  It is very abstract.  Usually moving in straight lines with a turn at the end or giving up an advantage level and turning up to 180 degrees at any point in the turn.  Yes - like a police car in a car chase movie it can turn a 180 on the spot and go back the other way. There are no curving bank movements which (as I understood from reading primary sources) were common in dogfights.  The X-Wing banking angles do this motion very elegantly  and indeed old wargame rules (thinking of 'Dogfight over Flanders' ) used this same method.  So in our first two games the best tactic has been to fly head on (because trying to outflank will get you attacked pretty quickly) like jousting knights and then perform a 180 as you pass the other player to get on his tail to disadvantage him and then try to take the shot on the next turn.

I think this for both Ian and myself was the weirdest thing.  I want to be kind about the game. I want it to work. I want to enjoy it. I have spent 3 days solid painting the aircraft.  I have spent a lot of money on it...but so far it's just weird!  I'm hoping that something will ping into place on the next play through and we go 'Aha! We were doing it wrong and look now the planes look like they are dogfighting instead of just charging at each other and then spinning around.'

I note that there are a lot of new aircraft being released soon which is nice.  I note also that the plane that I was hoping to see (the Boulton Paul Defiant) was actually released as a pre-production special and is now reaching £41 per model on Ebay etc. Great :-(   so I'm not likely to see this plane as a model on the table now.

So what are my plans from here.  I think to read the rules again. I must have missed something surely.  And then play test and play test again and try to use the cards as the designer intended.  I will get more models as the planes do paint up nicely. I really would like BF-110s, Hurricanes and Stukas (but not in Christmas Cracker gift bendy plastic).

If the weirdness continues then I think I will create my own game using the aircraft but utilising the banking movements in the style of X-wing with different MDF movement sticks cut out by my jig-saw to match the maximum turn rates of the various aircraft.  I have little doubt that a working mix of X-Wing and elements of BRS could actually make a cracking little game which would suit me very well. 

So there we are. A few thoughts from me. I hope in a few months I can come back and say - 'Well I spotted some good bits back then, but there was a lot I didn't realise at the time and now the whole game is superb.'  We shall see.  I shall persist!

Wednesday 12 December 2018

28mm William of Normandy Command Stand

Since the summer my wargaming year has so far consisted of re-basing...lots of re-basing!  This started with my Napoleonic armies that I was on the cusp of selling and then as I was photographing it all for the purpose of selling, I just found that I really liked them (but they would need rebasing!).  This continued with my 15mm ACW collection (last blog post). An update on all that to follow soon!

So having to work away elsewhere and in accommodation that I really couldn't leave static grass, old basing texture and sand scattered everywhere I realised that I would have to take paints and a real painting project in case there was any decent 'downtime' from the work.  In the event, there was a lot of downtime and I was able to paint 4 command stands (minus basing!) in one week.  This was immensely pleasing but also reflects badly on me in that I found that I can virtually imprison myself for a week from dawn to midnight just to paint!

I am always desperate for command stands. Rules these days tend to be much more command focussed (and rightly so in my view) and leaders play an obviously important role.  But between painting a 24 man unit of fusiliers and a command stand, I'll paint the fusiliers every time!  In this case I took away with me all of my paints and the Norman commanders and some plastic Infantry to build. As I was 100 miles from home and driving to my job, I realised that I had forgotten to bring polystyrene glue! - so no figure building for me - It was going to be focussed command stand painting only.

I have had my Norman commanders for quite a long time. I think they are from Gripping Beast. If they are then then they have clearly improved on their old crappy horses.  As I got to work on the command stands I really enjoyed working on them. These characters are great and the paint really made them come to life.

As we see here this is William of Normandy doing his famous tapestry pose of 'Hello everyone - look I'm not dead' and sliding his helmet up.  The banner was randomly chosen for William and chosen just because it looks really nice.  I have studied photos of the Bayeux Tapestry for many hours and cannot find his personal banner shown anywhere.

The banner is from Little Big Men Studios and the shield designs are from Battle Flag.

I have much to say on basing which I might save until I post my ACW figs freshly rebased on to my blog.  I have changed techniques, both to save money by using static grass instead of just clumps of expensive grass and the various shades of grass also looks more realistic I think.  I'm moving away from painting the edge of the MDF base too.  I usually paint the edge brown but it looks like the figures are based on a chocolate biscuit when I do that.  I quite like this worn effect from the various basing effects on the MDF. It blends nicely and stops the eye from being drawn to the base edge, I think.

Anyway, I took these photos with my phone camera as the cheap Poundland batteries were all dead in their box so I cannot use my main camera (yes the one with the pike scratch on the lens!). At least these pics don't have the scratch (even if they do look a bit soft-filtered!).

Tuesday 16 October 2018

The Wargamer's Dilemma - Re-basing

It's something we have all done, it's not as if we haven't got enough of a lead or plastic mountain to spend our time painting instead.  But for whatever reason, be it new rules, a general re-fresh or re-organisation, we find ourselves levering figures off of bases and then putting them on new bases. Then applying our re-basing texture, plants etc of choice and then remembering to put magnetic sheet beneath each base. It's a MONSTER of a job!

I guess I'm writing this mostly in justification.  I'm just about to re-do an army I only re-based about 2 years ago...and I want to remind myself of all the reasons why I'm doing it and set it to paper (so to speak), so I don't continually beat myself up and ask myself 'why?' when I properly start the process.

Well, this fine 15mm Confederate army with their beautiful GMB flags were re-based and re-flagged only about 2 years ago. This replaced all of the card and messy scatter-flocked bases which were horribly warped.  Some of the flags had been made by early dot-printers and picked up at shows in the early 1990's.  The basing must have been done about then as I had picked up Fire & Fury rules and I was obsessed with them for about the next 10 years. Rules which were actually fun and looked amazing (unlike the poor photocopied and horrendously complex rules being produced in the UK at the time). 

Two years ago I decided to re-base them. I used MDF bases cut to the standard 1" x 1" and used the highly expensive railway flora stuck on.  Great I thought....Except it wasn't.

For some reason I couldn't get the motivation to re-base my Union Army afterwards. In fact I couldn't get the motivation to get my Confederates out of their box.  I did do for one great game...once.  But after this in the box they stayed.   I couldn't work out why my playing mojo for them had gone.  It was only recently when re-basing my vintage Minifigs Napoleonics (previous post) a couple of months ago that the reason became clear....I just hated handling the newly based figures.  It was so hard to get them out of the box, but also just to move them on the battlefield without bending bayonets and flags. It was easier to handle them by grasping the rear left and right figure which is never good.  I guess it was less important when the old bases were card as they were lighter (and actually were accidentally cut a little larger than 1" x 1").  With the weight of the new MDF bases with sand/acrylic texture and shrubs, bayonets bent like bananas.

The problem is immediately apparent with these photos.  I just tried to put these stands back in the box with their comrades. I had to stop - bayonets all over the place which were in dire danger of breaking.

I also realised that I really didn't like the Fire and Fury basing for the artillery too.  It looks so unnatural and like a marker than a model.  Very unrealistic crew positions.  I know in the F & F scenarios, units need to be jemmied in to get everything on to the board (at least in my experience) so I was loathe to make the bases bigger.  However, when the aesthetic offends the eye so much that you realise you don't want to get them out, then you know you have to do something.

Work in Progress:  On the plain MDF base is what I have done today. The squares are 1 cm squared.  I shall talk metric now.  The old base was 4 cm x 2.5 cm for a gun but with the gun sticking a further 0.5 cm out further. So let's call it 4.5 x 2.5 cm.

The new base is 5 cm x 4 cm.  It is just 0.5 cm longer and 1.5 cm wider and yet - look at the crew - they can work their gun!  It will look much better when properly base textured and plants and grass applied but the slightly larger base gives a much better aesthetic.

So now we come to the Infantry.  I decided to make bases into single bases containing what would have been 3 bases previously.  I also widened the base and have made it deeper.  This protects most of the bayonets leaving only a fraction to 'over hang' where unavoidable. Handling is much easier without it seeming like one is picking up a tiny hedgehog of protruding bayonets and ramrods.

The difference can be seen clearly here again.  The old bases were 1" x 1" so 3 bases would occupy 3" x 1" or approx 7.5 cm x  2.5cm.  My new base is 9 cm x 3.5 cm.

My new single base has a larger footprint in width but as the bayonets now have basing depth to protect them, the depth makes little difference.  Previously exposed bayonets sticking out would have increased the base depth in reality.

I used the figures from 3 bases for my new single base.  It is rare to require less than 3 bases in Fire and Fury.  I can call this new base a triple base or if stuck for game size which is suffering because I have given greater width to my bases then I will merely call it a 4-base.  I will be very flexible with my naming conventions.  To be honest, I don't intend removing bases when playing F & F, my standard casualty markers will keep track....and I'm sure in real battle when lead is flying and smoke is filling the air it would be impossible to tell whether it was a 900 man battalion or a 700 man battalion facing you across the valley and so I don't intend counting bases to keep track. A label will suffice to show starting strengths.

Another factor which makes my sticking to F & F basing conventions a little superfluous is that I tend to use Black Powder for ACW these days - though I would like the option of playing F & F if I feel like it.  I feel I can now do both with my figures protected and looking much better. 

It should also speed up the game - I dislike moving little single bases when I can move larger ones.  Some might ask why I don't just use movement trays - yes it would simplify things - but I just don't like the figures standing 6mm or so above the terrain as if they were all on a giant surfboard.  It's just an aesthetic thing and we all have our personal tastes.  I've tried movement trays and I am just not fond of them at all.

One potential problem was how to remove the figures that I had previously completed with basing texture of sand and acrylic paint. This stuff sets like concrete.  The Confederates above are standing in water.  After 30 minutes the bases are soft to the modelling blade.  I had feared that I would have to drill them out with my Dremel tool. A gentle scraping and lifting will undo all my previous hard work, but will result in figures being rebased in a far better fashion which also protects them more and makes them more playable to my mind.

Above is work in progress - the first texturing of the Union army.  Below how they look on my new larger MDF bases.

Well, if you have maintained interest so far then I congratulate you! You must have faced similar problems before and were curious to know how I dealt with my dilemma. It is something that has occupied my mind for weeks if not months now.  I think we like these little challenges and dilemmas as a deviation from daily life.  Ultimately, I can now look back on my blog in the coming weeks and say - 'THIS is why I'm putting myself through re-basing well over a thousand figures! Stick with it!'