Sunday, 20 April 2014

Salute 2014: The Games

 I rarely remember to dig the camera out in the madness of Salute but I did manage a quick whisk around later in the day to snap those that jumped out at me. This year, there seemed to be fewer 'wow' games for me, with the number of skirmish systems evidencing itself in the number of smaller tables. Of course, those  showcase tables were usually very nicely presented, but do miss some of the spectacle of a massed battle games at a major show. There were also quite a few tables I remember from last year making a repeat performance. 

First up, Wyvern Wargamers with Battle of the Marne

Miniatures and terrain by Kallistra. I got to roll dice on this one and really enjoyed the simple rules and grand maneuvers involving hundreds of troops on the table. 

South London Warlords with their lovely  Battle of Barbastro 1837

Mostly Perry miniatures Carlist War

Wargames Soldiers and Strategy and Simon Miller, C-Day: Caesar's invasion of Britain

Lovely table, fairly flat without being featureless. 

Beautiful units all over

Not sure on this one but I liked the unusual groundwork

White Hart Wargames with Allan Quartermaine and the Lost City

The Battle of Keren 1941 by Newark Irregulars - great use of a vertical board but damn hard to capture in a photograph

Eastern Front WWII 

Something Cold War Gone Hot?

Sword Beach on D-Day, I believe

Not sure who put it on, but this was a stunning game using Paul Hicks Dien Bien Phu sculpts

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Salute 2014: The Loot

Well I'm back from the annual wander around the cavernous Excel centre. While I no longer live in London I was fortunate enough to have somewhere to stay the weekend and someone to entertain the wife for the day, to avoid the godawful-o'clock start that the rest of the Wyvern Wargamers group endured. So, fresh faced, I turned up at 1020 to avoid the worst of the monstrous queue. 

So, what tempted my wallet? All in all, no 'big ticket' purchases, just some stock ups, a few minis that I've had my eye on and some odds and ends.

-From the Perry stand, a restrained visit with just three packs from the Sudan range to top up the painting queue and box of Afrikakorps. The latter all BobC's fault after he mentioned that had enough ANZACs for Chain of Command. Dual use for Indiana Jones pulpy nonsense too.
-My annual Flag Dude stockup, mostly Mahdist and colonial British.
-A supply package from Warbases - bases for Mahdists and some oddments from their new animals range
-Some custom Perspex rings from Oshiro Modelterrain make sabot trays for my Mahdists
-some Renedra bell tents and rustic fences
-a few 4Ground furniture packs, to fill buildings in pulpy games
-Various resin scenic bits, including reasonably priced ruined columns and gate posts, a couple of bits of wall and some timber stacks
-Impulse purchase of just one 10mm WWI German jaeger pack from Kallistra. The Wyvern Wargamers table by Kallistra looked ace with whole hordes of infantry on a big push for he battle of the Marne in 10mm. I thought l'd grab a little platoon to paint up and perhaps join in future games of TFL's Through the Mud and the Blood. Really liked the heft of the Kallistra minis too - just that nudge bigger than pendraken's 10mm.
-Stockup of tufts from Antenociti

All in all, a par haul by my standards.

I did make the blogger meetup, albeit delayed from too long lingering at 4Ground. So I missed many people and the photo but did get chance to congratulate Michael Awdry on his victory over me in the AHPC side challenge. I also to chance to catch up with Samulus during the day, which was nice.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Some Gentle Terraining

The past few weeks have had me pottering about finishing off some small terrain elements that have been cluttering up my workspace for far too long (all your fault, Curt). First, a few more tree base inserts, that can also be used as scatter terrain. This time, I made up some shapely bushes, using small scale woodland scenics tree armatures and clumps of rubberised horsehair.

I'm quite pleased with how they came out, particularly compared to my first effort. Though I found there was a bit of a knack to it making them. Getting the right size and shape bits of horsehair is the first hurdle. Then I just ran hot glue up the lower side of the branches. The trick is to wait just a couple of seconds for it to cool enough to not burn your fingers, but not too long so it dries, then swiftly 'pinch' the horsehair clumps onto the branches. Bigger clumps are easier with a slit halfway up them using scissors, making it easier to get horsehair sitting on both sides of the armature branch. Once firmly stuck, tease the shrubbery out and trim it back to a natural shape. Cutting across the curls of the horsehair gave the best effect.

I also added a fourth Sarissa adobe building to my collection, painted the same as the rest, though with added grit and tufts under the steps to the roof.

Thirdly, using some Warbases vehicle bases, I've created some makeshift defensive works for the Sudan. A few accounts have either side making low rocky barricades to provide some cover in the open terrain. I just used the small rocks sieved out of sharp sand, built up in a few layers using a hot glue gun.

They are low, but meant to be knelt behind, these chaps obviously aren't kneeling.

Finally, a sneaky peek. This Bengal infantry officer a test figure for the khaki I was planning to use for the Sudan, until I just got on and painted the 10th Hussars. So a fairly pointless test, but I finished him in a spare couple odours. The rest of the unit is on the painting table now and should be fairly quick to paint up. I'll finish off his base and take some better photos of the whole lot when they're finished.

Not enough light for the photo, I'm afraid

The weekend brings Salute, which I'm fortunate enough to be able to make again this year despite not living in London  anymore. My shopping list is quite reasonable so far, just some odds and ends and re-supplies. No doubt there will be temptations once I'm their, but so far I've resisted any urges for whole new projects. Hopefully I'll see and meet some of you there.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Getting A Few Games In

While it might all seem to have been about the challenge in the dark winter months, as we emerge into spring I have managed a few games in recently. First AdeD of Wyvern ran a group of us through some games of Dead Man's Hand one club night, which seems to be the go to ruleset for wild west gaming. I dug out my small group of painted lawmen (on the bevelled bases) and faced BobC's outlaws across three scenarios. It was a wee while back, so I'll skip the AAR and commentary and just show you the goodies...

With an upstanding citizen down, Not-The-Man-With-No-Name fires wildly at the mexican in pajamas

My Depudee heads off in pursuit of a ner'do'well

A Lawman using bystanders as cover - not sporting but otherwise he'd have been toast from those Mexicans!

Bustling street shot - Bob supplied plenty of civilians to witness the carnage

Scenario three ends with a gunfight outside the dressmaker's, of all places. 

There was a lot to enjoy about Dead Man's Hand - it has good production values and I enjoyed the variety and flavour that were added by the dual activation/action cards. I liked that it isn't IGO-UGO with the card-driven initiative, though it was a bit faffy moving the little cards around all of the time. But, I wasn't convinced that the scenarios were balanced as the lawmen seemed to struggle and thought some of the mechanics, like the 'quick draw' card for initiative were gimmicky. Also, with a campaign system to be added soon, I was surprised at the size of the starter gangs - I'm not sure the card-driven initiative will scale upwards much as gangs grow without becoming tiresome. Still, as an occasional pick up game it is entirely playable and has much more flavour and 'story' written in to it compared to say Legends of the Old West. Happily, I've already got a handful of lawmen painted so should be able to throw down games every now and then. But I'm surprised to report that IO'm not particualrly tempted to rush out and bu the ruleset and play loads of games. Given how many people enjoy it, perhaps I have very high thresholds these days!

A couple of weeks later and I was back at Wyvern for a quite lovely Starship Troopers game hosted by Stu of Dust, Tears and Dice. Stu wants to run an SST campaign that lets players drop in and out while keeping the campaign running - perfect for a fortnightly club like Wyvern. Each time, the players will take Mobile Infantry squads and Stu will steamroller them with hordes of bugs. The best MI commander over the campaign gets Though he was clearly going easy on us for Game 1. Out mission - converge on a suspected bugs nest and collapse it with our heavy support. Stu's writeup is here.

Move out. My squad nicknamed 'Lucky Devils' and supporting Chickenhawk make steady time down from the landing zone

Ambush! AdeD's squad are surprised by first contact.

Things start getting hairy for Paul and Ade's squads either side of mine as bugs start swarming

The Fleet's view of the engagement - MI firepower starts to tell

Fire in the hole! *Pssssht* Bug hole down

Tanker bug!

Yes, that's my squad that he's bearing down on.

At which point, Acting Skymarshal AdeD got a lot of abuse for not bothering to invest in any Fleet support assets for this engagement.

Paul's squad, Baldwin's B*stards take casualties to scything claws and swooping fliers. Even the vid-corder crew are taking hits!

After two rounds with no initiative, the tanker final succumbs to my infantry and Chickenhawk. 

It went down to my last missile though - after which it would have had the chance to char-grill the lot of them!

*Geronimo - bug nest down, repeat bug nest down*

With the last throw of the dice, I complete our objective - moments before being overrun by the swarm that just forced Paul's squad to withdraw. 

Between the bug holes, tanker bug and a handful of trooper bugs, I staked a fair claim towards the rank of Skymarshal. Stu had dreadful luck on activations - I got two whole rounds of firing at the Tanker before it could have activated. Just enough to take it down. Just

A really fun game very ably hosted by Stu. The minis and terrain are all his and rather excellent the game looked too. The rules were Chain Reaction - entirely serviceable and fun to play though they do commit that cardinal sin (in my view) of changing the roll to succeed from roll high to roll low!

I also managed a game of Chain of Command, ably hosted by Bob from Wyvern. British against Germans and I took something of a pasting from my reluctance to withdraw an exposed unit exacerbated by some poor command dice rolls at inopportune times. I didn't really take any photos except this one - to the left my beleaguered, pinned section about to be gunned down by the Germans flooding from a building. My section to the right is attempting to get into position to assist, hampered by a lack of windows in the right places.

The buildings are the new laser cut wood prepainted ones from Crescent Root Studio in the US and are very nice, sizable pieces and seem well-designed. I liked that they are nicely weathered from the box, come textured and apparently dissemble to 'flat pack' again.

Thanks to all who have hosted me these recent weeks - I look forward to more games of each and to returning the favour once the Sudan collection is ready for an outing (more on that later...)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge: March 2014

Its all over for another year - Curt's extravaganza of painting closed in the small hours of Thursday morning. Cue bloggers furiously painting to finish projects off and try to hit their targets. All in all, a bumper challenge in so many ways - output, quality, controversy and banter. With the tallies in, I came a very respectable 28th out of 60 challengers with 755 points, smashing past my 700 target with a micro-'points bomb' on the last day. I'm quite astounded I managed a top half finish given how slowly I paint.

March saw 'the grind' really telling on my output, alongside weekend plans and being busy at work, which sapped my will to apply paint. For some weeks, I could only bring myself to work on the theme round entries. First up was my 'Favourite Character'. 

One of my favourite series of books when growing up was Steven Erikson's 'Malazan Book of the Fallen', an epic fantasy series of increasingly weighty tomes. The first books in the series are quite excellent and I really liked that Erikson ditches many of the fantasy cliches and throws you into a world that feels like it could exist. He skimps on the explanation, so the first book passes in a haze of not quite understanding what is going on. I found that they were best on second reading. Erikson doesn't just write good characters, but cultures and histories. The books span thousands of years, though the 'present' is the age of the Malazan Empire, well packed with heroes and villains.

The books have scores of dramatis personae and I'd have struggled to pick a favourite, let alone one I could have found a suitable mini for. I settled on one of the 'Bridgeburners', a hard-bitten infantry regiment of the Empire, favourites of the old emperor. Members regularly feature in the series and the regiment itself is one of the few 'characters' that features in all of the books. The Bridgeburners are cast aside early in the series and purposefully decimated by a new Empress that is suspicious of their loyalty to the old emperor.

The Bridgeburners are packed with interesting characters: noble and heroic leader Whiskeyjack, brooding assassin Kalam, enigmatic mage Quick Ben or raucous sappers Fiddler and Hedge among others. But the ordinary footslogger is also appealing, so I just painted a nameless, ordinary member of the Bridgeburners, one of hundreds that was buried at the Siege of Pale.

The uniform is conjecture: they are barely described in the books. But I think the mini captures the look of them I have in my head. He correctly carries a stabbing sword, shield and heavy crossbow and wears the sigil of the Bridgeburners on his sleeve: unsurprisingly, a burning bridge.

It is a 'heroic scale' mini from Rackham's Cadwollan range, around 35mm tall. I did some conversion work to make him more like I imagine a Bridgeburner: a new, plain round shield to replace the ornate kite shield, trimming off some detailing on the scabbard and helm and sculpting the sigil on his sleeve. The shield transfer came out quite strangely, so I've since painted over it. I actually had a plain transfer with a very battered design, but messed it up and had to re-do it.

My second entry in March was also a theme round offering, but this time didn't go to plan: I failed to finish my entry. I intended to submit a vignette of chose General Gordon last stand in Khartoum in Jaunary 1885, which felt appropriate to wrap up my challenge. Only Gordon himself was finished.

I tried a new method on the skin, trying the same flesh recipe but highlighting in MartinN's excellent style - it seemed fitting for Gordon's face to be drawn with worry as the siege concludes.

I noticed after submitting that I hadn't painted the button on his jacket which has since been rectified.

The photos were hurriedly done late at night, hence the poor lighting. This is as far as I got on the rest. It is a Perry a miniatures set based on George William Joy's painting. I was adding a walkway and backdrop and wanted to add a casualty on the walkway. One day, I hope I'll get around to finishing it off.

I closed my challenge with a few bits that rolled off my painting table in the last few days. First, a captured Mahdist gun with Egyptian gunners. I actually painted them minis in early January, but hadn't got around to basing them. I based the Beja overseer separately as I though he'd come in useful as a slaver in Pulpy games. Also, at a push I may end up using  this for somewhat bedraggled Egyptian artillery, ignoring the shackles on the gunners and leaving the overseer off. It will suffice, until I inevitably get around to adding the Krupp from the Perry Egyptian range. I am trying to get hold of some perspex basing 'holes' to make my own sabot trays for the Mahdists and also mount the overseer snugly on this base. I'fe left space on the base so when they arrive I'll sort this one out and do a huge batch of sabot trays for the Mahdist hordes.

I dug an extra lamp out for these photos, hence the orange glow on the gun.

The British in the Sudan finally get some cavalry support, the rather dashing 10th Hussars. Not a fancy pelisse in sight by this era, but I still think they look fine in their navy striped trousers and spiked helmets. Deployed from India, they were in khaki. After whistling through the horses for these one Sunday afternoon, they were an absolute slog. This is my first stab at getting the right khaki for the Sudan, based on Vallejo khaki grey, I think it came out well, if slightly too green.

Finally, I had two test 15mm minis to play Chain of Command with. A fairly new scale for me, but they colour scheme is quite basic. I successfully minimised the painting time by spraying them Army Painter leather brown, picking out details and giving them a good wash with strong tone. Leather Brown perhaps isn't quite the right shade for the overcoats, but it made the painting a doddle.

Not the most inspiring paint jobs, but I'm not sure how I might jazz them up more, so am tempted to just knock the rest of the platoon out so I can get some games in at Wyern Wargamers.

In review, I'd say my third Challenge wasn't a classic in terms of my output - lots of what I painted had been seen before over the past year or so. But that aside, I'm pleased that I was much, much more focused, saving my more esoteric offerings for the theme rounds while steadily crunching through the Sudan lead pile. I had hoped to finish off more anbd be ready to game by the end of the challange: two more command stands and a unit of Bengal infantry in particular. But I just couldn't face them.

While I'm delighted with a top half finish and my highest tally, I actually painted less miniatures because half of my points came from the seven bonus rounds. While they were fun, creative and well received by the Challengers, timing the bonus round entries interrupted my flow and probably reduced my output overall. In hindsight, I'd probably have better served focusing on one or two and doing a diorama, rather than small entries to all seven. Still, the whole challenge was a blast and I offer my thanks to the ever-steadfast Curt for organising and running the whole event.

I've taken a few days off painting, giving the much-neglected PS3 some attention and finally applying paint to the kitchen walls to placate my beloved wife. But I'll be back at it soon enough.