Sunday, 28 April 2013

More Mahdists finished, palm trees, draft OOB

Evening all! As the weather turns warm, then cold again in the UK, I'm steadily working through the current Sudan project.

I knocked these 16 Mahdists out in a week, though it was a week with quite a bit of painting time, maybe 12-15 hours all told. They will join the first batch I've already painted (though I need to repaint the bases, ergh), making a couple of units of Nile Arabs and the start of the Beja. I'm happier with the colours of the jibbeh's on this lot, I've used a lot of Vallejo Iraqi sand and tan yellow. They still need a squirt of Dullcote.

I'm making up a force for scaled-down Black Powder, aiming for just 8 models as the standard unit size (I think I will drop ranges by about 1/3rd to accommodate). This puts me well over half of the Mahdists infantry painted. As they are individually based, I've unit bases from Warbases to pop them into, this should make it easy to change system or scale if necessary.

I'm working roughly from the lists featured in Black Powder, slightly reduced to suit my budget and painting speed. However, I'm making an Anglo-Egyptian force rather than pure British. I think having both steady and less steady troops in the force should give the Mahdists more of a chance of breaking the line and make for a more tactically interesting game.

This is my draft order of battle for the Mahdists, I've the miniatures to field this, albeit in various states of readiness.

Khalifa (Commander-in-Chief)

Emir (Brigade commander) leading:
-Beja tribesmen with spears (warbands of 8 miniatures)
-Beja tribesmen with spears
-Beja tribesmen with rifles
-Beja skirmishers with rifles (5 miniatures)

The Beja will be fanatics, to represent their.. well, fanaticism!

Emir leading a reserve of:
-Nile Arabs with spears
-Nile Arabs with spears
-Nile Arabs with rifles

Emir leading the cavalry wing:
-Beja camel-riders (cavalry at 3 miniatures...for now)
-Baggara horse
-Baggara horse

I'd like to add more skirmishers (those plastic boxes just don't contain enough rifles!) and a captured Egyptian Krupp to add more variety and oppose the Anglo-Egyptian firepower.

The charge as the Anglo-Egyptian firing line would see it

I also popped a few of those palm trees that I got at Salute onto 60mm round bases, which as you'll recall can go into larger bases to mark out an area. The trees are a bit plastic-y, but at a fiver for 20, the price is great.

Next up, more terrain and starting to prep the next bloc of Mahdists while the enthusiasm is there!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Kali Cult leader; backdrop experiment goes wrong; for sale

Phew, is been a busy week, mostly poking about/sorting/assembling my Salute purchases. I've also just about finished off a second batch of Ansar for the a Sudan project, I'll post up pics once the varnish is dry, probably in a day or two.

In the meantime, another lady (yeah, another), this one came in a Mutineer miniatures pack, a range the Gharak and I ransacked for some future Pulp adventuring in India. I was after the other chap from the pack and  didn't have a good use for her, but thought she would match well with Gharak's Kali Cult, see here and here. As it was his birthday last week, I painted her up to match the ones I painted before for him. Unfortunately, her sword broke fairly early in the process and was too thin to pin. So she is wielding the broken blade of somethingorother for now!

I've also experimented making a backdrop to be used for games. In a model railway shop in York, I got a pack of gaugemaster backdrops, containing three 3'x1' areas of sky. That's a whole lotta sky! I planned to stick them onto mountboard which could be propped up behind the gaming board. For the first attempt, I ambitiously tried the 'portable option' - three panels of mount board which fold down to half the size, driven by the fact I couldn't find 3' length of mount board in my local area, A1 is a few inches too short. After much cursing and sticking, this was the result (with unpainted 28mm miniatures for scale):

Experiment a bit of a failure! The folds from the three panels show up really badly, particularly on the left side. Luckily I've two more pieces to make use of, next time I think I'll give up trying to be so damn clever and just stick them on one panel!

Final, I've decided it is high time for a bit of a clear out, I've posted some bits on LAF but will eBay them if they don't go there. napoleonic bits and Infinity, if anyone is interested.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Salute 2013: The Haul

Well, that was fun. A long day at Salute yesterday, followed by a tasty dinner with the family. Salute seemed pretty busy and while I barely took any photos, there were some impressive display and participation games.

This was my haul, from left to right then top to bottom:

-a dockside and trade goods from Ainsty (for Pulp/Sudan); another box of Mahdist Ansar from Perry miniatures, a free sprue of Romans from Warlord, two more well-priced small hills from S&A Scenics)

-a restock and new colour of Silfor tufts, a whole stack of Warbases movement trays (some for Saga and the rest for Sudan), shell craters from Warlord and the Salute miniature, a stack of Perry Sudan blisters, resin odds and sods: domes and generators (supplier forgotten), can of Dullcote and some palm trees that I got off Gharak (who bought them from Minibits last year but never did anything with them).

-a little more laser-cut wood: one more Sarissa building and one 4Ground tree base, two single miniatures from gringo40s, two 10mm jeeps from Pendraken (worlds smallest preorder to finish BKC command stands), Wesfalia 'Cantiniere' (good to have some ladies in stock for nex year's challenge...), Empress rocket team (meant for Zulu wars, but mine will used in the Sudan), 1st Corps motorcycle for Pulp, Warlord stowage pack, Flag Dude banners for Sudan two d12s and the Salute dice and, finally, a spare card deck from Gharak for Pulp Alley.

So quite a bit spent, but I came in under my absolute max budget and managed to pick up something for almost my projects! It is heavily weighted towards Sudan, my current enthusiasm (MichaelA and Greg, I blame you...). It started as a Pulp-esque narrative skirmish campaign, but it didn't quite work. The plan is now to bulk out to what I'm calling 'mini Black Powder': using Black powder rules with drastically smaller units (standard size of 8men) and reducing ranges by 1/3rd. this being both for a smaller board size and for cost reasons! I don't think the rules will need many fudges to work. With the purchases above, I should have enough to do that with a couple of units spare. I've already started assembling, so I can get them based and get Samulus round as guinea pig (ahem, play tester).

Some lessons this year:
-preordering, particularly for 'odds and sods' works: it saves time and decisions in the day and missing out on things that I just wouldn't order over the year.
-1030 is the 'sweet spot' to arrive, the enormous queue has vanished and advance ticket holders can walk straight in.
-I am pleased Gharak and I managed to resist any new projects, while we lingered at Pendraken army packs for 10 minutes (I do quite fancy another 'mass battle' game in 10mm), I think we both felt it would have been buying blind for the sake of buying. I had a long enough shopping list as it was!
-even 5 hours doesn't feel like doing Salute justice: we got no demos in again and other bloggers are posting photos of display games I don't think I saw.

Gharak and I did make the bloggers meet up this year, albeit late and briefly. But it was good to meet a few chaps as a break from the browsing and shopping.

That's that for another year, phew!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Pulp: The Cairo Constabulary

I've ended up with  quite a bit of painting time this week, so finished off this fine crew in advance of feeding the lead addiction at Salute. They are the Pulp Figures 'Cairo Constabulary' set, as usual in their quite cartoonish style and a quite endearing bunch. As always with Pulp, they were really enjoyable to paint, particularly after my recent headaches with the Bashi-Bazouks!

These will be the most of a new Pulp Alley league, which are usually around six figures strong. I've got two more Artizan designs minis to join them and 'Mustafa' the snitch already painted.

First up, the leader of the gang the wily Captain (or more accurately, the rank of Yuzbashi). A harsh man so not loved by his men, but he is respected for his ability to keep his position despite recent changes of regime above him: stability which is appreciated by everyone below him!

The Sergeant (or Shawish), taking another opportunity to smoke his shisa pipe while his Askari do the hard investigating! It doesn't come out so well in the photos, but I added a wisp of smoke to the pipe.

And finally a motley pair of humble constables (Askari).

Next, to write up some stats and names for them!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Bashi-Bazouks!

I couldn't resist getting some colourful Bashi-Bazouks for my Sudan project. Irregulars of the Ottoman armies, they could be found wherever there was the prospect of adventure and plunder.  As Sudan was a dependecy of Egypt, itself was a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire, I imagine there were plenty to be found there! They will bulk out the British and Egyptian forces and serve as irregulars and scouts. 

Bashi-bazouk chieftain by Jean-Leon Gerome, image from Wikipedia

And my version

Despite my initial enthusiasm, I had a bit of a nightmare painting these, to the extend that I started over at one point. The sculpts have bags of character, but were really fiddly to paint, being festooned with pistols and daggers. Initially, I thought I'd have them as a riot of colour with no uniform at all. This was the result of the initial block colouring with no shading or highlights:

Yup, they looked like Turkish clowns. 

Awful awful awful. I'm afraid choosing colour schemes that aren't uniform just isn't my strong point and my choices of colours sometimes leave something to be desired. Going back to the drawing board, I searched the interwebs for inspiration/or ideas to pilfer. I came across this quite spectacularly dashing unit of Bashi-bazouk cavalry from

I really liked these so settled on a similar colour scheme, adding the mustard headscarves and a few green sashes, while keeping them far less vibrant than my initial effort.
And this is how minecame out. If I get any command, their leader will definitely get a turquoise headscarf!

Something of an improvement, I hope you agree! I'm much happier with the balance of the colours being fairly uniform, but the outfits and poses less so. They were a bit crisp and neat in my style so I grubbied them up quite a lot, though the weathering powder I'm using doesn't seem to looks as good over white. The sculpts are Perry Miniatures, the foot ones have long-rifles (and were from my secret santa) and the mounted ones with carbines were a bargain I nabbed on eBay. 

With that, I've finished the Sudan units I have so far, but oh look, it's Salute around the corner...

Update: someone on LAF asked for some close-ups so I obliged, thought I'd post them here too. 

Friday, 12 April 2013


These popped through the letterbox yesterday, which reminded me the Salute is barely more than a week away. This will save Gharak and I losing valuable time queuing on the day.

I've already made a few preorders to collect various bits and pieces and will make sure I've some more pennies for impulse buys. I envisage much wallet damage!

Oh, and a number of bloggers are planning on meeting up at 1pm at the breakout area - hopefully see some of you there!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Book Review of Khartoum: The Ultimate Imperial Adventure by Michael Asher

I've just finished Khartoum: The Ultimate Imperial Adventure as the first serious (i.e. not googled!) reading around British involvement in the Sudan. And did I pick well: I can happily say it was an exceptional introduction to the conflict. Michael Asher has a very entertaining style and really brings the conflict to life, making the book hugely readable. His description of battle scenes is particularly good for a serious historical text, balancing the strategic, tactical and noteworthy individual/unit actions. 

The initial chapters cover the seeds of the uprising really well, clearly explaining the background of the Madhi and touching on some of the tribal structures, trickier subjects to cover briefly for a Western reader. This helps explain how the situation developed and was exacerbated by early Egyptian and British actions.

The political background and events of General Gordon's mission to evacuate Egyptians from Sudan gets well covered, as dies Asher's assessment of his and character and decisions. Also well covered is the Suakin campaign, which is noted as achieving nothing but Asher feels was a missed opportunity. 

On the 'Gordon Relief Expedition', there is a significant focus on the Desert Column, with the River Column barely mentioned. I admit I know little about the subject, so for me , it would have been nice to cover the latter a little more even if the Asher felt the Desert Column deserved more of the glory. This is one of few areas where I felt Asher may have misjudged and that I want to find further reading on. The impact of the failed expedition, particularly for UK politics is neatly covered too.

General Gordon, source

Asher seems to want to set the record straight on certain individuals they he feels were unfairly slighted after the events, particularly Wilson and Gordon himself. Others he clearly thinks little of. Asher's opinions are clear, I'd be interested to see if other eminent historians differ! 

The section on the reconquest and Omdurman campaign is briefer, feeling almost like a postscript to the previous events. But it is covered adequately to provide closure which feels right for a book which majors on Gordon in Khartoum. 

There are multiple clear maps of the region as well as of major battles, which are all very useful. There are also a number of images that really help to bring both characters and era to life. Obviously the author is helped that this comes from a time where journalists and illustrators joined British forces to capture the moment with relative accuracy and from when there are lifelike portraits of individuals on both sides available. 

In closing, Asher draws some links to the modern age, perhaps unnecessary in the context of a modern historical  text on the conflict, but it does draw out the relevance of the conflict quite succinctly and neatly. However this postscript seems a few years old, so I wonder what Asher, who is presented as an expert on Sudan, might have to say on more recent events in Darfur and South Sudan. As well as notes and a solid bibliography,  the book ends with a 'what next' for most of the main personalities, even the steamers and railways that feature which was nice to close on. 

I learned a huge amount from Khartoum and it had really filled me with enthusiasm for my own Sudan project - more on that soon! 

Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Great Giveaway at Loki's Great Hall

As the title really, do head over and check it out. Loki was be of the brave Ronin and s a quite excellent painter and terrain builder. 

Apologies to those who have stacks of these in their blog roll, but don't we all love a giveaway?!

Normal service to be resumed soon.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Analogue Hobbies Challenge: the winners announced

Aside from the 'top three' on points, there were four prizes to for Curt announce. 

Challengers' Choice went to MichaelA's delightful, gruesome cannibal cooking pot.

People's Choice went to MichaelA again, this time his quite awesome 'Seven Samurai in greyscale'.

Judge's choice, the lonely abandoned caisson by Kawe

And finally, Sarah's choice went to my Lady in White

I'm absolutely delighted with that as there were some excellent entries that could easily have won this category. Many thanks to Sarah for granting me the award for a second year in a row, it s much appreciated. Eek, that's quite a precedent!

My hearty Congratulations to the winners, to those at the top of the standings, the runners up in all categories and the rest of the field - exceptional efforts all round. The real winners are of course all the 'Ronin', to be encouraged and inspired to such efforts and the rest of the gaming blogging community, which is greatly enriched by Curt's challenge. Until next year (when I'll have to find some more ladies to paint...)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A dabble in Force on Force: AAR and first impressions

The other weekend, Samulus and I also managed to grab a game of Force on Force, with Samulus providing the rules and miniatures. We played a small scenario, three modern Russian fireteams against two of US Marines. It was a rescue mission, with one Marine fireteam pinned down and the second coming to its rescue. 

Setup, the marines are pinned in cover between two Russian fireteams. In the background, Samulus wrestles with the rulebook.

A third Russian fireteam advances

Hummm, this village looks familiar...

FoF uses different dice, (D6 through D12) to represent the varying levels of combat ability of different troops (though ours were all D8), with once dice of firepower per model and bonuses for support weapons. This is done as an opposed roll with 'dice matching' to determine the number of hits. Curiously, Pulp Alley which I've also been playing recently also uses similar dice for quality and opposed rolls system. Cover and body armour generate extra defence dice. It also has models be knocked down and still contribute to firepower/defence, with the results of the damage determined at the start of the next turn. 

The first few turns had our Marines taking a lot of heat, but spectacularly passing many of their recovery rolls, much to Samulus' frustration. But eventually, weight of fire means one is killed and the other three sustain light wounds.

I liked Samulus' little wound markers

After, the second US fireteam  (top) comes to the rescue of the beleaguered Marines, some solid fire putting heavy damage on one, then a second Russian squad. This forced the Russians to retreat, allowing the US to medevac their casualties.

My thoughts on Force on Force? First impression is that it is a serviceable ruleset, once we'd realised we were playing the initiative rules wrong. It encourages defensive play, with the cover bonus being invaluable so you tend to hunker down in cover. This felt accurate, but didn't make for a thrilling tactical game! Damage seems to rely on bad defence rolling, so can be a bit fickle, though we had spurts of luck which might have slanted things in our game (me with recovery rolls then Samulus later rolling some dreadful defence rolls!). 

On the initiative, Samulus held it all game as he had bonuses from holding it the previous turn and for having more fireteams. So we didn't get the most of that changing hands and I was always the reactive player, which was frustrating. Our forces definitely seemed too small to get the most of the game. 

With it being our first game there was much rulebook-flicking, unsurprisingly, Samulus felt the rulebook could have done with better organisation, though I can't elaborate on that! Once we got the hang, we mostly relied on a QRS that I found on the FoF website. We never did find the rules for Drones, despite having a recon drone model available.

A drones-eye view

I liked the simple combat mechanics of dice and opposed roll and the later recovery roll was useful to balance the numbers of dice rolled in combat rounds as well as evoke the chaos of combat, where the severity of wounds aren't immediately clear. It did feel odd having a skirmish game just add the same dice for specialist weapons (quite unlike Operation Squad!). While I don't think it is wildly original ruleset, I could see it being a serviceable with bigger forces, particularly with good scenarios and more terrain to discourage defensive play. 

Anyone else played FoF and have thoughts to share? 

Friday, 5 April 2013

It's growing!

Over the past few days, I've trickled past 20,000 pageviews on this, my little corner of the Internet. Which is small fry compared the the likes of those wargaming blog leviathans Tamsin, Fran and Ray, but for me, an occasion worth marking.

Image courtesy of the quite awesome Pulp-O-Mizer, source of hours of fun.

It is pleasing that I noted 10,000 only back in October, which took 18 months or so. So to double that in six months despite my fairly sporadic posting across my eclectic range of topics seems quite good to me!

A future Pulp adventure perhaps...?

I believe it is customary to review popular posts, mine are currently:
Challenge Countdown on 1400
Board Game Weekend on 340
Finding Good Trees on 280

A curious collection, none generated many comments or were particularly noteworthy to me. Challenge Countdown is so far ahead because the image comes up in google searches on a common word.

In closing, thanks to my readers and followers - your comments and encouragement are always appreciated.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Operation Squad AAR: Reconnaissance

I had the pleasure of Samulus' company on Saturday afternoon for a couple of games. This included another game of Operation Squad, this time with larger forces. I ignored the points-based squad builder and just threw together something that looked balanced based on the goodies I have painted. They were something like this:

12 British commandos
Officer, Sergeant with Sten, Bren, Vickers GO Machinegun, 2" mortar, Sniper, 6 riflemen

15 German Infantry
Officer, Sergeant with MP40, Corporal with MP40, MG34 and loader, 2 Riflemen with G43, 8 with Kar98k (two also carrying Panzerfausts). 

The officers were armed with pistols and were there as scenario fodder.  I also knocked up a reconnaissance scenario, with points awarded for the officers spotting enemy troop numbers, taking the field (being closest to the crossroads at the table centre and for killing the enemy officer. The Vickers counted as an MG34. We made up some rules for the Panzerfausts, grenades with twice the range and that reduced cover by one dice.

Turn one, the Germans advance.

An early sniper kill and the Vickers also being opposite led me to hastily rethink and head to the right of the building.

Disaster! German officer wounded by a long-range shot by the Bren gunner.

Still, it isnt all looking it?

Moments later, a British mortar shell took out the advance pair on the right. The British were still unscathed: things were now looking very bad. 

Second disaster! The deadly Bren gunner also wounds the German MG34

Endgame - Commandos take the field, having suffered just a single wound. I was utterly trounced, partly by not having a solid game plan, further changing it as I went on, leaving men exposed out of cover, not supporting can other and not getting the MG34 into a useful position. Ah well, perhaps next time!

I think this size is the extend that Operation Squad deals with smoothly, the first couple of turns were a bit slow. I was a too heavy on the special weapons, especially for the Commandos. The sniper, mortar and Vickers dominated, though  good play by Samulus and bad by me were also to blame for that. I think the Germans were out-pointed, next time I'll at least roughly tot it up to ensure some balance!

After we'd finished, I remembered I had some t errain bits that would have come in useful, so spent Easter knocking them together. First to be finished are these rather spiffing telegraph poles. Laser cut wood, from 'Arcane Scenery' on eBay for £3. Unexpectedly, the sprues were marked  Sarissa Precision, but they don't seem to sell them on their webstore. I wonder if they were an early prototype. 

Fairly basic pieces, I'm a bit worried they may snap, though they bend so may be more survivable than they look. Oddly the holes in three of the bases were off-centre, so I re-drilled those. Being wood, the assembled poles were incredibly light and the merest breath would send them all wobbling. To solve that, I stuck the wood bases to 2p pieces to add some weight. Re double-bases are why the bases look a bit mound-esque, but that feels like the lesser of two evils. I'm fairly happy with them as table litter, useful for all sorts of eras. 

Samulus also provided another game, 20mm modern fireteams for Force on Force. More on that next time!