Sunday, May 24, 2015

New Projects and old Warriors

Given my withdrawal from the gaming scene for a while back in 2013-14, I hadn't started any new hair-brained schemes in a long time (well, a long time for a wargamer anyway).  So far this year I've begun a 13th century feudal English force for skirmishing, but I had a couple of other plans in mind too.

Having played a couple of games of Age of Eagles and Black Powder last year, I found myself pouring over my handful of Napoleonics books again, going through the possibilities for opening a second front.  Back when I began the Peninsular in 28mm - six years ago - I entertained the idea of expanding in to Central Europe (toying with Bavaria as an idea); still being some way off the armies I envisaged for Spain however, and space and time ever the premium, 28mm would not be a swift option and so regrettably was discarded.  But then within the local clubs there are healthy numbers of 15mm players.

15mm of course is quicker and arguably easier to paint, easier to store, carry and everything.  But they've never held my attention in the same way as those inch tall gentlemen of character.  Still, sometimes the sensible option should be taken, if compromise allows you to indulge.  So long and the short of it is I decided on 15mm, hoping that if I picked wisely I could get a presentable army on the table swiftly and for a fair price.

So who to pick?

A quick survey of the books to hand drew me to the Austrian army.  The core of the army wears a nice simple uniform, but there are plenty of characterful units within them too.  So that would help.  Obviously, they fought in many many battles against the French, and in many of the classic campaigns.  So they would never be short an opponent; which also helps. I should add, that partly as a result of the scale, the intention was to begin with a gaming force, not a recreation of any specific campaign.  I can expand on accurate dispositions and history as I learn.

Thus Austria, 1809 seemed to be a fair choice.  Now, models?

I didn't wish to break the bank, and had even looked at previous points at various second hand models, but the quality of the painting was either not too good or so good the price was out of the question.  Pricing up a small force from Essex miniatures soon came to over £80.  Eventually I turned to a company I hadn't used in nearly twenty years; Warrior Miniatures.

Warrior are one of the cheapest manufacturers of metal miniatures out there, and they've been going for some forty years.  Some of their product is defiantly old school, both in style and quality, but other items stand up well against their peers.  And certainly it is hard to beat them on price.  I ordered a pair of their 15mm Austrian Army starter packs, at the princely sum of £18 a pop:

A pile of lead and bonus bits
For your £18 you get 110 castings, some glue, a set of flags and other useful bits.  Troops include Line infantry in shako and helmet, alongside Grenadiers and Jagers; also accompanied by Cuirassiers, artillery and commanders.  Now whilst some of Warrior's 20-25mm models are crude, their 25mm models can be little gems and their Austrians would appear to be amongst their best, scaling up well and with very reasonable detail:

An Essex miniature on the left of three Warrior Austrians
One would not mix these with the larger figures of some more modern ranges, but they are nicely proportioned in and of themselves.  There is only a single infantry pose for most of the troops, but it looks quite acceptable to my eye.

With enough additional models to make a couple of units of Hussars and some more modern artillery mentioned in the previous post, the whole order came to under £50.  And as if that wasn't good enough, the whole lot was sent post-free in a matter of a couple of days.  I really can't recommend Warrior's service highly enough, and if you pick the right ranges you can only be happy with the results.

So now I have around 240 of the little blighters to push up the painting queue.  A major new project saying I'm certainly back into my wargaming mojo.  However it's not the only new arrival and other projects are about to begin.

There has been an awakening...have you felt it?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Relief Forces - 1879...

For most of the last few months two things have been going on with the blog, one obvious to you, oh reader, and one not.  The unseen is that I have been snowed under with work for my Masters Degree, and although only studying part time, and with long to go, the end of the first semester is upon me and the work is stacked up.  Hence there have been less games going on.

Secondly and as readers can tell, most of the remaining activity has been focused on Mediaevals in some form, mostly lion Rampant, but with a smattering of Hail Caesar in there too.

I've reached a point of wanting a break from both; not much can be done about the former though, got to keep at it a little longer then the 'summer' break kicks in.  But as to the latter, well I can switch projects temporarily at least.

And so I bring you the Royal Artillery of Wood's northern column; 1879.  Or part thereof:

7lb mountain gun and limber
My first foray in many years in to both my Zulu Wars collection, and 15mm.  Although I prefer 28mm I still have armies for two conflicts in this 'scale' (and more may appear in due course).  And certainly when it comes to buzzing out a quick paint job, size is important!
Front and Right
Rear and Left
This is an Essex Miniature four horse artillery draft team, bought many years ago.  The set did not come with a gun and I didn't want to go with my original plan of placing the crewed gun onto the empty space behind the limber to show it as travelling.  Thus I needed to source some extra guns.  Warrior Miniatures came up trumps (more on that later) with some suitable 15mm artillery at a bargain price.  
Close up on the drivers
Compared to more modern figures, the Essex Miniatures are true 15mm and a little samey, but they have a classic style and charm and are easy to repose due to a fairly soft alloy used for casting them.

I tried to treat them to at least a little highlighting work, on top of the black lining technique I usually use on 15mm miniatures.

This was refreshing after weeks of uber-detailing 28mm figures.  In doing these I realised I hadn't painted any of my Zulu War collection for 5 years, sitting there sadly half finished with only enough troops for small games.  A gun limber is a nice initial addition for scenarios, but more can be done.

Maybe when study is out the way it can inspire a game as well...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Death of Warhammer Fantasy?

I had a long opinion piece here, but I don't yet know where I was going with it.

The long time rumours, for those who don't follow it intently, are that the 9th edition of Warhammer Fantasy battles - due out later this year - will scrap massed battle (or at least demote it to an optional play format) in favour of the sort of large skirmish with loosely defined units that will look more like its brethren Warhammer 40,000.  Or for that matter Warmachine, Lion Rampant, Saga, and any number of genre fantasy games I know little to nothing about.

Key to this have been ongoing rumours of a switch to round bases for Fantasy, generally scoffed at but feared nonetheless by tournament gamers.  For the rest of us it would at least be inconvenient, depending on how strict the rules are.  Now until now this was all largely unsubstantiated.  But trust the interwebs to provide further, rather more damming evidence:

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For those who want to you can see more and join the debate on the Bad Dice Podcast Twitter feed: HERE

SO, I'd say based on this we are looking at at switch of the game to a more skirmish based format, with at least the ability to use older square based models.  Other rumours I've seen suggest different, scalable, forms of engagement based on point size - with the emphasis on smaller games but with a free-for-all approach to the troop choice.  We'll see.

But just perhaps the Death of Warhammer Fantasy Battles will be the birth of Warhammer Fantasy Skirmish, perhaps a better game?  Or maybe we'll be hanging on to our old copies of the rules like precious artefacts, or switching to Oldhammer (editions 3/4 typically) and Kings of War in droves...

Friday, May 15, 2015

No snappy title...

I have no children of my own, hence no heir to the throne; but the good lady who has taken me into her home these last few months, does have a son.  Alas, aside from playing the very occasional card or board game he's shown no interest in other things gamey; being obsessed mainly with football and watching Netflix (he's 12).

However this changed the other day, in what may be a passing fancy he asked to try his hand at painting. a tank.  Not having one to hand I dug around and found a sacrificial victim or two; an unbuilt M10 Wolverine (purchased by accident I guess) and a 40k miniature that had been left over from the bad old days.

Proving to have a steady hand and more patience than he normally suggests, we went through the process of cutting cleaning and then assembling the parts for the tank before letting it sit to dry and painting some of the Eldar chappy.  The young 'un had excellent colour taste and was a lot better with a brush than I expected for a first go:

puts my first efforts to shame 
 We attempeted a little highlighting as you can see, but mainly I was impressed at how he chose to apply the three colours he uses to logical areas and in a consistent pattern.  Sure it's not that neat, but considering what my first 5 or 6 hundred models looked like it's rather good.  The M10 is very neat and with the right tools he could certainly tackle a more challenging model.

Of course whether he ever would, I doubt; in these days of constant ready entertainment and instant gratification I think kids have to be got early to take up the hobby.  But you never know...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Another range of Plastic mediaevals - sorta...

Northstar are a fairly big player in the metal miniatures market, but until now, no evidence for Plastic figures, however they have announced a set in relation to their upcoming collaboration with Osprey on 'Frostgrave'.

Frostgrave is a fantasy skirmish game, leaning heavily on magical combat - be interesting how that can be made to feel like more than dice throwing in a game.  Players can recruit bodyguards for their wizards though, and to that end this set will appear in due course.  A set of 20 plastic 28mm sized figures. In Northstars own words "The player designs his own band of followers, and arms them as they wish. So our box set is designed to allow you to do that."  They list the box contents as:

  • 5 bodies
  • 10 heads
  • 25 different arms/ weapons
  • 2 shields
  • + selection of bags & equipment.
(C) Northstar
On the plus side, these look like they would cover feudal armies and provide a variety of 'Yeoman' type troops, on the down side they look to be very much Heroic 28mm, with exaggerated muscles, big easy to paint details and elements that at best could be called apocryphal for history buffs.

On the other hand these will probably make excellent Empire Militia troops, and work with other fantasy mass combat games.

The game is due this year around July, and if you want to find out more I suggest you look at Northstar's 'NickStarter' campaign.  An in house Kickstarter it seems.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Loves and Hates in Gaming - it's a Meme thing!

Fellow blogger Steve has been looking at his hates and loves in gaming, inspired by another blog; I liked the idea enough to have a go at it myself.  No more preamble, here's where I stand on the good and bad in gaming:


Competition Gamers.  Not necessarily competitive gamers, you'r entitled to want to win, the distinction for me is when your only motivation for playing is to win.  I've had the misfortune to encounter and come to verbal blows too with many gamers who've somehow mentally converted the hobby of pushing toy soldiers around into a sport, on which bears many parallels to football:

  • It's obsessed with leagues cups and tournaments, whilst the casual game is considered irrelevant
  • Money is everything, he who spends the most on his team expects to win
  • Talking trash of your opponent when their not around is mandatory, even if you have to pretend to be polite to their face
  • being a c**t on twitter is seemingly mandatory
  • wearing your team shirts when you hang out with your competitive friends
You get the idea.  I've concluded every game I've played against a player looking to test their 1500 point 'Clash-of-Champions-Elf-Death-tournament' list of utter filth has been two hours of my life I'll never get back, during which I could've been doing something more worthwhile, like gnawing the corns off a homeless person's feet.  The competition gamer and his ilk enjoy the game they play, but not merely don't see how anyone could enjoy other aspects of the game, but in some cases actually appear to resent that you would not appreciate only their style of play.  They have taken me out of certain genres of wargame entirely.  I don't miss it.

[By the way, if you are a competition gamer, and are offended by any of this, all I can say is you must be new to my blog, and kinda missed the point of it so far.  Thanks for visiting though!]

Storage: Most men's hobbies (as opposed to sport) revolve, it seems to me, around filling all the available space in a house they criticise their partners for filling with shoes, clothes and makeup, with man crap instead.  In our case toys, boxes of toys, boxes of unbuilt toys, book and magazines to help us paint or understand said toys, paints, glues, bits of wood, plastic, metal....  This may be less of a pet hate for those with space and stability, but after twenty house moves in twenty years, space is the one thing other than twatty gamers (see above) that's really got me close to getting out the hobby.

People gaming ongoing conflicts: Not for me.  You're entitled to your choices but can you not see it's at least insensitive to those still involved. Oh so you want to play games with 'ISIS' models, as it's contemporary?  Well it's also disgusting, just so you know.

Uniform militants:  'Uh, their nice but that's not the shade of blue used by the French imperial army in 1808'.  Firstly, No, just No.  This sort of opinion presupposes so many things, not least uniformity of colours and usually a complete absence of wear and tear.  Secondly, are you criticising someone for taking the trouble to paint their models?  I'd rather play against a French Napoleonic army painted Orange, because that's the only colour the owner had for their coats, than unpainted models.  Self appointed experts, not needed.  It's even more laughable when they try the same stunt with fantasy games, 40K has its own surreal group of uniform militants who'll happily declare people have modelled the wrong shoulder pads on that mk.6 terminator marine, or that they cannot accept an Ork with red skin.  Yeah, because it's so clearly factually incorrect; in a world of the imagination!

Unpainted/unbuilt army users:  Acceptable if you've literally just started gaming, but week after week, year after year?  Pull your finger out, or get someone else to do it for you.  Stop buying so many models and pay a painter instead.  What, you want to try the army before you invest the time and effort, borrow a painted army or suck it up; once is forgivable, maybe twice, but three strikes and yer out!  On a side note, using unit sized bases for regiments in games with no casualty removal and then putting half as many models on it - cheating; filler models? better be a effectively one for one exchange and no scenery cobblers, otherwise - cheating.

Also why go 10mm, 6mm, 3mm because it allows you to put more models in a unit and then not do so?  just say it's because you've only the space for a 3 foot table and be honest, a regiment of 24 6mm figures looks no more like a regiment than one of 24 28mm figures, just so you know.

Deep breath, the bad things can go away now.


History: Yup, I'm a history buff, most historical gamers who don't fall into the competition gamer criteria discussed above presumably are to some degree, outside of wargaming I'm keenly interested in social and cultural history, I read Roman and Greek classics for pleasure, I did a History (and Literature) degree, studied archaeology, and watch every historical documentary that comes my way. I enjoy a historical refight and the opportunity to try and reflect or overturn history, and I love doing my research to get an army accurate.  I may not worry about the number of buttons on a shirt or the shade of blue, but it's nice to know what you've done is reasonably reflective of the past.

Imagination: Conversely, wargaming is a fertile ground for creativity.  Obviously fantasy and science fiction games offer boundless space to invent your own worlds or explore the creations of others.  Creating fictional narratives within a historical context is certainly one of the aspects of gaming I enjoy most.  Then of course there is the related aspects of painting and modelling and all the opportunities to create something unique for yourself there.  It doesn't matter how well or badly it is done, the fact that yo can design build and paint your own army then lead it to the table and be a part of its' triumphs and tragedies is one of the great draws for me.  Buying pre painted and so on doesn't exclude you from this club, so long as your imagination is sparked along the line, it's all good.

Spectacle: Naturally, and I've talked about this before, there is an enormous appeal - contacting the inner child in all of us most immediately I think - in seeing a table of great terrain with two painted armies arrayed upon it, what happens thereafter is only a bonus in some ways.  Whilst I play skirmish games aplenty too, for me an army (at least pre 1900) is not an army until it's got at least 200 painted models in it.  Scale helps too and although I play in most popular figure sizes I am at heart most attached to the visual appeal of 25-30mm scale.  Bung a few hundred of those on a table and my inner child is ecstatic!

Exercising the Grey Matter: Obviously I'm hugely enamoured of the Charles Grant/CS Grant school of gaming and the idea of coming to the table to solve a tactical problem.  Similarly trying to refight historical actions and replicate or change (depending which side you're on) the results.  I also play lots of board games to grapple with different challenges and mechanics.  I'm much less of a fan of the equally pointed line em up & knock em down approach, and I have reached a stage where the point of the game should not be to spend the evening reading the rulebook, but the ability of wargaming to make you think and take challenging decisions in the context of having fun is why I do this rather than go fishing, say.

Socialising: And at the end of the day, many a good friend have I made through gaming, and even if you only meet up across a gaming table, you have at least that one strong bond in common.  One reason why I've never really got on with PC & online gaming, is the lack of a human being as an opponent; sure you may be playing people, you may hear their voice down the line, but they are not actually there; and you certainly may not want to consider them friends!  Yeah, I play computer games too, but only against computer opponents, and few strategy games anyway.  Besides it's nice sometimes to put the toy soldiers to one side and just chew the fat too.  Kinda hard to do online without it becoming antisocial instead.  I can't recall going to a pub with a wargamer I wouldn't be happy to play a game against, even if the opposite is not true!

So there you go.  That's my picks, my motivations and my bugbears.  What about you [points through the screen at the reader]...

Friday, May 08, 2015

VE Day - Weekend of Events

Don't let it get lost in the hoo-haa about which member of the upper orders gets to live in an exclusive London townhouse rent-free for the next five years but, May 8th marks Victory in Europe Day.

Not the anniversary of the end of World War Two entirely, but the anniversary of the conclusion of fighting against the Axis in Europe.  To mark the 70th anniversary there are numerous commemorative events going on.

You can find out about any local to you (in the UK anyway) here:

As someone who lost one grandfather in the war, it is timely to remember the date.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Another plastics manufacturer discovered

I've been steadily updating the 28mm plastics page at the top of the blog (go look, now!!) and thought I had them all, but today I discovered an American manufacturer that had passed me by: ECCENTRIC MINIATURES

It's a very small range of figures for the 13th-14th century, the models to date look somewhat stiff but the prices are reasonable, depending on your location.

Very old-school painting there...
From what I can see there is the foot knights set above at $16, a set of 8 bowmen  for $10 and a two part crossbow artillery set ($10 for two ballistae and $5 for 4 crew).  Worldwide postage is offered.

I think it's fair to say that the models have a certain retro styling going on about them, and may not appeal to fans of ultra-detail; they are certainly a little stiff - see the knights above - but gradual improvement shows in their rather nicer bowmen, but they do offer a variety of parts and some prospects for convertors to get stuck in to.

Thanks internet...

Would really like to see better painted examples however.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Lion Rampant - Feudal Polearms for my Retinue

The second unit of Lord Hastinge's retinue, and my first of the Fireforge miniatures, is now complete.

 Twelve men armed with staff weapons, a mix of Fauchards, Bills and Poleaxes.

The various styles of weapon
 Given that the set does not contain pole axes, etc. all these models were converted up in some way; to add new weapons to spear hafts at least, but in some cases with new arm arrangements being built.

Paintwise I kept to a limited palette of mainly browns, as fit my ideas of medieval kit, but the lord had splashed out on tunics in his heraldic colours to help identify his men in the field.  To support that he's even let them have a natty banner with a field sign on it:

Extended spear and sword added to left hand 
I'm still working on getting the bases right.  I've gone with a much darker brown for these, and it's much closer to the peaty look I wanted.  the water effects are still a learning process, but one thing apparent from these is that you are better off applying thin layers with greater regularity than thick layers with longer drying times.  In fact there may be an optimal time to permit the layers to bond seamlessly...
Water has taken on an odd blobbish quality at times
 In general though, they are a progressive step on in style and quality for me.  The slightly more accentuated paint layers gives better contrast without looking too cartoony.  The selection of hues is complementary, and the improved basing look distinct and appropriate.

Must remember - mould-lines!
Lacking shields or side arms, these were easy and swift models to paint, that aside I found the Fireforge a delight to work on.

Well, I shan't be dishonoured in my next battle by a lack of fresh troops at least.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Yeomen - A Conquest Games Mashup

I was able to justify picking up a box of the Conquest Games Norman infantry for a fair price from my local model shop, I hadn't looked at them before, having no need for more Dark-ages models and not envisaging a use for them, but with the start of my Feudals I cast an eye over the models in the shop.  44 figures for £20 is great value, but what really tempted me was the composition of the poses:

A crammed sprue full of options
Three of the main poses and one of the command poses wore no armour at all, and in suitably generic clothing they would easily pass for 13th century levies.  Especially as I had a bag of spare parts from the Fireforge figures to add to the mix.

It was an easy job to slice off the shields from some of the arms and upgrade to Feudal ones, and by careful trimming of the otherwise useless Norman bare head I was able to make a sabot neck for the Fireforge heads (which have the neck joint fitted to the torso, unlike the Conquest models).  I equipped all the models with spears, noting that the Conquest arms adjoin the sleeve of the tunics in a rather vague fashion, but one that allows for a great variety of positions if you have the patience for the glue to set.

This only left the issue of every man having a sword as standard, rather a luxury for Yeoman levies in my opinion; so I cut most of them down so at least their lord had only provided short swords from available stocks.

Overall the net result looks fitting:

A mix of parts does the job!
I'm looking forward to painting these, not least as without armour they'll be fairly quick to do.  I can't decide if their lord would issue second line troops like these with livery, but the shields will certainly be in Hastinge colours.

So after not bothering with them for some time (I can't make an excuse to buy just every set of 28mm plastic figures, now can I?), what do I think of the Conquest models.  Quiet nice actually, like many sets from the smaller companies there are few basic poses with a decent range of optional parts; this gives a reasonable selection within one set.  the way the arms fit to the sleeves reduces the options in poses to an extent, but not so badly as to hamper the set greatly.  

For the competent converter there is obviously lots that can be done with this set to push it beyond Normandy, into its' past and future - I can see the models with the right spare parts working for periods from 500-1500ad in the right forces.  And this is without considering the armoured torsos in the set.  Obviously they cover their intended purpose well too.

This lot are destined for Lion Rampant, but some of the rest of the box will probably go to Saga units.  So, a satisfying set with loads of potential.