Friday, August 29, 2008

Free books, yes FREE!

A quickie for the weekend.

I was directed to a great page of free book downloads on mainly military history, Before you know it I'd found Lord Cochrane's own account of the naval actions round Chile in the wars of Liberation. Fantastic stuff!

Find it here.

The books are all out of copyright, so not unnaturally quite old, but as some of them cover what was to the authors current affairs, the information is liable to be interesting at least for it's perspective on events.

Have a nice weekend

Dogs of Wuss more like

I wonder how many times you can receive the hollow ring of "Well, you had the moral victory..." before it is any solace?

My Dogs of War force has accounted for itself so badly in the last two sessions I attended, that it is now languishing with 6 defeats, but lots of 'Moral Victories'. They got the nod for being painted, several times despite not being finished, and the nod for being Dogs of War - which seems to be a way of saying 'well, you're clearly not playing to win are you; I mean that is the suckiest army available surely?'

Evidently, picking an army because you like the background, or because it is pretty, or interesting from a (quasi)historical standpoint is no basis for selection in Warhammer. If I'd picked based on flavour of the month, 'which army was revamped most recently' grounds, things would have worked out much better in the win-loss ratio.

Efforts to take pictures of the games usually ground to a halt after the first defeat, being too demoralised to continue recording, not mere defeats, but embarrassing defeats at that. In one game I lost all but one figure, without causing a single casualty on the enemy, in another I set up a perfect rear attack on my enemy, only for the dice to betray me with the only result (double 1) that meant it could work; thus leaving me wide open to be wiped out next turn.

The images below come from what was relatively speaking a good showing, I killed a few Wood Elves, before being annihilated. The models for this army were lovely, so on those grounds I grudgingly show a few shots of my pathetic defeat:

Dryads versus Duellists; a more one sided fight you wouldn't find...

Until the next round when the same unit attacked my artillery crew and killed each one about four times over.
Elsewhere I consoled myself by taking a few snaps of other things standing about not being destroyed like tissue in a tropical storm. Here's some Orks facing off to the Necron menace.

Some new guy with a pretty, but apparently 'tuned to buggery' Eldar army.
An EPIC Chaos Doomwheel, looks to run down hapless imperial guards.

I've noticed that this blog is getting a bit defeatist, and a bit fantasy/sci-fi heavy today. Well such are the vagaries of gaming; personally I'd like to get some historicals in a little more often. As it is generally more balanced, and I find that winning or losing is wholly unimportant to me in a historical battle.

Warhammer/40k are very gamey, and the players tend towards the competitive; and I'm sure I've mentioned that's not my preferred style of gaming. At the moment it's what is available though; but I do have an evening of A&A War at Sea scheduled for next week, so hopefully I can have a nice change of pace then.

We'll see.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Painting totals for August and more Dogs...

I managed to fit in a fair bit of painting over the weekend, after taking most of the week off from the activity. A lack of inspiration/interest that I guess most people have at some point. I did however finish the core of my Dogs of War army, though a future post will show that they need plenty of support to become a useful force. Unfortunately, there are no proper photo's of them yet, so I'll reveal them in a another post.

In the meantime here are some work in progress shots of my army paymaster - Allesandro Panini himself:

This started life as an Empire standard bearer, from the early 90's I think. I've done some light conversion to him by adding a cloak and a set of Keys - all paymasters carry keys as a symbol of office!

I'm not the best with the sculpting skills, and I don't think my present sculpting putty is quite the quality of 'Green Stuff'; but I'm reasonably happy with the cloak, it should paint up nicely.

So, it's not quite the end of the month yet, but nothing is going to be finished before the end of it now I think, so it's time for another update. Purchases have become almost endemic, rising to 95 figures/models - this was not part of the plan and to be honest, is rather annoying. However I have now completed 212 items - almost all of which are 28mm figures. I need to get a better ratio though, so I'm going to dip into the stockpile of old models sometime soon, for a last hurrah in the year, before all the toys get packed away again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Roydefeld 912ad & Heldenbourg 917ad

Managed to find a willing opponent for as transpired, two games of Warhammer Ancient Battles last week. Just about squeezing both battles to a conclusion in an evening.

The forces were to be my Ottonian (nee - Later Carolingian) Franks versus the recently revivified Vikings - as a raiding party from Norway. Broadly speaking the armies were as follows:


  • 12 Frankish Milites (knights) including a Comes (Lord)
  • 10 Frankish Milites including a Comes
  • 32 Milites on foot with a Comes carrying the army standard
  • 32 Liberi (freemen) including a Bishop
  • 15 Swabian Sergeants with great weapons
  • 16 Coloni with bows
  • 24 Hirdmen including Jarl (lord) Hersir (petty lord) with army standard and one Besirkir
  • 24 Hirdmen including Hersir and one Beserkir
  • 12 Ulfnehdar fanatics
  • 18 Jomsvikings
  • 18 Bondi spearmen
  • 18 Bondi Bowmen
So a pair of 2000 point, 100 figure plus armies.

In the first game I foolishly chose to play the Flank attack scenario, me as the Franks and my opponent as the Vikings.

I then blithely fell into his trap as he got to choose a flanking force. I assumed completely wrongly that the denuded flank was being left open for the flankers to arrive, when quite obviously that was in fact a refused flank on his part.

I wandered off with my foot Milites to face a threat that didn't exist, whilst my cavalry squandered their opportunities to attack early and ended up trapped by the flankers.

That battle ended in short order when the largest unit of cavalry, elected to flee a charge, and then failed to rally (needed a 9 or less, rolled: double 6); running straight off the table.

With the heavy foot miles away and the rest of the army surrounded I surrendered before it became a slaughter.

In the second match, we swapped armies and stuck to a traditional battle. Shuffled the scenery a bit and got on with it.

This time the Franks got their charges in whilst the Vikings swarmed over the field in open order. The first Knightly charge was successful but the second was bogged down in a fight agianst a large block of Hird.

In the end when they were destroyed, it was enough to panic the other group of horse, and with his centre starting to be outflanked by hordes of Vikings and time pressing, my opponent graciously conceded.

Conclusions? Well, once again the Frankish army fails to impress, as its heavy cavalry couldn't make their advantages work for them; every time I play this army I conclude with thinking I either need to get more cavalry, or ditch them entirely in favour of foot troops - in which case a Flemish build with 'shieldwall' abilities would be the route to go down.

On the other hand, in WAB you can't go far wrong with the Norsemen; anyone looking for a first historical army, that's easy to win with and fun to play could make many worse choices!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On Paint Brushes

Another aspect of my slow but steady improvement in painting ability had been a growing dissatisfaction with the quality of work I could produce with the tools at hand. Most of my old brushes, dated back to when I was using oil based paints and were pretty cheap ones at that, mainly Humbrol Heller reds for under a pound each. Now these are good brushes for durability, and for applying base coats they work great. But they don't handle detail well. For that I had used Javis Sable blacks; but increasingly I was annoyed at how they lacked a fine point, or tended to split into several strands. My no.2 Javis spends more time as a basecoater and highlighter brush nowadays, being incapable of less than a 2mm wide line.

Now though I've finally got some new brushes and they are working out pretty good. The Proarte 'Prolene' series I found in the local art shop. I took a size 1 and 3/0 to try (top of photo); not cheap at £3 each, but I felt the need to experiment.

As it turns out they're very good, maintaining a fine point and even line, even when fully loaded. The size 1 produces a consistent line of 1mm width, which is good for lining, lettering and so forth (see the standard in my Dogs of War unit below), whilst the 3/0 has produced the finest eyes any of my figures have ever been able to look across a table with. I would advise keeping water on hand though, for regular dipping of them, as at that price it would be annoying to clog them with paint, and at this price I don't want a new set of Dry-brushes on my hands.

While some gamers and painters have the luxury of a permanent set up for their painting (including myself until the end of last year); presently I have to manage with this luxurious set up:

As you can see the paint 'table' is just an upturned storage box, and the paints and modelling tools themselves reside in the packing for our set-top digital TV decoder. High class, but for the next three months, it'll do. The purple rag by the way, keeps the paint off of me and provides a wife-annoying-free way to clean brushes without resorting to kitchen roll or worse...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Let loose the Dogs of War!

So as a project for the summer/autumn I've started a small Dogs of War army. The inspiration is that this is an opportunity to create a fairly free-form Warhammer army, that I can build upon and add variety to as time permits. It isn't to be constrained by set ranges of figures; and it will also allow me to deploy several races in one army, just like I always used to when I first played Warhammer - 20 years ago!

As is the way with many players, I thought it would be nice to provide a back-story for this army too. As it would help rationalise the disparate figures together and allow for numerous food based puns to be used. Enjoy our first instalment...

Allesandro Panini was given a simple task; "recruit a small force my boy. Protect the mercantile interests of Focaccia abroad, and you will be well rewarded." Allesandro was young but more effectively schooled in matters of diplomacy and court intrigue than in matters of war. Essentially he was the sort of effete wastrel who cluttered the universities and cafes of Focaccia talking more about wine, women and philosophy than about conquest or riches. Yet when the halls of Bureaucracy elected one as a fitting candidate for the realms of politic, he knew the options were to respond and prosper, or to wind up with a stiletto knife in one's back, and an awful lot less attention from the ladies of court.

He set about to recruit troops and adventurers from wherever he could. They were to be cheap but capable of moulding into a presentable military threat. But which most importantly would ensure he himself could remain home and limit the risk to his own beautiful existence.
Firstly he sought some form of commander, as it would only be a small expeditionary force in the first instance, having little of the city guard within it's ranks, he felt no need to lash out on the expense of a mighty captain of arms. Instead he found in the murky depths of the dockside a hireling wizard hailing from the Norse realms - Jarlsberg the Hefty.

Jarlsberg had some experience of leading Norse Marauders from his native lands, but had also the rudiments of magic at his command, knowing the shamanic rites of Beasts. He had travelled far south with trading and raiding parties, and had washed up in Focaccia, after a less than successful raid into Araby. Allesandro recognised a man he could buy off with food as easily as gold, and his at least basic talents in two fields would serve his troops well. Additionally his strong yet mellow temperament would not clash with Panini's...

But what of Infantry, the Leyden Puritans were a natural choice, having long been established in the region. This force of mainly religious and political exiles from the north of the Empire, shared a similar tongue with Jarlsberg, and were known for their outright loyalty, so long as the pay was regularly delivered on the first of every month. They were well versed in pike drill and in their own commander, Robert De Bilder, had an able and inspiring leader. Allesandro issued those he could with helmets and breastplates, and with some lengthy negotiations, bought their services to his cause...

It was a fitting start, and with a show of magical pyrotechnics and parade ground drill, he was able to at least impress his sponsors, but he knew such a force alone would be terribly vulnerable. Allesandro knew he needed troops to guard his flanks, and to hit back at fast and dangerous foes; but from where?

Time would tell.

Jarlsberg took only an hour or so all told, despite touch ups. Whilst the Pikemen took an age, around 16 hours for the unit I think. one thing I always find with metal models is that the extra detail, and rougher texture of the figures extends the time required for a decent paint job. And this was with uniformed troops too. I'm particularly happy with the standard though, pinched from a spare Empire standard bearer arm, it looks the part in this unit.

Lastly the stone slabs on the bases are ingeniously simple, they are simply painted card. I think they help add to the 'Mediterranean' look to the bases.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tiny soldiers, big battle

Still playing catch-up here, hence the fairly intense run of posts. On Sunday I had the rare (for me) pleasure of using some of my Epic scale stuff. In particular I got to command my lovely Orkses against my opponents Imperial Guard.
It was mainly a match to help me get re-acquainted with the present Epic Armageddon rules. The armies were a modest 2500 points each, but this nonetheless allowed me to field some 150 (6mm tall) figures 40 or so vehicles. My opponent had more like 250 figures, but markedly less armour.
The game opened with the Guard trying to encircle my Ork town with trenches, and my aim was to break out. Although outnumbered in manpower, I was sure I could out fight him up close, and I had Stompa's and Battle Fortresses to provide a big hit (we capped the game to DC3 and below, and no aircraft - for simplicity and balance, what I didn't know was that my opponent only had infantry, sappers, able to really hurt my big vehicles!).

My plan was to ignore the defence lines as much as possible and instead sweep round the flanks. On the left I sent two warbands of Orks into the hills to work over the enemies right, whilst on my other flank I hoped to knock out his mobile forces with my Cult of Speed buggy squadron (16 vehicles) backed up by a Blitz brigade and the Stompas.
The left went well, but the right initially stalled when Sappers made short work of my Stompas. In response I sent in my reserve Warband and their Gunfortress (with my biggest weapons).

As stated, the left saw me victorious, as first the Guard rather foolishly charged me, and then I rolled up his flank, sweeping another Blitz Brigade into his rear echelons, whilst my warbands cleared out the defensive positions from behind.

By the end of the game, His troops were balled up in the centre of the table around an improvised network of defensive shell craters. I on the other hand owned 5 out of 6 objectives, and had 'broken the enemies spirit' by destroying his largest detachment.

It was fun, though you have to say that without their usual heavy armour the Imperial Guard were rather neutered, and I felt as long as I stayed in close and kept assaulting his lines the result was never going to be in doubt.

I still feel that the previous version of the rules was more enjoyable, given the extra variety the armies had, but it played well again and with two fully painted armies it looked pretty good too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Even more exciting news on the Plastics front

Two posts in one day? Can this be possible? Well I thought this was worth mentioning:

Wargames Factory are to release Zulu war British in 28mm! I guess Zulu's will be next...

As for their other models, the 48 figure box set of Romans is still due out in September, as are revised boxes of Celts (now 32 figs for $20 rather than 48 for $30 - with more options). It all sounds good; will they make it to Britain in September I wonder...

Some Vikings - in another guise

My, now regular, club is having a little Warhammer Border Patrol campaign; to those of you not in the know, that means armies of a mere 500 points, formed of 2-4 units and one leader. For some practise matches I turned a portion of my Viking army - newly refurbished - into a trial force for my upcoming army: the Dogs of War.

Using the DoW army list I was able to assemble suitable force representing a Norse raiding party. comprising a unit of 18 raiders, 12 scouts and two small units of mounted Norsemen:

It performed ok in battle too. Thoroughly out manoeuvring a High Elf army, but losing to the massive firepower of a Dark Elf force (the new uber-cheese, I fear).

Elsewhere in the club, I was surprised to find several boardgames being played, and a game of DBM! Somewhere in the Crusades...

Though downstairs the usual sort of thing was going on:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back on Winning Form

Well, I'm still running behind on my write-ups, so this goes back a more than a week once again. But my Dwarfs proved their worth against the might of the Empire.

I was expecting a very shooty army, and a lot of cavalry; not sure why, but that was the impression I had of what an Empire force would be. With that in mind, and with a view to trying a different slant on the two previous forays with my army, I assembled a 2000point force roughly along these lines:

Two 13 strong Thunderer units with no command
Two 15 strong Warrior units with full command
A 14 strong Longbeard unit to protect my Runesmith
A 13 strong Hammerers unit to go with my Lord and Battle Standard
A Catapult
A Cannon
A unit of 10 Dwarf Miners with no command
A unit of 6 Mercenary light cavalry with no command
My opponent duly turned up with a very shooty army, as I recall:
Three units of handguns
Two cannon
A Hellblaster volleygun
A Rocketlauncher
25 Spearmen
Two units of 12 militia
10 Greatswords
12 Swordsmen
8 Knights and some characters

Here is a shot from the end of turn one, before things reall got stuck in; aside from my Cavalry I would characterise both deployments as conventional.
Fortunately for me all his shooting was to prove fairly ineffective, much of it spending too much time moving to really make itself felt; also his master engineer spent his time killing his friends with hopelessly ineffective Pigeon bombs, which helped me out no end.

It wasn't quite a static gun line battle for the Dwarfs either. In the centre his knights charged my line, but in doing so exposed their flank to on unit of warriors, this fight consumed the rest of the game, and cost me the Hammerers and my Leader. But in the end I routed him and cleared the table quarter for myself.
Elsewhere the Miners turned up just in time to capture the Imperial artillery battery. Whilst my own artillery withered his spearmen to nothing, then blasted his militia with grapeshot.
The real stars for me though were the Mercenary cavalry. They ran rings around his flank, keeping two or three units busy every turn before finally charging first his Rocket battery and then his Swordsmen - breaking both.
At the end of the game, I held more ground, though both sides had suffered huge losses; 50% or higher. In another almost magic-free battle I'd been able to withstand (thanks to at least some luck) all the enemy could throw at me, and learnt a few more tactics to help my static little Dwarfs out.

Elsewhere that day, there was the usual assembly of 40K and Warhammer games; but also the club's historical gamers were present with a late 17th Century game (somewhere in the Balkans I think) and the usual (and still unappealing to me) Flames of War WW2.

Some snaps of those to enjoy, Particularly liked these Orks, though the bases only look half finished.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dwarf defeat and WW2

We're not exactly bang up to date here, but as this is apropos to the pictures below, I thought I better mention my Dwarfs getting thrashed by a Czech High Elf army a couple of Sundays ago. The broad nature of it was that he, knowing I had a Dwarf army that could neutralise his magic, brought no spell casting at all, but instead used lots of small units of super fast, super hard infantry. It was a very one sided game - in which my Miners wisely never appeared on table. The defeat was comprehensive.

It was a useful learning experience, but not the most fun game I've ever played. As armies go it seemed to smell a bit of Cheese, if you know what I mean.

That over with I trawled round the rest of the club for something worth a few snaps, and found a chaps' extensive collection of 15mm WW2 Germans (for Flames of War, the only historical game most fantasy gamers seem to have heard of) that pleased the eye.

The in game shots are really let down by the plain finish on some of the club boards. As a club, I think it wouldn't hurt to texture and repaint them.

The models weren't painted by the owner, something he was honest enough to admit; sadly I didn't get the name of who was responsible; but it's tidy work.

Lastly, a bit of potatoshop action to give that pseudo-authentic look.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Pledge update - shopping, baaad.

Well, it's an opportune time to update this ,as there was a planned shopping excursion on Saturday that has radically effected my scores.

I went to Wargames Emporium ( in Sheffield at the weekend. Probably the nearest real wargames shop to where I live. It enabled me to spend a happy hour or two rummaging through filthy boxes of shockingly ugly Warhammer models, in search of the last miniatures for my Dwarf army, and a bunch of new miniatures for my upcoming project. I didn't buy anything other than second hand figures, but still spent £52 on lead and plastic! Still that totalled 31 metal and 15 plastic figures, including ten cavalry and an artillery piece.

I also picked up my first of the new Axis and Allies expansion set: Task Force. More on them another time.

But anyway, how does this leave the painting tally; well, I chose to count that Predator tank as ten figures, it comprise ten separate parts, and terms of time spent, I could certainly have painted at least ten miniatures in the same time span. Additionally I finished off 18 half painted Jomsvikings, that were in my Viking box.

Total them together with my running score and I make that I'm now on:
  • Bought: 58
  • Painted: 165.

A ratio of 3:1.

21 of the figures from the weekend though are nearly finished; but I've committed to buying another 25 plastic spearmen and a unit of 10- more figures are urgently needed for my new project; a Border Patrol campaign, that starts next Monday!

Hopefully I can reign in the shopping after this activity, there is after all no short term benefit for me in massing figures I cannot use (a couple of the armies I brought out of storage are already going back in again, in preparation for our probable return to France). And anyway, I'd hate for my painting stats to fall below a 2:1 ratio!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Giving old soldiers a wash

Saucy title eh? Frankie Howerd would be proud. But this has nothing to do with my day with the Chelsea pensioners and a tub of Cillit Bang! No this is another of my steady efforts to make my tired old armies look a little better, so they see some use again.

My Vikings have appeared on this blog once in the past, but generally they've seldom had an airing as they were unsuitably based for any game I'd actually play. Personally DBM fell from favour with me a long time ago, and 60mm wide frontage stands of four figures are close to useless for Warhammer, and overpopulous for Armati. I liked to think the painting of the figures was good and so thought all I needed to do was re-base them and away I'd go.

Of course it's never that simple. On closer examination I found the figures a bit lacking; they were neat enough, but for the most part my attempts - twelve years ago - at highlighting had fell flat, there wasn't enough contrast in most cases to see that I'd even bothered. I've never liked garish highlights, but this was far too subtle.

A solution looked to be using washes, and as it happens my gaming/painting forums were raving about the new Citadel washes. The boxed set of 8 washes is only £12, which to me, considering it was GW, actually seemed like quite a good price; so I got a set and used the Vikings to experiment.

And pretty successful it's proved too. The washes, as promised require no diluting, and dry to a hard wearing Matt finish. They aren't a replacement for a varnish glaze in terms of toughness, but otherwise work exactly as hoped. Here is a before picture of a group of bases:

They look pretty bland to my eyes now. Though ten or more years ago I was really impressed!

Each figure was sliced free of his multiple stand and then re-based singly. Then each was given a was of "Ogryn Flesh" to the skin tones and palest colours, followed by a wash of "Devlan Mud" to everything else bar the metalwork (which as it had been done with an old metal wash technique I used to use, I adjudged didn't need more work). The difference can be seen in the pictures below.

By the way, the guy on the right in the nude is a Beserker, a late substitution into the unit.

I really want to try the washes on other things now, they're the first out the bottle inks/washes I've tried in the last twenty years that seem to work. Although I occasionally use washes as part of my painting process with acrylics, they are always hand mixed at the minute; now I have a set of 8 basic colours ready to go at all times. I can think of lots of uses. And, although they may not reduce the time taken to paint things, they look likely to raise the bar on my painting quality another step or two.

So prepare yourself for this, I had to: "Go buy the new Citadel Washes, they are really good."

And as for the Vikings. Well, I based and freshened up a 2000 point Warhammer amy of 120 figures in just 5 evenings; with another 60+ figures left over. Bearing in mind some of the rest of this force (the even older models) had been recruited into my Ottonian Franks, I've managed to get two large WAB forces out of one medium sized DBM army. I'd call that a good return, and certainly a benefit in terms of variety and flexibility.