Wednesday, 6 May 2015

What's been going on

Golden Week in Japan. And a chance to update the blog. Ok, I admit I'm not good at blogging. Or rather, I'm not good at keeping a regular update. The best laid plans of mice and men, etc.

However, things have been happening. I've done very little painting, but other areas have been more productive.

First, for my Eighteenth century armies, I got and made up a star fort kit from the Paper Terrain company. I'd always wanted a Vauban style fort. I saw one in 15mm being used in a game at a show in Harrogate when I was a student. Finally, I have been able to get one, and have some armies to go with it.

Dream come true. Vauban fort!

And with some figures:

With some of my GNW Swedes

I didn't include the fort buildings in the photo. You get some barrack blocks with the kit, one for each wall section, but they tend to clutter it up a bit. Instead, I use them as town houses, which means I have a fair collection now of buildings suitable for 16th, 17th and 18th century towns in 6mm.

I also bought the snake rail fences kit, which comes with about 40 feet of fencing! For 6mm, that's a lot. The fences don't need a base, they're free standing, but without one they tend to get knocked over or moved quite easily, so at the moment I'm working on ways to base fences. The fortress bastions for the fort have the same problem, so I have to make some bases to mount the walls and bastions on, too. Incidentally, I've kept the all the wall and bastion sections as separate elements. It's easier to store like that, and I can use single bastions as redoubts if I need to.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

News and Rules

January was quiet on the gaming front, and despite my best intentions, I haven’t got much new stuff painted. What I did manage to do was to dig out and start to repair my 6mm Great Northern War armies. I’d just started painting these when we moved house a couple of years ago, and unfortunately the boxes that they were in got a little crushed in the move. The Russians suffered worse. They have a lot of broken bayonets that have had to be straightened, not always successfully. Still, it could have been worse, and for me it’s another point favouring my choice of 6mm as a wargames scale. Larger figures would have suffered a lot more damage and been much more difficult to repair. For their size, 6mm are surprisingly robust, and can take quite a lot of mishandling. And if I do have to replace figures, fifty pounds can provide the bulk of an army. When I look at the offers from some companies of army sets for around five hundred pounds (these are 28mm figures), I really wonder who can afford them. I certainly couldn’t, and I am much less stretched for cash than many in the UK.

Also, my painting style has changed since I bought them. These were the first Baccus figures I bought, and at the time I was using a white undercoat with a dark wash on top. Since then, I’ve moved to the black undercoat camp, so the first thing to do was to give the whole lot a thin black wash over their existing white undercoat. Incidentally, I prefer to paint undercoats rather than use a spray. I find that using a spray I always miss bits. Although it’s not quite as fast, applying the undercoat by brush means that I get a better coverage, use less paint, and get a better idea of the details of the sculpting.    

Anyway, I succeeded in getting the Swedes done last weekend and the Russians will be started properly this week. The figures are all based for Phil Barker’s unpublished Horse, Foot and Guns rules, but the Polemos rules from Baccus can use the same basing, so I have a choice of which to use. It’s not my best painting, but it’s adequate. While the bulk of the Swedish army is pretty simple (everyone has the same uniform; even Charles XII wore a fairly plain coat) I wasn’t sure about the Valacks. I couldn’t find any pictures of them, so, on a reference that they were Polish irregular cavalry, I assumed they would be similar to the Saxon Uhlans raised a little later in the century from the same areas, and painted them up in the same kind of dress. A picture on the Gallica website dating from the 1730’s shows costume very similar to the Cossack figures Baccus produce so I used it as my main source.

My rules preferences depend on the type of game I’ll be playing. For smaller battles, like those of the American Revolution, I use Black Powder, but I like HFG for GNW because they are about the only set I’ve played where the Swedes have any serious chance of winning. In most sets, the sheer numbers of the Russian army will overwhelm the Swedes despite their higher quality. When I got the Polemos set I looked at the list for Poltava; the Swedes get about 18 bases of infantry, against about 70 Russian. It doesn’t matter how much better the Swedes are in terms of quality, sooner or later the Russians are just going to swamp them. The lists that come with HFG give 5 elements of Swedish infantry against 18 Russian. Still long odds, but rather better than under Polemos; the morale rules in HFG mean that the Swedes might just be able to get away with a quick, destructive attack. I don’t even want to think what the chances would be for the Swedes would be in Black Powder...

After a quiet January, I managed to go gaming on two successive weekends. This may not sound much, but in Tokyo it’s quite impressive, particularly as I live in Saitama and outside Tokyo itself.

I made it to the February Pub Con in Shimo Kitazawa. Pub Con is an occasional gaming meet at the Good Heavens British style bar. The games tend to be board games rather than figures, but there is an emphasis on multi-player games, and quick and easy games, so it’s usually quite lively. I managed to lose an adventurer to a mugging on the way out of the successful looting of a dragoon’s hoard in a Dungeon Quest game; got shot down in a Down in Flames game; wiped out a rival gang of thieves in an experimental game; and finally had a series of shoot outs in a game of Ca$h and Guns. All told, it was a great day. The venue has food and drinks, comfy chairs and sofas. It’s a little difficult to find if you don’t know the area, and the Google map still seems to show the venue located at an earlier address...

The next Sunday I watched Robert and Giovanni's French getting beaten, before starting a game of Command and Colours Napoleonics. We didn't finish, but it was becoming an interesting game, and gave me a good idea of its potential. I'm already thinking of substituting the unit blocks with 6mm figures. Another project beckons...

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everybody! A little late, I know, but better late than never. The Christmas and New Year hostilities are finally over and life is slowly returning back to something resembling normal.

One thing I have realized in the last couple of weeks is just how much of a 15mm/6mm gamer I am. Santa left two boxes of Victrix 1804 French infantry. Beautiful 28mm figures, and quite fun to put together, creating different poses. But painting?...... I really hate painting 28mm figures. Seriously, I find it much, much more difficult than the smaller scales. There's too much detail, and mistakes are easier to make. And there is definitely a tendency among 28mm gamers to emphasize the modelling aspects of the hobby. I've looked at videos on Youtube and read blog articles about how to paint 28mm figures. They all assume you want to get that 'Games Workshop' art standard. They cover shading, highlights, and how to bring out tiny details on every figure to create a perfect work of art. Look at the pics of Victrix' figures on Google. Beautiful, but more dioramas than games figures. I don't want a diorama, I want an army to game with. I have neither the patience nor the ability to paint figures to this kind of standard. (So no photos this time.) Nor do I have the time. After painting 3 figures, I went and painted a regiment of 6mm French AWI infantry (48 figures) as relief. So much easier!

Regarding 28mm figures, I'm at one with Pete Berry's rant on the Baccus website. The current fashion for gorgeously painted miniatures is relatively recent. If you look back at photos of games from the 1970's or early 1980's, the painting standard is not brilliant, but it is acceptable. It's a standard that anyone can aspire to. I look at what appears to be expected, and move on to the smaller scales. I'll keep on trying to paint them - the figures are lovely, it must be said - but I can honestly say that it'll likely be the last 28mm purchase I make. After this, back to the little guys. Small is beautiful!