Sensibility was never one of my long suits

I sat down with Mrs. Smyth, my favorite person in the world, and revealed my momentous decision.  I was going to order all the figures I needed for my Aztec project and put them on my credit card.

I’d just paid off my card from all our summer expenses on the Alaska cruise, so this was kind of a big deal.  I promised to pay it off from my fairly generous allowance, but it meant I had to be good. Record purchases at a minimum, and a planned flight to Mexico was out (yes I’m kidding.)

I told Lorri it would be about $150 with orders to Eureka Miniatures USA and Outpost Wargame Services in the U.K. A hundred fifty bucks.

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Two Hundred fifty dollars later, the orders are in.

The Eureka order arrived in no time.  I sent it in on Veterans Day, a holiday, and it got here Monday the 14th.  That’s good service. No it’s better than that. I contacted Rob at Eureka USA about my previous order about being shorted some figures in packs, and he sent along up the “make-up” guys together with the Huaxtecs, slingers, Spanish swordsmen, porters and command figures I ordered. Life is good.

I received an e-mail from Outpost on Sunday.  I’ve purchased Tlaxcalans to fill out the last of my Spanish allies. I needed 48 figures, I ended up with 80.  Hardly anything.  But with shipping and insurance it did add up to 99.75 quid. Supposed to mail tomorrow (Tuesday) so I’m looking forward to it. At least a real person named Jeff contacted me as opposed to the goofball non-human at The Assault Group.

In any case, the two orders will keep me painting for a while.

Rule Changes

I was pleased with the changes in the rules at The Museum of Flight game.  The Aztecs were able to hold their own a bit better.  However, they did become a bit too aggressive around the unit of horse and the war dogs.  I think I will require them to be “fearsome: when charging them.  That will likely make life harder for the Aztecs.  May also allow both units to countercharge, so they will fight with their attack factor too.

Music to Paint To

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With mounting concern about space for more record looming, I’d kind of taken a bit of a break from record purchases. Sort of. Temporarily. Sigh. Back off the wagon now.

I picked up a copy of Selling England by the Pound by Genesis. This is the 1973 version of the band that would go on to mega-stardom in the late 70’s and 80’s built around singer/drummer Phil Collins. The Selling England version fronts vocalist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Peter Gabriel, though Collins is there and does take a turn at the mictophone. The lead guitarist is Steve Hackett, though Mike Rutherford (Mike and the Mechanics) also play s 12-string and cello. The terrifically talented Tony Banks is on keyboards It is an interesting mix of the kind of English folk music that band its start, with some solid guitar work, and the synth sounds that would become a hallmark of the band.

This is a concept album.  It’s a collection of stories and fables that blend together to become part of a theme. I confess I’ve listened to it only once, which is probably far less than than it deserves.  The first observation, is that, musically, this is a fantastic record. Unfortunately it didn’t fully grab me. In 1973 it was not uncommon to have  to have seven minute plus songs. On Selling England by the Pound there are eight tracks. Of those, four are over eight minutes, and two are over 11 minutes.  Is that the end of the world? No but it is clearly from a rock era, thankfully, gone by, and to truly appreciate them it requires multiple listenings. On the other hand, though the songs are long, they lack the arrogance and bombast of Emerson, Lake and Palmer or Yes at their worst. There is real story-telling happening here, rather than just showing off.

Selling England By the Pound is unquestionably a solid record, but I hesitate to give it my highest marks.  It seems very much a product of its time, But if long, brilliantl-played story songs are your cup of tea, I can’t recommend it highly enough. .

Return to the Museum of Flight

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Today, November 6th, was our annual visit to the Museum of Flight.  It is, without question, my favorite game day of the year.  Arranging the details of MoF is my last official duty for NHMGS, and I’m happy to do it. Why am I such a fanatic about this once per year extravaganza? Because I’m running games under an SR-71 spy plane. When I showed up early today to be sure our space was ready to go, I found the Museum set up a new addition to their collection, a P-26A Peashooter not twenty feet from where I’d be running games. It was a good day with some good games, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

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This is what we’re surrounded by at the Museum of Flight. Gee Bee Z, my table under the SR-71, and an XF8U Crusader prototype. The P-26 was a few steps from my game table and a new exhibit.  Like a game at Safeco Field, there’s never a bad day at the Museum of Flight.

I ran a couple of games. Dave Schueler and I hosted an air game based loosely on the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We used the AirWar C.21 rules by David Manley.  Shoe and I both really like these rules. They are more free form than Get Your 6, and they are also pretty easy to play. The American players were part of an operation against SAM sites protecting the Soviet missile bases in Cuba.  It went well. The Americans had a choice of aircraft types to choose from, including F3H Demons, F-8 Crusaders and A-4 Skyhawks. The Cuban/Soviets had three SA-2 missile launchers, some 57mm light flak, two MiG-19’s and two MiG-17’s chosen from their available defenses.  None of the players had played the game before, and we had a believable interesting outcome. The A-4’s were armed with a mix of “dumb” bombs and Bullpup air to ground missiles. The Crusaders were gun armed and had early Sidewinder missiles, the Demons had early Sparrow III’s and Sidewinders, and were also gun armed. The game featured a lot of failed advanced maneuvers.  Both MiG 19’s were brought down by Sparrows, and there was a great deal of gunfire in the sky, but no planes shot down. The only American plane lost was brought down by 57mm fire.  The Skyhawks strafed the Fansong radar controlling the SAM site, and they successfully bombed a launcher. A good time was had by all.  We’ll play these rules again for sure.

 

In the afternoon I dragged out my Quetzacoatl Rampant figures and we tried a second playtest of the Conquistadors and Aztecs. I set the two sides too far away from each other, which made for a big waste of time slogging. The game included Tlaxcalan allies who played an important early role in the game.  The Spanish proved to be very nasty, but when the Aztecs could attack, they took a bit of a sting out of the conquistadors.  Anxious to develop some scenarios that make the game more interesting.

Lots of other games. Scott Murphy hosted a Star Wars Armada game.  Lloyd Bowler and the guys from Astoria ran some Wings of War. Scott Williams and Joe Grassman ran a Galactic Knights scenario. Sven Lugar also did double duty, running All Quiet on the Martian Front in the morning, which seemed very popular, and a nostalgic effort at Fletcher Pratt’s naval rules in the afternoon. Paul Grandstaff and Al Rivers ran a Check Your 6 scenario in the afternoon.  We had enough games to keep our guys occupied and managed to squeeze some of the interested public in to some of the games as well.

Super Sabers and more

I started preparing planes to paint while I worked through deadline week, and waited for my Aztec order from Eureka Miniatures USA.  As I stated in my last post, I am adding planes to my collection that could have participated in air action during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I have twenty planes altogether, including Navy fighters and attack planes, as well as Soviet piloted MiG-21’s.

I’m beginning with some F-100’s by Scotia Collectair.  They have a nice shape, but nothing special.  Very clean but not much scribing to work with so I have to paint in a lot of the detail.  I wouldn’t mind trying a couple of the Raiden minis, just by way of comparison. These are pretty easy work, with a base silver by Formula P-3.  The blue is Vallejo Prussian blue.  The paint scheme is loosely modeled on the 366th Tactical Fighter squadron from England Air Force Base in Louisiana.  However, by 1962, many of the USAF units are beginning to lose their fancy squadron insignia, according to my Squadron/Signal book on F-100’s.

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Collectair F-100’s awaiting their full complement of decals. Fun, and relatively easy to paint. 

By 1962 there are still a fair number of Super Sabers in service, mostly as tactical fighters, i.e. fighter bombers, though that role is mostly being taken over by F-105B’s.  There was an incident over Cuba in November 1962, just after the missile crisis, in which F-104’s overflying the island were intercepted by MiG 21’s and were fired on, but no blood, no foul. So, the F-100’s have a role, but air superiority is clearly one they’ve passed on to other planes.

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Oh look, a dozen U.S. Navy planes to finish by next weekend. Four each of F-8 Crusaders, F3H Demons, and A-4C Skyhawks.  Not difficult to paint, but lots of them. They’ve gotten their top coat of Light Gull Grey by Testors acrylic. 

This morning, Saturday, I saw Dave’s post that he has a plan for our Museum of Flight scenario for Sunday, November 6th. Yep that’s a week from tomorrow and it includes a fair number of planes I don’t currently have in my arsenal, so the Smyth aircraft production line is underway.  Thankfully there aren’t any evening school commitments for this week . I could have a busy day tomorrow (Sunday) but I think I can squeeze in a couple hours here and there for painting and plunking decals on the F-100s.  I’ve got 20 planes I’d like to have completed for the Museum game, including four MiG -21’s, so I’ll have to give it my best shot.  Will keep you posted.

36

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Twenty-four peasant Otomi warriors from my Tlaxcalan command, allied to the Spanish.  Not a lot to  them.  They are in their summer dress uniforms, and can’t afford interesting shield patterns that are above their station anyway. 

I’ve painted like one possessed for this Quetzacoatl Rampant project.  I’ve avoided the trap of over-ordering, and I’ve managed to really persevere and stay focused on getting figures done.

But I don’t think I’ve ever done what I did this week.  I began, painted and based 36 Tlaxcallan warriors. Yes, 28’s.  That’s great because it wraps up all the units I currently own as the newspaper heads into its first deadline week-time to paint will be thin from Tuesday to Friday. I do have two more units of Aztecs coming, and they should arrive about the middle of the week, so I’ll have something to do when the paper is done.

Just a few caveats.  They are mostly without clothes.  They aren’t exactly the Grenadiers of the Old Guard.  They are peasants, so their shields are pretty plain. 12 of the them are archers.  No heraldry involved.

Even so, my painted total of figures for this project is currently is about 260.  That’s pretty good given that I didn’t start until just before Enfilade. I’ve also pinned down the final number needed to meet the 72 point force for each side.  Here is what is left to do:

Aztecs: 3 X 12 figure melee units, 2 X 6 figure skirmisher units= 48 figures

Tlaxcallans: 2 X 12 figure melee units, 2 X 12 figure missile units= 48 figures

Spanish: 2 X 6 figure swordsman units= 12 figures

All in all just about 100 figures.  In addition I’ll add some Aztec command figures and bearer figures for scenario making.

On my painting table

Though I expect this will be a pretty light painting week, I’ve assembled ten 1/285th scale planes by Raiden.  I’m fascinated by the Cuban Missile Crisis and keep thinking I’m going to have some sort of scenario breakthrough for some sort of hypothetical bombing or photo recon of sites in Cuba 1962. I’ve got the following lined up

2 X F8 or RF8 Crusaders–did actual photo recon over the IRBM sites in Cuba, one of my very favorite jet fighters

4 X F-100 Super Sabers–Front line USAF fighter of the time. Don’t have any F-105’s to go with them.  They will be in Air Force natural metal

4 X A-4 Skyhawks-early Skyhawks without the lump.  Somebody has to deliver the payload.

2 X F3H-Demons-all weather, all missile armed fighter.  Progenitor of the F4 which was replacing it at this time.

I have a couple more Crusaders and Demons on the way from I-94 Enterprises as well as some new decals. Won’t have these finished in time for the Museum of Flight on November 6th, but I do expect to have them for Enfilade.  Am bugging Dave Schueler for a good scenario.

Music to paint by

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I’ve listened to so much good music lately, and I haven’t shared much of it. But one album I picked up used is Cold Fact by the artist Rodriguez for about twenty bucks. It is a re-pressing of a 1970 record released by the Detroit based singer songwriter that sold poorly and the album and performer sank into obscurity. But Rodriguez’s story became the subject of a 2012 documentary called Searching for Sugarman, and the album was reissued.

I decided to give the record a try, and was not disappointed. Think of early Jackson Browne, the good stuff, but probably not quite as consistent.  Critical of the establishment, observations of drug culture,  the best song is definitely “Sugarman” but the rest stand on their own. Worth a listen, but I found it a worthwhile add to my collection.

The feast of St. Crispian and this wargamer’s life.

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Alan and Michael Perry’s amazing diorama in the Royal Armoury to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Agincourt. 

October 25th is the anniversary of Agincourt, fought in 1415, 601 years ago.  Agincourt is one of the best remembered of all British battles, one that recalls good King Hal with his tattered band of yeomen drowning a vastly superior French army in a sea of mud, while raining down a storm of arrows that left the French broken, dispirited and leaderless. That’s all hokum of course, according to the new research about the Hundred Years War and this most English of battles.

But this post isn’t to revisit Agincourt and our changing perceptions of the battle, it’s really about me. I don’t claim to know everything about the battle.  In fact, I’m regularly confronted with the fact that I know little.  But learning about Agincourt set me on a road I remain happy to follow: a healthy obsession with the Hundred Years War I play out in reading and miniature wargaming.

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My battered 1976 copy of the Face of Battle. It wlll be the last book I ever part with. 

No work influenced my connection to this period more than John Keegan’s 1976 book, the Face of Battle.  Intended to be a look inside battle, from the soldier’s perspective, Keegan devoted about 37 pages to breaking down the experience of archers, men-at arms, and horsemen at the battle.  Drawing from mostly secondary sources, Keegan’s observations were vivid.  Though measured against today’s writing, it may seem wholly incorrect, The Face of Battle drew me into the period and put Agincourt on my list of must do’s.

I read Keegan’s book in 1978, the summer I graduated from college.  It is about this time I also plunged fully into miniature wargaming. Surprisingly, or maybe not, I didn’t leap headlong into the HYW in miniatures.  My friends and I played Napoleonics in 15mm, WRG Ancients, again in 15mm. Later I did George Gush’s Renaissance rules, Lynn Bodin’s Imperialim, my first flirtation with 25mm figures. But no Agincourt.

In 1989 I saw Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V. And then I saw it again.  I bought it on VHS, I have it on DVD.  I can stream it on Netflix. It is not historically accurate, but the words mean so much to me. Whether it is Exeter reminding the Dauphin that young King Henry has matured and will “make your Paris Louvre” shake with gunstones, or the brilliance of the Crispian’s Day address, it still gives me chills. I’ve watched it at least a hundred times. Maybe I’ll watch it today, make it an even 101. If you’ve never watched Branagh at his finest, it’s here for you to view. If you don’t want to become one of his “band of brothers,” check to see if you have a heartbeat.

I began my Hundred Years War project at least 15 years ago.  I have more figures painted for it than any other, and far more unpainted miniatures than for any other period. I’ve hosted skirmish games and chevauchees.  I’ve run naval battles.  My goal is play Poitiers, rather than Agincourt, because the circumstances of the more famous battle are so difficult to recreate on the game table. While I have plenty of unpainted figures, I really want to take advantage of the new Perry plastics, which have the dual virtues of being beautiful AND cheap.

Though I’ve given up on Agincourt as a game, without my exposure to it, the passion that will always inspire me for the period would never have begun. What began with Keegan and Branaugh continues with Jonathan Sumption and Anne Curry, with the superb miniatures by the Perry brothers, and watching my friend Chris Craft roll his beautiful miniatures out on the table to play Verneuil, and of course, Agincourt itself.

Like most wargamers, I am easily distracted.  My interests change with the moment-new rules, new miniatures, what my friends are doing–but my desire to continue with the project, paint what I have and more, find new ways to game the Hundred Years War, will never die.

What’s the point, man?

I met my painting goal for the week.  I polished off the last of my Aztec figures.  I still have 36 Tlaxcallan allies to wrap up, and tonight (Sunday) I’ll start getting them ready to be primed and painted over the next couple of weeks. My goal is to finish the first twelve–all medium quality warriors, leaving a couple dozen peasant types.  That’s like seven or eight points worth of guys.

Points, I hate ’em. I’m a great believer that points systems kill good scenario making. It’s too easy to just throw figures out on the table at the agreed number of points each and have at it. Most game systems have points that guide choices from Hail Caesar to Flames of War, and I don’t like it.

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My two boxes of Aztec warriors.  A total of 15 units so far, with more to come. 

That said, those same point systems can guide building armies and sticking armies in the field because they do offer an insight to relative strengths of the opposing armies.  I do think it’s okay to have unequal sides, especially of scenario rules and game objectives compensate for that inequality.  But  it’s always nice to know, as a scenario designer what you have on the table.

I like the idea of being able to offer six player games for the “Rampant” series, and the same is true for the Aztecs and Conquistadors. So, with my figures all nearly painted it’s time to evaluate where I am.  The rules call for 24 point retinues or commands, which is a good but not hard rule of thumb. This is what I have:

Spanish

4 X  swordsmen @ 6 pts ea =  24 pts

2 X crossbowmen @ 4 pts. ea.= 8 pts

2 X arquebusiers @ 4 pts ea = 8 pts.

1 X Caballeros @ 6 pts ea. = 6 pts.

1 X cannon and crew @ 4 pts = 4 pts

1 X war dog party @ 4 pts = 4pts

The total is 54 points.  I think that’s plenty of Spaniards.  However, I don’t like the mix.  I would like to add another two units of swordsmen because I feel like the number of missile troops is disproportionate. to a historical Spanish force. It just adds to the counter mix and choices players can make.

Add to the Spanish the Tlaxcallan contingent.

1 X Tlaxcallan knight @ 4 pts ea = 4 pts

1 X veteran warriors @ 4 pts ea = 4 pts

4 X skirmisher @ 2 pts. ea = 8 pts.

The total is 16 points.  I’m not sure this organization works out.  David suggested the Tlaxcallans had separate missile units, so the skirmishers may have to be combined for a total of 12 points.  I will add troops to the Tlaxcallans.  They’ll be the Outpost Tlaxcallans, and I will likely add melee troops to bring them up to about 24 points. Ideally I want them to form about 1/3 the points of a Spanish army. The addition of atl-atls or dart throwers gives an extra point to warriors.

Aztecs

3 X warrior knights @ 4 pts ea = 12 pts

4 X veteran warriors @ 4 pts ea = 16 pts

4 X peasant warriors @ 3 pts ea = 12 pts

4 X skirmishers @ 2 pts ea = 8 pts.

The total is 48 points.  That’s not a lot compared to the Spanish and their allies. The Aztecs could add an extra point to each warrior unit for atl-atl and that would bring things up to 59, but still significantly less than 72 points.  Because the Aztecs are fairly generic, that is a good number to shoot for, so I will continue to add units to the Aztecs.

Even though there is a part of me that wants to be done with this project-I have been dogged in my perseverance with this project for the past five months, both with time and dollars, it’s going to take a bit more to finish up

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Feather suit warriors by Eureka Miniatures.  I like the feathered suits by Eureka.  Good stuff. 

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Cayman knights by Eureka.  Interesting figs, though almost no source discusses cayman knights. 

Cortes is ready

After taking time away to begin work on the Aztecs, I decided to polish off the rest of the Spanish I’ve purchased for Quetzacoatl Rampant. It’s been two weeks since our playtest of the game at Meeples and I spent last weekend working on my mounted Spaniards. This week, aided and abetted by our strange day off on Tuesday.  I finished painting on Wednesday, took care of all the washing and basing on Friday, and tried my hand at workable flags Saturday while listening to the Huskies devastate the hated Ducks in Quackland.

All my Spanish are done. There are nine units, each of six figures. In our rules they are nasty, but their small size makes them quite brittle.

I have one mounted unit. The Spanish had a handful of mounted men-not your basic Gendarme from the Italian battlefield, but the horses were fear inspiring, and the riders were motivated, very tough on the Aztecs whose largest domestic animals were small dogs raised for food.

I also have four units of missile troops, two each of arquebusiers and crossbowmen. Both weapons did terrible damage to the native Mexicans who were unarmored or wore cloth padded armor.  But these weapons also had limitations.  They were very slow firing, especially in comparison to the Aztec dart throwers, slingers and archers who could literally rain missiles down on the small Spanish forces. The gunpowder weapons, though fearsome and deadly, like all black powder weapons, were great on their first fire, but prone to misfires as their users reloaded with loose powder and shot.

Finally, the core of all conquering Spanish armies were the swordsmen. Armed with Toledo steel versus cloth armor, light wooden shields and wooden club-like Aztecs, the swordsmen were the most effective of Cortes’ troops. I have four units of Spanish swordsmen, and I my add two more.

All figures are from Eureka, ordered from Eureka USA in Massachusetts.  They are great figures and I very much enjoyed painting them.  They are nicely shaped, and detailed enough, without being difficult to paint.

I’ll be moving on to my last two units of Aztecs, in the hope that I’ll have both twelve figure units finished by Sunday, a week from today. That will leave only the 36 Tlaxcallan warriors to complete.  My goal is for everything to be completed before Thanksgiving so I can turn my attention to terrain for this project and move on to other things. That is about a 250 figure turnaround since I began working on this project in April.  I’m pretty happy with all of it.