Playtest: Quetzcoatl Rampant

Today was the day, long awaited. David Sullivan, Dave Schueler, Dave Demick and I met at Meeples in West Seattle to try David’s adaptation of the Lion Rampant rules to the Conquest of Mexico. Last night I sat down and made some quick play sheets for the Quetzacoatl Rampant adaptation. . This morning I laminated them.I reorganized Aztecs according to the rules. I have thirteen units instead of eleven.

This morning I piled by prized collection into the car, and   I picked up Dave D. in Tacoma at 9:00, grabbed Brother Schueler in West Seattle, and we actually made it to Meeples before the store opened at 10:00

I knew the table space would be fair small, and I was okay with that for our first run through.  I love playing games-miniatures or boardgames-in the Meeples cafe.  It is terribly comfortable, if small.  The food and beer is tasty and cheap.  And because what we do isn’t typically what is played at the store, there are always folks interested in what we are playing.

I set up the table with the Spanish advancing on an Aztec village. The Spanish had a unit of horse, five of sword and buckler men, two arquebusiers, a dog pack, and a unit of Tlaxcallan allies. The Aztecs had four units of skirmishers, a unit of Eagle knights, three units of veteran warriors and two units of peasant warriors.

I didn’t have any expectations.  The Aztecs were pretty outclassed, but didn’t know by how much.  Let’s just put it this way, the Spanish won in a walkover. There were Spanish figure losses, but the Aztecs, though they pointed out about the same as the Spanish, were not able to do much to them.

We went over some simple changes that would balance out the rules: reducing the Spanish armor value by a point, improving the Aztec’s move, shoot and attack values, reduce the accuracy of Spanish arquebusiers.

Like I said, simple changes, and all we need is the opportunity to try it again. Would like to give the game a whirl on a larger table so we can cram all the Aztecs into the game. Can’t wait to give it a try.

 

Hey jerks, don’t lie to me.

Some things really bug me, and being dishonest and untruthful is one of them.

Before I leap into the issues I have with a certain manufacturer, let me first state what a great hobby miniature wargaming is, and how blessed I am dealing with business people, small business people, doing the best they can with a niche hobby, trying to stay ahead of a fickle market; so many of them are polite, prompt, respectful, helpful, and just really nice people. I truly appreciate that.  I’ve bought mail order, phone in orders to Great Britain, and made internet orders with dozens of companies across the U.S., in the U.K., and Australia.  I’ve never had any serious problems or complaints with any of them.  Some are faster than others, but all of them answered e-mails, kept track of and got out orders, and were completely honest about delays, back orders, and in one case even explained  a mold was missing and they couldn’t make one of my items.

But The Assault Group is simply contemptible. I placed an order on August 15th. This was after John Kennedy, my friend and owner of the Panzer Depot, and former distributor for The Assault Group in America explained they could be challenging to work with.  They had the range of Aztecs and Tlaxcallans I was really interested in, the dollar was significantly up against the pound, so I placed an order for $85.00 worth of Aztec enemies. I didn’t receive an order receipt from TAG with my PayPal payment, so when I hadn’t heard anything on August 21st, six days later, I inquired just to be sure they’d received my order-#4650.  I almost immediately received a response explaining:

Hello!

Your order received on 15/08/2016 was posted today.

Thank you for your custom!

Best wishes,

The Assault Group

Bastards!

I waited patiently as Labor Day came and went and school started. Finally, last Friday, September 17th, I sent out an inquiry to TAG to both e-mail addresses I had. Nothing. They didn’t respond when I threatened a complaint through PayPal.

Today, September 22nd, the order arrived.  It’s been nearly six weeks since my order. That’s not good.  But what really pissed me off is the order wasn’t mailed on August 21st, it was September 9th, three weeks later.

Look, all figure manufactures operate on small margins with small staffs, if any at all. They get behind, they may work “real jobs,” and I am  perfectly understanding if someone gets behind.  All I ask is the truth, not some cock and bull story about “the figures are  in the mail.” The only vote I have is with my dollars, and I will not spend them with The Assault Group again. And you, dear reader, should know in case you decide to play lead roulette with a small miniatures manufacturer in Nottingham.

What’s on my painting table

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The autumn winds are blowing on my Quetzacoatl Rampant project. I have 24 Aztecs left to paint with 12-24 Aztecs left to buy.  I have 19 Spanish left to paint, and 40 Tlaxcallan allies.  They paint up relatively quickly, so I hope to have the lot done by Thanksgiving. I’m even starting to look around at what to focus on next.  There is Dragon Rampant stuff to work on, hydroplanes to paint, AWI units that need building. I am never at a loss for things to paint. A quick look at my table shows some Spanish caballeros and a really big orc leader.

Music to paint to

beatles-rooftop-concert

I’ve made no secret about my love of the Beatles and I’ve pretty much put together my mini collection of 28 LP’s that cover all their Parlophone (U.K.), Capitol (U.S.) and Apple releases. But one album that caught my eye was The Complete Rooftop Concert.  You may have heard the Beatles did a concert on the roof of the Abbey Road studio in January 1969.  It was the Beatles last live public performance and included keyboardist Billy Preston, whom the Beatles met as a 16 year old performing in Little Richard’s touring band in 1962.

As I was poking through Discogs listings looking for live Beatles music, I ran across The Complete Rooftop Concert.  I was immediately intrigued.  It was an unofficial, unauthorized, i.e,. bootleg, recording offered by the Spanish label, Gato Gordo. I had to order it from Spain, and combined with shipping from Europe was about $35.00.

As records go, it isn’t much of one.  It is largely a set of studio outtakes and run throughs of songs that would appear on the Let it Be album.  There are three versions of “Get Back,” two of “Don’t Let Me Down,” two more of “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and one each of “Dig a Pony,” and their cover of “The One After 909.” Added on is a couple of takes of “Hey Jude.”

I’m not gonna lie, if you like bootlegs, this is the album for you.  The sound is uneven, the takes are raw, there are even some microscopic blank spaces in the recordings. So it sounds authentic.  But the “Complete” label is a misnomer. There are at least three or four songs from the 42 minute performance that are missing.  Even so, it is hard to mistake this recording as anything but an important artifact from the Fab Four’s career, as the curtain began to come down on one of the most important artists in rock and roll history. Think of this as the caramel drizzle on a fine dessert, unnecessary, but a highly desirable finish to something very tasty.

 

A second try at Canal Wars

A while back I wrote about our get together with 28mm gunboats and our shoot-out on the Martian canals. Today we were at it again.

In the six week or so since our last play-test, I’ve been busy with a cruise, school beginning and attention to lots of Aztec miniatures. But one of my tasks between our July meeting and today’s get together at the annual Fix Bayonets game da in Steilacoom, was to re-write a set of miniature rules for gunboat combat that fit with our period.

Re-write rules? Are you kidding me?  I immediately took a look at the rules set that began my interest in Frank Chadwick’s Space 1889 universe in the first place, Sky Galleons of Mars. Most of what I put together is based on Sky Galleons.with some adaptation to the canal milieu from the air.

I found the most important point was to determine hull size for each vessel.  Once that was decided it was easy to begin thinking about hit points, armament, and crew.  I decided that steam vessels had an automatic speed of 16″ and sailing vessels were 8″. The one rowing galley had a movement of 8″ with a ramming speed of 12.” Guns had a pretty long range, with the British guns having a clear advantage in range and damage points. The Martians were dangerous up close and looked to board.

canal-wars-2

British gunboats pass through the Martian line of attackers.

I didn’t really have a scenario planned, and was just interested to see who would arrive with what for our play test.  Needless to say, there were plenty of boats and we cobbled together a British convoy that had to traverse the table. The game only lasted about an hour and a half.  Most things seemed to work pretty well. The gunfire and hit location were great.  I allowed too much damage value to most guns, and I’ll lower those a bit. The critical hit charts seemed to work fine. We tried a couple of boarding actions, and they went well, but I’m not sure I’m happy with them.

canal-wars-1

The Safieh is boarded by a Martian Xebec.

Just for the record, the British sank one of the Martian vessels and damaged others. They also suffered a fair amount of damage and lost one of their gunboats and a transport to capture. But the game reached a decisive ending fairly quickly.

It was fun.  Now to build a real scenario and try it again.

Armies for Quetzacoatl Rampant

Painting Table 2

Spanish gun crew and Quaiaquach warriors waiting for the dip. 36 Aztecs await primer and paint.

There may be some of you who have considered creating an Aztec army for the Mexican conquest of the early 16th century.  There is lots of reading you can do, some of which is helpful to miniature gamers, a lot is not. I’m hoping to pass along a few easy rules of thumb.

First let’s talk general history of the conquest. It began February 1519, led by Hernan Cortes with a small army of 450, including 30 crossbowmen, 12 arquebusiers and 12 horses; the balance were likely swordsmen.

  • They landed at Vera Cruz, established a base, Cortes burned his eleven ships, and the conquest was on.
  • After encountering native tribes near the coast, Cortes set his sights on capturing Tenochititlan, the Aztec capital in the Valley of Mexico.
  • Deeply unpopular with its subject neighbors, who suffered from high taxes and the demands paid in blood taxes, Cortes found willing allies against the Aztec empire in Tlaxcalla.The Tlaxcallans joined forces with the Spanish after a series of three battles resulted in crushing native defeats in September 1519
  • Cortes marched to Cholula, one of the largest cities Aztec cities, slaughtered many of its inhabitants and burned the city in November 1519.
  • Cortes and his army were welcomed to Tenochtitlan by the emperor Montezuma and showered with gifts.  Cortes kept Montezuma under house arrest as his army took control of the city-one of the largest in the world at 60-300,000 inhabitants.
  • In April 1520 Cortes left the city under command of Pedro de Alvarado, and he marched to the coast to defeat a Spanish force under Panfilo de Narzaez, sent to arrest him. Narvaez’s 1,300 men joined Cortes’ little army, which returned to Tenochtitlan
  • In Cortes’ absence, Alvarado massacred members of the Aztec nobility, turning public opinion against the Spanish. The city rose in arms against the Spanish and Montezuma was killed. The Spanish were routed in the “Il Noche Triste” (the night of tears,) and fled to Tlaxcalla in July 1520.  The Spanish lost 860 soldiers in their retreat.
  • September 1520, Tenochtitlan is stricken by smallpox. Many die, including Emperor Cuitlahuac.
  • With their Tlaxcallan allies, Cortes and the Spanish take over many Aztec cities, some peacefully, many by the sword.
  • The Spanish launched a siege of Tenochtitlan that lasted eight months. The city surrendered August 21, 1521.  The city was nearly completely destroyed by cannon shot and fire. The siege featured attacks on causeways between the island city and mainland, the use of siege towers, and ship combat on Lake Texcoco.

So the long conquest of the Aztecs in Mexico had a little bit of everything for those who like some variety in their gaming experiences: battles on land and sea, retreats, sieges, a little bit of everything.

A note on scale

I always puzzled over WRG lists for this period.  The Spanish did eventually have a fair number of troops, but they lost a lot too. It would be pretty difficult to even sort of represent them accurately with a set of 1:20 or even 1:10 rules. They depended considerably on their native allies, the Tlaxcallans to fill out their forces. Contemporary writers such as Bernal Diaz wrote repeatedly about being outnumbered and surrounded.  In adopting a set of rules for the period, I recommend something to the scale of Daniel Mersey’s Lion Rampant.  I confess I have an intellectual investment in the success of our knockoff, but something semi-skirmish makes sense to properly represent the Conquistadors. I’ve also played Osprey’s En Garde!, which has rules for the period, and those were fun-just pay attention to complete point costs for the Aztecs.

Building a Spanish force for Quetazcoatl Rampant

David Sullivan, consulting with me, made Spanish units deliberately small and expensive. At six figures, they are brittle, but nasty.  Generally a Spanish retinue (for lack of a better word,) should have Rodeleros, or swordsmen as the main building block. A unit or two of arquebusiers and crossbowmen are add-ons, but both were slow to load in combat-very nasty when they did fire. Horsemen, trained or not, played a significant part in the Mexican conquest. This will be my Spanish army for Quetzacoatl Rampant:

2 X 6 Arquebusiers

2 X 6 Crossbows

6 X6 Swordsmen (Rodeleros)

1 X 6 Horsemen (Caballeros)

1 X 2 Cannon

1 Pack wardogs

Note:  These are not likely to appear in a game together.  The troop types are really intended to provide some scenario flexibility.

Any Spanish force must also be accompanied by native allies. The Tlaxcallans in particular  contributed large numbers of troops to the Spanish attacks on Cholula, in Tenochtitlan, and the final campaigns against the Aztecs. They should always be an element in a Spanish army. The Tlaxcallans had similar troops to the Aztecs, but many more peasant troops than the noble and elite troops of the Aztecs:

1 X 12 Tlaxcallan nobility

1 X12 Tlaxcallan suit wearers

2 X 12 Otomi missile troops

2 X 12 Otomi peasant warriors.

Building an Aztec Army for Quetzacoatl Rampant

I confess I don’t fully understand Aztec army organization.  I could be fully correct, which I doubt, partially right, which is likely, or entirely incorrect, which is possible. However, David has done more research than I, but I think I differ with him slightly.

The Aztecs had a warrior society, one that was ruled by elites, a nobility that played a prominent role in their organization.   Unquestionably, there are three classes of warriors in this organization, though I see it slightly differently than my colleague.

The base of the army rests on a motivated, but unarmored class of peasantry.  Peasant warriors had plain shields, and could not wear armor, feathered suits, or sandals. Peasant troops were more likely to be missile troops with the atl-atl or dart, bows, or slings. They formed the front rank of the Aztec army in combat, and were the most numerous. However, peasant troops could achieve status by capturing enemies, who would inevitably be sacrificed.

The second group of warriors were nobles. Noble warriors also achieved status by capturing troops.  For example, they could not wear sandals until they had captured two. Noble warriors could wear the beautiful feathered suits and shields. Some noble warriors, late in the conquest campaign, may have carried captured Spanish swords and shields.Though it seems the nobility were numerous, they were not the majority of the army They formed the second rank of the Aztec army.

The third class of the Aztecs, were the knights.  They were elite soldiers, adept at capturing enemies. Apparently, they were almost martial arts-like in their ability to somersault, move rapidly-Aztec knight ninjas. Maybe not quite so useful against Spanish steel or ball and shot. There is little question, however, they were brave and fierce. Eagle, Cayman, Ocelot/Jaguar knights are some of the elite class.

A final class of warriors are the fighting priesthood. The priesthood had a prominent and pervasive role in Aztec society.  It was a society dependent on blood sacrifice, not just rip-yer-heart-out death sacrifice but for every day living, and the priesthood was large and played an important role of society. And the French thought they suffered from a plague of priests-these guys had stone knives. It seems inevitable there would be a warrior role for some priests like the Templars, the Hospitallers and the the Teutonic knights.  Like other warriors, the fightin’ priests had status based on the number of captives they took.  They could be either 2nd class warriors, like the nobles, or 3rd class warriors like the knights.

My Aztec Army

8 X 12 Peasant units-These are tricky because I will probably include at least four missile units.  Missile troops probably were integral to many units.  Just not sure how represent this.  David includes a bidower type unit.  Not sure about this, maybe.

4 X 12 suit wearers (Veteran Warriors) I have a pair of Huaxtec units, a unit of barely veteran Quaiaquach, and a unit of suit wearers in feathered suit.

3 X 12 elites.  One unit of Eagle knights, one unit of Cayman knights and a unit of fightin’ priests.

This is kind of a projection.  I have almost all the figures, and am painting more all the time.  Probably enough for two “retinues” in Lion Rampant

Our first play test is scheduled for September 24th, so I’m very excited to give them a try.

 

A Tale of two Huaxtecs

Since returning from my cruise, it’s taken a little time to get back in the swing of things. It’s further complicated by the fact that I’m back at work, even if I’m pretty much working for free.

In any case I’m back hot and heavy working on Aztecs.  I’m using figures from two different ranges. There are a number of manufacturers who make figures for this period, including the British company Gringo 40’s.  But I’m sticking with Eureka from Australia (though I order, quite happily, from Eureka USA,) and The Assault Group in England.

Honestly, both do a nice job of interpreting the appearance of Aztecs and the Aztec world. But their ranges are quite different from one another.

The Eureka figures are quite nice, but not perfect.  I’ve painted four units (48 figures.) Their “novice” bowmen and atl-atl figures are simple, just appearing in loincloth, and can be painted in an evening. Unfortunately, they can also seem a little flat.  They don’t seem to be as robust as other figure ranges, and lack animation.  This characteristic is accentuated by their height.  They are quite tall, and seem to have that lean and hungry look-a little less proportional than I’d like.  At least half an Aztec army should be these novice and peasant classes. Non-noble types, like these, were forbidden from wearing cloth armor (with some exceptions,) and sandals-which seems just a little punitive.

Eureka Huaxtecs 2

Eureka Huaxtecs.  The feather suits can clearly be seen.

But you may know, the really cool Aztecs wear brightly colored feather suits. Only nobles can wear these suits.  The gear is often determined by local custom AND the number of prisoners taken in battle. Eureka has painstaking included the individual feathers in these suits.  It makes for a beautiful miniature, but also not sure they have it right. They seem a little too spiky, and, as we will see, hard to work with. Eureka figures have their weapons molded into their hands, with no ill effect: the macuahitl, or war club, and tepoztipili, or obsidian edged spear. They also have large, feathered shields.  I’m not quite sure they have these correct, but they certainly are nice to paint.

I’ve painted a few units by The Assault Group.  TAG has a broad range for this period, covering units by specialty and region of the Valley of Mexico.  Their figures are shorter and rounder than the Eureka figures-proportioned a bit more correctly. I’ve painted three units, including a Tlaxcallan upper class unit-allied to the Spanish. I’ve also painted a non-noble unit.  This last unit is particularly nice, with a mix of bare-chested and quilted armor types. TAG figures have to have their weapons glued into their hand, offering moments of frustration.  The shields are varied, with feathers and without, but seem much too small to me.

TAG Huaxtecs 1

Huaxtecs by The Assault groups. The parallel black marks are called ‘hawk scratches,” and are typical of Huaxtec dress.

The feathered suits of the TAG Huaxtecs are less detailed than the Eureka miniatures.  They have an irregular surface indicating something is going on, but the feathers aren’t individually articulated.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Huaxtec suits often carried the parallel black “hawk scratches.”  It wasn’t hard to paint these on to the TAG figures, but virtually impossible with the very rough feathered suits on the Eureka figures..

The size of TAG Huaxtecs is considerably smaller than the Eureka figures. David Sullivan suggested they look almost like Huaxtec warriors and their sons with figures side-by-side. The photos show a clear size difference.  What to do?  I’ll likely stick with the Eureka as my go-to figures of choice.

Eureka Huaxtecs 1

Eureka Huaxtecs, right, and their shrimpy little brothers from The Assault Group, left. Both are quite good.  At the very least, don’t combine them in the same unit.

One thing, more than any other determines my future figure purchases, and that is ease of acquiring figures and service. The Assault Group is located in the U.K., and they have no U.S. distributors. A local game store, The Panzer Depot, was their American distributor, but finding them difficult to work with, the owner chose to discontinue that relationship and sold off his stock cheap, which is why I have some. On August 15, I placed an order for some Tlaxcallan troops to fill out my Spanish allies. You must be an approved member of their site to order from TAG-it is impossible to order without an email approval of membership.  When my order was completed, and payment was made through PayPal, I didn’t receive a receipt as I do from all other online orders. I finally contacted them August 26th, just to insure they received my order. Coincidentally, I received an e-mail the same day to let me know my order shipped. That’s not terrible or even slow service, but I would like to know my payment was received, and fewer hoops to jump through in an international order.

Eureka USA simply has the best service I’ve ever received from any manufacturer or distributorship in any country. The website lets you know what is in stock. The shopping cart is easy to use as a guest or member. Rob Walter, Eureka’s “Man in America” gives super customer service, responds quickly, and turns around orders very fast. I receive e-mails letting me know my order was received, receipt given, order shipped, and my order is about to be delivered. I always have an shipment within five days of making it-and Rob is near Boston, I am in the Seattle area.

Finally, TAG and Eureka figures are about the same price, $2.25 per figure. Purchasers from The Assault Group will benefit from the currently positive exchange rate with the U.K., otherwise their figures would be more spendy.  Eureka usually charges about $7.00 or so to ship.  TAG has a shipping policy based on points determined by number of packs purchased. Orders over 52 pounds are shipped worldwide free.

About the Huaxtecs

These aren’t actually Huaxtecs, they are Aztecs in Huaxtec dress.  That is characterized by the feather suit (troops in these suits are often referred to as suit-wearers.) Though there are many types of suit-wearers, the tall conical hats make them unique. Huaxtecs also sported some unique facial jewelry, a gold ornament often covered their mouth. The shield pattern is unique to the Huaxtec region of the Valley of Mexico.  These were sent as tribute to the Emperor in Technotitlan. According to a wonderful little guide to the Aztec army by web designer Chronofus (be sure to download the .pdf on Aztec shields etc.,) these soldiers are nobles who have taken at least two prisoners. They are allowed to wear feathered suits and sandals.

I painted my Eureka figures in a variety of suit colors. I chose four different shades of red for the TAG figures.  They have similar shield patterns associated with the Huxtecs.

On my painting table

Aztecs, millions of ’em. Almost.  Another unit of suit wearers from TAG.  I’m also finishing my cannon by Eureka for my Spanish forces. I have one week left before school starts and takes over my life, but an entire week of teacher training.  Will squeeze in as much painting as I can.

Music to paint by

In the Heat of the Night

Pat Benatar was in town last weekend, playing the the King County Fair in Monroe.  I was not a huge fan during her MTV days.  Her image and her songs took advantage of her amazing voice to create something that seemed to be incredibly contrived, and it just didn’t feel authentic to me.

But the little minx really did get my attention with her first record. In The Heat of the Night seemed to have a bit of a New Wave sound, featuring a belter who could cover ALL the octaves. Benatar got my attention with “Heartbreaker,” not the Led Zeppelin version (all four guys have writing credits,) but rather the Geoff Gil/Clint Wade song.  With future husband Neil Giraldo on guitar, this song just smokes in a way that “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” never did. The album also has a solid cover of John Mellencamp’s “I Need a Lover (Who Won’t Drive Me Crazy).” Lots of other gritty, streetwise songs, including the quirky, but wonderful “My Clone Sleeps Alone.”  The title track is also quite good, and the good stuff doesn’t stop there.

In The Heat of the Night may not be the most memorable record of 1979, but it is quite good.  It is an album that is usually available pretty cheap.

 

 

 

A final project?

Next week I will turn 61.  I am in reasonably good health. And I can still see. Sort of.  Most of the time. My projects are proceeding apace.  I am really cruising with my Aztecs and Spanish. I’ve made progress with my Irish. Finished some Dragon Rampant figures. With a five year window still open until retirement, my big question is–should I take on one more grand project for my dotage?  I know, the question is silly.  I still have lots of figures to paint for many unfinished projects. This is a pretty complete sampling.

  • Still some incomplete ACW Naval. Four ships with masts. And rigging. Yeep.
  • For that matter, lots of 28mm ACW (original Old Glory figures with separate heads.)  I have lots painted but they need re-basing. Hundreds of figures
  • Some AWI figures left to go, but not a lot. Well, it’s a lot if I haven’t painted them. More than 100, less than 200. I think.
  • Buckets of Hundred Years War figures. Buckets=hundreds, many hundreds. More than one bucket.
  • Plenty of figures toward my Dragon Rampant fantasy armies. Enough for eight units per side or more. I’ve completed four.
  • Some Martians, but not lots. Less than 50.
  • Early American/Spanish wars.  A few Spaniards. A few more Americans, Lots of Indians.  150 figures all in all?
  • 15mm fantasy.  This is one of my dream projects based on the Lord of the Rings using some sort of DBA/Mish sort of rules for the Battle of the Pelennor figures. One of the few valid 15mm projects I own. Rohan figures are finished.
  • A few unfinished 15mm Spanish Civil War figures.  This whole project needs remounting for an AK 47 Nation variant for this period.
  • Quetzacoatl Rampant project is really moving along, but I still have plenty to paint and still a few more figures to buy.

Okay, but let’s be real.  I actually do paint, and I do make progress. I’ve painted about 85 figures since Enfilade-which was about 65 days ago, including some very busy times when I wasn’t able to paint. So here are some projects I’m considering:

Here are some possibilities:

  1. Try some of the Perry miniatures and do the Sudan.  Sword and the Flame or some such derivative would be fun. Always a secret favorite.
  2. 28mm Napoleonics.  This would be strictly nostalgia and would take a lot of painting. Rules are a question. Nations are a question, maybe Shako II, maybe Fields of Glory.  I’d almost certainly construct the lot out of plastic. Yes this is crazy.
  3. 28mm Ottomans vs. Poles.  I had massive armies of both in 15mm back in the days. Rules would be a question. But they are sooooo beautiful.
  4. 28mm War of the Roses. Perry plastics. York, Lancaster, Tudors. Arrows. A horse, my kingdom for a horse? I smell Lion Rampant.
  5. Forget about it Smyth.  You’re done.  No more, finish what you have. (Right, like that is what you would do?)

I’d love to know what you, my loyal readers think. What would you choose?

What’s on my painting table?

The past couple of weeks I’ve been a painting fool. I’ve finished 56 Aztecs since I got home from camp on July 20th.  More on the painting table, nearly done. Altogether I’ve acquired enough figures to paint 10 X 12 Aztec units.  Probably will got to 15 units. Since my last writing I finished my first unit of knights-Eagle knights by Eureka Miniatures.  I added a unit of archers, also by Eureka. I’m in the middle of painting a bunch of command figures, including bannermen, drummers and command figures that can actually fit into units. Next up will be a Spanish gun and crew, and then two units of Huaxtec warriors with very cool conical hats.

What are you playing

Last weekend, I met David Sullivan and Dave Schueler and invited along my son Casey to play En Garde! with Spanish and Aztecs. David has some figures, and I had plenty for everyone else to try this Osprey skirmish game. Unlike our earlier attempt with Bronze Age ancients, conquistadors and Aztecs are covered by the rules, so it was easy to make the game work.  Unfortunately, because we are kind of lazy, David and I didn’t start out by pointing our figures and creating commands until we got there. So we sort of randomly grabbed minis and had at it. As you can imagine, our lack of planning led to situations we didn’t think about and there you have it.  We learned that if the Spanish get too close the Aztecs they can get mobbed by fairly cheap warriors. We learned that Spanish horse have a very cool Ride By attack that makes them very unpleasant. We learned the Spanish arquebusiers fire very slowly, aren’t very accurate, but when they hit you it’s nasty. And,as with all games, don’t roll like crap. It was fun, and I’d like to try it again soon. Here are a few photos from our game.

Music to paint by

Tres Hombres

I’ve always listened to random music by ZZ Top on the radio and boogied along to the blooze and beer beat in my car.  When MTV was popular I bought a copy of synth and sequenced ZZ Top album, Eliminator-no diss intended, it’s a great record. But the grandaddy, must have, of all ZZ Top albums is Tres Hombres. Featuring the John Lee Hooker song, “LaGrange,” it’s an incredibly fun album. There is nothing complicated about this LP. Billy Gibbons on guitar, Dusty Hill on bass, and Frank Beard on drums provide the authentic Texas bar band R & B that would be their hallmark.  More good stuff would come later on Deguello and Eliminator, but this record is the real deal. “Waitin’ For the Bus” got my head boppin’ and foot stompin’ and it just continued through the whole record until “Have You Heard” raps it up.  Greasy guitar, gut bucket vocals, I felt like needed a bath after it was done. Perfect.

Canals and Aztecs

This is a weird summer.  You know how it is for we teachers.  School’s out by June 10th and then its nothing but sleep, partying, and maybe read a book. Maybe a half day teacher workshop we snooze through. Wrong.  And even wronger for me this summer. Our district didn’t get out of school until June 23rd.  I’ve been to a journalism retreat, attended a three day yearbook camp, and I’m a director of the state journalism camp which is five days, plus all the prep for that camp. In any case, whining over, my summer break has officially begun and for the next couple of weeks I’ll be working around the house and painting a lot of figures.

Galactic Knights

I’ve actually managed to play a couple of games.

Daveshoe managed to take a weekday off from work, I picked him up, we grabbed lunch at West Seattle’s own Elliot Bay Brewery, and motored off to Meeple’s Games to play Galactic Knights.  I’ve had plenty of miniatures for this space miniatures game for some time, but have never played with them.  I did play a great game of GK at Enfilade in 2015 hosted by Scott Williams and Joe Grossman, but that’s it.  So when Dave suggested a game day, I suggested Galactic Knights. Dave has Terrans and Avarians, while I have Terrans and Entomalians.  So I pitted my Earthers versus his bird types.

The game was very fun, though it was really a walk-through for both of us. The Avarians have some nasty weapons, and point out higher than the Terrans. The Terrans are pretty stalwart, but don’t have much flash. Ideally the T’s want to stay away from the Avarians, but that was hard on our 3′ X 3′ board. Despite a brilliant first turn of die rolling, the Terrans were rapidly closed by the Avarians, who quickly pummeled the Terran cruiser into a wreck.  While the Earthers damaged a destroyer and pursuit ship, the Birds’ rail guns made it pretty tough.  After losing  the cruiser and destroyer leader, I decided discretion was the better part of valor and warped out, leaving the Avarians with their largely undamaged cruiser along with a destroyer.

It was a really enjoyable day with Dave, and I really enjoyed the game.  We agreed we should be able to use surface actions from WWII as models for some pretty interesting scenarios.

The Sword and the Flame on Mars: Canal Wars

For years the Red Captains, those of us in the Puget Sound area with tons of interest, miniatures and models to support our Sword and the Flame on Mars games, have talked about throwing some 28mm ships out on the table to simulate a fight on a canal.  So Friday  we tried it.  Pretty weird mix of vessels. I brought along my three Hundred Years War cogs, and a Lepanto galley for the Martians, as well as my Parhoon Princess for the Brits.  Gene brought along his Safieh gunboat, as well as a 28mm Xebec and a 28mm junk.  Scott contributed his massive Miniature Building Authority steamship.  James had a pair of Reviresco HMS Terror gunboats and the MS Thor, a small cargo ship.

We assigned the Martians all the pre-steam vessels with the exception of the “African Queen” (Scott’s ship) which was in German service.  We played lengthwise on a table 16′ X 5′.  We were kind of playing between two sets of rules–Ironclads and Etherflyer and Sky Galleons of Mars.  The first set of rules is intended for pretty large ships of war and the other for flying ships.  Mostly we were winging it.  I would say it was interesting, but what was clear was that we needed a little more direction. focused on gunboat sized vessels.  So one of my summer game projects is to work on a set of gunboat rules, inspired by the Frank Chadwick games, that addresses the specific requirements of our interests–introducing 28mm scale gunboats  into our mammoth Martian/Venusian interests.

The game itself wasn’t great, but it certainly inspired my interest in getting it right.  Call it a crude playtest. Hope to have something to share with the guys before school starts and we’ve discussed another game at Fix Bayonets in September.

What’s On My Painting Table

In a word, Aztecs. I’ve written a few times about David Sullivan’s Quezacoatl Rampant rules, but now it’s just time to produce. I’ve acquired a goodly number of figures, and am doing my best to motor through them as fast as I can.  Aztecs are not hard to paint.  There is no button lace or facing colors.  However, their units often had “uniform” colors, used standards for signaling, and also had shield patterns.

Aztec 1

Aztecs with Atl-Atl by Eureka Miniatures. 

That said, the units do seem to move right along. I’ve managed to acquire-what I think will be–nine units worth of figures.  They are a mix of miniatures by Eureka and The Assault Group.  I like both miniatures.  The cheapass in me likes the Eureka figures better, but they tend to be a little flat. The TAG figures are nice, but you do pay through the nose for them.

Aztec 2

Tequihuiqueh warriors by The Assault Group. Both sets of warriors paint up pretty quickly, but they’re still pretty nice.

I’ve finished two units.  One is a missile unit of atl-atl, basically dart throwers that mostly bounced off of or got stuck in Spanish armor. These are by Eureka figures.  The second unit are lower class Tequihuiqueh warriors.  The latter have a nice shield pattern, but neither unit have a lot going on with them.  I used Vallejo Medium Flesh for the skin tone, and made sure to use the “dip” which did a nice job of accentuating the flesh areas.

I’m unsure how many units I’ll paint.  It may be as few as 12, or as many as 18.  I definitely hope to have at least a dozen for Drumbeat in February.

Music to Paint By

Slippery When Wet

I’m going through this big musical assessment period at the moment. I mean I’m trying to determine what should be in my collection-because dammit, I’m running out of space. One of the records I identified on my written and mental want list was Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi.  I know what you’re thinking-Bon Jovi, I’ll never listen to Smyth about another album choice ever.  Yeah, I used to say that about lots of bands.  But I’ve reassessed on Bon Jovi.  He’s good Jersey guy, kind of a hairy Springsteen. He’s been very generous with a lot of good causes, and, while I am usually not very interested in the 80’s hair bands, he’s sort of heavy metal-lite.

And frankly, Slippery is a great record.  The songs are well written, story-telling power pop. “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Livin’ On a Prayer,” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” are all on side one, and I can’t think of a much more fun, chorus driven line up for the opening side of an album.  There are lots more great songs too-“Let it Rock,” “Raise Your Hands,” and “Wild in the Streets” are all solid songs, and honestly there isn’t a stinker on the record. For those who think its a little too pop, I hear that, but it’s also a lot of fun.  Rock and roll is supposed to be fun right?

I searched on Discogs for this one and found it to be a little spendy, but when I ran across it in my local record store for ten bucks, gently used, I snapped it right up.