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.

The Gunboat

Old Glory, or its subsidiary Merrimac Shipyard, makes a 28mm gunboat for its Sudan range.  It’s nominally called a Safieh style gunboat.

The Safieh figured prominently in the river expedition to rescue General Gordon at Khartoum in 1885.  Though it effectively engaged Dervish batteries at Mettemeh on the Nile, Safieh was later captured and pressed into Dervish service, only to be destroyed by a new generation of British gunboats during Kitchener’s reconquest in 1898.

Of course, I have different plans.  My gunboat, The Parhoon Princess, will be the flagship of the canal fleet on Mars.

It’s big.  The model is about 14 inches long from stem to stern, and about six inches across from sidewheel to sidewheel.  The massive resin hull comes with some additional resin bits to house the smokestack, the paddle-wheels that fit very tidily under their housings and a gun shield for the twelve pounder and crew that are also supplied. In addition, some plank barricades cast in metal are supplied to create impromptu fortifications on the upper deck.

This miniature is intended to be a representation of a gunboat.  So don’t look for minute detailing.  It’s big and clunky, almost a caricature of a gunboat, but it’s perfect for wargaming.  28mm figures fit nicely around the bulwarks and barricades.  Nothing delicate about this model that can easily be broken or damaged.

It doesn’t come with a smokestack, which I think is weird. I initially bought a big piece of copper tubing, but found that cutting it neatly and affixing it to the model might be challenging.  It was also a little too small in diameter.  I settled instead on a four inch metal tail pipe for a sink. It is a little big, but, as I said, the model is a bit of a caricature.  It’s just got one big mo fo smokestack.

The paint scheme is pretty simple.  Though I often see this model with a white hull and superstructure with pretty serious washing, I chose the black hull with white works. I painted the deck Vallejo Deck Tan and gave it a good wash with Vallejo Brown Wash.  The gun-shield, smokestack works, and ad hoc defenses were a little more involved.  The base color was Ceramcoat gray-brown.  I dry brushed some Ceramcoat Spice Brown, over the top, and then gave a black wash.  I got the effect I was looking for. I dry-brushed some gray over the black surfaces, but bad dry-brusher that I am, didn’t quite get what I want.

I added a pair of Old Glory Gardner guns to the protected top deck, and there is still plenty of room for a unit of Marines to add their rifles to fend off borders.

This finishes off my cache of 28mm resin ships I bought ten or so years ago.  It’s nice to have them done. We’ll be playing a big Martian vs. Brits game on the canals of Mars on July 22nd, so the Parhoon Princess should get some action.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Until then, I’ll be working on my Aztec project

Music to Paint by


Some records are just difficult to find used, so I always hope like hell I can find a new copy.  One album that is a tough get is Fighting by Thin Lizzy. I wasn’t always a Thin Lizzy fan, though I have a weakness for Irish bands. I think it was because “The Boys Are Back In Town” seemed to be on the radio every other minute when I was young, and I kind of thought that was all there was.  But I was wrong, of course.  They had a string of wonderful albums-Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Armed and Dangerous is as good a live record as you can ever hope to find, and Black Rose, which is superb. Phil Lynott was a wonderful songwriter and front man, and the twin lead guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson are incredibly strong. 1975’s Fighting is the first in a string of excellent records released by Thin Lizzy with the wonderful “Rosalie,” “Fighting My Way Back,” and “Ballad of a Hard Man.”

This isn’t an impossible get used.  But it’s not a cheap one either.  It’s one of those albums where you might spend $25 on a vintage copy and be disappointed in its condition. Amazon sells an imported pressing of Fighting from the Czech Republic.  It was less than $24 on 180 gram vinyl.  It played very well and wrapped up my Thin Lizzy mini-collection.


My Brush Crisis


I don’t know what kind of brushes you use, but I am a Kolinsky sable person.  I have been for probably the last decade.  My preferred brush is from Dick Blick Art Supplies, the size 0 Master Kolinsy Sable brush with the short red handle. The size 0 is perfect because of its durability and because it holds a nice amount of paint.  Not a go to for everything brush, but for most figures it’s a brush I can use for coverage and detail. I can usually paint a year’s worth of miniatures–let’s say several hundred–with a single brush.


It’s all this varmint’s fault.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife put the kibosh on the importation of Kolinsky sable hairs from Russia.  The brush hairs come from tails of the Siberian weasel.  It’s a critter that isn’t grown in captivity and has to be trapped in the wild.  Though the critter is desirable for a variety of uses, and grabbing the tail hairs is a byproduct of its uses, the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife temporarily banned the importation of these hairs from 2014-15.

Entire classes of artist brushes simply dried up: Windsor and Newton, Escoda, and Blick were simply unable to get supply for brushes.  Those that were available became terribly expensive.

The limit on importation has changed from a ban to restriction.  That has contributed to a very spendy market.  But most importantly it has also changed my beloved brushes. The Blick Master Kolinsky has gone from a brush length of about about 8mm  to about 5mm. Still has a nice tip, but simply not suitable for covering much of anything.

During the crisis I’ve tried a number of things.  Most involve synthetics, and I’ve hated almost all of them. The don’t stay straight for long.  The only brushes worth a damn have been some of the Army Painter sets, but still not quite satisfactory.

I may have a substitute I can live with.  Blick sells the Princeton Siberian Kolinsky Sable.  I’ve been using one of these for about the last four months, a size 0, and it has served quite well. It’s tip is advertised at about 7.9mm.  Not quite as durable as my old Blicks, but not too bad.  At the current sale price of $6.17 on the Blick website, not a bad deal.  My chief criticism is they are long handled brushes–which can be easily altered to short handles–or I’ll poke myself in the eye.

You just can’t paint much without good brushes.


Book Review: Cursed Kings

Cursed Kings

As I headed back to school last September, I was shocked to see “Cursed Kings” was available on Amazon.  This is the title of the fourth volume in Jonathan Sumption’s history of the Hundred Years War.

The book picks up where the third volume, “Divided Kingdoms” left off, with the usurpation of Richard II’s throne by Henry of Lancaster (Henry IV,) and the onset of insanity in the French king, Charles VI.

The book begins with the struggles faced by Henry IV to assert his legitimacy, as well as conflicts with Parliament to wangle sufficient revenue to maintain his household, let alone protect his Gascon holdings in France. Throughout his reign (1399-1413,) Henry faced multiple uprisings on the Scottish border as well as the persistent rebellion in Wales led by Owen Glendower. These were complicated by his own poor health and a wary eye on his talented, but ambitious, son the Prince of Wales.

In France things were, if anything, worse.  The intermittent madness of King Charles led to a dynastic struggle to control the royal council and the resources of France.  Led by the Armagnac faction of Valois uncles and brothers to the king, France exploded in civil war when the John Duke of Burgundy murdered Louis Duke of Orleans in the streets of Paris in 1407.  From that time on, the Burgundy and Armagnac factions of the Valois family were in constant conflict, illustrating the fundamental weakness of the French monarchy: though France was a much richer country than England, it was divided between the two factions that counted on quasi-independent dukedoms like Brittany and Navarre to support them in a bloody civil war, just as the greatest warrior king in English history was set to embark on a new invasion of France.

Henry V’s entry in the Hundred Years War was so much more than his Crispin’s Day address and the Battle of Agincourt. Though his reign was comparatively brief, 1413-1422, his campaign to open Normandy to invasion at Harfleur, the shocking defeat of the French army, and his relatively rapid conquest of Normandy and mastery of siege warfare, opening the Seine valley all the way to Paris itself should not be overlooked. His job was made somewhat easier by the persistent strife among the French.  The disaster at Agincourt was enabled chiefly because the French army was thrown together shortly before the battle and because there was really nobody to lead it. It simply marched to its death without a battle plan, and without a commander agreed upon by the Burgundy and Armagnac factions.

As Henry blazed a trail through Normandy, the struggle to control the streets of Paris, manage revenues even the person of King Charles and Queen Isabelle continued. John “the Fearless” generally had the support of the Parisian mob.  Armagnac forces struggled to coalesce around a strong leader as the two oldest of Charles’ sons died. Eventually, his youngest son, became Dauphin and leader of the anti-Bugundian French.  His murder of John “the Fearless” in 1419, led to a withdrawal of Burgundy from active participation from the war with the English, but instead became more of a diplomatic interloper, together with Brittany and other lesser feudal French vassals who could, and did play both sides of the game.

Unable to compel the Dauphin to fight the decisive battle he, and all English kings sought, Henry agreed to a lasting treaty, guaranteeing a certain amount of his goal.  The 1420 Treaty of Troyes wedded Henry to Catherine of Valois.  It also established Henry as nominal regent of France and created a dual kingdom of France and England. It insure that his heirs would also be King of France and England and essentially disinherited the Dauphin.

The book ends with French fortunes at a low ebb, but the English in France as largely a spent force.  With Henry in control of Paris and consolidating his control around the city, he is faced with the same crisis of fiscal collapse that confronted Edward III, Richard II and his father.  Unable to make the conquest and settlement of Normandy pay for itself, crushed by years of high taxation at home, parliament withdrew its unwavering financial support for the war in France. On the battlefield, Henry successfully removed persistent Dauphinist strongholds threatening the feeding, and subsequent civil peace of Paris.  Unfortunately his successes are undone when he contracted dysentery and died.  His death is followed shortly after, by that of his father-in-law, bringing an end to a long era of uncertainty in the French monarchy.

Jonathan Sumption’s histories are always a commitment in time and persistence by the reader.  The 773 pages in text in this volume are no different. It took me months to get through it as demands on my reading time were very extravagant this spring. But Sumption’s work remains accessible and provides remarkable detail about this conflict.  In this volume he pulls together an incredible number of threads-social, economic, political, and military-to assemble a complete picture of the conflict. I was left with a fuller understanding of the hopelessness of the English cause that might be a winner on the battlefield, but like the snake that swallowed a porcupine, France was simply too big and spiny a meal.  Though the French certainly did its best to sabotage its own defense, it’s clear by the end of the book and Henry’s death that, though the English kingdom in France could continue for a time, the English shot most of the limited bolts left to them, and the ending will not be pretty.

If you have an interest in the Hundred Years War, or want a greater understanding of the context for Agincourt, this book is a must read.  Not a summer at the beach reading, but definitely worth the time.

Painting is good

It’s July 5th. I made no posts in June. Zero, nada, zilch, nothing. Not any games played either.  Let’s just say, that June was not a good month for posting or gaming and get on with our lives.

But that doesn’t mean it was completely inconsequential.  June was a pretty good month for painting figures.

Spanish Swordsmen

After Enfilade I came home and began working on Spanish Swordsmen for my Quetzacoatl Rampant project.  The figures are all from Eureka Miniatures and combine the more heavily armored figures with the lighter armored variety that became de rigeur as the conquest progressed. These were great figures to paint.  Relatively easy, nicely formed minis. I used the dip on these figures, and I feel they turned out well.  The dip did a very nice job in accentuating the joints in the armor, and the decoration on the steel shields.

This period will continue to receive a lot of attention throughout the summer.  I expect I’ll try my first unit of Aztecs next in the project. I own all the Spanish I need.  These figures represent four 6-figure units, and raises my completed Spanish units to six.

Black and Tans

I’m also bound and determined to finish or nearly finish my Irish Rellion/Civil War project this summer.  I have a pretty simple set of rules called, “Like Cricket, But With Guns.” I forget where I found these, but they sure seem simple.  I just need to get my figures finished to try out a game.

I finished painting 14 of the Royal Irish Constabulary Auxiliary or the “Black and Tans.”  Frequently these were British WWI veterans, who wore as much of the RIC’s dark green kit as they could get, but frequently wore part or all of the standard issue uniform. The figures are the very nice minis by Musketeer/Footsore miniatures.

I don’t have a lot left to paint for this period.  I have a couple dozen Renegade early war Brits in SD caps that will mostly serve as Irish Free State army for the Civil War.  I also ordered a pack each of RIC officers and IRA militia types from Reiver Castings to add just a few more figures for each side. They seem a little small and not quite up to the standard of my Footsore and Cannon Fodder miniatures, but they are something different.  We’ll see how they paint up.  If they paint up well, I may buy s couple packs of the dark uniformed Auxies that traveled in the Company B. Crosley tenders I have to build and paint.

The Luisiana Dragoons

I’ve had these figures for a while, and it’s nice to have them completed. These go with my United States vs. Spain project.  I’ve had them for some time, and am just trying to wrap them up.  I loved the color scheme–something about the blue and red that I like. These are from the old RSM range offered by Dayton Painting Consortium.  Decent figures, but certainly not front line today.  This is a project that still has a few loose ends I’d like to work at and finish up.

Next Up

The Red Captains, or those of us who are connected to the Space 1889/Martian/The Sword and the Flame on Mars have committed to a summer game that is essentially a sea battle on one of the Martian canals. I’ve agreed to supply my medieval vessels as Martian warships–I have three Merrimac Shipyards cogs and a galley.  For the Brits I have the Reviresco paper steam gunboat, which is a cheap and handy little model, even if it shows my clear lack of expertise assembling paper models. But I also have the nice resin Nile River gunboat by Merrimac.  I’ve been waiting to do something with it for probably a decade, so I think the time to work on it is now.

I expect I’ll spend most of the rest of the summer painting the rest of my Irish stuff, as well as Aztecs and Conquistadors.  I have a timetable for playing Quetzacoatl Rampant that requires my stuff to be fairly complete by January, so I do have a bit of time pressure there. But I am happy to paint on whatever my heart desires right now.

Music to Paint By:

Free Fire and Water

Free was a very young band when they formed in 1968.  All of their members-vocalist Paul Rodgers, guiarist Paul Kossoff, drummer Simon Kirke and bassist Andy Fraser-were still in their teens when the band formed and recorded their first two albums.  Their breakout record was 1970’s  Fire and Water, that included the hit “All Right Now.” It’s a very good record that showed the band’s potential.  Free was a blues-based outfit, with a solid no-nonsense musical core.  It rocked harder than Cream, but certainly flowed from similar musical influences. Not always an easy get.  It can be hard to find, but usually affordable.





Straight lines are not my friend

Less than a week until Enfilade.  I’m really looking forward to this convention.  I’ve been more or less in a miniature gaming desert for the past six months.  I’m excited about running some games and seeing some friends.

My last posts were about the travails of assembling 1/300 biplanes.  But ultimately I got all ten miniatures done in time for a walkthrough of our Channel Dash scenario at Dave’s house last weekend.


An okay photo of Atlas and Pay N Pak.  Doesn’t quite do justice to Atlas’ dreadful lining job.

That left me two hydroplanes to paint for my Friday evening game at the convention: Thunderboats: The Rise of the Pickleforks.

I’ve been picking my way through the picklefork hulls I bought a few years ago at the convention. For those who aren’t in the know, the picklefork hull design became popular in hydroplane racing in the 1970’s, providing a wider, safer hull design. Unfortunately, it’s also the time when I lived in California and forever lost touch with hydroplane racing until my interest in this project. So the boats from the period I don’t know as well as those from the “classic” 1950’s and ’60’s era.  There also seem to be fewer pictures on the web from the 70’s, until the massive switch over to turbine powered boats.  Weird, but true.

The two boats I had left to paint have identical hulls, and are limited to just a couple of boats.  The most obvious paint scheme was the “Winged Wonder” Miss Pay N Pak from 1974.  The second is really the same boat when it became the Miss Atlas Van Lines. in 1976.  The Pak was very successful in this iteration, the Atlas, not quite so much.  For the Atlas crew this was very much a transitional boat to Bill Muncey’s famous “Blue Blaster” that would eventually take his life.

Needless to say, it is a very cool hull design.  But like the other boats from this period, both were a gigantic pain in the ass to paint. Generally speaking, the earlier three point hydros were block colors with some special marking, font scheme, or number that made them unique.  The pickleforks, because they sit lower in the water and have enormous decks, tend to use quantities of straight lines, often piped in a contrasting colors.

Pay N Pak is a perfect example.  The entire deck is lined in orange piped black.  Even the name fits into the lining and piping scheme.  It was a nightmare to paint.  Because I’m an impatient boob, I refused to take the time to tape this out.  At five feet it doesn’t look bad.  At twelve inches, not so good. Painting straight lines with perfectly even distribution of paint off the brush is really hard.  At least it’s hard for me.

As difficult as Pay N Pak was, Atlas was even harder.  Trying to keep the alternating light and dark blue lines of uniform width was incredibly difficult.  I kept comparing photos on my iPad to what I was painting on my boat, only to realize there was earlier iteration of the Atlas with the same colors, but an entirely different lining scheme.  At one point I ended up sanding the whole thing down and starting over.  But mercifully, it’s done. Not perfect but not bad.


All six pickleforks.  I’d like to do more and am hoping to snag some more at the convention next weekend.

So I’ve wrapped up all six of my picklefork hulls.  I’m hoping Shawn is at the convention with a few more to sell.  It’s the only purchase I’m really hankering to make.  At the bring and buy, I’m also hoping I might find a couple of rules sets.  Some guys on TMP have suggested a modification of Peter Pig’s AK 47 for the Spanish Civil War.  Wouldn’t mind taking a look a that.  I’m also interested in a copy of Sharp’s Practice as a possible rules choice for my America vs Spain conflict.

What’s on my painting table.


Fairly washed out by the flash, some Spanish swordsmen for Quetzacoatl Rampant.  Hoping to have the first eight or so finished before the convention.

Had a really enjoyable painting day yesterday.  Finished up the hydros and moved on to painting Eureka’s Spanish swordsmen for Quezacoatl Rampant, our little wars in Mesoamerica adaptation of Lion Rampant.  I have sixteen figures primed with enough on the way to give me four units of six figures each.  More to come as I finish more figures.

With Enfilade more or less out of the way, I’m freed up to work on what I please.  The various Rampants are at the top of the list, though I’m hoping to also knock out my Irish Civil War figures and my four remaining ships–all large masted vessels– for the American Civil War.

Music to paint by

Cheap Trick

The annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction always reminds of the music I don’t know well, or that I’ve overlooked in my collection. This year Cheap Trick entered the Rock Hall. They are actually a band I do know something about.  I saw the Tricksters in concert twice in the late 70’s when they were less well known.  They were great-really great- and incredibly loud. They might have been the loudest band I’ve ever heard.  But they were always energetic and a lot of fun.

So the upshot is, I’ve identified seven of their albums as a mini-collection.  It’s not complete, but it’s their best records.  Sadly I had a few of these once upon a time. I was able to pick up their 1977 debut, entitled simply Cheap Trick for five bucks on Discogs, and yesterday I listened on the Rega.  It’s a great record, very much in line with In Color and Heaven Tonight with very upbeat melodies and catchy lyrics.  Need to listen to it a couple more times.  Guitarist Rick Nielsen does almost all the writing, and its just great stuff. Very listenable, played best LOUD.