Aztecs and after

They’re finished.  Every Aztec, Tlaxcalan and Spanish unit I own  is complete. It’s about 460 figures worth.  I think I have four porter figures and four lower class Tlaxcalan figs from Outmost Miniatures. But every command figure, every other miniature that can be squoze into a unit is painted and mounted.

In reflection, it’s one of my favorite projects.  I enjoyed the painting and organizing.  I really liked the figures from Eureka and Outpost.  Less wild about the The Assault Group figs, not just because they are a pain to deal with, but they are smaller than the other two manufacturers.  If I was committed to just doing TAG they’d be fine. As I stated before, I can see myself adding more to both the Aztecs and Tlaxcalans, but not this minute.  I hope to add a couple more units of Aztecs before Enfilade.

So, what comes after Aztecs?  13 Days Goes Hot, of course, our Cuban Missile Crisis game for Enfilade. Daveshoe and I have been working on that.  I’m including some bits from the George Bounty I shared earlier.  I have some other important terrain pieces I want to create. I’m in the middle of painting god knows how many trucks at the moment.  Next I’ll be working on MiG-21s and a SAM-2 missile site.

I’m following up on my pledge to not take on any new projects this year.  To be clear, this doesn’t mean no new miniatures, just not a whole new bright shiny thing to get started on.  Here are three projects I’d like to proceed on, based on what I have.

1/600 plastics


Over the years I’ve accumulated some naval kits.  This is the year to paint them up.

First on the table is a Skywave model of a Spruance class destroyer.  These were all withdrawn from service around 2005 in favor of the Arleigh Burke class DDG’s.  But the Spruances could be nice for a 90’s period air scenario between China and the U.S., China and Taiwan, the U.S. and Iran or Iraq.  Anything is possible.

I also have a box o’ Soviet missile boats.  They include two Osa and two Tarantul vessels, as well as some helicopters and small boats operated by the Iranian Revolutionary guards. They would be a fun add to my modern vessels. Over 400 Osa’s were built between 1960-75 and lots were distributed to countries from East Germany to Vietnam.  Syrian Osas famously sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat with guided S-S-N 6 “Styx” missiles during the Six Day War. A handful remain in service today.  The Tarantul is bigger, is considered a frigate.  I actually toured one at Battleship Cove in Fall City, MA back in 2004. they are larger and more remain in service, with a dozen in Vietnam. Its unreliable Styx missiles were updated.  These could be used for a variety of different conflicts, but something in the South China Sea would not be out of the question.

Finally, I picked up a box of the Tamiya Japanese auxiliaries from WWII.  Mind you I have few vessels for the Pacific in WWII.  But these are quite nice, a gunboat, minelayer and minesweeper, so a nice bit of oomph for the under-armed Japanese patrol gunboat fleet and barges.

Irish Civil War


I’ve blathered about these guys before.  I have ten Reiver Royal Irish Constabulary, and ten Reiver IRA types, as well as two dozen British WWI infantry from Renegade. More challenging than painting the figures, however, is assembling and painting three vehicles that go with my figures.  I have two very nice Crosley Tenders from Company B that look like they should be manageable.  I also have a beautiful Lancia armored lorry from Musketeer Miniatures.  Sadly this went away when Musketeer was acquired by Footsore.  I have a simple set of rules I’d like to try called Like Cricket, but with Guns that looks pretty simple, and requires some really good scenario-making. I’ll have to work at that.

Another air project or two


Including amid all of the George bounty were planes, many, many planes.  Included were enough Skyhawk attack planes, Canberra bombers and Pucara attack planes to give serious consideration to painting up a Falklands scenario.  Dave Schueler has the ships, and it was very much a ship vs plane war.  Just to keep things interesting, however I have ordered six Sea Harriers for some air to air intervention.  I have the Super Etendards to host the nasty Exocets, but so much of the air campaign revolves around gutsy Argentinian A-4 pilots taking on the missiles and gunfire of the Royal Navy.  It should be interesting.

I also have a bunch of planes for WW II in the Mediterranean, say 1940-42.  I have about 18 Italian fighters and bombers, and I also have a handful of American lend-lease Kittyhawks.  I’d love add a lot of German and British planes for the project.  Dave expressed an interest on doing the air attack by Italian and German bombers on the HMS Illustrious defended by, gulp, Fleet Air Arm Fulmars.  But the attackers have no escorts so it could be interesting.

Ya know, I love painting planes.

There are lots of projects to work on, and lots of units to paint.  In any case it should be lots of fun.  I’ll keep you posted.



The kindness of others and an update

When word went out I was planning a Cuban airwar game, there was some interest.  I received a quick Facebook message from my friend George reminding me that he had tons of stuff I could use for the game.

George’s gifts from left-A stack of F-8 Crusaders with some Fight’s On missiles; a wad of cool C in C surface to air missiles, and anti-aircraft guns; planes of all kinds including A-4 Skyhawks, B-57 Canberra bombers, and Spitfires. 

George is a great guy.  He is one of the most talented, creative people I’ve ever known in this hobby.  He is the modeler we all wish we could be.  When I say modeler, I mean wargame modeler, as he designs superb miniatures that have been cast into saleable minis. George produced production masters for both Bay Area Yards and Raiden/I-94 miniatures, including the gorgeous Vought F-8 Crusader I love so much. He’s also a meticulous scratch builder.  Take a look at these Vietnamese hooches.  They are about an inch long.

George 4

Take a look at the detail on these tiny masterpieces.  So you think you can scratchbuild . . .

In any case, George gifted me an amazing quantity of bits-scratch built buildings, C in C trucks, surface to air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, and many planes including the A-4 Skyhawks, Crusaders and other jets I’ll use in my current and future projects. I do really appreciate it, and I WILL paint them, some sooner than later.


Thanks George. I truly do appreciate it.


Last weekend we continued with our effort to put a doable scenario out for Craving Corn in Xochimilco, the new title we adopted for our foraging scenario.  This time four of us tried to walk through the game at The Game Matrix in Tacoma. Dale Mickel and Scott Murphy obligingly volunteered to help out and ran the Spaniards while David Sullivan and I ran the Aztecs.

It was more balanced, much as we hoped. We did a few things to move the game along a bit. First, we allowed each command a “mulligan” marker.  The marker could be exchanged for one failed activation role.  When the retinue failed a second die roll, their turn was over. The marker was returned after the conclusion of each turn. We also included a leader figure for each command and gave them a 12″ command radius.  This is a departure from the leader rules in Lion Rampant.  I confess guilt.  I don’t like the leader rules in LR much.  They’re cute, but don’t do much for the game-in my view. More about this later.

We made some changes to the scenario, chiefly for the Spanish.  There were three Spanish units in each retinue-two melee units plus a shooter or the dog unit. We also complicated their command system a bit. One retinue had a Spanish commander who could offer his advantages to Spanish and Tlaxcalans alike.  Two retinues had native commanders who could not offer bonuses to the Spanish.

The battle itself was a bloodbath.  The Spanish were able to gather some grain, but they also suffered significant casualties. However they took their pound of flesh.  David lost one unit.  I lost five. The way we totaled the points, however allowed a perfect tie 24 points each.

Appeal to God markers

Appeal to God markers.  Wrapped these up this week, ten per side.  I’ll let you decide which are Spanish and which are Aztec.

However we did come to some conclusions about special QR rules. The first is regarding the mulligan markers.  Let’s start with what we call them. Mulligans work great in golf and drinking shots, but we’re going to change their names to Appeals to God.  Each side will get ten markers at the beginning of the game.  They’ll be distributed to each retinue, and they can be used for any roll-activation or courage test-but when they are gone, they’re gone.  They can’t be shared between retinues. I put something together this week.

We made a similar decision for command figures.  Again, the command radius is 12 inches, and these are the powers and limitations we gave to commanders.

  • Each retinue has a designated command figure.  We talked about an overall commander as well and decided no.
  • Commanders give a +1 for any activation rolls
  • Commanders give a +1 for any courage tests, including for battered unit.
  • Commanders, mounted singly, can be attacked and killed.

So, we feel like we’re ready to go for this scenario.  We’re starting to block out our second Quetzacoatl Rampant game, “I left my heart in Xochimilco.”  That poor town is a busy place.

What’s on my painting table?

Sadly, it’s the usual.  Aztecs, Tlaxcalans and Spaniards.  My plan for the week is to finish all six of my Aztec command figures (I’m cheating, already finished painting four.)  But I also want to wrap up the last Tlaxcalan unit.  That’s twelve figures with the quetzal bird back banner.  I’ve got a good start, and they will be quite cool when they are done.  Hope to be finished by the end of the weekend, which will leave me only the twelve Spanish swordsmen to finish.

After that it’s back to Cuba, with lots bits to finish.  I can’t let the George gift slide.

Music to paint by 

I was gonna share the first Big Brother and the Holding Company album from 1967, but honestly it’s spendy and not an easy get.  So let’s try something a lot more accessible.  Perhaps you, like me, grew up in a time when every new American band was trying to be the one that unseated the Beatles as the next big thing.  Perhaps you remember this record:

the Monkees

Or perhaps you’ve purged it from your memory.  I’ve acquired a few Monkees records mostly in big haul record deals.  Haven’t listened to them much.  But the first Monkees record has seemed a little more difficult get.  Saw a mono copy in a great sleeve, thought it might be a little noisy, but wasn’t.  Ten bucks and worth every penny. No the not-so-fab four didn’t play all the instruments, but there are some great songs on this record.  “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Saturday’s Child,” and “Take a Giant Step” are all great Mickey Dolenz songs. Michael Nesmith chips in with “Papa Jean’s Blues” and a sort of psychedelia meets country “Sweet Young Thing.”  Great songs all.

If the Monkees didn’t play their own instruments, there were certainly some good session players sitting in-Hal Blaine guests on drums. Glen Campbell plays guitar in the days before his own fame. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Burton also guests on guitar.  The songs are written by greats. Gerry Goffin and Carole King penned “Take a Giant Step.” Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote many songs including “Clarksville” and the Monkees theme.

If there is a disappointment on the album it’s the Davy Jones songs.  Davy was cute and English, but really not much of a singer, at least not on the sickeningly sweet ballads on this record. His voice is earnest, but not strong, and there just isn’t a lot happening on “I  Wanna Be Free,” or “I’ll Be True to You” to draw this listener in.  Of course, I’m not a 12 year old girl in 1966 either.

This album probably won’t change your view the Monkees were lightweight pop.  They are. But nothing can change the fact that these songs are very well crafted lightweight pop. In some respects they are a more accessible version of what Jon Bon Jovi would become in the ’80’s–good pop/rock, fun to listen to music you could sing along to.  Fun stuff.  Isn’t that what it should be?

13 Days-First Steps

Daveshoe and I are running a Sunday game at Enfilade.  We’re calling it 13 Days and it’s an American airstrike on a Soviet missile base in Cuba during the 1962 crisis.  Don’t get us wrong.  We don’t advocate such a thing and there is little question that such an intervention would have left large portions of the world still smoldering.  Even so, I’ve always thought it might make an interesting game.

We’ll play using David Manley’s Air War C.21 rules, which are fairly easy to run for jet warfare.  The planes are all 1:300 by Raiden.  My challenge, as the chief painter of stuff, is to try and make the table look interesting-a missile site and its defenses gouged out of the jungle-without it being either too boring or so busy it gets in the way of game play. Most of that preparation will happen in six weeks or so as the weather improves so I can work on terrain pieces outside.

In the meantime, there’s lots I can do with miniatures.  Last week I showed off some MiG-15’s and 19’s I began painting on Tuesday.  I hoped to have them finished by the weekend.  Did’t quite make it, but I’m pretty close. the  Russian-built Cuban Air Force was pretty much natural metal in 1962.  They were flying them as soon as they could bust ’em out of the crates. The Fagots entered service in 1961, and the Farmers the following year.  I’ll also have MiG 21’s for the Cubans, though they weren’t ready for service until a couple of months after the crisis.

From left: MiG 15’s next to paint cap for size comparison.  A row of MiG 19’s. MiG 19 in foreground with a pair of MiG 15’s as comparison.  Raiden miniatures all-you can’t beat ’em, especially for the price. 

The miniatures are from Raiden.  I actually tried to do this project using miniatures from different manufacturers about 20 years ago.  The Raiden planes are superior.  The scale is consistent and the castings are crisper.  They are painted with a base coat of Testors acrylic aluminum.  Just black in the scribed areas for contrast.  I paint the canopies ivory, which I know goes against the light metallic blue convention. Nobody makes Cuban markings, so I’m stuck painting my own. I tried applying decal numerals to the nose of the planes. It would have been no problem 20 years ago, but me, fingers, and eyesight could not quite cooperate, so I simply painted on numbers, such as they are.

As we move into March, I’ll be picking at my 13 Days stuff-trucks, AAA positions, and some buildings.  But my main focus will be wrapping up the 29 remaining figures left to paint for the Aztec project.

MesoAmerican Body Count 

I began thinking about and acquiring figures for the Quetzacoatl Rampant project in March or April of last year.  I didn’t begin painting until last May, just before Enfilade.  I’ve nearly painted everything in my possession, with a few figures to go around for all the participants.  Let’s see what I’ve gotten done the last year.


I focused on the Spanish first and kept them deliberately small. We’ve learned they are super nasty if you can roll well enough to get them to move and shoot as required. I have two more units of swordsmen (rodeleros) left to paint for a total of 12 figures.

1 X 6 Cabaleros (mounted soldiers)

6 X 6 Rodelero (includes the 12 figures unpainted)

2 X 6 Arquebusiers

2 X 6 Crossbowmen

1 X 6 Hunting dog party

1 X 2 Cannon

Total Spanish figures are 74 plus two command figures


The Aztecs are one of those cases in which I feel like I have a lot more figures than I actually have.  Sadly, that likely means more figures in my future.  I have a lot, and I like what I have, but don’t feel like it’s enough to fight the battles I want to be able to fight:

2 X 12 Elite knights

1 X 12 Warrior priests

4 x 12 Suit wearers veteran warriors

6 X 12 levy warriors

6 X 6 skirmishers

That’s 192 painted figures plus a dozen various command figures.  I have five figures of Aztec high command types that are not painted, but they have my immediate attention and should be done by the end of the week. The 13 melee combat units simply aren’t enough.  Plenty of skirmishers.  I see myself blowing the army out to 18 melee units with three retinues of six mixed quality melee units and two units of skirmishers each. Eureka figures of course.


The Tlaxcalans were the most important of Cortez’s native allies.  They are also kind of cool.  I have one twelve figure unit of heron warriors left to paint and I’m pretty excited to paint them. These are the units I will have:

1 X 12 archers

4 X 12 veteran warriors (includes 12 figures unpainted)

3 X 12 levy warriors

4 X 6 skirmishers

7 X 6 baggage carriers.

It’s a nice collection, equal to 162 figures. I feel like the Tlaxcalans are a bit unbalanced and need more levy warriors.  I could see adding another 3 X 12 units, but don’t feel quite the urgency as I do for the Aztecs.  I’ve come to really like the figures by Outpost miniatures for these guys, so future minis will come from this underrated English supplier.

My so far completed Tlaxcalans.  I think there’s enough room to squeeze in one more unit. 

So for the last eight months or so I’ve managed to paint about 430 figures for this project, including the remaining 29, plus some command figure hangers on.  Admittedly, it’s not quite the same as painting the Old Guard with cuffs, turnbacks and lace, but it’s still a lot for an old guy like me. I’ve even squeezed some other stuff in between, with a few orcs for my slowly expanding Dragon Rampant army, and getting started on 13 Days.





It’s Tuesday . . .sniff!

So I posted a few days ago about plans for my four day weekend.  I also promised to share what, if anything, I got done.  No, not so fast Smyth, you actually said you’d  get something done, so it’s time to ‘fess up.

Before I leap into my show and tell, I just need to share my painting plans with the complications of the life I share with my wife of 38 years and three demanding Australian shepherds.

  • Saturday was actually an awesome painting day.  I would guess I was able to put in at least five hours and lots got done, even though I had a pretty terrible night’s sleep. I ran out to Tacoma Trains, which is, sadly, closing.  I picked up six bottles of Testors acrylics toward future airplane painting projects and also grabbed a bottle of Woodland Scenics cement. Didn’t get home until about 11:30 after a few stops. But I painted all afternoon and it was great.  I’d ordered a copy of Dolly Parton’s excellent 1974 album Jolene, and it was a superb accompaniment to my efforts.  Made lots of progress on my Tlaxcalan skirmishers.  I painted all 24 as a group, so advances came slowly, but even so lots done.  Mistake of the day-stayed up very late (for me) watching all four episodes of Amazon drama Doctor Thorne with Lorri, while drinking champagne and Whidbeys.  Nice but . . .
  • Sunday was not good.  Little sleep, a bit of a hangover, meant I didn’t get started in the morning at all. Lorri came home from estate sales and told me about a table she encountered that could replace my media center in the den. She thought it could hold about 200 records!!  Uh oh.  We went back to look at it, burned about three hours of the day as we did other errands.  I came home and took a nap. At about 4:00 I got started, but ultimately only got about two hours of painting in. However, I was able to finish basing a unit of Tlaxcalan infantry I’d had sitting around since deadline started on Monday. It could have been so much more.  Blues.
  • Monday was much better.  Still not a lot of sleep, despite my best efforts.  But got started early.  Finished painting sandals and eyes before noon.  Took the figures out and gave them their shot of semi-gloss coating before running off to meet with one of my former students about a job possibility before noon.  When I got home at about 1:00, gave the Tlaxcalans and some Aztec command figures the dip.  Not much more I could do for the day because it takes that long for the dip to effectively dry.  Started cleaning six each of MiG 15 and 19 planes. Drilled out the holes for their pins before I headed off to bed.
  • I knew my time today would be limited. Started with a good night’s sleep, in fact Lorri woke up before me-never happens.  I had the newspaper to pick up at the printer in South Seattle, before heading off to my parents’ house for lunch in Renton.  So, I made sure to jump on some of my work in the den before I left at 9:00.  Managed to finish painting and dry-brushing my bases before heading out. Then I  When I got home at 3:00, I flocked them and took them out for a final matte spray. I took a couple of hours off to watch the last of Ken Burns dust bowl documentary and continued work on the MiG’s.  Managed to paint the bubble canopy.  I’m hoping to have all twelve planes painted and marked by the end of the weekend.

Tomorrow is a day at school with no kids.  Every minute will be accounted for, unfortunately.  But it does have the virtue of being the first of a lot of days without after school commitments.  That promises some time to devote to finishing the last of my figures for the Aztec project.

From left-The Cuban Airforce received MiG 15’s from the Soviets too late for the Bay of Pigs in 1961. By the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba also had the supersonic MiG 19’s.  Bottom right is all twelve planes in all their aluminum glory 

I am down to only five Aztec command figures, 12 Tlaxcalan infantry, and 12 more Spanish swordsmen.  I’ll finish the MiGs before moving on to wrapping up these 29 figures. After I’m finished with them I’ll move on to reassess the project and what has contributed to what I see as a pretty important project success.

All 24 Tlaxcalan skirmishers awaiting their matte spraying.  Command figures, including the heron standard bearer and a sacrifice stand appear alongside the bowmen and slingers. 

I really didn’t get anywhere with my mulligan markers.  Sometime  soon I’m sure.  I kind of have a plan though.  They won’t be called mulligan markers, they’ll be called Appeals to God.  The Aztecs will have an image representing some sort of blood sacrifice-they often sliced their ears to make simple sacrifices and consequently had ragged ears. The Spanish markers will represent some sort of heavenly appeal-prayerful hands or something like that.

Got my painting shoes on

There are times during the school year when my life simply is taken over by forces beyond my control.  Between February 1st and April 15th, it certainly feels like my life is often not my own.  There are newspaper deadlines and yearbook deadlines.  JagWire has its big annual fundraiser with all the bureaucratic hoopjumping and customerservicing that goes with it.  I have to plan for our attendance at the national student journalism convention which involves all the work of getting Congress to pass a law. Add to that, the convention is in Seattle, so I’m somewhat involved in planning and hosting the event and you can see where this is going.

But it’s early Saturday of President’s Day weekend.  I have four days off, and I’m hoping to get a lot of project work done.  Yesterday I sent prints off to our publisher. That’s three consecutive 15 hour days.  Last week I Photoshopped 360+ pics from our Father Daughter Dance fundraiser, and sent them off in over 185 e-mails to some fairly illegible e-mail addresses.  I’ve earned a little down time.


Outpost Tlaxcalan slingers and bowmen.  I like these miniatures.  I have 48 or so of their figures.  They have nice detail, but are a little chunky.  Not quite as good as Eureka, bigger than The Assault Group-but a whole lot easier to work with. a real pleasure.

I’m going to be balancing work between my two big Enfilade projects.  I’ll be continuing work on my Tlaxcalans for my renamed “Foraging Expedition” scenario for Enfilade. I’m now calling it “Craving Corn in Xomilicho.”  It’s been two weeks since our little Drumbeat disappointment.  David and I have messaged each other back and forth, and I hope to do a bit more this weekend.  We’ve agreed on some scenario changes we can work out the next time we get together in March. This weekend, I’m hoping to paint 24 Outpost Tlaxcalan skirmishers and some “mulligan” markers players can use to re-roll one critical die roll for Quetzacoatl Rampant. Pictures Tuesday.

I’ve also begun to work on my second project, my annual doin’s with Dave Schueler.  We’re calling it 13 Days, and it is based on a hypothetical air attack on Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I have a really sick fascination with this event.  Mostly it’s based on an admiration for Kennedy and Kruschev, and that they somehow managed to avoid incinerating both countries, when so many others were urging them to do exactly that.  Dave and I tinkered with the basis of a simple game at our Museum of Flight gig in November, and now I’m amping up the stakes with some better scenics, and an actual IRBM battery defended by a SAM site and Soviet-built planes. The American forces will have some period U.S.Navy planes-F-8 Crusaders, A-4B Skyhawks, and F3H Demons to make an attack.  Dave is including an option for early F-4B Phantom II’s in the mix as well.


GHQ’s SCUD B’s masquerading as Soviet SS-4’s for my 13 Days project.  Created with bits of dowling and basswood to form the missile launch pads. 

In any case, I’ve built some representative missiles, using the GHQ SCUD B miniatures, sans launchers, to put together simple pads to represent the SS-4 Sandals deployed to Cuba in 1962.  The missiles are mounted on some simple basswood rounds for launch pads, on concrete pads as they would have appeared in Cuba. A piece of dowing serves as an erector. It’s a start.  I’ve ordered lots of visual bits from GHQ.  Russian trucks, fuel bowsers, some buildings and tenting. My big challenge is going to be creating the requisite missile bases and defenses as they were dug out of the Cuban jungle.  More as the work gets done.

I’m hoping, with luck, to not only finish the Tlaxcalan slingers, but also at least get started on some of the 18 Soviet fighters-MiG 15’s, 19’s, and 21’s, I bought from I-94 Enterprises, all the excellent Raiden miniatures, for this project.

Again, updates on Tuesday.



Imagination.  Historical miniature gaming really should be all about imagination.  I know there will be plenty of you out there who shake your head and think, nah, that’s the other guys, the fantasy and sci-fi dudes. But think about it–40K is about the point system, buy GW’s over-priced very cool looking stuff, line it up and have at it. No, I am a believer in the power of imagination in this hobby.

I especially believe that’s true of projects-which I continue to prove over and over again by doing “the weird stuff,” as my friend Michael Koznarsky calls it. I’m really proud of my weird stuff, whether it is my Lewis and Clark project of 80 figures that morphed into the much larger Americans vs Spanish in Louisiana project of 300+ figures, or my childhood obsession with hydroplanes that turned into the never ending Thunderboats! obsession. Today that creativity is consumed with Quetzacoatl Rampant and using the Lion Rampant rules to foster a game playing Aztecs vs the Spanish and their Tlaxcalan allies. Historical miniatures don’t have to be out of the box.

Likewise, scenario-design also offers opportunities for creativity.  The master of all things scenario making is Dave Schueler.  He is super at creating opportunities for player decision- making to achieve their goals.  Sometimes that is about force structure, sometimes it is about the nature of the mission, sometimes it is about routines that can shape the outcome.  What makes Shoe a master, however, is the choices are available, but never so many or so burdensome that they confuse the players.

So, where is all this silliness going? Yesterday was our annual Drumbeat NHMGS hoo-hah winter gathering in Lake City.  It’s not like Enfilade.  There were only 43 paid attendees at the Lake City Community Center in north Seattle, and no hotels to worry about for a one-day affair.  We rent the space relatively cheaply, and with the number of attendees at ten bucks a throw, we made our rent. February 4th is a little late this year, but timing-wise it really worked out well. There were eighteen games in two game periods, leaving plenty for folks to do.


Tlaxcalans line up to advance into Xochimilco in search of food.  Four units of porters in the center of the photo. 

And of course, I was in on hosting games.  David Sullivan and I planned for another Quetzacoatl Rampant playtest of our foraging scenario.  David posted a great review of our January 21st playtest on his blog. This playtest ended in complete disaster for the Spanish and their native allies.  But part of the reason for this was dreadful die rolling by the invaders, and very good die rolling by the Aztecs. We made very minor changes and decided we’d have a better idea for how the scenario worked.


Aztec defenders mass outside of town. 

The chief premise of the scenario requires the Spanish and their allies to forage for food in an Aztec town. They have six units of native bearers.  The bearers can collect food from four permanent supply points located at the four corners of the town. In addition, there are chinampas, or floating gardens that can be expended along the narrow lake shore.  In addition to the bearers, the Spanish began the game with four units of swordsmen, a unit of wardogs, and a unit of arquebusiers.  There were also six units of Tlaxcalan warriors, including two units of skirmishers.

The town is defended.  The game begins with five units of peasant warriors, the defenders of the town, on the outskirts.  They are supported by a unit of veteran warrior suit-wearers and two units of skirmishers. There is also a late arriving unit of Aztec nasties.  They could arrive on the flank or the in the rear of the Spanish.  Their arrival time is certain, but unknown to the Spanish, and composed of two units of knights and three units of veteran warriors


Aztec warriors push through town to secure one of the granaries.  The Spanish, obligingly, won’t advance to contest them. 

The scenario is simple.  The Spanish/Tlaxcalans must collect enough food to “feed” every Spanish figure on the board. The Spanish have the option to add more units, but the more units they add, the more food they must collect.  The scenario allows them to add a unit of horse (very nasty), a unit of swordsmen (very nasty), a cannon (could stave off disaster,) a unit of crossbows (meh.) None are required.  All are calculated equally in terms of supply.  The Spanish at Drumbeat, wait for it, drumroll, chose the crossbows.

We got the game set up early and were off to the races. The Spanish were set up in three “retinues.”  Two of those were set up with mostly Tlaxcalans, and the third on the left flank was mostly Spanish. The Spanish/Tlaxcalans began with a couple of units in the town.  The troops along the lakeside quickly grabbed the closest granary and began loading up, while their troops held off the advancing Aztec peasant army.  But on the Spanish left, where the most of the Spanish troops were located, there was the nasty Lion Rampant bugaboo-the Spanish commanders couldn’t muster enough activations die rolls of five or higher to actually move and engage the Aztecs in front of them.  These Aztecs wisely slung their atl-atl’s from a safe distance, inflicting pin-pricks on their enemies, and screaming nya-nya-nya at the Spanish.


Things go terribly wrong when the Aztec relief, spearheaded by a unit of Eagle Knights show up in the Tlaxcalan rear.  The corn’s not tasting so good. 

Everything was looking pretty good for the Tlaxcalans until disaster struck on turn five.  The Aztec relief force arrived on the lakeside.  They immediately began slaughtering and sacrificing the Tlaxcalans in front of them.  It was a mess, and because the Spanish were stuck at the other end of the board, there simply wasn’t an answer for the stronger Aztec forces.  They began falling in with the bearers, and that was the end. We called the game after turn eight.

The playtest was a failure. But by  how much?

David and I agreed we needed some major fixes.  The Aztec reinforcements are too strong.  The Tlaxcalans need more guys.  The Spanish should just get the caballeros. We need to revisit the intent and mechanics of the “your beating heart” rule that allows the Aztecs to increase their own courage at the cost of their enemies.  Lots to talk through and work out.

But we can’t do much about bad die rolls.  For two games now, we’ve seen the Spanish roll horrendously.  How much differently would the game have turned out if the Spanish had just average die rolls. It’s challenging to make wholesale changes to scenario when we plan for probabilities that aren’t met. Sigh.

Terrain for “The Foraging Party”


In my last post I said I’d been working on a scenario for the Aztec project. So I cobbled together an encounter between the Spanish and their allies when they were most vulnerable: gathering food.

The Spanish will have a relatively small contingent, plus some Tlaxcalan allies, and they will be shepherding a party of foraging porters.  Remember, there are no horses and wagons in Mexico ca. 1520, just guys on foot ordered to schlep what’s needed on their backs.

The scenario will all be points-based.  How much food is gathered versus how many figures, Spanish figures are in the party.  The job of the Aztecs is, of course, to get in the way of all this gathering.

As a result I’ve had to come up with some terrain bits that represent food gathering places. One of the things I’ve done is purchased some of the pieces offered by Acheson Creations. I have tons of Acheson pieces, and never painted one of them.  They are cast in shiny gray resin, and I think I’ve often been intimidated by them.  No more.  I soaked them in soap and water overnight. Brush-primed them in the cold weather with Liquitex gesso, and away we went. Nice pieces, truly.  I ordered them online, and Acheson, even during the holidays, was very fast.  No fuss, no muss.

I kept the painting pretty simple.  Thatching took most of the Cote d’Arms Buff I had left, washed with Vallejo Brown Wash. The terra cotta tubs and hard structures were painted with Ceramcoat Burnt Sienna. The stone work was brushed with Ceramcoat Light Gray, dry-brushed with white and then washed with Vallejo Black Wash. Pretty easy.

These four pieces will be spread out on the board to spread out the forager and the Spanish who have to protect them.  The scenario rules require that foragers spend some turns at these places to gather their food. However, I decided that having four places to gather isn’t enough, so I planned for some chinampas.. These were gardens planted on the extensive lake beds in the Valley of Mexico.  They were created by building structures in the shallows, anchoring them with small trees, and dumping soil from the shallows to create farmable gardens.  When they Spanish first saw them, they were amazed and suggested they were “floating gardens.” Nothing floating about them.

Putting together the chinampas was a bit of a process. I originally planned to use some 1/8″ bass wood cut into 4″ X 3″ pieces  edged with dowling to represent the retaining wooden structure for the soil.  It was a mess and not worth the effort. I also added some ground texture using my go-to basing material, Liquitex Modeling Paste.  Together with the glue, the thin material warped. Bleah.

This required me to make some changes to my approach. Dowling, gone. I applied a thinner coat of modeling paste, which still warped the basswood a bit, but relaxed after drying.  I also bought some thicker, 1/4″ pieces of basswood.  It allowed the beds to look a bit more built-up, and I used my Dremel tool to sand the edges a bit more, including digging a channel through the half way point.

After applying modeling paste and allowing it the requisite hour to dry, I was free to do whatever I wanted.  I had some leftover small Woodland Scenics trees to stick on the corners.  I build corn fields, vegetable rows, whatever my heart desired to get a varied look.  Unfortunately, I did run out of small trees fairly early in the game, but that’s okay.

I’m building eighteen of these for our game on February 4th.  They go pretty fast.  I paint over the wood and modeling paste with Ceramcoat Burnt Umber.  Then dry-brush with Ceramcoat Trail Tan.  And then it’s just up to me, or you. They were handy and pretty inexpensive. About eight bucks for the basswood, and the Woodland Scenics pieces I had and were just sitting around begging to be thrown out in a fit of compulsive neatifying.