Painting On My Own Time

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Old Glory Marines about 60% completed (right) with some Perry AWI figures remounting for Rebels and Patriots

Tuesday the June 24th was the end, period, it’s over.  I am an official free agent.  My time is my own.  Life is very good.

I always envisioned retirement as a mix of days when I would get together with Dave Demick, we’d hang out at his place playing White Bear, Red Moon (Chaosium Game, ca 1976), go out for awesomely bad pub grub, and the rest of the time I’d paint little men.

I’m not saying this isn’t what’s going to happen, it’s way too early to tell.  In fact a certain amount of it is already happening.  Dave, Tim Barela and I played some board games, ate terrible (meaning it really tastes good) pub food at Terry’s Office Tavern in the Proctor District, and had a generally good time.

I’m sure there are many more such occasions in my future, with far fewer obstacles to navigate around, and I’m truly looking forward to them.  I’m hoping to become involved with Tuesday night gaming with the Olympia guys, Truant games with the guys in Steilacoom, and of course my regular group of friends.

I’m truly not sure what my future offers in terms of long-term commitments.  However, I’m really sure that in the short term it’s gaming, but three other areas will take my time.  One of those is pretty household related, and that is minimizing our (Lorri and my) collections of needless crap.  Another area is of personal interest and that is fully organizing and cataloging my record collection.  That includes a full cleaning of all 1,500ish LP’s.  Last, and probably most important from a passion standpoint is painting.

I laid out some of my painting plans in my last post. But I also think it’s worthwhile to set out short term painting objectives too.  I am a routine-driven person.  Ask my wife.  I’m also an early-to-bed-early to rise guy.  I plan to take care of my missus in the morning, as I fondly wave good-bye to her as she departs for the hell that is her commute, and then I’ll get some painting done, an hour or so, until eight to nine o-clock, when I’ll troop out to work in the backyard, at least until the weather turns and we enter the “great darkness” of the Northwest winter.

I’ve always tried to set goals for myself.  I usually do something new every year, though I think those days may be over. In years past my goal is to paint an average of a single figure per day.  (Just for the sake of ease of understanding, a figure is a 28mm figure, a plane, a ship, a whatever model of whatever.) That’s seven figures per week, or 365 figures per year. I’m going to change that to 12 figures per week.

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This is the current state of my painting table. Though I have a great space about 48″ X 30″, it is utterly cluttered with paint, brushes, and stuff, leaving me about 6 square inches to work. Does everybody else have this problem?

And to be truthful, I know I can do more than that, and still have lots of time leftover for other things–like remounting all those figures for Rebels and Patriots, or building terrain for the Philippines. Or writing the rules for the Buffalo Hunt. It’s all doable.

Week of July 8th goals–Finish 12 Old Glory U.S. Marines for the Philippines.  Paint eight Dixon buffalo.  Remount one unit of Continentals for R and P and one six figure unit of riflemen. Hope to have five total units for our game on July 20th.  Longer term goal is to get all the buffalo finished for August.  Want to run Buffalo Hunt at Gene Anderson’s game gig on the 24th, but it will need a play test before that.

What am I listening to–Hope to include this in more frequent posts.  I am not a huge country music fan, but as I get older, I’m more willing to listen to a broader range of stuff.  An artist I’ve come to appreciate more is Johnny Cash.  I really like the honesty of his songs, and nowhere is this clear than in the recordings he did with producer Rick Rubin at the end of his life. Entitled American Recordings, vols I-VI, they typically feature Cash and a guitar and very spare production.  Artists sit in with him, including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Cash mostly performs covers–some really well known, like “Solitary Man”  by Neil Diamond and “Bird on A Wire” by Leonard Cohen.  But sometimes he throws in a surprise, such as Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage.”  Always interesting, and never a disappointment.  Worth a listen.

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Plans and more plans

I can’t tell you how many folks ask the question, “What will you do when you retire?”  I feel foolish with the response, “I have no idea at all.”  I feel like I should have long lists, or maybe I’m supposed to fire up my resume and think of a new career.  But I dunno.  I rarely lack for things to do.

One thing I will spend time is gaming projects.  It’s what I am really all about, and I have a list as long as your arm. These are the goodies that will have my attention in no particular order.

The Philippine American War.

My attention to this project was diverted by the Concord game.  I’m not complaining because it was a super scenario, but I do want to leap back in full time, and prepare a scenario for Enfilade.  I went through my collection of toys last weekend.  Here’s where I am:

Philippine Army: I have painted one unit of Spanish, four units of Philippine republican troops, with one more on the painting table and one unit of milita bolo-men.  It’s a good start. I have four more units of republican troops and three more units of bolo-men to go, plus a home-made latanka cannon.  The unit on the table is the last of the headache-inducing rayadillo uniforms and the rest will be a mix of white, browns, a little red and a little blue. Love these guys.  I have enough for now, but there may be more in the future. I’m thinking when the whole show is done I’d like to have 16 units and three cannon.

American forces:  I have a lot of American figures, not because I want to field a large American force, but because I want a variety of figures. The only figures I have currently painted are two units of volunteer infantry by Old Glory, and a unit of Philippine Constabulary by Tiger Miniatures.  But I have quite a few unpainted figures including regular infantry and dismounted cavalry by 1898 Miniaturas, some sailors, marines and cavalry by Old Glory, and some guns by a variety of manufacturers.  13 units in all

The real challenge with this conflict is to produce some attractive, but practical terrain for the Philippines which varies from jungle, mountainous, village, and trenches with blockhouses. Not my long-suit, but definitely on my radar.

 

The Buffalo Hunt

On Sunday at Enfilade a familiar face grabbed me and asked if I had any plains Indians. Herbie Fairbanks, a longtime Tacoma gamer was excited about a mammoth-hunting game he’d seen at the convention, and was interested in taking the Tusk rules and modifying them for a buffalo hunting game. I was intrigued because I have some forty or so Conquest Comanches that would be perfect for just such a game.

I’ve downloaded the Tusk rules from Wargame Vault (a mere $3.50 for the .pdf version) and have begun converting them over from the stone age to a mixed version of 17th century Plains technology including mounted and dismounted natives.  It should be fun.  I’ll provide updates as they become available. I’ve also ordered almost 40 buffalo from five different manufactures, including Westwind (Old Glory,) Dixon, Acheson, Monday Knight Productions and Wargames Foundry.

I’ve begun working on the Westwind figures-because they arrived first, but I see myself supplementing my regularly scheduled painting with buffalo, and replacing some of the arms on my Comanches with traditional weapons.  Looking forward to a run-through of the rules and and Enfilade game in May.

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Kinda murky, poorly lit photo of Westwind buffalo in progress. I’m sure I’ll use a variety of different painting strategies, but these start with a base of Vallejo burnt sienna and some highlights and washes, followed by desert yellow drybrushing over the furry bits. They were fast.

Planes and Ships

Painting planes and ships are just a part of who I am.  They give me a ton of pleasure.  Just grabbing some planes from my box of buckets of planes is something I just find fun.  That said, I have something specific things I need to accomplish for the coming year.  In May I bought Phil Bardsley’s beautiful painted B-24D’s for the Ploesti strike he did some years ago.  Dave Schueler and I are committed to hosting  Ploesti for our early spring event at Drumbeat.   It will mean painting another six or so planes, and then we’ll be good to go. Dave and I will also be working with George Kettler to put together a Downtown/Linebacker bunch of planes for the Vietnam War.  Can never paint enough planes.

I’m also planning to paint more merchant ships as well as a couple of destroyers as escorts.   We’re looking at doing some linked scenarios with another gamer at Enfilade in 2020, some of which could include convoy air attacks, so we gotta get those targets done.

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Dragged kicking and screaming from my box of planes, these Barracudas and Fireflies have been drafted into the Fleet Air Arm fighting in the South East Asia. They get special markings and everything.

Rebels and Patriots

Enfilade featured our Concord game, which I honestly find one of the best group projects and games I’ve ever been involved in.  Like all Daniel Mersey game systems, I find Rebels and Patriots to be fun, easy to play, and open to customize according to the scenario’s needs. I have a lot of figures for this period including the Ohio Indian Wars (remember America Rampant,) the American Revolution, American Civil War and Maxmillian in Mexico. I have lots of figures to rebase and lots to paint.  I’ll focus on AWI because that’s what my friends are doing right now, but lots to keep me busy.

In any case, I will lack for nothing in the way of things to paint and do as I enter that phase of my life in which I’m searching for things to occupy my time.  I have this vision of what a painting routine could look like in retirement.  We’ll see how that plays out in July.

 

 

Friday at Enfilade

 

Fridays at Enfilade are always exciting.  There are buddies to greet, treasures to find at the B and B, and then there is the early set-up.

I have a routine I like to follow: arrive by 11:00, check into my room, grab lunch in the restaurant with my friends, and decide if I want to play in a game during the first period.  As more of game registration becomes electronic, the latter gets more difficult.  But I knew I could race hydroplanes in Thunderboats!! Should I . . .?

I decided against it, and let Al Rivers run the game.  I knew he’d be great and I could check in as the period went on to be sure it went well.  That meant I could wander, take photos and catch up with friends as they rolled in. Oh, and keep track of the B and B of course. Here’s what I saw in the early period.

Chris Craft’s excellent Guilford Courthouse games using the Black Powder rules.

Nobody knows Lyn Bodin’s Imperialism rules like Bill Vanderpool does.  Friday afternoon Bill ran Isandlwana, a full game with excited participants.  Bill holds me responsible for his obsession with miniatures.  I don’t think he needs me as an excuse for his good work.

Spencer Fisher’s Isola Della Bella game using the Lion Rampant rules

Colin Wilson prepares players for his spectacular Omaha Beach game.

Siege of Vicksburg using All Quiet on the Martian Front rules

Dean Motoyama’s lovely Winning Toulouse scenario, using the Black Powder rules

Gary Griess’ Winter on the English Channel using the Cruel Seas rules.  (Stop staring Kevin, you can’t have them.)

Bruce Smith’s Battle of El Obeid game using a variant of the Rampant rules.

These are one-off photos of games deserving far more attention.  From the upper left, Kevin Burke’s Auerstadt using the Shako rules; M.D. Preston’s Blownaparte’s Battalions game; Will Thompson’s Assault on Pacifica-12 using Galactic Knights;  Mike Clinton’s Two-page Tanks scenario; Henry Thompson preparing for Wooden Oaths using Saga 2; Pete Fry’s Weitzel’s Mill using Rebels and Patriots; Al Rivers hydroplane racing, using Dave Schueler’s Thunderboats! rules; The Battle for Ravenna using Lion Rampant.

More about my Friday doings in the next post.

An Enfilade 2019 Overview

400 people crowded into a relatively confined space.  They sought out their friends, and gathered together in their designated spaces.  They became animated, told tales of what happened over the past year, their voices rose to barely below a shout.  It was a very good day.

No it wasn’t the first day of school, it was the first day of Enfilade. The participants weren’t 16 year-old boys, they were 40, 50, 60 and 70 year olds, with a growing smattering of women and young folks.  But, most, like me, were a bit stouter, a little less hair on top, and  maybe a little creakier than 2018.

There was a pile of great-looking games.  Most were historical, but also some great sci-fi and fantasy to meet the 2019 theme of Winter War theme popped up.  Some I have pictures of, but others I don’ t.  I’ll follow up in subsequent posts with reports and those photos.

But for this post I simply want to make the point that the most important part of Enfilade, for me, is seeing old friends, gaming with buddies, catching a beer or a meal with guys I admire, but only get to see once or twice a year.

Maybe as I near my 64th birthday and retirement, I’ve just gotten soft.  Many of my wargaming buddies I’ve pushed figures with for 25, 30, 35 years and more.  Some of them are like family and our relationship extends well beyond the game table. It is not an accident that I ran four games with David Sullivan and Dave Schueler, ate in the bar with them three times, even though I spent each of the previous two weekends with them.  They are two of my dearest friends.

So, this weekend, which included hundreds of games, beverages with friends, and a purchase or two (or more)  made in the B and B, they were made that much more poignant with the three estate sales hosted by friends and families of those we lost, the most concrete example of the passage of time and the graying of our hobby.

Not to seem too maudlin, Enfilade 2019 was a great convention, with lots of terrific games.  It was a convention without major problems.  It was a little like an annual class reunion.  And to that end, for this entry, I’m sharing pictures just of the guys, doing what they love, playing games on Friday night.  To all those pictured, and those who aren’t, I look forward to seeing you in 2020.

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Thomas Moore navigates Gary Greer’s First Newbury game featuring Armati 2 rules.

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Matt Rocco makes his plans for Knights and Lords, while GM M.D. Preston offers his insights.

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Two young gamers prepare their impis to assault a thin red line in Bill Vanderpool’s Isandlwana.

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Sometimes game turns take too long. Hurry it up guys!! Siege of Vicksburg game.

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The Order of the Fez makes its appearance at Bruce Smith’s Battle of Obeid. Bruce, Bryan Shein and Damond Crump are all fezzed, while Dale Mickel wonders why he didn’t get the word.

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Sorting out the where’s and whys of Spencer Fisher’s Isola Della Scalla scenario from Lion Rampant.

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This collection of ne’er do wells played in our Skulking Way of War game. I’m the goob with the Mariners cap.

The Heroics and Ros Merchants

After a year of assembling planes for Malta, Dave Schueler and I determined we needed a variety of targets.  We’ve done that using the Tinywargames Malta mat.  I’ve put together my own airfield felt mat and added a wide variety of buildings.

But something was missing.  A huge part of the Malta story was the siege that settled over the island as convoy after convoy brining precious supplies was attacked by the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica.  The converse side of this is that aircraft stationed out of Malta mounted relentless attacks on German and Italian ships headed with supplies for North Africa.

The two of us have acquired some of the merchant vessels offered by Ros and Heroics.  These were originally Skytrex castings, produced in pewter.  They aren’t cheap at six to nine quid a throw, plus the spendy shipping from Great Britain.  I was prepared to be disappointed when I ordered my first four models, and four more later.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with H and R.  Love them because they carry the Skytrex range, which is unique and combines so well with David Gregory’s great range of WWII coastal vessels from PT Dockyard.  The range of sea walls, jetties, and fortifications can’t be matched.  But they’ve been challenging to order from the states.  Everything from missing molds, to slow service, and that shipping charge certainly makes things more costly.

I made my first order for ships in September. All merchants including the big tanker and British merchant at nine pounds each.  Service didn’t disappoint-four weeks from the order to receiving the product.  But, the real surprise was in the casting.  Three of the four miniatures had newly molded resin hulls.  They were nicely cast, no bubbles, mold marks on the seven inch models were extreme and easily sanded.  All the additional details-superstructure, masts and booms, the odd deck gun, were nicely cast in metal. If there was a problem with the minis it was that the portholes-nicely formed-were probably big enough to accommodate a bus. Small potatoes in the world of miniature making.

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German 5,500 ton cargo ship. Yes, it can definitely double as some other nation’s cargo vessel; I won’t tell.

I waited to make a second order, mostly because the H and R website was under renovation.  When I did order in January it was like a night and day difference.  Owner Andy sent me a prompt e-mail to let me know my order was received and another in a few days to let me know the order was on its way.  I had the ships within two weeks from the U.K. The e-mail contacts were refreshing and should be an industry standard.  The quick delivery was stupendous.

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A none-too-friendly look at all four ships together. The Nikon tends to focus on a particular target and blurs everything else. You’re looking at the 4,000 ton tankner

But the miniatures are also great.  Again, the crisp casting of the resin hulls was really good.  This batch had a bit of light flash, but nothing that couldn’t be easily removed.  Light mold marks at the bottom of the hull, easily removed with light sanding and extra fine sand paper. My only complaint was my Flower class corvette did not come with its four-inch gun turret.  I replaced it with a gun turret from the Tamiya Japanese Auxiliaries kit.

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Two views of the nifty little Flower class corvette. My favorite of the four models, it is a little small for for the 8″ base.

These miniatures are sizable at 1/600.  The smallest are about four inches long, and the largest are pushing eight inches. So the question is always to mount them on bases or not? In a conversation with Dave, he said he preferred bases because it’s just easier to move the ships. But basing material is always a challenge.  Plus, arriving at a consistent color with the mat is always a challenge.  Dave suggested a clear base with wakes painted in white.

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3,000 ton tramp steamer was a pleasure to put together.

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One more look at the tanker by H and R.

Easier said than done. My first thought was 8” X 1.5” bases on clear acrylic by Litko.  Hey, they’d be straight and at 1/8” thickness they’d be strong enough for the largest ships.  Plugged it into their custom base maker and it came back as sixty bucks for ten bases.  Too much. I needed a Plan B.

I ordered a 12” square piece of acrylic from Amazon.  Intended for a picture frame, I thought maybe I could scribe it with a sharp Ex-Acto knife and break it off as I’ve done with sheet styrene.  I’m sure somebody could, but it just didn’t work for me.  I made too many additional marks on the acrylic and simply could not get the scribing lines deep enough.  That was a ten-dollar failure.

Went back to Litko, and looked at the same dimensions but at 1/16” thickness.  Half the price.  I hit the buy button and had my bases within a couple of weeks. They look great. Litko has also improved their service and made their shipping more affordable.  Highly recommended.

Although it may not be clearly evident from my glare-ridden, somewhat blurry photos, the Litko bases definitely served their purpose.  I’m not struggling to match my bases, let alone lining them up against the mat.  The ships, the bases, and I haven’t even mentioned my tinywargames mat, all work together to look different.  Even I can’t screw that up.

 

Last of the Gunfighters

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With the Concord grenadiers, I was able to get some time to do something–anything- different.  My go to is always some planes, so I reached in my box of many-unpainted-winged-objects and pulled out some F-8 Crusaders from Raiden.

These planes were given to me by George Kettler last year, and I really wanted to paint them for several reasons.  First they are are a sign of good faith to George that I truly appreciate his generosity.  There are many more to come, including some A-4F’s that are probably next on my agenda.

The Crusaders are also a down payment on my promise to paint planes for a Vietnam project.  I’ve changed my original intent to focus on just planes for Rolling Thunder (1965-68) to something more inclusive that will also include planes for the first Linebacker missions  (1972). What does that mean?  It means I can paint a wider variety of plane types for the both the Navy and the Air Force.  Of course that means painting more planes. Imagine that.

I already painted a handful of F-8’s for an earlier project-13 Days Goes Hot. The seven planes I painted this month were those I had.  I’d like to add one more to make an even eight.  I also decided I wanted to paint planes from the air wing of the U.S.S. Forrestal.  The late senator John McCain flew his A-4E from the deck of the Forrestal, and he was almost miraculously saved when he was caught in the middle of the infamous fire on that ship in 1967 that killed over 150 crewmen.

The Raiden Crusaders are among my favorite miniatures.  They are straight and very properly proportioned.  They do come with an annoying mold mark on the nose that must be filed or scraped off. But once that’s done, they are quite nice.

If I have a criticism of the model, it is that the canopy seems just a little too bubbly. Or, at least when I paint it, the canopy seems a a little too bubble shaped-not in a cartoonish way-instead of the sleek, nearly flat design I see in pictures.

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I painted my planes in the standard navy dress of the mid-1960’s. The overall upper surfaces were painted with Testor’s acrylic Gull Gray.  I used two coats, well-stirred, to get it to largely eliminated brush strokes. I tried to use Testor’s acrylic gloss white on the control surfaces and underside, and I just couldn’t get a decent cover, even with multiple coats.  I decided, after two coats of each to spray with Dullcote, and went back over the white surfaces with your basic Ceramcoat white, and re-painted with Vallejo gloss varnish.

I painted the canopy Ceramcoat ivory.  No, not some form of light blue.  Sorry that’s who I am. If you see planes on a board with ivory colored canopies, you’ll know it’s my junk. Nose and canopy bindings are basic cheap-ass craft black.

I chose to do the VF-103 Sluggers, assigned to the Forrestal from 1960-65.  I chose it primarily because the arrow markings on the tail were angular and paint-able, though I still managed to mess it up on some of the models.  I used Vallejo Deep Yellow for the main color, and followed up with black edging.  The AJ is also hand-painted, again, with mixed success.  In 1965, the Crusaders were joined in VF-103 with F-4B Phantoms, so I have a template for painting them, down the road.

U.S. national markings, and Navy markings are by Beacon publications,manufactured and sold by I-94 Enterprises.

Unfortunately, my planned Forrestal template is a little haywire because CV-59 was assigned to the Mediterranean from 1960-65, and switched to the USS Saratoga the same year.  Oh, well.

Overall, however, I’m pretty happy with how the little minis turned out.

 

Grenadiers, ick

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Ack!  Enough already.  I think everyone paints something that makes them crazy and for me it’s British grenadiers of the American Revolution.  Red coats, bearskins and their front plates.  Straps on straps on straps, lace, facing colors brass buttons or silver. Spare me.

I have 36 figures to finish, ideally before March 23rd when we do our first Concord run through.  I have twelve figures about 85 percent complete.  I’m ready to slit my wrists. I’d rather paint an army of Philippine soldiers in rayadillo.

Maybe it is the deadline element.  Maybe it’s just that there are so many bits that need attention—like the musicians, I forgot to mention the musicians.  Gah!! Maybe it’s remembering how great the late Phil Bardsley’s grenadiers looked when we did our Guilford Courthouse project back at Enfilade II in 1992.  Great figures and mine . . . not so much.

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In any case, I’d almost rather be painting anything else.  Some F-8 Crusaders need my loving attention.  I have a dozen Philippine infantry all picked out-in rayadillo, of course.  It’s almost time to start painting some adversaries for the Philiippine Republic and I have those too.

One thing that I have learned from all this.  When I finish the 36 grenadiers, that will follow 36 light infantry and 72 militia figures, all for the Concord game.  I started working on these in Octoberish, and I think this is the last time I’ll paint for an Enfilade project.  Rather, I’ll continue painting troops for Daniel Mersey’s games, or Airwar C 21 or Regimental Fire and Fury, but the game will have to find what I have at hand, and we’ll call it good.