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.

Spanish

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

Aztecs

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.

Tlaxcalan

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Improbabilities

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.

drumbeat-5

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.

drumbeat-1

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

drumbeat-3

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.

drumbeat-8

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”

chinampas-the-floating-gardens-of-mexico

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.

Farewell 2016

First, let me thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read whatever nonsense I have to share. I appreciate you taking the time and trouble.  Hopefully there is something here worth reading.

Biggest Surprise of the Year-My rant about Victrix figures, written some three years ago continues to attract the most readers each and every year. I even get comments about an article that is well past its pull-date. Altogether, the Victrix article has received about 900 views.

Runner up–Though I haven’t had a chance to participate, the Olympia guys have been playtesting the Martians using Osprey’s The Men Who Would Be King rules.  Second hand news is that it has gone quite well, and I’m hoping to get in on it soon.

Project of the Year-This is a fairly easy one.  It is the Quetzacoatl Rampant, Aztecs vs. Conquistadors project I’ve worked on with David Sullivan.  I’ve worked pretty steadily on this since June and produced a lot of figures–about 300 or so.  Lately, I’ve had fewer figures and more terrain bits to complete.  But I’ll have to switch back for the first specific scenario I’ve designed. We’ll try this out at Drumbeat on February 4th, and I’ll have more to share then.  Just to be clear, this is an era I’ve always wanted to do, and in fact acquired piles of Revell plastics (1/72) decades ago, but it just never went anywhere.  Daniel Mersey’s Lion Rampant game engine makes this work.  That and David’s mutual a-ha head nod.

I’ve also ordered some GHQ bits to continue working on my 1962 airstrike on Cuba idea.  Expect to see both for Enfilade in May.

For 2017

  • Wrap up the Quetzacoatl Rampant project.  I still have figures to paint, and some terrain pieces to complete, but after devoting so much time to it, I’d actually like to move on.
  • Paint up at least 20 bases (80 figures) of HYW French infantry for my Fire and Fury knock-off for the Hundred Years War. This is a big deal to me.  I picked up a box of Perry plastic French knights and infantry and am hoping these work well.
  • Paint more planes for the Cold War era.  I really enjoy working on these and they paint quickly.  Don’t need a lot of them. My goal is to open up the period 1952-70 to some hypothetical air scenarios.
  • Begin work on a Sudan project using The Men Who Would Be King and Perry’s expansive range for this period.
  • Have some fun and just pick away at projects, whether it is my nearly complete Irish Civil War stuff, my barely moving Dragon Rampant Orcs and Rohirrim, or adding some more ships to my ACW naval fleet.

The Special Smyth Award for Service Above and Beyond the Call of Duty: 

Eureka Miniatures USA is simply the smoothest, slickest supplier I’ve ever encountered, and others could benefit from learning something from Rob Walter.  Never had a problem with an order, and I’ve made many in 2016.  Ordered from him last night (Aztecs, of course,) got the e-mail notification this morning they were in the mail.  Amazing. Its. That. Way. Every. Time.

 

Sensibility was never one of my long suits

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

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

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

Dreamer

Two Hundred fifty dollars later, the orders are in.

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

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

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

Rule Changes

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

Music to Paint To

selling-england-by-the-pound

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

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

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

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