Paintin’ Planes: The Falklands


Heroics and Ros Super Etendards for the Argentine Navy ca. 1982. Each is armed with an Excocet missile carved from a US GPU smart bomb. The electronics pod is under the right wing. The Naval insignia replaces the national insignia and is hand painted sky blue.

One of the projects Dave and I talked about for fun, and maybe Enfilade 2018, was something based on the Falklands.  He has the ships and George and I have the planes.  Boy do I have planes.  I decided to choose two batches of planes to paint up, Dassault Super Etendards strike planes and English Electric Canberras.

The Argentine Air Force received 10 of these 1950’s era bombers during the 1970’s and the participated in 36 bombing missions during the war.  Armed with conventional bombs, they were slow and lacked maneuverability compared to the spiffy Sea Harriers flown by the Royal Navy.  One Canberra was lost to a Harrier fired sidewinder missile.  A second was brought down by a Sea Dart sea-to-air missile fired by HMS Cardiff. I’m not sure how much action these planes would see in a game scenario.  Their primary use was bombing British soldiers ashore at night.


Heroics and Ros Canberras in Argentine colors ca. 1982. I added underwing stores and painted the prominent aircraft numbers. The rest of the markings area ll the excellent I-94 markings for Argentina a Greece.

My Canberra miniatures are Heroics and ROS planes.  The quality of the casting is quite good, better than many planes from H and R. It has the full original canopy, which is not correct for the Falklands, but what the heck, I paint what I have.  Scotia makes a version that is more appropriate. The model came with wingtip tanks, and I added some underwing stores.  Mostly bombs-at least until I ran out. The planes are painted with Vallejo Medium Gray with Vallejo American Dark Green in a camouflage pattern I found online. The underside is Vallejo USAF Light Gray.  I added the yellow tail stripe, and other photos I found suggested broad yellow bands on the wings.  Markings are all from I-94 Enterprises.

The Super Etendards are also by H and R.  Not a great miniature.  The wings seem too broad and clunky.  Again Scotia makes a nice one and at some point I may replace them. The Super Etendards were manufactured by Dassault, and were relatively new versions of the plane.  Five had the electronics to fire the handful of Exocet anti ship missiles that proved quite deadly during the war.  I painted five of the planes.  Again, not likely to get into a game because the Exocets are so nasty, but I’d had a few for a number of years and George had a couple more in his pile o’ planes he passed a long to me.

The Super Etendards were annoyingly difficult to paint, because I had a hard time with a paint match, and still didn’t get it right.  They are a dark blue gray.  I could do dark blue.  I could do dark gray.  I could do kind of a purpley-blue, but nothing straight out of the bottle would work.  So I mixed Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue with Vallejo Oxford Blue, and still managed a color I was pretty unhappy with. Oh well.  The only bad miniature is one that is unpainted.  The underside is, again, Vallejo USAF Light Gray.  I made an Exocet missile out of some U.S. “smart bombs” by C in C.  Again, not exactly right, but don’t think I’ll get much heat for 1/300 “just missed.” I also added the big electronic package from my C-in-C box of goodies under the right wing. And voila.

I did a little extra work with markings for these planes.  I absolutely love the Argentine markings from I-94, but not a lot of help with the Super Etendards.  These are Argentine navy planes.  These carry the anchor insignia instead of the Argentine national insignia.  Unfortunately the decal set only comes with the anchor in black, instead of the sky blue the Etendards carried, so I hand-painted those.  Ever notice how many A’s there are in the standard pack of white letters?  Not nearly enough.  So I did put the Armada (navy) markings on two planes, but not on the other three.

I did use the markings on the Canberra.  National insignia on the left wing and fuselage.  After my aging white letters pretty much disintegrated, I decided to paint on the aircraft numbers.  Not bad, though some are clearly better than others.

C-in-C’s box of ordnance is pretty nice, but sure wish there was a bit more out there.  Would love some rocket pods, and more single bombs.  Doesn’t have to be on C-in-C to make ’em either.

As with almost all air projects not involving assembling Swordfish bombers, painting these was thoroughly enjoyable.  Don’t know if I’ll leap into more Argentine planes right away or do something a little different for the rest of the month.  I’ll add ten A-4’s, the planes that did the bulk of the heavy lifting in the air campaign against the Royal Navy, and the basis of any likely game.  I also have four Pucara light attack planes I’d like to paint, so 9 down, about 14 to go. They’ll all likely be completed by midsummer.

A Thunderboats! primer

It’s been a long time on another blog site since I’ve written much about Thunderboats!  There’s been some interest on The Miniatures Page recently, so I want to get as much out there as I can so those who are interested can try to acquire boats, get the rules and have as much fun.

First of all, just a little history.  When I was a young boy living in Seattle in the 60’s, there were no major league sports.  Sure the Huskies football team had years when they were very good, won PAC-8 (?) championships and destroyed a very good Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl, but professionally, not much.  Except those damned hydroplanes.

For those not in the know, hydroplanes emerged after World War II to dominate the competitions held by the American Power Boat Association.  They replaced the deeper- hulled, high-powered boats by riding on top of the water due to their aerodynamic three point designs, driven my WWII surplus Allison and Rolls Merlin engines that once powered P-40 and P-51 fighters. By the 1950’s, boat designs like the Slo-Mo-Shun IV were competing with boats out of Detroit for the coveted Gold Cup Trophy and bringing Seattle its first championship since the Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917.

Hydroplane racing was THE summer sport in Seattle when I was young.  We would gather as a family to watch the Seafair races in August, or the Gold Cup if Seattle was hosting.  The drivers and boats from Seattle-Miss Bardahl, Miss Exide, Miss Thriftway, Hawaii Kai and a host of others, were our favorites and we rooted them on as their colors, and frequently their drivers changed.  Some boats were perennial favorites, and others were annual also-rans.

And sometimes the sport was beset by tragedy.  To this day, I have never forgotten the disaster on the Potomac River when three drivers were killed in the 1966 President’s Cup.  In a race that became known as “Black Sunday,” Ron Musson, Rex Manchester and Don Wilson were all killed. The sport was plagued by numerous deaths throughout the remaining seasons of the decade.

But certainly during the 60’s, at least before the arrival of Seattle’s first “big league” team, the NBA Supersonics, the city was obsessed with the loud, powerful boats that ran on Lake Washington.  New hulls, new sponsors, new color schemes were the talk of the town.  Anyone from the Northwest of a certain age remembers.

In the early 2000’s as Enfilade was winding down on a Sunday afternoon, we were hanging out in the convention hall discussing future game ideas waiting for the last knots of gamers to head home.  Dave Schueler wrote the Golden Age Air Racing rules, and one of the guys in the group suggested the rules could be altered just a little to make a fun set of hydroplane racing rules. It quickly got my attention.  Master modeler and owner of Craftworks, Shawn McEvoy assured us he could supply us with inexpensive resin hydroplanes. When Shawn showed up with real miniatures the next year, the die was cast, and a short time later, boats were on the mat and rules were out of the printer.

Thunderboats! is a fun game based on the simple premise that the most fun games are those in which the players have loads of choices to make.  It begins with choosing from my large collection of boats, to creating your lean, mean flying-on-water-machine and then taking all kinds of chances to run your boat in a race with 5-7 other unscrupulous ne’er do wells trying o finish ahead of you.

What do you need to play?  First you need a hex mat.  My racing hex mat is 6′ X 8′  felt with five inch hexes. Yours doesn’t have to be that big, and the hexes could be as small as three inches. The mat was hand-made in the days before screen-printed mats were available, and we used it for multiple purposes. Size doesn’t need to be standard, but generally you want to allow at least two full hexes on the outside of the course to provide a little maneuver room to the racers.  You need a set of marker buoys–they can be made of anything–and one should represent the start/finish line. Eight buoys is optimal

You need Formula De dice, and more than one set.  I have three, but probably could get by with two. These are 4,6,8 and 12 sided dice that are numbered irregularly, more like averaging dice.  Formula De is currently in print so the dice are available separately. About $12 a set from Amazon.  In addition to these, each player needs a ten-sided die-preferably not yellow, red, orange or green.

Finally, you need boats.  I get my boats from Mr. McEvoy.  If you are interested I can help you contact him, just message me through WordPress. Shawn’s boats are smaller, less expensive versions of his magnificent 1/48 and 1/25 scale resin hydroplanes.  Those are intended for collectors and modelers while the 1/87th (HO) versions we play with are for the game. Shawn has also begun producing decals for the boats so they don’t have to be completely hand-painted.  Limited decals available so far, but more on the way. Boats are $5-10 each, and well worth the price. An alternative is the Hot Wheels/Matchbox versions.  Unfortunately, these boats are all the later turbine boats, and don’t have the same historical cachet of the shovel nose, drop sponson, and picklefork boats of the Craftmaster models. Shawn also sells buoys and a few other goodies.

Finally, players will need something to represent a roostertail into the following hexes. I made mine out sheet styrene and shaped them with a Dremel tool.



My boats from the late 60’s and 70’s.  The checkered Miss Bardahl was a Gold Cup winner in 1968.  The picklefork designs widened the hydroplanes and made them safer, less prone to becoming airborne and “blowing over.” 

The rules are Thunderboats! by Dave Schueler.  The rules are owned by Dave, and I have his permission to distribute them. My association with the game is simply one of gamer, promoter and enthusiast, and I have the advantage that Dave is one of my best friends. The rules include basic rules, event cards (as a word document for business cards), boat cards, and an expansion of the rules for extended races of more than one three-lap heat (includes rules for the always exciting nitrous oxide bottle.) Again, if you contact me via WordPress I can make these available to you electronically, and there is no cost.

Rules are easy.  Players spend points to buy a driver and build their boats. They put ’em out on the table, and choose their throttle settings and roll the dice representing those. Players can choose to run their engines faster than they should, pay fewer points for turning than is intended, run through roostertails, or occupied hexes, all at a risk of doing damage to their boats.  My motto is no risk no reward.  It’s an easy game to play, and by the end of the first lap, players are running the game themselves.  It’s much fun.

Alan Ameel’s Hydroartprints is a great site for subjects to paint. 

Last, but not least, there is the question of how to paint those hydroplane miniatures. This is my favorite part and I’ve studiously tried to paint mine as historically as possible.  If you go that route, there are lots of great resources to explore. Here are a few:

Artist Alan Ameel has a great collection of hydroplane prints at $65 a pop.  But you can see them here at hydroartprints.

Leslie Field’s Hydroplane History site has loads of pictures, but is in the process of upgrading to another site with more sources.  Hydroplane History also has a wonderful Facebook page full of pics, if you are not Facebook averse.

Finally, the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent, WA has a fine website with access to history and some photos.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in rules or contacting Craftworks about boats.  If you’re looking for something fun, that’s easy to run for gamer and non-gamer alike, Thunderboats! is a good choice.

From my collection of photos of Thunderboats! games including boats from the 50’s and 60’s. From upper left-Tahoe Miss leads Miss Wahoo down a back stretch, Miss Bardahl (1962-65), Miss US-5, with Miss Smirnoff (blue) and others in background.  Miss Exide gets an early lead with Slo-Mo-Shun V, Miss US 5, Miss Bardahl and Miss Wahoo grouped closely behind. 

Home From Enfilade

I had to work on Friday, the opening day of Enfilade.  I was super pissed about it too.  Asked for a personal day in January and they told me there was no way the day before Memorial Day weekend.  My principal agreed to take the last 20 minutes of my class so I blasted my loaded car out of the parking lot ahead of the zillion student drivers and buses, so I did.  I took the winding back roads to Lacey and avoided the bumper to bumper two-step on I-5.  Made it in plenty of time.

I gotta say it was probably the most enjoyable of the 26 Enfilades I’ve attended (that’s all of ’em folks.)  Part of that is just state of mind.  My only obligation was to games I was running. And I’ll share those with you in a few.

The last three years, attendance has just taken off.  We broke the 300 mark in 2015.  This year we estimated paid admissions at about 360.  Every table in every game period was full, and some events were farmed out to the smaller breakout rooms. 137 scheduled events with some 65 different game hosts.  Enfilade has clearly become the premier historical miniature gaming event west of the Mississippi River. Thanks to convention director, Lloyd Bowler and events coordinator Dave Mebust for all their hard work, as they ride off into the sunset and the convention goes under new managment.

From upper left-Fascinating game based on Caligula’s assault on the sea-interesting effort to provide computer assist to Fire and Fury–a Gnome Wars castle assault. 

My convention was fun, though mostly I was on the hook for events. And that was fine.  I like it that way. Thunderboats was Friday night.  Eight players and a fun group. A little slow to get out of the gate, the experienced racers quickly used all their tricks.  There were a few adventures with nitrous oxide bottles and the ensuing fires. There were some Airborne! cards and tons of risks taken.  It came down to Chris Rivers in the 1968 Bardahl (Checkered Comet!) and Denny Hartung in the 1965 miss Lapeer on the last turn of the game. Bardahl got in front and appeared to cross the finish line.  Hartung let it all hang out with a nitrous bottle, engine push, and three corner pushes.  They earned him three event cards, including a Hard Bounce, Engine Trouble and an Airborne! card finished him off.  Fun race.

On Saturday we moved on to the two Aztec games. The first game, the foraging game, was interesting on the far end, not as much on my end of the table. The Aztec player really did a good job of lining up the Spanish and the foragers, but the work to do so cost her Act of God tokens.  Just as she was about to spring her trap, two terrible things happend: 1) She came under the not so tender attention of the Spanish cannon. 2) Two turns in a row she failed her first activation-turn finished. Though Petra was able to do some damage to the Spanish including wiping out a Spanish arquebusier and bearer units, it wasn’t enough.  In the middle and the far end, it felt like the Aztec players were trying to be too cute. instead of being willing to take the casualties necessary to win the game.  There was a minor Spanish victory, but the game was close.

Saturday evening was the assault on the temple area. Pitchers!  I’ve got pitchers!!

The Spanish and Tlaxcalans entered three different board edges and faced small but grim Aztec forces determined to hold on three different sacrificial altars.  It was a bloodbath.  Lots of Tlaxcalan and Spanish dead, but way more dead Aztecs.  I’m guess that of the 400 or so figures on the table at the start of the game, nearly 300 were dead.  Very fun, but just too much Spanish nastiness. Another Spanish win.

Sunday was the last day, and my last game. Thirteen Days Goes Hot was our 1962 airstrike on a Soviet MRBM base during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I painted almost all the toys (Dave Schueler painted his first rate F-4B Phantoms)  and Dave ran the game.  The scenario allowed the Americans to upgrade their strike force at a cost in victory points, so it meant they really had to plaster the missile site to win. It felt like it was much more of a struggle than the Yankees anticipated. The Cubans scrambled their four MiG-15’s and two MiG 19’s and were helped out by a SAM-2 missile site and some light flak.  The SAMs got one Skyhawk.  The flak got another.  The MiGs shot down two more and more American planes were damaged.  The Phantoms disappointed, as the low flying MiGs were hard to acquire, and their low speed made it hard for the Sparrow missiles to hit them (really intended for use against high-flying bombers.) But in the end, a combination of Bullpup guided missiles, Zuni unguided missiles, and strafing attacks destroyed five of the six missile pads, the final one providing the margin of victory for the Americans.  Interesting game.  We used the hexless Airwar C.21 system by David Manley.  Each time we play them, I like them a bit more.

From left-A look from the American entry toward the SAM battery protected by light flak-Three views from the Cuban side of the board, finally looking over the shoulder of a MiG 19. 

The convention was much fun, maybe my favorite ever.  Pretty low stressed. As always, my favorite part of any gaming weekend is seeing friends.  My buddies from Canada I only see once a year, and this was it. Just some very good times.

I’ve committed myself to no purchases for new projects this year.  That doesn’t mean no purchases, it just means I need to work on existing stuff.  I am already in cahoots with Dave Schueler, George Kettler and Scott Abbott to work on a couple of air projects.  I think we’re in on a Falklands air/sea project and a Vietnam air Downtown project.  The first has taken shape in my mind, but the other looks a lot more nebulous.

I’m also going to remount all my singly mounted projects.  That would include my American/Spanish confrontation, the Hundred Years War/Lion Rampant, and Aztecs/Conquistadors.  They will go from being singly mounted to being mounted on bases of 3, 3, 3, 2, 1–different for 10 figure units. It really does aid in storage, and especially in game set up/take down and speeding up movement during game play. I don’t take this lightly; I hate remounting figures almost as much as building Swordfish bombers and Victrix Napoleonics.

Enfilade deadlines looming

Yep, the convention is less than three weeks away, and I’ve been pretty unproductive the last few weeks. It’s not that I have two hundred figures to paint or anything silly like that, but I definitely have some things to get done for the 13 Days Gets Hot! game, the Cuban Missile Crisis air strike Dave Schueler and I have conjured up.

It’s an air game.  You know what that means.  Planes, a game mat, air stuff.  But no.  I really want lots of fiddly ground eye candy.  Yes, I know, with apologies to George, it will all be out of scale, but hopefully it will at least look cool.  We’ll be using David Manley’s Air War C.21 for our rules.

Still lots to pull together, but I had a super day today working on the various bits. Here is what I still have left to do:

  • 10 pieces of Cuban AAA-six 2 X 23mm gun, two 4 X 14.5mm, and two 57mm
  • Four small structures by George I’ll use as on-site storage.
  • Six SAM-2 Goa surface to air missiles
  • Two Soviet radars
  • Six planes including-two F-8 Cruaders; two F3H Demons; two A-4C Skyhawks
  • A SAM 2 site, complete with revetments for each launcher and the two radars
  • Many (say eight or more) small bases approx 12″ X 8″ with many Woodland Scenics trees to represent heavily forested areas. They are small bases made to be moved out of the way as planes pass through them.



I cut some bases out of birch plywood and mdf I had laying around and decided to make some relatively small, very movable forest around as a backdrop for my Cuba game.  We’re playing on a 5′ X 8′ board, and the illusion of a relatively significant forest needs to cover about two thirds of the table. It also needs to be easily pushed out of the way.

I cut my basing material into odd shapes using my scroll saw. I used my disc sander to bevel the edges a bit, then I sprayed them with I have a couple of the Woodland Scenics packs of trees and I set about assembling them.  I like to use the coarse turf for foliage rather than clump foliage for the trees.  I’ll use the clumps for other ground cover.

After the trees are glued down, I try to generously glue Woodland Scenics turf to the base.  I use the brown turf stuff around the base of the trees and then the green fine stuff around the rest.  Then I give it a good shot of clear matte to hold it all in place.

So far the biggest challenge has been to find boxes suitable to haul these around it.  Flat Amazon boxes seem to be the best answer at the present time.

SAM 2 site 


I decided early on an Enfilade air game needed a little eye-candy.  Dave and I did air game galore.  We’ve built ships, and added all kinds of ground targets.  SAM 2’s played an important role in Cuba, chiefly for shooting down a U-2, but there were several sites that protected the MRBM and IRBM sites.

C in C miniatures makes a really nice SAM 2, as well as the accompanying Fansong and Thin Skin radars that directed the missiles.

The tricky part of SAM-2’s is their deployment.  They were in six missile batteries, frequently in revetments, in a star shaped emplacement.  The radars were emplaced in the middle of the star. I decided I had to make a battery.

Problem: making a SAM 2 battery in 1/300 scale will of course be well out-of-scale for our game.  Fight’s On makes a tiny little SAM battery in 1/600 that could serve just as well. But dang it, it will give the Navy something else to do if they are easily enough distracted to forget their mission.

I bought a foot square piece of 3/16″ birch plywood and cut and sanded it into something a little less regular shaped. I created the revetments from heavy spackling compound. This was a slow and frustrating process.  I wanted to get them just right, so I cut some pieces of 3/8″ square dowling to provide some structure.  That helped, but even with careful application and sanding, I wasn’t getting the regular shapes I wanted.  I finally accepted what I had with the rationalization that, yes these were built by engineers whose chief tool was a bulldozer, not landscaping tools.

When I gave up, er, was satisfied with my revetments, I gave them a quick spray of Skeleton Bone by Army painter, just to establish a base color.  Then I started laying down Woodland Scenics turf.  I like to use the Woodland Scenics adhesive, rather than thinned white clue.  It just seems to adhere better. This was process that required some repeating, but eventually it was completed.

When it was complete I assembled and painted the SAM launchers and radars.  I put them on bases for careful storage, and made sure to paint and flock the bases to match the revetments.

I probably put ten hours into the project.  I’m pretty happy with the outcome, given that it’s one of those few made-by-hand activities I do.  This is the finished miniature, complete with missile and radar bits.  I’m going to add some clump foliage in a few places just because this is built on rapidly cleared land, and likely would have some forest flotsam still around, rather than a golf course fairway surface.



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.