Making Rice Paddies

One of the important aspects of this hobby I feel less skilled for is building stuff.  I’m always amazed when my friends are able to create.  One of the best parts of working with Mark Waddington was the man could build ANYTHING.  Well that, and he’s just one of my favorite people.  Those who can imagine and build buildings, a town, a waterfront, my hats are off to you.

Me, I usually just buy stuff, so my boards are boring and sterile.  But the for the Philippines, I simply have to have terrain bits and lots of it.  I’ve built my bamboo forests, there will have to be jungle terrain.  And one other important feature of all Southeast Asian campaigns whether it’s the Philippines, Indochina/Vietnam, Malaysia or Burma is the rice paddy.  If people live near your battlefield, rice paddies are a must.

There are lots of different approaches to take.  This is a link to the paddy project on the Tactical Painter blog.  His approach looks great, but I have different plans.

One important difference is I want to make rice paddies for 28mm.  I also chose some different materials.  That doesn’t mean my way is better, it’s just my way.

Paddies 1

These are all the materials and tools I used to to cobble together the four paddies after cutting the 12″ squares in half with my jigsaw.

I started with craft plywood for the bases.  I buy it from Michael’s, and it’s easy to get.  It’s 1/8″ thick, so thin enough to work with.  It comes 12″ square and I divided those in half, two sheets to make four 6″ X 12″ rice paddies. I built an elevated border around each paddy to represent the path that most grunts had to walk along in Vietnam, and figured they were probably the same in the Philippines. I used basswood strips.  I like basswood better than balsa because it’s sturdier and less porous.

Paddies 2

My carpentry skills are about as bad as they come, but I decided to miter the edges of the basswood sticks that form the edge of the fields. Made some mistakes, but it worked out in the end.

I actually invested in some stuff for this project.  I bought a new razor saw for my X-Acto gear, as well as a miter box.  I actually cut the 45 degree angles because . . . well just because.  Made a few mistakes along the way, but it all seemed to eventually work.  I glued everything down with Elmers wood glue and let it sit for a good long time.

Paddies 3

I used lightweight spackling compound to form the slopes and fill the joints on the paddy fields. I left it to dry overnight before sanding.

The next step is to fill gaps between the basswood and create a slope down to the growing area.  I couldn’t quite decide what to use.  I considered using modeling paste that I use for my bases.  It dries fast, and because it is acrylic, dries hard.  I decided to use lightweight spackling compound instead.  It is a little harder to work with, but easy to sand.  I didn’t worry about keeping straight lines along the edges from top to bottom.  Those slopes wouldn’t be perfect.

I finished applying spackle and let it dry overnight and into the following afternoon. The next step was sanding most of the rough edges. I started with fine sandpaper, and moved to my Dremel tool’s sanding discs.  It went faster and achieved my purpose.  It also allowed me to even up the outer edges of wood which I didn’t manage to get entirely straight with my jigsaw. After each paddy was sanded, they were sprayed with Testor’s Flat Olive green as a base coat.  They were left to dry overnight.

Paddies 4

I sprayed each field with Testor’s Olive Drab. It’s what I had and it’s a good base color. After that I mixed Vallejo Yellow-Green and White to create a contrasting color for dry brushing the edges. Then I created an even lighter version for further contrasts.

The next step was dry-brushing the the paddies.  I wanted to lighten the slopes and tops while darkening the paddies themselves a bit.  To lighten I dry brushed using Vallejo Yellow-Green, lightened with some Vallejo White. I used a large flat brush.  I did two coats, the second lightened even further.  A final round of dry brushing used a little bit of Vallejo Burnt Umber to darken up the middle of the paddy where the rice would be planted.  It was fine for it to be splotchy.  I just wanted it to darken up a little bit and provide a good contrast with lightened edges.

Paddies 6

A final step in the dry-brushing was to use Vallejo Burnt Umber in the middle of the fields. I was just looking for a splotchy, irregular darkening that would show through the gloss gel I’d use over the top.

I followed that up by adding some turf and tufts by Army Painter.  I put the groundcover in random areas, to allow the dry brushing to show through.  After each paddy was completed.  I sprayed each with dullcoat twice.  I wanted to be sure to keep everything in its place.

Paddies 7

I flocked the edges irregularly and applied tufts. I tried to let the dry brushing show through where possible. I wanted an irregular, natural look. Then I added some tufts. I sprayed each paddy with Dullcote twice, to keep things in place. Note: It’s critical to do this before applying the clear gel medium or it will flatten your shiny surface.

Because the paddies are wet, I needed to show the shining surface of the flooded field. There are so many great products available now, from simple clear varnishes to liquid epoxies.  I took a middling approach and brushed all with Liquitex Super Heavy Clear Gloss Gel Medium. Again, I applied it with a large flat brush.  It took about half and hour to paint it on all four paddies.  Then I listened to Steely Dan’s excellent Aja from 1978, and applied a second coat.

Paddies 12

I used Liquitex Gloss Gel Medium applied with a wide flat brush to create the water effects. I did one coat, making sure to get in the crannies of the slope I’d created, then did a second coat of just straight strokes covering the swirls I’d made the first time.

Paddies 8

Voila!! We’re ready for the terminal stage.

Paddies 13

Leadbear’s excellent tufts. 140 of the small tufts per box cost about seven bucks US. They are the best of the tufts I’ve worked with.

To represent the growing rice, I decided to use tufts.  I didn’t want the tufts to be too tall, for fear putting figures on them would just smush them.  I also wanted something easy.  Tufts are a lot easier than attempting to clump together static grass in a pool of clear Elmer’s so tufts were certainly an answer. I’d seen a blurb on Facebook from a friend that he’d recently purchased tufts from Leadbear.  Another friend showed me his considerable collection of Leadbear tufts, and I was impressed.  It happens that Leadbear also has a Facebook page, so I decided to give him a try. Leadbear is Barry from Australia.  He’s a great guy.  His range of products is considerable.  Prices are inexpensive and the shipping isn’t bad.  I’d received my order in August, but hadn’t used them yet-because I always use up what I already have.

I used the 4mm green tufts I’d ordered.  I thought I would keep them in tidy rows.  Great idea.  The tufts themselves were great.  They were irregular in ways those by others I’ve tried aren’t.  They are super sticky in the ways that others aren’t, so no glue.  I hope I don’t regret it later. Of course, because I’m old and half blind, my straight lines and tidy rows wander a bit, as I expect they might in real life.  I used up some two and a half boxes of the three I purchased for the four sets of fields.

Paddies 10

Paddies 11

Done. I think I worked on these over three days. It did require some patience and waiting time, but I feel like it was worth it.

That’s it.  I’m happy with the way they look.  It’s always fun to make something.  I’ve had the materials to do this for some time.  I didn’t feel like painting figures this week, so this was needed and enjoyable diversion.  It did require some patience, which is so unlike me, but it’s one less thing to do later at then end of this project.

Fix Bayonets: The Day of the Horsemen


Franco-Prussian 1

A view from Maison Smyth in Dean Motoyama’s Franco-Prussian War game adapting over the Bolt Action rules. The miniatures and the terrain was spectacular.

Yesterday was our annual Fix Bayonets game day.  Like the trip to Chehalis, it is a fun little gathering, now in its seventh year.  Lawrence Bateman, Damond Crump and Bruce Smith take responsibility for hosting the game day at historic Fort Steilacoom, and the ten dollar entry goes toward buying new stuff for the fort.

Fix Bayonets offers two game periods and I participated in both of those.  In the Morning David Sullivan and I hosted a Rebels and Patriots game.  David chose a scenario out of the rule book and created “Barlowe’s Necessary.”  The British and American forces were created out of roughly equal points for six different players, three per side.  Three of the players in the game were school-age and fairly new to miniature wargaming.  But they were a pleasure to play with and did pretty well.

I was an American player, pretty much in the middle of the table, and paid for that privilege.  David was on the left side, slogging through slow, rough terrain, which also shielded him from a lot of fire.  Chris, my young cohort, was on the right side, and though the British facing him scalded him with hot fire at times, was able to take cover behind a fence line and some woods.

My command, was in the open.  Which means about the same thing as my personal motto: “Shoot me again.” If I had a piece of heraldry, it would feature a green cross, with a red heart in the middle, full of bullet holes.

I actually had some cool units.  My best unit was Lee’s Legion light infantry, and they did some great work, trading shots with several units and making an important charge during a key turn.  My unit of William Washington’s 3rd Continental Dragoons made their debut.  I also had a unit of militia skirmishers.  Finally, by a sheer order of luck I rolled up a unit of raw militia, shooting poorly, that I figured wouldn’t be too useful.  I’m glad I did.

A lot of the British units were lights or grenadiers, with a couple of line units.  That meant that point-wise, there were fewer Brits to fight, but they had  much better staying power than the Americans.  I faced a unit of light infantry skirmishers, a unit of line infantry and a unit of lights firing at my guys.  Tough.

But I also fought with my own damn die rolls which were pretty terrible for the first two- thirds of the game.  I was able to activate okay, but just wasn’t able to hit much.  The worst was when I sent my cavalry crashing into the woods woods to rout out the annoying and destructive fire of the British skirmishers, hit them, but couldn’t inflict a single casualty.  They returned to my lines at half strength, having accomplished nothing.

Things were brightening on my right flank, as Chris inflicted casualties on Mark’s lights.  A bad die roll saw the Brits take to the hills and Mark withdrew his grenadiers to cover a source of victory points. But David was being pressed on the left as troops from the center were being drawn into the the fight around the Barlowe house due to my ineffective performance.  My skirmishers fled the field after taking serious damage from the British skirmishers.  The dragoons cowered behind Lee’s Legion.  The Legion troops soldiered on, firing ineffectively, slowly accumulating casualties, but tough as nails. The green militia, gamely advanced, looking for something to do.

Then, it was like a light bulb was turned on. A round of fire sent a unit of British line running.  A British light infantry unit advanced just a little too far, were charged by the Legion, and even though the Legion lost the combat, they didn’t break.  The militia advanced and successfully fired at the British skirmishers. Dragoons, advancing behind the Legion charge were perfectly positioned to deal some death.

Washington's Dragoons Charge

The British line infantry to the right prepare to dispatch Col. William Washington’s dragoons after their successful charge eliminated a key British light infantry unit. Only Washington would survive.

In the following turn, the last of the game, the dragoons charged the light infantry, surprising the startled Brits, inflicting enough casualties for them to break, both sides taking losses.  However, the redcoats retreated just far enough to be contacted again by the pursuing Continentals.  The lights disintegrated, and the cavalry dispersed.  In the end, only Washington rode back to the American lines.

David held the Barlowe house, the Legion lights earned two honor points, and the British forces were all damaged enough to win the Americans a convincing victory. The Continental dragoons rocked.

In the afternoon, I played in Dean Motoyama’s Franco-Prussian War game using Bolt Action as a rule mechanism.  I found it easy to play and the WWII rules set worked pretty well for the 19th century conflict.

Dean devised a six-turn game in which both of the evenly matched sides could easily control two of four ruined buildings on the table. The side that could control one of the other side’s building would win.  The Germans had an artillery piece, while the French advantage lay with their Chassepot rifles, out-ranging their foe’s Dreyse needle-guns.

Mark Serafin and I ran the French.  We committed half our force against the building directly to our front, while holding off units to our flank.  To my right, I occupied one of our buildings with one unit, supported by a unit of mounted chasseurs.  Mark took the building on the right side supported by a unit of Algerian Tirailleurs.

With the clock ticking, we immediately pinned the unit in the house to our front, without doing a lot of damage.  Meanwhile three units of Prussians crossed the stream protecting my fortified flank.  What to do?

The chasseurs were a deterrent to do too much too quickly, and I eventually drew two units to support my building.  Fire into a wood full of Prussians neutralized one unit.  Twice, the Prussians advanced to fire on the chasseurs, but using Dean’s emergency escape rules allowed them to retreat to safety.

Jim Sagen, commanding the Prussians threatening my command, decided to assault on my position on turn four.  He advanced his artillery to get within close range. He chased my chasseurs away for the last time.  Things looked bad.  In his bloody assault, Jim destroyed my defending unit, but in the process, lost all but one of his figures. My cavalry crept ever closer to one of his supporting units.  It was now turn five.

I counter-attacked an unblemished unit of Zouaves into my building, tossing out the lone surviving Prussian.  When the time was right, I launched my horse into the supporting Prussian unit.  With no pre-measuring, I wasn’t quite sure whether they were within the chasseurs’ 18 inch charge range.  Made it by a quarter of an inch.  I managed to kill five of the eight Prussians before they could fight back, and that was their end.

Franco Prussian 2

The chasseurs rule the my end of the table in Dean Motoyama’s Franco-Prussian War game.

In the final turn it was pretty clear the building was secure, but there was one more Prussian unit ripe for the taking. The damaged unit in the woods fell victim to the chasseurs.  With that, the game was over and it remained tied, as it began.

Dean’s experiment with the rules was successful for a first test.  I think there is still some fiddling to be done with the assault rules, but the firing and casualties seemed to work quite nicely.  I had a lot of fun with his beautifully painted miniatures.

So two awesome games in which cavalry played a major role in both.  That doesn’t always happen.


I Got Stuff Done!

Late Sunday night I was still struggling to get some stuff finished for the week, despite putting in a fair amount of painting time for the week. But, it finally happened.

Let’s be clear, I do have some busy distractions right now.  In early October Lorri and I are going on vacation to Hawaii.  We’re excited.  We’ve never been there before, so it’s a big hoo-hah deal.

While we’re gone we are doing a major remodel at Chez Smyth. The remodel will require moving all the furniture out of the living room and dining room.  We’re renting a POD to store furniture, but I have about 700 books and 300 records that will have to be packed so bookcases and record storage can be moved.

It’s a job.  The benefit is that I’ve been able to weed out some of my books, which will create better storage for other books I’d like to move to more desirable places and creating a bit more storage for other things.  Like miniatures.

But, I have gotten some painting done.

Washington 2

Washinton’s 3rd Continental Light Dragoons is one of my very favorite units from the War of Independence.

I completed my first mounted unit for Rebels and Patriots.  I’ve long loved William Washington’s 3rd Continental Dragoons.  They fight everywhere throughout the Southern Campaign.  Washington, a cousin of that George guy, was a terrific leader.  Even though his unit totaled less than a hundred men, they always seemed to be in the right place.  At Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse, key counterattacks really turned the tide of those battles. Unfortunately, Washington’s luck ran out at Eutaw Springs when he led his cavalry into wooded ditch defended by British regulars.  He was unhorsed and captured.

My figures are from Front Rank.  I’ve had them for a while, and I’d like to start painting a lot of these stray figures.  As will al Front Rank figures they are pleasingly chunky.  If I have a quibble, it is that the troopers all have their carbines out, which I think is dumb. The British light dragoons don’t have their firearms out.  They have swords, like any proper light dragoon. When Washington wounded Tarleton at Cowpens, trust me, he wasn’t slinging a musket stock.

I love the white coatee with blue facings.  It is white, with Vallejo Light Blue Grey.  I gave the officer white pants, the others have Vallejo Desert Yellow.  I could have opted to do the coat in Vallejo Grey-White and done a bit more with highlighting, but I didn’t. I did highlight the horses, which left them a little lighter and redder than I would have liked. I also highlighted the horse furniture and I’m really happy with how that turned out.

Washington 3

The Eutaw standard, which really isn’t much of one. But it was fun to paint.

The standard, called The Eutaw Flag was the one carried by the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons.  It was made from the tablecloth of Washington’s fiancee. I hand-painted that baby, yessirree. Not a major strain, I assure you.

From here, I’ll pick up the continuing saga of the HMS Orwell.  You’ll recall it is a plastic kit I was struggling a bit with.

Orwell 2

Orwell in Light Sea Grey before the camouflage is painted on.

After spraying it with Humbrol light grey, I took on the real paint job.  Think of the spray as a primer coat.

Orwell 3

Orwell after camouflage. All that is left are a few decals, and then glue the model to its clear acrylic base.

First I painted all the decking with Ceramcoat Charcoal Gray.  Then I went back and painted the hull and all the non-deck places Vallejo light sea grey.  The camouflage, taken from an illustration of another O class destroyer, the Obedient was applied in Vallejo Black, and Vallejo Light Blue Grey.  Yes, it was all done by hand, and no I didn’t use any kind of mask because I’m basically a lazy sluggard.

All that’s left to do is the decals and there aren’t many of those.

From here, it’s on to finish up some U.S. Volunteers in the Philippines, and I’ll begin assembling my remaining transports for the Museum of Flight convoy game.

Hunting Buffalo at the Veterans Museum

Today was the day I unveiled The Buffalo Hunt.  It was an NHMGS Game Day at the Veterans Museum in Chehalis.  What a great venue. Just south of town, and not far off the highway, it is a terrific museum.  It’s full of small arms and uniforms from American services of the twentieth century.  Most of the exhibits did a great job of tying display pieces to local stories.  Worth your time for sure.

I drove down with David Sullivan and Dave Schueler.  They popped in to Chez Smyth at 9:00.  They endured three barking Australian Shepherds and after downing a cup of coffee we headed south.  We made it to the museum before 10:30.  The Dave’s slipped into a game of What A Tanker while I hung out and kibbitzed.  It was great to see everyone, as always.  We dashed out to lunch, and returned around 1:00 and quickly set up the game.

I always have trepidation running games by myself, but especially a game that’s really never been run before.  While the game owes a lot of inspiration to Matthew Hartley’s Tusk, there is a whole lot of me in this game.  While Tusk has a few mammoths in the game, my game had six obstinacies of seven buffalo each. Each player had four to seven figures in clans, each somewhat different from each other, so the scale of the game is simply larger, and a little more complex.

Buffalo Hunt 1

Neil’s hunting party killed plenty of buffalo, but suffered some figure losses as well.

Al Rivers, Neil Marker, Michael Koznarsky, Dave Schueler, David Sullivan and Dale Mickel all took part in the maiden voyage.  The game, overall, went pretty smoothly.  But we ran into an early snag as I ran out of figure types right away.  In the future, players will simply choose and arm the figures as they wish, and simply pay the appropriate point cost.

Buffalo Hunt 2

The buffalo were spread across the table.  The players rolled for their entry, and set out to kill their buffalo.  Unfortunately the buffalo had other ideas.  In the first turn, as we had two dead buffalo and two dead hunters; it was clear the players weren’t going to have a walk in the park.  Arrows were missing, hunter die rolls were failing, and there were twice as many hunters dead as buffalo.

Buffalo Hunt 3

This group of buffalo is fleeing to the board edge, pursued by Al’s group of foot bowmen as well as a pack of wolves.

By the end of the game, nearly all the players had multiple losses.  Only Al’s party came through unscathed.  While the victory conditions called for killing buffalo, players were also punished for losing party members, and there were plenty of those.

Buffalo Hunt 4

Michael’s party is in pursuit of the white buffalo. Unfortunately, the white buffalo is having none of it.

I think we got in about 13 turns in two and half hours.  We never ran into a major snag in the rules, though I did file away some ideas for the future. In a quick debrief, everybody seemed to have a good time. There were also some great ideas that came out of the discussion.  I can honestly say I’ve never had so much fun running a game.

Huntin’ Buffalo

Clan markings for each of the Comanche hunting parties.  They’ll each have different characteristics for the game.

On Saturday I’ll head down to the first annual Veterans Memorial Museum Day in Chehalis a couple of hours from home.  I’ll be running my first game of The Buffalo Hunt.

I wrote about this project in July.  I thought it would be a simple project with a few buffalo, use my existing Comanches, play a fast and loose set of rules.  Easy cheesy.

Nothing is ever easy cheesy.

I ended up painting six little groupings of buffalo totaling 42 miniatures in all. I also painted some 14 predators, including eight wolves and six bears.

Six obstinacies of Buffalo as they will appear in Saturday’s game.  No, not quite like they’ll appear.  They’ll be spread around the table and there will be terrain.  But you get the idea.

I lost my patience with Wargames Foundry in Great Britain as I waited impatiently eight weeks for my order. E-mails and TMP posts a-go-go.

I re-wrote a fun and easy set of rules and made them a little less easy.  I’m hoping they’re still fun.

Incredible, if ridiculously late bears by Foundry.  Wolves are mixture of figures from Foundry and Alternative Armies.

I painted another twelve Comanche figures, certain I didn’t have enough.  I remounted another 14 or so from bases that seemed like nothing could be removed from them.

Despite the lack of easy cheesy, I’m quite pleased that a scant two months after ordering the first batch of figures, the project is pretty much done. There will be no more Indians, predators or buffalo. Just tweaking of the rules.

Now I can get back to the Philippines, a few AWI figures, and start working on planes for Vietnam.

I’ll letcha know how Saturday went.

You die, he dies, everybody dies: the America Rampant playtest

As promised, today Dave Schueler and I dropped in at Meeples to try out the America Rampant adaptation of The Men Who Would Be King. I knew we’d be playing on a pretty small table, probably 5′ X 3′.  So I couldn’t have too many units out there. Thursday and Friday I took every minute I could to remount enough figures to play the game.

I settled on a simple scenario idea, the search for cannon captured and hidden by the Miamis at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.  It was a good idea, but the scenario played poorly in execution. But it did give us a good look at my basic ideas and I’ve got to say they were two thumbs up.

TMWWBK plays like a super cleaned up version of Lion Rampant, and why anyone wouldn’t create house rules to adopt those changes is beyond me. Free actions.  An activation failure just means move on to the next unit. It all made for a good flowing game.

America Rampant changes the game from a rifle dominated game to one in which melee in close terrain is more likely.  In our little game, casualties through muskets and close combat played a part in the game.

i hoped to learn two things from our little playtest:

  1. Did my remount make sense from a game context?
  2.  Did the rules adaptation work from a mechanical and historical standpoint?

The Remount

The remount was not easy. Lots of steps.

  1. Figures were pried from their bases.
  2. Glued to their new bases.
  3. Modeling paste applied to bases
  4. Bases painted with Burnt Umber
  5. Bases dry brushed with Trail Tan
  6. Apply Woodland Scenics turf
  7. Glue in clump foliage
  8. Final touch up and Dullcote

It was time-consuming, and it took every spare minute I could summon Thursday, Friday and even a half-hour this morning to finish seven Indian and five American units. I don’t have any more painted natives, but I have tons of American militia and regular units, and a lot of Spanish.  I’ll need to acquire more bases to finish them all, but it’s on the docket to finish all of them this summer.

That said, it seems completely worth it. They don’t rattle around in their cases.  It took much less time to set up a game.  Movement was easy.  Pick up went really fast.  All the objectives were achieved.  They look pretty good too. The remount was a success.

The Rules Adaptation

I chose to take the Americans and Dave took the indians.

Dave had:

  • Two tribal infantry without modifiers
  • Two tribal infantry with veteran +1 to discipline
  • two tribal infantry with veteran +1 to discipline, and fierce.

I had

  • One veteran regular infantry, +1 to discipline
  • Two plain ol’ veteran infantry
  • One unit of irregular infantry, militia
  • One unit of veteran militia, +1 to discipline, armed with rifles.  This was a rule change allowing greater range (18″ vs 12″ for smoothbore muskets,) but allowing only half the figures to fire each turn due to slower loading and shooting.

The two sides were divided by a fordable stream, and Dave set up his units in covering terrain.  Another change to the rules is the Indians have only an 8″ shooting range and always fire at long range (this requires all hits to be halved.) Deciding he was too far away and unlikely to coax me into crossing the stream, Dave launched all six of his units at me.

Because shooting is a free move for regular and irregular infantry, it didn’t make much sense to do a lot of moving around.  The first turn of fire was made at long and short range, depending on the unit. My troops did little damage, and successful pin rolls were made all around.

In the second turn, as some units moved close enough to consider attacking at the double-quick, the Indian units mostly failed their activations. But one of the fierce units did not, and hit a regular infantry units.  Dave rolled 24 dice and hit on eight of them.  I rolled ten dice and hit on two.  Bad news. The unit failed its pin roll. I was not shocked.

But my second turn of fire went much better. All my remaining units hit at a greater than 50% rate, and pinned their targets, rendering them unable to move in turn three.

But our fierce friend struck another unit, inflicting another eight casualties against only three losses. Two of the five units in my command were now shattered, and by a single unit. My center was simply remnants, my left was holding and gradually reducing their attackers, and my veteran rifle unit was isolated, pouring fire at two potential attackers, but firing at half strength was not going to cut it forever.

In turn four, the fierce unit dispatched one of its badly wounded prey, while the two left flank units ended the resistance by their opponents. Three Indian units were eliminated.  But on the right flank, one of the units was across the stream, and the other was finally moving into the stream.  Trouble was coming.

In turn five, the fierce unit was fired on as it advanced toward the last remaining regular unit, and reduced to five figures. One of the Indian units in the right flank attack struck the collection of figures assigned to finding the hidden cannon, driving them back, but suffering loss. More losses came with fire from the rifle unit, and they were pinned. But the fresh unit on the far right was lining up the rifles for destruction.

Turn six was the final turn. The fierce unit attacked the American regulars and were finally worn down to nubs.  But the unit on the right hit the rifles and killed half of them at minimal loss. They were driven back and pinned, but failed their pin recovery.  The two American left flank units advanced toward the carnage in the center as the game end. By the end of the game, far more stands were removed than were still in the game.

Our verdict was the game played as intended.  The rules were simple.  Lots of bases were removed.  No real snags in the flow of play.  We didn’t use the officer characteristics rules. One other rule change, was the addition of a leader to each command.  The leader could give a +1 to activation or pin rolls to one unit per turn. This played a minor role int he game.

I’m pronouncing these a success, but I want to play them again soon.

Cortes is ready

After taking time away to begin work on the Aztecs, I decided to polish off the rest of the Spanish I’ve purchased for Quetzacoatl Rampant. It’s been two weeks since our playtest of the game at Meeples and I spent last weekend working on my mounted Spaniards. This week, aided and abetted by our strange day off on Tuesday.  I finished painting on Wednesday, took care of all the washing and basing on Friday, and tried my hand at workable flags Saturday while listening to the Huskies devastate the hated Ducks in Quackland.

All my Spanish are done. There are nine units, each of six figures. In our rules they are nasty, but their small size makes them quite brittle.

I have one mounted unit. The Spanish had a handful of mounted men-not your basic Gendarme from the Italian battlefield, but the horses were fear inspiring, and the riders were motivated, very tough on the Aztecs whose largest domestic animals were small dogs raised for food.

I also have four units of missile troops, two each of arquebusiers and crossbowmen. Both weapons did terrible damage to the native Mexicans who were unarmored or wore cloth padded armor.  But these weapons also had limitations.  They were very slow firing, especially in comparison to the Aztec dart throwers, slingers and archers who could literally rain missiles down on the small Spanish forces. The gunpowder weapons, though fearsome and deadly, like all black powder weapons, were great on their first fire, but prone to misfires as their users reloaded with loose powder and shot.

Finally, the core of all conquering Spanish armies were the swordsmen. Armed with Toledo steel versus cloth armor, light wooden shields and wooden club-like Aztecs, the swordsmen were the most effective of Cortes’ troops. I have four units of Spanish swordsmen, and I my add two more.

All figures are from Eureka, ordered from Eureka USA in Massachusetts.  They are great figures and I very much enjoyed painting them.  They are nicely shaped, and detailed enough, without being difficult to paint.

I’ll be moving on to my last two units of Aztecs, in the hope that I’ll have both twelve figure units finished by Sunday, a week from today. That will leave only the 36 Tlaxcallan warriors to complete.  My goal is for everything to be completed before Thanksgiving so I can turn my attention to terrain for this project and move on to other things. That is about a 250 figure turnaround since I began working on this project in April.  I’m pretty happy with all of it.

Playtest: Quetzcoatl Rampant

Today was the day, long awaited. David Sullivan, Dave Schueler, Dave Demick and I met at Meeples in West Seattle to try David’s adaptation of the Lion Rampant rules to the Conquest of Mexico. Last night I sat down and made some quick play sheets for the Quetzacoatl Rampant adaptation. . This morning I laminated them.I reorganized Aztecs according to the rules. I have thirteen units instead of eleven.

This morning I piled by prized collection into the car, and   I picked up Dave D. in Tacoma at 9:00, grabbed Brother Schueler in West Seattle, and we actually made it to Meeples before the store opened at 10:00

I knew the table space would be fair small, and I was okay with that for our first run through.  I love playing games-miniatures or boardgames-in the Meeples cafe.  It is terribly comfortable, if small.  The food and beer is tasty and cheap.  And because what we do isn’t typically what is played at the store, there are always folks interested in what we are playing.

I set up the table with the Spanish advancing on an Aztec village. The Spanish had a unit of horse, five of sword and buckler men, two arquebusiers, a dog pack, and a unit of Tlaxcallan allies. The Aztecs had four units of skirmishers, a unit of Eagle knights, three units of veteran warriors and two units of peasant warriors.

I didn’t have any expectations.  The Aztecs were pretty outclassed, but didn’t know by how much.  Let’s just put it this way, the Spanish won in a walkover. There were Spanish figure losses, but the Aztecs, though they pointed out about the same as the Spanish, were not able to do much to them.

We went over some simple changes that would balance out the rules: reducing the Spanish armor value by a point, improving the Aztec’s move, shoot and attack values, reduce the accuracy of Spanish arquebusiers.

Like I said, simple changes, and all we need is the opportunity to try it again. Would like to give the game a whirl on a larger table so we can cram all the Aztecs into the game. Can’t wait to give it a try.


Playing alone better than not playing at all

Yesterday I said I’d give a quick shot to Jim Purky’s Fife and Drum rules for the American Revolution.  Just to be clear, I am a Fire and Fury Regimental guy.  But I don’t play them often, and if I take them off to a convention they can be a little overwhelming.  Jim sent these to me when I ordered from his excellent range of figures a few years back, and they’ve mostly sat out in my painting room staring at me. I’m sure I’ve heard them whispering, “Well?”

Since I’m home alone this week, I thought I’d drag them out and give them a try. I set my dining room table up for “Action at Lizzard’s Farm.” It was great.  I dragged out all kinds of stuff and littered my 76″ by 40″ table with it. I even used one of my 4Ground buildings.

The scenario was simple. Lizzard’s Farm was defended by a brigade commanded by Otho Williams including a battalion of North Carolina militia, the 5th Virginia, the 5th Maryland and a section of artillery.  They were reinforced by Lee’s Legion dragoons and foot.

The British had two brigades including loyalist battalions Volunteers of Ireland and the New York Volunteers, a battalion of the 71st regiment (highland), the 21st regiment, and converged battalion of light infantry.  They kept Coffin’s South Carolina Dragoons in reserve and also had a section of artillery.

I’ll review the game with some photos, but right now I’d just like to focus on the rules.  Let me just say I like ’em.  They are easy without being ridiculous, they are logical and they work pretty well.  As with any one page set of rules, however, there are a few items that aren’t clear to me, and because I wasn’t playing with the author I didn’t have one of those a-ha moments.  So there are a couple of things I’d clarify

  • Units have to charge to initiate melee
    • Units who charge would receive an advantage in melee
    • Units who charge can’t shoot
    • Units who “lose” a melee after two rounds become shaken.

It’s possible that’s what Jim meant, but it isn’t clear to me. There is the right amount of death, but not so much as to be silly.

Big Set up

The set up extends across both sides down the table.  I wasn’t trying to be subtle.  In the British center right, they are trying to carry the American position by main force while the British light infantry and the 21st Regt. try to sweep up a thinly held American left flank. The Americans stuck riflemen in the cornfield, hoping to slow the Highlanders’ advance, while screening their right, holding a Continental regiment in reserve.

The British advanced briskly.  The Highlanders quickly emerged from the woods with the Irish and New Yorkers moving quickly with them. The American line units were out range, but the Brits came under fire from the artillery and the riflemen, andsuffered no casualties.

The following turn, however the 71st had to decide whether to engage the riflemen who shot so poorly or advance directly on the 5th Virginia.  A die roll of 5 meant huzzah! Damn the riflemen and charge the Virginians.  The two loyalist units followed suit.  An exchange of musketry found the Brits receiving decided the worst of the firefight.  With the aid of artillery fire, a bit of luck from the militia, and flank fire from the bypassed riflemen, the English line was staggered, but continued their advance.

On the British left, the 21st Regt. marched smartly around the pond as the light infantry prepared to engage Lee’s Legion light corps.  Outnumbered two to one and likely to be outflanked, the infantry began looking for friends.

The Charge

Hightlanders, New York Loyalists and The Volunteers of Ireland advance against Williams’ thin line. The Highlanders also take flank fire from the cornfield.

Turn four was the climactic turn.  The British decided on attack, and that’s where I was unclear about the rules.  The Americans gave them another dose of fire, causing the Highlanders and VOI to become shaken  Though the New Yorkers drove off the artillery crew, they were alone as their flank supports melted away.


Repulsed!! The Highlanders and Volunteers of Ireland were simply shattered by fire and unable to effectively charge the defenders. The New York Loyalists had more success, capturing the American artillery.

On the British left, the Lee’s Legion infantry corps withdrew from British reach, and the dragoons fell back to support them.  Williams committed the 5th Maryland to face the 21st Regiment.

At that point it was clear the main British assault failed and I called it good.  It was much fun and I’m glad I gave it a try. It was super to pull the figures out of the box again. Would I play a solo game again–maybe if the cards aligned correctly.

Henry V’s Navy: Review


This is one of the naval history books I snagged a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I confess a certain degree of initial disappointment at the book’s slim profile.  There are only 157 pages of text.  But my initial sorrow was quickly set aside once I began reading.

Ian Friel’s study of King Harry’s fleet focuses on the Royal Navy, those ships built, purchased, or captured for the king. Like many historians of this period, Friel struggles a bit to share what can be known and what must be surmised based on the evidence.

But what Friel is able to share is extremely valuable to understanding the importance of controlling the sea lanes to projecting  English power into France during the Hundred Years War

Friel does a great job of helping the reader understand, creating a common language to use when discussing the naval war between England and France in the early 15th century.  He limits his discussion largely to the Royal Navy, the king’s navy, or those ships purchased, built or captured and a part of Henry’s fleet as opposed to the many vessels and crews, privately owned, “arrested” and put into service as fighting vessels or transports for the king’s army.  He also carefully explains the classes of ships: great ships or carracks, ships such as cogs, and then oared vessels, barges and ballingers that all had important roles in King Henry’s navy. Friel goes on to explain further amount typical crews and likely armament for many ships.

Only after the reader has reached an understanding of Henry’s Navy, does Friel attempt to report the important naval combats accompanying the invasion of 1415 that led to the siege of Harfleur, and subsequently the battle at Agincourt.  He also recounts the Normandy campaign of 1417, the Battle of La Chef De Caux, off the Seine estuary.  Friel emphasizes the importance of the navy in its seakeeping role-ensuring the sea lanes were free of French ships, and just as importantly those belonging to their allies, the Castilians and Genoese. Finally, he includes the role of the navy in the siege of Rouen.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end.  The navy, a costly arm of royal power went in to decline as ships could not be maintained, rotted and simply sank in port. In most respects the story of Henry V’s navy is a mirror of the Hundred Years War, enjoying great success, but always costing more than England can afford, and silenced when resources became scarce.

My chief revelation from Henry V’s Navy is the important role oared vessels played in the royal fleet. Though these vessels were small with relatively small numbers of armed men, they played an important role in scouting and seakeeping. I had always believed oared vessels to chiefly a feature of Castilian and Genoese fleets, but clearly I was mistaken.  Gonna need to add some oared vessels to my cog fleets.

This is a very enjoyable, highly accessible book, and if you have an interest in the Hundred Years War and hope to understand the important naval aspect of Henry V’s campaigns, it is well worth your time and money.

What’s on my painting table. 

Well, this is pitiful.  I haven’t finished anything recently.  I’ve been stuck at school a lot.  But I did start working on the Miss Rock KISW hydroplane from 1983.Nearly done, need a bit more yellow trim on the numerals, some touch-up and varnishing. A simple color scheme, but I really like it.


I’ve made slight progress on my Riders of Rohan, but it is something.  The riders are now mounted on their horses, and I’ve made some progress on the two bowmen.


Music to paint by

I’ve written about my love of Blue Oyster Cult.  I went to see them for the second time at the Emerald Queen Casino on Saturday night with some friends from work.  I wrote a review of the show here.  BOC comes to EQC fairly regularly, and I can’t recommend their show highly enough.  Though Eric Bloom and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser are the sole remaining original members, the band is incredibly talented, and play with passion and professionalism.  Bloom is a great frontman, and Buck is simply the greatest guitarist I’ve ever seen.  The tickets are cheap for a show these days (we paid $25 for view seats), and even though a concert at the Emerald Queen is liking watching a show in a large high school gym, it was still wonderful.