New directions and adventures with “the dip”

Welllllll, I didn’t get as much done during the break as I would like.  But that’s not to say I didn’t paint a lot, I did.  I even played a couple of games and that was really great.  But it took some time to wrap up the figures I was painting, but got another unit done within a couple of days.  But wait, I’m not making sense.

Let’s start slower

Games

Dragon Rampant

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I played to games during spring break.  The first was a quick walk through of Dragon Rampant.  I played at David Demick’s house and we used 15mm figures.  Dave has tons of painted 15mm fantasy figures.  I was initially concerned about working around figure losses and the zone of control, but we found it was quite manageable.  I ran Orcs and was thrashed by his Men of the West, but it was fun to try.  Like Dave, I have a bunch of 15mm fantasy figures painted and unpainted and I am pleased to find a new purpose for them.

En Garde

En Garde!

Last Saturday David Sullivan and I got together with Phil Bardsley and tried out another set of Osprey Rules, En Garde! It was pretty fun.  Intended for Pike and Shot era miniatures, we instead used David’s 40mm Bronze Age Europeans.  David had to finesse the rules a bit, rating bowmen and slingers rather than gunpowder troops.  In any case, the rules seemed to play well, though we did mess up a key component of melee combat.  You can read David’s observations here.  Would love to try these again with my Musketeers figures.

Quetzacoatl Rampant!

Great minds think alike.  After playing some games of Lion Rampant, David and I both agreed that the Spanish conquest of Mexico could easily be played using an adaptation of the LR rules.  Apparently author Daniel Mersey has a bunch of period specific adaptations of these rules ready to launch, so be watching for them.  But we’re beating him to the punch on this one. After some discussion, we agreed we were on pretty much the same page conceptually for the Spanish, and I really had no clue about the Aztecs.  But David posted some troop types and special rules to his blog.  He sent them to me on Tuesday and I think they’re right on.  Give ’em a looksee.

I’ve picked up a unit here and a unit there for this period, but last night I went whole hog and ordered all the Spanish figures I felt I needed from Eureka USA.  Well, almost all the figures I needed because they were short a few packs of Spanish swordsmen. In any case, they are on their way.  Yes, this is a violation of the no new projects pledge.  Yes, I know you feel my contrition and begging for forgiveness. But we did get a decent tax return and my wife said it was okay, so she is complicit. Blame it on Lorri.

Painting

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Sooooo if you’re going to start a new project it’s best to paint some figures to get started. I have carefully squirreled away a dozen Eureka Spanish arquebusiers.  And I tried something new.  David and Dave Schueler both chatted up their adventures with”the dip,” using the Minwax Tudor Brown stain over a block painted figure to achieve some natural shading.  I gave it a try with the Spanish shooters.  It was easy, cheesy.  My first time out, my mistake was to not paint on a heavy enough coat.

Minwax Dip

But I learned from that.  For those of you who haven’t tried “the Dip” before, here are the steps I used.

  1. Prime as usual.  I spray prime in white, your inclinations may be different.
  2. Block paint your figure.  Completely paint everything.  Lighter shades are better than dark to show off the shading.  No shading or highlighting needed.
  3. David suggests coating with some spray semi-gloss after painting.  I’ve faithfully done this, but I wonder if just spraying with Dullcoat or some other matte finish would suffice.
  4. Get yourself some Minwax polyshades Tudor Brown.  Not easy to find.  The big box stores don’t sell it, but Ace Hardware and Amazon both do. About $15.00 for a half pint.
  5. I used a big cheap round brush to slather on the dip.  It smells foul, so doing this in a hot, enclosed space is probably not optimal.
  6. If the stain pools, use a second brush to swab off the excess.
  7. Allow plenty of time to dry, before shooting with Dullcoat
  8. Do basing as you prefer. Voila you’re done.

Not bad.  Not brilliant, but they look better than okay.

I did a second batch of figures, a dozen plastic Orcs for my 28mm Dragon Rampant army. They are actually old plastic figures from my boys’ long expired HeroQuest game.  I really don’t want to lay out real money for my Dragon Rampant units, so I took these guys and drafted them into service.  Mind you, the game is about 22 years old and honestly the figures aren’t great . . .12 guys in exactly the same pose with slightly different weapons.  But they were free, and remarkably easy to paint.  I slathered “the Dip” on a bit heavier with these guys and they look a lot better.  There will be a few more HeroQuest denizens that play a role in my Dragon Rampant armies. Don’t tell the boys; they’ll be cranky.

Music to paint by: In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson

King Crimson

I got listening to some of my progressive rock collection, mostly inspired by Emerson, Lake and Palmer and The Nice-but there’s lots more.  One album that kept coming across best progressive rock record lists is In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson, of course. The 1969 record was the first by this storied band.  They had lots of success with lots of different lineups, but Robert Fripp was always in the middle of things.  I really wanted to try this record, because the bassist and lead singer is Greg Lake.  I’ve only listened to it once, but it is an absolutely lovely album, mostly laden with songs about approaching doom and darkness.  Only five songs, with many classical-sounding interludes.  My favorites are “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “Moonchild,” but absolutely all of them are great.

Love the cover

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Dragon Rampant down payment

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Mithril Rohirrim, painted and finally seeing the light of day after about two decades of darkness. Nice to get them done.

March is always a slow month for me.  Actually the middle of February to the middle of April is difficult because so much is going on at school  The newspaper usually has a deadline week.  There is loads of preparation for the national convention in April.  With the addition of the yearbook there are more deadlines.  Students need letters of recommendation.  It’s just busy.

And at home it’s not much better.  Sunday is the first day of spring.  I haven’t mowed my back yard yet and there is tons of stuff to do.  Gah!

So, I know I’m behind in my posts and I haven’t painted as much as I’d like to.

However, I have finished my first Rohan unit.  As promised, I finished my old unit of riders, and they are by Mithril figures.  I pried these out of their boxes about 20 years ago, and chopped away their leg supports and they are now quite fragile.  I really enjoyed painting the horses, but the miniatures, though they too are pretty nice are a bit fiddly and I painted the riders after mounting them on their horses.  Some of the detail was super hard to get at, so I may need to reassess this.

Even so, that’s the first of about eight or nine units I’ll paint of the Rohirrim. I have them all, mostly plastic, I just need to buckle down and paint ’em up.

On the painting table

I have a couple of things I’m working on.  The first is ten civilians for the Irish Civil War by Musketeer/Footsore Miniatures.  I bought two sets and they are pretty nice.  They really come from their Very British Civil War range, and as such look a bit more from the 30’s than 20’s, but I don’t think anyone will notice.  They are nearly done, which will leave about 30 figures more to paint for the project. I will have some vehicles to paint–a beautiful Lancia armored truck no longer available from Musketeer, and a pair of Crosley transports by Company B.  We’ll see how good I am at this vehicle business.

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A nice variety of civilians by Musketeer/Footsore miniatures. They were designed for the Very British Civil War range, so they look a little more 30’s than 20’s.

I also have a pair of Thoroughbred Passaic class monitors primed and ready to go.  I’ll be offering them as potential Union naval forces for the Pensacola game.  I have a third that is painted that needs to be remounted from its original balsa base, and I’ll probably do that over Spring Break, which starts next week. I’ve already decided to paint the two new ships as the Lehigh and the Nahant with its black and green coloring respectively.

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Three Passaic class monitors by Thoroughbred Figures.  I’m going to repaint my older ship so they’ll all fit together.

Less is More. 

March has not been a smart month for NOT buying miniatures.  I haven’t gone absolutely nuts, but I’m really interested in building Conquistadors and Aztecs for Lion Rampant.  David Sullivan and I have both dabbled in rules and have similar ideas.  David has also been buying figures. In any case, I sent off an order for a dozen figures from Eureka and when I was at Panzer Depot, I bought another dozen.  I’ll be painting some Spanish arquebusiers.  In any case, let’s just say my net positive has taken a hit.  I started with 25 figures + the 6 Rohirrim= 30-24 =6.  That’s not so good, though I’m nearly done with the ten ICW civilians, and should be done with the monitors before the break is over.

Music to Paint By

Metallica

I’m not a heavy metal music fan.  It just doesn’t appeal to me as a genre or subgenre. But I love “Enter Sandman” and “The Unforgiven” by Metallica.  There’s just not getting around the lure of great songs. Though I could see adding the band’s 1991 eponymously titled record to my collection, the problem was it falls into the vinyl “sweet spot” as the industry was ending production of records and stepping up the production of compact discs.  With only one LP pressing, the starting value of Metallica is about $175.00.  So when I was trolling the new records at my local shop and there was a bright, shiny new copy, I snapped it up.  I was not disappointed.  If you like these songs on the radio or MP3, you’ll really like them on vinyl.  I paid about $27.00 to support my local record store.  You’ll pay about $25 on Amazon. Worth every penny.

 

Henry V’s Navy: Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Orcs!!!

I’ve finished painting my band of orcs.  There is a great variety to them because they are by three different manufacturers.  The tallish looking ones are by Mithril Miniatures.  The short squatty guys are Ral Partha.  The biggest and two smallest are by Alternative Armies. I like ’em.  It’s a nice variety-as manufactured creatures should be.

The twelve figure unit didn’t take long, just a few days.  To insure a mix I went with three different Vallejo colors as the basis for their flesh–khaki, khaki-grey and stone gray.  I painted their accoutrements a variety of grays and browns and washed the lot brown.  Made sure to paint on something resembling a face and even managed some eyes.  Pretty basic, but I wanted to insure some variety.

This is the first unit for my orc Dragon Rampant armies.  Ideally I’d like to have a total of eight, or enough for two retinues (or whatever the clot of units is called for the fantasy game.)  They were fun, and they’ve been awaiting paint for about 25 years.

And on my painting table . . .

I’ve mapped out a plan for February, which gets an extra day because of leap year. Here’s what I’ll be doing this month:

  1. The two Boston bombers are next on my list, and I’m already making good progress on them.  Wish I had a couple more.
  2. Nine Musketeer/Footsore Royal Irish Constabulary figures for the Irish Civil War.  They were the British cops who were well-armed, but not as nasty as the Black and Tans and Auxies, who were often veterans brutalized by their experiences in France.
  3. Six 1/600 scale ships.  This includes a German Wolf class torpedo boat and a British V and W class destroyer, as well as four German Siebel ferries–motorized catamarans used to transport stuff around the Adriatic.
  4. Six Mithril Rohan horse.  They’ve been knocking around my unpainted pile for decades and its time to get them done.
  5. if I can get all these finished with time remaining for the end of the month, I’ll turn my attention to the four hydroplanes that need painting.  That would be as much as 39 figures painted by the end of the month, including the orcs.

Less is more

No new figure purchases.  I hope that’s something I’ll repeat with regularity throughout the year.

Painting the dozen greenskins gives me a total of +10 for 2016.  Love to see the pluses.

Music to Paint By

Deep Purple is best remembered as a guitar heavy rock band from the 1970’s.  Though not as well known as Led Zeppelin, like that band they had a death dealing guitarist in Ritchie Blackmore, and later they had an awesome vocalist in Ian Gillian.

But in 1968 they released their second album, The Book of Taliesyn.  It’ an odd album that is desperately trying to find its place among the many bands exporting music from England.  With the fiery, “Listen,Learn, Read On,” I was reminded of Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and other bands producing uniquely British psychedelia.  But other songs are more puzzling.  The purple bunch cover Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman,” The Beatles “We Can Work it Out” and Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High.” The remaining songs are an odd mix of guitar rock and  folk influenced songs.  This is a band still searching for an identity they will find later.

Book of Taliesyn

Very uneven stuff.  But it has such a cool cover!!!!

Musketeer/Footsore Irish Republican Army

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14 IRA gunmen by Musket Miniatures, now Footsore Miniatures.

Being of Irish heritage-my much missed grandfather was from Cork-the Irish Rebellion and Civil War 1916-22 is of great interest to me.  A few years ago I bought figures from Musketeer Miniatures for this period, a British company, who had an American distributor in the U.S. Unfortunately Musketeer changed hands last year and is now part of Footsore miniatures.

They weren’t my first figures for the Irish conflict.  The Australian company, Cannon Fodder also got a start on the period with a group of very nice IRA gunman, a very nice Auxiliary figure and a British soldier.  Unfortunately they didn’t get very far with the range before Cannon Fodder became Blaze Away miniatures.  Sadly, Blaze Away is now gone and so are 20th century figures from the Cannon Fodder line.  Pity.

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A little tighter view of the Lewis gun, left, with his loader.  There is a nice variety of figures in the range and the figures themselves are pretty good. A little bit of breakage, however, and some mold mark issues as well.

I’ve decided to focus on my collection of figures for this period as one of my painting projects for 2016 and yesterday I finished my collection of IRA gunmen–14 in all.  When I bought my Musketeer figures I was very excited about them.  I’m a bit less so now.  Let’s be clear, they are still nicely proportioned, historically correct, and dressed in a variety of period attire, but they have some production issues that make them a bit less than I’d like.  First, they have very breakable gun barrels. At about two bucks a figure, the last thing I want is to get figures that aren’t usable because their gun barrels are broken. Some also had unfortunate mold marks.  Well-detailed pewter figures are hard to clean, and I found these with just a little too much flash in hard-to-get-to places for my liking.  If I was rating them, they’d get maybe a 7 of 10.  Good, but not brilliant. Cleaner than your average Old Glory figure, but not as good as the average Perry figure.

Nothing fancy to paint these guys.  They are a combination of Vallejo and Ceramcoat colors. I did make sure to do some highlighting before washing them with Vallejo black and brown wash.

What’s on my painting table

I’ll be taking on my first Dragon Rampant unit.  I have twelve orcs from a variety of manufactures, including Mithril, Ral Partha, and Alternative Armies.  They work together size wise, plus, as we learned in Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring, orcs are manufactured in a variety of colors and sizes, so–no problem.

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Watch out!! My first Dragon Rampant unit is on the painting table.  It’s a mixture of Ral Partha, Mithril and Alternative Armies figures.  It’s actually a pretty nice mix.

I’ve also dredged up a pair of C in C Boston II’s from my aging airplane stash.  I’m still assembling them, which is not always an easy feat.  They’ll be completed in a camo for the British in the Mediterranean.

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The very nice C-in-C Boston II’s.  I like forward to painting these in British colors for the Mediterranean.

Looking way down the road my next Irish Civil War unit will be the green-clad Royal Irish Constabulary figures by Musketeer–there are seven of them.

Less is More

I’ve given up the idea of tracking each of my purchases and painting on a running basis, but I have come to embrace the idea that finishing figures is a good thing, and completing more than I purchase is also good.  So I’ll try to keep a running total right here in Less is More. Just in general, I’m not buying new stuff–well sort of.  I did buy some planes for the Channel Dash as well as additional jets for a future Cuban Missile Crisis project. I also have some stuff from ROS coming, some day in my lifetime, that I’ll figure into this initial entry.  The goal is to finish the year with more painted figures than purchases, way more.

Purchases

  • From 1-94 Enterprises  28 airplanes
  • From ROS  6 airplanes 2 Siebel ferries

Painted

  • 20 airplanes
  • 14 Irish Republican army figures

Net

34 figures painted (January) – 36 purchased (December) = net of -2 figures.  Still a week to go in the month and no additional purchases planned.  I fully expect this will be the only time I register a negative number.

Music to Paint By

When I graduated from college in 1978, one really popular album was the debut by Van Halen.  It was like nothing I’d ever heard before.  One of the songs Eddie and the boys covered was a Kinks song “All Day and All of the Night.”  They destroyed it with Van Halen’s smoking guitar and David Lee Roth’s incendiary vocals. And one of the things it did was to inspire the Kinks and their lead guitarist Dave Davies, Ray’s brother, on to some flaming guitar heights of his own. Listen to their 1980 live album, One for the Road, and you’ll know what I mean.

Dave Davies

Most importantly, it encouraged Dave, the less well-known Davies brother, but a fine guitarist, to go out on his own.  His first solo effort is AFL1-3603. This is a good record.  All the songs are written by Davies.  He also plays almost all of the instruments. Most of the tunes feature some heavy-handed guitar work. From the opening song, “Where Do You Come From,” there is no mistake you’re listening to a rock and roll record.  But there are other songs, that are also quite good, notably “Visionary Journey” and “Imaginations Real.”

Don’t get me wrong, though this is guitar focused, it is not a record of aimless solo guitar-noodling.  Rather, it’s a product of its time, the guitar is loud, it’s very raw, but supports the song structure without wandering about by way of the third moon of Saturn only to return to what’s important three minutes later. C’mon, it was released in 1980, we’re done with that shit.

I guess my overall verdict is AFL1-3603 is solid, with consistently good songs and good performances.  It won’t remind you of Lola vs. Powerman and the Money-Go-Round, or really not much of the Kinks catalog at all.  But it’s a good record, with a very cool cover, and a worthwhile addition to your colleciton

Dragon Rampant-Yes!!

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On December 22nd, Osprey Publishing released the latest of their rules sets, Dragon Rampant.  Built on their, in my view, very successful  and very fun Lion Rampant, this is a set of fantasy rules that keep things quick and simple.

Dragon Rampant is intended to be relatively economical.  Every army will likely have 4-6 units.  They will likely have at their core some 12 figure units of infantry slime, with some six figure units of knights, or elites, or monstrous nasties, maybe even some 1-3 model units of something or another really unpleasant–trolls, ogres, giants, wizards, dragons would fit the bill.  The game allows magic.  Author Daniel Mersey has made allowances for players to experiment with all kinds of unpleasantness.  I love it.

Unfortunately, new rules often mean more purchases-something I’ve pretty fastidiously avoided the last nine months.  It doesn’t mean I haven’t bought anything, I have–ships and planes for Pensacola and the Channel Dash–but no figures to speak of. That’s especially true of fantasy figures.  I try to keep my historical minis to no more than two bucks a throw, more for mounted troops. But fantasy figures are often five bucks a pop or more. And it’s not like I don’t have tons of figures laying around waiting to be painted.

So I’ve turned over every loose rock I have to locate anything that might serve to make a couple of fantasy armies, and tonight I struck paydirt. More about this in a moment.

I’ve decided on a couple of different armies.  The first is a Rohan army.  I love the Rohirrim.  I did long before there were Peter Jackson movies.  I’ve always wanted to do the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in 15mm, and some day I may still do that. I have many of the figures–they just need paint.

But I also have a ton of Rohan figures I bought when Games Workshop was putting out their Lord of the Rings range. I have plastic cavalry and infantry and some metal leaders–a Theoden, Eomer, Eowyn and standard bearer who can form a unit of heroes. But wait, that’s not all folks.  In rummaging through the deepest darkness of my boxes o’lead I also rant across enough old Mithril Rohan figures to build a unit of mounted.  So here is what I think I can do:

  • Rohan heroes (Elite riders)–1 X 4 figures
  • Riders of Rohan (heavy riders–4 X 6 figures Games Workshop, 1 X 6 figures Mithril Miniatures
  • Men of the Westfold (heavy foot)–2 X 12 figures Games Workshop

Of course, every fantasy army needs something truly fantastic, so I will also add a 1 X 6 unit of Eureka centaurs.  I’m not quite sure if they qualify as some sort of cavalry or if they are a unit of warbeasts.  We’ll see.

So I was able to construct an army of Rohirrim of troops I already have. But I want them to have somebody to face.  My first choice is, of course, orcs. But as much as possible I want to minimize the cost. Remember, fantasy figures are spendy, the centaurs are five dollars each.  I have some orcs from the GW LOTR range, but not enough to do a lot with.  I can make one unit of Uruk-Hai pikemen–that’s cool. I also uncovered some Mithril and Ral Partha orcs, enough to make a unit of nasty looking bastards.  I remembered that once upon a time I bought a whole bunch of Alternative Armies orcs and various other nasties, and these went missing for the longest time.  But no more!! Tonight I found them.  There are orcs, some warg riders and even some orc chariots of doom.  Enough nasties to field against the Rohirrim.  If I get desperate, I’ve even dismantled the old HeroQuest game I used to play with my sons twenty years ago and run off with the plastic figures, including goblins, orcs and various other bad guys.  Yes, I have stooped that low. I still don’t know quite what I have or how I’ll organize them.

The difference between beginning Lion Rampant and beginning Dragon Rampant is that my armies for the Hundred Years War were already painted–enough so that I could field seven retinues of English and French. Unfortunately, exactly none of my fantasy figures are painted. So it will be a while until I can actually play, but I’m game.  Anything I can do to usefully employ some figures I’ve just got gathering dust is a good thing.  So Dragon Rampant will be a big project for 2016.

I’ll be sure to share as the project gets rolling.