Enfilade Less Than Two Months Away

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We’re about to start week two of Governor Jay Inslee’s Stay at Home self-quarantine.  I confess to feeling cooped up, but I am painting for Enfilade which is only fifty some odd days away.  I check the coronavirus numbers on the Washington Post that are updated regularly. Though the curve is bent somewhat,  cases in Washington state continue to increase regularly.  Though we should get an update for the governor’s ban on gatherings Tuesday, it’s hard to imagine the convention comes off. There simply is no good news.

Even so, I am planning as though the Enfilade is still a go. That means I have to finish my projects. I still have a couple of irons in the fire. The first is the Ploesti project.  I hoped to have them finished by Sunday the 29th, but I just don’t see it happening. All the tedious lining is completed, but there is still lots of detailing to do–plexiglass panels, nose art, exhaust plumes, lettering and numbering and decals.  Everything is a bit slow, because of the size of the miniatures. I’m hoping for Tuesday.

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The other big project is the the Philippine-American scenario.  This is one that still needs work.  I finished the last of the American units today.  There are still 32 more bolo-armed Philippine figures to paint.  They’ll go fast, once I get started on them.  I will have painted a considerable number of figures for this in the end.  That’s great, wrapping up this project is high on my list.  When the figures for this scenario is complete, I will still have plenty left to paint, but it’s a project I really want to wrap up.

In addition to the figures, however, is still a fair amount of stuff to do.  I have a pair of 4Ground buildings to complete, plus some additional terrain bits to make that are central to the scenario.  I’ve actually made a lot of progress in this area, but I still have a ways to go.

I’m far more concerned about a lack of opportunity to play test these games than I am finishing the work.  The Stay-At-Home rules make things tough, both for places to play and gathering gamers together to play them.  I think the Ploesti game will be fine, but the Philippine game has some moving parts that really need a couple of walks through.

 

It’s not the Willow Run Ford line (but I’m trying)

Willow Run

The B-24 assembly line at Willow Run during WWII.

In 1943 the Ford production line in Willow Run, MI wasn’t making cars, it was producing B-24 bombers for the USAAF.  They went from producing autos with a couple of thousand parts to producing planes with about 1.5 million parts each. Workers could produce about 1.5 planes per hour. Not one Liberator completed from beginning to end in less than an hour, but once and a half planes rolling off the assembly line every hour.  Pretty amazing.

At this moment I am also producing 1/300 B-24D’s for my Enfilade game. I don’t have nearly as many parts per plane, but I’m a lot slower. These are for the Ploesti game Dave Schueler and I hope to be running May 23rd.  The game calls for 18 planes for six players, but I hope to have 24, so we can take a couple more just in case more players are interested.

B-24D

One of Phil Bardsley’s most excellent B-24’s for the earlier iteration of Ploesti with Paul Hannah. No, mine won’t be nearly as nice.

Before I proceed on my how-to, I need to make it clear that Ploesti has been done before by two dear friends.  At least a fifteen years ago, Phil Bardsley and Paul Hannah worked with Dave to run Ploesti using the Mustangs rules.  They were both superb painters and their B-24’s are excellent. Their planes were painted in USAAF “Desert Pink.”  Not an official color, this was actually USAAF Desert Sand that oxidized in the North African condition to a lighter, pinkish color.  They mixed their own colors for their planes and did a fabulous job.  Phil passed away a few years ago and I bought his bombers.  They are little pieces of art.  My planes won’t be Desert Pink, they’ll be USAAF olive drab, and while they’ll be well-painted, I’m simply not as good as Phil.  There were plenty of both on the mission.

The Ploesti bombers flew B-24D’s with the big plexiglass greenhouse in the nose.  Later Liberators had the big nose turret.  Not many B-24’s available in 1/300 and Scotia makes the only B-24D. Thankfully, it’s a really nice miniature.  The dozen I ordered were are very nicely scribed, well-cast, and didn’t come with their very long wings tied into a pretzel. They were reasonably inexpensive at only four pounds (4.61 a whack at today’s ridiculously low exchange rate.)

What you notice looking at them is, again, the long thin wings, the chunkiness off the fuselage, and the size of those twin tails connected by the large horizontal stabilizer.  It will become a big deal for the modeler because they feel unbalanced, and holding them or maneuvering them around a paint brush is challenging.

When I started working on my planes the first thing I had to do was prep them for paint.  Wings had to be straightened.  It wasn’t severe but took some time and second looks. The twin tail and stabilizer likewise needed some time.  Just apply counter-pressure and there isn’t a problem with breakage.  There are some mold marks to deal with, especially down the fuselage. I scraped those off with a sharp X-Acto knife, but you could also use a needle file or sand paper.  The latter might give you the best result, but I’m impatient.  Paul always used to sand his planes, which eliminated pits in the castings.  Again, I probably should have done that, but I’m kind of a loser.

Before moving on and priming, I decided to drill out locations for the flexible machine guns that festooned the early Liberators.  I not-so-carefully identified the sites for these and drilled them out with a Dremel tool and a wee, tiny bit.  You could use a pin vise, but the pewter is kind of resistant to slow turning drills. After I was done and cleaned out the holes I glued in toothbrush bristles, cutting them to size with a pair of floss scissors. Used CA glue for the adhesive

Moving on to primer, I used the Army Painter white spray primer.  It’s a little spendy but it really covers well and a can lasts a long time. However, after the first four planes are completed I’ll be topping the white primer with Vallejo’s USA Olive Drab Primer.  It will make working with my preferred paint so much easier.  If it isn’t available at your local bricks and mortar store, you can order it from Amazon in a 200ml bottle for less than twenty bucks.

The paint scheme is pretty simple: olive drab over gray.  There are lots of different colors you can work around.  My preference is to use the Vallejo Air Colors series whenever possible, because they are matched most clearly with the historic colors. USAF Olive Drab is included with the American CBI Theater set.  You get six bottles in each of the many sets available for about twenty bucks. It also includes an USAF Light Grey, which is also a great color for the undersides of wings and fuselage.

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The first four B-24’s in base Olive Drab, awaiting dry brushing. The journey begins.

But I don’t you to go grab these and not know the risks in using them.  These colors are designed for use with an air brush.  The pigments are ground very fine and they simply don’t cover very well.  I believe there are four coats of USAF Olive Drab on each of the first four bombers.  I’m super happy with what I have, but it wasn’t easy, and I ordered two more bottle at almost eight dollars a whack to make sure I had enough to finish my project. I ended up not sticking with the USAF Light Grey and switched to Vallejo Sky Grey just because of the coverage issues.

I spent lots of time getting the base colors down, lots of coverage, lots of drying, then a the first of many shots of Dullcote.  Painting planes this large means handling planes, and I didn’t want to rub anything off. I decided early on the big planes needed some weathering, so I mixed 50-50 olive drab and Vallejo Light Grey to get a nice lightened, but not too bright color. Then I carefully dry-brushed the wings, engines, tails, stabilizer and fuselage. More Dullcote.

Next up the lining.  I used a charcoal rather than black over the olive.  I used Vallejo light gray on the underside.  Yes, it’s tricky but not impossible.  You can always paint over egregious mistakes.  Paint the motors and then it’s on to the black leading edges.  This was actually a bit trickier, and I had to paint over some mistakes.  The tail fin edges were particularly difficult because there is no scribing to give me a clue.  In the end, I think my lines are too thick, but I’m gonna live with it. Dullcote again.

How much more detail do you want to include?  From here it’s probably safe to paint the metal spinners on the propellers and proceed directly to decals. Because Phil’s planes include nose art, I decided to try my hand.  His planes have such legible, clear hand-lettering and there is no possibility I can pull that off, hard as I might. I did some research on B-24 nose art, and tried my hand at Flak Alley, Doc, Hard Hearted Hannah, and The Goon.  Are they great, no, but they’re good enough.  These are all painted on the left side of the nose in front of the cockpit.  On the right I painted the symbol for the Flying Eight-Balls, which are really hard to make out.  I left room for a two digit number on the right.

On to the decals.  Phil used the red-bordered star roundel with bars, which was a Pacific insignia.  Pictures show just a roundel, often in pretty mangled condition with the yellow “Torch” band. I bought the latter from Flight Deck Decals.  They are fast, reasonable and do some great work. Oddly, these American planes use an RAF tricolor tail flash.  I had zillions of these from I-94 Enterprises. I stopped there.

That left just  the numerals to paint and the tail letter for each plane.  I painted the numerals white and the letter in Vallejo Golden Yellow, per the photos I’ve seen.  That wrapped up the first four of twelve planes.

It was a terrific learning experience.  I started the four before I left for San Diego, and it’s really taken most of the rest of the week to finish them.  Hopefully I’ve learned some lessons along the way and I might be finished with the remaining eight by the end of the week.

 

Enfilade in a Time of Covid 19

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Enfilade, for those not in the know, is the flagship miniature gaming convention in the Pacific Northwest.  It’s hosted by the Northwest Miniature Gaming Society (NHMGS) at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia and welcomes 350+ guests from Northern California to British Columbia, from the Olympic Peninsula to Montana each Memorial Day weekend.

Because there are rental spaces and room reservations,  it involves money which creates a certain amount of risk and reward in a typical year.  Sometimes we make a few bucks, sometimes we lose a few bucks, but we have an extremely capable treasurer who has made an art form of effectively managing our funds. Our contract with the Red Lion is quite fair–as long as everyone shows up in a typical year.

This is not a typical year.  Or maybe you haven’t turned on the news lately. Or noticed that traffic is down 30% (in the Puget Sound area.) Or been surprised that you’ll have to clonk some poor old lady on the noggin in the parking lot in order to snaggle some toilet paper.  I went shopping yesterday and could not get these items: hand sanitizer, ketchup, rubbing alcohol, tp, soup, or olives.  Weird mix of items. Nobody seems to be stockpiling fresh vegetables.

But I digress.  Unfortunately in this age of the Covid 19 pandemic, NHMGS finds itself confronted what is truly an existential crisis.  To cancel our convention in the face of what is a real health crisis, would force NHMGS to pay severe penalties in the tens of thousands of dollars, and force us, a small non-profit, into bankruptcy. Many of our members on Facebook have expressed an interest in attending in the face of the illness.  However, others have fairly expressed their view the convention is too great a health risk, a danger to their families should they attend, and we should fold.  At this time that’s not an option. NHMGS is between a rock and a hard place.

However, there is a potential rescue on the horizon.  No NHMGS won’t be included in the federal bail-out package.  It is the government in the form of Governor Jay Inslee’s social distancing proclamations that offer our best hope of weathering this storm .  At the present time Enfilade would not pass muster against the state social distancing requirements under the current state of emergency.  In the event of government regulation, contract canceled, we can plan for 2021. Yay, right?  Wrong.  Unfortunately, that proclamation expires on March 31st.  Back to gloom and hopelessness.

However it’s inconceivable Inslee won’t extend the ban.  The virus shows few signs of relenting as time progresses.  States are erecting strict “shelter-in-place” laws further limiting social interaction, and I fully expect it is simply a matter of time before Washington does the same.  However, despite anticipation of a future extension or deepening of the current proclamation, it’s unclear how long it will last. Until April 30th?  May 15th? That would be the worst, being in limbo until two weeks or so before the convention. We’d have few attendees, thus little revenue, and we’d suffer penalties under our contract.  Not only that, but the penalties for canceling the convention ramp up the closer we get to our Memorial Day weekend dates.  Bigger rocks, worse hard places.

I recently accepted the NHMGS interim presidency after our elected leader fell quite ill.  Of course I wish him well and a full recovery.  Unfortunately the convention is foremost on my mind.  The good news is that I work with a group of really great people, friends for many years.  We’ll find a way to make it work.

 

It’s December!! Just five months until Enfilade!!

In fact it’s been two weeks since I began this post, so Enfilade is even closer than it was. Yes, still more than five months away, but time is marching on.

I’ve written before that Enfilade usually guides my projects and 2020 will be no different.  In fact, as the convention becomes more popular, with more people attending and more folks hosting games, Enfilade is no longer left begging for games at that last minute.  When the website opens on January 1st there is a stampede of hosts rushing for the best times and best tables. He who has no plan is lost.

I refuse to be lost.  I have a plan

Enfilade has six game periods and I’ll be running games in five of them. Some are finished, play tested and ready to go.  Others still need a lot of work and I’ll offer more about them later.

Here in the order of game periods is my plan:

Friday afternoonMad Wet Max.  This is the armed version of Thunderboats!  It’s kinda cute.  Lots of fun between missile launches, mine laying and the occasional shore-bound audience participation. Good way to start the convention.  No, I have nothing left to prepare beyond a review of the rules.

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Friday eveningThe Buffalo Hunt. Another just kinda rollicking good time. I’ve run two of these games now, and I’ve picked up some very good suggestions both times.  Players pick it up okay, so I shouldn’t have any residual headaches. All figures are painted, so aside from one more playtest, I shouldn’t have a lot left to do.

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Saturday morning:  Nothin’.  I’m taking the morning off. It’s a good time for me to be lazy, look at games, yak with friends, maybe do some shopping or run down to Rainy Day Records . . . or not.

Saturday Afternoon: The Race to the Dan/ Rebels and Patriots. David Sullivan and I were interested in running another R and P game after the success of last year’s Retreat From Concord game. We both have a love of the Southern Campaign so I suggested a scenario that might fit with Green’s retreat to the Dan River and preparation for the Guilford Courthouse Campaign. It should be good, with about ten units per side.  Some are painted, many are not.  David is wisely hoping for several playtests so I’ve already begun painting and am making progress. But I do have minis on order from the UK, and it is Christmas time, so I’m hoping I don’t stall out.

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Lee’s Legion foot (in purple) and three small units of Tarleton’s British Legion dragoons are four of the ten our so units I’ll be providing to the Race to the Dan game.

Saturday Evening: Ploesti/Airwar 1940.  This will be a six-player cooperative game as U.S. commanders try to brave the flak, and each other, as they bomb the oil refineries in Romania.  It will be modeled on the scenario that Phil and Paul created for Mustangs! many years ago.  Again, playtests are in order.  I have 11 B-24D’s to paint, so some work to do, but not a lot. A great way to end a day of gaming.

Ploesti

Osprey released its book on the Ploesti attack at the end of November. I think I was first in line to buy.

Sunday:  My Philippine-American War figures will make their official debut.  I have an idea for a six player game that will involve about ten units per side.  There is still a fair amount of painting to do.  Five units for the Americans, two for the Philippines and some miscellaneous weapons.  More daunting is the terrain that will need to be built.  While I have the bamboo forests and rice paddies finished, there is still some miscellaneous jungle terrain I’ll need to do.  Not my long suit.  Like Rebels and Patriots and Ploesti, this will require some playtesting

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Friday at Enfilade

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Wilson prepares players for his spectacular Omaha Beach game.

Siege of Vicksburg using All Quiet on the Martian Front rules

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

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

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

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

More about my Friday doings in the next post.

An Enfilade 2019 Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Peeps 4

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

Friday Peeps 3

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

Friday Peeps 2

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

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

Friday Peeps

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

Friday Peeps 6

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

Grenadiers, ick

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

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

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

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

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

Making my Enfilade plans

One of my Enfilade projects will be to assemble and paint these 1970's era hydroplanes courtesy of Sean McEvoy.  It will be fun.

One of my Enfilade projects will be to assemble and paint these 1970’s era hydroplanes courtesy of Sean McEvoy. It will be fun.

I’m a planner.  Always have been when it comes to convention games.  Last year I helped Dave with the St. Nazaire game, and ran a pair of sizable Lion Rampant games.  They both required some prep time, but I made plans early and didn’t have to rush, except to get in a last minute play test. It involved hundreds and hundreds of miniatures and a car load of stuff.

I’m already making my Memorial Day plans and I’m aiming for a much smaller carload of stuff.

Here is what’s on the docket and what I’ll need to do to prepare

At least one session of Thunderboats!

  • This is my hydroplane racing game and I already have dozens of painted boats.  But a couple years ago I bought the next generation of boats–all picklefork hulls and cab forward designs from the 1970’s from Sean McEvoy.  I’ve been working on assembling them today.  There are seven of them, and I’d like to get them all done for the con.  Likely will run this game on Friday night.
  • May run a second session early Friday using the older boats.  I have a couple of older boats to paint, including two drop sponson hulls and the huge Thriftway Two, which is  one of a kind.

The Channel Dash 1942

This game will be modeled on the flight of the two German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisnau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen from the Breton port of Brest to German North Sea ports. Likely a Saturday afternoon and evening game.

  • This is probably a two session game I’ll do with Daveshoe.  Dave is going to tackle the big ol’ models of Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen.  There are also some auxiliaries.  Don’t know how many will need to be done.  I’ll focus on painting some Royal Air Force planes.  It’s shaping up to be a bunch of Spitfires, Whirlwinds, Beauforts and Swordfish.  I may opt for a few more planes including some Wellington bombers just for the hell of it. Maybe two dozen planes in all.
  • The second period will be the attack of the British light naval forces on the forces screening the large German naval units.  Not quite sure what my painting responsibilities will be here. I do have a great model of a German torpedo boat to assemble and paint.

A big ol Ironclads game

I’ve been negotiating with David Sullivan about dragging out some of our 1/600 scale ACW ships for an Ironclads game.  I know, we mostly play Sail and Steam Navies around here these days, but I still have a fondness for the old Yaquinto rules.  It’s going to be mostly hypothetical, though the ships will be mostly historical.  It will involve forts and reversal of roles. I’m hoping to persuade David this should be a Sunday game, but I have more flexibility than he does.

  • Doesn’t look like my painting responsibilities should be too bad.  I’m thinking a big Bay Area Yards star fort and a couple of ships, one of which I don’t own.  Not sure, there may be more I have to pick up, but we’ll have to see.

What’s On Your Painting Table?

Stalled out painting the Volunteers of Ireland today.  Will make progress this week.

Stalled out painting the Volunteers of Ireland today. Will make progress this week.

With the Baueda tent safely painted and tucked away . . . somewhere, I moved on to working on my next project–Perry’s Volunteers of Ireland.  Haven’t gotten too far with them.  I worked on them for a couple of hours on Saturday during the Huskies apocalyptic failure against Oregon.  Bleah.  Made progress.  Got very little of anything done today (Sunday.)  Just not feeling great.  Nursing some sort of weird virus that is giving me some nasty headache action.

Rather than paint, I decided to start working with the resin hydroplanes I’ll need to do for my racing game.  These are all blank resin kits.  They mostly require some sanding, but they also had much different tails from the hydroplane minis from the 60’s, so there is some assembly required-not my long suit.  I’m not quite sure what boats I’ll be painting and I’ll definitely need some reference photos but, I’m leaning toward the following: Miss Pay N’ Pak, Atlas Van Lines, Squire Shop, Oh Boy Oberto, Miss Bardahl (checked version) and others.

And Now For Your Listening Pleasure

Especially For YouIn 1986, the New Wave, the New Romantics, and disco had passed on.  The Police were breaking up, and U2 was getting ready to record one of the best records of all time. The musical scene was fluid and and was fertile ground for an American band called The Smithereens.  Especially For You was their first record and it is quite good.  If you are of a certain age, remember the British Invasion,  or have a fondness for bands like The Beatles (early phase,) the Kinks, or the Hollies, or even early Elvis Costello, you would recognize their influence in the music. It tends to be up-tempo and  instrumentally straightforward, with lyrics that are anything but happy and carefree.  There aren’t any throwaway tracks, and my favorites include “Strangers When We Meet,” “Time and Time Again,” and “Blood and Roses.”  I’m actually interested in trying Green Thoughts, their second record. Definitely worth a listen.

Enfilade 2015: the hits just keep coming.

I attended Enfilade over the Memorial Day weekend.  It was my 24th Enfilade.  I haven’t missed one yet, and I’ve had organizing responsibilities in almost all of them.  Last year I announced my retirement from the Enfilade committee and all other leadership responsibilities for NHMGS.  It was a carefully considered decision, and the right one for me. There was no animosity or rancor in my decision, and I’ve moved on.

It was a very good convention and I think the organizers did quite well.  It seemed to me there were few glitches and almost all of them were beyond their control.  If I have one suggestion it would be to try to problem solve the event sign-up dilemma. I know and understand all the problems associated with pre-registering for events, but the long 45-minute lines must be addressed. They’ve done a great job of promoting pre-registration electronically for the convention, and now it’s time to put equal or greater promotion into pre-registering for events.  It’s complicated and I get that, but this seems to me a must-do, especially as attendance hovers around the 350 mark and the lines snake through the convention hall.

Each convention is different, and this one certainly was for me.  I had to work on Friday.  That’s unusual for the day of the convention and it presented a number of problems I clearly foresaw.  It meant leaving at school about 2:30 and driving to Olympia and arriving in time to host my 7:00 event.  if you are a stranger to Washington geography, that’s about a 60-70 minute drive under normal circumstances.  Unfortunately Memorial Day weekend is far from normal.  It is the beginning of the camping season, and as the weather moderates any long weekend is a good excuse for camping.  The roads were a mess and instead of arriving at the hotel 3:30-4:00ish, it took an extra hour.  I had piles of stuff to haul in for my game, so by the time I checked in, set up my game, and caught my breath, it was game time. Something to consider for the future.

Friday night I ran my raid on Agen scenario.  It was a Lion Rampant game with seven players who had not played the rules before.  All had purchased copies of the rules and were genuinely interested in learning them to see if they liked them, which meant they were motivated to work through them.  That made life a lot easier for me. After a somewhat slow start, they were doing things pretty much on their own.  The story of the scenario is something like this: three English retinues arrive outside the village of Agen, defended by a dilapidated castle.  This is a chevauchee, meaning the English are there to loot and burn the village and carry off their goodies.  The French arrived with a three retinue relieving force-something frequently unusual for a chevauchee-and their job is to prevent the English from achieving their goals.  The last retinue was a smattering of serfs, whose job it is to offer token resistance, but most of all survive.  The French were able to inflict some damage to the English, but the invaders were pretty efficient, looting and burning many of the various buildings on the table.  But, the big winners were the serfs, who by staying away from trouble, managed to score 105 points edging out the English who amassed 104.  Most importantly, the players seemed to enjoy themselves,and especially the rules.  They were running the game themselves by the end of things.

Saturday morning I made time to actually play a game.  I have long been interested in Galactic Knights, the space epic using ships originally made by Superior Models. I own some of the ships and the rules, but only walked through a kind of quickie scenario with Dave Schueler.  The Saturday game was hosted by Scott Williams and Joe Grassman and was loosely based on the WWII Battle of Midway. I commanded the Terran star bombers, which are the rough equivalent of the Ameriacn TBD torpedo bombers slaughtered by the Japanese.  In GK they have the virtue of being faster than the Devastator death traps.  I loved the scenario and learned a lot about the rules.  I was able to be sneaky and sly, took advantage of the rules and administered the coup de gras to two thirds of the Avarian capital ships–following the advice of my colleagues.  The game inspired me to work on my collection of GK stuff-in fact I’m writing this during a break from them.

The Saturday mid-day period was all about judging games for the period’s “Best of Show” award.  Often that falls to one person, but the convention organizers did a super job of mobilizing three judges for each period.  That’s way better than I was able to do.  I actually hope to continue aiding in this because it is great fun.  The best part of serving in that role is the ability to circulate and see all the games during the period.  I actually got around to see each game three times and there were some wonderful ones.  While the 28mm Waterloo game raged on in the corner, John McEwan hosted an amazing undersea submarine game.  Max Vekich and Ed Texeira ran a very interesting hypothetical 28mm WWII Japanese invasion of Washington game I was very intrigued with. Special guest Howard Whitehouse had a very interesting Vinlander/skraeling semi RPG with miniatures game that was very cool.  But the winner was FireForce Rhodesia ’76.  This was a great looking and playing game in which the miniatures and terrain all seemed to work well.  Damond Crump, Bruce Smith and Lawrence Bateman were the big winners in that period.

Saturday evening was my big game, Smoked Bolougne.  It was another Lion Rampant game with space for eight players.  It was a mixed group of LR veterans and noobs.  The game featured an attack on Bolougne’s port at either end by a picked English force.  The goal of the English is to destroy key buildings in the town and destroy the French ships at anchor.  The English got off to a roaring start, using their flaming arrows to set fire to their targets.  The waterfront was quite ablaze, but the invaders were soon bogged down by French reinforcements and poor activation rolls. In the end they were able to achieve what the English did historically–destruction of their targets, but their forces were also destroyed.

During Sunday’s final period Dave Schueler and I hosted the Raid on St. Nazaire.  I got some credit for helping, but honestly this was Dave at his finest. Based on the raid on the French port city on the Loire River that also contained the Normandie dry dock, this was going to be a tricky show. We’d walked and talked through the way the scenario would be played, but hadn’t had a real playtest. We’d done that on other scenarios, but this was complex in the sense that the six British players had to move their 13 motor launches plus five escorts through German gunfire, land their load of commandos, and destroy important features in the the port area before re-embarking for home. Overall the game went well.  The Brits suffered two losses and several vessels damaged while engaging the port defenses. They did get some commandos ashore, damaging the one of the winding houses and the pump house for the dry dock.  But it was concluded that, like Bolougne, it was a pretty historical result.  Serious damage to the dry dock meant the Tripitz would have to find a new address, but the British attackers were pretty much trapped and would likely be killed or captured.

Picture of St. Nazaire set up courtesy of Rod Fleck. I'm the goof in the green Jaguars wind shirt.

Picture of St. Nazaire set up courtesy of Rod Fleck. I’m the goof in the green Jaguars wind shirt.

The good news is that the powers that be thought enough of our game to consider ti the best of show for the Sunday game period.  It also won the best game for the year’s theme, raids.  It was the perfect finish for the weekend.

Enfilade around the corner: My mad dash to the finish line.

Though I may not have written much recently, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.  I have three games I’m running at Enfilade, and I’m still trying to wrap up the last one in time for my weekend-before-the-convention playtest.

I’ve done a lot this spring/winter (this is so embarassing!) Dave Schueler and I will host a game we’ve wanted to do for many years-the 1942 combined sea/land raid on St. Nazaire. I slowly accumulated all the motor gunboats and assorted naval vessels needed to play the game, but the challenge was always going to be putting together what would pass for a harbor and adapting a game to it.  Dave and I have done a lot of projects together including the Tirpitz game and the Persian Gulf tripwire scenario with lots of modern gunboats, but this was especially challenging.  Dave did most of the work modelling the various pieces representing warehouses and dockyards.  I contributed some, but the work is mostly his.  The scenario will force the British players to cooperate and be aggressive as they try to land their commandos in the face of fire and demolish their targets.  Dave and I will run the Germans using a combination of ideas from David Manley’s excellent Action Stations and the old Raid on St. Nazaire board game by Avalon Hill.

I’m also running two games using the Lion Rampant rules by Daniel Mersey.  As I’ve written before, I really like these rules-you just need to think outside the box. The first scenario, Raid on Agen, I’ve already written about.  I’ve done a couple of playtests, and hopefully I’ve worked out the flaws. It represents a typical chevauchee of the Hundred Years War.  Maybe not typical, but the French are inclined to resist in this scenario.

The second game is the preparation sucker.  It is based on the English raid on the port of Bolougne in 1340.  It reminds of the Raid on St. Nazaire in the sense that the raiding force was disembarked in darkness, did their work, but were trapped and captured or killed. The English will start on either end of the lower town.  Their job is to destroy buildings and ships along the waterfront. The resistance in the dock area is light, but enough to be a pain to the attacking English. The challenge to the English will be the French relief force as it masses and thunders down from the upper town.

For both scenarios I’ve tried to think outside the box.  I’ve used or created troop types to assist in the scenario.  Town militia was a type suggested on the game forum hosted on Boardgamegeek.  I’ve created a sailor troop type to defend some of the ships.  I’ve also created an engineer type charged with destroying the ships and town in the Bolougne raid. In addition to troop types I’ve also worked out rules for burning.  In the case of the Bolougne scenarios, I’ve put together rules for tow-wrapped flaming arrows and combustibles used by the engineers.  Don’t know how historical they are, but they should be fun and easy.

Playtest photo.  The English land in the lower town, setting afire a waterfront building and a ship

Playtest photo. The English land in the lower town, setting afire a waterfront building and a ship

I hope to have pictures from the Saturday playtest on the web by the weekend.

The playtest set-up. The French fleet rests at anchor as English retinues approach from either end of the town. French reinforcements boil out of upper Bolougne and down to the docks

The playtest set-up. The French fleet rests at anchor as English retinues approach from either end of the town. French reinforcements boil out of upper Bolougne and down to the docks