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

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August is the best month

I haven’t posted much this summer.  That’s unusual because summer is when I typically get a lot of painting done, projects take shape, and I take lots of time to share.  Not so much this summer.  Though I have painted some, I’ve mostly really relaxed, watched a lot of Mariners baseball, played with the dogs, and now I’m back at school.

I have managed to get in some games.  I played some home brew ancients games.  I participated in an awesome ACW naval game using my Webb model and Sail and Steam Navies.  I ran one of my Louisiana games and was offered some great feedback for a scenario I plan to run at Fix Bayonets in September.  Last, I played in Damond Crump’s excellent L-Z X-Ray scenario, based on the 7th Cavalry’s Ia Drang Valley battle in November 1965.  It was incredibly fun, kind of a like a gigantic problem solving event.  I really enjoyed playing the NVA with Joe Waddington and Al Rivers.

I’ve also played a lot of board games.  Not only that, I’ve acquired a lot of board games.  Mostly the multi-player non serious games, because they are the most fun.  Generally I’ve stayed away from acquiring these games because A) they’re expensive, B) you need a bunch of folks to play them and C) they take up a lot of room.  Unfortunately, I’ve had a little extra money this summer so I’ve indulged my interests.  I bought a new copy of an out of print game (key words meaing lock up your wallet) called The Making of the President: 1960 on the Kennedy/Nixon campaign.  I’ve played it once and would have to say that along with GMT’s Twilight Struggle, using a similar card-driven system, it is my favorite game. I also picked up a used copy of GDW’s Tet Offensive from 1991, and with my birthday cash a copy of GMT’s Dominant Species on the coming of the Ice Age. Maybe I’ll include some reviews as I work through them a bit.

But I do paint as often as possible.  It hasn’t been every night, but I will get back on that track as much as possible.  I will feature pics from a couple of items I’m pretty happy with.  The first is a pair of command figures for my Poitiers game.  I know I haven’t talked much about this the last couple of years, but I will keep picking at it.  they are Arnoul D’Audrehem and Jean Clermont, the Marshal of France.  They each led a column of French mounted knights in the vanguard of the French army and gave the English archers fits trying to penetrate their well armored horses.  Unfortunately, fits or not, Clermont was killed and Audrehem captured.  The figures are from Old Glory, with heraldry matched as well as I could from online and print sources.

The second group of figures are Butler’s Rangers, provincial militia from the American Revolution.  They frequently teamed with Iroquois warriors to challenge American control in the over-the-mountain regions of New York and Pennsylvania, leading to considerable bloodshed among frontier settlers.  I have a mind to do some skirmishy games on the frontier there.  These are Front Rank figures.  I’ve had them for more than twenty years, and in fact I made one of two smallish figure orders to fill them out to their 25 man ranks. Butler’s Rangers provided their own uniforms,  hence the varying shades of green, including a few with traditional red-faced uniforms instead of the more practical hunting shirts.  I used four different shades of Vallejo green to give them variety. As always, Front Rank figures, with their deep creases and defined bulges, are a pleasure to paint.

I also picked up some AWI civilians and “Nervous Militia” figures from Perry Miniatures.  Pics to follow.

 

 

2013, the Year in Review

London War Room Cuera mounted Spanish militia.  Used on the frontier mainly to fight Comanches and Apaches, they are a large mounted element in my Louisiana project

London War Room Cuera mounted Spanish militia. Used on the frontier mainly to fight Comanches and Apaches, they are a large mounted element in my Louisiana project

It’s been a different year for me.  I tend to be fairly reclusive and hide in my house up on the hill.  Well, that didn’t change, but even so it’s been an interesting year.

My most important measure of the year is always what did I get done vs. what did I buy.  Normally I’m a pretty careful purchaser of lead. In years past I accumulated big piles of lead against future projects.  Bladensburg is an example of this.  I bought four boxes of Victrix figures three years ago, and only just finished almost all of them.  I have more painted Hundred Years War figures than any of other era with about 700 figures painted.  But I have at least that many unpainted. So, as with many of my friends and miniature wargaming colleagues, I’m a figure whore.  I’ve been better over the years.

I have painting goals of 400-600 figures per year.  These get harder to reach every year.  I tend to spend a little less time painting each year.  In years past I’d guess I painted an hour and half a night 320 nights per year. A bit longer on the weekends.  I would guess I’m down to about 250 days of painting per year.  Why?  My work schedule-newspaper deadline nights makes it tougher.  I have more fatigue–I don’t sleep particularly well many nights so I’m just too tired to paint.  Some nights I’ll just plop myself down in a chair and read.  But there are times when I really, really enjoy what I’m painting and I’ll paint until I’m just too tired to go on.  7:00-9:00 p.m. is my painting prime time, but I often am all in by about 8:30. I’ll have the Mariners on, unless I’m really frustrated with them, or the season is over, or be watching something on Netflix and just paint away.

I didn’t keep up with my painting log this year.  Tried, but just fell off the wagon.  My guess, however is that I didn’t meet my goals.  I believe I finished the year with about 350 painted figures.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  One is the fewer hours devoted to painting.  Another is that I only paint 28mm figures now.  No more 15’s, so no more cheapies.  I count a figure as a figure.  No bonuses for mounted figures, no bonus for extra size or extra effort. A tank, a 1/285 airplane, a cannon model, a terrain piece are all equal to a figure. So I fell short of my goal.

I’m going to keep my painting goal for 2014 right at 400.  I’d like to think my painting can be equal to about one figure per day. I fully expect my work will be mostly 28mm figures, but I may reinvigorate my DBA projects and try to at least paint a few of the six or seven armies I have.  Most of all my time will be spent working on my Louisiana Project.  I probably have about 200 or so figures left to paint.  I find them pretty fun to do, and they paint up fairly quickly, even the mounted figures.  However, I don’t have a deadline with them.  They don’t have to be done until they’re done.  It will allow me to drag something else out to work on, whether those are my Irish Civil War figures, some AWI units, my 1/600 ACW ships, or something else. My Enfilade obligations are largely painted, though I still have a bit more fiddling to do for Bladensburg.

Cuera were multi-armed with lance, shield, carbine and pistols.  So burdened, they were often unable to keep up with their more lightly armed enemies.

Cuera were multi-armed with lance, shield, carbine and pistols. So burdened, they were often unable to keep up with their more lightly armed enemies.

Two items I definitely want to work on aren’t particularly wargame related.  A couple years ago I bought the Perry “Death of Gordon” vignette from their Sudan range.  I love the movie Khartoum and admired the G.W. Joy painting the vignette is based on.  It is something a little bit different to work on, and I’m preparing it on my work table now.  The other item I really want to paint is a 54mm Imrie-Risley figure of Abraham Lincoln I’ve had for quite some time. I actually a lot of the “big boys” stowed away for quite some time, and some day I hope to paint them in my dotage.  I’m an admirer of Lincoln.  He is my favorite president, both for his principles and his ability to work within a greater understanding of what was needed to get things done.  Because Lincoln dressed very simply, usually in black, the challenge will be to bring life to the figure.

Something I didn’t do a great job of is managing my buying this year.  I was pretty good until August.  I earned some extra money for my work at J-Camp, and I promptly started spending like a drunken sailor.  Figures for the Louisiana project, the Perry Volunteers of Ireland, some War of 1812 Americans, command figures for the British for Bladensburg, and more I can’t even remember.  My goal is to at least break even with figure purchases-no more figures purchased than painted.  I don’t know if I did that this year.  I purchased some figures for Bladensburg, but many were for sheer spec, and I don’t like to do that.  My purchases should be for “just in time” production purposes and I feel like I failed.

These figures are armed with carbine or escopeta.  These figures are a bit crude, but highly paintable.  I really enjoyed working on them.

These figures are armed with carbine or escopeta. These figures are a bit crude, but highly paintable. I really enjoyed working on them.

I have a couple of New Years resolutions.  The first is to set some painting goals.  I would really like to finish all of my Louisiana figures.  There’s not really a deadline on this.  I’d like to run a game at Enfilade, but honestly I probably already have enough figures to do it now.  Realistically I’d like to have everything done by Drumbeat in September. I have nearly all the figures to do this.  I think I need a few more of the mounted Cuera militia, and a few more foot officers.   I think this also leaves me some time to pick away at some other painting along the way.  I have an AWI unit or two I’d like to paint.  Maybe some of my Irish Civil War figures.  Ships.  Planes.  My dance card is wide open.

My second resolution regards game play.  I don’t do nearly enough.  Mostly it’s my choice, so I am putting my choices out on right now. I want to play at the Game Matrix DBA nights twice per month.  My hope is I can morph that into a bit more than DBA, focusing on DBX gaming.  I’d love to, for example, play Sluys again.  In addition I’d like to commit to playing on the NHMGS game days the third Saturday of the month.  These are absolute musts for a couple of reasons.  First, I need to get off my damned hill and get with my gamer friends.  Don’t know why I’ve been so reclusive.  I also have way too much time and energy invested in my projects to not be playing with my figures.  I know I can do better.  It’s as though I’ve just become a bit of a hermit.

In any case, 2014 is shaping up to be a good year, and I’m looking forward to it.

The Bladensburg Report: Three down, three to go

The 4th Regiment and the 21st Regiment are both blue-faced line infantry units that served at Bladensburg.

The 4th Regiment and the 21st Regiment are both blue-faced line infantry units that served at Bladensburg.

Today is the official beginning of school, though I’ve spent a lot of time at Emerald Ridge for the past couple of weeks.  It’s been a busy summer, with a month of solid preparation for J-camp and the week of camp itself, plus the time devoted to painting the house, moving furniture for the re-done flooring and all the silliness that goes with that.

Even so, I made lots of time for painting figures.  My goal was to get the big light infantry battalion finished and at least two of the three line battalions at Bladensburg done.  Voila, I have accomplished that. Below are pictures of the 4th and 21st Regiments, each at 32 figures.

The 4th (Kings) Regiment.  Flag is from Warflags.  Staff is a North Star 200mm lance with the cords snatched from the Victrix standard bearer.

The 4th (Kings) Regiment. Flag is from Warflags. Staff is a North Star 200mm lance with the cords snatched from the Victrix standard bearer.

They are the two of four units created with Victrix figures for the battle.  I am working on the third, the 44th Regiment, also with 32 figures.  A smaller unit, a converged light infantry unit will follow.  The lights aren’t assembled yet, which I am sure will take most of an evening to do.

Just a final critique of the Victrix figs, and then I’ll shuddup about them already.  Basing them is not a pleasure.  I tried to arrange them on their little 40mm square piece of heaven so that they’d resemble a firing line, sort of.  Unfortunately, getting the firing figures to shoot sort of directly forward is impossible, so they are all facing about 22 degrees to their right, as though they were firing at a stag running directly across their front.  The bases, on pretty sizable rectangles, often have to be twisted a bit in order to get everyone moving in sort of the same direction.  The whole lot seems pretty disorganized for a well trained unit. Chalk it up to lessons learned.

21st (Royal North British Fusiliers) Regiment.  Had a difficult time with the lighting, which makes it see a bit like the lights of heaven are shining.

21st (Royal North British Fusiliers) Regiment. Had a difficult time with the lighting, which makes it see a bit like the lights of heaven are shining.

So I have two more British units to finish for the battle, and then one remaining unit, an American line infantry unit of 24 figures to complete for the battle.  After that it’s a few British generals and I want to re-do my rocket batteries before taking the winter to playtest a few times.  I’m shooting for no later than Thanksgiving to have the lot finished, perhaps much earlier.

One big damn unit: The 85th Regiment

48 figures in 12 stands means a frontage of 18" . Double that when in extended order.

48 figures in 12 stands means a frontage of 18″ . Double that when in extended order.

In my Bladensburg summer I’ve focused on painting some British regiments.  First on the list was the 85th Regiment, (Buck’s Volunteers) light infantry.  For a Regimental Fire and Fury game it’s  enormous, with 12 bases to represent it’s thousand man stated strength.

These are Old Glory 28 mm British Light Infantry figures.  They are painted more or less straight out of bag.  The figures aren’t terribly imaginative, but they are relatively easy to paint.  The main color is Vallejo Vermillion, a color I like very much for it’s brightness, without getting too light or too orange. and then washed with Ceramcoat Moroccan Red.  I always add some Liquitex Matt medium to break the tension to the paint and water mixture.  I add just a tiny bit of Charcoal Gray to darken it and then wash it on with a big brush.  The trousers are Ceramcoat Quaker Gray, again, washed with Charcoal Gray.

If I have a complaint about the miniatures at all, it is that they are quite weak at the ankles.  It’s important to be careful as you’re straightening them out.  Otherwise they’re pretty easy cheesy.

The 85th was one of Wellington’s veteran units sent to America in 1814.  It was the chief unit in the leading light brigade at Bladensburg, along with a small battalion of converged light companies, and an even smaller battalion of Royal Marine Light Infantry.  Together the three units took the brunt of fire at Bladensburg while crossing the lower branch of the Potomac River in the face of entrenched cannon and militia.  They quickly moved to the flank of Pinckney’s Marylanders, setting them to flight before moving on to Stansbury’s Baltimore brigade. Absolutely one of the vandals that burned Washington, they were quite heroic on the battlefield.

My summer of figure gluttony

I’ve made a big deal of not falling into the gamer’s trap of amassing huge quantities of new minis to decorate my considerable pile of unpainted lead. I am not holier than thou, trust me,I have lots of unpainted miniatures. Thousands for sure. But I’ve made some rules for myself-no new projects, and buy ’em as you need ’em. My goal is to paint 400-600 28mm figures per year. Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not. My ultimate desire is to slowly reduce the number of figures I have stockpiled.

This summer I’ve failed. Yes, I’ve continued to paint. I’m still immersed in my Victrix nightmare, but making slow and steady progress. However, sometime in May, my common sense rapidly fled the reservation.

I’ve made several sizable figure purchases this summer. The first came in May when I purchased some of the very nice IRA range of miniatures from Musketeer Miniatures. I bought about 40 or so figures plus a beautiful Lancia armored lorry. I got all the different IRA minis, plus some of the Royal Irish Constabulary figures.

Though it is fairly fiddly, the Lancia Lorry by Musketeer Miniatures is a thing of beauty.

Though it is fairly fiddly, the Lancia Lorry by Musketeer Miniatures is a thing of beauty.

Musketeer offers a couple of nice packs of civilians for this range included in it's Uncivil War line.

Musketeer offers a couple of nice packs of civilians for this range included in it’s Uncivil War line.

The Musketeer IRA range is very nice.  The IRA with Shotguns figures are fairly fragile and I managed to break off a barrel.  The figures aren't cheap, so that's a disappointment.

The Musketeer IRA range is very nice. The IRA with Shotguns figures are fairly fragile and I managed to break off a barrel. The figures aren’t cheap, so that’s a disappointment.

When we knew Lorri was receiving a sizable severance package, she passed on a few bucks to me. One of the projects I’m really interested in broadening (once I’m finished with Bladensburg and escape my Victrix hell,) is giving attention to my hypothetical War With Spain 1797-1807. To that end, I picked up about 80 figures from the Dayton Painting Consortium. These are nicely proportioned miniatures, maybe a tish small by today’s standard. I picked up musketeers and grenadiers, as well as a unit of dragoons to balance out my growing numbers of American troops.

Though they're hardly state of the art, this range of Spanish figures by Dayton Painting Consortium are very serviceable and highly paint-worthy.

Though they’re hardly state of the art, this range of Spanish figures by Dayton Painting Consortium are very serviceable and highly paint-worthy.

After I worked at summer camp, as I do each summer, I invested some of my stipend in miniatures. I made two orders, one to the Warstore, the other to Old Glory 25’s. in the spring the Perry Brothers released the Loyalist Volunteers of Ireland for their AWI range. The VOI have a distinctive uniform with their funky bearskin headwear and their oddly laced tunic wit green Brandeburg knots. I ordered 24 figures of this unit which fought at Hobkirk’s Hill and Eutaw Springs, two of my battles.

Half my unit is backordered but, these Volunteeers of Ireland will make a nice addition to my American Revolution in the South project.

Half my unit is backordered but, these Volunteeers of Ireland will make a nice addition to my American Revolution in the South project.

The OG order was aimed at fleshing out a few of my projects. I need American line infantry and British commanders to wrap up Bladensburg. I ordered French mounted commanders for the Hundred Years War. I also added more Americans to the War With Spain project.

Lots more unpainted figures. Kind of embarrassing. The good news is I continue to paint regularly. I’ll have a painting update on my War of 1812 Brits in the next week. My goal, which I believe is quite achievable, is to have two finished Victrix line battalions, plus my completed 85th light infantry by the first day of school, September 4th.

How do you really feel about Victrix figures?

Very few things drive me straight up the wall, but my experience with Victrix Napoleonics is absolutely one of them. I persuaded myself to buy them three years ago when I traded off my unpainted pile of Old Glory British Nappos to a friend and used proceeds from the Enfilade bring and buy to purchase four boxes of the Victrix figures-three of center companies, one of flank companies-reasoning that I’d need more OG figures than I had to paint up the British regiments at Bladensburg, and here were these bright, shiny plastics waiting for me to jump in with both feet.

Assembled Victirx figures in various stages of dress or undress.

Assembled Victirx figures in various stages of dress or undress.

Pah!!

There is little question the detail and cost of the Victrix minis makes them attractive. However the negatives are many, and let me just walk you through them.

1. Assembly. It’s at the very least time consuming. Though my friends suggest using your basic adhesive for polystyrene, aka model airplane glue, my very brief experience with this was unsatisfactory. I simply didn’t have time while assembling a dozen or so figures at a time to hold an arm in place for 5-30 minutes until the glue set up. Nope. Strictly CA glue for me, which set up a host of other problems. There is the inevitable Edward Scissorhands factor as small bits occasionally (but not often) stuck to my fingers. The biggest issue I have is the time involved in assembly, and that is significant. Without question , these are fiddly, and needlessly so.  I painted up ten Perry hussars for my American War with Spain project, and they seemed far more sturdy iwth fewer stick ons.

2. Posing. When building units for Sharpe Practice or some other single mounting system, having a wide variety of poses-advancing, firing/loading, march attack works fine. In more traditional rules sets, those that require multi-figure mountings, this is not so great.   There aren’t lots of spare arms or other bits in the boxes, so you’re stuck with the what you have, which means that allowing for a few march attack figures (I believer there are six per box) needs to be your plan, or you need to plan on not using six figures.  Do I really need three drummers per box?  I’m working with 32 figure units, so even though I should have plenty of miniatures, it feels a little tight.

3.  Fragility.  I didn’t even think of this when I bought the figures.  Lots of friends expressed concern about how light they were, they didn’t feel weighty as metal figures do.  Before I leap into the pitfalls of plastic figures, knowing that others won’t handle them as kindly as I will, we need to concede that metal figures aren’t perfect either.  I have plenty of figures with casting problems.  Bayonets that are really Swiss Army knives.  Massive mold marks across faces  Broken bayonets, Figures that break off their bases at the ankles.  Metal figures do have their problems.  However, I’ve never had figures break just from touching them.  I broke a bayonet off while I was painting.  Not able to afford to lose an arm and hence a figure, I quickly glued that baby on, though it is at a strange angle.  While carrying my newly painted unit in from being dullcoated in the garage, I  fumbled one of my painting stands.  As I grabbed I broke one figure’s musket off all the way back to the flintlock.  I now have 31 painted figures instead of 32.  Though these will be mounted on sturdy 40mm square Litko bases, I am concerned how these figures will survive games in which other gamers touch them–specifically at Enfilade where I plan to run my game.  Will their heads pop off?  Arms? Backpacks.  Or will they just be disarmed?  These are legitimate questions

Photo shows my bayonet glue job (center) and busted musket (right.)  These occurred through casual handling.  In fact the bayonet ibreakage occurred during painting.

Photo shows my bayonet glue job (center) and busted musket (right.) These occurred through casual handling. In fact the bayonet ibreakage occurred during painting.

This is just my view of this range.  On the other hand they are nicely proportioned.  They are well cast, with no big molding errors.  I’ve looked at 150+ figures and none were unusable.

Here are a few suggestion to ease your use of Victrix miniatures if you choose to go that route. Your box of Victrix figures is composed of six sprues.  On three of the sprues you’ll find the bodies and backpacks.  On the remaining sprues you’ll find the heads and arms.  Yes, other stuff too, but generally that’s how a box is divided.  I encourage you to get yourself a Plano box with lots of divisions or its rough equivalent and begin separating out arms heads etc. Put the figures in one or two groups.  All the action arms can be in another group.  All the heads.  All the backpacks.  Drums, standards, drum arms together.  Separate the non-action arms-right arms, left arms, support arms (they don’t have hands and glue into a musket arm.)

Do yourself a favor and take the time to assemble all your miniatures together.  It will be time consuming.  It will be a pain in the ass.  You will curse at these tiny little men.  But when they are done, you’ll know what you have, how you want to organize them, and then you can get on with painting them.

This is my effort at organizing my Victrix bits for assembly.

This is my effort at organizing my Victrix bits for assembly.

I didn’t find them difficult to paint them at all.  I mount mine four to a craft stick.

Note: I used white glue to mount them on the sticks and they practically fell off after the glue dried.  That led to my severe musket breakage incident.  I ended up re-gluing them with CA glue, and then they didn’t fall off. I haven’t yet removed them from the sticks which could lead to future difficulties.

I primed them as I do all my figures, with Testors flat white spray enamel, and just painted them with acrylics.  No problems, though some of the detail can be a bit hard to get at, and there is actually more of it than you’d find on a metal figure. When you’re done, coat them as you would normally, and voila, you’re good to go.

I don’t like to trash a product just to trash it, but I can say with certainty the Victrix ranges are not for me.  For those with more patience or a more creative bent toward their modeling, this may just be what the doctor ordered, but once these are finished I’ll stay away.