Thunderboats v. 2.0: Painting the Pickleforks are hard

I really enjoyed painting the 1950’s and 60’s hydroplanes for our Thunderboats! games.  I’ve painted 23 of the 1/72ndish scale boats cast by Sean McEvoy for the game.  I found them to be a joy to take on.  Mostly blocks of color with some numbers and lettering and often a symbol or emblem to paint.  Kind of like painting HYW heraldry only a little easier.

But as I move on to paint those 70’s boats, they are definitely different. The new hulls with the picklefork noses are larger-longer and broader-as they become a bit more stable and safe after the carnage of the middle 60’s. The wider hulls sit deeper in the water, so almost all the detail on the boats are now on the decking.

Not only that, but the paint schemes of the 60’s definitely change during the 70’s.  Instead of the nice block styles, the paint schemes are linear and colorful.  Often lines run the entire deck, and boats like the Pay ‘N Pak have their name in huge multi-colored lettering along the entire deck.

The 1979 Squire Shop and the 1968 Miss Bardahl in the Smyth boatyard.  Not far on either yet, and both will take lots of extra TLC.

The 1979 Squire Shop and the 1968 Miss Bardahl in the Smyth boatyard. Not far on either yet, and both will take lots of extra TLC.

No big deal for a graphics designer working 1:1, a bit more of a challenge for an old blind guy like me working at 1:72.

1981_U-2_The_Squire_Shop_Hull_7902_

Both of the above pictures are of the 1979 Squire Shop.  In a year that was swept by Bill Muncey's Atlas Van Lines, a very young Chip Hanauer drove the Squire to victory in the Seafair Race.  It is a beautiful boat with striking, hard-to-paint markings.

Both of the above pictures are of the 1979 Squire Shop. In a year that was swept by Bill Muncey’s Atlas Van Lines, a very young Chip Hanauer drove the Squire to victory in the Seafair Race. It is a beautiful boat with striking, hard-to-paint markings.

The first boat I’m painting is one of my favorites, The Squire Shop from 1979.  As you can see, the boat has some nice red and mahogany (I’m using both colors from Vallejo,) but it’s also a plethora of white lines, that have to show up against that background and remain pretty straight.  There is a Squire Shop emblem and then an Olde English font.  I’ve been working away at it as you can see, and probably have a couple of hours into the cab forward hydroplane.

MissBardahl1968bow

If I was going to imagine a boat guaranteed to make me tear my hair out, it would probably look like this.  But it is somethin'.

If I was going to imagine a boat guaranteed to make me tear my hair out, it would probably look like this. But it is somethin’.

The next boat I’ll take on is the 1968 Miss Bardahl.  Slight change in hull design from the classics, but not the picklefork hull. Again, there is the more daring graphics, a departure from the block coloring and lettering.  Not quite sure how I’ll paint the checks all over, but I’m certainly excited to give it a try.

I’ll keep you posted.

What’s On My Painting Table?

I know the picture is dark, but hopefully you can see the minis are coming along. Perry Miniatures Volunteers of Ireland.

I know the picture is dark, but hopefully you can see the minis are coming along. Perry Miniatures Volunteers of Ireland.

Well, hydroplanes of course.  Yes, you’re right, I do have issues with painting ADHD, so I usually have something else going on as well, and it is those same Perry Volunteers of Ireland.  I’m making progress, and hoping to maybe even finish painting the sixteen figures tonight.  They’ve gone fairly quickly, but are not without challenges.  The Brandenburg lace is a bit hard to see, and these figures feel smaller than my other Perry AWI figures, almost as small as the Fife and Drum British guards I painted a while back.

Even so, the painting has gone pretty smoothly. The lace wasn’t horrific to paint except for the silver on the officers.  There won’t be a lot to highlight.  Looks like I won’t finish tonight but after a super painting day, they are at least close.

And For Your Listening Pleasure

I’ve always liked the idea of The Pretenders, and have a copy of their 1994 CD Last of the Independents.  But I’ve never really had a chance to give a good listen to the music that made them famous.  I picked up a copy of their first record, titled simply The Pretenders and gave it a good listen.

It’s a solid record steeped in new wave, punk and solid pop music.  With semi-autographical lyrics by frontman Chryssie Hynde, it blends some great musicianship with snarling vocals.  There is a solid cover of the Kinks hit, “Stop Your Sobbing,” and “Brass in Pocket” became a big MTV hit. My favorite song, however is “Kids” which combines some snarling guitar with some wise and prescient words about the loss of privacy that comes with celebrity.  There is some anger on this record and there is some introspection, but most of all it’s a collection of excellent, pointed songs that represents some of the best of its era.

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Dipping your toe in the Lion Rampant pond.

If you’re thinking about trying out these rules, whether you have stuff or not, I hope, with this post, to offer some guidance to you.

First, a bit about my decision to go with this game rather than another. I am the owner of some 500 singly mounted Hundred Years War figures.  I have more than a hundred painted longbowmen.  I have more than a hundred painted dismounted men-at-arms.  I can field seven units of foot sergeants and multiples of most other units from this conflict.  I am also a devoted student of the period.  My interest in these rules was only natural.  All I needed was to try them out to see if they met some simple requirements

  1. Were they easy to play?  Could I easily run them at a convention with folks who didn’t know them at all?  The answer was a simple yes. I’ve played with at least a dozen of my gaming friends. Of those only one has had a less than enthusiastic response.
  2. Were they suitable for making well thought out scenarios?  I didn’t want a game that was really designed for head to head games.  Again, I’ve tried several multi-player games and have reported on the Agen scenario.  I’ll likely run that one at Enfilade, together with a second scenario based on the 1340 raid on the Boulogne docks.

I find Lion Rampant to be a great set of rules.  Of course, I feel fully prepared to play them with figures, high interest and research material galore.  What if I wasn’t?  How could I get started?

First, some basic parameters.  If you’re interested in refighting Agincourt, or Bannockburn, or Mortgarten, these are not the rules you want.  These are small unit actions.  No archers behind stakes, no Flemings defending ditches, no massive schiltrons of Scots spearmen driving foolish English knights into swamps. Those troop types might be available to you, but they won’t quite function the way they would in large formations. I confess I haven’t quite found the right set of rules for fighting big battles in the late middle ages, but Lion Rampant won’t do the trick either.

I always worry about the cost of rules sets. Rules books that cost forty or fifty bucks really annoy me.  They better come with their own electronic service like Siri to answer my questions, a useful painting guide, complete army lists and an introduction by Anne Curry.    Worse than rule books that cost forty or fifty bucks are rule books that cost forty or fifty bucks and will require the forty or fifty dollar expansion or two.  I don’t care what the logic is, it’s ridiculous and inexcusable.

If you’re worried about the cost of Lion Rampant, you can buy it at your local game store for $17.95.  You can order it at Amazon for $13.62.  You can order it for your Kindle or Kindle ap for $10.49.  I bought two.

What do you get for your dough? A complete set of mechanically simple, grammatically clean set of rules. There are some quirks to the game, but nothing that is unreasonable or unfathomable.  There are a plethora of handy color plates and game photos.  There are eleven troop types and 40 sample retinues to muster them into. Finally there are twelve sample scenarios. That’s a lot for less than twenty bucks.

This is a highly adaptable rules set.  Though the sample retinues cover England all the way to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Thomas Mallory Arthurian legend, there is definitely room for more.  I see these rules as something to experiment with, as many did with The Sword and the Flame. A friend has been playing Korea and Japan.  I plan to build something around the Spanish conquest of  Mexico.  It should work for any region up through the early gunpowder age. Not only that, but author Daniel Mersey is highly accessible, regularly answering questions on a Lion Rampant forum on BoardGameGeek.

So what is the cost to get in on Lion Rampant? Units are either six figures or twelve figures.  I’d suggest starting out with a retinue which is usually 4-6 units.  If your army is infantry-heavy, like the Swiss you’ll need more figures, say 60 figures.  If you have expensive troops, like the English you’d have fewer, say 42.  Armies with cavalry like the French Hundred Years War army, the Normans or the Ottoman Turks makes an army more costly in real dollars. Be sure what you buy fits in with your friends, and is an army you are really interested in.

There are lots of great figure manufacturers for the Hundred Years War.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Old Glory Miniatures–They have a huge range for this period.  They are relatively inexpensive per figure, especially if you are an Old Glory Army member. They are also quite nice and draw a distinction between the early period of this war (say until 1380) and later.  The drawback is that you have to buy the figures in pretty large quantities.

Front Rank Miniatures–A very nice range of miniatures for the Hundred Years WAr and the Wars of the Roses.  The range is older, so not tons of variety between figures of the same type, but a huge range of troop and armor types.  The mounted figures are really awesome.  They also have some great accessories and wagons. The downside is their size.  They are huge.  They don’t mix well with other manufacturers in the same unit.

Crusader Miniatures–Some great figures, but not tons of different troop types.  Sized well, all the major troop types are covered. Some very nice command figures too.

Perry Miniatures–The Agincourt to Orleans range is geared strictly for about 50 years of the conflict. Absolutely stunning miniatures, but a little spendy. The Perrys have a number of plastic boxed sets that are super reasonable covering the Wars of the Roses.  They plan to release an English boxed set for Agincourt to Orleans before Christmas (hark, I hear sleigh bells.)

Before I close, I’d simply add that no I am not an Osprey employee, nor do I hang out with Dan Mersey.  I do believe this is a great set of rules. Not perfect, and with limitations that are clearly stated.  If you believe you’d enjoy a skirmish set of rules for the late middle ages, these may work for you.  They definitely work for me and my interest in the Hundred Years War.

 

 

Painting for fun: General Gordon’s Last Stand

Side view of Gordon's Last Stand vignette by the Perry Brothers.  The photo was taken without flash and more accurately recreates the lighting for Joy's painting.

Side view of Gordon’s Last Stand vignette by the Perry Brothers. The photo was taken without flash and more accurately recreates the lighting for Joy’s painting.

When I was 18, and a sophomore in college, I bought Omdurman by Philip Ziegler.  I was taken by the British struggles to mount the expedition that avenged the fall of the Sudan to the Mahdist forces in 1885, and particularly the difficulty in fighting the Mahdists in 1883-1885.  As I said in an earlier post, I knew something about the conflict from the movie Khartoum with Charlton Heston and Sir Lawrence Olivier.  Before I’d read Ziegler’s book I’d read the chapter on General Charles Gordon in Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians. I’d come to admire the man and his ability to work with native troops, respect their ways and accomplish great things with very little.

Gordon and the Sudan inspired one of my earliest wargaming projects.  Some of the first 25mm figures I purchased were Hinchcliffe highlanders for the 1898 campaign.  I actually paid someone to paint them as Gordon and Seaforth Highlanders, as they appeared at Omdurman.  I bought 15mm Peter Lang miniatures for the period.  In the 1980’s I put together a sizable British and Mahdist army for the period.  25mm Ral Partha figures, 25mm Minifigs, and even those Hinchliffe Highlanders made it on to the table.  We played with Lynn Bodin’s Imperialism rules.  I wonder where those figures are now?

When Alan and Michael Perry split off from Games Workshop and Foundry to begin their own ranges of historical miniatures, I became immediately interested in their Agincourt to Orleans and American Revolution ranges.  Though they also included a very nice range of miniatures for the Sudan, I swore them off.  Pretty figures, but not one of my core periods, and therefore, I chose to stay away.  But one day in perusing the lists under Sudan Extras at the Warstore, I ran across a couple of interesting items.  There was a heliograph team, and something called General Gordon’s Last Stand.

General Gordon's Last Stand by George W. Joy.

General Gordon’s Last Stand by George W. Joy.

I recognized the Last Stand.  It was a vignette based on a painting I knew well.  The painting is General Gordon’s Last Stand by George William Joy from 1893.  The painting depicts Gordon standing on the top step of his residence, pistol in hand, quieting the mob of Mahdist soldiers come to dispatch him and appears in Ziegler’s book.  This scene figures crucially in the last scenes of Khartoum.  The dervishes have overpowered the half-starved garrison and are searching for the Governor General.  They come into his residence courtyard, a bloodthirsty mob, shouting for his head.  Gordon takes his place before them, and for a moment he holds them in his quiet gaze, they are stilled, and their weapons fall to their sides.  But one man breaks the spell and hurls his spear into Gordon’s chest.  He falls, is beheaded, and is lost to the mythmakers.

I’ve owned the vignette for several years.  It’s a special order item and must come from England. It took considerably more than four weeks to get it. I decided to assemble and paint it during the Christmas break.

The vignette comes in several pieces.  The stairs of the residence comes in resin.  There are the two railings in metal.  There are four figures in metal, including Gordon and the three dervishes. You can see, in comparison to the Joy painting, the impossibility of duplicating Joy’s work while making it doable and affordable. So the vignette is basically cropped from Joy’s depiction. The painting shows many more of the Mahdist soldiers in the foreground as well as Gordon’s men in the background.

The first challenge I had was trying to figure out how to work with the pieces.  I decided to mount the whole business on a circular Litko base 75mm in diameter.  This ended up being a bit too large, but workable.  Before fixing the stair piece to the base, I coated the disk with Liquitex modeling paste.  It’s an acrylic material I believed would bond quickly to the resin staircase. I was right.  The staircase itself required some trimming, easily done with a sharp X-acto knife.

While giving some time for this to dry (acrylic materials dry quite quickly,) I had some decisions to make about further assembly and priming.  The top of the staircase, a metal piece required gluing.  Despite some handy guides in the piece, it didn’t fit properly and required some trimming and puttying to get a seamless bond.  I also decided to trim and glue the General Gordon figure into his position on the staircase before priming.  There are pegs for his location that fit pretty accurately.  Done and done. The remaining figures were posed a bit of a quandary for me. The three Mahdists had to fit together into extremely tight spaces on the stairs. It was going to take some doing. I assembled them and hand-primed them using Liquitex Gesso.

One of the problems I knew I was going to have was reproducing the feeling of Joy’s work.  The painting is very dark.  Gordon is dark and backlit by light.  The Dervishes pop into the painting because of their white jibbahs, and I knew I would not have the light on dark feeling working for me. So, I did the best I could.

I started painting the staircase with Ceramcoat Ivory, which gives it a slightly yellow color, and dry brushed it with antique white.  Not sure it makes a big difference, but there is lightening in places.  After that I began painting Gordon.  He appears almost black with a red fez and red shirt in the painting.  I painted trousers and jacket with Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue.  The fez was painted Vallejo Flat Red, and the shirt I painted Vallejo Vermillion.  I highlighted the jacket and trousers with a mix of the DPB and light gray.  This worked better than the Vallejo Prussian Blue or mixing the DPB with white.  The tonal differences are there, but not as stark.  I used Reaper Tanned Flesh for his skin tones, and Ceramcoat Antique Brown for his hair, sideburns and moustache. I think I did manage to get his eyeballs in there with some blue-gray.

While I was waiting in between bouts of painting Gordon I primed the three Dervish figures.  I also painted the long railing and glued to its place on the wall. The railings I painted Ceramcoat Territorial Beige, which is a nice medium brown color.

The three Mahdist warriors are tricky.  The figures themselves are fairly easy.  They wear white jibbahs (a loose garment made from coarse cotton cloth, covered with patches,) and two wear turbans.  The positioning of the soldiers on the staircase is critical.  All three of the figures have pegs to help position them in holes cast into the staircase, but the position of the holes are not correct.  The figures have no bases, so holding them properly to paint them can be tricky.  So these are the complications in working with them.  Having said that, they are quite nice and relatively easy to paint.

I chose the standing spearman to paint first.  In the painting, his back is to the illustrator and he is closest to the wall.  His position is critical and he should be glued first on to the staircase.  He is the only black warrior.  As I stated earlier, I primed all the figures with Liquitex Gesso, which is a white chalk-like material.  Then I went over the jibbah with Ceramcoat White, two coats. Next, I painted the flesh using Ceramcoat Burnt Umber, which is a wonderfully rich dark brown and highlighted with Spice Brown.  I used black for the hair, which is probably a little shorter than it should be and dry brushed it with Ceramcoat Charcoal.  Though historically the jibbah patches could be quite bright and multi-colored, those in the painting are limited to red and black.  I used vermillion for the red patches for its brightness. It’s important to get this figure first.  The two semi-prone figures on the staircase won’t fit the narrow area properly if this figure takes more than the allotted space.

The remaining dervishes are Arab and I used Vallejo Medium Skin Tone for their flesh.  No beards and their faces are sort of hidden from view.  The swordsman is closest to Gordon and the elbow peg fits into the notch in the staircase.  Nothing else special to mention.  With all three dervish figures, I used a light gray paint to show creases and the outlines of the cotton belting.  I probably could have used a lighter color, but I wanted it to be clearly visible from a distance.  The vignette will be in a display case, and I would like to be seen without being handled. The final figure, the prone spearman was a little trickier.  The contours of the steps are built into his body, and there is a peg on his elbow.  No way does that peg fit into the staircase notch provided.  In fact the painting shows this figure at the foot of the staircase, so I ended up cutting the peg off his arm.  After doing this the figure fit fine.

A second view of Gordon's Last Stand.  The positioning of the Mahdist warriors on the stairway can be tricky.

A second view of Gordon’s Last Stand. The positioning of the Mahdist warriors on the stairway can be tricky.

I’ll close with this.  I’m an out-of-the-box kind of miniaturist.  I tend not to plan ahead and don’t like to go to a lot of extra trouble.  I think the vignette as I’ve approached it works fine.  The Joy painting shows many Mahdist soldiers in the foreground and it certainly would look great with a few of the Perry Nile Swordsmen and Spearmen to fill the space.  Not what I need to do at this time, but an interesting idea.

General Gordon’s Last Stand was a different kind of painting experience for me.  It was a pleasure to work on and I enjoyed it very much.  Recommended.

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.