The feast of St. Crispian and this wargamer’s life.

perry-royal-armouries-agincourt

Alan and Michael Perry’s amazing diorama in the Royal Armoury to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Agincourt. 

October 25th is the anniversary of Agincourt, fought in 1415, 601 years ago.  Agincourt is one of the best remembered of all British battles, one that recalls good King Hal with his tattered band of yeomen drowning a vastly superior French army in a sea of mud, while raining down a storm of arrows that left the French broken, dispirited and leaderless. That’s all hokum of course, according to the new research about the Hundred Years War and this most English of battles.

But this post isn’t to revisit Agincourt and our changing perceptions of the battle, it’s really about me. I don’t claim to know everything about the battle.  In fact, I’m regularly confronted with the fact that I know little.  But learning about Agincourt set me on a road I remain happy to follow: a healthy obsession with the Hundred Years War I play out in reading and miniature wargaming.

the-face-of-battle

My battered 1976 copy of the Face of Battle. It wlll be the last book I ever part with. 

No work influenced my connection to this period more than John Keegan’s 1976 book, the Face of Battle.  Intended to be a look inside battle, from the soldier’s perspective, Keegan devoted about 37 pages to breaking down the experience of archers, men-at arms, and horsemen at the battle.  Drawing from mostly secondary sources, Keegan’s observations were vivid.  Though measured against today’s writing, it may seem wholly incorrect, The Face of Battle drew me into the period and put Agincourt on my list of must do’s.

I read Keegan’s book in 1978, the summer I graduated from college.  It is about this time I also plunged fully into miniature wargaming. Surprisingly, or maybe not, I didn’t leap headlong into the HYW in miniatures.  My friends and I played Napoleonics in 15mm, WRG Ancients, again in 15mm. Later I did George Gush’s Renaissance rules, Lynn Bodin’s Imperialim, my first flirtation with 25mm figures. But no Agincourt.

In 1989 I saw Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V. And then I saw it again.  I bought it on VHS, I have it on DVD.  I can stream it on Netflix. It is not historically accurate, but the words mean so much to me. Whether it is Exeter reminding the Dauphin that young King Henry has matured and will “make your Paris Louvre” shake with gunstones, or the brilliance of the Crispian’s Day address, it still gives me chills. I’ve watched it at least a hundred times. Maybe I’ll watch it today, make it an even 101. If you’ve never watched Branagh at his finest, it’s here for you to view. If you don’t want to become one of his “band of brothers,” check to see if you have a heartbeat.

I began my Hundred Years War project at least 15 years ago.  I have more figures painted for it than any other, and far more unpainted miniatures than for any other period. I’ve hosted skirmish games and chevauchees.  I’ve run naval battles.  My goal is play Poitiers, rather than Agincourt, because the circumstances of the more famous battle are so difficult to recreate on the game table. While I have plenty of unpainted figures, I really want to take advantage of the new Perry plastics, which have the dual virtues of being beautiful AND cheap.

Though I’ve given up on Agincourt as a game, without my exposure to it, the passion that will always inspire me for the period would never have begun. What began with Keegan and Branaugh continues with Jonathan Sumption and Anne Curry, with the superb miniatures by the Perry brothers, and watching my friend Chris Craft roll his beautiful miniatures out on the table to play Verneuil, and of course, Agincourt itself.

Like most wargamers, I am easily distracted.  My interests change with the moment-new rules, new miniatures, what my friends are doing–but my desire to continue with the project, paint what I have and more, find new ways to game the Hundred Years War, will never die.

Cortes is ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few of my favorite projects

As Quetzacoatl Rampant begins to wind down, I’ve already started looking at some of many unfinished projects and what to work on next.  I’ve promised myself I won’t start anything new until at least next summer. My copy of The Men Who Would Be King, the next installment by Lion Rampant creator Daniel Mersey, arrived from Amazon yesterday.  I’m pretty sold on the Sudan Campaigns with all the various elements from Hicks to Kitchener, maybe even Tel-el-Kebir.

Another project, probably need like a hole-in-the-head.  I’ve done started lots of projects.  Parted with many of them too. 15mm WWII-couple of them-gone, sold them both. 15mm ACW, gave them a good home to an old friend. 15mm WRG Ancients and Renaissance-parted with decades ago. I only have a couple of 15mm projects anymore.  I have 30+ DBA armies I haven’t played with in years, plus a few unpainted for good measure. There is my 15mm Spanish Civil War army I’d like to rebase and perhaps play Osprey’s A World Aflame. I also have a bucket of 15mm fantasy figures I always intended to make into a Middle-Earth campaign built around the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

But my heart is really set in my 28mm projects.  I have more than I wish to name.  All of them have importance to me, and together with various air and naval projects will be what keeps me in the hobby until I can no longer see well enough to paint.

Even so, I have some favorites that are finished or nearly so, sort of. Maybe. Here are six in no particular order:

Cogs

In 2011 I was utterly consumed by the Hundred Years War.  Today I only have an unhealthy obsession. While reading and painting anything I could get my hands on, I decided I ignored the naval aspects of the conflict and needed to do something about it.  After all there were the naval battles at Winchelsea and La Rochelle, and the decisive engagement at Sluys. I set out to acquire some very nice cog miniatures available from Outpost games.  Unfortunately they were about 3.5 pounds apiece, and needing about 80 or more ships began to consider a better way.

I decided to build them myself.  In the winter and spring of 2011 I did exactly that. I set up a cog shipyard, building nearly 100 ships.  I also built a half dozen galleys and all the terrain for the scenario.  British author David Manley graciously provided me with a beta copy of his medieval naval rules, and I was off to the races.  It was a wonderful accomplishment.  We playtested it once, ran it at Enfilade, and used the ships in a medieval naval campaign at Dave Schueler’s house for his annual naval games.  Just got to get those babies out some more.

It is a completed project that was all my own work.  Perhaps my proudest moment in the hobby.

Lewis and Clark and the Great Spanish-American War 1797-1810

No, there really wasn’t a Spanish American War 1797-1810.  But there could have been.  This project came about because I had another unhealthy obsession, the Lewis and Clark expedition from about 1997-2010.  After some reading Donald Jackson’s Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and running across the authorization of a Spanish force to arrest Captain Lewis and his followers, I decided there was a game in it. I tried it with mixed success at Enfilade and Drumbeat.

But the project really grew further reading about the Burr Conspiracy, the treason of General James Wilkinson, and some additional stuff about the Spanish frontier in America.  The country was so close to war with Spain before and after the purchase of Louisiana Territory, why not put together some forces for a hypothetical conflict.  I put together some Chickasaw allies for Spain, hundreds of militia for the Americans, and regulars for both sides. I also added some home built terrain.  The crowning glory was the game based on the Burr Conspiracy I hosted at Enflade in 2013.  It was simply the most interesting game I’ve ever run.

I have about 200 Indians, Spanish and Americans left to paint for this period.  I should probably just get ’em done.  Don’t see adding to it, though.

Any project with Daveshoe

I am blessed with some really wonderful friends.  Almost all of them are gamers of one stripe or another.  But our friendships go deeper than the gaming table. Dave Schueler is one of those guys. Whether we are talking games, baseball, politics or life in general, Dave is someone I want to grab a beer and hang out with.

We’ve done projects together for Enfilade at least the last ten years, and all of them have been memorable.  Dave is so much better at designing games than anybody I know.  If I have a harebrained idea, he can usually build a game around it that is balanced with intriguing options for both sides.  He is amazing.  And when I say projects together, I’m mostly the painting mule, because that’s what I’m good at-though Dave does his share and more.

The Channel Dash, the air attack on the Tripitz, a naval action in the Straits of Hormuz, hydroplane and air racing, these are some of the projects Dave and I have worked on together.  My favorite, however, is the 1942 Raid on St. Nazaire we hosted at Enfilade 2014.  We discussed it for years, usually over beers at the Elliott Bay Brewery in conversations that began, “Ya know, we outta . . .” The result-I became very familiar with the shade of paint known as Mountbatten Pink, and the game won best raid-themed game at the convention.

One last thing, Dave is always there to help me run games at the convention.  He always knows what I’ve got going on, and helps gamers walk through my crazy schemes.  He was there for the Burr Conspiracy game, a diplomacy/miniatures game which only allowed written diplomatic communications.  He helped out David Sullivan and I with our Fort Pickens game last year, an attempt at a convention style Ironclads game with simplified fort rules. Both went surprisingly well, but chiefly because we had extra hands.

We haven’t discussed plans for 2017, but I’m sure we will.  I think I have one more slot open. Maybe we should re-run an oldie but goody. There are so many to choose from. Nothing left to paint at the present time, except a dozen hydroplanes.  But there could be . . .

Mars and the Red Captains

I don’t know how many years ago it was, maybe as many as twenty, Mark Waddington and I began talking about our unpainted collection of RAFM figures for Frank Chadwick’s Space 1889 Soldier’s Companion Rules.  About ten years ago, or maybe longer, we agreed to get after it and turn it into a game.  All it took was a partner to really get me going.  I painted all my minis and got them ready to play.  But Mark was the true evil genius.  All I can do is paint, but Mark made the toys and caught the eyes not only of gamers, but of Frank Chadwick himself.  Museum quality air ships, steam tanks, earth-boring vehicles all magically appeared at his finger tips like so many shiny quarters

We were hosting games at Dragonflight, ConQuest, and Enfilade and regularly attracting crowds.  Games of 18 or 20 or more gamers would show up at our tables begging to play, with the two of us running games-we couldn’t swat ’em away. The game at Enfilade, however long ago, had 22 players, four GM’s and is the only non-historical game to win Best in Show.

But more than that, the Martian games really created a cottage industry of mostly South Sound gamers who wanted in on the fun.  We hosted regular games supported by guys who were quietly, but rapidly amassing their own RAFM, Parroom Station.  Venusians, Martians, European allies, various mechanicals, even Gene Anderson’s efforts to do the 1/1200 Sky Galleons of Mars in 28mm are all by-products of this project.  All the interested parties called ourselves “The Red Captains” for those non Martians seeking fame and fortune on the Red Planet.

Though our ardor has cooled a bit over the past few years, the interest never dies. Gene’s work was the last big thing, until our efforts to put together gunboat rules for the Canals this summer.  Still a project I’m proud to be a part of. Almost all of my stuff is painted.  About 40 figures of flying Martians left to complete, and a unit of steam-powered mechanical horse.  Less than 50 figures in all.

Hydroplanes

You almost have to be a native Northwesterner to understand my passion for this racing game.  It grew out of an air racing game designed post-9/11 when we were looking for a non-lethal game to run at The Museum of Flight. It morphed into hydroplane racing while a group of us were sitting around one Sunday afternoon at Enfilade, waiting patiently for the crowds to disperse.

Dave Schueler designed the game around a simple series of choices gamers could make constructing their hydroplane and driver, and in-game choices driven by probability as the game progressed.  I love running it.  I love playing it.  But most of all I love painting boats and promoting it to others. We’ve been fortunate to see the game played in other places, including the U.K., learned of through blog posts and other ‘net sources.

I really want to run a game at Unlimited Hydroplane Racing Museum in Kent.  I’d paint pretty much any boat I can.  I have twelve unpainted boats at the moment, including classic ’50’s and 60’s boats and the 70’s pickleforks.

The Hundred Years War

I’ve gone through various phases with the HYW.  I am completely fascinated with the history.  Every time there is a new book available I snap it up.  It is interesting, it is complex, and it has constantly evolving scholarship.  More than any other period, I am completely hooked.

That said, I’ve been working away on figures for this period for a decade or more.  By far, I have more figures for the Hundred Years War than any other period–probably 600 painted figures, with maybe another 400 unpainted. I started with semi-skirmish, looking for rules that would allow me to do some hundreds of small actions of the period.  I cobbled together a homegrown set of rules called Arrowstorm, mostly inspired by Arte Conliffe’s Tactica Medieval Siege rules. But then Lion Rampant happened, and I was completely sold on those rules with their ease of play and interesting quirky randomness.

But my real desire is to build, not only my semi-skirmish, singly mounted, armies, but armies for large scale battles.  My dream is to do Poitiers, 1356.  I have a fair number of multi-figure based units, but lots more are needed.  I also need a set of rules I’m comfortable with that take into consideration the uniqueness of the period. Medieval combat mostly gets rolled into ancients rules that mash everything together and decide that Mauryan Indian longbows that fought against Alexander the Great at the Hydaspes and 14th Cenury English bows are the same,  and had the same tactical use. I think that’s stupid and lazy. So I’ll probably end up doing something on my own. I’ve run a sample example using a Fire and Fury engine.  It didn’t work well first time out of the box–another game Daveshoe helped me with.  I’d like to try it again.

Literally hundreds of figures left to paint, and I can see myself acquiring more of the Perry plastics that are recently released.

There are lots more projects I didn’t write about-American Revolution, Maxmillian in Mexico, ACW Naval, air and coastal gaming.  I love them all, but I’ve already blathered on too long.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Bins of stuff that needs paint 

 

 

 

A good day to travel to Pensacola

To say I’ve hit a gaming dry spot is a gross understatement. Yes, I’ve been painting and planning, but I haven’t played a legit miniatures game since DANG at the end of December.

playtest 1

Tennessee and Tuscaloosa slowly make their way around Santa Rosa Island, while Nashville speeds past them on its way to reengage Fort Pickens. All ships in sight-Tennessee, Tuscaloosa, Nashville, Stonewall and North Carolina (Scorpion) are Thoroughbred models.  The Fort is Bay Area Yards’ Fort Jackson.

But today I packed up a pile of my !/600 ACW ships, my big star fort, headed north to pick up Dave Schueler and made our way to The Panzer Depot to meet David Sullivan and try out my Pensacola game.  In order to do that, of course, I had to survive some ridiculous Puget Sound traffic, but the less said the better.

The plan was to walk through my Pensacola scenario.  I knew it was likely just the three of us to do the walk through, so I took on the game master’s role of running the fort, while the Dave’s took on the role of running the Confederate fleet.  This was strictly a play test, and I had some specific goals in mind.

  1. Could the hundreds of guns mounted in Fort Pickens be homogenized down to a few simple die rolls per turn.
  2. Could the Confederate ships mount a destructive attack on the fort?
  3. Was the game interesting enough to hold players’ attention for four hours of game play?

At the same time, I omitted a couple of important pieces of the scenario.  There basically was no Union player.  They get to run some Union naval pieces they’ll get to choose from. They were not available today in order to keep things simple.

David took the Bahama Squadron including the ironclad sloops Stonewall and North Carolina, as well as the Nashville from Mobile. Dave took the remainder of the Mobile squadron, including the rams Tennessee II and Tuscaloosa, as well as the wooden gunboats Morgan, Gaines, and Selma. Their mission was to inflict sufficient damage to Fort Pickens to force it’s surrender at the end of the scenario.

First, a confession about Ironclads.  It’s a set of rules that I dearly love.  I’m certain I’ve played those rules more than any other I’ve ever owned.  But they are very much a product of their time: complicated tables, a series of die rolls for each and every gun fired and hit scored. In 1979 that is what people wanted.  But they are an impediment today.  Though I have played many different sets of ACW naval rules, I still believe Ironclads gives the best feel of the period.  I’ve run games using these rules at conventions before, and players have enjoyed them.  My goal was to take the rules, do some slight modifications, and make them just a little more playable for a convention setting, retaining every bit of the historical feel the rules impart.

playtest 2

A bit wider view of the table as Selma travels around the bar at the harbor’s entrance and Morgan sits silently, most of her crew dead after a boiler explosion. Selma is a Bay model. The Morgan is Thoroughbred Figures.

One of the things I did to simplify the fire from Fort Pickens was divide the fort into five faces.  The Confederates would have to inflict critical damage to three of the five faces to force its surrender.  The fort, with literally hundreds of guns, would return fire.  I kept it simple by requiring a simple die roll by each ship in the target face’s arc of fire.  The highest die roll would be the target for the fort that turn.  If ships tied for the highest die roll, there would be multiple targets.  After targets were identified, each one would suffer a six sided die roll that determined the number of hits, 1-4 per turn.  then there was a simple die roll for each hit on a table divided for ironclads and wooden ships. The die roll spelled out the damage.

The job of the Confederates was simple: pummel the fort.  They would play the game with the goal of inflicting as much damage as possible. When the game was over, damage would be assessed, and morale losses taken by the fort caused by loss of armor, guns, crew, fires or magazine explosions and comparing it to a modified morale level would determine if the fort surrendered or not.

We played the game for about two hours.  David and Dave are Ironclads veterans and knew quite well what they were trying to do.  We decided immediately to scrap order writing.  It would prevent collisions entering the constricted ship canal and perhaps remove an element of humor for the game master, but it was one step we could get rid of and keep players concentrated on their goals.

With that, the first move was taken and the fort was pounded. The North Carolina, with it’s turreted British naval guns was by far the most dangerous, doing huge amounts of armor damage, while the Mobile squadron with its slower ironclad rams and narrower fields of fire had difficulty getting lined up.

But the fort dished out its own volume of fire.  After each turn the Confederate ships in each face’s field of fire would roll a six sided die. The high roll would be the target for the fort that turn.  It became a bit of a comedy to see who would be the lucky recipient of the fort’s attention.  One turn Dave rolled four sixes for his five ships.   They all took damage.  As you can imagine, hits on the ironclads were largely ineffective.  Lots of minor armor hits and no-effects, but occasionally they’d get whacked pretty good.  The Stonewall took a fairly painful waterline critical penetration that resulted in flotation damage and speed loss, but that was an outlier.  Nashville and North Carolina both took minor steering hits, but both resumed their mission of destruction against the fort.

Much different story on the wooden vessels.  The Morgan was hit repeatedly, and eventually suffered a critical boiler explosion that virtually disabled the ship.  The other wooden vessels, Selma and Gaines, took less damage but were finding a way to exit the area at the end of the game. All suffered serious armor damage, though they were still fighting their guns.

As I explained, we played about two hours of game time.  Figure that at the convention we might have as much as three and a quarter hours given set-up and teaching noobs the rules. They would also likely be less efficient at running the Confederate ships-but maybe I’m wrong. By the end the Fort was in serious trouble.  It’s total morale value was reduced from 24 points to 8.  There was little reason to believe they wouldn’t polish off Fort Pickens, so we called it. We also talked it through.  We all agreed the fort would be in better shape with Union defenders.  I shared my ideas for those defenders, but honestly I think I’m going to put together two or three packages for the Union players to choose from, which will each include a couple of ships and additional shore defenses.

All in all, I considered the playtest a success:

  1. The fort gunfire was very smooth.  Eliminated the too hit rolls for hundreds of guns per turn and just went with hits.  Fort gunfire maybe took five minutes each turn. I will be adding an additional penetration damage to the Ironclads column, but otherwise I’m happy.
  2. The Confederates showed they could definitely do damage to the fort.  If they had more gun hits, the game would have been over.  I need to take a look at the effect of cumulative crew losses. We already agreed the loss of five guns in a fort face would reduce the number of hits inflicted by the fort by one.  Maybe the same with crew losses.
  3. Was the game interesting enough.  Well, if it was just the Confederates pounding the fort into submission, I think it would be a snooze, though maybe it would be enough for some players early Sunday morning. But adding a another shore battery and Union ships to the fort’s defenses would give the Confederate player plenty to do.

It leaves me with a little more tweaking to do but not much.

 

 

 

The year’s big project

Enfilade made it official last week and announced the theme for the 2015 convention.  It will be Raids.  Not really much of a raids person, though I could imagine a few raids that might be worth gaming.  I’ve painted some figures for raiding the frontier during the American Revolution.  Maybe, we’ll see.

Actually I’m fibbing.  Daveshoe and I have long discussed the possibility of gaming the St. Nazaire Raid of 1942. This raid was carried out against the Normandie docks, the only one on the Atlantic coast capable of hosting the German battleship Tirpitz.  In a daring land/sea expedition elements of the Royal Commandoes and Royal Navy destroyed the docks and important infrastructure in St. Nazaire’s maritime/industrial region. Unlike lots of games, there aren’t a couple hundred 28mm figures that will need to be painted.  Instead, we’ll be modeling the game table for a 1/600 scale coastal action.  I have many of the British gunboats already built and painted, but I have eight more to go.  There will buildings galore to paint, felt game space to construct and etc., etc., I’ll keep you posted on the project as we proceed.

I’m currently painting my Fife and Drum British Guards from the American Revolution.  These are exquisite 28mm figures, with just the right amount of detail.  They were sculpted to model troops for the 1777 campaign.  Though their coats are a bit long, they’ll do for Guilford Courthouse as well.  They are very nice, but a little on the small side. Smaller than Perry’s 28mm AWI, and even a little smaller than Old Glory figures.  I’m working on a 24 figure unit and making steady progress.  I hope to have them finished by the end of the week.

What then?  I have fourteen singly mounted militia and civilians I want to paint for the AWI frontier scenarios I mentioned earlier. These are all Perry figures that I expect to paint up very quickly.  They’re nice figures, a good variety of men, women and children.

I proposed to do some role playing with my son and friend David, and promised to take on the role of game master.  I asked Casey what kind of role playing he would most be interested in, and he thought it would be fun to do some swashbuckling along the lines of the Three Musketeers.  I thought that was a great idea because it gives me an excuse to pull out my Eureka 40mm And All For One figures.  They are unpainted, but I think they’ll take the next place in the painting queue.  I’ve been re-watching my copy of the Richard Lester stories (The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974) are by far the best versions of the Dumas story; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.) I’ve also checked out the BBCAmerica The Musketeers series for story ideas and I’m anxious to get started.  I’m likely to use Fudge as the rules set but am consulting the ancient GDW EnGarde rules as well as Ganesha Games Flashing Blades for ideas as well.  I have the original nine figure set Eureka issued a while back, and I’ve ordered a couple more of the assassin type figures, and I’m looking out for where I might be able to pick up a few more additional figure types for the era.

Finally, there’s been an increasing amount of talk about the SAGA rules for some quickly small action gaming.  I have 25 painted Vikings and was pawing through my piles of unpainted lead hoping to find a few more.  Indeed I discovered another 20+ miniatures which I want to paint.  That way I can join the cool crowd too.  I would guess I’ll work on these while I’m painting my Musketeers.

In any case I’ve got lots on my plate to keep me busy.  I can assure you I’ll do my very best to make it a good time.

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.

Counting down to the end of the year: A look ahead

With the Bladensburg project behind me, I’ve been working on the Spanish-American Project.  To make it easy, lets just call it the Louisiana War.  I’ve managed to acquire quite a few figures for this project, and I see myself putting most of 2014 working on them.  I’m not quite sure how many figures I have, but I think when it’s all over it will be something like this:

Spanish Forces

6 X 10 Spanish regular infantry units

2 X 12 Spanish grenadier units

3 X 10 Spanish dismounted militia units

1 X 10 Spanish colonial dragoon units

3 X 10 Spanish mounted militia units

1 X 10 Mexican Hussar unit

2 X 10 mounted Comanche warriors (Spanish allies)

2 X 10 dismounted Comanche warriors (Spanish allies)

12 X 10 Chickasaw warriors

4 sections Spanish light artillery

2 sections Spanish heavy artillery

This is a lot of stuff, and quite a bit of it is painted, but very little, like none, of the Spanish horse is ready. The units provide the maximum flexibility for scenario making.  Some would not be combined.  For example, the Chickasaw would not be combined with the militia or the Comanches. In any case, there is plenty here to develop some scenarios.  Spanish uniforms remain nominally the same for the entire period, except for the Mexican Hussars.  It’s unclear this unit was ever raised to replace the frontier militia or Cuera soldiers.  It was suggested, but it isn’t clear the proposal was ever adopted before Mexico gained her independence.

Americans

12 X 12 Regular Infantry

8 X 10 dismounted militia (included rifle armed)

2 X 10 U.S. Dragoons

3 X 10 mounted militia rifles

4 sections light artillery.

Americans are pretty much same-same regardless of when or where they fight.  There are some serious changes that occur throughout this period 1797-1810.  After the Treaty of Greenville that ends the Indian campaign in the Northwest Territories, the army economizes.  The light infantry and light battalions go away.  The uniforms stay roughly the same for the regular infantry throughout the period, keeping red facings only, and the colorful designations of the sub-legions going away.  The army organizes the infantry into three regiments, downsized to two during the Jefferson administration (1801).  The light dragoons likewise retain their colors until Secretary of War Alexander Hamilton designs them a new uniform in 1797.  Their uniforms, issued in 1798, are green.  Green.  GREEN. With black facings and yellow lace.  Go figure.  They retain these uniforms until Jefferson disbands the dragoons altogether in 1801.  Rifle units are re-introduced to the army in the latter part of this period, but their uniforms are odd, so I’ll likely avoid them.

I’ve included some photos of some of my newly painted units. Dragoons and the Luisiana Regt 108These are the green-coated American dragoons I mentioned.  the lighting for these photos was poor, so I apologize for their darkness.  The are the Wayne’s Legion dragoons by Old Glory.  They do quite nicely.  I used German Luftwaffe Camo Green as the base color.  It’s a lighter green than the picture shows.  The flag is all hokum.  Nobody knows what a U.S. dragoon flag looks for this period.  The earliest recorded U.S. cavalry flag following the Revolution is for a militia dragoon flag in 1819, and seems unlike most other cavalry flags. Thankfully you can’t see it in the dark.  I went with a mid blue flag with scroll work similar to War of 1812 infantry battalions in red.  It’s possible I’m just wasting my time doing a flag at all, but one of the figures does carry a pole for a flag. I actually really like the way these turned out.

Dragoons and the Luisiana Regt 110Dragoons and the Luisiana Regt 112

These two units represent the grenadier company and a fusilier company from the Luisiana Regiment.  This was a trained, disciplined militia unit raised in the New World.  They are RSM figures cast under license by the Dayton Painting Consortium.  They are simple, straightforward units, as most Spanish units are.  They tend to be white, usually with colored facings, waistcoats and trousers.  The Spanish militia in North America were chronically understrength.  My regiment will consist of four companies including a grenadier company that is a bit larger than the fusiliers.  The Lusianans are now complete.  The next regiment will be a mix of two companies from the Irish Hibernian Regiment in their red regimentals and two companies from another militia unit.

I’ve primed my first mounted militia unit.  I plan to complete it during the Christmas break. I’ll post photos when I’m finished.