Sensibility was never one of my long suits

I sat down with Mrs. Smyth, my favorite person in the world, and revealed my momentous decision.  I was going to order all the figures I needed for my Aztec project and put them on my credit card.

I’d just paid off my card from all our summer expenses on the Alaska cruise, so this was kind of a big deal.  I promised to pay it off from my fairly generous allowance, but it meant I had to be good. Record purchases at a minimum, and a planned flight to Mexico was out (yes I’m kidding.)

I told Lorri it would be about $150 with orders to Eureka Miniatures USA and Outpost Wargame Services in the U.K. A hundred fifty bucks.

Dreamer

Two Hundred fifty dollars later, the orders are in.

The Eureka order arrived in no time.  I sent it in on Veterans Day, a holiday, and it got here Monday the 14th.  That’s good service. No it’s better than that. I contacted Rob at Eureka USA about my previous order about being shorted some figures in packs, and he sent along up the “make-up” guys together with the Huaxtecs, slingers, Spanish swordsmen, porters and command figures I ordered. Life is good.

I received an e-mail from Outpost on Sunday.  I’ve purchased Tlaxcalans to fill out the last of my Spanish allies. I needed 48 figures, I ended up with 80.  Hardly anything.  But with shipping and insurance it did add up to 99.75 quid. Supposed to mail tomorrow (Tuesday) so I’m looking forward to it. At least a real person named Jeff contacted me as opposed to the goofball non-human at The Assault Group.

In any case, the two orders will keep me painting for a while.

Rule Changes

I was pleased with the changes in the rules at The Museum of Flight game.  The Aztecs were able to hold their own a bit better.  However, they did become a bit too aggressive around the unit of horse and the war dogs.  I think I will require them to be “fearsome: when charging them.  That will likely make life harder for the Aztecs.  May also allow both units to countercharge, so they will fight with their attack factor too.

Music to Paint To

selling-england-by-the-pound

With mounting concern about space for more record looming, I’d kind of taken a bit of a break from record purchases. Sort of. Temporarily. Sigh. Back off the wagon now.

I picked up a copy of Selling England by the Pound by Genesis. This is the 1973 version of the band that would go on to mega-stardom in the late 70’s and 80’s built around singer/drummer Phil Collins. The Selling England version fronts vocalist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Peter Gabriel, though Collins is there and does take a turn at the mictophone. The lead guitarist is Steve Hackett, though Mike Rutherford (Mike and the Mechanics) also play s 12-string and cello. The terrifically talented Tony Banks is on keyboards It is an interesting mix of the kind of English folk music that band its start, with some solid guitar work, and the synth sounds that would become a hallmark of the band.

This is a concept album.  It’s a collection of stories and fables that blend together to become part of a theme. I confess I’ve listened to it only once, which is probably far less than than it deserves.  The first observation, is that, musically, this is a fantastic record. Unfortunately it didn’t fully grab me. In 1973 it was not uncommon to have  to have seven minute plus songs. On Selling England by the Pound there are eight tracks. Of those, four are over eight minutes, and two are over 11 minutes.  Is that the end of the world? No but it is clearly from a rock era, thankfully, gone by, and to truly appreciate them it requires multiple listenings. On the other hand, though the songs are long, they lack the arrogance and bombast of Emerson, Lake and Palmer or Yes at their worst. There is real story-telling happening here, rather than just showing off.

Selling England By the Pound is unquestionably a solid record, but I hesitate to give it my highest marks.  It seems very much a product of its time, But if long, brilliantl-played story songs are your cup of tea, I can’t recommend it highly enough. .

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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.

Playtest: Quetzcoatl Rampant

Today was the day, long awaited. David Sullivan, Dave Schueler, Dave Demick and I met at Meeples in West Seattle to try David’s adaptation of the Lion Rampant rules to the Conquest of Mexico. Last night I sat down and made some quick play sheets for the Quetzacoatl Rampant adaptation. . This morning I laminated them.I reorganized Aztecs according to the rules. I have thirteen units instead of eleven.

This morning I piled by prized collection into the car, and   I picked up Dave D. in Tacoma at 9:00, grabbed Brother Schueler in West Seattle, and we actually made it to Meeples before the store opened at 10:00

I knew the table space would be fair small, and I was okay with that for our first run through.  I love playing games-miniatures or boardgames-in the Meeples cafe.  It is terribly comfortable, if small.  The food and beer is tasty and cheap.  And because what we do isn’t typically what is played at the store, there are always folks interested in what we are playing.

I set up the table with the Spanish advancing on an Aztec village. The Spanish had a unit of horse, five of sword and buckler men, two arquebusiers, a dog pack, and a unit of Tlaxcallan allies. The Aztecs had four units of skirmishers, a unit of Eagle knights, three units of veteran warriors and two units of peasant warriors.

I didn’t have any expectations.  The Aztecs were pretty outclassed, but didn’t know by how much.  Let’s just put it this way, the Spanish won in a walkover. There were Spanish figure losses, but the Aztecs, though they pointed out about the same as the Spanish, were not able to do much to them.

We went over some simple changes that would balance out the rules: reducing the Spanish armor value by a point, improving the Aztec’s move, shoot and attack values, reduce the accuracy of Spanish arquebusiers.

Like I said, simple changes, and all we need is the opportunity to try it again. Would like to give the game a whirl on a larger table so we can cram all the Aztecs into the game. Can’t wait to give it a try.

 

New directions and adventures with “the dip”

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

Let’s start slower

Games

Dragon Rampant

Dragon-Rampant-Mock-Up

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

En Garde

En Garde!

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

Quetzacoatl Rampant!

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

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

Painting

DSCN1552

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

Minwax Dip

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

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

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

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

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

King Crimson

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

Love the cover