Monday, 19 March 2018

Aim low part 2

Quick update - yup I got the other 3 buildings done - here is Luigi Berlesconi and his brave shipmates moving down the street

and I was thinking about the walls for my Legation.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

As Richard Sharpe would say - "Aim low, fire more often"

The internet is a wonderful thing. It allows us to see and share our projects, the materials and techniques we use, and in doing so can be a great source of inspiration. Have a look here and you can see what I mean Canister & Grape blog  Superb work.

Musing a while however, I am also aware that there is also a danger of making comparisons with others projects, and finding yours wanting, becoming disillusioned with the result of another shelved project. This has happened to me countless times in the past.

Looking back at those Boxer Rebellion buildings I mentioned in the last blog post, it is fair to say they are OK, but not great. Of course I would like to be great, and I probably possess some of the skills (not all) to improve them. The question is, because they are not great, should I spend time and money making them better or plough on accepting "not Great" is "good enough"?  I could source some plastic tiled roof sections and incorporate them? Get some resin accessories? Buy in some mdf windows and doors etc?

I'm going to say "no" to all that at the moment, because above all else I've come to the conclusion that although they will never be up to a demonstration standard, what I really need now is to plough on and make the most \ best of what I\we have now so we have enough to make the game work. I can always come back and rejuvenate them at a later date, but for now what I want is volume, not accuracy. They're "good enough" for now

So how to progress? This afternoon, assuming the snow allows, I will spray another three buildings with the hope of getting them finished tonight. That's a bit ambitious I think, but time will tell.

Planning slightly further ahead I'm going to investigate using the same basic buildings as the more imposing Legation buildings. It may seem strange but the offset between the size and scale of the  buildings and the table area means any attempt at a realistic model is doomed to failure. That being said all we need is something representative, and having accepted that, maybe there is some use to be had recycling the old carcasses . I'll stare meaningfully at them tomorrow and see what I can come up with.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

No corner left uncut - Boxer Rebellion Buildings

Sometimes I have some stupid ideas. As I mentioned a little while ago our club (Hartlepool Wargames Society) is looking for a social game - something a bit Beer & Pretzels that a lot of us can get around a table and enjoy. We were looking at Boxer Rebellion using "The Men Who Would Be Kings" (TMWWBK) from Osprey.

Last night we gave them a trial run, just using some odds and sods of terrain we have lying around. If we do decide to commit we will have a couple of building sessions - probably resulting in a "my Legation is bigger than Yours" contest :-)  At the moment however we have an embarrassing lack of suitably Oriental buildings - so much so that I borrowed a few from the nice and friendly proprietor of Asgard Wargames in Middlesbrough (Ste didn't need them as he will be shut today and I will return them tomorrow). Even then it became obvious that we will need more, but as we were just messing about on a scratch table we dug out some old mdf buildings that were lying around. These had been rushed off some time ago for a Bolt Action tournament ran by one of our members. Frankly they are as rough as a badgers arse, and painted primer grey, but beggars can't be choosers and we have dozens of the things unloved and unused.

The game went well as a first test, and we are going again tonight with up-scaled forces and more players, but as I was packing up last night I found myself staring at our unloved Bolt Action buildings - could they be converted to use for China in 1900?

The reason I thought it may be possible was the windows - which were more grill like than usual. The roofs are a bit too high and regular but that's a bridge that can be crossed later.

I was lucky enough in my first years at secondary school (back in the 1970s) to be taught woodwork by a Gent called Lawrence Marshall, who coincidentally happened to be my uncle - well sort of anyway, it was complicated. Mr Marshall, as all the 12 year old boys called him, was a man with a terrifying reputation but who turned out to be a superb teacher who taught us how to use our tools with care and attention, take our time,  measure twice, cut once. Sadly this was going to be the exact opposite as I only had a couple of hours between work tasks. At lunch time I grabbed a building I had brought home on the off chance, a pot of PVA, some coffee stirrers and a pair of side clippers and decided to have a go - the aim being to convert one before this evening's rerun. No frills, no measuring, working as fast as I could with minimum tools or prep and just a Mk 1 eyeball and TLAR (That Looks About Right). Mr Marshall would not approve.

An hour later and I was looking for some roofing material - and discovered some corrugated card in the loft. In a total frenzy and a short time later not one, but two buildings were "done".

Inspired or possessed I grabbed a couple of cans of spray and "went for it". Primer white walls, Army painter Fur roof, some really crap US imported suede to base (that stuff is awful).

4:30 and the US spray is still wet, but bugger it I am committed so some very quick drybrushing and detailing.

5.00pm done

And incidentally I also did some more "normal" work AND made a rather fine Toad in the Hole for our tea (Dinner if you are Southern), watched "Pointless" on BBC 1 and was out the door at 6:00pm to taxi my ageing mother to her devotions at the local Bingo before heading down to the club for the game.

Here are the two finished buildings with some Legation defenders

Then at 7pm our game began. Sadly due to my misreading of the rules it ended very badly for the Legation troops who were trying to silence a Boxer battery - they got cut off and cut up amid the ruins of buildings burned in the earlier riots - here is the high water mark as Austro-Hungarian and Italian sailors vie for the glory of reaching the guns first. All the figures are from the Boxer Rebellion range available from Andy C at Old Glory.

I'm rather pleased with the buildings. I still think the pitch of the roof is wrong, but they now look slightly more Oriental, and with a little more care I think they will do just fine - now all I need is the Tartar City Wall and a couple of Legations building and..............

and Stop Press! As I was spreading PVA and cutting coffee stirrers I talked on Skype to the multi talented Dave Gray about the possibility of doing a laser cut roof to convert out BA buildings, and quick as a flash he came up with this - it is a new roof and detailing set. Rather nice I think - Well Done  Dave!

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Size Matters - Scale Creep and Pasta

OK I have to say from the outset this is a bit ranty. I also have to say there is no suggestion I could do better as a putty pusher, but this has got under my skin and I need to vent.

Why are figures getting bigger?

As a side project I've been working on some Boxer Rebellion Great Powers units. The plan is to have a go at 55 Days at Peking in 28mm as a club game using a varient on The Men Who Would Be Kings rules (TMWWBK). I already had some Old Glory Austrian Sailors. These represent the landing party from the Cruiser Zenta. Old Glory's range is several years old and a nominal 25mm, but in reality they are on the large side which means they pass easily with most "modern" 28mm .

At this point I should add OG were a bit "cute" with their Boxer range - as far as I can tell the Italian and Austrian Sailors they do are the same bodies but with a head- swap. Worse things happen at sea. The other issue is the posing - OG have gone for some very dynamic running poses, even to the point of one guy running with his rifle to his shoulder in a firing pose - very strange. And while I'm on the subject the packaging from OG is very inflexible - you get 30 in a bag, usually an Officer pose and 5 "normal" guy poses. One last minor problem is OG don't make a Skoda M93 machinegun, which the Austrians had at the Legation, but this isn't a problem as Redoubt do, and their crew, although bigger than OG, are still close enough. Anyway I have had them a while and I rather like them. I also had the mixed Naval Arty crew OG do - again mostly headswaps.

So at Vapnartak in a moment of weakness I found myself buying a bag of Pom Pom guns from OG too. The twisted logic being use the arty crew plus some suitable Matelot gunners to make a 1Prd QF which the Italians had at Peking. This has so far went smoothly, so my next thought was "if you have the gun, why not get the Italian sailors to go with it??" Here I ran into a problem. OG only sell their figures in bags of 30 (as I mentioned earlier). In TMWWBK units are generally 12 strong, and in fact the whole Italian contingent at the Legation was only 29 men meant that buying a bag of Italian Sailors was going to be wasteful, so I thought I would shop around.

I discovered 2 other manufacturers of 28mm (note that) Boxer Rebellion era Italian Sailors - A fairly old Redoubt Miniatures range, and EMP miniatures, who had recently created a range using Kickstarter and these looked quite nice, so only needing a dozen, I decided to order them from EMPs "28mm Historical" range over the weekend. EMP were damned fast and the figures arrived today. I opened the package to discover 2 had broken rifles (in transit I assume) so I got on to EMP and they happily volunteered to replace them with no quibble. All good. Then I took a look at the figures, and another problem loomed - literally. They're HUGE. Not just in relation to the admittedly "25mm" OG figures, but also in relation to just about every other figure I have.  One of them stands 37mm tall! the rest a few mm less, but all so far past 28mm foot to eye as to be useless alongside other figures. Either pasta in the late 19th Century had powers to build the physique only dreamed about by modern bodybuilders, or there is a scale creep problem.  Here's a pic to explain far more than words can.

 L-R EMP, Old Glory, Redoubt (EMP stood behind) and EMP again.

As you can see the EMP figures are literally head and shoulders taller than Redoubt and OG, and yet are nominally the same "28mm" scale. And that's before you put them on a base.

I'm at a loss as to what to do. Actually I'm not - I'm going to go to OG and buy a bag of Italians from them, even if that means spending more and getting "spares". At least they will fit with the rest of the collection. This is a shame because the EMP figures are interesting if you ignore the size problems - there are some nice poses in there (but importantly no officer - another problem with them).

Anyway - Caveat Emptor and all that, but it does wind me up that figures are getting bigger and bigger for no apparent reason. Ah Well

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Current Projects - Project Creep and Abstinence

Its been a bit quiet on the blog front - mainly due to Real World stuff, but also because I have been fairly single minded in trying to get some of the lead mountain painted and ready to play, so rather than hitting the keyboard I've been using a paintbrush.

I've also decided to pair down the number of games I'm buying into for a couple of months just to allow myself time to enjoy what I already have. This has meant some "culling" and abstaining from games that I would usually be very interested in. Current abstentions being Gangs of Rome, Dreadball 2, Tanks (ok not that hard to abstain as the game is DOA around here) and Dr Who.

The "Big Project" this year is going to be Stalingrad in 28mm for Chain of Command. To that effect I have been sticking together and assembling German Pioneers from Warlord Games, plus supports. The original plan has started to expand to include at least 4 tables of themed terrain - more on that later.

The "new" project is going to be Blood Red Skies - assuming it takes of (geddit?) I think this is a no-brainer because unlike a lot of games where the rules are an excuse to sell minis or jump on a franchise these rules were developed by that Andy Chambers bloke because he thought WW2 dogfighting hadn't been done properly. They have been his pet project for years - the delay has been down to him trying to convince games manufacturers there is a market. Having tried them, I have to say I think theyre pretty darned good and am therefore getting ready for the release in April.

And the dark horse is .............. Boxer Rebellion in 28mm. I've been looking for a multi player \ Beer & Pretzels type game I can run at our local club - Hartlepool Wargames Society. I saw some "fun" games of Rourkes Drift run at Asgard Wargames at Middlesbrough and using "The Men Who Would Be Kings" rules and thought they would work well for Boxers - so I'm slowly prepping for that too.

That's about all for the mo - some pics of work in progress to follow once I get that damned Heinkel sawed up :-) 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Musings on models - production and the future

I'm busy tooling up for a Stalingrad campaign using Chain of Command in 28mm along with a couple of friends Andy, Mark & Paul. Blogs from a couple of them can be found here and here and are well worth a look.

Anyway we were exchanging progress pics and I sent this one of some of my support options currently getting painted up. Left is a Perry Miniatures Pak 38 in metal from their Afrika Korps range, centre is a Warlord Games leIG18, right is a Rubicon Models Pak 36 and lurking at the back is a Butlers Printed Models StuIG 33.

In between banter it struck me that this pic shows just how varied and diverse our supply of toys has become, and also highlights the way technology is moving forward, even for hobbyists like us. The Perry and Warlord models are "traditional" metal, mastered (I assume) by hand from plasticard, brass rod and greenstuff then converted into production models and cast in a centrifugal casting machine. That can mean mould lines, flash and warping (though mercifully both were almost free from those) They're sold in plastic blister packs with only a generic card back.  They're both very nice too, but are still being made the way we've been making wargames models for the last 50 years and if we had the talent you or I could set up with limited outgoings and do the same (though clearly not as well) from the garage. In fact the only thing that has changed about the whole process as far as I can tell since I started wargaming in the late 1970s is the packaging, which once upon a time would probably be a zip lock bag or cardboard box.

The Rubicon Pak 36 is a CAD (Computer Aided Design) model, digitally mastered which has then been converted to an injection moulded plastic kit. Detail is therefore precise and crisp. This is a big step up both in technology and scale of production. The mould needed to produce this kit is very expensive (relatively) and therefore only viable with production runs spin casters could only dream of. Injection moulding brings more detail and precision - unlike spin casting every model should be the same, and flash and mould lines are minimal. The kit is packaged "commercially" in a full coloured printed box with printed instructions. This is a quantum leap ahead of the other two, though you could reasonably argue that when viewed at the distance you would when they were on the table you would be hard pushed to tell the difference.

The Butlers StuIG is a 3d print. It's also the budget option. In all honesty the detail is ok but not great - in fact it is positively poor on the running gear particularly, and there are areas where it has failed to print such as the front tracks, but as you can see, it painted up well enough. I'm not going to harp on about 3d printing being the next big thing - I did that a few years ago when I first saw the Shapeways aircraft for Wings of War. The difference is that 3d printing is now within the reach of "Joe Wargamer" - in fact I know of at least two local chaps who have taken the plunge and got 3d printers. At the moment this is still an art or craft rather than a full on manufacturing capability, but assuming the usual laws of cost and capability continue, we will see both costs fall and quality rise on home 3d printing - then, well who knows?

I suppose I should mention prices. All the guns came in at around £12-£13 including crew (3 on the leIG, 4 on the Pak38 and 5 on the Pak 36) The StuIG was also £12. At the time I ordered it I thought it was the only model of this vehicle available in this scale but I later found out Company B do one - albeit for £30ish.

Monday, 8 January 2018

New Year - Old Project . American War of Independence for Sharp Practice

I got distracted last year and our AWI campaign stalled because of that - basically I needed more figures than I had first calculated, and lost the painting mojo at the same time, which was a shame as the campaign was going quite well. New year, new mojo.

The scenario isn't too complex. Colonel Mitchell and his Cumberland County Militia have been ordered to assault and clear the hastily prepared abbatis that covers the causeway to the Penobscot headland and Fort George. The ground is soft but Mitchell has wisely decided to attack at low tide.

The abbatis is only a stop gap from the British point of view, an obstacle to be defended certainly, but not at the risk of heavy losses (we didn't have one so used a snake fence to mark the position). There is a piquet covering the area commanded by a certain Lt John Moore (yes him) and the combined Light Company under Lt Carfrae is tasked to support them. The abbatis is withing long gun range of the Fort, so some supporting fire could be expected. The British are outnumbered more than 2-1 but have both better troops and better leaders.

The attack proved the old adage "if it can go wrong, it will", at least from the British point of view. The Militia approached the muddy ground, Captain Clapsadler (yes he really existed) leading his two groups of skirmishers forward to be engaged by Moore and his skirmishing piquet. At this point what should have happened was that Moore and his better trained troops should have easily out shot the Rebels. What actually happened was the first hit knocked Moore senseless, and his now leaderless men failed to make any real impact.

Meanwhile Carfrae and his Company were rushing forward, and found themselves a rather useful position to the flank of the main body of militia where they should be able to pour in devastating volley fire. Except after the first volley they discovered their powder was damp and were firing at half effect.

Mitchell advanced the Militia, ably assisted by the Brigade Major, Major Todd. They came under fire from the Fort, but at this long range it only managed to disorder them a little.

With Moore's leaderless skirmishers involved in an ineffective exchange with Clapsadler and his men, and Carfrae unable to cause significant damage due to his damp powder, there was only the fire from Fort George to prevent Mitchell dismantling the abbatis...... and at that point the Redcoat's luck turned from bad to awful. The firing from the fort created a cloud of smoke that obscured the target - meaning no shooting was possible until it cleared. Some hope returned as Lt Moore regained consciousnesses but by now the damage had been done.

The Militia proceeded in clearing the abbatis to their front as ordered.

sorry for the blurry pic - using the phone again for convenience
Then to rub salt into the wounds wheeled to face Carfrae. Luckily at that point fresh powder had arrived, but the Lieutenant remembered the words of his Colonel not to waste his men's lives pointlessly decided he would withdraw. The Militia saw the Redcoats turn around and delivered a well aimed volley into their backs - it was long range but it was a first volley and controlled. Only 2 dead, but a lot of shock.

Then just to make matters worse the Americans drew 4 Command Cards and used them to activate the Militia as a bonus action, and loaded and fired again. Luckily this second volley was from hastily loaded guns and the Militia were no longer able to fore controlled volleys so surprisingly little damage was caused.

Mitchell halted at the line of the abbatis, having succeeded in his mission. Moore and Carfrae withdrew. The path to the Fort is now clear, and in a final twist of fate, some burning wadding has drifted from the cannon fire and has set light to one of the buildings in the fort. A fitting end to a bad day for the 82nd Foot.

In campaign terms this is a big success for the Americans and will allow them access to the main part of the peninsular.  As umpire I think it also will have given the Militia confidence so I have decided to trigger the positive effects of their "Hearth & Home" special characteristic, allowing them to use the "step out" ability for 1 Command Card rather than 2.

Thanks to Andy T and Paul D for taking the role of the Commanders.