Friday, April 21, 2017

Pre-Industrial Mediterranean Buildings

I picked up some more goodies from Warbases a few weeks ago, with a view to solving a couple of gaming problems.  One was some movement trays for Kings of War, the other a club scenery need (well, for me and my opponents anyway!).

I picked up some items from their new modular buildings range, a selection of simple structures that are basic but represent great value.  The simplest buildings I passed on as they would be easy to replicate; but that still left several pieces of great interest to tackle.  Enough to build a Greek style farm:

Additional parts are pretty obvious here

That stepped roof and the gate and portico would've been tedious to build in Foamcore, and doubtless not strong enough to hold together in the long term.  I can only recommend the Warbases range, given how cheap these simple models are they return on the investment whole heartedly.

I did nevertheless expand the set up to a walled enclosure, and a false front on the house to provide a little more imposing luxury.  The enclosure is large enough for a typical regiment of troops to occupy, whilst the walls are tall enough to ensure their privacy.  Also I carried out the zen task (view it that way, it makes it much easier) of tiling the roofs with thin card cut up into roughly equal squares.

To go with this I also threw together two more modest buildings, large huts; one with an attached pig sty.  Just reinforced foamcore with card doors and wooden roofs covered in card tiling.

Finished, plus two other small homes

The painting is my usual simple building style, though as befits some buildings of the period, the larger farm has indulged in a coat or two of lime wash to the the lower half of the walls.  These are the buildings I wanted the GW terrain effect paint for so the basing isn't what I hoped, but it'll look fine for the club.

Finished I think though designed with ancient Greece in mind, they wouldn't look out of place in Italy, Sicily, Spain or similar regions anywhere up to around 1850 or so.

Hopefully these will see plenty of action, but not too much damage at the hands of careless gamers!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review - Citadel Texture Paints

I picked up one of the new range of Citadel Texture paints to try, on a whim really.  A weird whim as I rarely use their products, though I do have a set of their old washes I find useful for certain jobs.  In general I find their product good, but far too expensive.  However if it will tackle a specific problem nothing else will do conveniently I'll take the hit.

The texture range look like they might be such a product, and appear good value too, until you realise the posts cost £4.55 each!  yikes!

Another issue for me was sloppy storage of the pots on the shelves - kids!.  I wanted a cracked, sun baked earth finish, which in the range is offered as Agrellan Earth (or the much redder Martian Ironearth).  But I ended up with a pot of Agrellan Badland.  And didn't notice the difference until opening it.  Ah well, let's press on.

Know what you're buying before you part with the cash!
 Now the advice for these is to paint it generously onto a prepared surface, whose base colour will show through.  For that I applied a thin skim of filler and coated it a cheap burnt umber.  As you can see in the picture above; up to this point I was still thinking I'd be getting some nice hard packed Mediterranean clay.  Not so.  the Agrellan Badland is a gritty paint; basically with micro crystals filling it in various sizes.  The advice is less to bush on as to splat it on in lumps and move it around - stipple it - to get an uneven coverage.  In fairness this it did well, and once dry the coverage wasn't too bad.

You can see the texture
 At this stage I was curious as to what might be in the paint.  A quick finger test of a small amount revealed that the acrylic carrier was full of, well, grit.  Thankfully it doesn't appear to be microbeads, rather something organic.  So that at least is a good thing.  The size of the particles varied and they would further break down between the finger tips.

Any how, now it was time to apply some highlights to bring out the texture.  I started from a desert sand and worked up in my usual fashion.

Finished, other than static grass
The look?  Well it's pretty good, the combined effect is better than filler alone, but not as textured as fine sand.  It's less uniform which may well appeal to some.  However, and this is a big but, this is a long and expensive way of going about getting the same effect you could have got with either coloured fillers, basetex type products, or just sand and paint.  I'm not convinced this particular product is worth it. Not least as I used about a third of a pot on about the equivalent of a 10x20cm area.  around £1.50's worth.  The filler, sand and acrylic paint for that amount of space might add up to five or ten pence I guess!

But I will get a pot of the correct crackle effect paint when I next have a project it would suit, and try that instead.  If that works as it should I cant think of an easy way of replicating the effect and it could be more completely recommended!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An ordinary tale of Derpabury folk

Fitting around my busiest period in years, painting has very much taken a back seat.  I feel like I say this a lot, but for anyone who is considering a Masters Degree whilst working; this is what it does to your life!  Free time is a luxury.

With a little luxury time I have managed some of the more simple projects open to me, no regiments of Napoleonic troops at present.  Rather I've set to diversifying my Lion Rampant force with some potential additional models to allow it to multitask in Dragon Rampant.

To begin with, a find in 'The Range' led to ideas of providing them with a mighty war beast.  I'll admit at first I had doubts I could do much with this; but it was only a pound:

But in fact with a decent paint-job and basing to match the historical elements of the force, it looked at least 50% less awful.

Added to that I rummaged around for a few bits to add a Wizardling and a grittier beasty.  This is a Reaper Bones Toad Demon with a repurposed Perry Miniatures Monk as a wizard.  They are joined by a limited edition Mantic Games minstrel and a Reaper Bones dog; alongside established models this makes for a unit of, well, whatever one wants I suppose...
Thus my Lion Rampant English can now represent the valiant defenders of Derpabury, a fantastical land of knights, wizards and strange beasts.

Not much to add; but it's something....

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lord Hastinge recruits - Bidowers

Returned to my Lion Rampant Feudal English for the first time in a while, I have some space in their storage I can fill, and experience tells me I need some greater flexibility.  Consequently I dug out some models that would be simple to work on and add some firepower.  Hence, here we have a unit of Marches Bidowers, armed with slings.

No doubt you can see these as the Gripping Beast dark age infantry they are, but there would be little to differentiate the Welsh borders population of 500ad from those of 1200ad, so this is no issue for me.  Plus their lord has benevolently issued them with buckler shields, sourced from one of the Perry sets, giving him somewhere to ensure they show his heraldic colours.

Obviously these were a pretty quick job.  But I've kept my standards up for the painting and basing.  Generally they look acceptable.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Kierion - 48bc

Ah, an excuse to push around a whole bunch of soldiers at last.  Myself and Paul arranged a game to introduce him to Kings of War: Historical a couple of weeks ago.  Looking at what we had handy it was agreed to play my Peloponnesian League (aka: Sparta) against his Caesarian Romans.  A slight mismatch chronologically, but less extreme than many and one which I at least was happy with, after all it was still two ancient armies, and neighbours to boot facing one another.  In a club where DBMM still sees plenty of action with Han Chinese facing Egyptians, late Imperial Romans or Caroligians on a regular basis, it sat far more comfortably with me.

So one could suppose a timely rebellion of the Greek states, taking the opportunity of Civil war amongst the Romans to reassert their independence, this would be one more problem for Caesar to deal with if he was to become triumphant.  Thus my Greeks could take the field against Paul's as yet untried Roman army...

Opening Dispositions
Having laid out some classically barren terrain Paul opened the deployments, my Greeks having out scouted him, forcing more of his units to deploy.  Not that this made a huge difference, as he outnumbered me anyway so we finished deployment about the same time.  Both armies formed a central line, with Paul able to deploy more cavalry to his flanks, but I being able to lock the flanks with units of spearmen.
The Roman centre

Greek Phalanxes

Early movements
I took first turn initiative, which was probably of benefit to my opponent, who was new to the rules.  I began a steady advance and threw out a little missile fire; my cavalry decided on a re-positioning to the centre of the line hoping to charge down his artillery park.  For his part Paul largely held back except on his flanks, anticipating and eliminating my cavalry thrust but little else.  So on my second turn where the cavalry failed I was able to throw forth peltasts to undertake the same task.

Skirmishers vs. Artillery
In reply Paul charged down the peltasts on my left, but the success left his horse dangerously exposed.

Chaldicians lure out the cavalry
The Chaldician phalanx hit them in their flank.  Far away on my right a Spartan Phalanx had skirted around the farm and driven Paul's' other cavalry unit back onto the flank of his infantry.  His centre line still stood firm, but the Greeks steadily advanced.

Roman flanks under pressure
Finally in turn 4 Paul let the men off the leash, and accepted that if he did not advance I would dictate all the terms of the fight, already I was manoeuvring to threaten the flanks of his line and advancing was the best way for him to clear the danger.

The lines close
Battle was joined at my lead.  The Roman auxiliaries were thrown in disarray when they found the two strongest units of the Greeks (the royal guard and a toughened unit of Spartan heavy infantry) to be their foes.  This allowed me to threaten the flank of the Roman legionary line, which otherwise largely stood firm.  One unit its' centre wavered, and would not charge, but none broke.

Roman auxiliaries break

Then the weak city Hoplites break
The Romans made redress and countered.  The city Hoplites on my left, already badly mauled by missilery on the way to contact soon broke, so I would have to push forward my limited reserves, but elsewhere the Greeks held firm.  The artillery finally drove off the peltasts (on reflection I think we played a rule wrong here and the artillery may have been a tougher nut to crack than it should've), but their chance to contribute to the main battle was now passed.  They had been neutralised for the most part.

End game...
On the final turn the Greeks broke the centre of the Roman line, and Paul was forced to use commanders to hold the crumbling right flank.  His final reply failed to break any crucial units, but time and the turn count drew the battle to a close.

A quick calculation of victory points showed it was essentially a tie at this stage, I had had scored 15 more points against him, barely enough for bragging rights, but had we played a 7th turn, with my chance to reply coming first, the situation on the field would've been dire for Rome.  Both his flanks were depleted and turned, and his Legion was reaching a crisis point with more threats than it could respond to, where he had extra utility it still had to wait for the Greek wave to crash against it first before its' chance to reply.

I think nightfall saved Caesar this day.

This was a 2,000 point game of KoW: Historical, and as a club casual game it worked very well.  Given the rules were new to Paul he picked it up easily, how sold initially on the relative passivity you experience on the opponents turn he was is something we debated; unlike virtually all other wargaming rules you cannot influence the actions of your opponent at all on their turn, but of course this cuts both ways, and has the advantage of speeding up play.  It is something you get used to very quickly I feel, but it is the biggest difference in the rules from their peers.

Overall, KoW in general is a system I will keep coming back to, for its' simplicity and scalability.  And anything that lets me get a full sized army into play in a short week-night timeframe is fine by me.


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Boardgame round up - Imperial Assault, Conan and more...

Despite being very busy, I am getting a fair number of miniatures games in this year, but at the same time I'm doing so alongside a number of board games, something I like to talk about from time to time.  Not too often, y'know, this is a wargaming blog really.  But then three of the following games at least bear some links to that subject at least, so let's carry on.

Imperial Assault of course is just some 3D terrain away from being a full fledged wargame, after all it does contain a head-to-head skirmish mode.  However, here it is another episode of our ongoing campaign, with the players trying to break an imperial agent out of a cell before the Empire can pump him for the information needed.

The players found they were up against considerably tougher people than in some of their previous encounter, not least I seemed to have drawn on the Stormtrooper regiment who could shoot.  I don't think they missed many shots all game.

Additionally, in an effort to avoid the transmission of crucial data, the heroes moved around the longest possible way to the target, ultimately finding themselves surrounded.

The players released the prisoner, but found more royal guard and mercenaries blocking their way home.  In fact it looked like they would fail at the last moment, when he was raked with fire making a break for the exit.

Fortunately for them, he staggered to freedom, and it was another victory for the Rebellion.  In fairness, despite several of the games to date being closely balanced, so far the players have managed to win all of them.  The strength of the Imperial Assault campaign system is that it balances very well to the gradual improvement of the characters, indeed a large portion of the cards and upgrades in the game appear specifically there to allow this.  The way elements are drip-fed to both player and games master alike are its greatest strengths.

AS a palette cleanser afterwards we had a quick game of Kharnage:

This is a relatively simple multiplayer card game, where each player forms armies to battle their opponents in a King-of-the-Hill battle for glory.  Players choose a strategy card to play and then deploy units based on it before unleashing a range of attacks.

This is not a complex game, it does not take much to explain or understand, but there is just enough subtlety and tactical nuance to be hold an interest for its short duration.  The artwork is pretty good to and there are a few nice surprises amongst the card.  Overall not a bad little game.

By comparison, Letters from Whitechapel features no combat, and is a far more intellectual exercise.

'Whitechapel' is a one against many game in which a team of detectives attempts to stop Jack The Ripper in his London rampage before his historically recorded 5 victims are taken, and 'he' goes to ground, anonymity and ill-deserved freedom.  To this end it operates with the Ripper player using hidden movement to track his route between his victims and his hideout, whilst the detectives control 5 officer pawns attempting to triangulate to his position.  

I our game we managed to close in on the Ripper on his fourth kill, and make the arrest, despite him having managed to throw us off the scent of his hideout.  We were close enough it turned out, and so in the end his own attempts at cunning placed him where we could not fail to catch him.  Whitechapel is a game with a simple premise and straightforward rules, but within that it provides a challenging game.

Finally, and well it was definitely going to happen, and after the investment I can't say I wasn't nervous, I got to test Conan.

Conan is an adventure game, again using a one-against-many mechanic, with most of the players controlling a single hero against the overlords' hordes.  However Conan does things a little differently to some games, and in certain ways is quite innovative.

For one thing the Overlord controls his minions via the dandy little dashboard you can see there, paying an energy cost associated to the position of a unit on the track to activate it.  Any activated unit then moves to the end of the track, making activating it again expensive, but all the other units now slightly cheaper.

And that of course mentions the energy mechanic.  On the heroes turn - and they all activate as much or as little as they want at the same time - they spend energy to carry out a variety of actions in any order, even teaming their actions to set up attacks.  However energy spent is recouped very slowly, so there is a gradual exhaustion unless a hero rests, doing virtually nothing for the round.  But if needed a player can throw it all into one glorious attack, and - for example - kill a mighty serpent with a single mighty blow.

Additionally wounds permanently reduce your energy supply, and in our initial game at least, there was little in the way of immediate healing to save the players.  At first Conan was able to hack through swathes of Picts in a single round; but by the end of the game he was scarcely able to limp out the village.

And pleasingly, this all worked really well.  Thankfully Conan operates effectively as a game, it is not too hard to learn, despite the initial rulebooks being a little confused in English translation (revised editions are free online), but it offers an engaging and suitably heroic style of play, one that leads naturally to the players generating narrative battles with evil.  Within our game alone, Conan operated as a one-man battering ram, whilst his thief ally did much of the searching and his wizard ally supplied the firepower.  As the overlord I was able to relish unleashing wave upon wave of troglodyte warriors against them, in a game that takes considerably less time to set up and play than Imperial Assault.

What it however lacks, is any way to string those games together as a campaign, rather each scenario stands alone.  This may well suit casual play, and it is understood solutions will follow, but for fans of games like Descent and Heroquest, this may be seen as an omission.

But I for one can't wait to get it to the table again.

Which is a huge relief!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Step by Step Picts

Oh, hey!  I seem to recall saying I'd do this earlier. So here are the photo's of the paint sessions that went to assembling my Pict force for Conan/Dragon Rampant.  These don't form a step-by-step guide per-se, more a log of how long the process took.

Session 1 
The first session was fairly easy, being a fast application of generic fleshtones in artist acrylics.  This took only about 40 minutes, and it showed in the results - being in no way good enough to serve as anything other than an undercoats.  Still, a start.

Session 2
 Up to a couple of hours work here; during which the proper flesh tones were applied.  Working with a live palette, I painted four or five random warriors one shade before adding a little darker colour to the mix for the next batch.  The Hyena's used one of the base tones with extra browns to vary it up and make it more animalistic.  The shaman got a special pale shade and, well the snake is obviusly different,

Session 3 
A solid three and a half hours plodding through the loincloths, weapons and so forth.  Again, painting four or five items the same brown, then mixing a different shade into it to vary the overall look.

Session 4 
Another three hours was spent doing stone mace heads, warpaint, animal markings and so on.  The snake in particular is starting to come to life, but more needs doing.

Session 5 
A final blow out to finish the work; odds and ends like the skulls and bones are finished over the course of another few hours.  More detail on the snake and hyenas, and blue tattoos for the shaman.  Finally a 50/50 wash of glaze and Strongtone has been applied.  (not that you can tell in that rubbish photo!)

Session 6 & 7
And so to finish, the bases are textured with sand, painted with craft acrylics and then dry-brushed a light sand.  In effect two one-hour sessions.

All told that adds up to around 12 hours for a 32 figure army.  If I've recalled my effort correctly.

Not too shabby, though these turned out to be more complicated than I imagined simply looking at them.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Saga: Freshney water; 915ad

Getting some regular miniatures games in this year so far, and the most recent was a couple of weeks ago when myself and Paul had a classic Saga match up.

We played the River Grossing Scenario once again, with my 'new' vikings against his Anglo Danish force.

I had taken more quality troops than Paul, and so decided to concentrate them on one of the crossings, hoping to make a swift bridgehead, whilst holding the other approach as neutral until later in the battle.
Opening dispositions
My left flank, facing the river ford, featured Besirkir, Hirdmen, Bondi and my Warlord, all thrown forwards early to try and rush the river; whilst the Anglo Danes held back a little further, which was what made me think I could jump the ground if I got the initiative.

The Anglo Danes were generally keeping their distance a little more, and I had a sense that though their left was weak, I would be better served breaking their right first and mopping up later.

Levies and Warriors on the AD left
It is my eternal good fortune that I have far more facial hair than Paul, as that means I will always win ties in the roll-off for Saga.  Thus I got the first turn I needed.

Lets get our feet wet
My troops started splashing across the ford in significant numbers; looking to intimidate an enemy known for its' intimidation.  This seemed to work, as Paul left a notable gap across the river for me to exploit.  So I sent over some of my Hirdmen on what I expected to be a suicidal charge, but one I could support with plentiful reserves.

Over we go!
In fact we executed great slaughter in the troops we met, thanks to the combination of additional abilities my battleboard offered.  For no loss in my axemen group we whittled one of Pauls Huscarl units down to a lone man; giving us a valuable bridgehead.

My Besirkir followed up and unexpectedly survived an attack on a unit of spearmen, who collapsed in the face of such pressure.  I was able to bring over my second line, whilst Paul had to draw troops over from his left in an attempt to shore up the breach.

Mid game
After being tricked into manoeuvre rather firing on me thus far, Paul's left finally tried to push forward and shoot.  This then placed them close enough for me to execute a charge.  Safe to say that it didn't go so well...
Argh! Levies!
Fortunately, the ford could not be going better and I now had far more troops on that side of river than Paul could handle.  He was having trouble stalling my advance, whilst I had picked of more of his troops.

It was time for me the try and resole the Bridge, but Pauls' sling armed levy have proved to be a bugbear unit in the past, and today they were living up to this reputation.  My Hirdmen were about to go into the meat grinder...
On my left I was able to bring over the last of my troop and block any options for Paul to break my overwhelming control of the river.

This land is ours!
On the bridge though the result failed to go my way, the only benefit being that his unit of spearmen on the left had always been so low a priority amongst the fires he needed to contain, Paul had only moved them once all day.

Do we both constitute a Bridgehead?
On his right Paul had burnt himself out against my numbers, and it was now in my interest to 'advance' (away from contact) into the hinterland of Paul's side of the river, making it hard, nay impossible to hit me before the game clock ran down.  For his part, Paul's leader withdrew from the threat of my flanking Besirkir, frankly playing into my hands.

This smells like victory.
And so after 7 turns, it was clearly in our favour.  Not only did the Vikings hold the enemy ground, but we had also killed far more of the enemy than our own losses.  The bridge was in our control but not in any way that actually amounted to victory points, still we gained many of those from the ford.

A great little game, though I feel we need some new scenarios to spice up the game.  Possibly this is due to the limits of the core rules, possibly due to the limits of the models we have, either way after a couple of dozen games I feel like we've played through all the options more than a few times.  This scenario I know I've played at least four times over the years, and yet to lose it seems.

Maybe it's time to try seeing if other scenarios are out there?