Sunday, September 23, 2012

Product Review: Custom-Cut Movement Trays from Warbases

I needed some movement trays that could both accomodate single-based figures and also provide a visual cue to the skirmish capability of a particular infantry formation. (From 1 to 3 figures per skirmishing detachment, as determined by their training, doctrine, blah, blah, blah.)

95th Rifles providing a skirmish screen for a British battalion (Perry and Wargames Foundry).
Years ago a friend had given me a large amount of fender washers which I've been using to base the majority my skirmish figures to date. The only trouble with this is that the washers are an odd size and so I can't make use of standard movement trays which are designed for figures mounted on common coins or standard 20/25mm bases. (Yes, serves me right for being such a cheap sod and not using 'proper' bases...)

An example of the 2-socket trays (Victrix figures)
After hearing such great feedback about Warbases in the UK I thought I'd contact them to see if they could custom-cut some simple 2 and 3 socket trays for my Napoleonic skirmishers. Diane from Warbases said it would be no problem and asked that I just send along a sample of the washer so they could lasercut the sockets for a snug fit. 

As you can see the trays turned out great. These 2-socket and 3-socket MDF trays cost 50p and 70p respectively - a bargain when compared to popular suppliers here in North America. The cost along with shipping was very reasonable and the turnaround time was surprisingly fast. All-in-all I'd highly recommended Warbases, even for those hobbyists not located in the UK.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Battleship Row: 1:1200 Scale WWII Naval

'Evening. This is Sylvain, using the blogging privileges Curt granted me a few months ago. Hope you enjoy my post.

Last year, I bought a bunch of ships on Kijiji, a kind of web based flea market. Until today, I haven't had a chance to do much with my little collection of unpainted metal. In the lot, there were a few 1/1200 ships made by superior model. Apparently, these castings date back to WW2 and were used by pilots to develop their ship recognition skills. I can believe it: some models had their name engraved on their side. I owe my tube of putty some thanks. Details are OK, if you want these ships to be no more than wargaming pieces, but if there is a modeler in you, you might be tempted by the beautiful masterpieces made by Neptun from Germany. Alas, at over $100 per masterpiece, I will have to be content with the cheaper option of Superior Models ($7 for a destroyer up to about $30 for a battleship) for a little while.

I usually don't base my tanks, because I like them to blend with the different table scenery I create, like winter, desert, etc. But I sure do like to base my ships. Strange enough, when I googled images of miniatures ships, I found that if many players do add a base to their 1/2400 or smaller ships, they neglect to do so for their 1/1200 models. I find that the waves at the bow and the propeller trail give the models a dynamic attitude. I added some stucco texture gel to raise the waves and covered the whole base with gloss gel to simulate water. It's nothing fancy and I'm quite happy with the final result, although I might tone down the amount of white in the future.

Now the charm and the problem of these ships is their size. Let's compare a 1/1200 British conjectural WW2 battleship with a 1/1200 French 74 guns (GHQ) and a base of 28mm Russian grenadiers (Victrix). The base of the battleship is 9.5" long.

With ships this big, gaming on a tabletop requires too much suspension of disbelief. Even my basement floor seems too cramped a space. I mean these ships could fire their guns over 30km away (over 90 feet at 1/1200 scale), although the furthest hit recorded was at 26 000 yards (65 feet at 1/1200 scale).

My plan is to take these ships outside and play with "real" scaled down distances. Since even my backyard will be too small, I will have to set a game in a public park (could be a nice way to make new friends :-)). I built some wooden bases to keep the boats above the grass. Lately, I came across a rules set by Fletcher Pratt, an adamant adept of "distance evaluation". I think that the ships, the rules and the great outdoors could be perfect ingredients for some fun. Hopefully, these big battleships can have a cruise before it gets too cold outside.

Friday, September 14, 2012

28mm Spanish Civil War: Nationalist 'Guardia Civil' Infantry from Empress Miniatures

I was organizing my 'lead reserve' the other day and ran across these lonely Spanish Civil War figures that I had acquired years back, all primed and ready to go. It was interesting as I had just been thinking about Guillermo del Toro's terrifying but hauntingly beautiful Pan's Labyrinth. Well, the synchronicity was there and my interest was piqued, so I pulled them out and placed them at the head of the painting cue.

Image still from del Toro's 'Pan's Labyrinth'
This group of infantry depicts members of the Guardia Civil, a para-military police force which found itself split in its allegiance at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Its estimated that a little over half of the Guardia claimed themselves for the Republican cause to which they removed their old uniform, as, to them, it was a symbol synonymous with the rebels. From what I understand the remainder of the Guardia Civil were quite active during the opening stages of the war (especially in the outlying rural areas) and were always considered staunch supporters of Franco and his regime.

A couple NCO types with Bergmann SMGs and an Astra pistol
I was a little unsure about the uniform as I've seen several variations of its green colour. So I decided to ask my good friend Juan to get his opinion as he is both Spanish and a confirmed uniform junky. He first returned to me a few examples; the first being this:

Obviously members of the Guardia Civil's secret elite shock troops...
While certainly inspiring I have a nagging suspicion that the Guardia Civil used a different fabric (and cut!) for their uniforms... Juan anticipated my reluctance with the spandex (difficult as that may be to imagine) and so included a few additional images that were spot-on, allowing me to make a decision on colour tone and shading.

A more grizzled example, wearing the gorrillo isabelino side-cap instead of the distinctive (and slightly wacky) tricornio.

These 28mm figures are from Empress Miniatures' SCW range. I find the sculpting on the entire range is  just fantastic, with clean, flash-free molds, and so much character packed into each figure. From this group I especially admire the sculpt of the Guardia officer, with his foot up on a discarded Republican helmet, laconically smoking a cigarette. 

He just exudes that sense of confident arrogance which really reminds me of the sadistic Capitan Vidal in Pan's Labyrinth

So that was my fun little SCW diversion. I have scads of figures from this range left to do and with 'A World Aflame' and 'Bolt Action' out in force I'll have to make time to return to them soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Somewhere on the Road to Corunna: A Small Napoleonic Game Using 'Food for Powder'

Lately I've been working on our household set of Napoleonic rules, 'Food for Powder', toying with a couple mechanics and playing around with a few new ideas. So this past weekend I wanted to get in a playtest of the edits to see if we could bust them in actual game play. To keep things simple we played a small game based on a scenario that I've put on several times in the past which seems to give a consistently quick yet decent game.

The scenario is an old chestnut set during the Peninsular War - a holding action at a bridge during Moore's retreat to Corunna. The scene features a weak British brigade of three battalions striving to buy enough time for their engineers to rig the bridge for demolition before the French vanguard can force its way through. A more detailed description of the smaller-scaled scenario can be found here.

The French push back a British battalion towards the river. The 'socket-trays' for the skirmishers are from Warbases.
All of these photos shown are from the last turn of the game.

As a short summary of the highlights, the French, commanded by Peter and Sylvain, advanced towards the British position (run by Stacy) along two lines of approach.  Sylvain's brigade, not being as obstructed by intervening terrain, went into action first. His lead battalion took a good deal of punishment on it's advance from two sections of Royal Horse Artillery along with musket volleys from a blocking British battalion, but they weathered the fire to go into close assault. The resulting melee battered the English infantry, but ultimately the French were spent and had to withdraw from the action.

The French press the British left flank. The 'Advance' marker denotes the path of march which was ordered for this French brigade.
Not to be deterred, Sylvain pushed his second battalion through the remnants of the first, shrugged off the resulting disorder it caused, and closed in for another assault. (At this point Stacy and I looked at each other in amazement as Sylvain typically has all the aggression of a slightly piqued French professor; which, well, he is.)  

So, while being disordered by crashing through their sister battalion, and being mauled by shot and shell, the second French battalion managed to beat all odds, stagger ahead and throw back the British line towards the bridge (the appalling rolls by Stacy at this point were truly epic). By this point two of the three French battalions were broken or spent, but the British opposing the remainder were ground down and falling back.

Peter's French force advancing on the British position. Dragoons at the top pausing while the infantry goes  into the assault.
On the other flank, Peter's French force included a small regiment of Dragoons to which he made good use of by placing them in the vanguard. As the green-clad cavalrymen approached the bridge they induced one of the British battalions to form square. Peter played it cool by not committing his cavalry to the charge, using them instead as a pinning force while his infantry came up for the assault. The British were again pushed back and they began to look nervously to the bridge to see what was holding the Engineers up.

A few squadrons of French Dragoons threatening the British right flank.
The last of the French infantry working its way through rough terrain.

As if on cue, the Engineers signaled that the bridge would be blown in two turns - intoning that it would be best if the brigade extricate themselves and get back over the river before they were cut off. Before we called it for the night we decided to see which side would have initiative for the next turn. The dice were cast and it was determined it would be the French who would react first. We reasoned that it will be a little touch and go for the British as the bridge could quite easily become swamped with men trying to escape to the other side. The French would probably be stopped at the river, but at the cost of a mauled British brigade and perhaps a few guns.

A photo taking in most of the action. The British are being forced into a thumb-shaped perimeter around the foot of the bridge (a precursor to another bridge action in 1944...)
It was great fun to break out the Napoleonics again and the rules seemed to hang together under the strain. Peter had not played the rules before but he picked up the essentials in a couple turns - which is an encouraging sign. There is still some work to be done on them but I think we're getting very close to having a solid beta playtest version soon.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Potential Replacement for 'Devlan Mud': Army Painter Strong Tone Ink

(First, I apologize if this is old news for some of you, but I thought I'd post it just in case others had not run across this product.) Like many other mini painters I'm a big fan of some of the old GW paint range, particularly their washes, and specifically the iconic 'Devlan Mud'.  Cripes,  I should have bought quarts of the stuff when I knew it was being discontinued, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions (and hopefully those who text in movie theaters).  Anyway, I poked around the web and found that several others have been recommending Army Painter's new line of inks as potential replacements to GW Devlan Mud and Badab Black. 

Well, I dashed out and picked up a bottle of AP Strong Tone in order to give it a whirl. Here is a matte card with a brushed-on sample (left to right) of GW Devlan Mud, AP Strong Tone, and GW Gryphonne Sepia. 

The AP ink is certainly not a perfect match to Devlan Mud, but I think its not too far off the mark. I've used it on several figures now and quite like the effect it gives. If you wish to see another side-to-side example check out this excellent article From the Warp.

The Army Painter Strong Tone mimics their oil-based 'dip' but instead is water-based, quick drying and has a non-glossy finish (three big 'wins', imo). As an added bonus you also get more of the AP ink (18ml vs 12ml) for less money than the GW wash. 

Now, if they could just copy over that nasty-yet-compelling Devlan Mud smell...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Completed - Austrian 1st Uhlan Regiment 'Schwarzenberg'

As I mentioned in an earlier post these fellas have been kicking their heels on my paint desk for quite awhile, so I decided to take a break from my other stuff in order to get them done and in the cabinet.

The imperial Austrian army was composed of men from a bewildering range of ethnic backgrounds. In addition to those that were Germanic, the empire drew heavily upon men who were Hungarian, Romanian, Italian, Swiss, Croatian, Serbian, Ukrainian, Slovak, Bohemian, Czech, and Polish (phew, that's a passel of folks).

For generations the horsemen of Poland have proved to be excellent light cavalrymen, exhibiting particular expertise with the lance. The French created several regiments of  Polish Lancers as did the Russians and the Austrians. The Polish lancers, serving within all these imperial states, saw heavy action during the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, it would be interesting to know if any of these men ever had to face each other across the battlefield, fighting under different flags.

These are 28mm models from Wargames Foundry - quite old castings but I still quite like them. The pennants I made from glue-soaked paper, folded and cut to shape. The regimental colour is from 'Flag Dude'.

I'll probably add another dozen troopers down the road, but since I have quite a few other regiments to complete it will probably be another several years before these guys see any reinforcements - but I'm sure they'll hold their own on the tabletop!