Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Entry #2 to the AHPC: 28mm Napoleonic British Foot Artillery Officers

Just finished this stand of figures yesterday. Two 28mm British artillery officers from Perry Miniatures. If you want, you can read my engrossing post about them (and see a few more slightly out-of-focus pics) over at the Challenge blog.

If you don't, it will hurt my feelings terribly and make you feel, I'm sure, very, very guilty.

Unless of course you've already seen the original post then naturally you can leave here with a clear conscience knowing my toy soldier ego has been properly stroked. 

I'm sure that made you feel better, right? Well, I certainly do. ;0)

Next: Hopefully something from the Renaissance

Sunday, December 20, 2015

'The Die is Cast - Alea Iacta Est' - My Opening Entry to the 6th Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge

I decided to open the Painting Challenge this year by following this edition's theme of 'Gambler/Risk-Taker' and creating a command stand depicting Julius Caesar as he is about to cross the Rubicon River, the act which sparked the Roman civil war. You can see the rest of the post here on the Challenge blog.

These 28mm models are from 1st Corps. 


I found some replica Roman dice on Ebay. They just arrived in time for the assembly. I gave this one an Devlan Mud wash to antique it up a bit.

Again, please drop by the Challenge Blog to keep tabs on the goings on there. We have 88 participants from all over the globe this year so there's always something interesting to see and read.

Next Up: Something Milanese...

Curt Out.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Switching Over to the Painting Challenge Blog

Please, let me connect you...

Hey Folks! Now that the ball is rolling, let's officially switch over to the official Painting Challenge blog and we can carry on over there. There is also a link on the top navigation bar, leftmost button (see below).

See you after the jump! 


Friday, November 20, 2015

The Die is Cast - The Sixth Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge

In 49 BC Julius Caesar halted his XIII legion along the north bank of the Rubicon river in northern Italy. He knew that if he crossed with his army into southern Italy he would be violating Roman law, thereby making the lives of both him and his men forfeit, but Caesar also aware that if he returned to Rome as a regular citizen he would be censored by the government and quite possibly killed. After some deliberation he resolved to cross the Rubicon and risk civil war. Once on the other side of the river Caesar is reported to have said, 'Alea iacta est' - The die is cast. 

This year's Painting Challenge, our sixth, celebrates risk takers, daredevils and gamblers. 

Julius Caesar
The Basic Rules
The Challenge will extend from the beginning of Winter, 12:01 am December 20th , through to the first day of Spring, 12:01 am March 20th, Central Standard Time.
Figures can be prepared and primed prior to the start date, but no colour can be applied until December 20th. In order to be fully scored the figures have to be based and their groundwork completed. The figures have to be painted by you. The Challenge follows the honour system in the completion and entry of figures. Dishonour and public shaming goes (with perhaps the throwing of frozen vegetables) upon anyone who besmirches the venerable craft of painting toy soldiers! 
The figures can be in any scale and in any theme, including pulp-adventure, science-fiction and fantasy.
In order to be scored, photos of all figures/units along with a short descriptive note must be uploaded to the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge blog. Up-to-date scoring will be maintained on the blog's main page. I will send out an email to all Challengers to provide further details regarding participation.
The Judge (me) will participate, but my score will not have any standing in the Challenge (I will continue my struggle to be amongst the middle-of-the-pack).
Since I can't leave well enough alone, I've again tweaked a few aspects of how the Challenge will be administered. I will still be the master of ceremonies, but I've called upon a Happy Few to assist me in keeping this joyous circus on the rails - more on that later. 

Rosa Parks
The Scoring
6mm foot figure = 0.5 point
6mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 1 pts
6mm vehicle = 2 points
10mm foot figure = 1 point
10mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 2 points
10mm vehicle = 3 points 
15mm foot figure = 2 pts
15mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 4 pts
15mm vehicle = 6 pts

20mm foot figure = 4 pts
20mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 8 pts
20mm vehicle = 12 pts

28mm foot figure = 5 pts

28mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 10 pts
28mm vehicle = 15 pts
40mm foot figure = 7 pts
40mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 15 pts
40mm vehicle = 20 pts 
54mm foot figure = 10 pts
54mm mounted figures, artillery piee or crew served weapon = 20 pts
54mm vehicle, limber, etc. = 30 pts 
Other scales, miscellaneous models/figures will be scored on a submission-by-submission basis. 

Amelia Earhart

Challenger Personal Targets and Duels

Similar to previous years, I ask that each Challenger declare his/her points target that they hope to achieve by the March 20th deadline. I encourage Challengers to pick a target that is a bit beyond their comfort zone, but still achievable. Many participants have found this a great incentive to help maintain their pace over the three months of the Challenge. As a benchmark, 400 points is a manageable amount for someone who is new the the event and/or has a busy work/life schedule. Remember, many points can be secured by participating in the Bonus Rounds (more on this below).

Also, many folks have a lot of fun issuing 'duels' to other participants in order to race to meet a declared target, paint the most figures for a specific period, etc. I leave this to the participants to organize, but I'm more than happy to log the duels and keep track of the points.

Vo Nguen Giap
Challenger Target Thresholds & Prizes

There will be six point thresholds set out for the Challenge. Each time a participant reaches a Point Threshold his/her name will be entered for the prize drawn for that level. So, the more points you accumulate the more prizes you will be eligible for. We have many generous prize sponsors who I will introduce in a following post. The Threshold prizes will be drawn at the end of the Challenge.
Threshold I: 500 points
Threshold II: 750 points 
Threshold III: 1000 points 
Threshold IV: 1500 points 
Threshold V: 2000 points 
Threshold VI: 2500 points
Gebhard Lebrecht Blucher
The Fortnight Theme Bonus Rounds
Same as previous years, we will have a series of thematic Bonus Rounds. Each Bonus Round asks Challengers to enter a submission that illustrates a particular theme. The Bonus Rounds are not mandatory, they are just a little bit of fun to pace out the the Challenge and allow people to gain some points and fame through presenting vignettes and specific single figures.
Those Challengers who manage to submit an entry for a 'Fortnight Theme Bonus Round' will receive an extra 50 points on top of the regular entry tally. No scales less than 15mm will be eligible for the Theme Bonus Rounds but they can be of a historical or fictional subject.
The seven Bonus Themes along with their submission deadlines are:
  • January 3rd: Nostalgia 
  • January 17th: Epic Fail 
  • January 31st : Defensive Terrain 
  • February 14th: L'amour 
  • February 28th: Nautical 
  • March 13th: Gambler/Risk-Taker
The theme submissions are to be sent in by 12:01 am (CST) on the specified date (Sundays for all).
For each bonus round I'll post a poll listing all the round's entries so visitors can vote for their favourite. 
Neil Armstrong
Tipping the Croupier

As in previous Challenges, I ask for a small memento from each Challenger. In keeping with this year's theme, the entrance 'fee' for this year's Challenge will be a single 28mm figure characterized as a risk-taker, daredevil or gambler. The figure will be supplied and painted by the entrant. This miniature can be submitted any time up until the end of the Challenge. Again, same as previous years, for each figure I receive I will donate $5 to the Saskatchewan branch of the Regina Humane Society.

Robert E. Lee
The Call

Please don't wait too long if you're interested - drop me a note below to get on the roster. I'll place notification in this space when all the participant slots for the Challenge have been filled.

Let the fun begin!

Monday, November 2, 2015

'Strange Aeons' Halloween Game - 'The Spanish Caverns'

As it was Halloween this past weekend I decided to put on a 'Strange Aeons' game for the boys. Here's the scenario I cooked up for them:
Spring 1937, Spain. 
Your teams have been dispatched to war-torn Spain to investigate reports of a strange atmospheric phenomenon witnessed along the coast of Asturias. This disturbing anomaly, which seems to manifest itself as a type of fog, is causing perfectly good aircraft to crash with no pilots in cockpits and ships found adrift without crew. If this is not perplexing enough, the only ones affected are those sympathetic to Republican Spain...

!No Pasaran! 
The four Agency teams first flew into Portugal where they met a sympathetic priest who served as their guide into Asturias. He ultimately led them to a series of caverns set within a cliff-faced shore. Caverns where the strange fog has been seen to emanate these past few months... 

One member of the team taking a smoke break at the entrance to the caverns.

From all this we spent the evening drinking Spanish wine, having a few laughs, while dispatching rogue Guardia Civil troopers, Cultist Nazis, extra-dimensional tentacles and a wide assortment of creepy-crawly baddies. True to form, the heroes ultimately emerged triumphant, but it must be said that the sanity of a few their number have been severely frayed by the experience. 

The cavern terrain tiles are from a Kickstarter from Dwarven Forge. Both Stacy and I harvested non-essential body parts from local teenagers to get a bunch of the pre-painted sets. They are made of a very high quality plastic/resin material and are ingeniously designed so as to fit together in a bewildering variety of designs. 

Lady Sarah seemed a bit skeptical when I was unpacking the boxes ('You paid HOW MUCH for this?'), but it only took a few minutes of her fiddling around with the pieces and she was hooked, madly putting together her first dungeon. In fact, the cavern layout for this scenario was designed by her the night before. Yes, m'dear, it's a slippery slope. Mwhaahaa!

'...and, see, in here we'll install a jacuzzi and solarium to help hydrate the resident undead. You know, some creature comforts...'
The tabletop with the entrance layer lifts up and fits over the other surface, hiding the final showdown from the players.

Below are a few pics of the caverns along with some artistic re-creations of the evening's action. 

The lower level cavern.
The final showdown in the upper cavern which, in the scenario, overlooks the Atlantic.

'Gee whiz Willickers, what could possibly be down this passage?'
The final battle. A poor team-member (Sylvain) getting drained like a malted milkshake by the Daemonic Mist.
'Schluuurp! Burp! Oh my, pardon me...'
Recognize the villain Nick?
For those who are curious: The nasty pumpkins seen above generated an eldritch shield around the main villains that the heroes had to deal with first. Trick or Treat!!

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

'Curte Vecchio' - 6mm Meditteranean Hill Town & 3mm British Napoleonics

A couple of months ago I prattled on about 'Blucher', a new set of rules which our group has been using for grand-tactical Napoleonics. This summer I organized a multi-player '100 Days' campaign for the guys which came off fairly well (you can read Peter's posts from his viewpoint as Wellington). We used the cards that came with the campaign pack, which worked absolutely fine, but I knew early on that I wanted to replace them with bases of massed figures. After a bit of hand wringing I went with the 3mm range offered by Pico Miniatures. These figures provide a great sense of mass which I think works very well for this level of simulation.  Over the summer I worked through a fair amount of the French forces (equivalent to 20 or so brigades/bases of infantry, cavalry and artillery), but in amongst that, I also managed to finish the British contingent which you can see in the accompanying photos.

As with my previous efforts, I've used a fairly stripped-down, minimalist approach to painting these little fellas (for those interested, the method to my madness can be followed up here). One thing I've discovered after dorking around with several hundred of these chaps is that you have to get the flags right as they really put the finishing touch on the unit. Nevertheless, since the cast flags only provide a teeny-tiny paint surface to work with you have puzzle out how best to convey their primary elements. (Believe me, after working on Russian and Austrian flags, with their double-headed eagles, whacky iconography and byzantine heraldry, one really comes to appreciate the elegant simplicity of the French tricolour!) Anyway, here are some of Nosey's lads, ready to go toe-to-toe with the best that Boney has to offer.

The red hash mark is to aid line of sight and indicate nationality.
Shown along with these British figures is another little project that I've wrapped up recently. This is a Mediterranean hill town offered by Total Battle Miniatures. DaveD from One Man and His Brushes was kind enough to pick this up for me from Salute this year. Thanks again Dave! 

This is the second set I've worked on from Total Battle. The first, shown below, was a small Austrian village, reminiscent of the village of Essling which was made famous during the 1809 campaign. That set featured four resin buildings on a flexible rubber base - a very nice bit of terrain

My first effort: Essling screened by Austrian forces painted by Greg and myself.

This time round it's a Mediterranean town set on a picturesque hill. Instead of rubber, the terrain base is a solid piece of resin featuring many nice details including insets for the eight buildings to fit within.

After seeing a few examples on the web I decided to tart-up the base with some vineyards, a few cyprus trees and a suitably heroic statue for the town square.

The vineyards were simply tiny bits of clumped foliage set with white glue. I then brushed in brown ink along the rows to give the impression of well-tended soil.

The cyprus trees were made from pipe-cleaners, shaped with diluted white glue and then painted in place.

The statue is a 6mm mounted figure glued onto a pushpin. Kinda lame, I know, but it works well enough. Like the buildings I kept it loose so it can be removed for when playing pieces have to occupy the town.

Now, I just need a few tables shaded with Cinzano umbrellas, a gelato bar and a couple pretty girls wearing big sunglasses... La Dolce Vita in Curte Vecchio! 

Ciao bella!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

For Nick - 28mm White Russian Command Stand

Well, after an extended summer hiatus I've wandered back to my brushes and keyboard. The past few months have been very restful with many hours spent puttering around the yard, hanging out with Lady Sarah and the Hounds, and putting a load of kilometers on the bicycles. But now the leaves are turning colour, the temperatures are beginning to cool, and so I though it time to remove the dust sheet from the hobby desk and stoke the boilers once again.

Over the past couple of years my good friend Nick (over at Moiterei's bunte Welt) and I have taken to exchanging painted figures after the flurry of the Painting Challenge. Basically we each pick a figure we fancy and the other tries to do his best with it. This year Nick did up 'The General', a wonderful sculpt from the Lead Adventure range to add to my post-apocalyptic collection. As you can see he did a fantastic job on him. I love the saturated colours of his uniform and the way Nick's done the basework to match my other models.

The General
For my part, Nick wanted me to paint him a female commissar for his Russian WWI/Civil War collection from the range offered by Mike Copplestone. Well, with a little foot-dragging on my part I'm happy to (finally) present my offering to Nick.

These two figures represent members of the Kornilov Regiment which fought doggedly with the Whites during the Civil War. The rifle-pennon is a hand-painted affair, taken from something I spotted on the web.

Similar to the other figures in my RCW collection, I added some white flowers on the base to help underline their loyalties.

There you have it Nick! I hope these two Russians find a good place in your collection and I look forward to our next exchange.

Next up: More wee men from the Napoleonic era.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Wee Men In Belgium - 'Blucher' Napoleonic Rules & 3mm French Napoleonics

I picked up a copy of Sam Mustafa's 'Blucher' a few months ago, and since our local gaming group has had the opportunity to play the rules a few times this spring and summer I thought I'd pass along our impressions of the game.

In terms of game scale 'Blucher' is aimed at the brigade-level, allowing players to recreate those huge battles so iconic of the period.  Wagram, Borodino, and even Leipzig are all well within reach with this system. In order to do this 'Blucher' requires the players to accept a certain level of abstraction. For example, each unit on the tabletop roughly equates to a brigade of infantry/cavalry, while the artillery is modeled either as a concentration of guns (around 18 or so) or as being attached to individual brigades as dedicated batteries. 

So when you look at one of the 3"x2.5" unit cards you have to imagine a space of several hundred yards on each axis which is populated with 2-4 infantry battalions, or 2 cavalry regiments, or several batteries of guns all potentially arrayed in a variety of formations. While the grand-tactical scale of 'Blucher' won't be to everyone's taste (and really, what rules can claim that?), for myself I find it really appeals to that portion of my lizard brain which has always loved the grand scope and scale of the era. In my mind's eye, when I look at the table, I can see these huge formations moving across the landscape, banners waving, clashing and recoiling in amongst clouds of powder smoke and the thunder of cannon. Great stuff!

The unit cards themselves are pure genius. They contain most of the information players need to keep track of the unit: name, organization, strength, movement rates and any special abilities. Once you slip them into clear plastic sleeves you can easily track hits and make notes with water-soluble markers

I was chatting with the guys about the cards the other night and we all reminisced that, as young sprouts, we spent months (if not years) painting hundreds of napoleonic figures just to get our first game in. Over the intervening years I have seen loads of models at 'bring-and-buy' tables and on the internet from players who have either lost steam, discovered that they didn't like the period, or found that the rules offered did not appeal to them. With 'Blucher's' use of cards (either bought in the 'Hundred Days' package or easily downloaded and printed on coloured paper), players can be playing within hours of reading the rules, allowing them to determine not only if the rules are for them, but if collecting figures is what they want to do. In effect, it makes the rules incredibly accessible and allows players to get a taste of the genre before making the decision to whole-heartedly plunge into buying figures, terrain, etc.

The Battle of Quatre Bras using the cards from the 100 Days expansion.
As for our group, since April we've been playing 'The Hundred Days' campaign which, as I mentioned earlier, is offered as a separate add-on to 'Blucher'. The expansion provides cards for all the combatants who were involved in the Waterloo campaign, even allowing for a few 'what ifs' by including units which were historically on the flanks, guarding rear areas, and so were not present at the actual battle.  Nonetheless, with this system you can choose how you want to organize your forces and modify you deployments to create those fascinating 'what ifs' that are often discussed regarding those famous days in June, 1815.

For our campaign, we have eight players (four French and two each for the Prussians and Anglo-Allied contingents) while I am standing in, with whip and chair, as referee. 

For an added bit of fun I decided to conduct the campaign in double (triple?) blind, that is where the players have very limited knowledge of the movements and intentions of not only the enemy, but of their own allies as well. This limited intelligence (no comments from the wags pleeeaze) is mitigated through aggressive scouting, effective communication and good old-fashioned blundering around the countryside. I ask the teams for their daily orders and then I secretly conduct their movements on my own map (which has the full picture), notifying them of any sightings, reconnaissance, events, etc. In many respects it's much like classic Kriegspiel.

'For the cost of a few boot laces Napoleon has humbugged us.' The Hundred Days campaign map mounted a pin-board in the GM's office.
We're now at the closing chapter of the campaign and it's do-or-die for both the French and Allies. In fact, I think our next  battle will pretty much decide the issue. A real nail-biter to be sure.

The whole experience has really been excellent and I must take my hat off to the players for making it such a success. The guys have really embraced the various personalities of the period. Napoleon is supremely confident and dismissive of the Allies while his wing commander, Ney, is a worn-out maniac with a death wish; Blucher is suitably irascible and seems to suffer from a touch of dementia while his chief of staff, Gneisenau, is highly suspicious of the English;  Wellington is suitably xenophobic and has a constant eye on the Channel ports, just in case he has to make a quick dash to save Britain's only army. So, while the guys get to have fun playing the games and chewing up the scenery with the various characters, I in turn, have had a tremendous thrill watching it all unfold, reading all the correspondence and hearing the backroom planning. All in all, it's a wonderful recipe for a few months of gaming.

Okay, the other part of this post is to show what figures I've been working on these past few weeks. 

These are 3mm Napoleonics from Pico Armor (sourced from Oddzial Osmy out of Poland, I believe). The figures are based on 2" x 1.75" MDF bases. I asked Byron (over at SG2 Creations) to fabricate these bases with a 3mm thickness and with rounded corners. The thickness is to allow players to pick them up easily and the rounded corners is simply because I like the look of them (it seems to give the finished product a wargaming chit look).

The common standard for 'Blucher' is a 3" frontage, but I've decided to go with 2" as it allows for quite large battles to be played on the 8 x 5 surface which I typically use. To provide a bit more perspective, in this scale each inch equates to 150 yards, so one square foot on the tabletop is equal to about a square mile. Utilizing this scale allows us to recreate sprawling actions like Wagram or Vitoria on a single tabletop - in effect, it is like a quasi 3D map exercise.

Examples of various unit types, left to right: Foot Artillery, Infantry and Heavy Cavalry
For my way of thinking, painting these figures demands a VERY minimalist approach. The following list is what I've come up with to balance speed of production with maintaining a basic level of detail to communicate what the figures are supposed to be:

1) I glue the strips of figures to the base in groupings of three or four 'battalions' (3 ranks of 10 figures each) along with a few leader types (mounted officer and some trailing NCOs and junior officers on foot). Since these are French, I usually include a skirmishing screen at the front to reflect their tactical doctrine of using light troops. Every once in a while I'll include an artillery piece or a regimental band to break up the monotony and add a bit of visual interest. When all is said and done this gives a base with approximately 100 - 130 figures on it.

For heavy cavalry (i.e. cuirassiers) I base the figures in four ranks to give the impression of a mass of horsemen, whereas the medium cavalry (dragoons) get three ranks and light cavalry (Hussars, chasseurs, etc.) are setup with two lines.  I do this in order to give players a visual clue to what they're looking at on the tabletop.

For foot artillery I put four guns along with a 'trail' of caissons and support troops behind them. For horse artillery I just increase the amount of horses on the base.

2) Once the figures are glued down I then lay down a very thin skim coat of artists' gel medium. This provides some texture for the groundwork and helps to mask the transition between the figure strips and the surface of the MDF base. I leave a small area clear at the rear corner of the MDF base as I will need the space to affix the printed unit label.

3) I then prime the whole base using a dark brown spray, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies of the formations. I often touch up with a soft brush to ensure I have complete coverage.

4) Once the primer is dry I liberally drybrush the whole base and figures with a medium grey. This will help to lift the brighter colours later on when painting the base and figures.

5) Okay, before I carry on I should outline a few opinions I have regarding painting in this scale: The way I see it is that these figures should simply convey their primary features, firstmost being their national uniform colour, with only a nod to other physical elements (namely face, hands, trousers, shako and bayonet), otherwise you can easily get drawn into the rabbit-hole of trying to paint fine details which will never be appreciated when they are seen en mass - in fact I find that too much painted detail can make the figure too 'busy', detracting from conveying the main uniform colour: French should primarily be blue, British red, Austrians white, etc. I think of these bases almost like boardgame chits, perhaps more like  three dimensional playing tokens.

6) Now, back to the figures. Next, I drybrush the castings in their national colour, in this case it's blue for the French. I pick a fairly unhistorical, vibrant colour as I find the scale needs bright tones to help make the figures stand out.

 7) Next I touch in their face and hands, trousers, shako and bayonet tips. The final piece is the tricolour flag. And that's it for the figures. Perceptive readers will have noticed that, since I base everything from the start, I don't paint the middle rank or any inward-facing detail. In this scale I only paint the front of the front rank, the rear of the rear rank and the top of their heads. Early on, I discovered that after painting every figure, the interior facing detail is completely lost once the strips of figures are based up. A complete waste of time and effort. So now I just paint the perimeter of the formations and I find that you can't tell the difference between the 'all-figure-detail' bases and those which are more minimalist 

8) The basework is drybrushed two tones of brown with a khaki highlight. I then use a semi-opaque green tinted model railway emulsion to provide a base tone for the light scatter of flock I apply later. I'll then use a brown ink wash to make 'tracks' behind the formations, showing where they have trampled through the terrain. I then paint a mark on the front center which is used in the rules for purposes of line of sight and measurement (it is blue here for the French, but will be red for the British, white for the Austrians, etc.). Finally, I print off a 3.5mm label and affix it to the rear corner of the base (these are so we can use roster sheets for all the unit information).

9) ...And here is the finished product (this base is an earlier effort). Again, as you can see, it's fairly basic and stripped down, but when brought together with their companion bases I think they give a good enough impression of an army.

With each being a brigade this grouping depicts roughly two corps of infantry with artillery and cavalry support.
So, there you have it. A new Napoleonic rule set and a new scale to putter around with. The French army is well on its way to being completed so next up is the British and Spanish for some campaigning in the Peninsula. 

Thanks for dropping by everyone and have a great week!