Friday, 14 March 2014

I'm back! A catch-up on things painted, acquired and general progress. Pics to follow

Yes I know its been 18 months since I've updated this blog, but as my close friends and gaming buddies know, and I don't need to burden anyone else with, its been an exceptionally difficult time. This has hampered painting, gaming and even more so taking pics and doing write-ups, which is what a blog is all about.

I also don't aim to entertain a general audience with this blog, so apologies to my handful of 'Followers' and casual readers. This blog is basically a convenient way to communicate with my gaming buddies, keep a record of my activities for my own amusement, have the occasional rant, and be a resource for myself and my friends, eg. write up scenarios keep lists of figures in armies etc.. Anyone else to be honest is incidental.

So I'm afraid don't expect weekly progress reports or step by step guides, just what pops out, which is highly dependent on getting my camera phone out, And more to the point thinking that anything I might write will have a potential audience of more than one (my alternative form of communication being text or email normally to gaming buddy 'Steve the Hat', or else Tony or anyone at my club, or David who has recently kindly introduced me to his own informal 'club').

Enough material has been building up to share on this blog, not least a bit of progress on the acquisition/assembly/painting front in the last 18 months (and indeed earlier) and not least because I've been spreading my wings of late and been invited to two more clubs, which gives the time for a bit more gaming albeit unfortunately more sporadic than once a week at my local club.

Rather than dive in with pics/reports on my latest games/projects I thought I'd preface it all with a couple of posts which might help make more sense of what I've been up to.

If your not interested feel free to skip, as this is close to 24 months of different projects that have slipped through the net, and for a great many people might just be tedious.

And I'm not sure 'making sense' is quite the right word. Indeed not sure even I can make sense at all of my sporadic, and rather haphazard efforts, complete lack of single-minded dedication and openess to distraction, which characterises my approach to wargaming. Although it seems an approach I share with 90% of people in this hobby! Why so? Well my guess is that frustrating though it is at times, the fact is collecting, painting and 'finishing' any wargaming army is a long, slow and at times tedious process. By my reckoning you can count on painting an army. leaving aside making scenery, taking 100 hours plus. That is a lot of time for anyone, especially a lot of 'leisure time' for a hobbyist, and the likelihood of getting bored, giving up for a while, and getting distracted by something new is close to 100% in the case of most mortals. So you just have to accept it and try to keeping going back to old projects when you can.

In fact catching up has to start back in 2012, when I was quietly working on several of my many projects, but for one reason or another didn't photo/document and therefore blog.

In the summer 2012 I had a good spell of painting and terrain-making, which largely consisted of expanding some existing forces and/or starting/progressing projects without finishing them. These included:

1. Expanding my forces for the Napoleonic skirmish game ' Sharp Practice' - another unit of close order each for Pennisular War Brits and French, some more skirmishers for both sides and a British Highland unit. All told about 100 figures. Acquired and undercoated some Hat Industrie Spanish, but no progress on painting.
Highlanders for 'Sharp Practice'

For good measure painted up some AWI in 20mm, mainly militia, some of which will be based up for my little French Indians War project. But didn't finish them.

2. Painted up the heavy weapons for my WW1 Late War Brits. Now all army complete, plus added another box of Late War WW1 Germans, which I got all painted and finished, bringing that army up to the same size as the Brits. Acquired (and just recently assembled) a set of Hat Industrie French '75 artillery and Pegasus French which include MGs missing in the Airfix WW1 French set, of which I have ample now painted and finished, and already blogged. So largely going to move on to terrain-making (trenches) to get WW1 table-ready.

Other 20th century stuff included doing most of the basic paint work on some 28mm Vietnam figures. I've got a platoon pack of West Wind VC and NVA, but I'm rather short US figures, and a couple of heavy weapons might help. An order of around £35 from Westwind would sort this out, but other demands on my pennies.

The Roman general Marius reformed the army in 107 BC, and Roman legionaries were equipped like this through to the Early Empire 

Six units painted up. Thanks for the figures Diggers! Two more boxes to go

3. Expanded what was one box of Italeri Caesar's legions painted to be later period Praetorians with couple more boxes kindly donated by Diggers from his unwanted plastics pile, all painted and finished, and acquired (and recently de-sprued and assembled) another couple of boxes. When finished these will give me a full double-based DBA/Impetus army, of Marian/Caesarian Romans, slotting in between my Punic War Republicans and 1st Century AD Early Imperial Roman army already completed. Did some more Italeri Gauls and started but haven't finished some Italeri Gallic cavalry which will top off nicely a similar sized Gallic Army to match against them, or the Punic War era Romans, or with the addition of a few chariots the Early Imperials as Ancient Brits. Painted everything but the shields on a couple of boxes of Hat's Punic Wars Italian Allies, which can also be used for Roman/Italian forces pre-Punic Wars (ie. Rome's numerous wars whereby it united Italy, Phyrric Wars, Italian allies and enemies for |Carthage and the Greek City States in Sicily, and all the war's in Livy's histories right back to Romulus and Remus). Also finished some more Hittites, Libyan skirmishers which made it on the blog back in 2012 in my first outing for the Ancient Egyptians vs Hittites in a game of Impetus. Also painted most of the infantry for a little force of Hat Late Romans I acquired a while back, though this overlaps time period-wise with what I have in 28mm, and I'd probably be better concentrating on enlarging my 28mm collection if I want to find gaming opponents given the fact at least 5-6 people would give me a game of War and Conquest in 28mm if I had a completed army, rather than in 20mm which few people are interested in at my local club. So in no rush to buy the cavalry needed to complete this army properly - though I can 'borrow' some from the Early Imperials if necessary.

Infantry painted up for Late Romans

Close up

4. Painted up the 15mm Peter Pig and GZG figs acquired at the SELWG show for Sci-Fi purposes, suitable as respectively guerillas and the typical sort of mercenaries featuring in the Traveller RPG.

5, Started work on my stock of Darkest Africa figures (2011 Xmas Present to myself). Did a few nice looking samples of character figures (white men) and a couple of Zanzibari Arabs, and a basic few colours on all my native tribesmen (flesh, spears and bases - loin cloths and shields left to do).

6. Really got stuck into making cork-board buildings. Made about 20 buildings in different designs, for Vietnam/Africa, half-timbered and conventional sloped roofed terrace and individual houses probably most suitable for Normandy, expanding on my collection which is mainly flat-roofed Middle-Eastern (used already in the Mos Eisley game), and three early experiments in Spanish/Italian houses. Realised the plans were really for 28mm, and a bit big for 20mm (though some useable) and did a couple of simple cottages scaled off the 1/72 Pegasus Eastern European wooden houses, which saw action in my Rapid Fire Russian Front game (last blog entry before the 18 month hiatus). Most of these buildings are still unpainted so didn't take any pics (sorry no step-by-step guides, but just look on Matakishi's Tea House for the general idea), but will take some when I get around to painting them.

7. Acquired a nice big job lot of GW Mordor Orcs including Morranon Orcs and more Warg riders at a great price on eBay. Most just under-coated or dismally painted, but so were many of my first purchases. Should near double my force when painted up.

8. Noticed on eBay a bunch of cheap plastic Daleks which were 'given away' in a magazine. Acquired a load either picking them up in shops or on eBay along with various other Dr Who figs (cybermen, angels etc.). 150 odd 28mm figures for under 20 quid, can't argue with that! Just need a Tardis and some metal Doctor figures for a game. And for good measure on the 28mm Sci-Fi front assembled and painted up a dozen Starship Trooper figures, and assembled and undercoated some EM-4 Troopers and 'Gangers', which will give me lots of possibilities either for FUBAR in 28mm or for a full blown Dr Who games,

9. Played a few games of Saga, and bored with just using Anglo-Saxons all the time, I realised I had some Ral Patha Fantasy Barbarians, which were pretty closely modelled on Vikings. Got them out and realised I was a few figures short of having a Saga 'army', or at least skirmish force, so hunted on eBay and found twenty odd figures on sale so bought them but only got as far as basing a few. In fact quite close to having two Saga Viking armies...

Those were the main things in 2012.

In the spring of 2013 had a couple of months of decent painting time. Concentrated on:

1. Main Napoleonic Armies

Napoleonic British Infantry - I needed to decide what size of units that I wanted before painting facing colours and shako plumes/cords - Decided to go with 32 figure units- four of which are being finished off here

My oldest, largest and still uncompleted projects! Decided to finally ditch the idea of trying to get my armies to fit on standard Volley and Bayonet bases. Much as I love these rules, the standard bases don't really work very well for 20mm figures and my 4 figure strips of infantry figures looked scrappy and not really practical for most other rule sets. So freed from the idea of trying to keep maximum flexibility for different rulesets, particularly one that didn't really do much for 20mm figures, I asked myself "what looks best on the table in this scale". I came up with the answer 32 figure units, with proper flags, on bigger bases and went for two bases of eight figures each and four of four figures (with slightly bigger bases than previously) each - enough flexibility for different formations and rulesets, but easy enough to move around the table. And above all looked a visual treat. So rolled up my sleeves, finished off the painting (hat badges, plumes, shako cords and facing colours) on about ten units of Brits, and varnished and re-based them. Re-based similar number of French, and re-based most of my Russians, painting up some Jaegers as light infantry skirmishers and some French too, and converting a pile of figures to flagbearers, mainly for Brit and Russians which have two flags per unit. Ran out of steam on the Brits because I can't get any of the various command sets (great little Strelets set seems always out of stock when I try and put together an order for more plastics) and the Russians because I couldn't get the Russian flags on the Warflags site to print and my copy of Photoshop is on a PC that is currently bust. So project still not finished nearly 17 years on.... but so close on three armies I can taste it!

Sorting out all my Napoleonic British infantry - around 20 units worth here - close to 700 figures

2. Somewhere in the midst of this I was infected for about a month with a sort of madness caught from Steve, who has a weakness for Warhammer Fantasy and took me along to a couple of games at the 'old club' where his Dwarf army was thrashed both times (apparently he did win another game but I wasn't there). Now I am not the greatest fan of this game, or some of the people who play it, or some of the armies in the game, but I was a Dungeons and Dragons player in my teenage years and so have had the occasional irrational weakness for Fantasy Figures overcomes my adult brain, which I have mainly channelled into Lord of the Rings, but once did spill over into buying and painting some GW Fantasy figures, most notably a few units of Dark Elves and an 'opportunistic purchase' of a nice little half painted army that was going for a song on eBay. So this insanity started with deciding to get sorted all the Dark Elf spearmen I had. I painted/repainted all the extra spearmen that I had acquired giving me a fairly impressive 6 painted units. But a pile of spearmen, half a dozen Dark Riders and Cold One Knights and a collection of figures and models, half unpainted, mismatched and understrength for full units does not a winning Warhammer Army make. So I foolishly started browsing the Army Book included with the little army that I had acquired and within a week couldn't help myself going on eBay to make the acquisitions necessary to make this a viable and winning tabletop force, viz a dragon and general, two Pegasus riders, a manticore rider and several heroes. The madness just faded before I pressed 'Buy it Now' on another nicely painted unit of Cold One Knights, some more Dark Riders, some more Witch Elves and some Harpies, so my all singing, all-dancing, power gaming, battle-winning 4,000 point army still has not materialised and the heroes/sorceresses lie unassembled and unpainted in boxes, doubtless to tempt me another day!
The Dark Elves lurking in the cupboard - snapped while working on the spearmen

3. I briefly had a go at a couple of other things, tried to progress Darkest Africa but couldn't make a decision on which of a couple of painting techniques or what colours I preferred to go with on my Zanzibaris, and got stuck into a box of Valiant WW2 Germans, but gave up on both.

4. Got much more traction on starting on something completely new, or at least long ago started and put away at the undercoat stage. This was my collection of 20mm plastic figures acquired for the English Civil War, although over half the figures were from Revell's Thirty Years War range.
Swedish Pike and Shot unit for Thirty Years War

I'd actually painted up a sample unit of Revell Swedish Infantry during a mini-painting spree over the 2011/12 Xmas break, and my next small plastics order added a couple of boxes of Zvedza Austrian Pike and Shot, which had not been issued at the time I acquired the initial army. I knew only a little about the period, and that mainly from reading one book on the English Civil War, and virtually nothing about the Thirty Years War, but reading up on it found it a fascinating period, and was spurred on by the Impetus Baroque Army Lists which allow you to get started with small armies in a period when armies were not that large anyway. I managed to finish the painting on three more units of infantry (another Swedish and two 'Imperial') and make a start on the 'Call to Arms' ECW figs that I had which would give me several more infantry units. I also based up all the cavalry that I had acquired (over 90 figures) - Mars knock offs of the hard to find Revell Swedish Cavalry, which in fact is such a varied set you can make plenty of 'lobsters', pistol armed reiters, and charging Swedish-style cavalry to equip both sides of either 30YW or ECW, and mix them together too. I have to admit I was hooked on the period and sorely tempted to order a few more figures to cover this entire period, with the newer various ranges (mainly from Zvedva) for Polish, Russian, Ukranian and Turkish armies a severe temptation, when you can equip yourself with a new army for 30 quid, or make a 'distinctive' one by adding a unit or two with the correct flags etc, to a pool of generic figures. So rather than just a pair of ECW armies I could end up with owning a whole period!
Imperial Thirty Years War Pike and Shot Regiment

So start with a modest achievable project and develop ambitions for something meglamaniac in scope that is never finished. Nothing new there, then!

5. In the summer I'd largely come to the end of the line in terms of being able to concentrating on doing any regular painting. But I did venture into a couple of Pound Shops where back in 2011/12 I'd found some very useful additions of vehicles for 15mm Sci-Fi which saved me a fortune compared to getting very similar models from the likes of GZG, where they start at a fiver a vehicle. I didn't find much in the two shops I'd got lucky in before, but couldn't believe my eyes when I glanced down the toy aisle in Wilikson's. A set of about 5 die-cast vehicles knocked down to half price ie. just £3 including an APC and heavy tank (both perfectly scaling with 15mm), two helicopters and a (28mm scale) car transporter truck. The quality was better than anything else I've bought and I ended up making three more trips and bagging 9 sets in total. Heavy Tank would convert easily and effectively into a heavy Grav Tank, though almost a shame to convert it. APCs (I'm told by people who know these things is based on a Russian Unimog) can be used virtually out of the box, as can one of the helicopters...anyway more later...

All wargaming activities had to come to a halt until late November/early December.  It had been a very hard and difficult year and I had shown some comparative restrain on purchasing (only the Warhammer Dark Elves really) in terms of purchases, so I decided it was time to give myself a special treat for Xmas. I'm easing off considerably in terms of 20mm plastic purchases, and want to concentrate most future purchases on 28mm (and I'm even considering a few 15mm purchases). This is based partly on feeling I want to move my painting up a grade. There is only so much you can do to improve on what you can do with a 20mm figure, while for me there is still a challenge in getting 28mm to look 'right', And partly because I recognise that I have a compromise a bit more with other wargamers preferences on scales if I want to get a game/or get people wanting to play one that I'm staging. The fact is that 20mm just doesn't float as many people's boats as 28mm and/or 15mm.

Basically I'm happy if I have an armies for most periods in 20mm, so I can game them, which I pretty much do, or will once I've painted them. When you're thinking about adding Sumerians, Boxer Rebellion Figures and doing the Napoleon III's intervention in Mexico as your next projects, you know there is not a lot left to buy!

On the other hand, I want (and really hope) not to just go out and buy the same armies all over again in 28mm (or 15mm for that matter). As 17 years of working on my five Napoleonic Armies has yet to give me a pair to put on the table yet, I'm hopefully NOT going to trying that in 28mm!

If ease of getting a game had been paramount I basically should have maybe have gone for some more figures for another War and Conquest Ancients army, but two long held passions came to the fore and instead my big treats were:

1. A medium-sized Army Deal from Perry Miniatures from their War of the Roses range, plus a few extra boxes with a view to building an Italian Condottiere army of the same period - lived in Milan for almost a year - blame trips to Castello Sforzesco and Italian early Renaissance art and architecture, and an appreciation of Italian opportunistic cyncism!

2. Two armies for the Russian Civil War from Mark Copplestone's brilliantly eccentric 'Back of Beyond' range. Can also be easily combined for WW1 Eastern Front to match up again Phil's huge Early War German army.

French '76

Ammunition caisson being maneuvered into position

French '75 in action with ammunition caisson

Assembling close to 300 Perry's plastics is a big undertaking, and I resolved to clear the decks first by assembling some other 20mm plastics which increasingly come with arms to fix on. Did the (aforementioned) Pegasus WW1 French and Hat French '75s, the two boxes of Italeri Caesar's Legions, started on a box of Zvedza Early WW1 German's and had the best of intentions to finish assembling two boxes of Zvedza Austrian Pike and Shot. But impatience to get stuck into the Perry figures got the better of me, and I set them aside and slogged away for the best part of 10 days to put nearly all the Perry's together.

Finally, two more things the end of last year and the beginning of this, both revolving around another friend and his son. My friend is not a wargamer as such - although worked in military planning apparently for a long time- but it turns out  he is an avid boardgamer, in fact virtually a boardgame freak. Moreover, his five year son is exceptionally bright and it turns out 'soldier mad' (ahh, my younger self, you'll go far....). So after a couple of very enjoyable evenings playing backgammon and Carsonne, I got to thinking what could I think of to tempt them into some sort of game. Came up with 3 ideas - 'Saga', very much a boardgamer's cup of tea with that cunning battleboard, Lord of the Rings Battle Strategy Game - very much thought of with a younger audience in mind- and an off-the-wall one here: Modern FUBAR with painted Army Man figures. This was partly based on having bought his son a huge die-cast Apache helicopter from my local newsagents for his birthday which was at a bargain price because it was an first of a monthly magazine on Helicopters of the World or something with a giant helicopter to collect each month. Partly on the fact, that his son tends to grab things and I'd rather see painted Army men flung across the room that 28mm miniatures.

This had two consequences. Firstly my new found addiction to Poundshops had me rooting through their toy sections to discover what you could actually get for a quid (or a couple of quid in a toy shop) and the answer is a surprising lot, and a surprising variety of figures. All generally modern, all not of the highest quality sculpting or moulding-wise, but stacks of figures often for as little as 5p each in a lot of shapes and sizes...anyway about three visits and 7/8 quid later...well that's for another post...

Finally, my other thought took me back to my Lord of the Rings Collection. Been meaning to get a few of the newer Galadrim Elves to add a bit of variety to the otherwise two dull poses of the rest of my High Elf Force for ages. Approaching birthday which is less than six weeks after Xmas, was a good excuse. For a change found eBay saved me a bit of money on purchasing a brand new set. But then saw a single seller with six/seven lots of what looked like well-painted figures...missed the Dwarves which attracted me too them... but realised if I grabbed the rest, I could get a big postage discount. In the end very pleased. Seriously enlarged my Rohan Army, and my Uruk Hai Army...and filled out my Gondor army. In a stroke went from having three armies which were only just there in terms of making up a small War of the Rings having most close to being able to fill a table...making close to five with the Mordor Orcs and High Elves. And once combined with Steve's collection or some of the other guys like Simon's at the club the table could be groaning....

....Well that's more than enough for now. A separate up-date on games of note to follow, and more on all these projects with pics, as and when....

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