Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Norman Project, Part 2: Painting cavalry

Quick photo journal of the painting of a group of Norman knights/Crusaders. The work you see in these pics took about 3.5 hours from start to finish and about 45 minutes to an hour of that was waiting for the washes to dry. I've simplified and organized my painting a great degree over the last two decades.

Primered. Primer covers a lot of my modelling mistakes. I like to paint assembly line fashion, so rarely do one model at a time. When doing cavalry, I'll usually do all the horses in the group the same color/style to make it easier. If I do several different groups the same and then mix them... viola; no one knows they were all painted the same. For this group, though, I'll do the horses different.

The base coat. Sloppy and splashed on, when I wash them, many sins will be forgiven. I chose several colors for the horses as you can see. The two in the center are the same base color but will be washed different shades, and even though it's not real apparent in the pictures, they will look different in person.

Another shot of the base coat. Note I don't do any of the details such as the stirrups or swords pommels n@t. I am exceedingly lazy (hence the use of washes in the first place.) I used to apply at least three colors on every surface and that was 99% 15mm's! I even painted the Virgin and Child on a 15mm King Arthur shield. That was then, this is now though. Now it's base coat, wash, highlight with base coat colors. Done.

Just in case you thought I was lying or exaggerating. In Malory, Arthur had a depiction of Madonna and Child on the inside of his shield so that every time he blocked an enemy's attack he was strengthened by seeing the Virgin Mother and baby Jesus. Well, this is as close as I was going to get to that. At one time I considered it a challenge to make every mini into a work of art. Now, while I still enjoy the painting aspect of the hobby, I am happy with decent looking guys for my forces.

The wash applied. I prefer Army Painter inks that you can see in the back ground.

The light brown horse on the right got a Red wash to try to get that chestnut color, while the two in the center got Dark and Soft washes, right to left. The left bay got Soft as well. All the riders were washed in Soft as that is my usual go-to wash.

Highlighted with base colors and details filled in. You can see the two on the right do indeed show different shades of brown and I'm happy with the chestnut. That was the first time I tried that undercoat and will use it often now. Typically, they really do look better in person, honest.

Note their shields are not done. For starters, the transfers are still on order from England, but also, I am going to do an entry dedicated to just their shields, along with their accompanying infantry. And yes, I hand painted all my 15mm Norman shields.

I'm also going to do a separate blog report on their bases. That'll be up next. It's a time consuming process, but you'll see and judge for yourself if you think it's worth it. I do, usually. Sometimes, I just glue and flock. As always, I'm ever ready for hints, tips or suggestions to make my guys look better or save me a lot of effort.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Norman Project. Part 1: Putting the damn army together.

So, this is something a little different. I thought it might be fun for some to watch a project from start to finish, especially those that aren't really into gaming that may look at this. In this case, my Normans/Crusaders for Saga. The two are different 'factions' but are going to be very similar obviously. I bought enough dudes to adequately represent both lists as they are pretty identical.

I have been using a lot of plastics lately and after some initial doubts, (after all, mini's are supposed to be metal!), I am pretty much hooked on plastics now. Typically I like Gripping Beast or Perry Miniatures for plastics for this game but other companies, like Warlord Games, make great plastics for Bolt Action, Pike and Shotte, Gates of Antares and other fine games. Plus, plastics are generally cheaper. A box of GB plastic infantry will run less than $40 and have about 40 - 44 dudes. About 8 metal mini's will run about $16 at least, so, do the math.

This army was different though. I really didn't care for too many of the plastics that were available (that I could find) and went with metal for the infantry. I was going to go all metal until my local hobby store directed me to Conquest Games for the cavalry. I've a few nits to pick regarding them but overall, very good stuff. For the infantry, I also did a lot of research and decided on Crusader minis. I liked the poses in general, though they didn't come with weapons. This is a universal pain in the ass but more on that later.

All in all I have 15 mounted troops which includes a proxy for a Warlord. (Sixteen actually. The box contained a dead horse and rider. Not useful in game terms but very cool nonetheless. It will get the same treatment as the 'live' ones.) Foot troops include 24 Warriors with spear and shield, 8 bowmen and 8 xbowmen. (These are different in game terms; xbows having greater ability to punch through armor.) As most troops are purchased in groups of 8 and most games are  played with 4-6 points, I have a minimum of 8 points and a few more, depending how I use my purchase points. In short, I'm good with what I got. (Except 4 more bowmen I need.)

Here's a typical cavalry sprue:

You can see there is a variety of weapons and heads to choose from, which is good. The one piece body, while being somewhat confining as per what poses you can make, were also easy to remove and glue in place. The plastics were easy to remove and assemble for the most part. My concerns were: a) 4 dudes per sprue vs. 3 kite shields per sprue. I know some of these guys had round shields but I would have liked the option to field all of them with kite shields. Not the end of the world. b) The weapons definitely needed to go with certain bodies, so there is a bit of similarity to the figures. I needed to be creative and cut and glue some things to make them different but still couldn't make them all unique. My first few tries yielded some wonky poses. Oh well, someone has to die first!

One sprue completed. They're alright, good enough for me. A decent paint job forgives a lot of sins. I'm no modeler as can clearly be seen. At something like $32 for 15 (16) guys, I'll take it. (Gripping Beast are typically $38.50 for 12.)

Here's a few of the leg troopers. (Most likely those who lost their horses on the way to Outremer or had them killed out from under them in their first skirmish.) Either way, they are PBI now. As mentioned, these guys came with no weapons. The rules state they are armed with spears fortunately, as I have those in abundance due to all the other plastics I've bought lately. I cut the spears off the arms on the sprues for a few guys: see the guy on the right front. I used an x-acto knife to trim the plastic hand off the spear and glued it in his hand. That's a pain in the ass though, and hard to do without slicing the spear (or my finger) in two, especially 23 more times! What I did with most of them was to clip the metal hand off the mini and glue the spear with hand attached. It was easier and the poses worked. Super glue is awesome with plastics and metal. If they don't quite align, I can paint them like they are wearing gloves. Easy peasey.

One box of cavarly reading for priming, sir! (Another box is on order.)

24 foot warriors with spear and shield. The shields were separate and needed glued on as well but not a problem. The shield strap didn't quite match up on a few but there was no too much to be done about it. First person who says something gets kicked in the nuts. Don't tell the police I didn't warn you.

One unit of bows and another of xbows. All in all, it cost about $.40 to mount all the infantry. ;-)

Next comes priming and their base coat of colors. It's currently too cold to prime but should warm up in the next few days. In the meantime, I am completing the basing on my Late Romans. They will get their turn to shine soon, so keep a look out. 

Part 2 pretty soon.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bolt Action: Maximum Attrition

Met with Chris and Nat for some Bolt Action yesterday. The play Gates of Antares and were intrigued by the system so much they bought starter armies for BA, US Marines and IJA. (Chris being a Marine himself.) I brought up Germans and Americans while they assemble and paint their forces, to give them a preview of this fine game. We played Maximum Attrition, using 1st Edition rules. Essentially, who ever kills the most units in 6, or possibly 7, turns is declared the winner. The German forces had 1062 points and the Americans 1066. BA aficionados may note that the US list is illegal as it contains a SPG as well as an AFV. Tough shit; I just bought the M21 mortar carrier and I was going to use it.

The German list consisted of fewer, larger units and the US with more and smaller units. The idea was the US would use their mobility and and ability to move and fire to whittle away the Germans while the Germans would maneuver to bring their superior firepower to bear in as close proximity as possible. Crazily enough, it sort of worked out that way. Nat's Americans had the early edge and looked to be unstoppable, but then the Germans got close and blew away the Ami's. The game ended in a draw, 3 units destroyed on each side. Funny, there was not a single Close Combat assault in the entire game. Didn't make any difference as the telegrams home would still be the same.

I also improvised and included a medic on each side. Instead of giving him an order die though, I allowed them to be attached to one unit and function essentially the same: assisting any unit within 6" and not counting as a part of their base unit for shooting or being shot at. It worked; a few wounds were saved.

The Battlefield. The Germans entered on the right, the Americans on the left. Each side held off a few units in Reserve. Then, incredibly, I think something like the first 9 dice pulled were ALL German, so Nat had the advantage of seeing what units were coming in where and who was left in Reserve.

A view from behind the American lines.

US forces enter strong on their right; the M21 taking up a firing position in the plaza.

The Germans come in strong in the center. The Fallschirmjager unit in the center and a Heer unit flanking their HQ. The Sturm squad in the HT took immediate fire from the mortar.

Needing a 6 on a d6 to hit, Nat promptly zeroed in the the HT, pinning it. Unfortunately, in the two turns it took the crew to get the nerve to move forward, Nat continued to hit (near miss) but couldn't damage or destroy it. But their days were being counted in minutes as it would turn out...

The Gerry left finds shelter in a ruined farmhouse.

The US HQ advances to catch up with the forward elements of the attack.

Bad news for the FJ! The US air support observer has drawn a bead on their unit and is radioing for air support!

The US left advances down the road. Further on, you can see the Sturm squad has successfully disembarked from the HT. 81mm mortar shells are definitely NOT your friend while sitting as a passenger.

Americans advance through the rubble of a ruined church.

Finally passing a Leadership test, the HT advances to become a mobile MG nest.

Too bad the M4 has a LOS to him though.

US squads advance into the burning remains of a coffee shop that served those really good French pastries. (Notice the French themselves are all somewhere else.)

Here it comes! The US air support comes in the form of a fighter/bomber that takes out 9 dudes in the FJ unit! It passes it's MC and remains on the field, but not for much longer. Their huge firepower was never used.

MkIVJ's are cool. Supporting the Sturm squad, it had only to fear what came from the skies as it would more than likely shrug off anything the M4 could throw it's way.

Hmmmm, see those observers in the steeple?

Less than before. See the dead piling up off the table in the background? The forces were now engaged in small arms range.

The MkIV wasn't playing.

US airborne support, following the HQ into firing position.

The US left. Two full squads, one airborne, plus the HQ square of against one German Heer unit and their own HQ.

The German flanking maneuver finally arrives 36 inches up the table edge. They catch a US unit in the open and do bad things to them. They also take out one of the American MMG's.

War is hell. The M4 took out the German HT before itself being knocked out by the MkIV. One Strum trooper remains. Chris' other Heer unit was also down to one man but both managed to survive, securing a come from behind draw.

The game had a 50/50 chance of continuing to a Turn 7 but the dice said 'no'. Here's a look at what was left. 

Part of the German's ability to climb back in this one was the well placed artillery barrage that, while not killing anyone, put shit tons of Pins on all units within 10" of where it came in. Included was the US air support observer team, which never passed a Leadership test after that and were not able to call in the second US air strike. Had that come in, I like the US chances. A lot. But if my mother had wheels, she'd be a wagon. Would, coulda, shoulda... in any case, it didn't materialize.

I also didn't include too much AT weapons just to keep the game simple and also to avoid having to enter the table with a gun. If I was building a competitive list, it would include some Panzerfausts and bazooka's, Gammon Bombs and the like. The M4 wasn't likely to kill the MkIV but the airplanes surely could; they just never got the chance.

Overall, I think it was a good introduction to the game. Both Chris and Nat seemed to enjoy it and are planning on making Pacific terrain, which is a good sign.

The End.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Saracens by Gripping Beast Plastics for Saga: The Crescent & the Cross

I have recently discovered the fine game 'Saga' by Tomahawk Studios, though it's been around for a while. I actually avoided it for a bit as I knew once I got started I would be hooked and I had several other major projects I wanted to put behind me before I added another. It was a good call overall but I am glad to be going full bore back into the Dark/Middle Ages. Having completed some Vikings, Anglo-Danes, Welsh and other assorted Dark Age bad asses, I decided to turn my attention to the Crusades. Since I have a friend with some Normans, I opted to go Crescent and started the Saracens a few weeks ago. (Don't worry, my own Normans are on order.)(I have always tried to have at least two armies that were historical opponents whenever I delve into a new game. That way, at least I know I'll get to play, even if it's solo.)

I really like the Gripping Beast Plastics. They are really nice moulds, usually plenty of poses and relatively cheap. Well, the infantry are anyway. One can purchase a box of 40-44 infantry for about $38.50 USD. That's about the same price you would pay for the bases for a few GW models. The cavalry are more expensive though. For the same price, you only get 12 dudes. That's a lot of money for plastic models. But what's an addict to do?

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to my latest army.

The whole shebang, Prolly slightly more points required for a standard game but it gives me options, especially if I purchase one of the historical leaders that gives me a ton more tactical flexibility; eg: the horse archers become Turcomans and are equipped with composite bows. While they don't shoot as far as regular bows, they allow the unit to move *and* shoot. If you activate them twice in a row they can move into range and then shoot. For their second activation they can then shoot and move back the where they were. This nicely simulates the very tactics that drove the Franks bonkers when they first met these guys. The Franks would break ranks chasing them and then get picked off in small groups.

My (temporary) Warlord and his Ghulums lead the pack. He's temporary until my Sala Al-Din model arrives from the U.K, then he's demoted back to plain old warrior.

I know you're wondering: the buildings are scratch built by my brother Chris for the game. I need to decide on colors and paint them soon. How fucking nice are those???? I mean seriously, look how beautiful they are; scenery is what makes mini's games. I'll be the envy of every gamer who sees them. Thanks, Chris.

Ah, the levies. Forced from their dirt farms to swell the Caliph's ranks. And yes, I am quite aware that Saracens don't get slingers, only archers. But this is one of those cases where there were only two poses for the archers. I threw in some slingers for the eyes only. Don't get your burkha in a bunch, they behave exactly like bowmen.

The first group of foot warriors. Someone has to slog it out with all those Franks whose horses died since leaving Europe!

Warrior unit #2. All the shield transfers are from Little Big Men Studios. Cracking good stuff and easy as pie to apply. The hardest part is cutting them to the shape of the shield, round or teardrop. The transfers are made for GBP's, so they fit nicely if cut correctly.

Mounted horse warriors or 'Ghazis' in game terms. I'm a little disappointed in how some of the colors showed up in the pictures. I'm actually very happy with the shades of chestnut I achieved but you can't really tell here. I took the easy way out and did mostly dark colors but I have another unit of these and one of Ghulums still in the box which I will prolly do with some dappled greys and whites.

Nice fez, dude.

With apologies to my brother Mark.

Ghulums are mean. These guys were a Christmas gift from my wonderful missus. I am so glad I have her permission to to play with toy soldiers.

Since these guys are the elite of the force; 4 guys equals a unit (for purchasing that is, you can combine them after paying for them). For the same 1 point you get 8 warriors or 12 levies. Pretty fucking neat, huh?

Ghulum unit #2. Can't wait to fuck me up some Crusader knights!

So, that's them. As mentioned, I still have a few more units of cavalry that I can paint but I have a pretty good force here. I want the infantry at this point. Saga is really a finesse sort of game. A force needs played multiple time to really start to learn the finer points of each. (As each has what's called a separate 'Battle Board' which defines the force's capabilities.) So, the forces are supposed to mimic the armies they represent. Do they? Dunno, didn't go on Crusade.

I finished these guys today and already started my Late Imperial Western Romans/Romano British. Very, very cool and right in my wheelhouse. 

Now, where is that Notitia Dignitatum?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Saga: Vikings vs. Anglo-Danes v2

I soloed a game of Saga the other night to get a better feel for some of the mechanics of the game and also because I was too lazy to put away the terrain from last week, so it was still on the table. I also wanted to use my old phone which has a much better camera and I wanted to see better pictures of my shit, stuff. I won't go into great detail as this exercise is mostly for looking at cool mini's but I'll provide a little commentary. They aren't the greatest painted and I ain't the greatest photographer but hope you enjoy. 

The set up. 6 points per side. The Anglo-Danes are in the foreground and the Vikings on the far side. Same OoB's as last time except the Viking's berserkers were converted into regular Hearthguard.

The Anglo-Dane warlord, AEthelpussy, hides behind the barn.

The Viking warlord, Hengist the Hung, and his bodyguards prepare to tear some shit up.

More Vikings.

Thor's hammer, still *more* of the Norsemen, including a unit of 8 warriors and another of 4 Hearthguard.

The pride of Angle Land: the A-D's large Hearthguard unit. Their story of ultimate pussy-hood will be told later in this Saga.

Anglo-Dane warriors wishing they were knee deep in Anglo-Danish pawgs.

The warlord's hearthguard bannerman.

Vikings are sneaky.

Viking hearthguard wreck the Anglo levies, wiping out 8 of 12 on the first turn.



The Anglo-Danes swung to their left and tried to outnumber the viking right. It seemed like a sound strategy. And then they were forced to roll dice.

End of turn one. The Vikings are aggressive in the center while the A-D try to make something happen on their left. The units on the A-D right are admiring each other from afar.

4 Hearthguard, 8 warriors and the Warlord vs. 4 Levy. Hmmm...

The Anglo-Dane plan starts to unravel as the viking levies take out 3 dudes in that warrior unit with sling bullets.

The Big Unit of HG smacks their little viking counterpart, whacking all but one. Oh, but what a tale he will tell.

Warrior vs warrior. This time the vikings are victorious and force the A-D back.

But their Hearthguard come to the rescue and do some heavy damage, hitting the vikings like they owed them money.

The A-D's charge into the woods despite their losses from sling fire. Alas, they are wiped out to a man.

The vikings, their blood lust kindled, charge out and hack AEthelpussy into bite size chunks and pack him up in 'to go' bags. With no one to take the fall for him, it was over quickly.

Suddenly the A-D massed assault on their left was only 4 Hearthguard facing 4 units of Vikings and their warlord. Gulp...

The vikings are whittled down but still generating Saga dice! Meanwhile the Anglo-Danes lost 3 of 6 on the other side of the battlefield!

Uh oh.

The viking levies strike again! Attempting to reinforce their left, the A-D's tried to move that unit of warriors over only to lose 3 guys to shooting!

And now the Saga be told! The lone viking HG backs up and uses the A-D fatigue to slow them down, making them waste an activation to reach him. A last act of defiance, right?

Finally they pile in. 14 attacks to his two. He was very brave. But what's this? Needing 6's to hit they only get two... and he saves them both!!!!!

Then he hits with both his attacks and they fail both!!!!! Hahaha! Soon to be a Warlord in his own right; this guy fought off seven hearthguard and slew two of them!!!! Surely, he will be remembered in the Sagas.

Final positions. 3 turns. A lone HG bannerman remains and methinks that the unit of A-D warriors will be munched like so much breakfast cereal. Plus if I quit now, that viking HG survives to become a Warlord. (In  my mind anyway.)

A bad day for someone.

How exactly do you say 'fucked' in Anglo-Dane?

It was a fun game. I used fatigue to slow people down *a lot*. It required multiple activations to get troops into melee. Not sure if that's a good strategy or not but I had fun. Plus my old phone still works and takes much better pictures. Bully for me.