Sunday, August 11, 2019

Project thoughts

Hi all,

As a follow up to my earlier post, on the prospects of a "Big Boy" project, I've been doing much puttering about on the interwebs (and have decided that spur of the moment subscription to Scribd was well worth it ;) ).  As I think I noted, I'm planing a large, long-running historicals project in 28mm.  Factors to consider were the availability of plastic models (as I'm more and more turning away from metals wherever possible), a degree of variety to keep my interest in the painting process, and a a range of supplemental reading material to keep me engaged (as half the fun of historicals for me is the reading).

Added to that, after some conversations with friends and hobby types, is the recognition that this will need to have some viability as a) a solo project, and b) a painting / hobby project.  I might get these on the table (conversations stemming form the Napoleonics game last week has me hopeful), but most of the activity in the short to medium term is likely to be at home.  That means I have to really enjoy painting the figures (and reading about the associated history) for their own sake.  This combination of factors means I'm likely looking at Napoleonics or a limited range of ancients (Successors, Carthage, Rome) projects.  All three have a good selection of plastics available (although successors are largely limited to the "west", and Napoleonics to French and British outside of infantry).

The flip side is this is likely to be a secondary project, and in 28mm, isn't likely to proceed quickly.  I did a fast count last night.  In the last five years, I've painted, in 28mm, about 250-300 infantry figures, and maybe 50-60 mounted, plus assorted commanders, heroes, and monsters.  I've painted other stuff as well, including a sizable contingent of 6mm and some 15mm, but that's been my output at that scale - an average of about 55 infantry and 10 cavalry a year.  Given that this output is likely to be divided between the Big Boy project and whatever GW stuff I'm working on, this project won't happen fast.

Image result for slow growth

Then it occurred to me that "slow" only really impacts big battle gaming.  When first conceived, I was thinking about this project in its end state - playing large, Hail Caesar / Black Powder type games with several hundred figures a side.  While this is a worthy goal, I need to keep in mind that it is also several years away by any reasonable estimation.  More importantly, it's not the only way I can use these figures.  That got me thinking about basing, and rule "types".

Games often get organised by scope / scale.  There's skirmish  (SBG Battle Companies, Song of Blades and Heroes, Morheim), Large skirmish (SBG, Saga, Muskets and Tomahawks), "company" or warband scale (Sharpe Practice, Chain of Command?), formation scale (Lasalle), and mass battle (Blucher, Rommel, etc.).  You can also organize them by the focus mechanic.  Some games are interested in the interaction between types or classes of units on the table.  These rules are focused on the specific characteristics of the units, and how units with a particular set of characteristics interact with different characteristic profiles.  In skirmish games, they'll have lots of rules for gear and equipment, and will be concerned with how taking a spear gains a reach advantage over one with a sword.  DBA would fit here as well, where there's been a conscious decision to abstract pretty much everything but "how the unit fights", and so the core interactions are how light horse can evade knights, but are vulnerable to massed archers in good order.

Image result for uruk hai
As opposed to Uruk-Hai, which are only vulnerable to archers at the neck, and under the arm.
There's another kind of game that focuses no so much on unit characteristics, but rather on command and control issues.  In smaller scope games, it's about motivating your troops to act (Song of Blades and Heroes is a good example here).  In larger games, it's about the challenge of coordinating formations, and getting units to work together.  Most of Sam Mustafa's games are good examples of this.  More often than not, there's some kind of command resource you need to allocate, and various elements of command friction.

Finally there's games that are designed around a particular kind of play experience - fast play / quick resolution, multiplayer, balanced tournament armies, period accuracy, etc.  Think about some of the most common criticisms of DBA (it abstracts too much in an effort to produce a "simple" game), or Black Powder (it sacrifices period specificity to allow for a "fun game"), and you see what I mean here.

Most games will include elements of all three, but will privilege one of them, and sacrifice the other two to it when necessary.  You also see some interesting hybrids, such as Impetus, where (although the do include unit classifications) the critical element is whether a unit is in order or disordered (with the latter state having major implications for both how a unit interacts, and command issues).  I find I tend to favour "command" over "game experience", and the latter over "unit interaction".  I'm comfortable with very abstract unit categories, like games I can play in an evening without feeling rushed, and am interested in the on-table challenge of getting my units (of whatever kind) to "work together".  It's why I think I like Maurice so much - it gives me the kind of game I want, and the play experience I want, and does it in the time frame I want.

Image result for maurice sam mustafa
Such a good game.

I find I most enjoy "mass skirmish / company" and "mass battle" games, which takes us back the the Big Boy project.  28mm tends to shine in the former scope, and it's the kind of game that I can reasonably expect to paint up in a couple years (50-100 figures is a a little ambitious, but I can see myself getting it done, even with other projects).   There's also at least one very solid period ruleset, Sharpe Practice (I'm sure there are others, I just know about SP, have had it endlessly recommended, and would like to try it out).  For ancients, there's a few "mass skirmish" rulesets either recently released (Gods and Mortals, SPQR) or soon to be released (Clash of Spears) for the period.  The latter, particularly, seems interesting, and has both a high profile and good support online (as well as a so-far positive community).  That game seems to include forces of the 2-4 dozen range.

Playing Napoleonics in this scale likely channels me into the peninsula.  While there's good support for Naps in plastic as far as infantry goes, cavalry tend to me more limited in terms of available nationalities.  I can see getting into a Peninsula project (I did peninsular French in 6mm many, many years ago), I like the Sharpe books / movies, and some of the plastics out or soon coming out are very nice indeed.  As a reading project, it's a little more limited, however, and can feel a little narrow.  On the plus side, I don't have any active Napoleonics project, I have an old print of a Welch Fusilier I "inherited" from my father, and I can easily see doing a Sharpe Practice force of them for starters..  Down side is that I'm unlikely to use the figures for big battle stuff any time soon, if ever (lacking space for a 12 foot table, even at the new house).

Ancients as a "large" skirmish game opens up a host of theatres, and in many ways, are more appealing to me than mass battle in the period.  Big battle ancients are a bit limiting, in that you are mostly working from the limited number of conflicts we know about.  But for skirmish, the sky's the limit.  I am, for example, unaware of any "recorded" major battles between gauls and greeks, or gauls and Carthaginians, but given that both greeks and Carthos were active in southern gaul (trading posts, colonies), I can see huge scope for skirmish / raiding games, or even small campaigns (never mind the kind of ambushes etc. the gauls would have inflicted on the Carthos on their long walk to Rome).

Using Song of Blades and Heroes, I can start playing with a dozen painted figures.  I could then build up Clash of Spears forces for range of historical opponents (Carthos, Gauls, Spanish, etc.), which would in turn form the core of a Carthaginian army for a larger scope of game - Impetus, Sword and Spear, even Hail Caesar.  I like this idea, although basing becomes an issue (skirmish means individual basing, mass battle games are usually element based, so I'm likely looking at sabots).  I'm not a fan of individual square bases (rounds look better), but will either need to bite the bullet, or find viable sabots that can handle rounds.

Although very much in the blue sky / planning stage, I'm already enjoying this project, or at least, mucking about with ideas for it, and am really looking forward to getting stuck in.  I like painting in 28mm scale (more and more these days), and having something I can pick at that reaches outside the painting process should be a joy as well.  The variety of the army, and the range of campaigns, also gives me some scope for "hobby-related" activity.  While a Peninsula project is still in the running, I'm strongly leaning towards Carthage for a variety of reasons..  Hannibal remains my favorite historical figure, the rise and fall of Carthage spans my favorite period in the ancient world (Fall of Alexander to Fall of the Roman Republic), and Carthage, short of a generic successor morph, offers the greatest variety of options of both army inclusion and potential opponents.  Also, elephants.  I cannot stress the importance of elephants.  Might be hard to work into a skirmish game, but it works for the Lord of the Rings, so, I'm sure I can find a way to jam them in ;)

Punic War by Fall3NAiRBoRnE

The fact that the Carthaginians roamed most of the med, and that a good chunk of their army was generally made up of mercenaries, gives a lot of scope.  Choosing Carthage also means I can use the Victrix plastic models, which are, as far as I can tell, the nicest available plastic ancients on the market right now.  With Carthage, I start with a small core of Liby-Phoenecians (and elephants), and can then, depending on which of many conflicts / armies I want to try, can add in citizen infantry, greeks (allies or mercenaries), Numidians, Gauls, Spanish, CeltIberians, Itallians etc, both infantry and cavalry, and, as an added bonus, can also fight pretty much any of these as well.  I can lever out any of these into separate armies if inspired to do so, and, if all else fails, can paint up Republican Romans to oppose if desired.  Heck, I can even do a successor list in opposition, given that the Carthos fought Pyrrhus in Sicily (the fight over which, btw, is one of my favorite bits of the whole "Rise of Rome" period).

Add in that the figures involved are just gorgeous (just look at the Victrix Gauls and Spanish, esp. the cavalry), and there's plenty of scope.  Once we get settled in, I plan to pick up a box, or even a test sprue (as some retailers on ebay seem to sell by sprue), just to make sure, but I think this may be "my thing".

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Apocalyptic Pic Dump

Hi all,

Due to recovering from surgery (all is well, I am fine, and will be back to myself soon, just some needed repair work to my aging bod), I didn't really paint much or get out to play any games this week.  By Saturday, however, I was in decent enough shape to play "eminence grise" / consigliere to the Cub, who played in the local GW Apocaplyse game / Store Birthday Extravaganza.  He took a modest, but fully painted, force of Salamanders out to a game that was gloriously lacking in restraint.

The generals marshal their forces.

What was directly across the table.

Part of the right flank.  The last table eventually filled in.

I'm not honestly sure how big the game was, but each side was anchored by the single largest collections of orks and Imperial Guard I've ever seen in person, and pretty much all the toys came out to play.

Cub's plane zooms off to help out the Ultramarines.  They obviously needed it, being Ultramarines.
Immediate left flank

Less immediate left flank.

I was moderately impressed by the new Apocalypse mechanics.  They're clearly designed for speed of resolution, and manage to deal with some obvious issues well (eg., everything gets to do its thing for the turn before damage is resolved, so no one gets their toys taken off before they can use them).  The game we played lagged a bit due to logistics; because such a large proportion of each side was controlled by a single player, we hit a point where it was basically those two still activating things, and the rest of the players waiting.  I think, however, in a multiplayer environment where all players brought roughly similar forces, it'd work quite well, better than I expected from experiences with earlier versions of this scale of game.

And immediate right flank.

Cub's knight, Figidia Mors, charges into the ork line.

I advocated for a name change to the "Leeroy Jenkins", but he's not having any.

Cub seemed to have fun regardless, and has since been brimming with loads of ideas for converting stuff.  We ended up leaving a bit early, so I could drop in on a local historical game hosted by Jeff, and attended by Ross, who's blog I've followed for a great many years.  It was a terrific chance to finally put faces to names, and they put on a fantastic 15mm Napoleonics game.  Ross has been an anchor of the local historicals scene for decades, and we've corresponded for some time, so I enjoyed the opportunity to meet up in person, and talk hobby.  Needless to say, I was so busy chatting I failed to take pictures, but Ross has some up on his blog (which you should definitely check out), and I'm sure Jeff will be posting as well.  Fingers crossed I'll be able to play the next time the group pulls something together.

We have a holiday here tomorrow, so I've another day to take it easy, before diving back into work / packing / getting ready for the Big Move.   I'll probably have a planning post for the Big Boy project, and may get in one more painting thing before all my gear is squared away.  Until then . . . .

Sunday, July 28, 2019

(Almost) Lord of the Ring

Hi all,

Bit of a twofer today, in that there's some hobby thoughts on the planned 28mm project, and a bit of a report from yesterday's Middle Earth SBG tournament I played in yesterday,

On the project, I've been having some conversations with a number of old gaming buddies, which has clarified some issues, and opened up others.  I had a good long chat with Nick the Lemming the other day, who (perhaps predictably) did his best to convince me to forget 28mm, and do ancients in God's Own Scale, 6mm, instead.  Despite my fondness for 6mm, however, I wasn't convinced.  I've done 6mm ancients before, far back in the day, but they've never quite worked for me in that era, not in the way they do for Black Powder era stuff.

A lot of this has to do with aesthetics, I think.  With 6mm horse and musket, battles looks "right" (you see lines, formations, etc), but also look "good" (colorful, distinguishable units, pretty flags, etc).  I find this isn't the case for me with ancients; it just ends up looking blobby (please note, this is a strictly personal thing, and not to be viewed as a criticism of what you enjoy in your hobby).  It could be as simple as that, in 6mm H&M, I can see flags, but I can't see shields (which kind of serve the same purpose as points of key visual interest).

This project is also likely to be primarily about the painting and reading.  I need to enjoy the process of producing the figures, as this is where the bulk of my hobby experience will lie.  I like painting 6mm because I finish units (and thus get the very pleasant experience of playing a fully painted mass battle game), but I like painting 28mm for themselves, if you follow.  A leading contender right now is a Carthaginian army; I've been trolling through scribd looking for resources, and am really looking forward to painting some figs.  The Victrix stuff draws me more every time I look at it.  I think my primary interest here would be the pre-punic era (esp. the conflicts over Sicily), but given my desire to stick to plastic, I might bow to the inevitable.

While pondering such imponderables, I managed to get down to the local GW for a 500 point Middle Earth SBG tournament.  This was a practice run for another to take place at Halcon in the fall (which I'll probably not get to), but I wanted to play in this one if I could.  We had 8 players, played 3 games, and I went 2-1 with Mordor and Rohan, tied for second place.



Game 1 was against Harad.  I used Rohan's skirmishing ability to good effect in this game, (all riders get bows, and don't count towards the usual limit on bows, i.e., I have a lot of bows) to stand off and shoot, provoking my opponent into attacking.  I targeted his missile troops, picked them off, and forced him to advance piecemeal or be cut down.



I ended up sacrificing my left (partly on purpose as a holding action, but also because I underestimated how effective the Harad guard units are), but more or less swept the right.  This let me break through to get at some objectives, and when my opponent broke and failed some key courage tests, I took the game.



Next game I took my Mordor list against the elves of Rivendell, led by Elrond himself.  Elrond is a beast in this game, being both a powerful combat character, and a decent caster.  We had random deployment in this scenario, and my opponent ended up with Elrond and his warband caught between two of mine.  He opted to take a chance, pushing Elrond forward in a charge, hoping to break through, while the rest of his stuff hung back or moved slowly to maximize shooting.



Elrond didn't make it (a combination of control effects from my Nazgul and sheer numbers), and with him off the table, I was able to use my numbers (and Troll) to bully the rest of his army.  I think he maybe played a little conservatively with his Rivendell knights (who also hit like a ton of bricks), and I was able to tie them up enough to take the objective, and win.



Last game was my Rohan vs Easterlings.  I find this match-up often comes down to scenario.  Easterling horse is heavier than my Riders, and their phalanx commands respect.  If I have space to manouver and pull them apart, I can take them piecemeal, but if I fight on their terms, I lose.  In this case, there was one objective, and I had basically one chance to grab it (when you move in contact, you have a 1 in 3 chance to "pick it up"), but flubbed (only dismounted figures can pick it up, I got there first with two guys, but they whiffed, and were overwhelmed the next turn by the phalanx).

This was one of those games where it's not that I had bad luck, exactly, but I didn't have good luck when I needed it.  I also made some mistakes where I didn't really have a margin of error, and my opponent played a very tight game.  In retrospect, I might have had a better chance with my Mordor vs. his Numenor, but it was a very solid game, and I kept slugging it out to the end.

Overall, it was a great day.  One of the things I like about tournaments is you get to play against armies you otherwise don't see.  There were a couple of Dwarf armies on the tables, one from the Fiefdoms, and even the Witch King made an appearance.  I also fielded two fully-painted 500 point armies, and was feeling quite smug about it too! ;)

Packing continues apace.  Content might drop off a bit over the next few weeks as we get ready for the move, but hopefully by September we'll be settled enough I have something to report.  In the meantime, I'll keep pondering what to do for the project.  It's a little odd dealing with my Magpie tendencies before I start a project (rather than while working on it), but I guess it's better to resolve this now than in three years ;)


Sunday, July 21, 2019


Hi all,

Interesting, if disruptive, news from Monkeyland.  Looks like we are moving, to what will hopefully be our forever home.  Having settled in to a long-term position here in the East, the Beloved and I have spent a good chunk of the last couple years squirreling away a nest-egg, and looking at houses.  It seems like we've found one, and assuming some necessary work is completed, we will be moving into it at the end of the summer.  This has implications for hobbying, as you can imagine.

The Cub and I got in another 40k game down at the shop.

In the short term, it means some disruption, in that I will be packing up a fair bit of my hobby stuff in preparation for the move.  A chunk of this has already been done, in fact, and all that's left on my shelves if is the stuff I'll be using in the next few weeks; Blood Bowl, SBG, and Khorne.  I also left out my 6mm SYW, in the vain hope I'll put together another solo game.

The cheeky monkey brought his knight on behind my lines with reserve shenanigans.

In the medium to long-term, having a house of our own opens up a number of possibilities, including expanded gaming space.  While the house isn't huge, I will have a dedicated office / nerd room for my gear and small games, and a rec room I can take over for larger games.  It also means storage will be less of an issue, both because of room and permanence of stay.

View from the left flank.  
This, of course, has led my wandering thoughts to the topic of the Big Boy project.  Anyone who's followed this blog knows I've toyed for years with the idea of a long-running historical project in 28mm, but for a range of reasons (space, stability, the need to focus on one thing for more than 5 minutes), I've never really pulled it off.  The move, or at least, the anticipated conditions of my life post-move, now make this a realistic possibility.

Cinematic moment when the drednaughts come to grips!

I'm a little stumped, however, about what to do.  My core criteria are a) most models must be available in plastic (cost, quality, and durability are all now higher for plastic than metal), b) it's got to be something in which I can sustain interest (so likely needs some variety in the army), c) it's got to be something I can read about / immerse myself broadly in the hobby (so there needs to stuff written on it, both fiction and non-), and d) it's got to be something with which I could reasonably expect to get in a game (so based in a way that is flexible, and in not too obscure a period).  The last is more wishful thinking, as given my circumstances, it's likely a solo army / hobby project, but it's worth keeping in mind.

Also got in a rather fun game vs. Easterlings with my Rohan

My "bucket list" army has always been Indo-greek Successors, but in 28mm, the bulk of the army is hard to find, and mostly metal.  Carthaginians or a Macedonian / Successor army (Diadochi?  Imperial Alex?  Pontic?  Generic successor morph?) are another possible option.  Napoleonics would seem an obvious choice, and certainly meet my criteria, but that is a very deep rabbit hole indeed, and opens up questions about theatre and period that make me a little twitchy (that said, the new plastics from Victrix are sooooo lovely -  have you seen the lancers?). 

Dark ages are another option.  Victrix is doing some very nice plastic Vikings and Saxons, and while the armies don't offer much in the way of variety (would you like some medium infantry with your medium infantry?), the models themselves offer lots.  I could get behind the idea of a Mercian horde, although I'd need to paint Vikings to oppose them.

Hail Theoden!  King!

There's counter-considerations.  I have the core of several 15mm historical armies, and shifting to 28mm would likely be the death knell for those projects.  I already paint and play in 28mm, and have painting queues for games I enjoy (MESBG, AoS, BloodBowl, 40k).  I even have pseudo-historical projects I could paint within those systems as a hobby lark (nothing stopping me from painting Bretonnians in historical heraldry, for eg.)..  I also have historical projects (6mm SYW) that I'm still pursuing.

The thing is, though, I've wanted to do something like this for a decade, and not doing it, now that I have the space, seems a shame, however sensible it would be to consolidate / focus on what I already have.  There's also the sad reality that I'm finding smaller scale stuff more of a challenge to paint these days - my eyes and hands are not what they were, but 28mm is still relatively comfortable.  The real issue for me is the need to choose and commit to one thing.  For a certainty, I only have the time, concentration, and resources for one big project.  It's a nice problem to have (and one that certainly have time to consider), but a problem nevertheless.  Any thoughts much appreciated.


Monday, June 24, 2019

The long (big) war

Hi all,

Got down to the GW on the weekend for a big game with the Cub.  And I do mean big.  We both had more than 110 Power Level, so maybe 2500 points, give or take?  I pretty much took all the Khorne stuff I had, and he took a space marine force to more or less match it.


We were both about half painted, but there was enough stuff done up on both sides it still looked pretty good, and, as it turned out, it was a smashing game.  Cub's Salamanders have the edge at range, but my Khorne has it in close combat, although both forces have "good stuff" in the other category.  It makes for a nice match-up.



We used the open war cards, as per usual in our games, and ended up with a sort of chevron deployment, and an objective of "kill the other guy" - although you only got credit for taking out whole units.  I had a slight edge in Power Level, so Cub ended up with a Ruse, in this case, his army was immune to battleshock, as long as his Warlord was on the table.  We also drew a twist for a metoric bombardment, but completely forgot to use it in the game ;)

Turn one saw me weathering a fair bit of firepower (between shooting an battleshock, he wiped both my 20-man cultist units off the table), and then, on my turn, drop in and charge most of my daemons.


Playing this big a game, I had plenty of Command Points to throw around, and actually got to use some fun stratagems (including the one that lets you deepstrike dameon units).



The Cub played really well, cherry picking my softer units, and picking up points at a fair clip.  I think he could have used his knight a little more aggressively, like he used his land raider, but otherwise, he played a tight game.  We ended up almost rotating around the table, both of us sweeping the opponents left flank.



I was really impressed by my Bloodcrushers this game.  I deepstruck them for the first time, and thus actually managed to get them into combat.  They just had an upgrade to their profile, getting a little more durability, and were a solid little unit for me in game.


In the end, it pretty much came down to a couple of rolls.  I managed to get in both Anghre Bh'aB, my cc Hellbrute, and Anubarak, my Dameon Prince, onto Cub's knight.  As both charged, they got to fight before the knight, and the combo is pretty killy.  Even so, one more armour save, or one less wound, would have done it, and Cub would have edged me out for the win.  As it was, the old man took this one.

Super fun to get in a game with my boy, and I find when we don't have to rush, bug games like this can be quite fun.  I'm jazzed up to paint some Khorne now, which is always a sign of a good game.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Ogre Test Run

Hi all,

Go in my first game with the Ogres (or "Ogors", as they're now called).  1000 point list, very zen (one with everything, i.e., I took a little of a lot of different units), and mostly about trying out the army and seeing how it runs.


Only got pics from the start of the game, as once things got going I spent a fair bit of time looking things up (and hence forgot).  I was playing against Daughters of Khaine, which is a reasonably competitive army, so wasn't really expecting a win.  In the end, I lost on points, but was reasonably pleased at how killy the boys were.


When the army connects, it hits like a ton of bricks.  I had zero issues removing units from the table as long as they ogors hit.  With a 4+ to hit for most things, however, they can be swingy, and I whiffed as much as I knocked things flying.


The army is also elite - a small number of high-capability models, with only moderate speed.  Movement and forethought will be key, as they're not fast enough, or numerous enough, to afford thoughtless casualties, or seize objectives through sheer mass.  In fact, they're a really nice counterpoint in that sense to the Beast of Chaos, who are super-speed, more or less a horde, but hit like pillows.


I really enjoy painting these guys, and playing them was fun as well.  There's a campaign starting up in the shop, so I think I'll be bringing them out on a regular basis for that.  More pics as stuff gets done.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Something compl(EAT)ly different

Hi all,

The outcome of a whim today.

I've been fond of GW's ogor (i.e., ogre) models since their launch many moons ago.  They're among the most characterful of the "old world" models, and have been tempted for years to pick some up.  A ways back I finally succumbed, and today's post is the outcome.


These guys were a ton of fun to paint.  They're chunky, and while it may seem odd to say it, they feel good in the hand.  Big enough to allow for some detail, but simple enough to not be a chore to paint.


I have no idea how they'd handle on the table, other than they're sort of an inherently "elite" force, made up of multi-attack, multi-wound, large-based models, which is a bit out of my comfort zone.


I've also got an Ironblaster on deck (their support cannon), which is primed up, and in the queue.  Once that's done, I'll likely pick up a box of Ironguts, which are their upgraded CC unit.


Not sure that these guys will be a super-huge priority (at least until I get enough together for a game), but I can see picking up the occasional box and puttering.  Aside from being a pleasure to paint, there's something appealing about their lore.  There will be plenty of "get in my belly" and "fee fie foe fum" jokes when these boys are on the table.