Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tank you very much

We had a great game day on Saturday down at Dean Clarke's house in Bonney Lake, WA. We played Too Fat Lardies' What a Tanker! using 15mm Flames of War tanks. The game was set in France 1940.  I have lots of bits and pieces of 15mm WW2. Among them are some Quality Castings Pz IICs and StuG IIICs in dark panzer grey. I needed to do just a bit of finalizing to get them game-worthy and off I went to Chez Clarke. I have a couple Pz IIIEs, a Somua S-35, and a Char B1 bis in progress (well, actually, so far I've just opened the blisters to inspect the parts), which I'll get into a game in the near future.

Mike Lombardy and I were the Germans. We each ran two Pz IICs. Dean and Troy Wold were the Allies. They each had one British A-10 and one French Somua S-35. A few turns after we started Paul Hammerschmidt arrived and started playing a single Pz IIIE.

The game started slow, but then got bloody. With early war tanks, the guns don't have a lot of punch. Even if the armor is weak, the chance of killing a tank outright (3 unblocked hits) is low, so instead, there's a lot of temporary damage being done. In our case, our Strike value (the gun punch) was lower than their Armor and their Strike was higher than our Armor.

The Pz II is a pretty puny tank overall. Its Armor value is a mere 2. Its 20mm autocannon is just barely an AT gun with a Strike value of 3—but it has the Rapid Fire characteristic, which means that in a single turn, it can shoot multiple times without reloading in between. It also has the Small characteristic, which makes it harder to hit. These characteristics helped, since were were out-gunned and out-armored by the Allies' A-10s and Somuas.

We played the Longball scenario and entered on opposite short ends of the table. Ranges are generous in WAT!. It's unlimited, only shooting past 48" incurs a +1 on your hit number when shooting. We could have started taking pot shots immediately, but terrain factors in. The only blocking terrain were several buildings, but there were several hedgerows as well that require extra effort when acquiring a target and hitting it when shooting.

Scene of action
WAT! uses a ingenious command dice system. Each tank rolls six D6 for their activation. The results can be used for specific things: 1s let you move 2xD6 inches, 2s let you acquire a target—basically spotting, 3s let you aim at an acquired target, 4s let you shoot, 5s let you reload, 6s are wild dice that you can use in place of any of the other five—or bank them to use in your next activation.

There are a lot of subtleties also. For example, acquiring a target may require no 2s or multiple 2s. If your target is in the open and your tank is unbuttoned (i.e., TC and/or crew poking out of open hatches), acquiring is automatic. If you're buttoned up, then one 2 is required to spot. Intervening things that obscure (e.g., hedges, low walls, bocage, burning tanks, etc.) will require additional 2s to acquire your target. If the target is a tank with the Low Profile characteristic, an additional 2 is required to acquire. At some point, acquiring a target might require a whole lotta 2s.

We engaged each other pretty soon after starting. One of my Pz IIs got a pile of 1s on my first activation and I was able to speed up and take position behind a hedgerow. Dean's Somua was soon taking shots at me, but being a small target and obscured made me hard to hit. His A-10 was slow out of the gate with few 1s to get him moving and low D6 rolls when he did move.

For a while, Dean and I stood off and took mostly ineffectual shots at each other. I suffered some temporary damage, which I recovered. Recovering temporary damage is another thing you can do with 6s. Damage reduces the number of command dice you can throw, so recovering temporary damage is important to stay in the fight. Once you lose all your command dice from damage, your crew bails out.

Mike and Troy sparred on the German left flank. Mike made use of the buildings to sneak about and get flank and rear shots on Troy's tanks. These shots give extra oompf to your Strike dice. Against a targets front, 5s and 6s are hits, with 6s being critical. On a flank 4s - 6s hit with 5s and 6s being critical. On the rear, it's 3s - 6s with 4s - 6s being critical. Things can go bad quickly. I think most of the kills in the game occurred from flank and rear shots. Mike eventually brewed up Troy's Somua, but lost one of his Pz IIs to Dean's Somua.

Troy's A-10 burning brightly
At this point, Mike took out Troy's A-10 with a rear shot with his surviving Pz II and started stalking Dean's Somua while Dean was stalking one of my Pz IIs.

Taken out by a Somua
I had one Pz II get shot up early by Dean's A-10. Both my Pz IIs found a nice spot behind a hedgerow. I was loth to move, but found myself suddenly under fire to my flank.

Me brewed up by Dean's A-10
I got my other Pz II moving against the A-10's flank while Paul was engaging him to the front. I think I managed a few hits, but most of the damage was Paul's. After a few shots, Dean took out my other Pz II with a flank shot and Team Dave was out of the game.

Das Ende
Mike took out Dean's Somua and Dean's A-10 was reduced by damage down to having just one command dice available. Paul just drove past him on to the Meuse!

It was a great game day and included an excellent lunch provided by Dean's wife and some fine single-malt Scotch, of which Dean is a connoisseur. Slange var.


What a Tanker! is a fun game. At first it seems that a game entirely devoted to tank v. tank would be dull or simplistic. However, the dice management keeps things interesting and it's harder to kill a tank than it seems. We went through several turns before the first tank got brewed up.

There is also a lot more moving around than you'd think. Getting flank and rear shots is important, while sitting in place trading frontal shots can be ineffectual. Movement also help to force the tanks shooting at you to re-aim and/or re-acquire. Aim is always lost when one or the other tank moves; acquired status is lost if the target is no longer within the shooter's 60° vision arc or has gone behind blocking terrain.

I'm digging through my lead-pile to see what kind of tanks I have partially completed or as unbuilt kits. I'm also looking at the Flames of War website

I'm dashed!

To keep track of tank status, What a Tanker! uses a dashboard for each tank in play. You can download dashboards from Too Fat Lardies in PDF to use. I almost printed some in color and got them laminated at Kinkos, but I figured Dean would have dashboards and I just needed to bring my tanks.

To our delight, Dean gifted each of us with a nifty MDF dashboard produced by DarkOps in the UK. He'd picked up a bunch at his recent trip there. (Dean's an expat Brit and knows pretty much everyone in the wargaming industry over there.) They need to be built—and can be niftied up in camouflage colors 'n' stuff. They come plain. He had a few finished on hand and Mike had a couple also.

I'm so taken by it that I ordered another five from DarkOps when I got home. I'm now regretting that I didn't order the 8-pack, where you can get eight dashboards for the price of seven. I don't think I'll ever need more than six, however.

I'm thinking through how I want to finish them.

Adventures in GPS

My Kia Soul has Apple Car Play, so I can use Apple Maps on my iPhone as a GPS system for driving. I haven't used GPS before. I usually look at a map and then trust to trial and error. But Dean lives in an area of new construction Southeast of Tacoma. That's pretty much terra incognita for me and most of the human race. The current Google Maps satellite image of it still shows a gash of excavated land, so I figured I'd never find it without GPS.

Satellite photo of installation site under construction
I got there, but there were a few stumbles. Just south of Renton on I-167, I stopped for coffee. When you turn off your route, the little tin GPS gods become confused or angry—or maybe it's me who gets confused because they're angry. The GPS immediately starts telling you to turn here, there, anywhere to turn you around whenever you deviate. Obey the machines.

Part of my reason for stopping was to reset my route. I initially set it as a link from an email where Dean provided his address. The link opened Google Maps, which provided audio guidance, but didn't display onscreen. Stopping for coffee gave me a chance to switch over to Apple Maps and get a screen display of my route.

But switching to Apple Maps didn't shut down Google Maps GPS—though I thought I'd shut it down—so I had both systems giving me instructions. I guess Google Maps wasn't finished pushing me around. I wound up going the wrong way and was guided by two voices through a strange roundabout trail to get back on I-167 South.

Once on my way, I was good for several miles until I got off I-167 in the Sumner/Bonney Lake area. The roads twist and turn, which isn't—or shouldn't be—a problem with GPS. Except that in some places the roads have a funny way of changing names when they twist. A very slight bend in the road was being announced to me as an instruction to turn, but there was no actual turn. I felt a bit disoriented and wondered if something had gone all glitchy. I U-turned, which only got the dueling GPSes grumpy, and retraced my route back to see if I could re-find my way. I stopped to figure things out and saw on the map that there was a long stretch of road. I guessed that it was doing the turn instruction because of the name change and plowed back through until the instructions started making sense again. The Sirens of GPS were luring me onto the rocks, but like Odysseus I overcame them.

Going home, I also used GPS—only the one this time—not because I don't know where I live, but because I needed it to work like Ariadne's thread to get me back out of the Bonney Lake labyrinth.

Thus my first adventure with GPS. I won't use it much because I mostly know where I'm going, having been almost everywhere by now. However, it's nice to have when I need to navigate to someplace off my beaten path.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Summer fun

As the song goes, it's summertime and the livin' is easy. Sort of. I still have to work 5 days a week, but the evening meeting commitments I have for parish activities are suspended until September. The days are longer and warmer—well, occasionally warmer here in the Pacific North Wet. I have more leisure to devote to the fun projects that I put in abeyance while I toiled to get The Irish Project completed for Enfilade! 2018.  I can re-focus on projects that are just pure whimsy. I won't start my pre-Enfilade! panic/death march to the exclusion of all else again until at least February.

So what's in the works? Much.

Rampant Hussars

At this point, I'm only committed to painting 12 figures for Enfilade! 2019. Rampant Canadian Doug Hamm has proposed a grand Napoleonic cavalry skirmish using a home-brewed Lion Rampant variant to be called Hussar Rampant. We've determined that it will be set in the Waterloo Campaign and we're divvying up who'll paint what. I'm planning on doing two 6-figure units of the British Life Guards. I've always fancied the hard-charging, wholly undisciplined British heavy cavalry of the Napoleonic Wars. Perry makes some beautiful figures in metal—metal, mind you—so I'm in.

I'll get around to ordering them soon, or I could postpone it till January and honor my more-honored-in-the-breach-than-in-the-observance commitment to not buy figures for new projects this year. Hmmmm...

Singing Natives

Since the day after Enfliade! 2018 I've been working on the Flint & Feather minis I picked up at the convention. They're very nice and very far along. I have 13 figures dipped and in the process of getting based.

Freshly dipped (and shiny!) and ready for basing
The remaining 16 figures are 99% painted and soon to be dipped. I just have a few fiddly details and touch-ups to complete on them.

In progress - almost ready to dip
They'll all be mounted singly. I plan to use Ganesha Games Song of Drums and Tomahawks (SDT) as the rules. SDT uses the same game engine as Song of Blades and Heroes, which I use for my prehistoric Europeanoids (who have their own Stonehenge about which to prance for their pagan solstice rites). The system has become a favorite of mine and the SDT variant is very nice. The basic rules are quite simple and allow for a 2-3 hours of enjoyable gaming with fewer than a dozen figures per player.

This project was a gross violation of my vow to start no new projects this year. Since I'm already in for a penny (well, more than a penny), I'll just go in for a pound. Not really that much, however. I'll get a few more packs. The figures I bought were labeled Iroquois. Other figures in the range are sold as Hurons. They were, in fact, part of the same linguistic-cultural group. The figures are indistinguishable. One can't look at one and say, "Yes, that's clearly a Huron." So, I'll just grow the collection with both Hurons and Iroquois and divide the figures ad hoc for games, which I what I do for the prehistoric Europeanoids, who are clearly not this tribe or that tribe.

I'll also pull some of my unpainted The Assault Group 30 Years War figures into the project. I have a pile of these and I can spare a few musketeers to use as French/Dutch/English in the New World ca. 17th century. The SDT rules are meant to cover the period from first European contact with the Native Americans through the War of 1812.

In addition to the rules, I picked up a couple campaign booklets for the period. Beaver Wars and The Pequot War. Both are from Ganesha Games and are tied to the SDT rules. There are lots of great scenarios as well as some good background material.

Kevin Smyth jumped into the Flint & Feather project and we're planning to host a game for the Fix Bayonet! game day in September at historic Fort Steilacoom. After that, I'll probably plan a game for Enfilade! 2019 based on a Beaver Wars scenario.

Revolting Rebels

As I mentioned in January, The first breach of my no new projects oath occurred in January (almost immediately after I made the oath) and I bought a pile of Perry American War of Independence minis. I have started this project with about 20 figures currently under the brush. They look like they'll paint quickly. It's odd that fully dressed men in homespun are a lot less fiddly to paint than nearly-naked men in breechclouts.

Mostly primer colored at this point
The purchases from January are mostly militia, which can be either Patriot or Loyalist. I have two units of mounted militia and 4 units of foot militia. I also have 12 riflemen, 12 Lee's Legion foot, and 6 Lee's Legion mounted.

These minis are being done in anticipation of the release of Patriots and Rebels in January. PAR is another official published variant of Lion Rampant from Osprey.

I'm not sure yet how I want to base the minis, but I have some ideas I'll post about later (yes, I will). I'd like to use a multi-figure basing scheme that is more linear-looking than the round 3-2-1 basing I've done. It seems more appropriate for the era.

I've also found a few Perry British infantry in slouch hats and roundabouts, which are leftovers from an earlier aborted AWI project. I wish now that I'd kept the rest of the minis. I'll eventually get to painting British/Loyalists, but I don't think I'll buy any until I complete the American force.

And the Rest...

Like Maryann and the professor in the original Gilligan's Island theme song, I have a lot of projects that I won't go into detail about. They're just "the rest."

English Civil War - I hope to get to these as the mood strikes. I have a lot partially or even mostly painted, so completing another few units—especially the mounted ones—would make a nice add to the units I already have.

ECW with some Dixon Grand Alliance grenadiers
Aztecas y Conquistadores - I need to flesh some units out a bit and make some forces that I can use for The Pikeman's Lament, or for more adventures with Quetzalcoatl Rampant.

What a Tanker! - I played the What a Tanker rules at Enfilade! and there's some interest among a few of us to add them to our repertoire of games. We've got a game scheduled for July 7 at Dean Clarke's house. I have several one-off 15mm tanks either painted, partially painted, or in the box. We're doing France 1940 as our first theatre. Those are in the "in the box" category, so I need to get at them pronto.

30 Years War - This is a very inactive project, but I'd like to get a tertia done for Warlord Games' Pike & Shotte rules. I'm looking to do a big Imperial tercio with a couple large (36 figure) pike units and several small (8 figure) shot units plus battalion guns. I'm not looking to paint enough for both sides of a game, just something that let's me get some units in the game when the other boys play.

Just a bit of the TYW minis in progress
The Irish Project - There is still work to be done here. I have the English cavalry, which wasn't part of my Enfilade! scenario, to complete—well, to start, actually. It's all raw lead right now. I have enough minis to do 2 six-figure demilancer units and 2 six-figure petronel units. After all the effort getting the project ready for Enfilade!, I need a break. I may get to them in late summer maybe.

The rest of the rest - While digging through my closets and the garage of wonders, I stumble on so many batches of partially painted minis, testaments to my wargamer's ADD. They're formerly shiny things that subsequent shiny things distracted me from. In some cases they're the unfinished bits of projects I mostly completed and then sold. I may get to some bits of these. Don't be surprised if I post something about finishing a project I started decades ago. The mood to get back to long-forgotten models and minis may strike any time.

Hey! Are those 28mm tanks?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Death of a hobbyist

I learned this evening that Al Ernat, an old co-worker of mine, passed away in January. I came across the news by accident on a Tamiya Models forum.

I knew Al from back when I was about 15. He started working at D&J Hobby at that time. I'd been going to D&J to buy tank models 'n' stuff since they opened around 1970. Eventually, I worked there myself from 1977-78.

Al was a consummate plastic model builder and a long-time member of International Plastic Modelers Society (IPMS). I had the opportunity to see a lot of his work from back in the 70s. I was just a dabbler and his skill amazed me. He won several awards when I knew him and got a write-up about him in Finescale Modeler magazine in the 80s, I think.

Oddly, he was well known to the people on the forum because Tamiya Models gave his name to the first named driver of their scale R/C cars, the Tamiya Super-Champ.

I don't think I'd seen Al for at least 10 years. I always made a point of stopping by D&J when I had occasion to be down in San Jose. Al was still there behind the counter. The last time I was in San Jose, D&J was gone—or almost gone, or gone except for the name. The big shop was gone and one of the owners' children was running a much smaller version of the shop at a new location. Al wasn't there. I assume he'd been at the old shop until it closed when the owners retired, or maybe Al retired first. He was a bout 10 years older than me.

For me, working at D&J was my first job. It was something to move on from. I sometimes wondered on my trips back to San Jose why Al was still there and hadn't gone on to a "real" job. But it struck me that he was doing what he loved and that doing what you love can be a real job, too. In that sense, I think I envied him.

You can't go home again, Thomas Wolfe wrote. But you can, really, in your mind. And when I go home to the days of my youth, Al Ernat, with his white man's 'fro and acerbic wit is there with me chatting away a Sunday afternoon while we work together at the hobby shop.

Rest in peace, Al.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Brazen Biscuits: Enfilade! 2018

Enfilade! 2018 is over. I had one of the best times in years. One great factor was that I stayed over now that I have the bigger car that can haul more stuff. I didn't have to make trips back and forth 80 miles to get everything I needed for the games I hosted.

I only hosted two games this year: My Bronze Age Skirmish game using Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes from Ganesha Games and The Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits using The Pikeman's Lament. Both games went very well and the players were great.

The crowd at the convention still showed a lot of familiar faces, but fewer of the old guard were on hand and a lot of newer faces (the young guard) were there—or newer to me; I'm sure they've had their faces for a long time. It's funny and a bit poignant to reflect that we've been doing Enfilade! for 28 years now, more than a quarter century. The children I recall coming with their dads ages ago are now full-on adults. Many of the spry (or spryer) young men of that time are grizzled old men now or have passed away.

But we go on and the hobby goes on with us. For all the remembered glory of gaming past, now is the best time to be in the hobby. There is so much that is new and exciting coming out from figure manufacturers, terrain pieces, etc. Nostalgia addict though I may be, I wouldn't go back to the old days. I saw a pack of old, old 25mm MiniFigs amidst a lot of recycled/used gaming bits on vendor had. They were some mounted Napoleonics. They were way dinky compared with current "25s" and minimally detailed. I remember when they were the cutting edge. Times change.

Enfilade! is just on the cusp of outgrowing the space we've had at the Red Lion Hotel Olympia. This year's attendees numbered 410. That's nothing compared to Historicon or Fall In, but a lot for what was once a wee convocation of local gamers. Our first Enfilade! was held in Lynnwood, where I live now. We outgrew that space long ago (and the convention rooms have been demolished, so there's that) and have been at RLHO for 16 years with two more years to go on our current contract with them. It's a great space, even though it's an 85-mile drive for me—and much farther for the Canadians who come down. It's hard to imagine anywhere in this area with a larger convention room attached to or very near a hotel—certainly not something affordable.

Games I ran

As I mentioned above, I ran two games over the weekend.

Bronze Age Heroes

Mayhem beneath the megaliths
I'm kind of an old hand hosting this game. I have my beloved 40mm Bronze Age minis from Monolith Designs/Graven Images, sculpted by the late Jim Bowen. I've augmented the ones I painted years ago with some new, as yet unpainted, reinforcements. I hoped to have some to add for Enfilade!, but the other game took all my effort to prepare.

I was happy to bring back to Enfilade! the megaliths that I bought from Darryl Nichols, who used them in his game last year. They're the perfect size for the 40mm minis and add a great look to the game board. I don't suppose I can use them in every game I play...

I love the Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes rules. For skirmish gaming they really flow well and leave a lot of tactical choice. I cut out some of the advanced bits because it's difficult managing them in a multiplayer game with a lot of newbies. The reaction rules are very nice, but only suitable for a smaller number of experienced players. Otherwise, a turn bogs down as multiple players keep reacting.

The scenario had two sides rushing in to capture and drag off the 4-figure cult group, who of course scattered as soon as their potential abductors showed up. One escaped, one side captured one and the other side captured the remaining two.

There was also a lot of hacking and slashing between the rival sides, with several gruesome kills and heroes/leaders lost.

The Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits

This is the culmination of the year and a half of The Irish Project. I'm quite pleased with myself. Large projects have always been my undoing before this. I have 120 English and 132 Irish minis painted for this now. I have only six Irish cavalry unpainted, and I just finally ordered some English horse—two units of demilancers and two of petronels. I didn't need any mounted English to do the game, so I didn't bother getting or painting any before this. Going ahead, I'll want mounted for both sides. My hope is that after all my effort, I'll be able to get a lot of gaming out of the 250+ minis I have.

Irish Pike crossing a stream
The game scenario was an attack on an English column marching to relieve the beleaguered garrison of Enniskillen. I didn't have a chance to playtest the scenario. If I had, I would have made some tweaks. Even then, the game went well and the players enjoyed themselves.

English on the march
The English got some units across the ford, but fell victim to the fire of the Irish calivermen manning the demilune.

Defending the ford
The English did, however, manage to shoot up the Irish horse and at the end of the game, the English general (Sir Henry Duke) with his body guard of armored billmen managed to kill the Irish leader (Hugh McGuire) and his bodyguard of gallowglass.

The growing dead pile
The Irish won, even though there was a lot of loss on both sides, so a very historical outcome. The main factor was the loss of the supply wagons and all those biscuits (i.e., 16th c. hard tack). I'll play it again soon at The Panzer Depot and get the tweaks in that will make it a bit more competitive for the English.

Games I played

I managed to get into a few games as a participant as well. This is rare for me at Enfilade! I'm either hosting a game or kibitzing or eating or shopping. I rarely play in other people's games, but the new event sign-up system we have enables online event sign-up, so I don't have to content with the huge line of people signing up for events at the con (which we've now done away with).

One game I had to drop out of, which was a shame. Spencer Fisher ran a The Pikeman's Lament game of the Battle of Fornovo. It looked very nice. I preregistered for it online, but it was being played in the first period on Friday and I started out from home too late and the traffic was too bad that I didn't arrive at the con until the game had started. C'est la guerre. Spencer was one of the Irish players in my Ford of the Biscuits game.

What a Tanker!

I managed to get into a game of the new Too Fat Lardies game What a Tanker! I wasn't sure what to think of it, but it played very well after  a few learning turns. There were six of us playing. I ran a Russian IS-2. The other Russian players had a T-34c and and SU-85. We faces a StuG III, Pz IVh, and a Panther G.

Setup and terrain
Dean Motoyama, playing the T-34, got a hit on the StuG, but failed to do any serious damage. I managed a couple shots at it and blowed it up.

However, trading shots with the Panther, I managed one hit that did little damage, then failed spectacularly (rolled snake-eyes) on my next shot. Alas, the Panther took me out. Then, off to bed rather than mount another iron steed.

Doomed IS-2
I liked the game so much I ordered a copy from TFL and have been scouring my boxes to see what I have in painted/partially painted/unpainted tanks in 15mm. I have a lot, despite selling off most of my WW2.

Mad Wet Max

Some years ago Dave Schueler and Kevin Smyth made variants of the Formula Dé racing game for air racing and hydroplane racing. These have been crowd favorites at Enfilade! conventions in the past. They sent a copy of the hydroplane rules to David Manley in the UK. His group played them, but decided they needed some weapons fire to really make them work. Thus was Mad Wet Max born.

Tigershark: Armed and dangerous
The game is a lot of fun and very unlike a real race. For one thing there is no general direction. Players go (mostly) full throttle in any direction to drive past hexes containing one of three numbered buoys. After passing all three three times, you exit past the finish buoy. However, there is much danger from collisions, getting upset by going through another player's rooster tail—and weapons fire from other players and aggressive spectators (with RPGs, stinger missiles, shotguns, etc.).

Ornery spectators
Most games come down to a couple—or one—survivor. To my own surprise, I managed to be one of the last two boats afloat, but was still trying to get my last buoy while the winner raced past the finish buoy.

I took hits from other boats and spectators, but I gave better than I got. I had a few turns where my gunner was doing much damage, until he was killed by shotgun fire from a crowd of rural Americans in the bleachers.

Stuff I bought

I can't escape Enfilade! without getting some new toys. Though not much this year. I didn't sell much either, but did get $200.00 for a pile of 28mm Dixon ACW figures.


Bob Murch of Pulp Figures came down from Kelowna, B.C. with toys to sell—including some of the excellent Flint & Feather minis from Crucible Crush. I got a boxed set of the Iroqouis warband, but Bob brought some yet unreleased packs of Iroquois great warriors, striplings, and musket-armed warriors, which I promptly snagged. I've spent some time this morning cleaning several of these. They are very, very nice minis.

WIP—straight to the painting table from Enfilade!
The range covers Native Americans (for now Hurons and Iroquois) in the period just before or just after contact with Europeans. The warriors are mostly armed with bows and some kind of close combat weapon. However, most have one or the other. Some also have wooden shields and/or wooden body armor. Then there are the musket armed figures who have 17th c. matchlocks. Very cool.

I've had my eye on the range for a while, but was waiting for the great warriors and muskets to be available before I ordered any. I'm glad Bob showed up with them in tow.

Getting up close and personal while cleaning them, I can see just how beautiful the minis are. They'll be pretty simple to paint. The color palette is mostly tans and browns with some more colorful highlights for feathers. They'll be singly based, but I'm not sure whether to go with Litko bases, round metal washers, or my plastic cut-outs.

I plan to use them for Song of Drums and Tomahawks. These rules are an official variant of Andrea Sfilogis' Song of Blades and Heroes (the rules I use for my Bronze Age games). The rules are for the French and Indian War, but can be used for any North American conflicts involving Native Americans, whether inter-tribal warfare or clashes with Europeans. I have several 30 Years War minis from The Assault Group that I think will work for early colonial French, Dutch, English.

I've lured Kevin Smyth into the event horizon of this project and he's gone and ordered some Hurons from Crucible Crush (he wasn't sure about buying some at the convention until it was too late). This is really a perfect project for him since he's already done so much with early America and the clashes between the various native and colonial peoples (and post-colonial 'Mericans of course).

The home front

I had a cat sitter mind the munchkins while I was at the convention. I've done this before. It's a comfort that a professional will be taking care of them. This is especially true because of the cat v. cat situation at Stately Chez Dave. Bogart is still a pariah to the girls, especially Maebh.

When I came home on Sunday afternoon, Bogart was out and about the house and the girls were shut in the bedroom. After I played with Bogey for a bit, I went upstairs. The girls don't like strangers and I figured they'd hide from the sitter, as they have done in the past. No change from this year.

I found Rhiannon under the bed, but no sign of Maebh. I checked every nook and cranny, called out her name, but nothing. I started to get worried. I texted the sitter and asked, "Where is Maebh?" She texted back that when she left that morning Maebh had crawled under the covers of my bed. I didn't see a lump, but I pulled back the covers and out she popped like a jack in the box. She was snuggled right up against the pillow. Perfect concealment.

All the cats were glad to see me. Bogart couldn't stop nuzzling me with his face. Maebh sat on my chest purring loudly as I relaxed on the couch and later in my recliner. Rhiannon head-butted me and snuggled up to me on the couch. It's nice to be missed.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Enfilade ho! (the mad dash to the finish)

Enfilade! is a week away and I'm painting and working on terrain like crazy.

I don't think I've ever had the kind of productivity I've had in the last couple years. The Miracle Dip™ deserves all the credited for this.

It's a good thing, too, that I'm being productive because I'm moving into Enfilade Death March mode. I'm hosting two Enfilade! events. One, a Bronze Age skirmish game that I've run before and I can do it without any further effort (though it would be nice to get some of my 40mm mounted Prehistoricalistic Europeanoids completed). The other, the Irish Project, has been an undertaking. I've made steady progress on it, even though I've turned off the straight and narrow a few times to work on some other "Rampant" projects—and let's be honest, I'm also lazy.


All of the figures/models I need for the Irish Project event are either (1) completely painted and based, (2) completely painted but unbased, (3) nearly completely painted. That says a lot, but the final bit will be a mad dash since there's a very large number in the (2) and (3) categories, though mostly (2).

For me the big hurdle in painting minis is getting them past the dipped (i.e., glopped) phase. It's smooth sailing after that. However, the way I do most things requires waiting time. I have a multi-stage process that works very well openendedly (is that a word?), but can be tough when dealing with an unforgivingly hard deadline.

Assuming I get all the minis completely painted and dipped by this weekend, that leaves a lot of basing to do in the remaining four days till Enfilade. I'm taking the week off work, so I'll have a lot of time, but some things take a few days "curing" time; for example, I tend to wait at least 48 hours after dipping before I brush on a coat of matte varnish, which protects the Minwax stain from curling when the dullcote hits it (it's been a problem). I also tend to wait at least 24 hours for the pumice gel medium I use for basing to dry. I expect to be dullcoting final based minis Thursday night before the convention.

Bases ready to load

I've made marvelous progress this week. I've had to revise this post several times since starting it last weekend because I outstripped my reported progress.

Pikes leveled, ready for the gel medium

At this point, I'll have all my minis based and glopped with MinWax by tonight, or early tomorrow.

Various stages of preparation

All along, the process of completing nearly 200 minis—with no two painted alike—seemed like chaos, but it all eventually came together. I can still do a kind of batch painting by applying a single color to a small group of minis, then another color, etc.

I would certainly have accomplished more sooner if I were more disciplined in painting—as if that were possible. I got a lot done in hours-long sessions, but then wouldn't paint for days. Nevertheless, my painting table went from crowded,

To nearly clear,

To completely clear.

All that remains now is dipping and basing, and I have six work-free days to do that.


I'm near finished with terrain for the event. I've built up a lot of it over the years, so I can rest and reuse most of it. However, there were a few new/revived pieces.

The Hudson and Allan buildings I got from Michigan Toy Soldier company are done! They really didn't take much effort at all.

The long house
The not so long house
I liked them so much, I ordered another two Hudson and Allan buildings, but they're out of stock and won't arrive by Enfilade. But I'll be able to get them into later games—of which I hope there will be many after all the work I've put into this project.

I've had some wonderful Armorcast stone walls that I bought 20+ years ago. They got a bit knackered over the years and I'd been meaning to redo them. I also thought I'd like to add to them, so a recent order to Armorcast got me twice what I used to have. I completed/redid them all in a new way and I'm quite happy with the result.

Don't fence me in
That ought to be enough to get on with, but I couldn't resist ordering another four of the 9" long pieces. They arrived on Monday and I'm already well along to finishing them. With these last pieces, I'll have 180" of stone walls. That's surely enough to be getting on with.

Finally, I wanted to do something fancy-schmanzy with my woods. I've used felt in times past to demarcate the footprint of a wood. It's easy to do and quite common. Years ago, I made some rough terrain pieces for DBM that I found useful for other things after I stopped playing DBM. They're very flat. I used an .030 plastic sheet with a layer of fine pumice gel medium as a base with a blotchy layer of coarse pumice gel medium on top. Painted and flocked, they make a nice base—but I only have two of them and I need many more for my games at Enfilade!

I got two very large sheets of .030 plastic from Plastruct and cut out several more, including shapes that will interlock with wall angles. These have already been schmeered with the pumice medium, so I only need to let them dry a few days and I can paint and flock them.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Then there's the trees. I have several already completed. I did a quick job on them last Enfilade! when I completed about 30 trees almost overnight in the middle of the convention for the Queztalcoatl Rampant game I ran with Kevin Smyth. I did a more thorough job on the bases after the convention and started another 30+ that still need work. I'll get to them after the weekend I expect.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Old Days (Good Times I Remember)

I think that I'm hopelessly nostalgic, sometimes even to the point of maudlin sentimentality. A bit of that was triggered by two events last week. The first was a Facebook memory from two years ago that showed a picture of Grendel, Rhiannon, and Maebh milling about in the sunshine near the big sliding glass door. The second was hearing the song Old Days by Chicago play on Pandora. One verse particularly stood out:

Take me back
To the world gone away
Seem like yesterday

The ten years when I shared a home with those three were some of the best years I've ever known. It saddens me to think that it's now a world gone away, never to return.

Maebh's recent dental adventure wasn't anything life threatening for her (though my wallet is still recovering). However, she's 14. Rhiannon is 17. In cat years, they're getting ancient. Maebh is still pretty spry; Rhiannon is definitely showing her years and getting fatter to boot.

The Golden Girls

Back in the day, my lounging around the house (as one does), had a magnetic affect on the cats. They'd gravitate to me or to each other near me. Life was a movable cat puddle.

Creating permanent dimples in the couch

We're less cohesive now. Maebh still considers me furniture the minute I sit. Even when I'm upright, she bullies me into to sitting in the recliner so she can sit on me. It's nice to be wanted, even if only for my ample lap. Rhiannon used to prefer sitting either on my right (before we both got too fat for her to fit between me and the arm of the recliner) or nestled between my legs. Not so much now that it's harder for her to jump up on the furniture. I have a step thingy that she can use to get onto the couch and thence onto me, but now she finds it too roundabout. Plus, I think she gets confused about how to get up there. She's always been kind of stupid (sweetly so), now she's also senile.

Grendel picked me out in July 2006, I picked out Rhiannon in August 2006. Maebh joined the tribe in March 2007. We were four. They were all younger then and more open to new relationships. Despite a spat here and there between Grendel and Rhiannon, the cats were often bundled together with or without me. They were a happy little clowder, a few contretemps notwithstanding.

The movable clowder

These days, Bogart is the only youngster (with all of youth's annoying unbridled enthusiasms) and the old girls are adamant in ostracizing him from their tribe. I hoped I could keep the show going by introducing a new cast member for an existing role, like the way Dick Sergeant replaced Dick York on Bewitched and nobody noticed. But Maebh noticed and  after 18 months I'm resigned to her hatred of Bogart being implacable.

Bring me the head of Bogart the Cow Cat

We're like Cyprus now. The invading Turk (Bogart) has his own territory and the Greeks (Rhiannon and Maebh) have theirs. I'm the hapless schmo with a foot in each warring camp. All I need is a baby blue helmet. Any attempt to get them to mingle turns into a Sharks v. Jets rumble and Tony (Maebh) inevitably shivs Bernardo (Bogart). Even with only one remaining canine, I assume her bite to be still formidable and abscess inducing.

We've reached a modus vivendi, but it's not without inconvenience. My lounging moments can't exert the gravitational pull that drew all the munchkins together to me. I miss that.

The girls will die eventually. I hope not for a long time, even though that means Stately Chez Dave will remain an indefinite Cyprus. When they go, Bogart will have an unrestricted run of a lonelier house.

I'll be wary of bringing a new cat (or cats) in after the girls go. Bogart seemed to do well in community in the shelter before I adopted him, but he's aggressive with Maebh, who does not respond well to his attention. I long for a harmonious home without Iron Curtains and Checkpoint Charlies to keep the cat population apart.

Standoff at Checkpoint Charlie

With Bogart, I tried to extend or re-boot the bliss of my three-cat household. It didn't work. I don't want to repeat that disappointment, so I assume that Bogey will be my last cat. But who knows?