Monday, July 10, 2017

Mind the gap!

Hosting several games of Queztalcoatl Rampant, the Lion Rampant variant Kevin Smyth and I created, got me thinking about how to better enforce the rule that requires all units to maintain a 3" gap between themselves and other units. Players tend to want to mass their troopies as tightly as they can and I found myself many times reminding them of the 3" gap rule.

Back when I was playing DBA and DBM, we all used some form of "Barker marker," a 40mm square marker that we used to ensure that we stayed away from the danger zone that extends out from a unit's front. For DBM, there were template sets you could buy that provided a handy way to stay outside of distances that affected your movement, etc.

I wandered as I pondered and chanced upon a pack of Litko 3" circular bases, at which point the volubly loud exclamation "Aha!" escaped my lips (scaring the cats and alarming the neighbors). Those 3" bases were perfect for templates that players can use to gauge proximity to other units as they move and thus escape the gamemaster's chiding and condemnatory gaze—although it won't correct "conga-line" tactics.

The bases are 3mm thick, so easily picked up by their edges as they lie flat on the table, but I wanted some kind of "handle" that made placing them and picking them up a bit easier. I also wanted to terrain them in some way to harmonize with the bases on the table. For the Elizabethan Irish project, I thought something like an old, weathered Celtic cross slightly askew would look nice—although I have yet to find a suitable 1.5" to 2" high Celtic cross to use [dear readers, suggestions are welcome]. I also thought that for the ECW, something  like a lonely gibbet—with or without the hanging corpse of some malefactor—would be nice. Such can be acquired (e.g., from Irregular Miniatures) but I haven't ordered it yet.

In the interim, I wanted something generic that I could use for any X Rampant style game: Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant, The Pikeman's Lament, etc. Poking about at Hobby Lobby recently, I came across a packet of 1" wooden drawer pulls. I suppressed another "Aha!," but was quite glad to have found them. They would make the perfect handles for generic templates.

Pulls and bases pre-assembly
I started by roughly determining the center of the 3" base and gluing the pull to it. After the glue dried, I stained the pull using the Minwax Tudor stain that I use for dipping my figures. I didn't let it sit long at all before wiping it, so the stain effect is fairly light.

When the stain dried, I spread some of my beloved Golden Course Pumice Gel medium on the bases as the foundation for terraining them. After the gel dries (I gave it about 48 hours), I trimmed off the excess and glued some model railroad ballast to make rocky bits.

Twin bins of rocky bits
I paint the gel medium and rocky bits with a coat of slightly watered down Vallejo Mud Brown from their airbrush range (which is already a bit thinned). Then I drybrush the lot with Vallejo Yellow Ochre. After that, I drybrush the rocks with a Vallejo Deck Tan and then highlighted with Vallejo Bone White.

Looking muddy
I flocked the bases with patches of Woodland Scenics Earth Blend Blended Turf. I go over the patches with a second application of the blended turf using diluted Mod Podge. The double coating gives a bit more texture to the flocking.

I follow up the turf with an application of Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf. I make a mix of the Light Green and Yellow Grass colors. It breaks up the monochrome affect with the coarse turf the way the blended turf does for the fine turf colors.

When the glue has dried for the coarse turf, I take a small tweezer and pull out the fluffier bits of the coarse turf. I like to trim it down, otherwise it looks a bit much. I really just want it as additional texture and color, so I don't want it overwhelming the surface like kudzu.

Kudzu: The vine that ate Alabama (there's a house under there)
Finally, I added a few Scenic Express flower tufts. The final product turns out quite nice and is usable for any of the Rampant family of rules.

Handy-dandy gap-minder units

Saturday, July 8, 2017

For the pikes must be together...

I bear orders from the captain, get you ready quick and soon
For the pikes must be together at the rising of the moon
OK, different rebellion (but there were so many), but it's apt. I've completed the Border Reivers Irish pikes, a.k.a. The Baldrick Brigade. (Actually some time ago, but I've only got round to blogging about them now.) They were a quick and delightful paint—something which I've found to be generally true of Jim Bowen figures, which is why I love them so much.

These are the first figures I've completed for the 16th c. Irish company for The Pikeman's Lament. All the others I have are cleaned, primed, and have some kind of paint smeared on them, so they're soon to follow.

Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn
I wasn't sure at first how to paint them. After a bit of pondering, I decided to treat the figures' coats as a kind of leather jerkin and went with painting them different variations of leather colors: Vallejo Tanned Leather, Oiled Leather, and Red Leather. The sleeves were an assortment of lighter colors with Howard's Hues Linen predominating. I also used some Vallejo Dark Sand as a saffron-dyed linen color. The Irish in the 16th c. were apparently very big on saffron dye. The Dark Sand is yellow without being too saturated. I'll use it a lot for the kern and gallowglass.

The trousers (or trews maybe) I painted an assortment of browns, tans, reds, grays, greens, grey-blues. I could have painted a sett (tartan) on them, but I'm too lazy and not sure if they would have them anyway. My general rule for painting is that unless I'm very inspired to do so, I don't opt for flashy. Painting one tartan pattern on a pair of pants is a chore; doing it for 12 figures is insanity. Someday I'll paint highlanders, then Katie bar the door.

The nice thing about it is that the above considerations were the majority of the paint work. Bowen sculpts are simple, clean, and free from a lot of the fiddly detail that tends to drive me insane when I'm finishing a batch of figures. The Renegade/Bicorne figures, for example, seem to sprout extra detail as I paint them. I think I'm done and then I notice that some fiddly-bit on a musketeer needs to be detailed, then another... I "finish" those figures several times before I actually finish them.

Once the figures were block-painted, I prepped 'em for dipping with a sprayed-on coat of Rust-Oleum Satin Clear Enamel. It gives it a semi-gloss that allows the Minwax stain to flow and settle better—and prevents rust. The dip itself is the part of the process that still gives me pause. Once you start to dip, you pass the point of no return. If somehow you manage to screw everything up, you don't have a lot of options for fixing it.

Assuming I haven't turned several hours of painting effort into hammered poo, I let the Minwax dry for a minimum of 48 hours before I apply dullcote. What I've found is that after about 8 hours, the dip is dry enough to start basing the figures. An awful lot of time in my painting process is "curing". That's true mostly with the dip and with basing. The basing material I use is good ol' Golden Coarse Pumice Gel medium. That takes at least overnight or all day to dry to the point where I can trim off the excess from when I slopped it on the base. It's best actually after a couple days. Too soon and the gel is still kind of rubbery, but with a sharp X-Acto knife you can trim it off after 8 hours or so without undoing things. It's amazing how long things can take to dry and harden. But by combining the Minwax drying with the gel medium drying, I can cut 24-48 hours out of "curing" time.

I used my now-standard 3-2-1 basing. It seems a little odd for pikemen, whom you expect to be in tight ranks and files, but they look alright on the table. They did actually take part in a game back in March where they arrived as reinforcements to save me from being overrun by Polish hordes

Axe me about what else is completed

Since I started this post some time ago, I've also completed a unit of fearsome, axe-wielding gallowglass.

We will, we will axe you!
These figures required a bit more prep work because they had to be made to hold the two-handed axes cleanly. I spent a bit of time with a drill and little round file to get it all right.

I also completed the command set with a rather natty chieftain, his priests, piper, and a couple kern. These turned out nice, but I dullcoated too soon (maybe?) and got some crinkling in the paint. It's mostly noticeable on the priest's robes.

The Ó Súilleabháin blessed by his priests and serenaded by his piper
I wanted to stick with a yellowish theme on their clothing. All the info I have points to the predominance of saffron-dyed clothing for these guys. Rather than make them all a uniform yellow color, I varied between plain linen color, diluted yellow, and deeper yellow. I used various pictures of 16th c. Irish soldiers as my guide.

The kern, which I'm still working on, will have the same variety of yellowy/strawy/linen-ey colors.

The rest of the colors for the gallowglass kind of fell into place since it was mostly steel with a few accents that I could make up.

I have two more units of gallowglass almost done. I've completed painting/dipping them and am basing them now. I also got some English pikemen—the first of my colonialist oppressor units—wait for another post on those. I also just ordered some Irish shot, Scots red-shanks, and some Irish horse from Timeline.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Time off and Holy Grails

Today started a five-day long holiday for me. Making use of my copious amount of paid time off, I took off today and Monday and joined them with the Independence Day holiday on Tuesday. As with most long holidays I have options paralysis from the get-go.

I puttered about at home this morning, sleeping in until nearly 6:30 a.m.! I would have slumbered longer, but the cats had become incessant in their demands.

The quest for the edible Grail

After about four hours of reading, drinking coffee, annoying the cats, being annoyed by the cats, etc., I decided to get showered and head down to Seattle for lunch at the Pacific Inn, home of the World's Best Fish 'n' Chips.

Dive in to the Pacific Inn
The PI gives a whole new meaning to the word "dive," but they pull a mean pint and serve up The Holy Grail of battered, deep-fried cod. It is, quite simply, the best fish 'n' chips in Seattle—if not the world.

Lunch was quite good, the PI's fish never disappoints, though it was a bit overcooked this time.

The PI is on the edge of Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. I worked down here for years when I was at Adobe and later as a consultant at Aquent. Fremont was once a hippie haven (The People's Republic of Fremont) until Adobe, Getty Images, Google, and some other companies moved offices into the neighborhood. The unavoidable gentrification that followed drove out a lot of the delightfully seedy spots like the old Still Life Cafe, where a heavily pierced and tattooed staff baked and served the best pastries in Seattle. The place is now some kind of yuppie Italian bistro. The horror.

But the PI endures. Most of the buildings around it have been torn down and rebuilt as overpriced foo-foo cafes or boutique businesses. Its shabby, battered facade stands out defiantly from its environment and sustains the neighborhood's tenuous connection to its low-rent past. All the area was once part of the north Lake Union mill and industrial area, which also contained dry docks and repair facilities for seagoing ships. Once very much a working man's haven, the area has been slowly transforming over many years.

It will be a sad day when the PI succumbs to gentrification, either by going out of business or, worse, turning into a remodeled yuppie upscale foo-foo eatery.

A serendipitous Grail discovery

Another delight in the Fremont neighborhood are a few old used bookstores that sit just up a bit and across the street (Stone Way) from the PI. Seattle Book Center had been there forever. "Had" I say, because it is there no more. The owner, John, moved to Colorado where his wife's job was transferred. SBC was a wonderful place and the quality of the used books sold there was superb. All that's left is an out of date Facebook page.

Its place has been taken by Sea Ocean Book Berth, which had been a smaller bookseller two doors up from SBC. The old Sea Ocean Book Berth was a small shop crammed with books about nautical topics. It's always been a favorite place of mine to poke about. The owner, Chris, was as ancient a mariner as Coleridge ever saw. I think he was retired merchant marine. I didn't see him at the new location and didn't ask about him (though I should have). I honestly expected that some day, SOBB would be gone and only SBC would remain. I never imagined it the other way around.

I went into SOBB after lunch to see what was there. It's maybe three times its old size, yet still crammed with nautical books—just not as crammed as before. I passed on several tempting books, but did pick out some 16th c. naval topics: Beeching's The Galleys at Lepanto, Mattingly's The Armada, and G.M. Thomson's bio of Sir Francis Drake.

And then I wandered into the section devoted to naval warfare books and found M.J. Whitley's German Coastal Forces of World War Two. This book was publish 24 years ago by Arms and Armor Press and never got a second printing. I didn't buy it way back then and when I wanted it, it wasn't to be had. Over the last several years, I've look to see if any used bookstore had it. I've searched for it on Abe Books and Amazon to find either no results or results so staggeringly expensive that I turned away in shock. This find wasn't cheap...

The Holy Grail of naval warfare books
I debated whether I wanted to spend the money, but having it in hand at last pulled me towards the decision I made. I feel a bit like Kasper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon having finally found what he'd been seeking for years—and I didn't have to kill anyone in Istanbul, Hong Kong, or San Francisco to get it (and the book is probably not a fake made of lead).

Well, sir, it took me seventeen years to locate that bird, but I did.
I wanted it and I'm not a man that's easily discouraged when I want something.

With these new books I feel some naval gaming coming on. I don't have any galley models, but I have lots of 1:1250th scale coastal forces, which I've used to play David Manley's Action Stations! rules. I just downloaded a PDF of David's recently released 16th c. naval rules Cannon, Cross, and Crescent from Wargame Vault.

The days ahead

I expect the next four days to fly by, but I'll try to get a few things done. I want to complete my Algoryn Liberator model (we have a game next Saturday) as well as get some units completed for The Pikeman's Lament. I have several units in some stage of completion—I can never just paint one unit at a time—and it would be nice to clear them from my painting table and  get them on a gaming table this summer.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

BTGOA: Algoryn heavy hoverin' metal

Sh*t just got real for the Algoryns for Beyond the Gates of Antares. The latest release from Warlord Games gives them a jump ahead of the hated Concord.

What started as a mainly infantry force for me has morphed into a collection of heavier weapons as a result of playing games against formidable opponents. Trying to stop a Ghar battle squad with mag rifles can be intimidating. Trying to stop Boromites with mag rifles is intimidating, too. But the worst are the hi-tech Concord who have hard-hitting and hard-to-kill weapons systems. For a while, they had better stuff than anyone.

But now, the Algoryns have the X06 Liberator Plasma Destroyer. I got mine on Thursday. When I heard it was coming out I thought I'd wait a bit until John Kennedy of The Panzer Depot informed me that the keen resin 'n' metal model was soon to be superseded by a plastic kit. The spectre of plastic got me moving and I had him order me one, which he had to hunt down from his distributors.

Plastic may be seen by some people as the salvation of the hobby, replacing expensive metal with a cheaper material. I am not convinced. Indeed, I regard plastic as an abomination.

Do it for the children
When the hobby goes totes plastique, I'll take up scrapbooking. Until then, I'm acquiring all the metal ('n' resin) I can get before there's no metal to be had.

But I digress...

The main part of the kit (the resin bits) are five pieces. The turret is a separate piece. The main hull is one big chunk o' resin. The insectoid mandible-like fore-part of the vehicle is separate as are the "wings." However, all these parts fit together very nicely. The resin casting is superb, as is the quality of the resin.

Five Easy Pieces
The bottom of the hull has a "T"-shaped keyhole-like insertion for the stand.

An inconvenient "T"
I'm not a fan of the stand that comes with the model—not least because it's plastic. I prefer something more substantial. All my Algoryns are mounted on metal fender washers. The infantry is on 1.25" dia. washers, except for some weapon crews, who are on 1" dia. washers. The metal washers add heft to the pieces. I like heft. Heft is good.

Do you know what doesn't have heft? Plastic. Plastic has no heft whatsoever.

Getting back to the basing...

When I did my Algoryn Intruder skimmers, I used a 1.5" fender washer for the bases, with metal 1" tall FASA bases I get from CinC. 1", 1.25", and 1.5" fender washers are easy to find in any hardware store. But when I did my Algoryn Avenger skimmer, I wanted a bigger base, so I went to the Interwebs and was able to find some 2" dia. fender washers at

Avenger properly based (but WIP nonetheless)
With the Liberator, I was in a quandary. I didn't think a 2" washer would be a stable enough base for the bigger, heavier model. I went back to the Interwebs to discover—to my indescribable delight—that there are 3" dia. fender washers available (but not cheaply), so I bought a pack of 5. You'll have to look up how much I paid for 'em 'cause I'm embarrassed to say—but they did arrive in two days from Amazon, so that's something.

3" washers; dear in more ways than one
I'll create the base with the 3" washer, topped by a 2" washer, with the FASA base on that.

Base is a many-layered thing
I'll terrain the base, as I've done with all the Algoryns, using heavy wood filler and then bits of model railroad ballast for texture. Once painted and flocked, the bases look pretty nifty—and have heft.

I'm just at the point of having cleaned and washed the resin parts and just assembling them now. Getting back to that keyhole at the bottom of the hull, I'll need to fill that in with modeling expoxy, as I did for the Avenger, so I can replace it with a hole drilled for mounting the vehicle on the FASA base.

The Intruder skimmers are done and have actually been used in a game. The Avenger is still a WIP, though very near to completion (I just need to get to it). The Liberator shouldn't take much time if I devote myself to it. Maybe scheduling a BTGOA game will get me motivated. I have so many other project irons in the fire, which I'll address in a future post.

So, I'm glad to get a bit more firepower for my Algoryns. When I got into this project in 2014, I figured I'd just do some infantry for some one-off games. However, the more stuff that's coming out, the deeper in I go. I don't think I'll expand to other Antarean races, however. I'll stick with the Algoryns.

All hail Algor, Founder of our race!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Enfilade! 2017: Quetzalcoatl, catharsis, joy-sparking, and cash

It's been nearly a week since Enfilade! 2017 ended. I started working on this post on Sunday, but have only managed to finish it now. You'd think that my stream-of-consciousness persiflage would pour forth a bit quicker, but I'm a pedantic, punctilious stream-of-consciousness persiflager. I have to cross my t's and dot my i's and revise, revise, revise until, after all my revisions, it comes out just like I typed it in the first place. I'm told that's a mark of genius. Or was it something else?
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
I attended just two days and drove down and back both of 'em. For me, Enfilade! ended Saturday night. Late. So late it was tomorrow when I got home.  I had mulled over spending the weekend at the convention and staying at the hotel, but that would mean getting a cat-sitter (who would have to deal with the awkward—and potentially explosive—Bogart vs. the girls scenario). It would also severely limit what I could schlep down in my nifty, but severely space-limited 350z.

Even though I spent nearly as much time driving back and forth as I spent gaming, I quite enjoyed Enfilade! this year. The lead-up to it was much less hectic than in past years, or maybe I was just more comfortable with my slacking. I didn't overcommit or run multiple games (at least not on my own).

In the week before Enfilade! I managed to finally get the last few of my Spanish conquistadors finished. My caballeros de la muerte had long been limited to the first two figures I painted some time last Fall (eliciting Kevin's query every game, "Are those two ever going to get their friends to join them?"). The dog-pack has proper masters now, to replace the halbardiers who filled in, the gun crew is done, and there's a full compliment of crossbowmen. I also managed to complete a few Aztec slingers (of course), though the bulk of my Mesoaméricanos remain in progress somewhere along the continuum from raw lead to almost just nearly ready to get dipped.

My only true last-minute cramming was getting a bunch of trees done. We'd always had ready terrain when we gamed at The Panzer Depot or Kevin brought some trees to other venues. So, when he said that he couldn't fit anything more into his overstuffed Subaru and would have to leave the trees at home, I determined to complete the trees I'd been ignoring for the last two years. That required a lot of work on Thursday to apply the DAS air-dry clay to the fender-washer-weighted wooden bases. I had to wait 36 hours for that to dry, which meant filing and sanding the dried clay when I got home from Day 1 of Enfilade! on Friday night. To bed by midnight, and then getting up early Saturday morning to paint and flock the bases so I could bring them up with me on Saturday for Kevin's and my Quetzalcoatl Rampant games. I also cut out and flocked some green felt areas to demarcate woods on the table.

Finally, I had to pull out of their nooks, niches, and cubby-holes all the stuff I was selling at the bring 'n' buy. For which details, see below.

What I played or ran

I was only involved in three events over the two days.

I played in one event in the first period on Friday afternoon. A Bolt Action game of Tarawa using 15mm figures. There were eight players, 6 Marines and 2 Japanese. I was one of the Marine players. It was tough going. The Japanese were very, very dug in. We managed to score just a few casualties against them, while our units were being shot up in the surf and on the sand. I wound up playing two of the Marine commands because our sixth player arrived late and then bailed out. The last few turns of the game, my fellow Marine players wanted me to use my finally-landed air control officer to direct an airstrike on a Japanese bunker they were going to attack. I rolled a "1" for effect and wound up attacking them instead as they massed in the open for the assault. That ended the game. Children, don't roll 1's.

Bolt Action: The Marines debark at the reef line
Bolt Action: "Bataan" barely making it ashore
After that friendly fire debacle, I caught the tail end of happy hour in the bar with Kevin Smyth, Dave Schueler, and Doug Hamm, who fulsomely extolled the glory of plastic minis (and yet I still demur). Then I went home and started working on the model trees I needed to complete for my games on Saturday. The return trip was clear sailing. I made it from Olympia to Lynnwood (about 85 miles) in an hour and 15 minutes.

Saturday morning, the cats got me up early, of course. I went right to work finishing the trees for the game. The work was simple, but the drying time between tasks took a while; plus, there were a lot of trees to do.

The trip back down took me 2 1/2 hours: bad traffic going into Tacoma, very bad traffic going through the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area and then the oppressive perma-languor of Olympia traffic. By the time I got to the hotel, I needed beer, so I dragged Kevin into lunch in the understaffed, overcrowded hotel restaurant. The fish 'n' chips was good and the beer much appreciated.

After lunch, Kevin and I set up our first Quetzalcoatl Rampant game: Craving Corn in Xochimilco. This was the basic scenario we'd play-tested the rules variant with several times. It ran better for the Spanish than in games past. The Spanish/Tlaxcalan players all had mixed forces of conquistadors and Tlaxcalan allies. This mix resolved the problem of players putting all their Spanish in one lot (which in some games never moved).

Craving Corn: The Spanish advance into the town
Craving Corn: Tlaxcalans arrayed for battle

The caballeros never got into action. I think the player decided to use them as a reserve and hid them behind a pyramid out of range and line of sight from the Aztec atlatls. Pity. There's nothing I like more than to play hard-charging cavalry riding to death or glory.

Craving Corn: Caballeros hiding behind a pyramid
The war-dogs ran into the teeth of it and wound up getting mauled. I don't think we've played a single game where they didn't get wiped out or were left hanging on by a thread.

Craving Corn: War-dogs and handlers
We also instituted appeals to God/the gods discs that could be used as do-overs for failed activation tests. Too often in our games, players would roll snake-eyes for their first activation in a turn and be hopelessly stuck. The do-over gets things moving and can be handy when you really, really need to make the attack or take the shot. So, Kevin painted up some discs with crosses for the Spanish and bleeding, ripped-right-outta-the-chest hearts for the Aztecs. Players were a bit cautious with them (they got negative points whenever they used one), but appreciated having a second chance for critical activations.

It's funny how players in a game you host never seem to play the way you imagine they will—although I shouldn't be shocked by now. In the Lion Rampant family of rules, units can never be within 3" of another unit unless in combat. This means that the amount of space to deploy can be limited by terrain 'n' stuff. In a space about 10" wide, you might expect to fit on 12-figure unit without violating the 3" rule. The solution that players find is to create "conga lines" of single or double file figures with 3" between the lines. It's entirely within the letter of the law, but not really in the spirit.

Craving Corn: Aztec conga lines of war
Craving Corn: Aztec counterattack
Following hard on the Craving Corn in Xochimilco game, was our second Quetzalcoatl Rampant game: I Left My Heart in Xochimilco. In this game, the Spanish are attacking an Aztec temple complex on three sides in an attempt to take several altars where their captured compadres are having the hearts lovingly offered to Huitzilopotchli.

I Left My Heart: Aztecs defend the temples
I Left My Heart: Spanish getting sucked into atlatl range
I Left My Heart: Rodeleros scaling the pyramid
The Aztecs fought hard, but were pretty much slaughtered in the end, which obscures how close they came to actually winning according to the scenario victory conditions. The Spanish/Tlaxcalans got 10 points a piece for every temple they took, plus one point for every Aztec unit completely eliminated. The Aztecs got a point for every Spanish foot figure lost and 2 points for every horseman. It was a near-run thing on points.

I Left My Heart: ¡Avance de la caballería!
The rodeleros of one Spanish force was getting badly shellacked by Aztec atlatl shooting, although its arquebusiers were doing worse back to the Aztecs. It was carnage all around, though mostly for the Aztecs, who lost probably 90% of their force.

What I sold

I was in two minds heading into Enfilade! this year: sell lots of stuff at the bring 'n' buy or sell nothing. My initial impulse after Phil Bardsley's death in January was to sell my 28mm Bolt Action stuff. Phil lured me into playing Bolt Action and I felt that it would never be the same without him. So I waffled, but eventually came back to deciding to sell.

I took my hint from the truly bizarre (though intriguing) book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of Decluttering and Organizing. In one chapter Marie Kondo tells us that the key to deciding whether or not to get rid of something is to hold it and see if it "sparks joy." No joy? Get rid of it. (Marie comes across as a weird anal-retentive tidying fetishist, but she has some interesting ideas. She has a follow-up book, btw, called Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.)

Of course, there are alternate opinions on the whole tidying up thing.

I'm more like the book on the right
Although this stuff about sparking joy almost put the ka-bosh on selling anything. I was gathering up my WW2 figures, models, terrain and found a box of three Blitzkrieg Miniatures Italian M11/39 tanks. They sparked joy! They were just the unassembled kits, but I felt that getting rid of them would be a loss of joy. Suddenly I had to re-think selling all my Bolt Action stuff, but in the end I decided that only the M11/39s sparked joy, so I kept 'em and sold the rest.

I also sold the replica 3rd c. Niederbieber style Roman helmet (not to be confused with the Justinbieber style) I'd had kicking around for 12 years. I bought it at the beginning of my all things Late Roman enthusiasm. It was a nice decoration for a while, but wound up relegated to the top of a book case in the den. I had to move it last Fall because Bogart had staked the top of the book case as his own and he tends to knock over whatever's in his way. It sat dejectedly on the floor of my den for the last eight months and had lost its ability spark joy.

I wanted to sell board games. I have too many, I don't play 'em, they spark no joy. I was once an enthusiast for the Advanced Tobruk System (ATS) games. I was very eager to get Advanced Tobruk when it came out in 2002. I bought several of the games in the system. I played several times, but not once in at least 10 years or so. I kind of felt stuck with a lot of the games taking up a lot of shelf space. I wanted to sell the whole pile for $100.00. Then I marked them down to $40.00 for the lot. Then I tried to give them away. In the end, I donated them to NHMGS, along with three of the Panzer Grenadier series of games. I did manage to sell my L2 Designs mint, unpunched copy of Streets of Stalingrad. I kept meaning to play it one day, but I finally convinced myself that the day would never come. I trust the buyer will put it to use. (Full disclaimer: I still have my copy of the first edition game from Phoenix Games.)

I came down to Enfilade! on Friday with a car-load of things to sell and was determined to bring none of it home with me. I almost made it. Apart from the board games I donated, I gave Scott Murphy my now-superseded "Ancient" dice, which I couldn't sell. I also couldn't sell my rather handsomely painted (IMO) 28mm scale Company B T-35. That was a bit of serendipity, really. It doesn't exactly "spark" joy, but I get a bit of a shiver from it. I kept my pile of unpainted 28mm WW2 Russians as a potential project. So I'm not all the way out of WW2 skirmish gaming. Just mostly. The Russians will arise and there will be a T-35 waiting to support them (or they it, it's kind of a miserable unit in Bolt Action). I may also be inspired to paint Barbarossa Germans. Panzer IIs vs. a T-35 could be an interesting scenario. I may also paint some Empress Miniatures Italians to keep my M11/39s company. We'll see.

In the end, I came home from Enfilade!—even after all my purchases (see below)—with a pile of cash. Even better, there's a sort of catharsis that comes from purging stuff. I never want to throw stuff away that might be wanted by others, no matter how much I don't want to keep it. I'd prefer to sell, but I'll give it away if I can't find a buyer. The important thing, however, was to declutter and purge my unused, unneeded, unwanted stuff. I have no purgers remorse.

I think I got a handle on what sparks joy, too. The M11/39s held a great deal of unfulfilled potential, which was why I couldn't part with them. They were kits I bought with an enthusiasm to build. Had I built and painted even one of the three, I'd likely have parted with them. But since they still held their initial potential, I needed to hang on, even if I don't eventually build and paint any of them, I still want to.

What doesn't spark joy are the things I felt were items past their enjoyment. Phil had been a major motivator in getting into Bolt Action and playing it for the years we did. With him gone, the likelihood that I'd ever play it again was minimal. No enjoyment, no spark.

I've attempted joy-sparking other things in the house,especially books. I hate to give 'em up—although I've done so many times in the past—but the shelves are in overflow and something's gotta give.

What I got

Of course, the point of selling stuff is buying more stuff. Here's my tally of the booty I brought home from Enfilade!

An unpunched mint copy of first edition of Avalon Hill's PanzerBlitz. The box was a bit scuffed on the outside, but the inside is pristine, like it came out of a time capsule. So, now I have four copies of the game. That's a bit absurd, I know, but PanzerBlitz is a very fond memory of my early, early days as a wargamer, as I have previously recounted.

An unpunched mint copy of Conflict Games' Iliad. I actually saw the item in the bring 'n' buy last year, but passed on it. When I'm flush with cash, I'm a bit less deliberative about spending $30.00 for a game, but it was a good purchase. I remember when it came out in 1978. I had a friend who enthused about it, but I didn't regard it much until I read the Iliad myself and then wished I had the game, which was out of print by then and hard to find in pre-Internet/pre-eBay days. Kevin and Dave are both eager to play it, so it won't stay mint and unpunched for long.

Narrow twisty river bits from Wizard Kraft. I got 10 feet of 1/2" wide river sections from Wizard Kraft. These river bits are very twisty and perfect for a little brook in 28mm scale. I also got a transitional piece that has the 1/2" spur coming off a 2" river section. Every Enfilade! I come home with some new bits from Wizard Kraft. I probably have 40 feet of 2" and 1" river sections, lots of fields, swamp bits and lake bits. I've used them in many a game and can't help loving them. They ain't cheap, though. I paid $100.00 for the river bits I got, so I feel the need to use them in a game soon to justify the expense.

Megaliths! Joy! I've been looking to buy or make some kind of megalith that I can use in games with my prehistoricalistic Europeanoids. All to no avail—until Friday. Daryl Nichols ran a Gnome Wars game and he had a Stonehenge-oid set of six megaliths that have two uprights with a stone laid atop perpendicularly (like the Greek letter pi), plus a stone altar set. The megaliths stand 4 1/2" tall and are perfectly sized for my 40mm figures. I asked Daryl where he got them. He told me he found them at a Jo-Ann fabric store (what would wargamers be without fabric stores and aquarium supplies?), but that was over a year ago and it's the kind of transient item that comes and then quickly goes away forever. I was somewhat dismayed until he kindly offered to sell me the set for $20.00. And that was that. If you're reading this, Daryl, thank you again. Expect to see them appear again in an Enfilade! game next year.

Odd 'n' ends. I bought a Warlord Games Swedish leather gun, which I'll use for my ECW Scots in The Pikeman's Lament. I recently got some Scottish artillery crew from Bicorne Miniatures along with a falconet, but the leather gun is perfect for a skirmish type cannon. I also picked up about 6 feet of Pegasus Models wooden fences, which will be a good terrain addition for my skirmish gaming. I also acquired from the bring 'n' buy and Stonehouse Miniatures some skull-bedecked walls for the Aztecs. I also got an old set of Ancients miniatures rules, Axe and Arrow, which are probably just OK (and I doubt I'll ever play them), but I have a penchant for collecting 1960s-1970s era miniatures rules, so I couldn't resist. They're sometimes a great source of ideas for home-brewed rules or house rules for published games.

We'll have to see how much joy these acquisitions spark in 10 years...

The lost tribes

I don't know what the Lost Tribes of Seattle™ got up to over the weekend. John Kennedy ran a small Napoleonic game at his store. The rest likely just sat it out like Achilles in his tent, content to let the strong-greaved Argives falter in his/their absence. I think some people went to the competing Tankfest Northwest event at the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum (which is just a 5-minute drive from my home).

Doug Hamm and I almost nearly persuaded Bill Stewart to help run an ECW Pikeman's Lament game on Sunday morning—at least we think it was almost nearly, but I suspect Bill's fully-advanced aversion to Enfilade! is the immovable object no irresistible force can budge.

I kinda get the reluctance to attend Enfilade! It's noisy and crowded—and getting more so with each passing year. The game tables are tightly packed, so you bump into your neighboring gamers every time you need to get up from your seat. You can't walk between tables, even though it's the only way to get around. Plus, as Kevin can attest, there seems to be a miasma in the air that makes one sickly. I felt like I was coming down with something all weekend, but I'm good as gold now.

On the other hand, an annual game convention is a great get-away. I always come home with inspiration for new projects and new stuff. It's also, of course, the perfect opportunity to sell old stuff and buy new stuff at the bring 'n' buy. Nowhere in the Pacific Northwest will you find as thick a concentration of miniature wargamers as potential customers and purveyors. There's also chance encounters that have big consequences. I wouldn't have megaliths if I hadn't gone to Enfilade!

Projects of future passed

It's never too early to plan the next Enfilade! event(s). I'm full of ideas (among other things). Number one idea is working on English Civil War gaming using The Pikeman's Lament. I have a pile of lead (and some painted) that will make a reasonable game (once they're all painted). This was almost nearly an Enfilade! project this year, as I've mentioned. I'm kinda glad it wasn't because another trip down and back on Sunday might have done me in.

Both Kevin and I have decided to rebase our single-mounted Aztecs and Conquistadors to the 3-2-1 basing. Moving 100+ single-mounted figures around a table top is nuts. I was tempted to do it in my flurry of pre-Enfilade! activity, but thought better of it because that basing is problematic when fighting on temple pyramids. (It will still be an issue, but I have an idea to solve it...) My original basing for these guys was to have a kind of Mexican chaparral look with light sand base, light green flocking, and light green tufts (which turn a sort of desaturated, straw-y color when I dullcote them). I'll use my standard basing colors and flocking for the 3-2-1. That will let me use the Spanish for gaming European Renaissance as well. (The Assault Group makes the best range of Renaissance figures, so I will always be tempted to get more Spanish, Tudor English, Valois Frenchies, Italians, etc.)

I was briefly tempted to use some of my bring 'n' buy cash infusion to fund buying a lot more Timeline Miniatures for the Irish-Tudor period. I have enough Irish for a 24-point company for The Pikeman's Lament, but there's always more to be had and I need some English occupiers for them to fight. I love the Timeline (formerly Monolith Designs) Border Reivers range. Timeline also has an Elizabethan range that supplements what's lacking in the Border Reiver range (mostly cavalry). I talked myself out of a big purchase, but I did order some Garrison Men with Pikes and Garrison Command as a start to my English, and also some Gallowglass Standing as more oomph for the Irish (and to use as a command unit). I'll likely make a few more purchases over the next several months, so that I'm buying and painting as I go. I'm pretty jazzed about the Irish-Tudor project, so it will almost certainly be an Enfilade! game for 2018. I'll likely run it solo, since I doubt I can talk Kevin into the project. He's normally up for all things Irish, but decidedly averse to all things pike.


So that's my Enfilade! 2017 adventure in a nutshell.

By Saturday night, I was played out. I had to stop at a Mickey D's in Tacoma for coffee on the trip home or I would've no doubt fallen asleep at the wheel somewhere between Fife and Federal Way. Even then, caffeinated to the gills, I was still bleary-eyed by the time I hit North Seattle and yet somehow stumbled the remaining miles home to stately Chez Dave in beautiful, bucolic Lynnwood without incident. I thereupon fed the cats, who were ravenous since they hadn't eaten since I fed them that morning.

I was going to pray a decade of the Rosary as thanksgiving for safe travel, but was too tired and just prayed the Creed, an Our Father, three Hail Marys, and a Glory Be. Then straight to bed at 12:30 a.m. and up again at 4:30 (hungry again already, cats?).  Apart from Mass (where I fell asleep), eating, and starting this blog post, Sunday was a sedate day of rest and recovery.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bogart and the Great Wall of UR

Bogey is back. He came home from the vet on Friday afternoon after being monitored since his catheter was removed Thursday morning.

I spent an anxious weekend looking for any signs of a recurrance of his blockage. I followed him around like a parent potty-training a child urging him to pee—even if it's on the carpet, just go. Pleeeese. I'm happy to say that he went, and not on the carpet either (though the bathroom sink got tagged). His flow seems to be back to normal.

He's now on prescription veterinary diet food forever. He used to go crazy for kibble. Twice a day I'd feed him half a 3 oz. can of wet food, then a 1/8 cup of kibble. After that he'd rush to the kitchen going "MEEEEEEEEEP!" anytime I got near to it, with the expectation that I'd give him more kibble. I found it hard to say no and that may have been a factor in his blockage: too much dry food, even if it was premium grade stuff. Giving your insistent cat food just because they want it is bad cat-parenting.

Now it's just Purina prescription food, which he's kind of "meh" about. He eats it eventually, but he seems a bit disappointed in his daily repast. I give him two 5.5 oz cans a day, though he probably leaves maybe and ounce or so uneaten; you know, just to protest.

I bought two cases of urinary formula prescription diet food (48 cans!) from the vet. My cupboard is now home to the Great Wall of UR. So named for the symbol on the cans, which looks like an element in the periodic table.

On the plus side, the two girls (Maebh and Rhiannon) love the prescription food—at least for now. I expect a day will come when Maebh eagerly comes to the dish, sniffs a few times, looks up at me in disbelief, and then struts away fully prepared to starve herself to death on principle.

My plan is to wean them off kibble as well. It's better for them to eat canned only and it's difficult to try to maintain Bogart's kibble-free diet if the girls are noshing as much as they want and he goes without.

Bogey's still on some meds while he recovers. Last week was traumatic (for me as well as him, but I'm not on meds). He's a better pill-popper than Grendel. In Grendel's last days, I had to liquefy his pills and then wrestle him down to squirt the liquified pill(s) into his mouth with a syringe. The process usually involved reloading one or twice since I'd miss my shot when he'd twist suddenly just when I thought I had him. It left us both exhausted and Grendel stained with missed syringe loads. Then he'd sit an glare at me for an hour. With Bogart, it's still a bit of a wrestle, but I can pop the pill right in (covered with a bit of Pill Pocket) and he gulps it down.

I think the crisis is passed and we have a plan in place to mitigate the possibility of recurrence.

Now if I could only get Maebh to chill out and stop hating him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Perchance to pee

Bogart seems to be recovering very well from his bout with a urinary tract blockage.

In my call with the vet yesterday I learned that the very elevated creatinine level (19+) was back down to normal (2.0). His electrolytes are also back in balance. It's really an amazing recovery.

He's due to have his catheter removed on Thursday. If he can pee on his own, he's good to come home. I'm very hopeful and all the indications are good.

Until then, he's in the hospital wearing a cone with tubes sticking out of him.

When I visited him on Tuesday, he was much livelier than after his bladder flush and catheterization on Monday. He got so excited to see me that I was afraid he'd pull all his tubes out and I had to restrain him from leaping out of the little wall cubicle he was in.

His appetite is back with a vengeance. He hadn't eaten anything since Saturday and was only just licking a bit of gravy by Tuesday morning. He had a mostly full dish of food when I visited him Tuesday afternoon, which he attacked vigorously and finished when I was there. Later in the day, the vet told me he was eating voraciously.

Assuming all things go well on Thursday and he's got through this ordeal, there are a lot of things to mind going forward. He'll be on a urinary health formulated diet in perpetuity (yes, it's expensive). I'll also look into other supplements for urinary health. I'm also looking at pet insurance. I'm hard-pressed to cover the costs of this unexpected emergency ($2000.00+) and fear the possibility of recurrence (see below).

I've read several heartbreaking accounts of people who've lost cats due to urinary tract blockage. Basically, after 24 hours of blockage, the toxins build up and become deadly. Untreated, the cat can die—painfully—within six days.

I got Bogart in after maybe 48 hours blockage. He seemed fine Saturday morning, though I recall that we was licking himself a lot and seemed to be trying to pee on the carpet. Saturday night he was clearly uncomfortable, but I assumed it was constipation. I honestly had no idea about the likelihood of a urinary tract blockage. It's a risk for male cats (small wee-wees = small urethrae that block easily). I was giving him a tincture to help soften his stool and expecting any time he'd push out a massive dookie and be OK.

Recurrence is a big concern. Most of the accounts I read, which are likely the worst scenarios, mention that the blockage came back and back. There is actually a procedure (perineal urethrostomy) to remove the male cat's penis and suture in a wider urethra. That's pretty radical. My hope is that diet, supplements, and close monitoring of his water intake will keep him healthy for years to come.