Saturday, January 11, 2014

Naughty and nice (or My Christmas vacation)

I had two weeks off over the Christmas-New Year's holidays this year. Going into it, I giddily imagined all kinds of productive activity. The aftermath is a more sober reflection on the best intentions going awry. Nothing bad happened, but much of what I intended came to nought. It was, however, a welcome time off. I think that staycations are the most relaxing time a person can have away from work. I can't say that I came back to work on Monday eagerly, but I did feel content that I had been away long enough to feel prepared for going into the lion's den of work backlog and email pile-up.

What follows is my list of the naughty and nice I did on my Christmas staycation.

On the nice list:

Resumption of painting - I'm back upstairs in the wee painting nook tucked into the closet in my den. I forgot how much nicer it is to paint on my painting table.

It was a serendipitous find at Fred Meyer about a dozen years ago. It's supposed to be a kitchen utility table and has a stainless steel top. It fits perfectly in the closet, so I can close it up and have it all out of site when I'm not painting. (However, the general clutter of my den makes closing the closet doors impossible. See the naughty list below.) When I sit at the table, the surface is about the level of my sternum, which makes it very comfortable to paint. I can support myself on the table to get better brush control without having to lean in too far. The past year of painting on the dining table was tiring. I couldn't do it for long before neck and back strain drove me to the couch to be buried under cats and thus immobilized for further painting efforts.

The lighting is also much, much better. I can actually see what I'm painting.

With a bit of music playing in the background, I've been able to sit and paint for extended periods without tiring. It nicely addresses my cat problems, too. When I painted on the dining table, Rhiannon would come up on the chair next to me and start head-butting my brush arm. (Look close at some of my figures and you'll see some wild brush strokes...) Maebh regarded the dining table as her personal playground and my work was often interrupted by a fluffy little Manx jumping up and landing in the midst of my work with her characteristic "brrrrt!" which I interpret as "Brace yourself, biped! Maebh the Merciless is here!" When I paint upstairs, the munchkins just lounge about on the settee. Perhaps the music lulls them.

D.A.N.G - Dave Schueler hosted another Dave's Annual Naval Game. This event is a highlight of the holidays and I may have missed it once in the dozen or so years Dave and his wife have been hosting it.This year's mini-campaign was Operation Landcrab, the US campaign to re-take the Aleutians in May 1943.

I was on the Japanese side. We had one glorious small action that looked to be a total loss for Dai Nippon. We lost a heavy cruiser and light cruiser from American gunfire, but the US players got too eager and pursued us right into several spreads of 24" torpedoes and two of their three heavy cruisers went down hard. The Long Lance struck! (Actually, they were type 90 torpedoes, but that's close enough to the type 93.)

The second action was much bigger and looked to be less favorable to the Japanese forces. The battlewagons came out, but the superannuated Japanese dreadnoughts were getting shellacked by the less superannuated American dreadnoughts. The socializing, campaign dallying, etc. took its toll on our time and we were unable to finish the last battle. We had a lot of long lances in the water (actual type 93s this time), but the American tactic was to keep away and rely on radar-guided gunfire to shoot us to bits. Dave rolled an ersatz resolution on our torpedo attacks that decided a bit of damage on the American BBs. However, we also figured on the Japanese losing or having badly damaged the BBs we had in action.

In the end, we figured that the Japanese gave the US a bit more trouble than they did historically, but that driving the Japanese off of Attu and Kiska was a foregone conclusion in any case.

Battlegroup Overlord - I had a chance to play in a Battlegroup Overlord game run by Chris Craft. BGO is Chris' latest WW2 skirmish crush. He pitted his American paratroopers against the Hun in a game featuring a lot of very close terrain.

Hedgerows abounded and it was pretty difficult to get fields of fire. Despite it being a very bad day for American tanks, the Germans lost. I was a Hun commanding a platoon of landsers. We took out a tank and shot up a squad of paras, but we took a lot of fire in return. I think I had a bit more than a large squad by game's end.

I couldn't help comparing it to Bolt Action, which is what I play a lot of. In the end, it was a toss-up for me. Each has its own way of accounting for the randomness of command and control. The effect of shooting is pretty much the same. However, BGO's rules about pinning create more command friction for unpinning. Also, the battle rating system in BGO makes for a more logical end point for a game. Essentially, each unit has a battle rating, the aggregate of these ratings is the battegroup's battle rating (BR). As events occur, like losing a unit or attempting to unpinning a unit, one side has to blindly pull a battle counter numbered 1 to 5 and set it aside. As soon as the the number of pulled battle counters equals or exceeds your battle rating, you lose—regardless of other circumstances on the game table. For example, we shot up the American armor and had two Tiger Is and two StuG IIIs remaining (having lost only one StugG III), yet lost because our infantry was shot up.

I have the earlier set of rules in the series, Battlegroup Kursk, which I intend to use with my vast number of Eastern Front minis in 15mm.

Monolith Designs/Graven Images 40mm Prehistoric Europe - I broke down and finally ordered figures from this range after salivating over them for a few years.

The term "prehistoric" has to be understood in context. These aren't cave-men. They're actually modeled after the European Late Bronze Age (ca. 1300-700 BC). When I was in Copenhagen in 2000, I had a chance to spend several hours in the National Museum and look at artifacts from this era, including some Bronze Age helmets and weapons.

The range was designed and sculpted by the late Jim Bowen, who passed away unexpectedly earlier in 2013. Steve Mussared, who runs Monolith Designs, produces the range and still has more of Jim's masters to put into production this year, so I expect to be be buying more soon. They're not cheap. A pack of four figures runs 10.99 GBP, but they're BIG.

At this point, I'm still waiting for them to arrive. They shipped from Monolith in the UK on Dec 20 and are caught in the devil's trifecta of the Royal Mail, the US Postal Service, and the Polar Vortex of Doom, which shut down airports and embarrassed Al Gore (just kidding, nothing embarrasses Algore). I am hoping each day now to see a little something in the mail...

I'll use them for skirmish gaming (of which more anon). I've recently discovered the Song of Blades and Heroes rules from Ganesha Games in Italy, which look like the front-runner for rules of choice.

So much for niceness. The naughty is as follows:

The garage from hell - It haunts me. It taunts me. It calls me names and questions my legitimacy. Still, I can't bring myself to clean it. With two whole weeks off (apart from family commitments and game days), I resolved to spend a little time each day cleaning the garage and before long, voilĂ , a clean garage where I can once again park my nice car rather than leave it outside to suffer from the elements. Alas. It didn't happen. As I write this from the den in my townhouse, two floors above the garage, I can hear it titter and scoff. I will have the last laugh, though. Maybe this year...

Reading - I always expect to read more than I do. I have a number of books that I've partially read. I tend to read sporadically from this book and that as the mood strikes. It's probably hell for retention, but I always seem to have more that I want to read than I have time for.

I got very little read, but did manage to get through Bronze Age Warfare by Richard Osgood et al. This book was a chance find at Half Price Books a while back. Now that I'm getting psyched for the 40mm prehistorical europeanoids project, the book is a welcome resource, even though much of the evidence available comes from the Aegean, which saw a higher level of civilization that Northern Europe. Thank goodness for the bogs, which have given up several treasures (and near-intact corpses) from this period in European prehistory.

Still being slowly ploughed through are several books on the Wars of the Roses and Alexander Rose's fascinating Kings in the North about the Percy family in British history.

Eating - OK. I was a pig. With time on my hands, I cooked. Having cooked, I ate. I was also cruelly tempted by a host of Christmas goodies. Surprisingly, I gained less weight than I feared, but at 219 lbs., I am a few pounds above my best weight of last year.

Painting - Although I got back to painting in my den, it took me until after New Year's to do it. I can rationalize that until then I was busy with holiday activities, blah, blah, blah. Really, though, I was too busy eating and lazing (i.e., not painting, not reading, not cleaning the garage). As I posted earlier, I have resolved to do better this year—and so far have done.

No Tannenbaum, no Tannenbaum - I haven't put up a Christmas tree for a few years now. It's not from lack of desire. I used to get a tree delivered each year from the nursery down the street, but they went out of business and I haven't had a tree since. It's pretty much impossible to schlep a tree with my 350z. That leaves me with the option of borrowing a car or finding somewhere else that delivers, which I haven't.

Maybe next year when I can claim more nice than naughty.


  1. Nice work table - stainless steel top? Cool. Wish you had some pics of Chris' game; but I'm sticking with Bolt Action - I bought two sets of their dice! Those Bronze Agers do look great - wish they were in 28mm though. As far as taking leave - it is a balance of how long away and how much catch-up when you get back. Best, Dean

  2. Foundry makes a range of Bronze Age Europeans that look quite nice. I've had my eye on it as well, but went with the 40mm Monolith range because I love the size and heft of 40mm.

    I won't abandon Bolt Action any time soon and I won;t do BGK in 28mm. The nice thing about skirmish gaming is that you can play pretty much any rule set without having to rebase.

  3. I too was taken with the Scandinavian Bronze Age period and the artifacts on display in the National Museum in Copenhagen.The Lur horns are my favourite.
    I went for the 28mm Foundry figures.They are great sculpts,products of looking at the archaeology and cheaper too.I based mine for Basic Impetus but think I will rebase as singles for skirmishing as I never ever play BI.Songs of Blades sounds ideal.Your post has given me the impetous to rebase and reuse these figs that have languished in my drawers for years.
    The 40mm figs look great and I really look forward to seeing what you do with them...