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I'd wait a bit until John Kennedy of The Panzer Depot informed me that the keen resin 'n' metal model was soon to be superseded by a plastic kit.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 Amazon.com.

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.


Conclusion

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.