Tuesday, January 28, 2014

From Staffordshire with love (more nifty dice!)

As I mentioned in my last dice fetish post, I ordered another set of bone dice from a company called S-J Seamstress in the UK. They arrived in yesterday's mail. S-J Seamstress makes 18th - 19th c. reenactment clothing and accoutrements, so the look of the dice is much less random in shape and size than the ones I got from Jelling Dragon.

Actual cubes!
Side by side, the contrast is significant.

The Jelling Dragon dice have a lot more character, IMO. But it's much like the character of a gnarled old tree. I'd bet my boots that the S-J Seamtress dice have a better average of results, even though both sets of dice are hand-made and hand-finished.

I love dice like these because they add period flavor to a game. I think I am largely alone in appreciating that. When I've introduced my old "ancient dice" in past games, I find that players prefer some new-fangled Chessex-y thing that, apparently, provides a more regular distribution of results.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Men of bronze (and brassy women)

I just completed the first eight figures of my growing tribe of Bronze Age warriors. The figures are from Monolith Designs/Graven Images 40mm Prehistoric Europe line. I recently reviewed these favorably and find that I love them even more now that I've finished the first batch.

Bronze Age hedonism
I'm in the midst of painting another 10 figures and have eight more cleaned, assembled, and primed. After I prime them and before I start painting, I attach the figures to a 25mm x 30mm Litko base and apply a slab of Golden Coarse Pumice Gel to build up the area around the figure.

Based and gelled
However, I've run out of Litko bases, more of which should have arrived yesterday according to the USPS tracking website prognostications, but it looks like they're stuck in Valparaiso, IN. I can't think of a worse fate, unless it's being stuck in Barstow, CA (which almost happened to me many years ago).

En garde!
The figures are mostly dressed in a kind of kilt. So far, I've painted these in solid colors. I may get creative with some figures and try painting some sort of proto ur-plaid pattern. The Iron Age textiles I saw in the Danish National Museum had patterns like that and I recall thinking back then that I would paint that pattern on a figure some day. The man and the moment have met...

Bowman and slinger
My color palette for these figures is pretty subdued. I'm not sure what kind of dyes they had available ca. 3000 years ago. Browns, grays, muted greens, perhaps some orange and madder red. There are books on Neolithic-Bronze Age cloth, but they are very expensive. If you think wargaming is a spendy niche, try following prehistoric textile studies.

Bronze Age champion
So far, I've used Vallejo Hammered Copper for the metal, although I brushed some Vallejo Brass on the sword blades and armor highlights. Over that I did a black wash.

Snazzy kilt, shiny sword, knobby shield
I've given the figures just one shot of dullcote so far. I'll give them a spray of Krylon Matte Finish, which is just a bit satiny, and a final dullcote after that. The last touch will be brushing some gloss (or maybe satin) clear over the sword blades and armor to give them a polished sheen.

The way of all flesh

The first eight figures gave me a sense of how they would paint. I thought I would need to experiment a bit more with new methods. My biggest concern was that there is a lot of bare flesh (and even more so with my cult dancers "Fella and Ursula") and I didn't think my standard methods of painting skin would scale up to 40mm. However, it did.

I applied an overall base coat of Howard Hues Ruddy Flesh. When dry, I apply a thick wash made up of two big drops of Liquitex Matte Medium, one small drop of Ceramcoat Burnt Sienna, and about six to 10 drops of dihydrogen monoxide. The result is a not-too-thin varnish that adds a patina to tone down the starkness of the base coat and seep into the crevasses and contours to provide depth to the surface. I've been doing this for caucasian flesh tones for about a dozen years or so. It works.

Contours and crevasses
The wash has a mind of its own, however, and it tends to pool sometimes in places I'd rather it didn't. The effect can look like the figure has been playing in the muck or shat itself. For the Bronze Age I suppose either could be true. Other times, other customs. I won't judge. Nor will I try to clean up the awkward brown pools. I might just mess things up further.

Damn your eyes

I hate painting eyes, mostly because I suck at it. I've abandoned it for 28mm figures to no ill effect. Unless you pick up a figure and scrutinize its wee face, you won't know that it's blind like a mole. But I thought that the bigger 40mm figures would require more attention. So they do, but the sculpting of the figures seems to have a lot of the eyes in a squint. For these figures, I just applied a second, slightly thicker wash to they eye sockets. In the few cases where the eyes appear more open, I painted the sclera using Vallejo Silver Grey. I opted for that instead of white so as to keep from getting too much of a popped effect. I then just gave it a dark dot (as near to a dot as my feeble skills can manage) for the iris/pupil.

Eyes help when shooting a bow
The effect works pretty well. Although, I always fear getting the cockeyed look when you don't (or can't in my case) manage to synchronize the pupils. It will look like there was a lot of lazy eye in the Bronze Age.

I can tell by your eyes that you have the legs of a dancer
Or art thou base, common and popular?

After I complete painting the figures, I give them their initial spritz of dullcote, and then I finish the base. I apply a slightly thinned coat of Vallejo Mud Brown from their Model Air range of airbrush-ready colors. When that dries, I drybrush over it with Vallejo Iraqi Sand to give it some highlights.

For flocking, I apply a coat of Mod Podge and then sprinkle Woodland Scenics Earth Blend Turf. I do a second coat after the first has dried and I've removed the excess. I have to daub a thinned coat of Mod Podge over the first layer of flocking, otherwise I'll smudge it all around. Two coats give a better depth and coverage. On top of the Earth Blend flocking, I daub on patches of full strength Mod Podge and then apply a layer of Woodland Scenics Light Green Coarse Turf. I press this on to get a thickness. I have to carefully remove the excess after it dries, which usually requires tweezers to get into tight spaces. Finally, on a base or two, I apply some of the Army Painter flowers for a nice touch beauty amid the mayhem.

Les fleurs du mal
Next steps

If my Litko bases arrive today, I'll get several more figures prepped to paint. They paint quickly—no Napoleonic piping nastiness—and even spending time individualizing each figure is no hinderance to rapid progress. Unless I see a shiny thing in the near future, I should have the figures in my first Monolith Designs order finished by the end of February.

I ordered a chariot, another champion, and some of the bucklers for the tucked-in-shield-arm guys. Steve Mussared mentioned that he will be getting to making some more masters in February. I hope that means there will be more figures to order. I'm planning a game for our upcoming Enfilade! convention in May.


In case you're wondering, yes, that stuff in the close-ups is cat hair. The little furballs get everywhere.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The dice gods send their love

Ok, I admit it: I'm a dice freak. Imelda had her shoes; I have dice. I just can't help myself. (Apparently, I'm not alone.) Every new game seems to require a new set (or sets) of dice. I've even had custom dice made because they looked so cool.

Quite innocently, while looking up something else on the Interwebs, I came across a picture of a bone die. Following the link, I discovered The Jelling Dragon website that had lots of things for Viking era reenactment. Among the treasures were these bone dice. At just about $1.00 per die (20% of what my "ancient dice" cost), I ordered 10 and waited to see what would arrive.

I was quite surprised to see them arrive today from the UK in less than a week (sometimes the mail travels so fast that the conspiratorial powers that seek to prevent rapid trans-oceanic passage have no time to react). Even before feeding the cats, who have no patience with any of my nonsense that keeps me from seeing to them as soon as I arrive home, I tore open the package to see whether I'd misspent my $10.00 (plus shipping).

I hadn't.

Charming little instruments of fortune (or misfortune)
They really are little beauties, handmade and nicely polished. Lack of uniformity in size and shape is among their many charms. I'm sure that skews their results somewhat, but how I couldn't say. No doubt Lou Zocchi would disapprove. The Jelling Dragon site listed their size as "9-11mm," which was my first clue that they were irregular—and small.

Even more charming next to that ugly penney
Being made specifically for Viking reenactment purposes, they will be ideal to use for Saga games or the D6 I need for Song of Blades and Heroes.

While digging around still more after finding these dice from Jelling Dragon, I found other bone dice from SJ-Seamstress, another UK company that makes 18th c. reenactment things. These look different and are a bit more expensive at £1.00 per die. I ordered 10 of these as well and eagerly await their arrival.

Alea jacta est!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Drumbeat 2014

Last Saturday was our annual NHMGS Drumbeat mid-winter game day at the community center in Lake City, WA. Attendance was very good and we had several games running in two gaming periods. We even enticed Doug Hamm to come down from a place he calls "Canada." Doug ran a game using the figures and rules he's been working on and writing about on his blog.

Phil Bardsley, Bill Stewart, and I planned on running a Bolt Action game set in North Africa. I managed to borrow from John Kennedy the desert mat and some buildings that we use when we game at The Panzer Depot. We didn't have any of the sculpted pink board we use for hills under the mat. I solved that by getting up early on Saturday and using my hot knife to carve some hills out of a few slabs of pink board I had in my garage left over from building land bits for my Row Well and Live game. The fumes didn't kill me, but after a short while, I was seeing colors not normally found in the electromagnetic spectrum and experiencing something not quite the same as "reality." After that wore off, and the hill bits were done, I packed up and headed down to Lake City.

Along with several others, I showed up bright and early and went through the obligatory waiting period in the cold, cold weather until the guy with the key shows up. Fortunately I'd already had my coffee and breakfast courtesy of Starbucks—and I didn't need to pee—so the wait wasn't too bad. I spent some time chatting with Phil in his warm car and later with Bill in his warm car. Phil had to bail out before the key arrived, but he left his figures with us, so we had a lot to put on the table. After about 30 minutes, the key arrived and we got into the community center and started getting table, chairs, and out games set up.

I carefully planned dashed out an impromptu scenario that had a squad of French Foreign Legion, with a few 8th Army assets in support, holding a small village while Rommel and a small contingent of Italian allies tried to take it. More 8th Army was on hand to counterattack. We wound up with six players.

Italian troops and German tanks move up on the Axis left
We had a few new players, but they quickly caught on and play proceeded well. We played six turns in  less than three hours.

British troops and tanks move in to support the village
I ran the bulk of the British armor—to little effect. I spent most of the game trading shots with the Axis tanks opposite me. When I managed to actually hit, I flubbed my penetration rolls. Fortunately for me, the Axis were just as feeble. The Pz IVD, with its cute little howitzer, kept hitting my Grant, but had no chance to penetrate the +9 armor with its +2 PEN. However, I wound up getting several pins and had to spend a turn rallying at one point.

Mon Dieu, les Allemands sont à venir!
The FFL squad holding the outpost got shot up pretty early in the game. Mitch Berdinka ran his panzers and a few squads of Afrika Korps in close and started a big fusillade, which quickly reduced the troops until they failed a morale check and fled.

Holding the west wall
We got troops into the center of the village to hold it against the Germans working around the building held by the FFL. I also ran one of my tanks into the center in the hope of holding off any Axis tanks who had the same idea.

Lulubelle goes up in flames
German tanks from the Axis center moved against Bill Stewart's position on the British right. Bill's 2-pounder and M3 Lee "Lulubelle" had limited luck stopping them. One german tank was immobilized, but "Lulubelle" was hit and caught on fire forcing Sgt. Gunn, Waco, and Jimmy to bail out.

Bruce Meyer, commanding the Axis right, put more pressure on Bill's lone infantry squad holding the reverse slope of a sand dune. After a quick rush from the panzergrenadiers and a fusillade of submachine gun bullets, Bill's flank collapsed.

Reinforcements pour in
The British squad holding the west wall was quickly shot to bits by Mitch's Afrika Korps troopers. We got another squad to come in and shore it up before everything went downhill.

Kampfgruppe Berdinka
Mitch's troops shot up the British defenders and got into the center of the town. One of his tanks overran Bill's 2-pounder; another took out my Crusader tank with a side shot. My only success of the game came when I finally took out the Pz IV I'd been targeting with my Grant all game long.

Even though the Germans and Italians failed to take every building in the town by game's end, they had shot us out of all of them. They even re-killed Lt. Kevlar, who had recovered from earning his posthumous VC in a previous North Africa game. The only british forces in town were my burning Crusader and my small four-man command team. Apart from that we had my Grant, a Valentine, and a Honey facing off the almost untouched Axis armor.

After lunch with Bill at the Elliot Bay Brewery, now occupying the old site of the American Eagles hobby shop, I brought Phil's troops to him, went home, and then got fairly ill for the next three days. I'm not sure if it was Drumbeat, the wait in the cold, the burning pink board fumes, or what. I was experiencing the return of an intermittent cough/sore throat, but it turned into a full-blown cold on Saturday afternoon as I sat at home and shivered with chills. Better now after a sick day at home.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monolith Designs/Graven Images 40mm Prehistoric Europe review

My order from Monolith Designs arrived at last on Wednesday, just shy of four weeks in transit from the UK. The wait was worth it. I first saw the range online a few years ago and was immediately intrigued. I'm a fan of arcane things. Neolithic-Bronze Age Europe falls right into that niche. I have books and books on that era in the library here at Stately Chez Dave. I wanted to buy the figures when I first saw them, but was a bit put off by the price. 40mm figures aren't cheap. Last year, I saw on TMP that Jim Bowen, the sculptor of the range, had died suddenly in April. The sad news got me thinking about that range again.

When I learned that the range was still being sold, I resolved to buy and in mid-December contacted Steve Mussared at Monolith Designs and sent in an order. I was delighted to learn that even more was available than what was listed on the site. In all, I was able to order 16 swordsmen, 8 slingers, 4 bowmen, 8 spearmen, 4 champions, 2 standard bearers, and a nice little cult group of prancing priest and priestesses with a musician keeping the beat. That's a nice stash of 46 figures, but it came down to a daunting £157.00 GBP—or about $264.00 USD (including shipping). (That comes out to $5.73 per figure!) I'm awfully glad I love these little lumps of lead.

So, when they arrived on Wednesday, I eagerly tore through the package and oohed and ahed at each figure as I pulled it from it packaging. These are truly lovely figures.

Cleaned, primed, mounted, and awaiting the brush
Sculpting, casting, and detail

The figure size is 37M/H on the Barrett Scale, which was developed by Toby Barrett of Thoroughbred Figures to classify figures within a given scale. 37M/H means that the size from foot to eye level is 37mm and the weigh or heft of the figures is Medium to Heavy. (From foot to top of bare head is exactly 40mm.)

The detail is quite good overall and the distortion is minimal. Most figures wear a kilt of some kind, which might be supplemented by some kind of armor. Only the champions and one of the standard bearers wears a bronze corselet. Otherwise, the armor consists of a bronze disc front and back. Some wear helmets, others wear various caps of cloth or leather. Figures are either barefoot or wear shoes and stockings. One figure has fur leggings.

Weapons are mostly cast on. However, the spearman figures have a detached hand holding the cast spear. The hand has a long tang that can be inserted in a hole drilled in the handless arm. I'm concerned about whether that will be a weak point on the figure. I haven't assembled any yet, but I think they'll hold. There are some other hands grasping weapons, like swords and hand-axes, that can be used instead of the spears.

Shields are my only gripe. Overall, they're quite nice. There were four types that come with the figures: a large round plain shield, a large round shield with studs, a small buckler, and a large round shield with concentric rings on the front. Except for the last shield type, they all come with convex interiors and places hollowed out for attachment to the hand holding the shield.

Shield types
The concentric rings shield is also kind of thick and slab-like. I figured it requires some work to make it usable. I filed down the back using a metal file in order to reduce the thickness, which takes a while and leaves a fine gray film of metal shaving all over my hands. After that's done, I drilled a hole in the center back, and then used a larger drill to create a kind of counter-sink that would work for a hand-hollow.

Slab-shield before and after
The only other problem with the shields has to do with how the shields fit. Several figure types are sculpted with their left arms tucked in close to their body. Since the shields are designed to fit together with the figure's fist, the larger round shield cannot fit because the rest of the figure stands in the way of getting the round shield close enough to fit hollow to fist.

Tucked in close
The small bucklers are ideal for these figures. However, there aren't nearly enough to match the number of figures with tucked-in arms. The order contained a variety of the shields I mentioned above, but only three of them were bucklers. That leaves me with a lot of figures who can't be given a shield. The solution will be to ask for a separate batch of bucklers when I make my next order (and I will be ordering again soon). That's better than any other solution like filing down the impeding bits on the figure until the larger shield fits.

The casting on the figures is very clean and minimal filing and trimming is required. The metal seems to have a high tin content and is harder than the metal for most other figures I've worked with.


Painting the figures is a pleasure. I've only started a first batch of 20 figures that I have cleaned, primed, and mounted on 25mm x 30mm Litko bases.

First fruits in progress
The sculpting lends itself to washes and highlighting, which is pretty much my style of painting. My only agony is painting the eyes. I hate painting eyes and I figured I would have to do it with these larger figures—but that being larger, they would be easier. Alas. The eyes on several figures seem to be sculpted squinting, which obviates the need to paint the whites and irises. Other figure have their eyes kind of open. I notice that the figures in the pictures on the Monolith site, painted by Steve Mussared, use a darker wash for the eyes and don't provide detail. I feel like I'm cheating by not providing eye detail. I have done it with 28mm figures in the past, but I've given that up. If you paint eyes well, they really make the figure come alive. If you painted them not well, well...

One of the nice extras for the range is a set of religious figures celebrating some kind of obscene pagan rite. It's that or something out of Burning Man or Woodstock.

Which way to Yasgur's farm?
What will I do with them?

I've started a series of blog posts about skirmish gaming, which gives an idea of my plans for this range. So far, the leading contender is Andrea Sfiligoi's Song of Blades and Heroes, available from Ganesha Games. The rules have the advantages of providing enough distinction on a figure-by-figure basis to make things interesting while being fairly quick playing and allowing for multiple players in a game. A basic warband for the rules requires 6 to 10 figures.

Whither Monolith?

The figures are currently only available from the Monolith site, which requires emailing Steve Mussared to determine what's available and arrange shipping and payment (through CC or Paypal). It took about a week of trading emails until the order was sent. That actually proved to be a good thing since I was able to learn from Steve that there were more figures available than advertised. I also learned that there are masters yet to be put into production.

From what I have gleaned in emails, set to be released are more bowmen, more slingers, some long-spearmen, civilians, another chariot, horsemen, and two-handed axemen. I'm not sure when they will be available.

More recently Crann Tara Miniatures announced that they will be casting and selling the Monolith/Graven Images ranges. The 28mm Border Reivers and 40mm Disturbia, Cliffhanger, and Gotterdamerung ranges are already available. I understand that the Prehistoric Europe range will follow suit.

There is a Yahoo! Group for the Jim Bowen figure ranges available called JimbowensDisturbia. Steve Mussared is a regular poster and responds to any questions about the range. Graham Cummings of Crann Tara Miniatures is also a list regular.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short: The skirmish game (part un)

As I posted in my 2013 retrospective, I'm tending more towards skirmish games as the best focus for my limited energies and short attention span. I have rarely had the perseverance to build vast armies of figures. I'll get excited about a new period, spend lots (and lots) of money on rules, figures, books, and then see it all fizzle out. Much of this entropic approach to wargaming is due to my peculiar tastes in wargame subjects. Terra incognita, not to mention the generally bizarre, has always fascinated me. My friend Rick once opined that if someone made figures for medieval Lithuanian bat-dung hurlers, I'd be first in line to buy them. That's a fair cop, but since no one has made such figures (alas), the actual truth of it has yet to be tested. This taste for the arcane and unknown generally means that I'm forced to go it alone on projects. That's a sure sign of impending doom—unless the project is bite sized. Hence, skirmish gaming, the dim sum of the hobby.

In this first post of the series, I'll look at why I like skirmish gaming and what qualifies a game as a skirmish game.

Why skirmish games?
Skirmish gaming, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

More bang for the buck - Since I find it difficult to actually finish big projects, they are inherently wasteful enterprises. Faced with the prospect of painting several 24-figure units just to get some skin in the game, I may complete one or two units. Most times, I fail even to do that. The garage (yes, that garage) is replete with boxes of ACW, AWI, Napoleonic, etc. figures that I will likely never paint—even though I find them hard to part with.

With a skirmish game, 24 figures individually mounted makes a sizable force. In fact, it can make two sizable forces since many skirmish games can be played with fewer than a dozen figures per side.

Better attention to detail - Because skirmish games require fewer figures overall, it's easier to take time painting them. Some of my best painting has been single figures that I lavished several hours on. This approach is a big departure from the assembly-line painting that I do for big-battle units. I'm a slow painter; when I want nicer detail on my figures, I'm slower still. Nevertheless, I've made great strides in the past week completing several figures that I've spent a bit more time with. Eight Roman triarii, eight velites, and eight Libyan javelinmen are nearly complete. Each constitutes a fearsome body of men in a skirmish game. For a big-battle game, they're not even a drop in the bucket.

Limited storage/schleppage - I've mentioned before that I drive a Nissan 350z. Nice car, but very limited hauling ability. Gone are the days that I can fill the trunk and passenger seats with stuff and drive off to host a game. Because skirmish games require so few figures and terrain, they are much more portable to gaming venues away from home, which is good since my schedule consists entirely of away games.

Also, because of the limited number of figures required, I can store whole skirmish armies in a single box or a few small boxes. Not only does it make them more portable, but easier to store, too. If I'm ever going to get the garage to stop taunting me, I'll need to reduce the footprint of my projects.

Damn the short attention span! Ahead full speed!  - Today I may be afire for ancient Carthaginians, but tomorrow someone may release those long-awaited medieval Lithuanian bat-dung hurlers. My reaction to such an event can be summed up thus: "Oooh, shiny." This reaction will kill a big project, but merely wound a skirmish game. If I'm painting four figures of Bratislavian left-handed fire-dart flingers (because more than four would be overkill in a skirmish game) and get sidetracked, that's still only four figures put on the back burner. I can easily come back to them when the winds blow my attention span, like a weather vane in a cyclone, back in the old direction. There is method to my madness.

Versatile as a boneless acrobat - Because figures for skirmish gaming are singly mounted, you don't have to fret about basing, de-basing, and re-basing when you switch rules sets. I know gamers who make rebasing figures a hobby within the hobby. I hate it, myself, and have an unfinished post I titled "As God is my witness, I will never rebase again!" I have actually rebased, however—and recently at that. I'm not a fanatic. But my rebasing has been in the direction of single mounting to 25mm x 30mm bases for foot and 25mm x 50mm for mounted. I adopted this for some current ancient/medieval projects because it works best for any skirmish system. I have other figures (e.g., WW2) that use the William Stewart Standard Size™ of 20mm x 25mm. Whatever the size of the individual bases, you can be pretty sure that figures you've painted and based for one skirmish system will be usable without modification to any other skirmish system. If not, follow Thoreau's advice and beware of all enterprises that require a new set of clothes—or in this case, rebasing.

Personality goes a long way - Individual figures allow for more personality in defining the force you play with. If the skirmish game has more detailed figure characteristics, you can put some ongoing interest in how well a certain figure does. Some skirmish games contain campaign systems that allow for figures to grow over time as they fight—and most importantly, survive—skirmish battles.

Most gamers have some units that provide fond memories of battles lost and won. I think that skirmish games, because they are individual figures, have more potential for being the stuff of legend. This is especially true if each figure used is painted to be unique in some way.

The nitty gritty of it
So, having professed my love for the genre, the following is a brief analysis on the types of skirmish games I've encountered and the various game engines and mechanics that distinguish skirmish games from big-battle games. The following points are what I see, in my quaintly myopic way, as the main things that can be used to identify skirmish rules and distinguish one set from another. I will refer to these aspects in following posts when I review skirmish rules for particular periods.

Type (To thine own self be true.) - While the sine qua non of skirmish gaming is a 1:1 representation of figures to men, it's not all that simple. I've noticed that "skirmish" games fall into one of three categories that I'll call True Skirmish, False Skirmish, and Quasi-False Skirmish (a.k.a. the bastard love-child of true and false skirmish).

True Skirmish rules treat each figure as if it were an autonomous entity. The figure moves, fights, takes morale, etc. by itself. It may be affected by what happens to its friends, but its actions and fate are solely its own. True Skirmish rules tend to be more complex in their mechanisms than the other two and as such usually require the fewest figures because each figure engages a player's attention as if it were a full unit.  A force for True Skirmish rules can be very diverse: A knight, two squires, a few mooks with pole-arms, and a crossbowman or two make for a reasonable game. Because they act alone, they don't need to be similarly armed, protected, motivated, etc.

False Skirmish rules require single figures to be organized in units, which are the basis for movement, combat, etc. Figures in the unit have no (or very limited) ability to act outside the unit. For this reason, units in False Skirmish rules have to be, generally, similar in all respects. When the unit shoots, all figures in the unit shoot as a group against a single target. When a unit moves, all figures in the unit move as a group. When the unit takes morale, all figures in the unit stand or run as a group. False Skirmish rules are false in the sense that the individual figure doesn't count; it merely adds its factors to the operation of the group. A False Skirmish game doesn't require that the representation be 1:1. Figure scale could be 1:5, for example, without losing the sense of the rules. Although figures in False Skirmish rules will almost always be mounted singly, it is possible to play with multi-figure bases and simply mark casualties on the base.

Quasi-False Skirmish rules are the result of a drunken one-night orgy between True and False Skirmish games. That's not to say that they're a bad thing. To the contrary, some Quasi-False Skirmish rules are very enjoyable. The essence of them is that while figures are organized into units, the units can contain figures with a variety of quality, equipment, motivation, hair styles and so forth. Units must still act together, however loosely, but the figures within the unit are more distinct from each other and capable of limited independent action.

Detail (What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!) - The qualities that define a figure, the "stats," can be very simple or very complex. How much detail goes into defining a figure is usually determined by the type of skirmish rules noted above.

True Skirmish rules tend to define a figure by a variety of qualities and skills, not unlike a character in a role-palying game. For example, a figure may be rated for stamina, weapons skill for each of the weapons he carries, agility, luck, strength, hygiene, etc. These ratings come into play as the figure acts. A high stamina rating, for example, may mean that the figure can fight or run for extended turns long after lesser beings tire. A high skill rating with a bow means that he can usually hit what he's aiming at. However, a high level of detail usually requires a roster to keep track of it all.

False Skirmish rules tends towards simpler definitions of the individual figure because the characteristics apply to the whole unit. The emphasis is on the average, so there's little to distinguish one figure from another. Characteristics of the unit are usually limited to things like weaponry, protection, and morale—which is essentially the same stats used for units in big battle games. The stats for units in False Skirmish rules are usually simple enough not to require keeping track of. They might simply be noted in some sort of play sheet for the game (Valerian's valiant velites of vexation: Javelin, short sword, shield, +2 morale, +6 halitosis).

Quasi-False Skirmish rules tend to define figures in a less-than-very-detailed way but not quite as uniform as the gray, drab lumpenproletariat defined in False Skirmish rules. Figures within a unit in Quasi-False Skirmish rules can vary from each other by weapons, protection, skill, courage, etc. but not by much. Quasi-False Skirmish rules may require rosters to keep track of characteristics, but it is often clear enough from the models themselves how they're armed etc.

Combat (Lay on, Macduff, and damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'-  Combat mechanics vary widely among skirmish rules. The simplest mechanic uses a single value for combat that is added to a die roll and compared to an opposing stand. Some rules may be similar but provide different values for close combat and shooting.

More complex mechanics may require multiple stages to determine what damage is done and who wins a combat round. For example, a round of close combat may require each combatant to roll to hit against a skill score and then, if a hit is made to factor in the strength score plus weapon value and compare the blow to the armor and agility of the figure taking the blow.

The result of combat can vary widely as well. A losing figure may be wounded, knocked down, pushed back, killed outright, or all of the above. Some rules allow figures to carry wounds, which slow them down in movement and combat, but make for great bragging rights if they survive ("Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars and say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'"). In many other rules a figure is either killed or not killed, but may be put at a disadvantage in some way.

Zone of control (If we meet, we shall not scape a brawl. For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.) - Given the free flow of individual figure stands around the table top in a skirmish game, it's important to note how well a set of rules limits a figure's ability to ignore opposing figures. It's absurd to assume that a non-phasing figure is glued in place. Absent rules for reaction, the figures must exert some kind of control over the near space around them and require opposing figures moving in that space to stop or attack, but not to move through unimpeded.

Command/control (He has no more directions in the true disciplines of the wars, look you, of the Roman disciplines, than is a puppy-dog.) - How players determine whom to move, when, and how much their figures can do is the essence of command/control. The differences here don't tend to fall into place by the type of skirmish rules. However, command/control systems that require a player to write orders for each figure tend to be found in True Skirmish games.

In most cases, there is some random element that determines the order of play. The more current systems tend to apply some kind of limiting factor to what a player's side can do rather than allow a player to move every figure however they want. For example, a player may need to dice for command points and can only do as much as his available command points allow.

Some games play in random order with figures or units activating by a chit-pull or similar, rather than alternating between one side's activations and then the other's.

Scalability (We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.) - Another significant factor in evaluating skirmish games is how well they scale beyond the one-off game between two players. I rarely game one-on-one, so being able to easily add more players into a game is an important consideration.

For the most part, skirmish games scale well and it's easy to incorporate multiple players on a side without too much awkwardness. However, there are a few holdouts and it is also worth noting that for some games, adding more players has an exponential effect on slowing things down.

What's to come
In my next post, I'll look at ancients and medieval skirmish rules.

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, voilà, 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.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014: Out with the old, in with the new

So another annual milestone is passed in relentless frequency. It's time for reflection, resolution, and resignation. I'm a few days late with this, but here goes:


Looking back at 2013, I'm hard pressed to think of any big achievement in my gaming life. Most of my productive energy and gaming time was spent on Bolt Action. This is not a bad thing. I like Bolt Action. It has an energy and flow to it that makes our games enjoyable. Playing Bolt Action also meant a lot more playing time with Phil Bardsley, Bill Stewart, and Dick Larsen. Longer in the tooth now than when I first met them—as am I—they game less frequently than in their relative youth, so it's nice to be a part of the few times when they game. Our games are pleasant and exceptionally non-acrimonius, which is a good thing.

Bolt Action also has the virtue of not winding me up. For some reason, certain games that I have played a lot just get me going and force a rant. Kampfgruppe Commander is one of those. I played a few games this year and always found myself getting frustrated. I'm not sure why. I think that despite its qualities, the game also has inherent flaws. It's essentially a tactical game that was re-written, streamlined, and transmogrified into an operational game without really changing the tactical nature of some of its mechanics. The lineage of KGC II goes back to Clash of Arms Games' The Clash of Armora good, albeit complex, set of tactical rules than no one I know of plays any more.

I think my focus for WW2 gaming is getting more towards the skirmish level. Bolt Action is the current station of that pilgrimage. I had the opportunity to play Battlegroup Overlord just before the new year. This is a big lavishly-produced offering from The Plastic Soldier Company. I have the first set of rules for the series, Battlegroup Kursk. BGK and BGO are skirmish level games, like Bolt Action, with their own command/control system that emphasizes allocation of variable command points. Fire actions can be for pinning or for effect. Pinning has a major effect on the game in that un-pinning units requires a random pull of a numbered chit (1 to 5) that counts against a force's overall rating. Once the cumulative number of chits pulled equals the force rating, the side loses. This can result in a game ending even when there are significant units still intact, i.e., no fighting to the death of the last figure. In our game, we had remaining two Tiger Is, two StuG IIIs, roughly a platoon of infantry and some other assets (like off-board heavy mortars)—but still lost, despite having brewed up most of the American armor (not surprisingly when Shermans take on Tigers). I liked the game and will post more about it, and other WW2 skirmish games, later.

I managed to complete a lot of figures, terrain, and vehicles for WW2 skirmish. I know have decent forces for British in North Africa, Japanese, and US Marines. I also have made progress on French Foreign Legion for North Africa and Russians (lots of unpainted lead for Ruskies, but I did complete "The Beast," a.k.a. a big T-35 model from Company B.

I got back into board gaming in a big way. I attended Dragonflight and Bottoscon this year and had a great time. I tend to think, incorrectly, that a board game convention is all about playing lots and lots of boardgames. But actually, the average hex 'n' counter wargame takes as much time to complete, or more, than a miniatures game. Despite the expense of most board games, it's cheaper than miniatures by far. This point would be sensible if one were an alternative to the other. I do both. No money saved in that. I see board gaming as a continuing trend. Not only are there a lot of great games coming out, but I have several that deserve a lot of play. It's a matter of finding time and opponents. This, too, increases gaming overhead.

I made slight progress on finishing my two rules projects: Row Well and Live and Pike & Periwig. The former is further along both in finalization and in models painted. I have many more galleys to complete, but more than enough to play big multi-player games. Pike & Periwig requires more editing and significantly more figures painted (see Resolutions below).

I spent little time on painting over the year. My productivity came in spurts, but there have been long down times. Between the beginning of November until just after Christmas I painted nothing at all. Nothing. I somehow managed to migrate my painting activity from my little painting nook in my den to the dining room table. This migration actually started in the summer of 2012 when I was painting a lot of ships for Row Well and Live. It was more productive to have a large space to spread out on. It also gave me the opportunity to paint in front of the TV, which I can see from the table. The den has radio or I can play DVDs or stream video through my computer, but my back is to the monitor when I paint. When I prepared to go to Bottoscon for three days in early November, I cleaned up the table lest my cat-sitter think I was completely feral. I liked the clean table so much, that I couldn't bring myself to re-migrate to it. However, I never got things going again upstairs until I had two weeks off for Christmas. Now I'm set up in my wee painting nook again and have made some good progress on some ancients figures for skirmish gaming (about which I will post more later).


One has to be realistic. I am not going to invent cold fusion or perpetual motion any time in 2014. I will not paint Napoleon's Grande Armée in any scale, nor any part thereof. I can, however, take a stand on a few things.

Paint more - the most prolific painters I know (e.g., Kevin Smyth and Bill Stewart) paint at least one hour a day. Whenever I've put in a little bit of painting time over a few days, I'm amazed how much I get done. Part of it is the momentum of actually painting and seeing things get nearer to completion that impels me to paint further. Then again, the inertia of not painting can be almost insurmountable. This situation requires dedication. So, I resolve to paint something—even if it's just an eyebrow on one figure—every day.

Watch TV less - this resolution is a corollary to painting more. Actually, it's video-watching since I don't have cable. I do, however, have a lot of DVDs, Netflix (discs and streaming video), and Amazon Video. It's a cornucopia of flickering eye-candy. As I've mentioned, the painting place is once again upstairs where the TV is not. I'm chagrined to reflect that I spend a lot of time watching things on Netflix or Amazon Video. I blame the cats! It's far too easy to binge-watch several episodes of an old TV series. I have to confess that I managed to watch every episode of NYPD Blue from first to last this year—TWICE! That's a lot of sitting on my butt, even though with the painting table downstairs, I managed to paint a lot while watching. However, it has been all too easy to come home at night, fix dinner (or order in, like pizza), and collapse on the couch smothered in cats (whose lethargy is highly infectious). You can't hear it enough: as a grizzled old man on my death-bed, I will not lament that I spent too little time watching the boob-tube—though I will likely lament the opposite. So, I resolve to limit my video watching to five hours per week.

Eat better - I love to eat. Who doesn't? I managed to lose about 30 pounds this year, although I gained some (too much) back between Thanksgiving and New Years. I was on a strict fascistic diet that allowed only 500 calories per day supplemented by drops of HCG, which is a hormone that causes you to burn stored fat. When I was on the diet, the results were amazing. However, I discovered that after a week of eating 500 calories a day, I wanted to eat a whole pizza—and did. Mostly I found myself jonesing for Chinese food. I would see a week of steady weight loss flushed away after downing a large order of cashew chicken. I indulge myself too much. So, I resolve to stick to the HCG diet until I get to 180 pounds and then adopt sensible eating habits of 1500 calories per day with no empty calories. Wish me luck.

Read more - This resolution is a corollary to watching less TV.  I used to be a ferocious reader. Now I find that I fall asleep the few times that I pull out a book. I get home, eat too much, watch something on the TV for too long, then pick up a book just about the time I'm getting drowsy. I'm pretty sure I'm getting stupider as a result. I can't entirely blame TV; I must also blame the cats! (I did post about this some years back.) My reading also suffers from options overload. I spend a lot of money on books. My bookshelves runneth over and my iPad is stuffed with eBooks for my Nook and Kindle apps. However, I find myself often grousing that I have nothing to read. In fact, I have altogether too much to read. It's just my short attention span asserting itself. So, I resolve to spend at least an hour every day to reading.

Exercise - I have been a full-on Gold level 24-Hour Fitness member since about 2000 and was a Gold's  Gym member for years before that. I was never a gym-rat, per se, but I did spend several days a week working out. When I bought Stately Chez Dave in 2006—and acquired three cats!—I just stopped going regularly. I went from being 180 pounds in Jan 2006 to about 245 at the beginning of 2013. I'm fatter than Grendel! Through the HCG diet, I got down to 210 in late October, but its crept back up. In addition to dieting and eating better, I need to work out. Nothing too hardy. I'm 53 now, so I don't expect to be Charles Atlas, but regular aerobic exercise will keep me less tired and regular resistance exercise will keep my bones healthier. So, I resolve to spend at least three days each week working out.

Spend less - I have never kept a budget. Never. When I reflect on it, it seems absurd—even though I'm sure that most Americans don't either. Budgets are like dieting with money, and no one likes to diet. I indulge myself with gaming stuff: lots of expensive figures I don't paint, lots of expensive rules I don't play, and lots of paint I don't use (I'm a bit more than bemused at how many duplicate, triplicate, and quadruplicate paint colors I have. I just buy without knowing what I already have. Me: "Oh look, red. I think I need red..."). The excess causes storage problems. I'm not tidy in any sense of the word, but that situation is only exacerbated by too much stuff and too little space to put it. I also buy books, as I mentioned above. Sometimes, really expensive books. I like to think I'm a collector as much as reader (which is not untrue), but I do buy a lot of books that I can't possibly read. I also spend too much on food. Eating simpler and better (resolution #3) is not just healthier, it's more economical. To spend $20.00 on a pizza is not just a lot to spend on a meal, it's fattening. I also buy lots of boardgames that I don't play. Again, I think of it as "collecting," but I have to draw a line somewhere. When I look back on what I spend each month, I'm aghast. So, I resolve to set and live within a budget. I'm on Mint.com, which helps. I just need to be stricter with myself. I've budgeted $150.00 for hobbies and $100.00 for books each month. These numbers are much below my actual average...

Declutter - Spending too much and having no space to put the excess leads to clutter. My garage is in disarray so that I can't put my car in. I meant to clean it out, I just don't like doing it. Opening up all the boxes is somewhat delightful as well as disturbing. I have lots and lots of little metal men that I meant to paint (really), but never did. In some cases, I have got back to them. However, there are a lot of figures that I've had for 10+ years and expect to be sitting around still 10+ years from now. I have a closet too full of clothes that I don't wear—in fact, my actual wardrobe is very simple, so why do I have so much else? I gave a lot away last year and should do the same this year. The clothes I have left are too small for me. The ones I gave away were the larger sizes that I expected to be unneeded as I lost weight. Oops. (I'll do better this year.) I need to take stock of what I can get rid of. For a lot of stuff, the Goodwill beckons. For a lot of gaming stuff, it's bring-and-buys or eBay. However, I need to organize and make stuff ready for sale. Books are a more difficult proposition. I regard them as resources, which I may not want to read now, but will later. I have a sordid history of getting rid of books only to re-buy them later—often for a higher price. Game rules are similar to books; I find them to be useful references and, more so than books, are hard to re-find at any price. In any case, I have much more than I need. So, I resolve to reduce my stuff-load to at least the point where I have a place for everything.

Blog more - I see that I've managed only 14 posts for all of 2013. To be fair to myself, my posts are long and often heavily illustrated. It takes a while to put on together and I don't always have time (however, less TV time will help!). I also have a lot in the hopper. My Blogger dashboard shows that I currently have 25 posts in draft mode. Many of these are almost complete, I just haven't made the final touches and posted. If I post more frequently, I may draw in more followers. Everyone needs followers. So, I resolve to post—on average—once a week for 2014. That means 52 posts overall. That may mean smaller posts, too.

Blame the cats less - However well the cats deserve my obloquy, I run them; it's not the other way around (hard as that may be to imagine). I've often reflected that the infectious nature of feline languor has much to do with my own laziness and unproductivity. Time to human up and admit that I laze around with the furry munchkins because I like to. However, the quality of torpor is more important than its persistence. I shall spend less—though better—time lounging about covered in a layer of cat. I will not let that be a drag on getting other things done.


This is what I resign myself to not doing.

Big projects - In my younger days when time and money seemed inexhaustible, I had dreams of doing big gaming projects. It never worked back then and certainly won't work going forward. My experience with Bolt Action has shown that I can get a lot of bang for my buck on small-scale games that can be added to over time. Less than 30 figures and a tank or so is more than enough per side for Bolt Action. I am more leery of anything that requires a lot of large units. My Pike & Periwig rules call for 18-figure foot units and 8-figure horse units. Also, the rules can be played with a small number of units per side, basically a reinforced brigade, even though larger games are possible. Like Row Well and Live, I envisioned P&P as a system that didn't require huge numbers of figures/models to play. Apart from P&P, I see my gaming trending towards skirmish games in 28mm or larger.

Totally new eras/genres - As I've mentioned, I have a lot of unpainted lead and a lot of painted lead that goes unused. Part of the ever-growing-lead-pile syndrome is the tendency to get sucked into projects that are terra incognito. These projects require buying new figures, new rules, new terrain, etc. which defies all my resolutions above. I will not start any new projects this year. I need to do someting with my existing lead pile that decreases it, whether that means selling it off at bargain prices or painting it for use in a project that's been on the back burner (I have a lot of these). Anything I've started in 2013 or earlier is fair game for new figures, etc. But I won't suddenly start painting for a whole new area.

No plastic miniatures of any kind - This is more of a resolution than a resignation. The last plastic minis I painted were some Airfix HO scale Confederate infantry in 1977. I have not painted plastic minis since, nor shall I ever. I only mention it here as a response to the alarming emergence of plastic figures in the hobby.  Chacun à son goût and all that, but the day that metal minis go away, I officially change hobbies.

So there it is. My 2014 plans in a nutshell. We'll see how it all works.