Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dixon Grand Alliance!

My Dixon figures has arrove! A few weeks back I sent out a small order for some of the venerable Dixon Grand Alliance range and the ding-dong at my door this afternoon was the mailman dropping them off. I say 'venerable' because the range is more than 35 years old—that's dead in dog years and nearly so in figure range years. But these figures have stood the test of time and are as good or better than many newer figure ranges.

But I wasn't sure what to expect from such a hoary range when I ordered. In too many cases, ordering figures from a range that's a few decades old (or older) can be a disappointment. The molds might not be maintained well and what you get requires a lot of filing and trimming just to distinguish them from fishing weights. (I recall an order to Minifigs USA many years ago that made me think I'd purchased from the Carve-Your-Own-from-a-Block-of-Lead range.)

This is not the case with Dixon! The figures are as clean and well cast as if they were a brand new range. Not only that, but the packaging has all the elegance of old school English figure manufacturers. No bubble-packs or baggies full o' lead. My order contained two small 3" x 3" x 2" white boxes personalized with my initials on the top.

Monogramed box
Inside, the figures were wrapped in royal blue tissue paper as carefully as if they were fine porcelain.

All snug in their box
This is a nice touch.

These figures bring back fond memories. I painted a lot of them in the '80s. When they first came out ca. 1980 they were absolutely the best figures on the market. In a world that was still dominated by Minifigs and Hinchliffe (both cutting edge in their day), their fine detail, animated poses, and head variants put them way ahead of everyone else. They were also in an historical niche that I just loved and no one else was making late 17th c. figures.

I was living in San Jose, CA at the time and several of us got the bug to game the late 17th c. using the old WRG Renaissance rules by George Gush. I painted my minis as Brandenburg-Prussians ca. Nine Years War. I sold them when I went off to seminary in 1986 and briefly resumed painting some about three years later while I was still in Chicago. I never did much with the new batch and sold them in the early 90s after I moved to Seattle. Since then, I've wanted to do another project using these figures. The North Star 1672 range fulfilled some of that desire—Mark Copplestone is the sculptor for both ranges and I'm a big fan of Mark's work.

Among the felicities of The Pikeman's Lament, is that the small scale of a company means that I can do projects for those rules that I would eschew if they required hundreds of figure to complete. So I decided that I could use Dixon Grand Alliance figures to build a company for James II and William III's Irish campaign. I'm already doing late 16th c. Irish Wars using the excellent Timeline Miniatures Border Reivers, so this is a fast-forward by 100 years from that period--no kern or gallowglass.

I'm starting with James' Irish forces first. Years ago, I picked up a nice booklet on the conflict: William III at War: Scotland and Ireland 1689-1691 by Alan Sapherson.

It's chock full of information about Irish, English, Dutch, and Danish units for the campaign in Ireland. I picked it up for $8.95 30 years ago, now it's going for $45.00 on Amazon! I've already got the uniform colors in mind and Flags of War makes the flags for both sides. (Gotta have flags, even in a skirmish game.)

In my Dixon order, I got 12 musketeers for a shot unit, 6 grenadiers (with plug bayonets) for a forlorn hope unit, 2 each of the officers and drummer, and a mounted general.

All unboxed now
This is a good start for now. My plan for the company is to add another unit of shot, a unit of 6 pikes taken as aggressive forlorn hope (no shooting, just piking), a 6-figure unit of dragoons, two 6-figure cavalry units. I'll get the lot in my next order to Dixon.

Musketeers and grenadiers
For now, I have a lot of figures to paint: for other projects ECW, Aztecs, conquistadors, Thirty Years War, Medieval Spanish, Irish 16th c., etc.

Officers mostly
But I'm pretty excited about the Dixon figures, so I'll likely clean and prime these figures soon and get then on deck.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Drumbeat X

On Saturday we held our annual Drumbeat game day at the Lake City Community Center in Seattle. It was a good turnout and we had a good time, but poignant with Dick Larsen being in the hospital due to his recent stroke. Drumbeat is Dick's brainchild. He founded it ten years ago as a game event to get us through the grim Seattle winter and it's been going strong ever since.

Game 1: Quetzalcoatl Rampant

Kevin Smyth and I put on our game of Quetzalcoatl Rampant. We tweaked things just a bit after the last playtest and assumed that we were in good shape.

The Aztecs deploy
In our early playtests, the Spanish consistently wiped the floor with the Aztecs. We tweaked things a bit to make the Spanish less formidable and the Aztecs less horrible. I'm not sure if we went a tweak too far or what, but the last two games have been disasters for the Spanish. 

Aztecs defenders of the village
Part of this problem has been the inexplicable inability of the Spanish commanders to make their activation rolls. In the Drumbeat game, the Spanish never managed to get more than a handful of activations for their troops. The Aztecs did better than average.

Taking corn
Unlike the last play of this scenario, the Spanish/Tlaxcalans managed to capture corn. However, they didn't manage to get it off the board. The Aztec counterattack landed in the Spanish/Tlaxcalan right rear and just started tearing things up. The Spanish troops were on the opposite side and couldn't manage to get an activation anyway. 

The Aztec counterattack: kicking butt and breaking taking hearts
The "Your beating heart" rule proved to be too much for the players. We hadn't used it much in our earlier games because it was moot. The Spanish v. Aztecs melĂ©es left the Aztecs too beat up to pass a simple courage test, they didn't bother with trying to take captives. In our last games, the Tlaxcalans—whose regular warriors are no match for Aztec knights—bore the brunt of the fighting and easily lost heart, so to speak. I'll have to tweak things to make it less easy for the Aztecs to convert casualties to captives and lessen the effect. I'm a bit hesitant, though, to make too many tweaks due to what may just be anomalous events. 

Sitting out the battle
The next task is getting our figures ready for the two scenarios we're running at Enfilade! in May.

Game 2: The Pikeman's Lament

After fine dining at Seattle's own Chez Richard, we got ready for the second game of the day.

Doug Hamm was set to come down from Vancouver BC for the day to put on a game of The Pikeman's Lament with Bill Stewart, but he got snowed in instead. Bill had just rebased a whole pile of his 28mm ECW for the rules I had two dragoon units completed, so we managed to pull it off as understudies. There was no particular scenario, we just put terrain out and set up two opposing forces divided between six players. One side was in red, the other in blue—except for my turncoat dragoons, who were in red.

I had my two dragoon units, plus two units of Bill's cavalry taken as trotters.

Part of my forces deployed
Opposite me was Wes Rogers with a similar force, except that his cavalry were taken as gallopers.

Facing off across a wee brook
The object of the game was to take and hold the bridge that sat in the midst of a small village (whose beautiful building were scratch-built by Bill Stewart).

Commanded Shot taking position by the dung pile
The red forces took position early in the game and managed to get a unit of pikemen on the bridge. However, it was not to hold it long. Shot at by blue musketeers in the surrounding houses, it finally wavered (and kept wavering) after a whiff of grapeshot from Russ Bowder's regimental gun.

Enemy pikemen on the bridge, alas
Russ' gun fared poorly after that. He became the target of a lot of fire until the crew was all shot away or had been removed from failed morale tests while already wavering. We had no guns painted for the game, so we pressed into service a couple light guns I'd painted for my dormant 1672 project.

Commanding my forces, was my personal figure, surrounded by his four cats, painted to look like Grendel, Bogart, Rhiannon, and Maebh.

I ride with cats
On my flank, Wes and I sparred a bit. He had the upper hand for a short while, and then I managed to come back briefly. At one point Wes' officer challenged mine. I lost the duel and was severely wounded and left writhing on the field with my cats indifferent to my pain and wanting food. A crueler fate could befall no man.

Dragoons slugging it out

Eventually, Wes took me out. I managed to kill his officer in the course of wiping out his galloper unit. Both of us battered and officerless, Wes had the last man standing—he also managed to get one of those lucky activations where he rolled boxcars, then got reinforcements. He was able to replace his lost galloper unit and soon had command of the flank.

On the rest of the field, things slowly went for red. Russ was unable to hold the buildings he'd occupied, Tyler (on Russ' right) got most of his troops shot away from Gary Greiss' musketeers. In the end blue ceded the field to red, the day was theirs.


Drumbeat X went very well. There were several other games being played, including a morning game Wes ran of Loose Files and American Scramble, a venerable set of American War of Independence rules by Andy Callan.  Kevin ran a Lion Rampant game in the afternoon with his Hundred Years War English against Darren Howard's French.