Saturday, March 31, 2018

The curse is ended!

...maybe. But this is a good sign in any case.

I haven't mentioned the curse before, but it's true. All too true. I don't know how or why, but I have a curse. Whenever commercial products appear on the market that I really like, they disappear at a speed that's in direct proportion to my liking of them.

I have experienced this curse mostly with pre-packaged food products or restaurant menu items. I'll find something I like and then suddenly it can't be found in any store. Or, I'll eat something at a restaurant a few times until it becomes my favorite menu item, then *poof* it's off the menu or it's "there" but the actual item has been transmogrified into some inedible golem of its former self.

All I can do is scream out my woe.

But it hasn't always been black despair.

Some time back I got a yen for expanding my Grenadier Miniatures collection. The minis were widely available years ago and then, you guessed it, *poof*. After searching diligently on th'Interwebs, I discovered that Mirliton in Italy now owned and produced the range. But shipping from Italy almost requires taking out a second mortgage to pay for it. The curse taunts me. But then, I discovered that Noble Knight Games in the good ol' US of A carries them.

The curse weakens.

A fews years ago Troy Wold showed up for a Pike & Shotte Game at The Panzer Depot and started setting out some very nifty Medieval/Renaissance style buildings, which I came to learn were from Conflix.

The Conflix buildings are very cool. They come pre-painted (no work for me) and are perfect for the discerning 28mm gamer to use as tabletop terrain from the Medieval era to the 19th c.

They're just the right kind of building to make a game pop.

So, I had to have some, but the curse...

The buildings were no longer being produced. I looked all over th'Interwebs and finally found a place in the UK that had some. I ordered several and then held my breath until they arrived on my doorstep. Another win against the curse.

Curse: 321, Dave: 2.

But that's only a tentative win. Conflix were still out of production with no hope of returning. I hadn't bought every building and now I wanted more.

And then today whilst browsing th'Interwebs for Conflix I found this:

Bachmann, the model train people who produce the Conflix range, are relaunching it in 2018. According to the schedule, some of the buildings should be available now; others will become available later in the year. I'm not sure if there's any new items, but even if not, it's a welcome event and I plan to pick up some of the items I didn't get before and double-up on some others.

I won't call this a win until I find an online seller that has 'em in stock, but I'm hopeful.

I wonder if I stop by Starbucks whether they'll have cherry tarts again? Or, if BJ's has brought back their thin crispy fries? Or...

No, I won't push my luck.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A day of rampacy

We had our Lion Rampant/Dragon Rampant tournament day on Saturday. The tournament was five rounds in a single day. The first two rounds were Lion Rampant, the third round was either Lion Rampant or Dragon Rampant (players' option), the last two rounds were Dragon Rampant. Awards were given for Lion Rampant winner (must have played three rounds), Dragon Rampant winner (must have played three rounds), overall winner (must have played all five rounds), best painted Lion Rampant army and best painted Dragon Rampant army.

The day went very well despite an initial bad omen. While we were unloading stuff and setting up, my knobby knee caught the hem of my shorts when I squatted to put down some boxes and ripped them open. The tear was about 5" initially but increased throughout the day until it ran from waist to hem exposing my right thigh. Not usually carrying around a spare pair of shorts/trousers, eschewing a 120-mile round trip home to re-dress myself, and not being entirely self-conscious, I just played through the day with some extra ventilation.

A bit exposed
After we set up 6 tables, I was eager to try my freshly painted Spanish and see how they might do.

Round 1

I played Dean Motoyama in round 1 for Lion Rampant. Dean and I have sparred in several past games days, so it was like a reunion. Dean played a beautifully painted Early Samurai retinue—it's Medieval, just on the other side of the world.

The first round was a meeting engagement. Each side began with a single unit deployed on the table. Starting on turn 2, players brought in their remaining units on passed Move activation rolls.

Taking the hill
Dean's army was pretty shooty with every unit save one bow armed. It was a formidable challenge. He shot me to pieces, but we ended up tying for the round.

Fighting the mad monks
Round 2

I played round 2 of Lion Rampant against Mark Waddington. Mark has played Lion Rampant only once before, three years ago (it was a multiplayer game using Kevin Smyth's vast 100 Years War collection and Mark and I were opponents then). Mark ran a Crusader retinue, which was nearly a mirror image of my Spanish—only he played better. Instead of 2 units of Bidowers, he took a unit of Archers.

For round 2 of Lion Rampant, we used the Bloodbath scenario from the rules, but we added a rain rule. The attacking player rolled a D6 every time it was their turn. On a 6, it rains. Rain gives a -1 to hit on all shooting. It also makes the ground muddy, that penalizes movement at -2". Rain only lasts one turn (although the die is still rolled at the start of every attacker turn, so it can re-start). The mud, however, remains for the rest of the game after it rains.

Losing the shooting match
We had rain and mud. I tried vainly to get my units into place, but it was a slow slog. My Crossbows dueled with Mark's Archers, who were well ensconced in a wood. My Crossbows survived the day nevertheless, but on my right things went turvy quickly. For a brief moment, I thought I might have the upper hand in a contest between our mounted units, but I failed my attack activation and got whacked by a combo of Mark's Mounted Sergeants and Foot Sergeants.

On my right, Mark's Crossbows chewed up one of my Foot Sergeants and Bidowers. I lost more units and my dead-pile grew.

O glorious dead
In the end, I went down in ignominious defeat. Mark suffered just a few lost figures. I lost 3 of my 7 units with further figures lost from the remainder.

Round 3

For the third round, players had the option to play another round of Lion Rampant or bail out and start Dragon Rampant.  About half switched to Dragon Rampant. I nearly bailed, but I wanted a win with the Spanish. I was 0 for 2, so I opted to stick with a third round of Lion Rampant. I wasn't disappointed.

Round 3 was the straight-up Bloodbath scenario (no rain). I played Al Rivers, who brought a Saxon retinue. He had some shooters (Foot Yeomen in mixed units with bowmen), but their max range was 12". My Crossbows gave me a shooting advantage with better range and values. There was a brief pint where they failed a courage test and rolled back battered, but they were pretty reliable at making their shooting activation rolls and inflicting damage. Early on, I shot one of Al's Foot Yeoman moxed unit off a hill he was imprudent enough to occupy.

A hill to die for
Al set up on just one side of a river that bisected the table width-wise. That gave me the opportunity to envelop one flank with my mounted units and one of my Bidowers.

Envelopment pre-carnage
Al's general (Harold surrounded by his Huscarls) went down fighting after sparring with one of my Mounted Sergeant units, which got a bit chewed up in the process. I also had support from my Bidowers, who took out a few of the figures. On a failed courage test, the general routed away.

Action on the left
I lost one unit of Mounted Sergeants in the carnage, but Al had lost all but two of his units, including his general.

Round 4

With round 4, we all were playing Dragon Rampant. We had an odd number, so I trotted out the bare-breasted centauresses against Pat Lowinger, who was running the tournament. The scenario was The Crystal Gale. It went quickly because it ends when all of 10 crystals spread over the board are taken. We tied at 5-5 and the only losses were incurred by my Bellicose Foot (feminotaurs) getting knocked silly by a Powerbolt! attack from Pat's Byzantine magic priests.

Coming on board to chase after crystals
Round 5

The final Dragon Rampant round was the A Gory Bloodbath on the Plains of Doom scenario but with a twist. A semi-sentient fog potentially affected visibility. Every unit that activated to charge or shoot had to test visibility by totaling a roll 3 D6 and multplying it by 2. The result is the visibility in inches, which could limit shooting and charge targets. In our case, we never had visibility problems.

I played Jim Denberger, who'd been having a run of bad luck throughout the day. It didn't improve playing me.

Jim fielded an warband of trolls, warbeasts, and what looked like Orc-y things(?). He came on pretty strong in the initial turns. I consistently failed my first activation rolls. He ran his Heavy Riders (general's unit) right at my Elite Foot wizardling (Ursula) on a wooded hill. As he approached, I failed several attempts to hurl a Powerbolt! at him and succeeded only at the end. He charged in, but got bounced back with loss. After I succeeded with another Powerbolt!, he routed away, which caused some further running away when other units failed their courage test for the general's loss.

Ursula contra mundam
He came at me next with a Great Warbeast, which knocked Ursula back initially, but another Powerbolt! plus shots from one of my Light Riders (centauress archers) took him out. After he lost another unit with a fourth just hanging on, we called the game a win for me. I'd lost only one unit (the hapless feminotaurs) and had a big advantage over Jim's remaining two units: a Lesser Warbeast (trolls) and a fearful Light Missile unit.

Battered and beaten
The results

The Lion Rampant champion was Bruce Meyer, who had three straight wins with a Samurai army. He had a large contingent of Fierce Foot that ran over all his opponents. Bruce didn't stay for Dragon Rampant, so he was out of the running for overall champion.

The Dragon Rampant champion was Bryan Shein, whose mighty penguin warband had the best win/loss/tie record over three games.

Much to my own surprise, I won overall champion. I was well out of the running for Lion Rampant champion, ineligible for Dragon Rampant champion because I only played two rounds, but my Tie-Loss-Win-Tie-Win record over 5 games put me at 8 points, tied with Daryl Nichols. However, we kept track of glory points and I eked out more than him to win the tie.

The day's laurels: Obverse
Best painted Lion Rampant award went to Dean Motoyama's samurai.

Best painted Dragon Rampant, by a single vote majority, were my bare-breasted centauresses. Bryan Shein's penguins of doom were the runner up.


Further thoughts

It was a great day of rampancy, though possibly the last tournament. The Gig Harbor library where we played allowed us to set up before the library opened and continue after it closed. New policies won't allow that, so we're only able to play during library hours 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. That's good for a couple informal games, but not nearly enough time to play five tournament rounds. Gaming venues that can accommodate a dozen or more players on multiple tables are becoming scarcer and more expensive. We may wind up relegated to playing in people's garages and attics before long.

We're adding The Pikeman's Lament to our repertoire of games. I'll join with Sven Lugar in coordinating events starting later this year. I'm going great guns on getting my Irish and English dome for The Irish Project. I've also got companies complete for ECW and Spanish Renaissance/New World Conquest, with many more on hand ECW to paint. I could do some later 17th c. as well. I also see that The Assault Group is getting ready to release a new range for the 80 Years War!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


This post is a reboot from an earlier draft that through diligent neglect became obsolete. Back in 2016, I started painting a lot of Crusader Miniatures Medieval Spanish for a Lion Rampant retinue. Things were going on schedule for a game day we were planning for September that year, but at the end of July Grendel was diagnosed with cancer and for six awful weeks I managed to get almost nothing done towards finishing the army. When he died on September 6, it just took everything out of me for a while. The army sat unpainted for a long, long time. (Well, not really long as my unfinished projects go. I've got partially painted lead from the 90s still haunting me with no dead cats to justify my malingering.) When I got back to painting, I devoted my efforts to other projects (there are so many) because completing the Spanish no longer had any urgency.

But why Spanish? As I mentioned in a previous post, I've gotten deep into all things "Rampant." I'd been meaning to paint a Lion Rampant retinue since the rules were released back in 2014. I've had a lot of Old Glory Medievals partially painted, but for some reason, I couldn't psyche myself into finishing them (though I'm getting up steam for it now). I needed an army that cold inspire me in terms of the history and the figures available. I toyed with Later Crusaders or any ca. 12/13th c. European army, but nah. Then I got bit by the El Cid bug.

El Cid

This period in Spanish history is fascinating and controversial. The real El Cid, Rodrigo Díaz del Bivar, was a nobleman from the kingdom of Léon who lived in the latter half of the 11th c. His title is from the Arabic 'Al Sayyid, meaning "the lord". Díaz was also known as Campeador, which translates as "strong warrior." It comes from the Latin campi doctor, which means "master of the battlefield."

Díaz' activities are legendary for the most part, although there is enough fact mixed with the fiction to create an historical sketch. His deeds were recorded first in a poem in Latin called Carmen Campidoctoris (Song of the Campeador), which may be as old as 1083, i.e., composed during his life time (Díaz died in 1099). Some scholars, however, date it some 50 years after Díaz' death.

Díaz came to prominence fighting for King Sancho II of Léon and Castile, rising to the honor of being the standard-bearer of Castile. Sancho's enemies were his own brothers, in addition to the Andalusian Moorish city-states. When Sancho was murdered, his brother Alfonso VI became king, which lead ultimately to Díaz' exile from the court of Léon-Castile.

As an exile, Díaz fought for the Muslim taifa of Zaragoza against various other Muslim and Christian states. The invasion of Spain by the Almoravid Berbers in 1086—and their defeat of Alfonso's army at Sagrajas—brought an end to Diaz' exile. As the foremost warrior of Spain, Alfonso needed Díaz on his side if he hoped to withstand the Almoravid onslaught.

For several years, Díaz served Alfonso, but during that time he also worked to gain control for himself of the city of Valencia. The Muslim ruler of the city became his vassal, but was later overthrown by the Almoravids. Díaz besieged and took the city in 1094. He ruled it until his death in 1099.

While Díaz is popularly seen as a Christian hero, he actually gave his service to both Christian and Muslim rulers and fought with Muslims against Christians, Christians against Muslims, Muslims against Muslims, and Christians against Christians. Valencia during his rule was a pluralistic city with freedom for both Christians and Muslims alike. In the patchwork of Christian and Muslim kingdoms of Spain, politics, business, and ambition often transcended religion.

Díaz can be seen mostly as an adventurer seeking renown wherever he could. His taking and ruling Valencia is evidence of his desire to establish an independent dynasty and be free of serving kings and emirs of any faction or religion. Without his leadership, the city-state of Valencia failed. It was ruled by his widow Jimena until 1102, when it was retaken by the Almoravids and held by them and various Muslim dynasties that succeeded them until it was captured by Aragon in the 13th c.

El Retinue

I'm easily sold on things for the silliest reasons. What struck me most about the El Cid Spanish was that they had slingers. I've mentioned my love of the sling before. In a world of Medieval armies, only one uses the noble sling. So I had to paint it.

Initial thoughts

I tinkered around a lot with the composition of my retinue for the upcoming tournament. I like the punch of Mounted Men-at-Arms, but they're awfully expensive and can be enticed into charging about rashly. I thought maybe cheaper and better controlled was worth having less punch. I may revise my opinion after Saturday.

I like having light horse (Mounted Yeoman), but the Spanish historically used jinetes, who flung javelins at close range and then scurried off to regroup and return again to fling their javelins. The reality was, I think, a bit more effective than the Lion Rampant rules reflect. A 6" shooting range combined with a pretty dicey (7+) evade make it pretty tough to get away from whomever you're harassing. Getting caught on an evade by Mounted Men-at-Arms or Mounted Sergeants is pretty much instant death. I decided not to chance it for a tournament army. Also, they cost 3 points, which is just an awkward thing to have to factor into a 24-point retinue list when most units are either 6 or 4 points. You're bound to have an odd point preventing you from making a tidy list without adding a unit of Serfs.

Finally, the slingers—the raison d'être for making the retinue—are a bit lackluster and the rules say contradicting things about them. They have a 12" maximum shooting range AND they're just like archers (who have an 18" max. range). That's an erratum, it turns out. They have a 12" max range, but only cost 3 points (there's that odd point thing again), so not exactly like archers. I assume a lot of players are going to have shooty retinues and bringing a sling to a bow-fight doesn't seem smart to me. So, no massed slingers, but the figures will appear as bidowers.

And now, the final tournament list for Saturday:

Mounted Sergeants

Because 11th c. knights were simply mail-clad and may not have used (or solely used) a couched lance, it's easy to justify fielding them as Mounted Sergeants rather than Mounted Men-at-Arms. Mounted Sergeants sacrifice power (only a 4+ attack v. 3+ for Mtd MAA) and protection (3 armor v. 4) for better maneuverability (5+ to move v. 7+) and no need to worry about suppressing urges to wildly charge anything that wanders in range.

There are two units at 4 points each.

Foot Sergeants

I tend to like horsey armies rather than foot-sloggy ones, but I figured a solid core of infantry would be good to have. They can hold up to a charge by Mounted Men-at-Arms (well, maybe, or chew them up a bit while dying) and can provide a sort of semi-fixed wall for the mounted forces to maneuver behind.

There are two units at 4 points each.


These were a late addition to the retinue. I only bought the minis in February. I started to think that a little more firepower would help—especially given the disappointing slinger stats. Crossbows have a 4+ shoot value, but a 7+ shooting activation (v. 5+ shoot/6+ activation for bows and slings). I've played on the receiving end of crossbow fire; I'm looking to be on the giving end for a change.

There is one unit at 4 points.


I like bidowers. When the other side has 'em, they're annoying. So, at the least they can counter-annoy your opponent. But if you have terrain for them to skulk in, they can have a considerable asymmetric effect against more powerful units who are discomfited by fighting in rough terrain. (But if Foot Men-at-Arms come after you, run like hell.)

There are two units at 2 points each.

In sum

The retinue has 7 units. No unit is more than 4 points, so it'll take losing at least three units to get to half strength. (I could easily see myself quickly losing two Men-at-Arms units in a blaze of glory.) Everything except the crossbows move on a 5+ activation. I think that overall it has a pretty good balance. If I'm wrong about that come Saturday, the most logical factor to blame is my incompetent generalship. The cats won't be there; I can't blame them.

All snug in their box dreaming of glory

The also rans

As I've mention elsewhere, I have many more minis painted (and am painting) than are needed for a single retinue. Even though I eschewed using them for the tournament, I have the following on deck:

Mounted Yeomen

I only have one unit completed, but will have two eventually. I think having at least two is needed if you have any. A retinue with 2 x Mounted Men-at-Arms and 4 x Mounted Yeomen/javelins might be interesting.


Ah, the beloved (but not by Dan Mersey) slingers. I have 12 figures painted, so enough for a full missile unit. Someday, but until then, I'll use them as bidowers (see above) side by side with the javelin-armed foot.

I have some thoughts about house rule for slingers that would take into account (1) there's little evidence that slings had less range then self bows, which most of the bows in Lion Rampant represent, and (2) the concussive effect of sling stones made them more effective against armored men than arrows. That makes me think about the following:

Keep them at 12" max range, make them 4 points, but give them a -1 effect on the target's base armor value to a minimum of 2, i.e., armor 4 would reduce to 3, armor 3 would reduce to 2, but no effect on armor 2 and 1. The armor effect of cover would be unaffected; for example, an armor 2 unit in cover would still be a 3 because the base armor value of 2 is unaffected.

Alternately, use the same armor effect as above for targets within 12" range, but give them 18" max range and make them 5 points.

All we are saying is give sling a chance.


I only have 8 painted so far. I hadn't really intended on doing a full unit, but I should buy another pack and make a full 12-figure unit. Between the slingers I love and the crossbows I need, the archers are the redheaded step children. I could use the figures in a mixed unit with Foot Yeomen (see below) or just go with vanilla shooters after I build out their numbers.

The Sir-Not-Appearing-in-this-Film lot

Because they're still raw lead, the following units are on hold while I finish other projects that have come to the front burner now that I have a retinue completed.

Foot Yeomen

Honestly, I'm not sure why anyone values these units. They're an inconvenient mid-point between Foot Sergeants and Serfs. They have decent combat values for defense (4+), but lousy armor for melee troops (2). The one interesting thing you can do with them is create a mixed unit, which gives them some firepower, but at only 12" max. range and the unit can no longer form schiltron. That may be something for me to do with my forlorn archers, but I'm not sure if mixed units combine the best or worst of the two types. Cruel experience down the road will likely teach me which.


Because Crusader makes the minis, I have 'em. Also, if using 3-point units like javelin-armed Mounted Yeomen or slingers as missile units, I may need a 1-point unit to fill out the full 24 points. Or maybe in a spirit of bonhomie, I could just field a unit (or two) to give my opponent's mounted troops some oiks to run down. That's the Medieval spirit. They can also function in a scenario-based game as enraged peasants defending their fields and farms from marauding Moors. They're actually quite nice minis and can plug into any retinue/scenario. I have 24 of 'em, which will give me two units if I should ever be daft enough to field them.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Not entirely indolent

It's been a few weeks since my last post. Historically, that's not surprising. I get busy, life goes on, yadda yadda—then all of a sudden I haven't blogged in 3 months. But I am trying to do better and get at least one post every month; more if I'm diligent.

But it's not like I'm doing nothing.

We have our Lion Rampant/Dragon Rampant tournament coming up on March 24. I've been working on the long-delayed Spanish and am down to just completing the bases, which I expect to do this weekend. It's been a long time coming and I hope the army does well in the tourney.

I actually have many more figures painted than I need for a single retinue, so I'll have a lot of flexibility in retinue composition. I have even more figures unpainted (you knew I would) that, once painted (there's the rub), will give me even more flexibility for building retinues. The unpainted minis include 24 figures of serfs because you never know when you'll want to deploy speed bumps to prevent your enemy killing you too quickly.

Back before Grendel died, I'd completed 10 figures of mounted men-at-arms and lots of skirmisher/shooty types (including slingers, of course). What was partially painted were the light horse (to be mounted yeoman with javelins):

And spearmen (to be foot sergeants):

I recently added crossbowmen to the mix after it dawned on me that slingers, alas, are pretty crappy missile troops in Lion Rampant. I'll keep slingers as bidowers, but my firepower will be crossbows:

By the start of the month, I'd completed the painting and dipping. I let the dip "cure" for several days before I do anything, but by midweek, all the figures were based, had the coarse pumice gel applied (and left to cure also) and the base coat of Vallejo Mud Brown applied.

Today was spent doing a lot of flocking on 35 bases:

At this point, I have the fine flocking done and have the coarse flocking yet to do. By Sunday night, I expect to have everything complete, figures dullcoated, and stored in their box until next Saturday.

I'm also going great guns now on my Irish Project units. I recently got some more Irish kern, pikes, and calivermen. I'm also up to my eyebrows painting a lot of the English:

What's on the painting table now will, soon I hope, be three 12-figure units of English pike, four 12-figure units of English calivermen, 2 units of 6-figure English commanded shot, 1 6-figure unit of English billmen, various command figures, 2 6-figure units of Irish cavalry, 2 12-figure units of Irish calivermen, 4 6-figure units of Irish kern with calivers, and one 12-figure unit of Irish pikes.

174 figures. All to be complete by late May.

That's a tall order, but helping me out is the fact that I went TV-less today. I called in the 1-800-GOT-JUNK guys to haul away (among other things) my old Sony Trinitron and the big oak cabinet it was in:

I'll put a bookcase there. That will alleviate my bookspace crisis for a little while.

I'm not sure if being without TV will make me paint more, but I will have no more temptation to sit on the couch watching TV and eating. I hope I'll fill the time painting. Or reading. But I could also spend it surfing the Interwebs. Let's hope I do the former.