Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax

 The time has come,' the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'
I could write a lot of little—or not so little—posts on various things or I could just write a grab-bag of scattered topics. Much is going on and, to quote Lewis Carroll again, "you must run as fast as you can just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that."

So I'm running twice as fast as I can—or trying to. I have so many new wargaming irons in the fire that I don't know where to start. I'll just go from today and work back.

The Miniature Company is my homeboy

Quite by accident, I discovered The Miniature Company. I forget how. I tend to bump into a lot of things on the Interwebs when I'm not looking where I'm going. I think I saw some pics of one of their recent releases (Dark Age Welsh) and when I went to their site, behold: Egyptians. The pics of the minis looked very nice. So, after pondering a purchase for a responsible period (i.e., overnight while I slept), I made a small order. It just arrove on Monday. They're lightening fast on fulfilling orders.

I was pleasantly surprised I must say. You can never really tell enough about a mini from a picture. You have to have the tactile experience of feeling it, weighing it in your hand, turning it around to see it from all angles. The minis did not disappoint. They're BIG. They have HEFT. They're METAL (of course). I love them.

TMC (left), Warlord/Cutting Edge (right): Same scale, the difference is heft
I just finished cleaning and primering a dozen bowmen. The castings are clean with just a bit of mold lines to burnish out. The metal is soft enough to make it easy to clean. The style of the figures is a bit exaggerated, which is correct IMO for any figure. Save us from sculptors who want to make sure everything on the mini is exactly proportional.

TMC has only four packs released so far for the Egyptian line: spearmen, bowmen, command, warrior priests (basically, bald-headed bowmen). I ordered enough of the first three packs to make two units of archers and one unit of spearmen for a Chariots Rampant army. Dave from TMC says that there will be a total of 20 packs for the Egyptians, so I'll have to wait a little bit for the chariots, which will finish the army.

TMC has other lines that look promising. Hittites are planned (no minis yet), Saxons have just started to appear, the aforementioned Welsh are well underway (all foot so far), there is a pretty impressive Classic Indian range, and Persians too.

After spending a while on Tuesday evening cleaning the Egyptian bowmen, I got so enamored of the minis that I ordered enough Welsh for a Saga warband. The next morning, I got an email from TMC saying they'd been cast and posted. I should have them early next week. Lightening fast I tell ya.

TMC has become a new infatuation for me. I may need an intervention.

I'm still working on my Sumerians. I only have some basing to do and one four-equid battle cart to finish before I have a 24-point Chariots Rampant army. Then I go in search of opponents to fight and kingdoms to conquer.

All things colonial (America)

When the eventual (Jan '19) release of Patriots and Rebels was announced earlier this year, I got pulled back into gaming the American Revolution. From there it kind of snowballed into a multifaceted Amerindian fest of epic proportion.

I have posted before about my foray (aided and abetted by Kevin Smyth) into early, early Native American warfare using Pulp Figures/Crucible Crush Flint and Feather minis and the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules. That lead to an increasing interest in the French and Indian War, which I was never too interested in before. I bought a pile of Galloping Major Canadian milita and Huron allies, which are well under way and adding to the clutter of my painting table and the various nooks and crannies at Stately Chez Dave where I stage or sidetrack projects. There's only so much room on the painting table to clutter up.

I've just started the last 19 figures of Hurons. I like Galloping Major minis. Like TMC, they're big and they have heft. The metal is pretty hard, so filing can be chore, but there's very little to clean on the figures. An hour or so sitting down and filing with Netflix playing on the computer in front of me, et voila.

Galloping Major Hurons on deck
Galloping major is now shipping the Troupes de la Marine from their last Kickstarter. I didn't get in on that; it kicked off well before I caught the FIW bug. They likely won't be available on the website until January or so. I can wait. I'll start with colonial militia and rangers for their opponents. I'm sure I'll eventually add in British regulars and, whenever Galloping Major produces them, French regulars of the line.

With my recent research into my ancestry, I've discovered two direct ancestors who were killed in King Philip's War: My 8th great-grandfather John Graves (along with his brother Isaac) and another 8th great-grandfather Nathaniel Parmalee. (The Parmalees were once nobility in what is now Belgium. Ardent Protestants, they were displaced by the Spanish during the 80 Years War and forced to take refuge in England. There they turned Puritan and wound up coming to America as part of the Great Migration of Puritans and other non-conformists escaping religious persecution in England.)

17th c. colonial militia
And what do you know? Brigade Games produces a line of minis for King Philip's War. I've known about it for a little while, but I resisted buying anything until I found that I had ancestors who met their demise in the war. So of course I ordered a small force of armed and dangerous Puritans (foot and dragoons). I'll order some Indians from the range too, as soon as the smoke clears from all my other impulse buys—assuming no intervening impulse buys get things all smokey again. The number of figures won't be large, less than 60 or so overall. I plan to use Song of Drums and Tomahawks (a new favorite among rules sets), so it doesn't take more than 30 figures per side to have a reasonably-sized multiplayer game.

I read, therefore I game/I game, therefore I read

There's also the literary aspect of these projects. In January of this year, I had zero books on colonial American Indian wars. Zero. Since then, I've read several books on the French and Indian War and am now reading a handful concurrently with others queued up. One of them is Fred Anderson's massive groaning tome The Crucible of War. I'm a third of the way though its 746 pages. Massive though it is, the book reads quickly. Anderson is one of those historians that can flawlessly combine deep scholarship with the readability of a novel. I started reading Braddock's Defeat by David Preston. It's another very readable history. Preston acknowledges his indebtedness to Paul Kopperman's 1977 monograph Braddock at the Monongahela, so I had to get a copy of that too.

I've also got a few books, which I'm also concurrently reading, about the early American frontier generally. The First Frontier, by Scott Weidensaul is especially good. It's another of those very readable history books.

The plethora of books published about King Philip's War is astounding. It's a pretty obscure conflict and only lasted 16 months; yet it has captured the attention of a lot of academics of late, who have been churning out books. I have two books on order and a few others on my Amazon wish list.

I have piles of  books on Ancient Near Eastern warfare, but I came across a new title yesterday, Warfare and Weaponry in Dynastic Egypt. It's recent, having been published in 2017, so it may have some new information. With my enthusiasm for the new TMC Egyptians, I couldn't resist ordering it. It'll be in my hot little hands tomorrow (thanks, Amazon). It will add to such books I already have like Fighting Pharaohs (2002) by Robert Partridge, War in Ancient Egypt (2005) by Robert Spalinger, and Yigael Yadin's classic two-volume work The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (1963).

I'm happy so far with using the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules for the colonial American projects. I think the nature of this warfare lends itself to that kind of game.However, I'm looking forward to Patriots and Rebels. I'm also eager to get a copy of Muskets and Tomahawks, which is out of print and unavailable at any price. The rumor is that Studio Tomahawk will publish a new edition now that Saga version 2 is out. I'm the impatient sort, but better to wait for the expected new release that spend time and money tracking down a copy of a version that will soon be superseded.

And its place knows it no more

I had dinner with Karen Bardsley a couple weeks back. She's the widow of my Friend Phil, who died in January 2017. She's still gearing up to sell his large collection of books, games, and minis. Among the items to be sold are three limited edition signed prints by Dale Gallon showing aspects of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Phil was a direct descendant of Nathaniel Greene (his middle name was Greene), who commanded the Patriot forces at that battle. The prints meant a lot to him. I acquired one myself and am in the process of finding buyers for the other two (I can't afford them all—nor do I have wall space for them). The one I got shows Greene giving directions to the North Carolina Militia. In the background the bare field stretches back to the Hoskins house where the British are forming up.

It was great to see Karen again. She has a new man in her life since about April/May this year. He's recently moved in. He's not a gamer, but a good man anyway.

However, the visit left me with a lot of melancholy. I can't count the number of times I've sat on Phil's patio drinking the obscure sodas he was fond of buying or getting sloshed on Arnold Palmers spiked with Bourbon as we discussed game projects and shared our latest work. Or sat in his family room filling it with smoke from expensive cigars while we watched movies and drank Scotch. I've eaten dinner there numerous times and enjoyed so many of Phil's enthusiasms for barbecuing. I'm a fatter man because of Phil.

I recall his enthusiasm for adding new aircraft prints to eventually cover the den wall. I remember all the times I looked at various works in progress on his painting table wondering if or when he would finish them (as I wonder about all mine).

All gone. Don, the new man, has made Phil's den his own. The aircraft prints are gone, replaced by Don's collection of edged weapons (I think Phil would approve, he had a Civil War saber himself). The painting table is gone along with all the half-finished projects that cluttered it.

I'm happy for Karen. Don looks to be a keeper. Phil didn't want her to be left alone.

But for me the melancholy remains. A place that over a quarter-century had become as familiar to me as my own home was familiar no more. I couldn't help recalling the words of Psalm 103:
As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
As I move about cluttered, cat-infested Chez Dave in formerly bucolic Lynnwood, I have to imagine that one day it will be an empty place awaiting new occupants and so on until it's gone. No trace of me will remain in it. We don't live in imperishable caves any more (which is a good thing). Our homes are like the wood, hay, and stubble that burn up in the fire. But if we lived in caves, maybe we could leave a mark, like the handprints left by paleolithic man, to say, "I was here." Otherwise, it may one day be as if we never were.


  1. “I read therefore I game/I game therefore I read”

    Here, here I am with you here sir.

    A well written bit about missing your friend. I have often thought of this of late as my community of friends gets older, etc. Some already have had health issues. I would dearly miss them.

    Cheers from a dog lover;)

  2. As ever a thought provoking and moving post. I am interested,as ever , to read of your projects. I have a friend l have been gaming with since 1986. Your anecdotes about your Phil reminds me of him.

  3. Yes, agree with Kevin.

    Wonderful for your friend's wife that she has been able to pick up the pieces and get on with her life, but sad how things cannot stay the same.

    I still can't go past the house my grandfather built and lived in for so many years. It's lovely that the house is being used, but it feels wrong that it's not them living there.

    Time for a scotch and a cigar, perhaps!

    Best wishes

  4. David, much of interest in this post. For now, I want to focus on your Biblical project. How do the TMC Egyptians compare with the manufacturers to which I am familiar? That is, BTD, Newline Designs, and Foundry?

    Please provide a brief review of the Dean book once it is in your hands. Have you reviewed Yadin's work? I have been eyeing it but have not purchased the set.


  5. Jonathan: The TMC figures are BIG. They wouldn't mix in an army/unit with the other manufacturers figures. They're 28mm measured foot to eye. Measured foot to top of head, they're about 34mm. The others are about 27mm foot to eye and maybe 30mm to top of head. Plus the bulk is much greater. They're substantial figures. If you're familiar with Monolith/Graven Images/Timeline/Hoka Hey, they're about the same degree of size and heft.

    I expect the Dean book to arrive today. I'll let you know what I think.

    I have Yadin's two volumes. They're well worth the investment. His work is a little dated because it was based on the state of knowledge ca. 1960s. However, the work is thorough and informative.

  6. Very thoughtful post once again, David! Your Sumerian warband/retinue looks like something I may have to "unleash" my Mycenaeans against. Very impressive lineage you have - connected with the early history and warfare at that! I never had the honor/pleasure of meeting Phil. I can imagine your emotions when visiting his former lair. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. Oh, and a most appropriate Psalm passage.

  7. Nice eclectic post! I like the look of your new Egyptians, they look very nice. The French Indian wars isn't something I've really been interested,I do like it when you get a buzz on a project and start reading around it and collecting figures,I find the autumn somewhat melancholic as it is the anniversary of the death of both my parents and my mother in law ,its a reminder of the transience of our existence but also a reminder to enjoy it!
    Best Iain

  8. David, your piece on your friend and his wife, Karen was, in my very humble opinion, just excellent...I read it to Julie and when I finished we both were in tears...Bravo Zulu my friend and thanks for the link...I'm going to be a new fan!

  9. That Egyptian book looks worth a read. Will get a copy. I am pleased to hear and see TMC are nice big sculpts. Time for me to let go of Foundry NKE as gold standard. Bigger sculpts look so good painted up.

    1. I have enough Foundry figures for a NKE army in Chariots Rampant. Their line is good for early NKE; I especially like the early chariots with the fully armored bowman and the four-spoked wheels. But the molds seem to be a bit worn. There was a lot of cleaning needed. They are nice figures, though.