Monday, July 4, 2022

Stranger things

The Stranger, long one of Seattle's more colorful weeklies (the other one being Seattle Weekly, which was never colorful at all) started publication in September, 1991, not long before I started working at Aldus Corporation in Seattle's Pioneer Square. At the time, it was something my crüe at Aldus was enamored of, in no small part because it was produced using our software, Aldus PageMaker.

I bring up The Stranger now because it has actual relevance to my hobby. As a weekly (as of 2017, a bi-weekly), it appealed mostly to lefties, who were far less clever and cool than they assumed, and non-lefties like me, who had no illusions about being clever or cool, but who enjoyed reading an irreverent perspective on life, despite the paper's otherwise stale, predictable Maoist orthodoxy about pretty much everything. Even the irreverence grew old after a while (or maybe so doctrinaire and conformist that it was no longer irreverent), but I still grabbed a copy (sometimes two) from the box every week/other week. It was free and it made perfect fish-wrap, bird-cage liner, or, in my case, table covering for when I spray painted stuff and did other messy hobby things that involved splats and spills.

In March, 2020, The Stranger ceased producing a print copy due to the general shut down of all things because of COVID. They expected to be back and printing after a while, but it never happened. I don't know if it ever will. So much of The Stranger's revenue came from ads for all the venues in Seattle where people gathered cheek to jowl to drink, play, listen to music, etc. With all that activity stifled, there was no point in advertising. No adverts, no income. No income, no print edition. No print edition, nothing for me to spill on. Now that gathering in close proximity has returned to The Emerald City, The Stranger remains online only. 

I had a stack going back years, but I'm almost at the end of it. At one time, I was throwing out stacks of it because I went through far less than one full edition a week and I assumed the supply would never end. Silly me. In no time, assuming I'm actually busy hobbying, I'll have nothing left. I feel a bit like sitting in a toilet stall and realizing there's no bog roll.

I'm not sure what to do. I can't use my hand. I haven't really looked for alternatives. I don't know if the Seattle Weekly is even around anymore—or if they have a print edition. I should probably start saving the newsprint advert thingummies that appear in my mailbox. They typically run several pages, which may be enough to go on with. They're not as big as a two-page spread from The Stranger, but probably every bit as absorbent. They're also free. Indeed, I can't seem to stop them from showing up.


To be fair, The Stranger had more going for it than irreverence and Maoist screed. It was a pretty good place to find out what was going on in the city. For the nine years that I lived in Seattle, it was useful for planning weekend activities. Since moving up to beautiful, formerly-bucolic Lynnwood, I've been less inclined to venture into the city—at least not deep into the city; I'm all over going to The Pacific Inn and Eltana Bagels in Fremont. I don't think I've been to Pioneer Square for more than a decade, certainly not since the viaduct was torn down. I can't recall when I was last on Capitol Hill or Queen Anne. However, my neighborhood Whole Foods had a Stranger box from which I drew my supply until it was empty and then they removed it. Sic transit gloria mundi.

1914 and all that

A few years back when Great Escape Games' 1914 rules came out, I bought a copy expecting that I'd use Peter Pig's 15mm WW1 minis for it. I've been interested in gaming the first months of WW1 for a long time now. 30+ years ago, I bought of copy of Fred Haube and Terry Sirk's self-published rules Great War.

I liked the rules and started painting Peter Pig minis for it, but it eventually fizzled. There was no one else interested and other projects drew me away—as is invariably true. I kept the rules for a long time until someone from Italy implored me to sell it to him. I did, for cheap. I figured I'd never use them and was happy to sell them if he wanted them so much. His biggest cost was the express postage to Italy (ouch, really, ouch). It's one of the few sales of my stuff that I've regretted. They're impossible to find now, but I know of someone in Italy who has a copy.

Getting back to 1914, my partners in crime for this project were going to use the 12mm figures that are available from Great Escape Games and Kallistra. That soured me on it. 12mm is an odd scale (it's actually N-Gauge, I think) and I was set on 15mm. I eventually (apparently) sold or gave away the rules (or maybe not—at least I can't find them anywhere).

Rebirth of a project

Fast forward to Enfilade! 2022 in May. I was hosting a What a Tanker! game just opposite a seller who had a lot of Great Escape Games products for sale. I looked at some boxed 1914 minis (German jägers) and looked some more until I convinced myself to go for it. I figured they'd be quick to paint. I also bought a German brigade pack. And then I bought some German command tokens. I don't recall if he had the rules, but in any case, I assumed I still had my copy (and may still for all I know; the depths of Stately Chez Dave are murkier than one can imagine and like the bodies from old Vegas mob hits that are showing up as Lake Mead recedes, things you thought would never be found suddenly are).

After the convention, I ordered more minis (Germans and Belgians) and the rules (after several fruitless searches of the murkier parts of Stately Chez Dave in beautiful, formerly-bucolic Lynnwood) from Great Escape Games in the UK (not to be confused with any like-named stores in the US).

When I looked and looked at the minis at Enfilade!, I figured I could churn them out quickly because they require almost no detail at all. I originally thought of starting with an overall coat of the base uniform color (Howard Hue's Field Gray) and just daubing in the details followed by a wash. That's not quite how I did them, but near enough. They do paint quickly and after the first batch, I have it down to a science. I find that I can do the basic painting of a full unit in a day of intermittent painting, then a spritz of clear satin enamel, a wash with Army Painter Strong Tone, a spritz of Krylon Crystal Clear Matte, et voilá!

At first, I thought about cutting out plastic bases (my go-to for most projects), but then convinced myself to use Litko bases. I have a huge box of various unused Litko bases in my garage; it's quite scary. I expect they'll remain unused for a long time. I found several 25mm x 50mm bases, which is what the rules call for. I've used those for the infantry and dismounted cavalry. The Machine guns I've mounted on 25mm x 30mm bases; the models are a bit long and hang over the 25mm square base. The horsed cavalry I'm mounting on 30mm x 50mm bases. I want the extra depth, it just looks better and you can stagger the figures a bit more when you base them.

Basing saga

I needed more bases, so I ordered some 25mm x 50mm and 30mm x 50mm from Litko. I thought I'd have them quickly, but delays at Litko and my great nemesis FedEx intervened. Litko shipped the ordered after a two-week lead time. They were supposed to arrive 2-Day Air, which they did—at the facility in Everett, WA. FedEx kept saying they were out for delivery, but they never got delivered. My first clue of trouble was when the notice said the package would be delivered by 8:00 pm. When FedEx says they'll deliver by 8:00 pm, they mean "you'll get it when you get it, and maybe not even then." 

Long story short: I wound up picking them up on Saturday, four days after they were due to be delivered, at the FedEx facility, where I waited about 40 minutes until they found it in the deeper depths of the warehouse. Until I had them in hand, I didn't believe I ever would. 

I got home and immediately started basing my uhlans and brigade command stand. They'd been waiting so long for it.

The cast of characters expands

I mentioned partners in crime earlier. Mike Lombardy was one of them. He proceeded to work on a French army. The other partner in crime played the rules once and decided he didn't like them. That left Mike with a lot of Frenchmen and no one to fight. However, it turns out that Bill Stewart and Eric Donaldson also got the rules. However, rather than use the Great Escape Games (GEG) figures, they used Kallistra. They also decided to put five infantry figures on a base instead of the four called for in the rules. Since the number of figures on the base doesn't affect game play, it doesn't matter, only the base size does. I'm doing the same with the GEG figures, which requires buying extra packs; the standard battalion packs come with 16 figures and an MG; the cavalry regiments come with 12 figures (mounted and dismounted) and an MG.

Wanting a bit more variety in poses than the GEG figures provide, I thought I'd buy some Kallistra figures to mix in. Turns out they don't mix. The GEG figures are a bit taller and a bit bulkier. Think of them as 'heroic 12s', which it turns out, is basically classic, 'true' 15s. I haven't compared, but I've read online that GEG 12s compare very well in size to the old Minifigs 15mm line (which is apparently still available from Minifigs, but that's deceptive. I've found it impossible to get anything from Minfigs, so basically, not available.) 

Having bought a pile of Kallistra Germans and Belgians, but having nothing to do with them, I thought I'd reach out and get someone else hooked. Dave Schueler, Kevin Smyth, and I met to play a Mexican-American War game using Rebels and Patriots (much fun; I'll post eventually, maybe). I brought my Kallistra figs and left without them. That got Dave hooked.

I thought Kevin would be a shoe-in for this project. His grandfather was an Old Contemptible and served in the Royal Artillery from Mons to the end. (Just before the war, he transferred into the RA from the Royal Munster Fusiliers, who were badly mauled in their heroic rear-guard stand at Mons.)

However, Kevin remained aloof until just this weekend, when he bought an English force from GEG. He's planning on adding to it a battery of 4.5" howitzers from Kallistra because those are the guns his grandfather served. GEG only produces field guns and BIG guns like the British 8-inch howitzer (which didn't actually see service until 1915) and the German Big Bertha (I see a battery of those coming, eventually).

The medium-large guns like the 4.5" howitzer and the German 105 are sadly left out of GEG's product line.

Eric who is painting Russians, was feeling a bit over-matched by all of Bill's and my Germans, so I made an order to Kallistra and soon I'll be painting Russians too.

Progress so far

As I assumed, painting these minis is pretty quick, which is good because you need a lot of 'em. At this point, I have the following painted:

  • 40 x German line infantry (2 battalions)
  • 20 x German jägers (1 battalion)
  • 2 x German 77mm field guns (1 battery)
  • 16 x mounted/16 x dismounted German uhlans (1 regiment)
  • 1 x command stand
  • 7 x line infantry MGs
  • 2 x jäger MGs

I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. They look good if you don't look too closely. 

I still have four more infantry battalions, another battery, another command stand, and another cavalry regiment to go. Two of the infantry units are already in progress. I expect that within a week or so, I'll have the Germans done. The whole force, assuming I don't later expand, will be two brigades:

Infantry brigade (318 points)
  • 6 x infantry battalion
  • 6 x MGs
  • 1 x battery
Cavalry brigade (188 points)
  • 2 x cavalry regiment
  • 1 x jäger battalion (elite)
  • 3 x MGs
  • 1 x battery
Still to come are Belgians and Russians. Also, I'll post a review of the 1914 rules at some point as well as a review of the two figure ranges.