Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yippee Ki Yi Yay!

Well, I've been dropping hints for some months now that I'm working on an Old Western project. I've been wanting to do a 19th century skirmish wargame for a long time now. I considered the British colonial wars, especially the Zulu War, having fond memories of playing the Sword and the Flame a few decades ago. I thought maybe the American Civil War, the Boxer Rebellion, and even the Napoleonic era (there's a well-reviewed set of rules called Sharp Practice). But, shoot, I'm an American, and though I'm East Coast elite through and through, the Old West still looms large in my cultural imagination. I grew up watching The Magnificent Seven, High Noon, and Rio Bravo on UHF. So Old West it was going to be.

I looked at about a half dozen rules sets. "Gutshot" and "Cowboy Wars" both had a lot to recommend it. But I was looking for simple, fast, and bloody. Fortunately, I picked up a copy of "Fistful of Lead" at Historicon. The rules cover about four pages, they use a deck of playing cards, and they look like fun. Boom. All three of my criteria met. I'm thinking about some house rules (like holding an action and giving gunfighters different ratings for Shootin', Fightin' and Guts), but I don't want to lose too much of the elegant simplicity.

I found a sheet of insulating foam about 8'x2' in the trash of a construction site. Using a foam cutter I sculpted some hills, painted everything light brown, then scattered sand into the wet paint. Total cost so far, about $1 for craft store acrylic paint. The sand I got from my daughter's shoes. She brings home a fistful of sand after school every day. I've been saving it.

I picked up three resin buildings from the Old Glory booth at Historicon. With my 40% discount, all three wound up being $42. I then sculpted two more houses out of balsa wood, foam core, and Starbucks coffee stirrers. I also made some adobe huts out of foamcore ($1 a sheet at the Dollar Store) and bamboo skewers. Then, some cacti from Pegasus models and I'm ready to go. Total cost, under $50.

The figures are all Old Glory. The Mexicans are Zapataistas, but they can double for banditos when they're in a less revolutionary mood. The gunfighters are also from the Old Glory "American Experience" line. It took a little practice to get back into painting 28mm figures after doing 10mm for so long. I'm working on my techniques for painting eyes, shading, and sculpting bases. I've even begun adding tufts of tall grass to some bases.

As always, click to enlarge the photos.

First, two long shots of the table.

Here is El Gato Gordo and his band of ruffians in the adobe village. One shot used the flash, the other didn't.

Here's a wide shot of the town.

Here's Clint and the Airedale Gang. If you've ever met an Airedale Terrier, you just know they're tough.

The building in the right foreground and the grey one with blue trim are my scratch-built houses.

My kids think the outhouse is funny.

Finally, we have Duke and the Scruffy Bunch. If one gang was going to be named after a former dog, then the other would have to be named after a former cat.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Old West houses

The Old West skirmish games at Historicon were inspiring, so I got off my duff and started painting up my Old Glory gunfighters and banditos. While I was at Historicon, I picked up some great resin southwestern buildings. However, to have a proper town, I decided to scratch-build some houses out of balsa. Here are the results of my first efforts. The house on the left is actually painted a weathered grey, but the digital photo rendered it light blue. I'm pretty happy with the results, though I will never use craft acrylics for anything other than a kid's poster. It took five coats to paint these guys, and some serious bracing efforts to prevent to wood from warping (you can see the roof on the left house has taken on a barn-like shape). The total cost of materials was less than $5 per house, and total time was about two and a half hours each from planning to the final touches of paint.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Miniature Wargames: Free!

So, if you're a wargamer like me, you're particularly fond of two things: free stuff (I'm off to Starbucks today to pick up some coffee stirrers for use as 28mm planking), and sources of inspiration. The folks at Miniature Wargames magazine, in an effort to get you to look at their pages, have asked bloggers like me to offer a link to a free sample issue. It's worth supporting publications like these, either through patronizing their advertisers or through a direct subscription, because they help those of us in the hobby connect with each other and with the manufacturers and merchandisers we depend on.

So give them a click. The free issue is on the left.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

10mm Medievals assemble!

Historicon inspired me to pick up the pace of painting once again. I completed my third batch of 10mm medievals, enough for a good-sized rumble in Impetus. I still have two more batches to go before I make it a club game. But since I'm taking a detour to the Old West, I thought I would post pictures of what I have at the moment.

As always, click to enlarge.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Historicon: Borodino

This is my last installment from Historicon. My final game a Borodino scenario was run by Tod Kershner. I was drawn by the idea of a (nearly) all-cavalry engagement in the Napoleonic Wars. This particular engagement was a moment at Borodino where several Russian cavalry divisions tried to retake the fleches captured by the French.

Below is my command. The Russian Dragoons on the right flank. Imagine my surprise and horror when I saw the French player maneuver two divisions to counter me. Fortunately, he ran into traffic problems, and my position became something of a trap for the French as I brought my artillery to bear.

Here are the lovely lancers who were the first into the meat grinder. By the time they regrouped, we were at the fleches.

And some French heavies from the other side of the battlefield. Over there, it was less about maneuvering and more about a massive and bloody scrum.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Historicon: Battle of Ruschuk

Here are some photos of a game I played in on Saturday: The Battle of Ruschuk. This little scrap too place in 1811, between the Turks and the Russians. It is an aspect of the Napoleonic wars I know nothing about. The Turks basically came to the battle with a medieval army, a really big medieval army. The Russias found themselves heavily outnumbered by an army of significantly poor quality. You know, the role they usually play.

The battle was fought with 28mm soldiers using Shako II rules. I'm new to Shako, but they were easy enough to pick up. I learned how devastating artillery can be to densely packed units. On the whole, though, the rules came easily and the game moved along swiftly. We pretty much cleared this table of lead in under four hours.

Anyhow, the Turks began the battle with an insane amount of cavalry. Mind you, they were going up against Russians already formed into squares, so they didn't last long. In fact, after turn 4, the only Turkish equine left on the battlefield was the donkey pulling our baggage train...!

The Turkish infantry had a tough slog then into the Russian lines without much cavalry support. In retrospect, we should have coordinated our assault better, holding the cav back for two turns or so. Then our problem would likely have been crowd control.

Anyhow, the Turks marched to the slaughter, and it looked like it was a hopeless cause until we got to the inevitable "Well what would have happened if we played on" stage of the game. Based on the outcome of a few hypothetical dice rolls, the Russian center would have collapsed and we would have ended up achieving our main objective! Crazy.

Anyhow, a big thanks to Dave Reiners and his friends for setting this one up. The figures were gorgeous, the scenario was challenging for both sides, and I had a blast.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Historicon: Gnome Wars

My favorite table at Historicon was the setup by Miniature Building Authority for their Gnome Wars series of games. Despite the silly premise, this table was spectacular.

The centerpiece of the table was this castle, which must have measured 4' in diameter, standing close to 3' above the table.

Bunny cav!

More historicon eye candy

The theme of this year's Historicon was "Brother against Brother," so the American Civil War was well-represented.
Downtown Mogadishu, for a "Black Hawk Down" scenario.

WWII in the desert. From the look of it, Flames of War is huge, but competing rulesets do not appear to be going anywhere.

I thought this Egyptian tomb was gorgeous, and the award in the upper right hand corner suggest that the judges thought so, too.

This setup for the battle of Chattanooga (in 10mm, my favorite scale) was huge, covering at least 30 feet end to end. That's Lookout Mountain in the distance.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Historicon Photos

Here's a few shots of Historicon, the larges Historical Miniatures convention in the world, and it's practically in my back yard (at the King of Prussia Convention Center). The crowd was largely old, white, portly, and male, but there was enough diversity in all categories to satisfy me that the hobby is moving past its old stereotypes.

I've been starting up some 25mm Old West Figures, and I found the following game table inspiring. It was over 20' long, with sectors covering an Old West town, a prospectors camp, a rocky mountain, a sandstone desert, and a southwestern Mission settlement. Got me psyched to buy my first Western Buildings from the nice people at Old Glory.

One of the coolest setups I saw, a highly detailed rendering of the landing beaches and trenches at Gallipoli. Made you feel sorry for any ANZAC confronted with it.

More eye candy to come soon!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Off to Historicon


Yep, that's a banner for Historicon to the left (designed by none other than John Kovalic). That's where I'm going to be tomorrow, my first gaming convention in over a decade. I'll be sure to post lots of pictures of miniatures goodness!