Monday, March 29, 2010

Hotlead 2010

Vidal and I made the trek to Stratford on Saturday for Hotlead 2010. This is a great 2 1/2 day regional convention held annually and nicely book-ends Migscon in Hamilton in the fall. Saturday was a beautiful day in Southern Ontario despite being inside with the great unwashed masses. My comments about dress and deportment at conventions in a previous post were not particularly relevant for Hotlead. Not sure why (?).

I have to give kudos to James Manto and his convention staff for what seemed, from a punter's viewpoint, a well-run show. The convention hall was bustling for most of the day on Saturday with a good variety of games. The general aesthetic quality level of the games was well above that of the last few "big" conventions I've attended in the states. As I've mentioned before, the quality level of games at Historicon et al seems to have dropped quite a bit the last few years. Not so at Hotlead, I was happy to see. I've included a few random Crackberry photos below, so picture quality is not the best.

15mm Gaugamela. A very impressive game. The terrain was relatively boring (as it was historically, if I remember rightly) but hundreds of well-painted miniatures made up for that.

28mm Seven Years War in India using Age of Reason rules. Not a genre normally seen at conventions and more impressive because of that.

Not every game has artillery towed by elephants!

Or artillery mounted on a massive ox-cart!

As for shopping, Vidal and I picked up our Perry Miniatures Carlist Wars order from Terry and North Bay Games & Hobbies. If you haven't used Terry as a gaming resource, I heartily encourage you do so. He always responds quickly to orders and enquiries and his shipping rates in Canada are fantastic! I now have some Carlist infantry and cavalry to boost Vidal's army numbers.

I also picked up a Wings of War observation balloon from The Hobby Kingdom. This is a new product that I've been looking forward to for some time. My daughter Diana and I play WoW at home and sometimes at the club; much to my wife's chagrin, I seem to have roped a third child into the hobby (apparently, it's OK to have our sons play wargames but not a daughter). Of course, we had to put the new balloon on the table the next day and try it out. For a non-moving large object, it's actually quite difficult to shoot down.

A rocket-armed Nieuport 16 trying to shoot down a balloon while evading a following Albatross DIII.

You can see one of the nice WoW game mats in these photos. They fit nicely on a kitchen table and give enough room to fight with 4-6 planes. WoW games with one plane per side take about 1/2 hour to play. Easy set-up and tear down, quick games, and no painting involved! My kinda' gaming project!

Friday, March 26, 2010

FCW: British Auxiliary Legion

Phew! Made it just under the wire!

I'm off to Hotlead in Stratford tomorrow and I was able to finish up the last of my First Carlist Wars figures today. Several weeks ago I made an order with Terry at North Bay Games & Hobbies for some more Perry Carlist Wars figures for pickup at the convention tomorrow. At the same time, I had a thought that it would be nice to finish up any figures left in my boxes before I picked up the new order. I hesitated to make any sort of commitment, cuz I'm a guy and we're notoriously bad at the commitment thing (as I've been repeatedly told).

Anyway, a bit of a painting binge this week saw the completion today of a 27 figure unit of British Auxiliary Legion infantry. These figures represent the 9th "Irish Grenadiers" Battalion that fought in Spain. There are 24 musketeers (of which 18 are centre company-men and six, with the green plumes, are from the light company) and three command. For Sharp Practice, this will give me four "groups" of six figures each, commanded by a Big Man with musician and standard bearer. These figures bring my Isabellino army total past the century mark to 120 figures. Eventually I'll have a nice tidy Foreign Brigade for my army when I add some British rifles, lancers and artillery to the already finished BAL infantry and the French Foreign Legion. For a some good info about the BAL in the FCW, look here.

9th "Irish Grenadiers" Battalion.
Apologies for the unfocused left side of the photo. I've yet to master the wider shots with my camera.

I decided to paint these figures with the British winter trousers in blue-grey. I mixed in some browns for variety and when this is combined with the mix of headgear (shakoes and forage caps), there results a nice campaign look. The officer is dressed in the typical officer's blue-grey frock coat.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spanish buildings...addition

I've had in my collection for years a very nice 28mm scale church model that I received for a song from a friend. I don't recall the manufacturer. Maybe someone looking at the pictures below could enlighten me (or re-enlighten me, actually). Perhaps HG Walls? The basic resin model is approximately 30cm x 15cm x 35cm high (that's 12" x 6" x 14" for the metrically challenged). It's quite a lovely model with fine detail and designed for pretty much any non-Spanish, non-Italian setting (although it could fit into the latter in a pinch). The roof lifts off and the spire comes in three pieces that fit neatly on top of one another (great places for snipers to hide out). When I first acquired the bare model, it was a stand alone piece with no courtyard and no interior detail. I added the courtyard and mausolea such that the whole thing is one piece on a solid base. You can see here that I painted it for a generic European setting. The mausolea, by the way, are from another forgotten manufacturer (someone help me out here too?). They are the only thing about the base that is not scratch-built.

After a number of years of solid service with my 28mm WWII skirmish collection (long-since disposed of) and some limited service with my Napoleonic project (more as a backdrop), it has sat gathering dust in a corner. I decided to resurrect it for my skirmish Carlist Wars project after completing my latest batch of Spanish buildings. But it needed a makeover to have it fit in with the Spanish theme. First to go was the spire top, to be replaced with a scratch-built tiled version. Next, I altered the look of the courtyard wall by segregating it into tiles with a sharp knife to more closely match the tiles I used in some of my previous Spanish walls. Last was a complete re-paint to bring it closer in colour theme to my other Spanish buildings.

I think this church will make a nice center-point to my new Spanish village. Something for Vidal's cowardly Carlist priests to hide their gold in! And for my valiant defenders of the rightful heir to loot and burn!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spanish Buildings...reprise

I've finally finished a project I first posted here in September of last year. These Spanish buildings have been sitting beside my painting desk on my project table since then. As can be seen in the previous post here, assembling these resin kits was fairly easy.

To quote myself from the previous post: "I design my bases to hold four 50mm x 50mm figure bases, since my entire Napoleonic collection is mounted on these. When we use Field of Battle rules, one unit may occupy a structure (meant to represent a built up area, city block, or building complex), and having bases that each neatly fit one unit eliminates any ambiguities about what is and isn't in the buildings. The models were glued to the bases with No More Nails. I plan to add extra walls and fences to the bases to add some variety."

Unfortunately, that's as far I had gone until the last couple of weeks. My latest painting of Carlist Wars figures has prompted me to finish up these lovely buildings and I'm quite pleased with the results.

I've added some before and after comparison shots below.

This is a small stable with removable roof. I have added some cobblestones to the yard and fences to surround it.

A small house or shack, again with a removable roof. The walls were scratch-built and topped with tiles that come in large plastic sheets.

Another small house, this time two-story with removable roof. This one has received a high wall to partially surround the yard.

This will be the centerpiece of my little Spanish village. The building itself is two stories, although I made only the lower roof removable. Unfortunately, Brigade Games was out of the gate section at Historicon so I was forced to scratch-build a gate to the yard.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cold Wars 2010

I returned Sunday night from Cold Wars, tired and glad to be home. As much as I enjoy being away and seeing friends, it's always good to be home. I had left Lancaster at 1400h on Sunday, expecting to arrive in Bramptonia around 2130h-2200h. An hour into the drive, I was falling asleep at the wheel and pulled over for a half hour nap in a rest stop. I woke two and half hours later and my expected arrival time in Bramladesh moved to after midnight. Guess I was more tired than I thought. That's probably because Ken works me to the bone at the ATKM booth all weekend :) Running demo games and talking with gamers all day can be exhausting! No really!

Enough about my was the show, you ask? The best part was working with Ken and meeting up with Bob and Matt Lehman from Ohio. The four of us have become good friends over the last couple of years and are a good example of the good things about this hobby. Even such a quirky hobby like this can bring together people from all over. Bob and Matt hail from Ohio and Ken from Atlanta (though I know his heart is still here in Leaf-land). The only time we see each other is at these conventions. This time around, as with previous outings, Bob hosted a large 54mm AWI game on Saturday night. Actually, it wasn't big at was massive! The table was 30' x 6' and had 900+ 54mm figures from Bob's and Ken's collections. We had 14 players and four game-masters! This was a spectacular game, as the photos below show.

This picture somehow doesn't quite convey the size of this game.

This shot shows some of Bob's wonderful terrain to great effect. In the foreground you can see the Hessian brigade moving out of a cornfield and in the background a fantastic one-piece artillery redoubt.

Another good shot of the cornfield before the Hessians moved forward to the American lines. The flags flying above the corn create a nice effect.

On the left can be seen a giant watermill spilling out into a small river. This river helped to divide the table into two more manageable sections.

Bob did a fantastic job with this game and he very rightly garnered a Pour Encourager Les Autres award from HMGS-E. You can see more pictures of the game here.

L to R: Bob Lehman (game host extraordinaire) holding his award; Ken Cliffe (proprietor of ATKM and one of the best in the hobby); Matt Lehman (loyal son and great friend); yours truly (proud to be with such great friends).

Now for my convention rant. This one has nothing to do with the current discussion about Historicon location or vendor booth costs (see here for a sample of that nonsense). No, my rant this time is about the dealers themselves. Nothing political here. Nothing controversial, but can the average vendor please look in a mirror before leaving the hotel room and making his way to the dealer hall? Notice I mentioned I said that with reference only to the masculine version of the convention dealer; women seem to have little problem with what I'm about to say. For goodness sake, is it too much too ask for a dealer to shave and put on some clean clothes? I'm not expecting freshly-pressed pants and shirt but are the faded, baggy, 1980s track pants the only option you brought in your suitcase/plastic bag? Track pants of any variety are so not what I need to see, especially if your belly is protruding from between them and the faded (often banally inscribed) t-shirt above. Go to the supermarket and pick up a razor and cream! And step over the parking lot to Wally-World and pick out a clean (and preferably blank) shirt that actually fits. But don't look at those track matter how much you think they make your Les Nessman glasses and Ron Jeremy moustache/chin grizzle contribute to your attractiveness in any way. Just because your clientele is fashion-challenged doesn't mean you need to follow suit! Oh yeah, I forgot. So many of the dealers at these major conventions are really gamers with a booth. But don't get me started on how gamers dress...geez, is it really necessary to be recognizable as a geek from a hundred meters away just cuz you are one? OK, rant over (or just postponed).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Painting Boom

Well, for me it's been a painting boom. I'm in one of my energetic painting phases and over the last two weeks I've finished some new Carlist Wars figures and something for my new 15mm SYW project. First up, the FCW. I've added another cavalry unit to my Isabellino (or government) army. I chose the later Christmas version of the light cavalry uniform, red and green. All of the government cavalry had been equipped with lances by 1835 but because I already have a heavy cavalry unit with lances, I decided to use the sword-armed light cavalry variants offered by the Perry brothers. This will hopefully provide a bit more variety in our games. You'll notice that the standard bearer has no standard. I'm in the process of ordering the flag from the brilliant Adolfo Ramos range.

Isabellino light cavalry.
Perry Miniatures.

Light cavalry with their 'heavy' brethren backing them up.

Second up are the first 15mm figures I've painted in at least ten years. I was once a fervent supporter of 15mm as the scale of choice for all gaming. I had an extensive (and I mean extensive) 15mm Napoleonic collection as well as a more modest Seven Years War project. But those were sold off years ago when I decided to move to the one true scale, 28mm. Recently, I've been persuaded to venture back into 15mm SYW to contribute to an ongoing club venture (see my previous post here). I ordered and received some Old Glory 15mm SYW French figures and promptly started experimenting with painting techniques. My over-riding objective here (besides creating an army, duh) was to find a satisfactory speed-painting technique. Ideally, this would allow me to pump out units at a fast rate with, at the very least, a moderate wargaming quality paint job. My first experiments were with white primer and a variety of washes. The majority of the uniforms in my French army will be white so this seemed a sensible beginning. After trying several different washes (including GW washes, watered down inks etc.), I found the best result was from Tamiya smoke, watered down 50-50. I've been using this mixture for years on my 28s for various purposes and it seemed to give a good effect on the 15mm white uniforms. Unfortunately, I found that when I began blocking in the other main colours (equipment, facing colours, etc) the white primer was not so conducive to my goal of speed-painting. I found that bocking in the colours with normal GW paint was quite time-consuming compared to my usual medium of choice, inks. I prefer to use inks whenever possible for two reasons. They tend to flow better than regular paints (such as GW or Vallejo) and they provide an illusion of depth to their finish that paints don't provide. Of course, I should point out that normally with a 28mm figure I do more than just slap on the inks:
  1. black prime
  2. dry-brush entire figure with medium grey
  3. dry-brush entire figure with white
  4. apply inks or washes
Now this is a simplified version but sets out the basics. The dry-brushing creates a ghost figure. When the inks or washes are applied over the dry-brushing, shading and depth are the result (if I'm ambitious, I'll post a series of photos laying out this technique). This sounds simple but in fact has taken several years to get a good handle on. Anyway, this is the technique I wanted to use with the 15mm SYW and a white primer just wasn't doing it for me. The reason I found was that over a white primer, inks tend not to cover properly and bubble and pool. Over a dry-brushed surface, they flow evenly and settle in the creases as expected. So, I switched to a black primer and the ghost technique and you can see the results below. Although they definitely aren't of museum quality, they meet my goals of a moderately good wargaming standard paint job. And the painting speed was up to snuff as well. Once I had figured out how I was going to do it, these 48 figures took only two evenings of 3 hours each to finish. And that included the basing!

Regiment du Roi in the foreground, Regiment Navarre to the rear.
Old Glory figures.