Friday, June 24, 2011

Thinking about new rules...

Despite not posting much lately I have been able to get some more painting done of late.  The Argentinean office is up and running and staffed (entirely with attractive young ladies, we have to admit) and a last minute project (in Kursk!) has been dealt with.  Fortunately, I haven't had to travel to any of these far flung places and, anyway, my colleague has been stuck in Buenos Aires now for over three weeks because of the Chilean volcano. 

I haven't quite taken a rest from  Darkest Africa as I finished a unit of Zulus which had been hanging around for far too long and have nearly finished a cannon and crew for my Zambezi campaign.  It's that time of year when I have to start thinking about what figures to take down to Cowes for the summer.  This year my wife and daughter have to go back to London for a week as Charlotte, who wants to be a rocket scientist (literally), has got on a space course run by Imperial College and NASA.  The opportunity to develop experiments for the International Space Station working with real astronauts is too much to pass up, despite it being right in the middle of our holiday.  This means that Guy and I have five days when we can run riot and do all the things we aren't usually allowed to do (like drinking rum and having cooked breakfasts at Eegons cafe).  So, hopefully I will have more time to paint for a few days anyway.  I will probably take down some more Darkest Africa Arabs to do so will not do any more of them for a month.  We got the work finished on the front of the house in Cowes (a whole lot of tiles fell off the winter before last and we had terrible problems with the council about the type of tiles and sort of mortar we were allowed to use to replace them as it is a listed building) so it should be brighter without the scaffolding we had last year.

Recently I bought the Hail Caesar rules and have heard good things about them.  Likewise, I have been looking through Black Powder as well.  Basically I bought both sets for the pictures but, at the back of my mind, I was thinking about moving away from Warhammer Historical which, certainly for Ancients, I have been unhappy with.  Now, given that I enjoy painting more than gaming I want rules that make my figures look good and my principal problem with WAB is that (at least under the first edition) ranks are important which makes my Romans look wrong; I want them in two long ranks not a square block.  From this point of view alone Hail Caesar looks better. 

My biggest problem with most rule sets is that they require element basing.  I hate element basing; I like my soldiers to be based as individuals so that is a big advantage of the new Warlord Games sets. I can't stand it when I am playing someone at Guildford and they have all their figures on bases of six and can't remove individual casulaties so have to use dice to record casualties.  Totally irrational, I know, but that's the way it is! 

I was also interested in the write up (well, actually, really what they used to call an advertising feature) of Clash of Empires in this month's Wargames Illustrated as they sound quite good too.  Maybe I'll see if they have them next time I am in Orc's Nest.
Now the problem with both Hail Caesar and Black Powder is that they contemplate big armies of big units which isn't ideal for someone who only gets six figures painted a week at best.  Nevertheless, I was inspired by the Greek Hoplite battle in Hail Caesar and so have started a few more Immortal plastic figures. There is much to admire in these figures (shield detail, spears, proportions) but there are also some significant things I don't like about them (the way the sword scabbards fit (or don't) and, particularly, the handling of the pteruges which are depicted as long trapezoids in shape rather than as oblong strips) but en masse I suspect they will be fine. 

Other than Ancient Greeks I sat down and painted some more Perry Napoleonic Dutch (27th Jaegers). The only Napoleonic rules I have are the old Charles Grant ones that first appeared in Military Modelling in the seventies. These suggest 48 man units!  Black Powder split foot units into Standard (24 to 30 figures), Large (36-40), Small (12-16) and Tiny (5-6).  They give suggestions for unit sizes with "standard" equating to between 24 and 30 figures.  Still large-ish but not out of the question.  The problem is that if I look at the battle I am contemplating for my Napoleonic figures (Quatre Bras) then if you take the "standard" unit as the battalion you have numbers ranging from just over 400 to over 1000 men.  Given the broad banding of the unit sizes and the fact that "standard" units are what you are supposed to have most of then you get a problem with the French, most of whose battalions would fall under the "small" definition but they obviously controlled two or three battalions as one regimental unit.  This is important for things like forming column where, under the rules, a unit must be the same depth (or more) as it is wide.  Questions arise like: if I have three small battalions from one regiment can I use their total complement to form one column or does each battalion (which could be only 12 figures) have to be a column of 3 by 4?  If the answer is to have regimental, rather than battalion sized units then most of the French would become "large" units, again conflicting with the fact that most units should be "standard" sized.

All this was provoked by my Dutch Belgian Jaegers who, at nearly 800 men were one of the biggest units at Quatre Bras.  However, If I make them a small "large unit" (36 figures: 6 companies of 6) then they are far too close in size to, say, the Coldstream Guards at 1,050 who would be only 10% more figures (at 40 figures) but were actually 20% larger as a unit. If I decide to make the jaegers a "standard unit" they should be at the top end of that (30 figures) but then they don't rank up as neatly as 24 figures (6 companies of 4) which would then be on the bottom of the "standard" as opposed to the top end.  This all may seem boringly irrelevant but it makes a big difference as to how many I paint as can be seen from what I have done so far.  At six figure companies I have only finished two and a bit companies whereas with four figure companies I have nearly finished four companies.   Maybe the 30 figure unit is best....

Oh well, my next figures are still en route from Perry Miniatures so I have time to think about it yet, I suppose.  Maybe I should take some Perry plastic French down to Cowes instead.  I had lunch with one of my European lady friends last week and B is the only woman I have met who can discuss wargaming sensibly (she comes from a German military family).  Her view was that anyone wanting to wargame seriously should really only play Napoleonics as everything else is just "not Napoleonic".  Rather in the way that at Lloyd's of London insurance is referred to as "Marine" and "Non-Marine".  Basically, marine is what it is about but they have to grudgingly acknowledge that other stuff too.  I sort of have some sympathy for this view but my army building is basically based on what is the smallest army I can get away with; which is certainly not Napoleonics (but does explain why I like Spartans!). When she discovered that the Perries were now producing Prussians she couldn't understand my problem.  "But, of course, all is clear and you should just paint Prussians!"   She actually tried to get me to go to Orc's Nest to buy some Perry plastics but I resisted and had another Grappa instead

Oh well, a busy weekend (with Charlotte and Guy variously running, dancing, shooting and rowing) with not much chance to paint, unfortunately, but I hope to move my Darkest Africa cannon on a bit at least and maybe finish a couple more Spartans.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Citadel Finecast

TMP has been awash with (mainly negative) comments about Games Workshop's replacment of metal figures with resin.  GW's line (naturally) is that this is a huge step forward in the production of model miniatures which have superior detail and are closer to the original master than metals.  The naysayers say that everyone they know has had to take their models back as they were pitted, broken or warped.  One story relates how some of the figures actually melted in the window of Games Workshop in Bath.

Well, I was in Oxford Street today and so decided to pop into their shop there and have a look.  They had a Finecast set of the Fellowship of the Ring on display so I had a close look at them.  I have some (but not all) of these figures and had painted one or two so knew them quite well.  The figures in this box set are not the same as the original box set but I will examine that issue more closely on my Lord of the Rings blog in a day or two.

The figures come in a box with the notorious plastic "clamshell" inside.  There is no protection or padding for the figures at all they just rattle around in the box.   The figures are attached to a sprue and I gather that you need to be careful in removing them from this so I will break out a new craft knife and have a go tomorrow when I haven't had a bottle of Frascati for lunch!

There was no sign on any of the figures of the pits or bubbles.  The chap in the shop said that quite a few did get through like that because their quality control people weren't looking that closely for pits as this isn't an issue with metals.  They have now been re-trained (all very Soviet, no doubt).  There was, however, some flash on some of the figures so I will have to see how easy that is to remove.  The resin itself feels like...well, exactly like hard plastic actually.  It is certainly nothing like the stuff that Grand Manner et al use for scenery or even the resin lady pirate I picked up from Black Scorpion at Salute which was very brittle ( I broke her sword off very quickly).  I say it is like hard plastic but then again it has a sort of soft plastic texture and is matt in finish rather than shiny like other hard plastic.  If I didn't know better and someone handed me one I would have said plastic for sure.  I have flexed some of the weapons (not too much!) and they have a fair amount of give; I would say that there is no immediate chance of breaking a sword off these.  In fact the only issue I can see is the soft plastic-type paint flaking on bendy swords and what not.  I'm not sure how the new resin will deal with spears, for example. Some people on TMP have said that if you drop a figure it would shatter which just shows they haven't touched one.  I would say that they would be about the same as a plastic figure with, I suspect, more strength in the delicate bits than plastic.

So what about GW's claims that the detail on the figures is better?  Do you know what?  It is!  Quite noticeably sharper than the metals I have.   The light isn't very good this evening so my pictures aren't brilliant but I was convinced enough to fork out £37 for the set.  How this detail will look after several coats of Humbrol enamel is a good question, however, so I plan to paint Gandalf over the weekend.

GW have already removed all metal figures from their shops (you can still get them but only on the website) so the stores now only sell plastics and finecast figures.  Is this the future for wargaming figures?  I'm not sure what sort of set up costs were involved, which GW can afford and smaller one man firms couldn't so whether any other manufacturer goes down this route may be doubtful. 

I was actually thinking, the other day, "I must order some more LotR metal characters before they are replaced by this horrible Finecast stuff" and now I am thinking "I'll wait to get them until they are out in Finecast".  So, I am convinced but no doubt the naysayers will continue on the basis that wargames figures should be made of metal, full stop (a view I have some sympathy with!). 

Oh, and I went into GW before lunch and the Frascati!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Workbench and a Dunkirk little ship

The workbench today

I haven't had a chance to post for over a month due to various things taking my time (working on the company website, hiring some staff in Argentina, getting a report done for a new Russian client etc). In addition I have foolishly entered not only a 25 mile off-road charity bike ride this month but a 5km running race in September, so felt I ought to do some training! I managed a 17.5 mile bike ride over the bank holiday and one 20 minute run: but the latter is the furthest I have run for about five years. The days when I ran the Westminster City Mile in four minutes 50 seconds seem like a very, very long time ago (as, indeed, they are).  I've also had some problems with Blogger caused by moving onto a new version of Internet Explorer but these have at last been remedied thanks to changing my compatability settings.

Charlotte with the pinnace MB 278

My father in law ran another Rolls-Royce rally in support of the Dunkirk Little Ships and we got half a dozen of them to the river at Runnymede. This one, MB 278, was originally a steam powered naval pinnace built in 1914 by William White & Sons of Cowes, coincidentally. Cowes was a good sized naval shipbuilding establishment for many years. The MB 278 was used by HMS Sir John Moore, HMS Raglan, HMS Iron Duke, HMS Barham, HMS Resolution, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Erebus from whom she sailed to pick up troops at Dunkirk.

HMS Erebus in 1944

HMS Erebus was a 15" gun monitor built at Harland & Wolf in 1915. Later she was stationed with US ships to bombard Utah beach before the D-Day landings. During her pick-ups from Dunkirk MB 278 was machine gunned. Although she has recently been re-fitted the new owner left an unrestored panel inside to show where the bullet holes had been filled.

Filled bullet holes in the cabin

I have started a little painting again over the last week.  Having painted my British Darkest Africa force and my first unit of Wangwana Arabs I needed a break from Darkest Africa so decided to finish off a unit of Zulus I started ages ago (OK, not much of a break from Africa!). These are mostly Empress Miniatures figures and they are horrible to paint due to their awful anatomy - the British are so lovely in comparison. I like the look of the new Warlord Empress plastics, however, so won't be buying any more Empress metals, although I still have a couple of dozen more to paint.

I have started a couple more Arab units for the Zambezi campaign: more Wangwana and a cannon and crew but it will be about a month until these are finished.  Also on the workbench are my (or technically Guy's) first Warhammer 40,000 figures: some Imperial guard.  These are very easy to paint so I may finish these sooner rather than later.  I am also building a Warhammer tank!  I am still working on a few Black Scorpion lady pirates and a couple more ladies for Darkest Africa.  Somehow a female Argonaut (must be Atalanta) has crept in there too from my "to finish" pile.

Finally, I picked up the Hail, Caesar rules from Orc's Nest last week and was inspired by one of the scenarios to paint a few more Ancient Greeks, so have started on a mixture of Immortal Miniatures plastics and Gorgon Studios (ex Artizan) Spartans.  I usually find Greeks fairly quick to paint (unlike Zulus!) so hope these will get finished in the next few weeks.  All I have to do is avoid the looming foreign trip at the end of the month.