Friday, June 29, 2012

Bull to Bull Run...and more from North America

I just had my best weekend's painting for a long while and finished some more stuff from the workbench.  Firstly, this is one of Foundry's new Tribes of Legend's efforts: a bronze bull suitable for Jason and the Argonauts.  See more about it on my Argonautika blog.

Here, also, are my first 28mm American Civil War figures, which will represent the 4th Virginia regiment at Bull Run. I found these slightly easier to paint than most Perry figures with the various belts and straps rather more clearly sculpted than is sometimes the case (or maybe it's because they are less exaggerated than some other manufacturers).    Of course un-regimented looking regiments like this will always take more time to paint.  I haven't got any more line troops suitable for this unit to paint but have some command figures which I will gradually more along.  I'm just doing occasional bits on the various ACW units I have on the go at present when I need a change of pace.  What makes ACW units, of course, are flags and I don't have any yet.  I need to research who does good ones for the scale and the period  maybe someone out there knows! 

I've also started some more 18mm fantasy figures and am progressing on the Baluchi and Back of Beyond Bolsheviks too but don't have anything nearing completion yet.  Still, 34 figures this month which is the most I have completed in one month since March 2010 and is more than the total I managed between December 2011 and May 2012.

Earlier this week I popped in to Orc's Nest en route to the East India Club for lunch.   I wanted to find out when the Victrix plastic Athenian Hoplites are due in (hopefully next week) and I picked up the new (in English anyway) Muskets & Tomahawks rules by Studio Tomahawk, the people behind Saga.  Even though they are an older set of rules I think these look very good and seem quite simple but you can add layers of complexity in stages if you want; an approach that would have been welcome with Foundry's Tribes of Legend, for example.  You can have a game with, they claim, 30 figures a side, as little as 10,  but as many as 100.  I have pulled out half a dozen French and Indian war figures from Galloping Major to work on, as a result.  These are big figures and not as elegant as the Conquest Miniatures figures I have but should paint up OK.  More thoughts on the FIW and Muskets & Tomahawks another time, perhaps.

Some of my old Foundry mountain men

The rules would also work well for mountain men skirmishes which is another project where I have loads of unpainted figures.  In fact I have every figure Foundry produced for this characterful range.  I painted a few but they, like many of my other older models, will need a bit of touching up to bring them up to standard.

My Mexican force so far!

I don't know whether it's my recent trip to Boston but I seem fixated on North American wargaming at present and, going back to another range where I painted a few figures but haven't progressed much, I notice that Boot Hill Miniatures have released Mexican infantry in their (white) summer uniform.  I would really like to get some of these but need to finish a few more of the ones I have already, I think!

Finally, I am just finishing Agent of Rome: The Siege by Nick Brown.  It treads the Simon Scarrow path of Romans in the desert but is set a couple of hundred years later at the time of Queen Zenobia.  The book improved as it went on and the final battle scenes are well done, although he falls into the annoying trap of archers and slingers firing their weapons.  Grr!  Now, where is that unit of third century Romans I have undercoated?  

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Russians are Coming!

Well, there are many other figures I should be finishing off on the workbench at present but instead I have just completed these three Mark Copplestone Back of Beyond Bolsheviks.  Technically, the lady is a repaint as I first did her before I got my painting glasses and I realised that she was far too contrasty.  I have toned her down a bit, therefore.

The other two Russians weren't completed so I finished them off too.  The cause for all this Bolshevism is that I have been helping Guy revise the Russian revolution for his GCSE.  He asked if I had any figures for this period and, of course I did.  I have a reasonably complete Chinese warlord force for the Back of Beyond but they don't have any opponents.  I have started another unit of Bolsheviks, therefore.  Like all Copplestone figures they are easy to paint and not too complex as regards uniforms so I would like to get the unit finished this month.

I think this range was one of Mr Copplestone's best and I still have a fair few to paint.  I did play one game of Back of Beyond with my Chinese against someone else's Russians at Guildford a few years back.  You don't need a whole lot of figures for a good game so I will try and get another unit or two done as I know I have more soldiers in these peaked caps.  The other unit I am working on has the distinctive pointed caps.  The Russians switched to grey for their uniforms in 1922 but Back of Beyond has some non-historic aspects (or maybe it's alternative history) anyway, so I am keeping mine in khaki.

Monday, June 18, 2012

More 18mm Fantasy

 June 18th

Some people use a points system to keep track of how much they have painted and I can see the sense in this; as a horse and rider takes a lot more painting than a foot figure, for example.  My system is a very blunt instrument, however, and one piece gets 1 point whether it is one foot figure, a man on a horse or an artillery piece.  There is an argument, I suppose, for giving 15mm figures less points because they are smaller.  However, these Copplestone Castings fantasy figures take as much time to paint as 28mm figures I am finding.

June 5th

Here we have the next eight (after the seven I painted earlier) but I still have another nineteen to paint until I will get some more as I am rationing myself (unusually).  I took a picture of these when I first started to paint them so can tell that, rather surprisingly this picture was taken on 5th June which means I have finished them in less than two weeks.  This is especially good as I was in Boston for a week during that period and also finishing the Darkest Africa wangwana, standard bearer and pirate girl as well as starting another unit of 28mm (non-Darkest Africa) figures which are well under way.  

I really am starting to get some more painting done at last, again, after a very fallow six months.  I have a lot of part-painted figures on the workbench at present so starting another unit last week probably wasn’t a good idea but they have simple uniforms and I hope to get them done next.  I have also started on the Baluchis but these are going to be slow work I think.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Battle of Bunker Hill

Diorama in the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum

Well, I have been trying to resist the call of the American War of Independence for some time.  In fact I can remember the big new Miniature Figurines line being released in 1976 and all the attendant features in Military Modelling.  The Airfix and Revell sets actually got me painting some of my plastics, a very rare occurrence, but then I moved on to metal 28mm and forgot about them.  Then Foundry started to release their 28m metals and I immediately bought some but didn't pursue this as I had just joined Guildford Wargames Club where I found that Dark Ages, Ancients and ECW were the favoured 28mm periods.  I sold the figures I had on eBay with all the attendant Ospreys I owned.  I started looking at Giles Allison's superb blog which was so definitive that I decided that it was pointless to pursue the period any more (I think he may even have bought some of my surplus figures).  But...  But, I kept thinking about the period, with its interesting and colourful mix of forces, its very differing tactical approaches and the added appeal of woodland indians and New World forest engagements. 

Bunker Hill Diorama

More than this the combination of the Foundry and Perry figures offer an almost uniquely comprehensive range of figures.  More recently, when considering a new range of black powder period figures for skirmish wargames, it appeared on my shortlist once more. Scott, from Middle Earth, opined that he was never interested in the period because it was a (rare) conflict which the British lost.  This was something that I hadn't considered overtly but may well have been behind my unwillingness to dive in.  Or was it all those blessed straps!  

Today, however, I find myself in Boston with time on my hands.  Now, other than military history (and Victorian art, wine, food and women -which are all basically the same thing) I am also interested in historic ships.  I am staying in Cambridge, as I am giving a lecture at MIT tomorrow, so I am very close to Charlestown, home of two interesting ships.  The USS Constitution (more on which another time) is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat.  Built in 1797, they took it out for a sail last week!  Next door to it is the USS Cassin Young, a destroyer which saw active service in the Pacific and survived a number of kamikaze hits.  

USS Cassin Young.  Looks like it is doing 35 knots even in dry dock.  It actually weighs less than the USS Constitution, I was told

Now when I was visiting the Charlestown shipyards today they were just starting a parade to celebrate the 237th anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill (even though that's technically next Sunday).  Charlestown was very much en fete and there were lots of re-enactors about, from various periods, but mainly concentrated on the Revolutionary War, as they call it here.

There were some ACW people with a rather splendid cannon and some WW2 softskins with a nice half track which got me feeling all nostalgic for Airfix kits!

Manky looking colonials

Now that's better!  Glad to see that there are still some Loyalists in Boston!

Lots of lady reneactors and some very small reenactors too. Off they all troop in the heat (unlike Britain, heh, heh!) up to the Bunker Hill monument.    I climb up to the top (all 294 steps), admire the (excellent) view and gingerly make my way down to the bottom again where I discover that my quadriceps muscles have ceased to function to the extent that my companion, who has flown from Vancouver to be with me (or go clothes shopping, in reality - the clothes shops here being some of the best in the Americas I am told), has to stop me from falling down the steps.  She runs five miles a day so seemed to have no trouble, or maybe its being ten years younger than me!  Never mind a couple of pints of the local Harpoon IPA seem to restore my equilibrium somewhat, although this evening my legs are getting very stiff!

The Bunker Hill Monument: actually on Breed's hill, the site of the battle, strangely.  221 feet high it feels like it when you are climbing up or, worse, coming down.

Having managed to negotiate the steps down from the monument we cross the road to the Battle of Bunker Hill museum which has an excellent diorama of the battle with lots of 10mm (I would guess) figures.  Oh dear!  All those ranks of redcoats, all those manky looking colonials and the Perries promising plastic British infantry which will, presumably match the anatomical proportions of their recent figures, as compared with the rather dumpy Foundry ones.  Oh dear,  I'm starting to feel weak again...  

As Sophie said,  "model soldiers are to you like shoes are to me.  You can never have enough and you only regret the ones you didn't buy!"  

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A little more time...

My second unit of Wangwana freedmen finished today

For various reasons I have had very little time for painting over the last few months but, hopefully, I should be able to do more going forward.  I've spent a lot of time working on winning a new contract which I now have so that will enable me to add to the lead pile for the next year or so!  I've had a bit more time for painting in the last few days because of the Bank Holiday and have managed to finish another unit for my Zambezi Campaign.  Still, I have painted less than fifty figures so far this year so need to up the output again.  There won't be much more this week as I am off to Boston where I really will have to resist the lure of the American War of Independence on my return!

Fife & Drum's AWI British

That said, I am sorely tempted by the wonderfully elegant 30mm figures by Fife & Drum miniatures showcased in this month's Battlegames, which was given away free with Miniature Wargames. Sculpted by Richard Ansell, in his typically anatomically correct style, the range will, of course, be less comprehensive than the Perry figures for Foundry and Perry Miniatures.  However, they look so nice that maybe a couple of small skirmish forces wouldn't be a bad idea and the fact that they will be a smaller range may be a good thing! The pictures of them make them look more like 40mm figures and show how distorted most 28mm figures are; something which has always offended my artistic sensibilities!

I haven't bought Battlegames for some time but the decision by Atlantic Publishers, its new owners, to give it away free was sensible as I had forgotten what a good magazine it is.  The feature on the Two Fat Lardies (I still hate the name) approach to writing rules was fascinating and I also liked the look of the smuggler's scenario.  I'll have to start buying it again and also pick up some of the back numbers I have missed.

Many other people have commented on the fact that Warhammer Historical have stopped trading and there have been many discussions as to the reasons for this. Arrogance towards the customer seems to be the main one which is obviously (but not to Games Workshop) not a sensible way to retain loyalty from retail customers.  

As to the rules themselves they got me back into wargaming partly because they adopted the visual style of the top magazines.  I remember when wargames rules were just copied typewritten sheets with hand-stapled covers.  I need visual stimulation to get me interested in painting and the Warhammer Historical provided just that.  Their approach has had a major influence on the presentation of wargames rules ever since, although some will say that the resultant high cost of these full colour volumes was been a negative. WAB was a revelation to me when I first saw it.  Indeed, my first wargame against opponents since 1981 was a WAB Saxons and Vikings game at Guildford against Mike Lewis of Black Hat miniatures.

Even though I am not a rules monkey there were still some things I didn't like about WAB and these were mainly to do with the look of the game; principally that units tended to be 4 deep square (or near as) blocks, whatever their historical formation may have been.  This was especially the case for Romans whose units tended to be small.  I wanted more linear looking units and thought that WAB 2 had solved this as it made the maximum rank bonus limited to 3 instead of 4 ranks in total.  Unfortunately, WAB 2 had so many other problems with it that it essentially killed it off as a game.  People started looking for other options, not finding them and so writing them; hence the slew of new ancients rules of late.  I've just found a space on my shelves for War & Conquest which looks set to fill the gap left by WAB.

One set of rules I did like was Warhammer ECW.  We played these at Guildford several times and we thought they worked well and had some period flavour too.  Nevertheless I have just bought the new Pike and Shotte rules from Warlord Games.

Interestingly prices on eBay and other places such as Caliver Books are seeing the more recent Warhammer Historical games, such as Kampfgruppe Normandy, now selling for more than their original selling price.    I'm still trying to obtain a copy of the WW1 Over the Top supplement. Although I will keep playing some of the games it does mean, sadly, that none of the promised future supplements (covering WW1 in Africa, for example) will see the light of day.

Copplestone 18mm fantasy are next

My next figures under way are some more 18mm Copplestone Castings fantasy.  He has released quite a few more packs since I bought the first three but I am being good and won't buy any new ones until I finish the ones I have!

Foundry Baluchi swordsmen

I have also now assembled and based a unit of Warlord's Natal Native Infantry for the Zulu Wars and, also on the Darkest Africa theme, have my next unit for the Zambezi campaign, some Baluchis, ready for undercoating.