23 July 2016

A Little Saturday Afternoon Painting. . .

Two shots of the latest painting progress.  The riders, horses, and limbers are about done.  Just lots of harnesses and a hint of traces to wash in dark brown now along with girths and stirrup leathers followed by a couple of coats of gloss varnish and then the groundwork.

A couple of pleasant hours painting during the early afternoon today as the Young Master played nearby and occasionally wandered over to see what in the heck ol' Dad was up to.  Only eight days left in July.  Yikes!  I'd better get cracking on these if I hope to make inroads on the six corresponding Prussian limbers, teams, and riders by mid-August.  Just a little over a month from now, and the fall semester starts.  Sigh.

A word on the brass buttons.  I think, after many years attempting buttons, that I've finally worked it out.  Use  fairly small brush with a good point, like a #1 round, and barely touch the drop of paint to the raise areas on each casting.  If you have not indulged in too much caffeine that day, the buttons will be highlighted by the barest hint of metallic color.  I used acrylic hobby paint here, but dryer, stiffer oil colors would make this step even easier.  I have also used the latter to do buttons in the past with equally pleasing results.

-- Stokes

21 July 2016

A Jaundiced View. . .

Here's where we are with the six Austrian limber teams and riders this afternoon.

Relax!  No controversial posts today, simply a progress report on the current painting.  But I am rather jaundiced in outlook at the moment, following the application of the yellow facing color yesterday evening, a yellow highlight to two of the limbers this morning (while the carpet cleaners were here), and a second thin glaze of alkyd oil fleshtone on the faces, which weren't quite peachy enough for me.  If I get the limbers done this afternoon, I'll address hair, mustaches, and possibly highlight the riding gauntlets with off white this evening.

The limbers have been a two-step process so far.  First of all, I carefully slopped -- Can you ever 'slop' carefully? -- thinned alkyd oil Yellow Ochre all over them a couple of days ago.  I have followed today with carefully touching a small brush, loaded with the brighter yellow acrylic you see at right, thinned just a wee bit, to the raised areas to bring out some detail and add depth to the limbers, yet keep the "woodwork" from turning out too bright.  

The two limbers at far left have had both steps of the yellow treatment, and I am reasonably happy with the way they have turned out.  Not bright Ferrari yellow, but a more subdued mustard yellow, which seems appropriate for Austrian limbers.  It's kind of slow going though, hence the lunch break right now.

-- Stokes

20 July 2016

The Armies of Stollen and Zichenau Are Once Again on the March!

Look closely, and you'll find that these are not Prussian soldiers on the march but rather Stollenian.  The drums of war are beating here in Zum Stollenkeller Mk II!

Still plugging away with my six Austrian limbers and teams during the evenings although I took a night off last night and watched a couple of episodes of George Gently via Netflix with the Grand Duchess.  Not quite in the same league as Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Lewis, or Endeavor, but good entertainment just the same.  The Durham accents are fun to hear and, in a few instances, a challenge to decipher especially for the Grand Duchess, who often will pause the program to ask me what was just said.  Apparently, I am 'Enry 'Iggins.

In other news, the three 50" x 100" Woodland Scenics Ready Grass Mats have arrived and should do well for the time being.  These will be placed over books, er, um. . .  terrain contours, to provide a more realistic scene with trees, buildings, and eventual water features placed on top.  I wish the vinyl backed mats were a tiny bit more pliable, but I had trouble finding others of a similar size, not wishing to fool around with half a dozen smaller mats to cover my 6' x 10' playing surface.  However, the mats do not shed (as advertised), will coordinate well with other Woodland Scenics items placed on them, will look more realistic than my bright green table surface, and I managed to find them for somewhat less than the full retail price by digging around online.  You can't argue with that last point.  I am eager to see how everything looks once the first game is laid out.  

By the way, the Young Master, bless him, asked last week when we set up his castle and knights if and when we could make the table even bigger.  Glad to see his heart and head are in the right place.  6' x 12' or even 6' x 14' is tempting, but probably not really necessary until my forces have increased by several units each.  Maybe in a few years?

And speaking of the table. . .  I spent part of yesterday evening, before the Grand Duchess arrived and we began watching TV, perusing C.S. Grants Scenarios or Wargamers.  I have picked out a dozen scenarios plus one for a protracted campaign between The Grand Duchy of Stollen and The Electorate of Zichenau, which should take at least the next year if I manage one game a month.  These range from raids and skirmishes, to full set-piece affairs, rearguard actions, and river crossings along with a few surprises.  I'll employ a D12 to introduce a bit of randomness into everything along with a few Donald Featherstone-inspired chance cards to keep things interesting.

The forces suggested for each scenario in Scenarios or Wargamers will be divided in half, so I can use the painted figures currently at my disposal.  Infantry units will be battalions or half-battalions, the cavalry units squadrons (fittingly for the mid-18th century), and the suggested number of guns halved.  It should all work fairly well, and yield more manageable games that can be fought to a conclusion in a reasonable amount of time.  Something there never seems to be enough of these days.  Time that is.

With any luck at all, the first shots of a solo battle should be fired by month's end.  I am excited since I have not played a game with my own figures -- though there were a few e-mail games in December and January, kindly hosted by like-minded wargaming friends in Australia and Canada -- in two, or perhaps even three years!  High time to do something about that then.

-- Stokes

Later. . . 

It occurs to me that some of you might like to preview the various scenarios I have selected from Scenarios for Wargamers by C.S. Grant for my upcoming campaign.  I picked the following because they looked interesing and also seem possible in terms of terrain features and available figures:

1) Positional Defence #2 (p. 12)

2) Swampland Action (p. 85) -- A good scenario for jaegers, grenzers, and croats.  Plus a nice reason to create some marsh areas, streams, and small lakes or ponds using some of those terrific Litko terrain bases.

3) Holding Action #1 (p. 14)

4) Convoy #1 (p. 80) -- A nice excuse to drag out half a dozen wagons and carts from the transport train I painted up during 2014.

5) Defile (p. 91)

6) River Crossing (p. 46)

7) Rearguard #1 (p. 18)

8) Horse and Foot (p. 120)

9) Flank Attack (p. 34)

10) Attack on a Camp (p. 27) -- I'll use my wagon train to make a wagon lager, but if there is time, I might also try to whip up six to eight small tents with a larger one or two for officers to represent the actual camp.  My various camp follower vignettes will, naturally, fit nicely into this particular scenario as atmospheric window dressing.

11) Pontoon (p. 55) -- More complex, so this particular scenario will come later in the campaign since I need to think about creating suitable wide river sections, but it is the perfect excuse to trot out the pontoon train I assembled and painted in 2014. 

12) Skirmish -- Based on Charles Grant Sr.'s Battle of Langensalza, featured in Wargame Tactics 1979, specifically the wooded eastern end of his tabletop battlefield.

13) Raid -- Based on Steve Hezzlewood's The Bouchard Raid scenario from the 1983 Wargames Manual.  I've meant to have a crack at this small action for over 30 years!

18 July 2016

A Painting Progress Update. . .

Here is where we are with the first six Austrian limbers and teams. . .  complete with thumb in the photo.

A flurry of painting activity over the last several days as and when time has permitted.  The horses have been done in a mix of alkyd oil and acrylic glazes over undercoats of acrylic yellow, red, and various lighter browns.  My usual two coats of acrylic gloss once everything is done will impart a shiny, even finish to everything.  

Lady luck has been kind so far, and there have been only a few mistakes that require the necessary touch-ups given the close proximity of everything on its bases.  I prefer to paint my vignettes and wagons/equipment already glued to their permanent bases.  One of my many idiosyncraciesPainting in this way is not quite like building ships in bottles -- Anyone still do that? -- but it takes some patience and breath-holding.  

This evening, the limbers will get a coat of yellow ochre alkyd oil, which will later get a yellow highlight when dry.  I'll probably address the riders' uniforms after that and then all of the horse furniture to round things out before glossing the completed figures and finally terraining the bases.  Then, it will be time to move on to the half dozen Prussian limbers and teams waiting in the wings.


It seems my opinions expressed yesterday's post on wargaming TV and movies have sparked some controversy, and I have had several sharp whacks from the cane across the figurative seat of the pants in the headmaster's office.  OUCH!  Thank you, Sir.  May I have another?

However, my respondents have kindly provided some links, which provide additional information on the project, and which I thought I might share here in the interest of fairness to all parties.  The project sounds very interesting, there seems to be considerable support for it already, and I hope things proceed according to plan.  Still, I must admit to remaining a bit skeptical.  Time will tell.

The wargaming hobby is a great one with many different facets, as I explained yesterday, but I am unsure that a documentary movie will necessarily appeal to more than a niche audience even if executed well.  We might just have to agree to disagree on that point.  Admittedly, I'll probably buckle and view the film myself once it becomes available.  Here are the links I was sent for those of you who would like to learn more about the project:

* Go to the project’s website and read for yourself, and watch the promo video. http://miniaturewargamingthemovie.com

* The Kickstarter – which has already massively exceeded its target because plenty of people believe in it – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/954318608/miniature-wargaming-the-movie-0

* Go to Meeples and Miniatures and listen to Joe being interviewed (from about 51 minutes in).

I have also been assured by one of the film project supporters that the planned documentary is different from anything that has come previously.  It's not your father's Battleground series in other words.  And now. . .  It's time to feed the cats, get the Young Master up, and dressed for breakfast.  Just another day of summer vacation here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold.

-- Stokes

17 July 2016

A Wargaming Movie? Really? Really??!!

Car chases, explosions, and shootouts heavy on the special effects.  Is this what it might take to make tabletop wargaming interesting to the non-participants?

I've had a troubling thought going around in my mind for quite some time (for a few years?), but I have avoided voicing the opinion until now.  It is beginning to seem like the proverbial elephant in the room to me however.

My question to you is this.  While we love the various permutations of our hobby, are attempts to televise it or make movies about it really in the hobby's best interest?  I saw elsewhere (Yahoo's Old School Wargaming group, I think) this morning that there are plans afoot to make a movie about the hobby if enough funds can be raised through a kickstarter campaign.  Apparently, several big names, a well-known publication, and companies that produce wargaming hobby related products have already pledged their support. 

Fine.  Assuming enough money is raised for the project, but how on earth is this a good idea?  Short of writing a script that apes one of the more recent Daniel Craig-era James Bond action films with paper thin plots but lots of shootouts, fights, explosions, and some gratuitous nudity, how in the world could a director and crew make playing with toy solders seem interesting? 

When it became available via YouTube a few years ago, I watched the old Battleground TV programs from the late 1970s, starring Peter Gilder and hosted by Callan himself, Edward Woodward.  I had always heard/read so much about the series and was eager to see it.  In a word -- well, two actually -- it was painfully dull.  Excruciatingly soEven from a historical standpoint.  My time might have been better spent painting or having a game myself.  That is a harsh, contrarian view perhaps, but how could a film made about the miniature wargaming hobby in, say 2018 or '19 if things proceed according to plan, do any better? 

If special effects are added post-prodution, it would simply take away from the spectacle of toy soldiers and well-executed scenery.  That is putting the cart before the horse I suppose.  

Our military history-toy solider hobby is riveting to us, and I say that with no sarcasm or irony intended.  But  is it interesting enough to finance and produce a film about it?  I'm not so sure.  I kind of doubt it to be honest.  Have you ever listened to someone who is seriously into online gaming blather on incessantly about it?  D&D or other roll-playing games?  Model trains?  HAM radio?  Long distance bicycling?  A new mothers' group?  Fly fishing?  The term mind-numbing seems apt, and, I hate to admit, it came to mind as I clicked on and endured those old episodes off Battleground two or three summers ago

The question of outsider interest in a niche hobby reminds me of a time several years ago now when I watched a short video of my now defunct Hamburg and Liverpool-era Beatles (before they were famous) band The Indras.  The footage was shot at a vineyard in Central Illinois where we played an enjoyable gig one weekend evening in July or August.  While our playing and singing were reasonably good for a bunch of middle-aged guys who were not professionals, we were really kind of boring to watch.  Truly dull and uninspiring.  It was a brutal aha moment that, I guess, helped crystalize suspicions I had rattling around the ol' nogggin and led, ultimately, to my bringing the band to an end a year or so later once our bookings for the year had been fulfilled in mid-December 2012.  Scary clarity.

Returning to tabletop wargaming though, what good does film or TV coverage of our hobby do besides making model soldier enthusiasts seem like socially inept, smelly weirdos with nothing else going on in their lives?  Why go to the time, trouble, and expense?  To me, it is far more interesting to be an actual participant in something than it is to watch from the sidelines. . .  or hear about it secondhand later.  What are your own thoughts? 


In other news, I continue to plug away at those first six limbers, horse teams and Austrian riders.  I'll get a progress photo up here this evening for your perusal.  So far, it is a slow, but enjoyable process.

-- Stokes

13 July 2016

The Battle of Hasenpfefferwald,13 July 1316. . .

The Young Master taking a moment to strike the pose for ol' Dad.

Having loads of fun with the Young Master here today.  One of the very best battle arrays I have ever seen anywhere.  Ever.

-- Stokes

 The Young Master hard at work setting up his troops.  The hills are made from the books YMP enjoyed perusing down here Zum Stollenkeller Mk II a couple of days ago.

One of the Young Master's Safari Ltd knights.

The battlefield is set up.  That's Hasenpfefferwald at the left.  The village of Hasenpfeffer and Hasenpfeffer Schloss are next to the Young Master in the background.

Ah, I love the smell of dragon breath in the morning.  Cannon fire from the Blue Army is answered by putrid dragon breath from the Red Army's side of the field.

 The reason for the battle.  The huge green dragon and Red Army are after the treasure, which is defended, naturally, by the Blue Army of knights.

The king, queen, witch, and warlock watch the battle develop.

The young general engrossed in his tactical machinations.

A kind of smile for Dad.

11 July 2016

First Six of Twelve Underway. . .

Half a dozen Austrian limbers and horse teams in progress.  The work shown is what I have managed to do during four sessions spread over three daysNext up, the fleshtone on the rider's faces and the brown glazes on the horses.  Giddy-up!

Limbers, horse teams and riders that is.  Applying the white acrylic gesso basecoat was a chore (it always is), but the various undercoats on the horses went much more quickly after that.  Various thin glazes of oil will be applied over these to produce, when all is finished, a variety of horse colors.  I am making a real push over the next 30 days or so to get as much finished as possible before about August 10th since, at that point, I'll need to begin revising syllabi and write a new one for the approaching fall semester at school.  Sadly, this will take up much of my remaining free time until classes commence once more at the end of August.

-- Stokes

The Young Master spent much of his afternoon with me down in Zum Stollenkeller Mk II where I introduced him to various books on the hobby by the likes of C.S. Grant, Ian Weekley, Neil Thomas, and Bruce Quarrie.  He was captivated by the photographs of soldiers arrayed across various miniature landscapes and spent a good couple of hours sitting quietly on the floor paging through the books in question and, apparently, reading for real based on the questions he asked while I painted.  Exciting times for us both.

On another note, we took delivery of a king-sized bed late yesterday afternoon.  Left by mistake at a neighbor's house across the street!  Once the several large boxes were brought over here to Totliegh-in-the-Wold by said neighbor and yours truly, I spent two+ hours assembling the darn thing yesterday evening.  After the mattress is delivered tomorrow, it should be quite comfortableA plus side is, of course, all of the styrofoam sheeting that encased the various pieces of the wooden bedframe.  Instead of painting these, I'll just place them under the Woodland Scenics vinyl grass mats that are on the way.  Presto!  Instant hills, ridges, and knolls.


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