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Showing posts from December, 2007

Happy New Year from the Grand Duchy of Stollen!

It’s hard to believe that 2007 is almost history! Where did the year go? My grandmother always told me that the older one becomes, the faster time seems to pass by. I think she was right. With that in mind, what has that rapidly dissolving time been used for during the last twelve months here at Stollen central? Well, let's pause and reflect a bit. It's ben a pretty good year here in Stollen I think. First, there has been painting, and a lot of it apparently, including Revell dragoons (30), RSM95 grenadiers (63), a monster-sized Revell infantry regiment (80), plus some Revell artillery and MiniFig cannon (13+2), RSM95 generals (2), and Spencer Smith/Holger Eriksson cavalry most recently (12). Total of painted figures for 2007? 200+! That’s a record for me. Next, let’s not forget that there was lots of real estate constructed early in 2007 too. Many townhouses, a bridge, town gate, and etc. were featured right here a year or so ago. Several of these were again

You know, it's funny. . .

Here's yet another picture of those delightful Spencer Smith and Holger Eriksson cavalry -- unfortunately quitting the field at the gallop after suffering 50% casualties. . . . the kinds of things that will excite one as a wargamer. As the Grand Duchess and I were straightening up our dining room and living room after breakfast late this morning, I stowed some recent Christmas gifts in the kitchen. And what do you think I discovered? That’s right -- a 12”x20” piece of Styrofoam sheet that’s an inch thick and just right, with judicious cutting, for a thin hill or ridge of 2-3 layers in height. How exciting is that? Ok, I must seem like a supernerd or something, but then Mom always said I was easily entertained. ;-) Ok, it’s off to paint those Magister Millitum bell tents that have been on my desk since last March. Von Drosselmaier and de Latté need headquarters pavilions. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

And now, the technical bits. . .

Like any good film or stage production, there is a a fair amount of thought, planning, and work behind the scenes. With that in mind, I thought you might like to know a bit more about the Action at Zollamtstadt. . . As many of you know already, the figures used were mostly Revell 1/72 SYW plastics along with a few RSM Prussian grenadiers and generals, some Spencer Smith and Holger Eriksson cavalry, plus a couple of MiniFigs and four MiniFig SYW cannon. The painting is the result of fairly leisurely (ok, sometimes fevered) work since July 2006. Next in the painting queue are the rest of the Spencer Smiths and a battalion of RSM French musketeers in the firing position, which are courtesy of my in-laws -- one of the nicest Christmas gifts a son-in-law could receive I think! As for the terrain -- The buildings were all scratch built (card, glue, acrylic paint, and a black marker) around the 2006 Christmas holidays and featured right here a year ago. The bridge is a simplified vers

The Action at Zollamtstadt

The Army of the Electorate of Zichenau won its first victory today at the small town of Zollamtstadt. The road is now wide open into the Grand Duchy of Stollen! Stollen's small corps of observation, or rather what is left of it, has retreated north in the general direction of the capital Krankenstadt. Above, you see a photo of the general troop dispositions as of 3PM on the afternoon of December 27, 1768. From left to right we see Zinnfiguren Farm, Zinnfiguren Kopse, Hasselblad Heights, Zollamtstadt, and Zollamt Bridge. Troops pictured above in the background include (from left to right): Stollen's 4th (Trakehenen) Dragoons, the Von Laurenz Musketeers, Princess Waltraud's Battery of Artillery, and a company of the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own ) Grenadiers in support. In the foreground are (from left to right): Zichenau's Garde zu Pferd, a company of the Ermland Garde, the 7th Regiment of Artillery, and two more companies of Ermland Garde on the far right wit

Looks like my work is cut out for me. . .

As my Grandfather used to say many, many years ago, “Happy Day After!” He then toasted us with his usual scotch and water on ice. The last couple of days have indeed been great days here at Stollen central. First, issue #10 of Battlegames arrived with the mail on Christmas Eve. Early perusals reveal that it’s another triumph filled with all kinds of interesting stuff. I look forward to examining the magazine more closely in bed this evening. Even better, guess what was waiting under the Christmas tree yesterday morning? Not only did the Grand Duchess Sonja have 80 RSM95 Prussian fusiliers (men, officers, NCOs, and a mounted colonel), carefully disguised in a Famous Barr shirt box, but her parents Nan and Dave sent more than 30 RSM French musketeers in the firing pose along with officers, NCO’s, and a mounted colonel! I was so overcome with surprise and joy that I was simply without words for quite some time. To say that the RSM figures are lovely is an understatement.

Merry Christmas to the World from the Grand Duchy of Stollen!

Picture this scene east of the sun and west of the moon. The ground is white with snow. Billowing, silvery drifts are piled throughout the country. The rivers and lakes are frozen solid. The woods are still but for the distant jingle of sleigh bells in the bracing air. The sky is slate grey and heavy. Coal smoke hangs over the villages and towns. It is almost Christmas here in the far-off Grand Duchy of Stollen, somewhere to the northeast of Frederick’s Prussia . Stollenians bustle to and fro through snow-covered streets in the capital city of Krankenstadt , running last minute errands before the Christmas festival begins in earnest. The North German Gothic red brick storefronts feature special Christmas items and treats, and the happy faces of children peek in through the frosty windows at the cheerful seasonal displays. Street vendors peddle their wares in the town squares, shouting loudly above the din of shoppers, their voices forming puffs of steam in the wint

Ho, ho, ho-ing my way through the Spencer Smiths!

Just a quick update this morning. I managed to finish basecoating the first dozen Spencer Smith/Holger Eriksson cavalry. They now stand ready for the weekend painting marathon. Primarily metallics remain for the artillery crew, but I must finish the gun carriages and barrels for the cannon. Plus detail work for General de Latt é and Captain von Lickshpittel. I feel like the white rabbit at the beginning of Alice and Wonderland , who dashes by Alice, checks his watch, and exclaims, “I’m late, I’m late!” P.S. 6:15PM -- I have just finished the 12 artillery crew. I've got the guns to finish later this evening. Then, it's just the general and ADC to finish in between the different painting steps on the first dozen SSM/HE cavalry. I might actually be able to finish everything.

And now, for something completely different. . .

As a pre-Christmas nod to my many years of undergraduate and graduate study of the Norwegian language and Scandinavian literature, not mention time spent living in Norway, here’s a picture of the Norwegian julenisse . He lives in the barn and brings toys and treats to all the good children on Christmas Eve while everyone is asleep. Traditionally, Norwegians leave a bowl of porridge in the barn for the nisse to ensure that he is not displeased and doesn’t play nasty tricks. Anyway, I kind of liked this particular illustration. You’ll find many similar to it on Christmas postcards coming from Norway . It’s a nice image. "God Jul" as they say in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and those Swedish-speaking parts of Finland..

Busy, busy, busy. . .

Agggghhh! Our internet connection has not been working for two days, so I’ve been unable to update things here or see what’s new at the Old School Wargaming Yahoo Group. Fortunately, things have been cleared up by the Grand Duchess and Verizon techline help support. Thanks to their collective efforts, I can inform you of developments here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen as far as troop build-ups along the Lesser Zwischen river between Stollen and Zichenau go. It seems there has been some preliminary skirmishing and pre-Christmas fraternizing around the village of Zollamt on the norther bank of the river, just inside the Grand Duchy of Stollen. But first, a little business. Final Christmas preparations and submission of final grades are in full swing here in t he Grand Duchy. I’ve also had a few commercial writing jobs fall into my lap, something a little unusual for the end of the year. Looks like business is finally improving just a bit after 2 ½ years! On the soldie

Gluehwein, bratwurst, und kartoffelpfannkuchen. . .

Yesterday, the Grand Duchess and I spent the day up in Chicago . After taking "The El" (elevated railway) in from Bucktown, we made a beeline for the annual Christkindlmarkt , which is, according to Sonja, an authentic German Christmas market. The air was cold, with wind and piles of snow everywhere. It looked like something from a storybook. Best of all, the weekend crowds were absent since it was Monday, and so we had no lines or throngs of people. But things were still what I’d describe as “bustling.” Once we had looked around at all of the various stalls selling Christmas wares, we indulged in luscious bratwurst (these are real, totally unlike the limp, greasy Wisconsin variety) with sauerkraut, potato pancakes, and then headed into one of the warming huts where we washed everything down with gl ü hwein – a hot, mulled alcoholic drink, not too unlike Scandinavian gløg in aroma and flavor, but without the raisins and slivered almonds. The rest of our day consis

So much to do, so little time. . .

Yesterday was a full day. Besides speed painting a battery of Zichenauer artillery (above) for the upcoming “Action at Zollamt” and working a bit on preparing the Spencer Smith/Holger Eriksson cavalry for painting, we had SNOW!!! So, it was fairly easy for the Grand Duchess to coax me away from the painting desk for a couple of hours yesterday. We visited Ewing Park , a local municipal park, where we had a delightful 90 minutes on skis exploring the various sections and paths of the park. It was also fun watching the 75 or so children and fathers sledding down one of the bigger hills. The 2007-2006 Nordic skiing season has begun in earnest! Today, we have about 6-7” of the fluffy white stuff. So, following a late breakfast, we’ll pick up the Christmas tree, follow with another jaunt on the cross country skis, and then decorate this evening after supper. Hmmm. . . toy soldiers, fresh snow, skiing, a purring kitty, and Christmas trees. Life is good. Oh yes, and somewhe

Unfortunate Pre-Christmas Housekeeping. . .

No, it's not the title of the latest holiday blockbuster movie. Sigh. I have made the decision to moderate comments here at the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog. Here’s the brief background. . . Thanks to two recent posts from a certain "anonymous" person here and at another imagi-nation blog, I think comment moderation is now required. What a shame that there are people out there who, given the chance, will act like jerks. Constructive critique, painting/modeling suggestions, and help are fine, and I welcome them. However, in each case, this particular guy has simply oozed negativity and brought nothing of value or interest to the ongoing exchange. And since the Grand Duchy is intended as a place of fun, happiness, and escape, I won’t tolerate his kind of nonsense. Moderating comments left here will also put a stop to occasional and bizarre spam of the "Guys, make her happy all night" variety. The upshot of all this is that it will take a little longer for

Ermland Garde Again

Besides basecoating artillery crew and cannon this evening, I had a chance to take a few nicer photographs of the recently finished Ermland Garde. Jim Purky’s figures over at his Hesse-Seewald blog are always so well presented that I felt like sprucing things up a bit here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Hope you like these pictures. They show off my figures more nicely than the usual green, paint-splotched cutting mat. Enjoy!

Here's a Prussian Nutcracker!

Well, I managed to assemble the two 25mm MiniFig cannon yesterday. The plastic crew has been washed off, dried, and await mold line removal. And the rest of the Spencer Smith cavalry wait patiently to have their mold lines removed. Best of all, I’ve found a very Prussian-looking grenadier nutcracker to share (at left). Isn’t he fierce and martial in his bearing? Now where are my walnuts, almonds, Filbert, and Brazil nuts?

Here's another neat nutcracker. . .

Gentlemen, it’s official – I am caught up in the Christmas spirit! Time to set aside my usual veneer of cynicism and pessimism for a few weeks and treat myself, along with everyone else ;-) , to a rather more jolly spirit than is usually the case. With my unabashedly joyous feeling in mind, here’s another wonderful example of a nutcracker. Enjoy! Today’s schedule will include reading several student papers, tallying of final grades, along with a few errands this afternoon, and maybe some time on my bike (indoors, of course). After dinner, the Grand Duchess will attend her weekly yoga session, so I will have a couple of hours for continuing work on the Spencer Smiths. I’ve also got to prepare 13 Revell 1/72 plastic artillery crew and an officer’s horse in a jar of vinegar and quickly assemble two 25mm MiniFig cannon. If I get into high gear, I might be able to get enough finished for my first imaginary 18 th century battle just after Christmas when things calm down ju

The season of nutcrackers and toy soldiers is upon us!

Blame it on poor, old Tchaikovsky maybe, but we’re smack in the middle of the nutcracker and toy soldier season! I love these things and have found two neat examples of nutcrackers on the web to share with you here. The first illustration is particularly nice while the latter (below) is of an actual nutcracker, who wears a stylized grenadier’s mitre cap. Just for all of your 18 th century imagi-nation buffs! To me, December is THE month for toy soldiers. Admittedly, this is perhaps a bit odd, when part of the Christmas message is one of peace and harmony. Let me try to explain. The nutcracker/toy soldier association goes back to when I was a little boy, and my father put on Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite for my sister and me early one December. I was about four and pretty taken with the March of the Toy Soldiers piece. My start in collecting and painting wargame figures served to reinforce the association many years later as a teenager. My sister presented me with a smal

This could become habit forming!

Yesterday was another lovely, cloudy winter’s day with some snow on the ground and ice in the trees. There was ice all over the ground too, which made walking outside hazardous! So, it was best to stay inside and observe it all from the warmth of the breakfast table where the Grand Duchess and I had another late breakfast. Nevertheless, we braved the elements for a 3PM Christmas concert on the nearby Illinois Wesleyan University campus, followed by a housewarming party given by the featured singer, a close friend and colleague of Sonja’s. We stayed for about an hour, returning home early because we had some work to take care of – Sonja is grading a bunch of student papers while I’m writing some case studies for a client. The day ended on an especially cheery note with the arrival of the student carolers about 8PM – about 20 young men and women, who serenaded us with several Christmas classics from the front lawn of our old building as we listened through an open window of o

A Truly Wonderful Day. . .

Today has been a day of simple pleasures. A few inches of snow remain on the ground outside, making everything look and feel like many of us think December should here in the Northern hemisphere. We slept late since it’s Saturday, and then I made us a big breakfast to celebrate the end of the academic term. We’ve listened to different kinds of popular and classical Christmas music on the stereo all day while Sonja prepared some goodies for a small party we’re having this evening. Meanwhile, I worked a bit more on preparing the Spencer Smith cavalry for basecoating and painting. Still have about dozen to do, but here’s a photo of those who are ready and on their cardboard bases to prevent them toppling over constantly. My painting area is beginning to look like the cover of Charles Grant Sr.’s The War Game , and that’s not a bad thing here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen!

Hard at Work on SSM/HE Cavalry

The first dozen Spencer Smith (three are Holger Eriksson, in fact) are ready for basecoating! And lovely figures they are too after the mold lines have been trimmed away carefully. It does take a little while though, about 15-20 minutes per figure. And yes, I have stuck the modeling knife into a finger or two along the way. Ouch! Fortunately, the resulting injuries have not bee too awful. Oh, how we suffer for our craft! I awoke to a light dusting of snow outside this morning. Funny how something so simple can make everything look and seem so magical all of the sudden. And the Advent Elves have visited too, leaving a gingerbread house kit for my wife, the Grand Duchess Sonja, by her place at the breakfast table. Can Christmas be far off I wonder?

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's. . . Charles Grant?

Very interesting recent discussion over at the Old School Wargaming Yahoo Group about the use of artillery limbers on the table. No doubt about it, I'll eventually have to purchase and paint gun teams and limbers to use with my 1/72 Revell Austrian crews and 25mm MiniFig cannon! That should make for interesting tactical problems to work out and will add spice to any Grantian Tabletop Teaser scenario rather nicely. Last night, I began preparing the first six of 30 figures (in the classic "charge" pose) for eventual base coating. They are lovely miniatures, but they do need some work with a sharp x-acto/scalpel to remove the heavy mold lines. I suspect this comes from aging molds. Anyway, since the figures seem to be very soft lead (Shock! Horror! Gasp!), this particular operation goes fairly quickly. Afterwards, the figures look graceful and majestic, even in their unpainted state. The Spencer Smiths do fall over rather easily, so gluing some kind of bases to them is a g