Sunday, November 13, 2011

In which our hero takes to the desert

And after many, many nights of getting very, very little done here is my second FoW army - Early War Indian Rifles from Hellfire and Back,

The force is based loosely upon the TO&E for the 11th Sikh Regiment, 4th Battalion, 7th Indian Infantry Brigade of the 4th Indian Division during Operation Crusader, supported by brigade recce from the Central Indian Horse and attached tanks from the 44th Royal Tank Regiment. Even though FoW is a World War II Themed Miniatures Game and it's not likely I'll ever be actually recreating any historical fights, I still prefer to lay my lists over a snapshot of time when possible - some old grognard snobberies die hard.

Here is full 1500 point force arrayed and looking a bit small. Those Matildas eat up a lot of points.

This mob is the HQ, rifle platoons, and mortar section. They all look pretty much the same past two feet anyway. Sikhs were instrumental in my choice of Brits as my nation of choice. I just like the hats. You can usually count on me to pick a force based on the availability of a funny hat. Still, I probably would have played Yanks if they had an early war option to extend my purchasing efficiency. The Sikh rifle platoons were the first figures I bought for the game, and had I been able to grasp infantry tactics sooner this would have been my first army - or more likely a mid war version of this army would have been. Instead, I switched to a vehicles-only Churchill company. Still, the infantry, now that they're painted can be used from the deserts of Africa until the surrender in Italy and fulfill my chief selection criteria of being a core that can span all three phases of the war. A few tanks and weapons stands swapped here and there and these beturbaned troops can make up the bulk of a half dozen or so different lists.

Here we see the daring carrier patrol of the Central Indian Horse. Indian pattern carriers are beautiful little trucks and I lavished a bit of extra brushwork on these out of fondness. I did have to pull out the greenstuff to give the crews turbans. Funny hats being the raison guerre after all.

And rumbling in at the back of the column, as will generally be the case are the four might Matildas. These are beautiful, iconic tanks for the desert war and stand as impervious as they are attractive - or they would be if it weren't for the fact that my opposition pretty much always shows up with an 88 or a coastal battery ready to negate their imposing plates. All things considered, they are as likely to be a costly way to lose a lot of points in a few shots as stalwart spearheads shrugging off all fire. I need to figure out how to deal with the big guns pretty quick. I doubt the mortars will be able to lay enough smoke or pin enough crews to do the job in this list so I am looking at a variant with only three Matildas and a battery of four 18/25s. I've been completely underwhelmed by British artillery in play thus far though so it's a hard sell. In any case, i suspect I will do better with Matildas supporting an infantry army than the other way around because I will get to defend far more frequently, which feels like the better role for these.

The points work out like this:
HQ - 25pts
Rifle Platoon w/ Sticky Bombs - 185
Rifle Platoon w/ Sticky Bombs - 185
Mortar Platoon with 1 section - 60
Carrier Platoon w/ 1 patrol, 1 Boys AT - 95
Matilda Platoon w/ 2 tanks - 475
Matilda Platoon w/ 2 tanks - 475
1500 points

As expandability goes, this force makes a good core, the infantry in particular. I can paint up one more Matilda and grab my six universal carriers from my Tunisia army and field an HaB infantry tank company of five tanks and 9 carriers (some paint-scheme leniency required) to impersonate the Central Indian Horse's exploits around Sidi Rezegh. I can add some engineers and proxy my Churchill III's as NA75s and field Cassino Indian Rifles. I can add a swarm of anti-tank rifles and field the core of a motor company or jock column along with a few new vehicles I still get to have fun painting. Lots to do, but less than if I had picked a force without broad full-war utility.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In which our hero returns with much to say

So, a funny thinking happened recently, I chanced to overhear a conversation between two coworkers that led me to come to know of the existence of actual human beings who play actual wargames in my actual vicinity. Rare indeed.

So, the good news is that I am now engaged in playing some actual games on actual tables against actual people for the first time in far too long.

The bad news is that I got completely distracted from everything I was doing on this blog. Pretty pointless actually as this wasn't supposed to be about my weird little solo projects in the first place, but it turns out that much as the games I was writing about here were being played solo, I was soliloquizing about my painting work as well. Still, I did eventually remember that I had a place to put pictures of things and long-winded rambles about them, so on this, the occasion of the completion of my first army for Flames of War, I return with photos and rambling explanation.

Flames of War indeed. Observant, or perhaps psychic readers will recall that I did attempt to get into FoW once before several years ago. at the time I had decided to go with 1/285 miniatures rather than the official 15mm game scale. I expected to play alone and wanted to maximize my limited tablespace and reduce my costs a bit. I also have a deep fondness for 1/285 microarmor minis running back to some of my first gaming experiences.

Though I eventually did finish (less some bases) British and Italian forces for North Africa, I did not as it turns out stick with FoW for the project. After reading though the rules I just didn't feel like it was the type of game I was looking for at the time - I wanted something that either prioritized command and control a bit more or a very light, fastplay game. To that end, I would up looking to Blitzkrieg Commander for the detailed games and an Ogre/G.E.V. to WW2 port for the quick and dirty gaming - which would turn out to be the only one I ever bothered to play, truth be told.

The biggest difference between solo gaming and group gaming is that you don't get to make all the choices.

So, now I am laying FoW, and I am doing it in 15mm. These things happen.

Despite having only played one actual game of FoW (wherein my borrowed Italian Carri got mauled) and being entirely unready to decide what sort of army to build, the call of new metal is indeed a powerful siren and I hastily decided that I was going to play a mid-war Sikh army.

I tend to be drawn toward the road less travelled anyway and while the British Indian Army is hardly obscure, they are at least somewhat uncommon for gaming purposes. Plus, I've been wanting to do a Sikh force for Victorian/pulp gaming for a long time, so this was a chance to scratch that itch.

Sadly, I am yet to finish my Indians. As I began to get deeper into the rules and tactics I soon realized that I could not yet wrap my head around how to play infantry in FoW. I also quickly realized that I needed a whole lot of stands to wrap up a 1500pt rifle company. Taken together, these two facts pushed me in another direction - big huge (expensive) tanks.

Turns out, my first FoW army would be infantry... tanks, and for good reason.

First, the Churchills in Tunisia are fairly pricey tanks, points-wise, but not so expensive that you can't field a viable force. This meant that there just wasn't as much to paint and I was able to maximize my hour or so a night of painting time to get a force painted to a standard I was happy with in just a few weeks. The list has just 16 vehicles in it, which was very achievable as a short-term project.

Second, I understand big, hard tanks. I might not be quite ready for the intricacies of movement and positioning for maximum effectiveness or dealing with swarming opponents, but I can at least see what to do with a pack of rolling pillboxes. As I am learning the game, the ability to just concentrate on the vehicle side of the game lets me chop off a lot of rules for y first forays, which will let me get past basic concepts faster.

Third, they're Churchills. I love Churchills. They are some of my favorite tanks from the war. I like that they're British tanks for my British army (lend-lease stuff lacks that national differentiation). They're huge, they are heavy in your hand, and they are unmistakably rooted in the trench-crossing origins of tank warfare.

And this is what I have to show for my efforts - one Infantry Tank (Tunisia) company. The math looks like this:

Headquarters - CiC in Churchill III, 2iC in Churchill III (275) plus 2x Churchill I (210)
Churchill Platoon - 3x Churchill III (410)
Churchill Platoon - 3x Churchill III (410)
Recon Platoon - 2x Carrier Patrols w/ 2x extra MGs, 1x 0.50 MG each. (190)

I decided to base my company on the 25th Armoured Brigade in Tunisia, and the brigade's senior regiment, the North Irish Horse in particular after finding a wealth of history and modelling information on a website kept by a veteran of that unit in the war. I prefer to build forces for historical games that reference historical units - even when I am playing them in a-historic contexts. Mainly, I just enjoy the research and rivet-counting side of the model collecting. I do not extend that detail-driven compulsion to the actual game though.

Here we have the Fighting Headquarters with two Churchill III and two Churchill I tanks. The earlier marks give me direct and bombardment smoke which I wouldn't otherwise get with these tanks, as well as a small artillery capability.

The first combat platoon. I decided to go with the C company because I am self-deprecating in all things.
The otherwise identical 2nd Platoon. My stowage is all from the Command Decision (Old Glory) general stowage pack. What it lacks in variation over hand-sculpted canvas bundles it makes up for in speed-to-completion.
Finally, my carrier patrols. I differentiated the lead/upgunned carriers by adding both a third crewman and an AT gun through the forward gun port. The patrols have slightly different markings to tell them apart as well. Carriers are some of those vehicles from the war that I just love. They're likely to find their way into my companies regardless of actual gameplay utility as a result.

And there we have it. I really don't know what they'll do on the table yet, or what to do with them on the table yet, but they're painted, they look pretty cool, and I have an army. Huzzah!

(Any tips on how to play them are welcome.)

Moving forward, I do expect to finish the Indian rifle company, as I expect I will eventually figure out infantry. Interestingly, due to the perfect confluence of the upcharge on Veteran units over Trained against the reduced prices of late war units, I am able to use the exact same set of models in mid-war Italy and Cassino lists. Paint once, play twice - sounds like a good deal.

I'm also expecting to sort out the Indian infantry in an early war list once I get ahold of Hellfire and Back, plus I have an order in for a mess of Stuarts to build an early/mid light tank force as well. Once I have the British forces painted and ready for all three FoW stages I might look to do something new, but I'll buy that bridge when I come to it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In which our hero looks for a middle ground

I really don't need to be looking for more miniatures to buy at this point. I have the metal and resin on-hand or incoming to build nine different skirmish/ASQL forces. If I was going to keep buying stuff, it world make more sense to focus on developing most or all of these seeded armies into armies that would be useful in Crucible or Ogre games, as well as giving larger forces or selection alternatives for other games. Nine armies should be enough, afterall.

Yet I look.

The explosion of options in the 15mm sci fi genre of late definitely has been great for the playerbase, but it does present a challenge for people like myself who can flit from project to project so easily.

What has become a larger challenge than avoiding the temptation to hoard metal, however, is drawing the line between harder sci fi and cartoonish armies.

My present assortment of figures definitely falls on the more gritty and realistic (ha!) side of near-future sci fi - even though I do have some thoroughly-improbable entries like cat people, snakes with arms, and not-Stargate figures as the primitive requisite for my CMG Protolenes for filling out alternate army lists in ASQL, there is still not much silly happening there. This is probably the most thoroughly-developed flavor of figures in the marketplace and is very easy to collect.

But, that said, the other side can be had, and they have some very, very buyable minis.

Just to pick out a handful that are testing my resolve...

There are VSF/Steampunk lines from Black Hat and Hydra which I would love to paint. A martian and an earthling VSF army would square up against one another well, and the Hydra retro pulp robots would be imposing mecha or Tripod alternates for an invading alien force or mad science minions.

Looking toward the pulp miniatures available, Khurasan only just released some adorable octo-man cultists, as well as some mushroom-men who would fit in well with some of Hydra's little sprouts as the living plant primitive portion of a cinematic alien force.

And don't forget that Zombiesmith's lovable, beautiful Quar line has ventured tentatively into 15mm.

Clearly, there is a lot of silliness out singing siren songs to me, but I fight it. Why?

I think that in the end, the stubborn aesthete who dictates so much of my gaming adventures just can't reconcile the gritty and the silly on the same table at the same time. I find the idea of putting my grav armor up against a Burroughs-esque martian army to be somehow unappealing and unwanted.

So, as much as I drool over and admire the silly standouts, it probably won't be until I have the hard-sci fi projects wrapped up and can start doing entirely new armies to fight one another in entirely separate games that I can turn my attention to them.

How I suffer for my art.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In which our hero has opposing forces

Huzzah! My second 100-point ASQL force is all done. After much tinkering, conversions, and color retouching, here is the playable first shot at my worm raiders.

I made good on my threat to do some conversion work on the CMG Astagar. Five poses really isn't enough to base an army on, but the combination of bending tails in alternate directions and sculpting helmets, armor, and other gear onto half of these made for a nice kick in the diversity, and I liked having all of the extra armor to pick out in white and orange, it makes the figures look great.

The grav APCs got yet another update, this time in the form of a more pronounced white and orange stripe near the back. Each is still slightly different in markings, for some added personality, but the stripe ties the infantry and armor together nicely.

Next up should be some light tanks, as well as some more infantry. The Topgun armor is a bit hard to get right now, but I have no shortage of things to keep me busy until it gets here.

As far as ASQL force makeup goes, they're rolling as an Alien Imperial Strikeforce, with a breakdown that looks like this:

1 x Shocktrooper Command Squad w/ Superior Energy Weapons and Superior Shields (17 pts)
2 x Shocktrooper Squads w/ Superior Energy Weapons and Superior Shields (24pts)
1 x Support Squad w/ Superior Energy Weapons and Superior Shields (14 pts)
3 x Armored Transport w/ Superior Heavy Turreted Weapons and Superior Shields (45 pts)

It's a very small force with a low breakpoint, so I expect them to take a lot of practice to use well. They should be pretty durable and very dangerous, though, so as long as they don't get overrun by numbers in a bad position, they've got a good shot at winning. We'll see what the dice say.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In which our hero has an army

I have enough Commonwealth troops finished to fill out a hundred-point ASQL army now.

Probably a bit late, but I have been tweaking them a lot. I added stowage to the armor, changed the aerials to a thinner wire, and played around with some shading. Once the armor was done, I added a bit of wash to the infantry to better match the final shade of the tanks as well.

The infantry bases are Litko wooden jobs, FoW medium-size, with magnets. I painted the magnet brown and the infantry, based on steel washers, stick to them well enough. Makes it easy to mount figures for lots of games and basing alternatives, or not base them, as the case may be. Normally, ASQL has figures mounted five to a 2x2 base, but I'm doing fewer on a shallower base just to get to the table faster. I have the bases and magnets (and unpainted miniatures) to do the recommended format eventually, but I suspect I will stick to this. One nice side-effect of this mounting scheme is that I can track hits on the units by removing figures from the base. Once they run out of figures, they're done.

Here is the ASQL force breakdown:

1 x Command Regular Infantry (13 pts)
3 x Regular Infantry (24 pts)
2 x Heavy Weapon Squad (20 pts)
1 x MBT w/ Scatter Missiles (17 pts)
2 x Armored Transport w/ Heavy Turret-Mounted Weapons (26 pts)

For the trip to 150 points, I have some light grav tanks on the way. I can mix in some more infantry too if need be, we'll see what makes sense as I get a feel for the flow of the game. They'll already outnumber the Worms they'll be squaring off against, so it may be that they benefit more from speed from the light vehicles, the firepower being a wash.

Friday, February 18, 2011

In which our hero enjoys a palate cleanser

I've been spending almost all of my painting time doing the 15mm Sci Fi stuff lately, so I needed a quick change of pace to keep it interesting. As is usually the case, this meant a return to Bloodbowl figures, and with my last efforts in this realm having wrapped up a couple of teams, it was time to start a new one from scratch.

It took a bit of perseverating to decide which squad to hop to next. I have metal for every team in the GRF's long list of rosters, and a whole lot of it is unpainted. I recently picked up the Gaspez Arts frogman and chaos human squads, as well as Impact's Sarcos team, all of which I am looking forward to painting, but in the end, what I chose to paint was a squad that I have had lingering around the top of my to-do list for ages, the vampires.

Here then is the first go at Ashen Villa, the most melodramatic vampire squad that ever vamped.

I do think I need to put a moratorium on red/grey team strips after this one before it gets out of hand.

Vampires in Bloodbowl have long been a bit of a mess. The earliest incarnations were just star players, so they were easily overlooked, but with 4e, Jervis tossed us a real howler of a roster with some fun ideas but  terrible balance. While the roster wasn't much to write home about, its presence prompted Fanatic to commission a set of figures for it, and the world is better for them.

From the first time I saw them, Steve Buddle's thrall sculpts had a place in my heart. They are excellent fantasy footballers and really clever designs that hit the mark dead-on. While his vampires were also sharp, they always felt a little bit too small for my tastes, and I actually sort of like the Count Drakenborg 3e Star Player mini. He looks nothing like a footballer and is in a standyaroundy pose, but the guy has some personality anyway, maybe I just dig the cape. Anyway, I pretty much decided from the start to use the old vampires with the new thralls, the combination goes together well and really has a pulp vampire vibe. These guys don't sparkle, but they may be acted by Ed Wood's chiropractor, though.

Three players hardly scratches the surface, but immortal beings can be patient.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In which our hero kills a tree

I recently finished a project that I'd been fiddling around with for the better part of ten years.

That's the nice thing about hobbies, you can be way over deadline.

Anyway, the project in question was, in retrospect, one which I may have been a bit of an ironic choice to undertake - since it does seem a bit odd that the same guy who sculpts miniatures, lavishes such fiddly paint jobs onto them, and rails against both unpainted and proxy figures would also be the same gamer who has now produced an entire set of paper miniatures for fantasy football.

True, I am almost at cross purposes, but paper miniatures aren't so bad. Especially good ones.

I happen to think these are good ones.

The process was  pretty straightforward. I drew front-and-back outlines for every player on every roster (and given the rosters that have floated in and out of GRF over the years, I actually have quite a lot of unused art on top of the stuff in use).

After inking the drawings and cleaning up the pencil marks, I scanned the team and used painting programs to color the players using layers set to multiply so that the lines would be visible beneath the coloring.

In the early years of the project, coloring was done in photoshop with a mouse, and was tedious. I only finished a half dozen or so teams because it was a real chore to do these.

Enter my iPad.

The combination of the iPad, Sketchbook Pro, and a Boxwave stylus made this project not only remarkably fast and easy, but also thoroughly enjoyable. The coloring stage went from being a hand-cramping chore to an activity that provided zen-like relaxation. The nights I was going through these panels were a joy.

Once colored, I would bring the image back into photoshop and copy players onto a team sheet in the appropriate assortment.

Once layout is complete, they are printed on a good laser printer (inkjet has no longevity with sweaty gamer paws) and cut into strips which are folded over and then slipped into a color-coded base. I have a good assortment of the old Cardboard Heroes bases, but these have been out of print for a while. EM-4 seems to be a good source of similar stands at the moment should you decide to do something similar in this day and age.

The final result is something that I am not at all ashamed to put on a gaming table. They work well, they look like professional game components, and they let you play teams you have no miniatures for in a respectable way. I see these as a valuable way to improve the look and feel of my solo gaming.

But why do it at all? It's precisely because I am so disturbed by proxies and unpainted miniatures. I would rather see a full-color, accurate standup card on the pitch than a silver orc standing in for a wood elf catcher. It is precisely because I am a snobbish aesthete that I was compelled to draw and color these figures in the first place. I have made my peace with paper.