Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Curse of the bendy pikes in 28mm

Eureka Mycenaen spearmen as they arrived:
how could anyone live with these ridiculous whippy extensions?
I bought some Eureka Mycenaen spearmen from their new UK outlet to supplement the Foundry Aegean Bronze Age (Mycenean/Minoan) army I bought at the 2019 SELWG Show for Dragon Rampant/Lion Rampant. They are basically nice sculpts and a good match for Foundry, but they present a particularly bad case of the curse of the bendy pikes. There is no way I would attempt to keep them as they are. I just don’t understand why the designer, manufacturer and other customers should want them like that.

Replacing them is straightforward: it just requires a waste of time, effort and cut fingers.

Clippers, Scalpel, Pin-vice hand drills, Files
First step is to cut away the unwanted cast spears (or whips?). Scalpels might seem the obvious tool for this job but these days I tend mostly to use Clippers and Files. Clippers are great for cleaning up (and conversions). It's surprising how much or how little you can remove with Clippers without damaging what's left behind. Files give a smoother, more rounded finish.

After removal I drill out the hands using a succession of ever-larger Pin-vice hand drills. I have three drills preloaded with different bits. It saves a lot of time changing bits. I think I'll get some more.

North Star wire spears and superglue gell.
Next step is to replace the pikes with wire spears from North Star and other suppliers. I used to use piano wire for pikes, but these days you can get wire with shaped heads and they are only slightly more lethal. These are glued in place with my favourite superglue of recent times, Gorilla Super Glue Gell.

The Foundry Aegean Bronze Age figures are open handed, while the Foundry Nordic Bronze Age figures (which I also bought at the SELWG Show) have thick spears with a reasonable prospect of survival.

Eureka and Foundry spearmen with fitted North Star spears.
I'm prepared to replace a few spears/pikes here and there but I must remember that my next spear/pike army (if there is one) will either come with robust spears or empty hands or be composed of 2mm blocks.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Lion Rampant: Bloodbath scenario

Simon's Burgundians far side. My Swiss near side.
This was my second game of Lion Rampant, fought back in January, and was a first outing for my Late Medievals. Simon commanded the Burgundians whilst I had the Swiss. The armies were 24 points each.

2 Pike (Foot Serjeants) @ 4
2 Veteran (Expert) Archers @ 6
1 Crossbows @ 4

Swiss halberdiers on the right are reluctant to advance.
1 Pike (Expert Foot Serjeants) @ 6
2 Halberds (Fierce Foot) @ 4
1 Handguns (Bidowers) @ 2
1 Crossbows (Bidowers) @ 2
1 Foot Men-at-Arms @ 6

My Bidowers (left) close but the main attack lags behind.
I had designed the Burgundians as a steady warband with good missile-power and the Swiss as do-or-die desperados.

My plan as the Swiss was to conduct a delaying action on my left with my Bidowers while attacking on my right with the halberdiers and, more cautiously, in the centre with my pike and Men-at-Arms.

Casualties mount on my left-hand halberd unit.
My Fierce troops certainly had Simon worried, a threat I jokingly exaggerated! In the event they were slow to move off and were then very badly shot up. One of the units never recovered. The other was delayed. This was basically the end of Plan A.

My best and only remaining chance then lay in the centre - Plan B. I wiped out the enemy Crossbows with my Men-at-Arms but the opposing pike went into schiltron. This made the pike-to-pike contest more-or-less even when it would otherwise have been in my favour.

My main attack is shot to pieces.
I was successful in using the Bidowers to tie up the units on Simon’s right, but the only point of that was to win elsewhere which I obviously didn’t.

Full marks to Simon for his steady defence. High quality Archers certainly need to be treated with respect.

Some success for the Swiss but a rather sorry end.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Thirty Years War 6mm progress 4: the main colour

An impressive array, but further patching is needed because of the white undercoat and inconsistent mixing and application of the brown paint.
I wet painted the figure blocks (including the bases) with Vallejo Charred Brown. This may be thin paint but it's not supposed to be a wash. Controlling the consistency of the paint is a bit hit and miss. However you mix it, it tends to separate and to dry out.

The brown needs to be solid as it will be the finished colour of at least 50% of the figure blocks. This brown functions as the base colour of the ground, the shadow between the ranks of figures and any and all parts of the figures which I don't subsequently paint with any other colour.

The blocks may be only 60mm x 30mm but given the indentations represented by the figures and the sand on the bases, they have a very large surface area and positively drink paint. Getting 100% coverage is vital. I don't want any white spots in the middle of an area which is supposed to be deep shadow. The blocks therefore have to be touched up in good light.

It was at this point that I realised I should have undercoated in black gesso according to the original ‘recipe’. Had I done so, covering the undercoat completely wouldn’t be so important. As it was it took quite a lot of time to eliminate any white spots and I still have to go over the blocks again as the brown is a bit thin in places. I am currently awaiting a new supply of Charred Brown!

I know some people may think that basing before painting is a little eccentric, but had I painted the figures first I would not have been able to get at the ground between them given the way in which they are so packed together.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Thirty Years War 6mm progress 3: undercoating

Cannon and Commander: a black undercoat
would have been better...
Since my last report I snipped off all the pikes and improved the bases that had gaps in the texturing. I then used a scalpel to scrape off any sand that had got onto the figures.

Having completed the texturing of the bases I glued the guns in place. That wasn't done until this stage because the crew had bases needing to be hidden by the filler but the guns just sit on top.

I then applied a 50% solution of white gesso undercoat entirely covering the figures and bases and touched this up in good light. White on metal is not always easy to see in the middle of a 6mm pike block, but I expect the coverage was at least 95%.

Using white was a mistake. I should have used black gesso. It would have been easier to see against the bare metal and easier to cover in the next stage.

That concluded the preparation stage. The next stage is painting.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Black Seas trial

A pre-game close-up of undercoated ships.
Busy with my Thirty Years War project, I've been holding back on Black Seas. My friend Ian, however, put his ships together and suggested a game which I was happy to take up. The game more-or-less confirmed some thoughts I’d been having so let me get them out of the way first.

The rules are very nicely produced and appear to be fairly clear. I think the 1/700 model ships are very good but very light. I would want to mount them on my normal MDF and steel bases for storage, transport and playing. I don't think this would interfere with how the game is played, as long as I kept them as small as possible.

The playing aids provided are useful for getting you started but they are very flimsy. I'd want to replace most of these with more substantial MDF or metal pieces, and to have proper 3D scenery.

I really don't like the wake markers which are fiddly and ugly. For now I think it’s much better to keep these with the ship cards, aligning the sail setting on the wake with the bottom of the ship card, but I'm hoping for a more elegant solution.

Talking of the ship cards, I also don’t like the red clips used to indicate hull damage, but perhaps someone will market an MDF holder with a peg track as has been done for the sister game, Cruel Seas.

Now on to the game.

I made a strong start, crossing the T and raking one of Ian's frigates which subsequently struck its colours.

It takes time to get used to the manoeuvre rules. I suffered a number of collisions and ended up very scattered. I think I won but this view was not unanimous.

We got through about 5 or 6 of the 15 turns. I really don't think we'd ever get through a game using the massed fleets being marketed by Warlord Games.

We used only the basic rules in our game, but we both now consider it essential to use the more advanced and realistic wind rules and Fire As She Bears.

Overall we judged the game a success, so I may proceed with it if and when I have the time and inclination.

My original intention was to model an American force, but I’m hesitating to order yet another set when the first one is still in its box. I’m naturally suspicious of games tied to one company, and I can see this one proliferating and soaking up a great deal of money.

My French squadron crosses the T. The British frigate (left centre) will strike its colours. In this game I experimented with placing the wake markers alongside the ships. It was less fiddly but they still got in the way. Needless to say, they are an ugly distraction from what would otherwise be a good-looking game. I am lost to explain why the author went down this design path when the ship models are so fine to look at.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Thirty Years War 6mm progress 2: Curse of the bendy pikes

Bendy pikes.
I levelled the bases with Tetrion filler and then textured them with thinned PVA and fine sand. In larger scales I’d have brought this right up and around the feet of the figures to hide the integral figure bases, but for most of these unit bases I was able only to run the filler and sand around the outside border. This means that the figure bases still show on the insides as in the photo of some Swedish Horsemen below. The photo actually makes the gaps look accessible but I think I would have got Tetrion and PVA on the figures if I'd tried to texture in between them.

There’s not much I can do about it, and I’m hoping the gaps will be lost in the deep brown shadows which will which will be be basis of figures, unit base and all.

At this stage I had to think seriously about the pikes. 
I hate bendy pikes even more than exposed figure bases. Indeed, I’ve even ‘campaigned’ against cast pikes on 6mm (Baccus) and 10mm (Pendraken) figures in favour of separate wire pikes, but it drew little support from other punters. For some time it completely held me back from doing a pike army in 6mm or 10mm, but how could I be right and everyone else wrong? 

All Tetrioned and sanded.
 I had very serious reservations about the thin, fragile pikes on the 6mm Baccus figures but I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Well, I should have trusted my instincts. Despite my best attempts to straighten the pikes and to avoid touching them, the simple process of basing, undercoating and general handling has already proved to me that they are a total disaster. And this is nothing to the bashing they are going to get in use on the table. They are going to end up looking like floppy spaghetti prior to eventually breaking off.

Swedish Horsemen: Untextured gaps to be lost in shadow...
I now realise I have no choice but to snip all the pikes and replace them later. Snipping will be easy but replacing them is going to be fiddly and time-consuming. I'm inclined to snip them now which will give me a little better access to paint the pikemen, even though my painting will be minimal in the extreme and may come as a shock to some readers! I’ll then fit the flags attached to dress pins and finally replace the pikes with brown brush bristles. It can be done as shown here.

The pikes have been niggling me. Having made this decision I am feeling a lot more positive about this project.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

My introduction to Lion Rampant

The English defending their hearths and homes.
I played this first game of Lion Rampant back in May 2018. This report has been kicking around for some time. The game was set in the Dark Ages but we used just the ordinary Lion Rampant rules rather than the Landwasters and Raven Feeders extension. We didn't use Leader Traits or Boasts.

The English viewed from their left flank. What a nice little village!
I set up a trial scenario based on forcing a river crossing. The Attacker's objective was to get across a ford and contact a settlement. The Defender's objective was to prevent that, but the game was basically about crossing the ford (and trying out the rules).

The Viking marauders.
The game featured my old 25mm Viking army which I'd split into two armies and rebased on coins. My opponent, Bernard, had a generous 34 points of Vikings while I had 24 points of Anglo-Danes. They would never have called themselves that, so let's just refer to them as the English.

Squaring up at the ford.
2 Huscarls (Men-at-Arms)* @ 12
1 Hirdman (Serjeants, Expert) @ 6
2 Bondi (Yeomen, Mixed Weapons) @ 10
1 Berserkir (Fierce Foot) @ 4
1 Scouts (Bidowers) @ 2

The English unit at the ford is well-supported.
2 Huscarls (Men-at-Arms)* @ 12
1 Select Fyrd (Serjeants) @ 4
1 General Fyrd (Yeomen, Javelins) @ 4
2 Skirmishers (Bidowers) @ 4

We played lengthwise on a 6' x 4' area. The river was impassable apart from the ford which was difficult ground. The felt templates represented copses. I didn't have any large trees at that time. The wattle fencing was a linear obstacle, but the Vikings never got that far.

The Berserkir, already weakened, finally make their move.
The Vikings enjoyed a prompt start. Bernard held the Berserkir back to avoid any wild charges but they eventually emerged as his unit of choice to contest the ford, but when they got into position they refused to do so! Evidently too many magic mushrooms. This gave my skirmishers a good opportunity to shoot them down.

The English counter-attack across the river.
We played for about 2 hours before calling time. The Vikings never did get across the ford but had the game continued they probably would have done. As we had not defined a game end point, we agreed to call it a draw.
A ford too far exposes the English unit to annihilation.
We found that shooting can be quite decisive. Faced with missile troops, fighting defensively is not really an option. Had the game continued (and if my Retinue had not been so depleted!) I would have been forced onto the offensive.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Thirty Years War 6mm progress

Swedish pike-and-shot, Swedish horsemen, Detached shot, Cuirassiers,
Dragoons, German pike-and-shot, Croats, Arquebusiers.

I've based all the figures I had for Steven Thomas's Tilly's Very Bad Day. The the photo shows most of them (except for Commanders and Cannons), but it was only about half of what I need. Baccus was closed for renovation so I had to wait a while before placing a third order.

The bases are 60mm x 30mm MDF and steel, and the figures were glued on with PVA which gave me plenty of time to manipulate them into position. PVA is hardly the best glue for metal, but I've found it adequate for small scale figures. The figures are not perfectly aligned. This was deliberate.

Monday, 21 October 2019


Colonial forces on the nearside. Boxers and Imperial Chinese in the distance.
Tonbridge Wargames Club put on a 28mm Boxer Rebellion demo/participation game of The Men Who Would Be Kings at the annual SELWG show in Crysral Palace, South London. I wasn't part of the demo team having been rather out of things recently, but I was pleased to be invited to participate in one of the games.

I commanded the Colonial forces consisting of Japanese, British and French marines. These are the nearest units in the photo. The opposition, commanded by Simon, consisted of two Imperial Chinese units (Irregular Infantry, one with obsolete and one with modern firearms) and four units of Boxers (Tribal Infantry).

The objective, for the Colonial forces, was to clear and control the T-junction on the right.

My plan was to advance into range and then to hold back and control the objetive by fire. On my right flank the French Marines swept away the opposition. On my left flank the Japanese holed up in the compound. Despite an heroic resistance with all the advantages of being in hard-cover they were eventually whittled away. The Royal Marines in the centre should have won any firefight but suffered badly initially and never recovered.

In the end game the French Marines who had performed like a Boxer-munching 'Pac-Man' came around in a right hook to clear the last Boxers out of the compound and to gain a Pyrric victory.

It was a very well-balanced game and all good fun.