Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wargamer's Wandering Minds (to the dark ages)

Kinda like Wandering Eyes, but for Miniature Games...

Let's wander off to the dark ages.  I have a decent collection of Vikings, Saxons, and Normans that have sat around dormant for awhile.  I've been very faithful to the ACW and AoS for the last year but lately I've been tempted to dabble back into the dark ages, kinda like when you run into  an ex-girl friend that's been to the gym a lot. 

Because of this sexiness from Warlord Games

Hail Caesar she says?  I like Hail Caesar rules
Dark Age Sagas she says?  I like the games set in the dark ages...
Volume 1?  So more in the future...
Updated rules for the Dark ages, including a new rule for being in a shield wall she says?  HELLO baby!  I've missed you so much...

but then again...

Dark Age rule Sets Quibbling 

While I love dark age skirmish games and dark age battles;  I couldn't really find a ruleset that I really liked for mass battles.  I tried a couple of different rule sets (War and Conquest, Age of Empires, Sword and Spear, and Hail Caesar), and all were decent games* but none of them really rang my bell completely as in 'now this is what I want.'  But let's talk for about Hail Caesar for the moment.

Hail Caesar came the closest to what I wanted; but I don't love the command roll and I really didn't think it did a good job of modeling units in a formal shield wall.  The command roll in HC (and for that matter Black Powder) can be lame because if you are controlling 1 division and fail your first roll, (basically need to roll 8 or less on 2d6, and there's no way to modify that roll), then you don't do anything for most of the turn which is BORING.  The obvious fix is to have each player control at least 2 divisions, so that the odds of failing both command rolls on the first attempt are very low; ensuring that a player will most likely be able to move something.  Sometimes I'm surprised that 'roll to activate' mechanics are still around, as nobody likes them.  No one wants to roll dice and then do nothing.  A better game mechanic I've seen is a 'roll for type of activation;'  the better the roll the more options, the worse the less options or even moving in retreat, but at least retreating is doing something.  Even if you have to move your units backwards it's better than rolling dice, cursing, then stating "well, my movement is over.  you guys go ahead and do your moves while I wander away and get something to eat and maybe I'll be back in time for shooting."

The shield wall problem was more complex: there really wasn't a good mechanism to illustrate a bunch of men forming a compact shield wall to make them harder to kill.  yeah you could use the  'close ranks'  ability (-1 to hit, +1 to save) but after a few games of this I realized that ability actually SUCKED and you should never do it.  EVER.  It actually makes it more likely you will lose the combat, which in HC means you take the Break test, which means there's a chance to lose the unit.  AND the way to win at HC is make the other guy take more break tests. 

What HC is good at is putting on a good looking game with long battle lines smashing together and grinding it out with some excitement.  It's also easy to pick up, doesn't take too long, and is easy to construct scenarios with.  Overall I think it's a pretty decent generic rule set though.

The new book has a new shield wall rule, which sounds better than anything I could come up with. Which is the main point about buying expansions: I'm paying for someone to think for me.

*OK, fine, let's talk about the other rule sets:
War and Conquest was just a little too complicated and the I found the shooting to be WAY overpowered.  In all the games I played my formed units in Shield wall formation would get shot to pieces by large groups of skirmishers, which in my mind should NOT happen; formed infantry should not be done in by skirmishers.   Also I discovered that I didn't like building units from individual models and individual casualty removal.  just too picky.

Sword and Spear has a lot of stuff I like except one big thing that bugs me: while you can move units as a group together, when it comes to charging into contact units have to move one at time, alternating with the other player.  So instead of smashing your battle-line against his battle line, you dribble units in piecemeal which doesn't match my perception of dark age battles.

So Like an Itch

It is funny to me how the dark ages genre kinda resurfaced in my brain, completely unbidden.  I'm still focused on ACW (and have some serious hobby plans for the troops) but now all of a sudden I am seduced into thinking about dark age games and scenarios.  The obvious way to scratch this itch is to play a game with my dark age miniatures.  After all, I have all these painted miniatures and terrain for a reason.  Of course my life is not cooperating and recent events are having me with little time to escape to play games.  For the time being I'm one of those guys who builds and paints but won't get a game in anytime soon.  I wonder how that will effect the blog; what do you do with a wargaming blog when you're not wargaming?

The next best thing is of course to buy something and/or build something.  I shouldn't buy any miniatures because I have PLENTY lying around.  So I'll likely buy the book (especially bc Warlord has free shipping right now due to the royal wedding).  And for a small project I found 18 Norman Crossbow men that I had purchased from someone else oh-so-long-ago that needed rebasing.  So that was that.

These guys basically came on a 4 x 4 base that I destroyed awhile ago
.  It was a simple matter of just preparing and gluing them to the new 25mm rounds and then doing the ground textures

Like so.. tadaa!  

And while putting the guys away I took a moment to organize and inventory the collection of Normans so far.  I grouped them by type and counted and got:

59 Infantry
24 Archers
31 Crossbows
16 Unarmored Knights
35 Armored Knights
2 leaders.   

or roughly 60 infantry, 60 missile, and 60 cavalry.  Just like I planned it. 
Also my smallest Dark Age army. 

I give you The Norman Army:

Ariel shot of all the groups

Norman Infantry

Armored Knights

Unarmored Knights



Fun fact about these Normans: I only painted maybe 4-8 of them.  All others are bought from other gamers or paint service.  That's right, this force is completely mercenary; just like the real Normans.

Successful Wargamer?

So what happened:
I fell victim to marketing strategy that sometimes gets to me: Making a generic rule set and an endless amount of supplements for that rule set; also succumbed to "new shiny syndrome"  albeit in book form, of a genre I'm not doing anytime soon.  But at least it's a continuation of a current wargaming period and not something just totally random.  Therefore:  partial success!

I did something different to break up the constant ACW and AoS, and increased my collection of completed figures; Therefore success!

Found something to blog about, maybe worth reading?
Partial success!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Frosted Sparkle Varnish fix

I love/hate Army Painter Products.  

I really like the Army Painter Quickshades.  It adds shading and protects the model, and fits my painting style of doing a larger bunch of miniatures at once; making an effort to make each miniature decent but not painstaking.  There are some tricks to it, but overall it's pretty forgiving.  It's only big draw back is of course, it leaves the model looking very shiny.  Requiring you to apply a matt varnish to model.  Enter the Army Painter Anti-shine Matt Varnish Spray.

I really dislike the Army Painter Anti-shine spray.  I love it when it works, but it does seem SO super finicky and sometimes ends in disaster with the dreaded frosted effect where it looks like the model has a layer of ice on it like it just finished giving Princess Elsa a hug.  Or the frosted sparkle look from the Twilight movies with the sexy vampires (or so I've heard; it's not like I watched the movies or know what I'm talking about but I was team Edward all the way.)

Edward and I had the same haircut

There's almost too many things that can go wrong with the anti shine spray, leaving your miniature with this terrible glassy effect: it can be too humid, too cold, too hot, sprayed too close, sprayed too soon, sprayed too heavy, or the can not shaken enough...  in other words lots of room for human error.  I am very prone to human error.

My recent project with the ACW limbers suffered this (see previous post):  I had a new can, it was 81 degrees outside, Humidity was 33%,  but maybe I didn't shake the can enough in a counter clockwise motion while singing the national anthem long enough before I sprayed the miniatures because they all came out frosted like they were all made of stars (remember that song?)

Quiet Moby, Nobody remembers your music.


I sprayed the miniatures after letting the quickshade dry, and saw the whole bunch start to frost up.  After some cursing the world and drying my tears, I took some pictures for examples but not a single limber escaped the terror;   can you see the frosting?  

Limber looks like it's covered in snow

glazed horses, check out the the dark brown one

really bad on the tail


"We are all made of Stars"
I just put that song in your head.
From 15 years ago.

This has happened before, but in smaller numbers and not to this degree; this was the worse because it was significant and on all the miniatures.  I might need to re-evaluate how I mat varnish my miniatures.

But the Solution was Actually Simple.

I did some internet searches and read some stuff on TMP.  Now that I know what to do, if this happens again then I doubt I'll have as much angst as I did.  The solutions I read were all basically this:  let the stuff thoroughly dry and then basically try it again. Except one person stated that you rubbed the miniature with Olive oil, which seems like a strange thing to do; and I have a hard time imagining a thought process that would lead to such a conclusion.

So a few hours later I tried to mat varnish again, but not trusting the spray, I found my little bottle of brush on Vallejo Matt Varnish.

As you might surmise:  I use this small bottle of Matt Varnish when I'm doing a small number of figures and I like the spray when I'm in a more productive phase...

I painted the Vallejo Matt Varnish over the sparkly-frosted miniatures and was pleased to see that it did the trick ad significantly damped the damage.  I took some pictures of the same miniatures after the Vallejo so one can compare and contrast....These are in the same order as posted above.

Notice the dark brown one again.  

Now that the frosting effect is gone, one can really see the mediocre paint job.

All better now; brushing on matt varnish over the frosty spray varnish seemed to do the trick.
So I went ahead and repaired all the frosty sparkly miniatures and no one would of ever been the wiser except for this post and my own big mouth.

Those that did not see the previous post can see how the completed miniatures turned out by looking  HERE  <--link to previous post.

This frosty / sparkly effect from spray varnish is an issue I often see on TMP.  Sometimes I question the utility of using it at all.

Overall this turned out to be a fun little adventure in miniature hobbying.
Hope you might of found this post useful and a little humorous.  

Monday, May 7, 2018

Now Where Was I,... oh yes, wargaming blog

Gamer, Interupted

SOOOOooo how are you?  It's been awhile.  

There was a short interruption in blogging due to growing family responsibilities, in that the size of the family grew with the birth of son #2 in early April.  This has been coming for awhile now ( I wasn't really surprised), and accounts for the shockingly low number of games played in this year.  I'm gonna have trouble hitting the goal of 24 games for the year; I should be at 6 by now and only have 3.  

Word of advice; having a baby around when you're in your early 40s is MUCH harder than it is when you're in your mid 30s.  Who woulda thunk?  

Though one benefit of being a slightly older father is that one is somewhat more established, and I've been enjoying a long Paternity leave from work; and will do so until mid May.  Going into my paternity leave I had some excitement that I would get SO MUCH hobbying done.  I mean, I just gained 40 hours a week (not to mention the time spent commuting), and even if only 2 of those 40 hours could be devoted to hobby stuff and the rest to new baby and family or whatever, then I really should have lots more time to engage in painting and such, right?  

I Miscalculated

That was a totally wrong assumption, and there I was, many weeks into my leave and I'd done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for wargaming except doing some online searches for cool wargame stuff while the wife was in labor.   No, that's not true.  Well it's not completely true, but definitely true during the boring parts, and the whole process takes like ALL DAY...

Staying at home being devoted to family is great and all (or NOT great, depending on moods), but it seemed that whenever I try to sit down for some panting and hobbying, this happened:

I can't get any painting done!
I have no time for playing games!

There I am in ALL MY GLORY.  I'm sure I'm even more handsome than you imagined.  Just another average gamer. It's amazing what calories and time will do to a man.

Persistently picking up where I left off...

So with a combination of buckling down,  the family finally settling into a rhythm of a new normal, and greatly spurred along with a growing sense of desperation that I was going to go crazy without some downtime; I returned to the hobby desk to see what was about.  I found that large ACW project right where I left it:  making a bunch of artillery limbers and markers.

ACW Artillery limbers

Markers of artillery being damaged (dead horses) and low on Ammo (ammo boxes)

Now this is a project I've been putting off for a long time now.  I'm not sure one actually needs Limbers to play ACW.  So far I've used a complicated system that if the guns were facing the enemy they were unlimbered and if facing away they were limbered; without any distress and confusion.  And while they do pretty up the table they seem like a lot of work for little gain.  However every ACW rules I like do require markers for when guns become damaged or run out / run low on ammo.
But since I was fool enough to order limbers in the first place I might as well make them.  I'll probably be glad I did; is what I am telling myself.

And as an added bonus, this is the only project cluttering up the hobbydesk and I feel a rush of excitement when I clear off the hobby desk with completed projects!  A sense of freedom to start new ones!  A sense of accomplishment that something was done.  I probably need to get out more.

I also received extra motivation in that a couple of the blogs that I follow where doing great posts with ACW content (I'm looking at you Tony, Dan, Norm, and Matt, so thank you!).  Nothing motivates you to paint miniatures that you only half wanna paint more than reading cool content on the same genre.

Limber UP!  or Artillery Accessories

Just under the wire, with a week or so left in my leave, I finished these.  It took forever, but at least now I can say I was productive during my paternity and completed something!  : ) 
And I'll cut myself some slack as I did paint 46 horses for this project, and horses always take longer to paint.

the original plan was to have each limber be like these, with 4 horses each.
But that was crazy because it meant painting even MORE horses, so I only made 3

16 limbers completed, and with my sleep deprived mind instead of making 8 for the CSA and 8 for the USA as intended, I gave the USA one extra (so 7 CSA and 9 USA).  It was an easy mix up to make because 1) I'm biased toward the Union and 2) the only thing that differentiates a confederate limber from a  union limber is the uniform of the guy sitting on it.

Union Limbers with men in blue..

Hey, this isn't Naps, where the Franco-Prussian-Australian artillery batalion was a different color than the British-Spanish-Brazilian one.  : ) 

CSA limbers with men in gray...

While at some point I know that I'll have to add more limbers, I'm thinking 8 markers each of Low on Ammo (the ammo boxes) and damaged battery (dead horses) will be enough..

I actually think these markers came out looking pretty good. 

So I'm planing on getting back to posting more regularly as I was, about 2-3 times a month.  But now with a clean hobby desk, where will the next project be?

Thanks for reading.  Comments appreciated.