Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Re-Base-Ening

The Horror.

The Horror.

Eh, not really.

Ever since I started my Napoleonic project way back when, I've struggled with how to appropriately base my units. I started by putting 4 men on a 60mm wide by 20mm deep base and then having six of these bases comprise a unit. This allowed me to do all the fancy line, column and square formations but they were a pain in the ass to move around during a game. I ended up making movement trays so that single units could be picked up more efficiently, but there were still incidents of falling troops and cursing. The rules sets I've ended up gravitating towards for the Napoleonic era are all tending towards eliminating formation changes and focusing on higher level tactics, so I know that I'd want to change my basing scheme eventually.

My original units on the left. A unit in the process of getting a new base on the right.

The solution presented it self via Simon Miller's excellent blog The Big Red Batcave. Simon has written his own set of ancients rules called To The Strongest (which, while I haven't played them yet. are a really nicely presented set of rules) and his units are based on irregular shaped laser cut MDF bases which he sells. I really liked the idea of having all the models on one base and the irregular shape of the TtS! bases really lets units "blend" into the scenery. I saw this as one step closer to achieving wargaming as "a moving diorama"- a phrase coined by my buddy Rob. Basically, its an attempt to get as much of the "gamey" elements off the board so that the visual aspect of the miniatures shines. I've really tried to embrace this idea - nothing drives me crazier than seeing a game with more laser cut tokens scattered about than actual models on the battlefield.

One of Simon's excellent bases
I managed to get three units re-based in just a day, with another one on deck. Its a relatively painless process - just a quick beveling of the base edges with my handy power sander, undercoat the bases black, crack the models off their old bases then transfer to the new one and add a little sand, some paint and scrub vegetation and they are good to go! I'm super happy with them and will begin the gradual process of re-doing some 60-odd units this way. Oh. Joy.

Three of the fifteen french infantry units I own done!
Love those organic edges!
I also added a dice frame to each unit's base. These
are used to track casualties with a micro die.

I also received some fun stuff in the mail from eBay this week. I'd found an auction for 12 metal 28mm French Carbiniers that were already "Pro-Painted" for $35US (including shipping) and it was too good a price to pass on. It also allowed me to try an experiment I'd contemplating - my Napoleonics games use a LOT of models and while I enjoy painting them, I just have so many projects going at once that I was looking for a short cut.

These are what arrived in my mailbox. All the basic
elements are there - they just need some tarting up.
In this instance, I figured I would roll the dice. For the price I came to the conclusion that these models would be a) as scam and I'd only have lost $35, b) much better painted than I expected c) trash and thrown into Pine Sol to strip the paint or d) have all the base colors blocked in an then I would just need to shade and highlight them and base them in my own method. Luckily, it turned out to be D! The models that arrived had all the basics in place and were easy to remove from their bases. A little shading and some highlighting over 2 nights after work has given 6 finished models that normally would have taken me at least a week. They aren't the best in my collection, but they are nothing to be ashamed of either. Now I just have to scrap up a decent flag for them.

Bam. Two nights later. Maybe 4 hours of work.
And finally, I got three more members of the Deathwatch finished, which means I only have two more of these goofballs to paint up! And then all their bases. Sigh. Looks like I've got a lot of bases in my future.

Ugh. Too much pasta! Slow and steady,
terminators are always fun.
Blood for the - NO WAIT. THAT'S NOT RIGHT.
Robed Dark Angels always make me think that
Space Marines deserve a spa day.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mixed Bag

Unfortunately this week has been a bit slow hobby-wise. I thought I'd take the time to show off some recently finished scenic pieces that I've purchased. I picked up the Dragonfate Dias from GW's new Age of Sigmar line a while back. It was available at a steep discount locally and I figured that for the price it would at least service as a nice piece of generic fantasy if nothing else. I'd read reviews of the new scenery online that were less than glowing, but the set I purchased was really well cast and went together very easily. I was really pleased with the level of detail on the model and it painted up with simple spray paints, dry brushing and washes like a dream.

The scenics manage to be really AoS appropriate AND
generic at the same time. I think that
adds a lot to their versatility.
The spooky blood pool at the bottom of the dais was
a lot of fun to do. Just a little gloss varnish went
a long way.
Having really enjoyed assembling and painting the Dragonfate Dias, I rolled the dice a second time and ordered a set of Realmgates off Amazon. Again, I experienced smooth assembly and no real warping of the plastic. These kits painted up nicely with a nominal amount of effort - just the way I like it!

While less multi-use than the dais, the Realmgates are really interesting
bits of scenery and really add to gameplay in AoS
My next scenery projects are getting some nice resin tombs from Skull Forge Scenics and several buildings from Escenorama painted up. Stay tuned for that eventually. I really need to get Deathwatch:Overkill done first.

On that side of things I now have 6 of the 11 Deathwatch team members painted. The models are really well sculpted and crackling with detail, but I've found it hard to get as excited about doing them as I was about the Genestealers. What I get for 30 odd years of painting Marines I guess.

Somebody order some pain? Probably my favorite model in the set.
Beep boop. I am a robit. 
Looking forward to yelling "SKRAAAAAW!" when playing the
game with this guy.
Woof! Woof! How does that hair fit under a helmet?
Yep. He's got a bolt gun. Still a really characterful sculpt, though.
Nothing keeps the faith like a bolt to the head.
With a little luck, I might be able to get the Blood Angel Marine from the team done tonight. Who'm I kidding? With new Game of Thrones, Fear the Walking Dead, and Preacher on tonight I will end up needing a LOT of luck.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Napoleonic Gaming

This past weekend, I managed to get in a smallish game of Napoleonics with my buddy Marky. I try to host something every few months and was feeling the urge to play some hot smokey musket on horse action so we played a one-on-one version of my own home-brew rules. It was great fun. I try to find any excuse I can get to crack open my Napoleonic troops from their cabinets. We played a game with 16 units per side - about 500 models on the table.

The whole table laid out and ready to go.
Civilians hurry to reap the harvest and tend the animals before
violence breaks out. Painting regular folk is favorite thing to
do of mine.
The well was used as one of our objectives. The big house is a hard
foam building from Ziterdes, a company in Germany.
"I say dear, is there going to be a war?"
"Perhaps my love. I will investigate as I walk the dog.
Don't mind your aunt in the green dress."
I got into Napoleonics a few years ago as what I thought would be nice diversion - not the smartest decision in the world since the words "casual" and "Napoleonics" don't really make sense together in the wargaming sphere. Not knowing what I was doing to myself, I ended up painting two armies - a French one and an Austrian one - so that I could host games for my friends that enjoy wargaming but aren't crazy enough to collect the period.

French allies - Bavarian Troops. I love their flags and uniforms!
Why Napoleonics, though? Napoleonic wargaming has always held this spot in my mind of exemplifying the pinnacle of the wargaming hobby - impossibly huge units clashing on massive tables, arrayed in colorful uniforms and battling it out with very practiced strategies. These games represent everything great about collecting toy soldiers. I was a fool to think I could just dip my toe in the period. Having jumped all in, I can only say that I'm really happy I did. These games hold all the fun and wonder that 10 year old Chris was looking for when he started painting miniatures.

Opening moves as we both race to explore the objectives while trying not to expose our troops to fire.
The French quickly took up a defensive position in the fortified farm house.
The French nearly lost a battery of cannons to a Hussar charge
if not for the quick work of  some skirmishers who saved the day.
The Austrians advance on the fortified chateau.
Besides the massive amount of figures required (not an obstacle as far as I was concerned), Napoleonics also has reputation for dense rule sets. While not always the case, many rules I've read and played could certainly be put in that category. As I've gotten older, the prospect of standing for hours and pouring over thick rulebooks and arguing the finer points of Napoleonic tactics actually fills me with dread. Most of the rules set are very complex and require a detailed knowledge of the time period to play. I just don't have the time or wish to devote to that kind of game now, so I set out and created a fast play set of rules that give decent results and can be learned and taught quickly. So far, most everyone who's played them has seemed to enjoy them so I think its what I'll stick with for the foreseeable future.

Our generals. Obviously, the ruleset is pretty light hearted.
These Austrians got charged from both sides of the wall. Yikes!
The Bavarians managed to hold of a unit of Hussars desperately trying to contest the last objective.
Marky and I played a scenario I'd adapted from something I'd read over at In the scenario five objective markers are spread across the board. Each marker has a value randomly picked from a cup of 5, 5, 5, 10 or 20 that only a player whose units come into contact with the objective will know. It makes for a game where scouting is important and there is a very clear-cut winner at the end. The game took us about 90 minutes to play and in the end I managed to hold a 5 point and 20 point set of objectives, but just barely. A rare win for the Austrian Empire. I guess the Archduke Charles' reforms are paying off.

I really liked the scenario and would play it again given a chance. That said, I only get to play Napoleonics a couple of times a year and really enjoy mixing it up each time with different scenarios. I'm at a point where playing the same pitched battle over and over again is tedious. I try to see game rules as toolboxes to tell stories, and telling a different one each time is one of the best parts of playing.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

New Battle Boards!

This past weekend saw a rare commodity in Seattle - a pair of warm sunny days and no real commitments on my calendar. I took the chance to build some more battle boards to add to my existing set while the weather held. I needed two more boards to give me some variety and I had a lot of the materials already on hand. I also managed to basically document the process, so I whipped up the following tutorial.

My original boards with scenery

I start with a 2'x8' sheet of 1 1/2" insulation foam that I cut down to two 2'x4' boards so I could fit it in my car and store it easily when not in use. I like the 1 1/2" foam because its sturdy while still being thin enough to store in a closet or under a bed (or in my garage now that I'm a homeowner). The 2" version of the foam is nice as well, but just feels a little bulkier to handle and is more expensive. Once home, I laid the the boards out with one of my existing boards and using a Sharpie marker I roughed out the placement of roads and a river section.

Next, I spread latex caulk down on the areas that I wanted to be roads. I use a spatula to spread it and then mark in grooves to represent the roads. When the caulk dries it is strong yet flexible and gives a good impression once painted up.

While the caulk dries, I set about carving out the riverbed. A simple flat head screwdriver is best for this - you simply need to do a good Norman Bates impression and gouge out the river in sections. This is quite messy so its best done outdoors or when significant others are away.

The next bit involves a slightly specialized tool - a heatgun. Easily available on Amazon for $20ish, the heatgun is invaluable for making terrain. It can also be used to shape plasticard into banners, rounded shapes - the possibilities are endless. Just use caution when handling the heatgun, as the tip gets very, very hot.

Using the heatgun on a low setting, melt the foam a bit in the riverbed. This creates a smooth bank and natural feel to the river. As the foam melts, it will give off some really nasty smelling vapors so make sure you do it outside or in a well ventilated area. Wearing a mask wouldn't hurt either. The air filtering kind, not the Chewbacca one you've got in the back of the closet.

Next, I scooped up a few stones from the garden and used some Liquid Nails to adhere them. I let everything dry for a few hours and then started the painting process.

With the caulk and Liquid Nails dry, I coated everything in black latex house paint. I find the black to be an excellent base to work from. Additionally, if the board suffers wear and tear over time it's a little less obvious when the black undercoat shows.

Once the board dries, I apply a layer of playground sand to every inch of the boards using wood glue. After the sand and glue dries, I apply another layer of black paint over the river and its banks and then the rest of the board gets a liberal amount of a mid-brown latex paint. At this point, I left the whole thing to dry overnight.

The following morning I started the process of drybrushing the whole board. This is done just like I do on the bases of models. I used a cheap set of artists acrylics - one in a yellow ochre color and the other in a bone white. The brown areas were drybrushed up from brown to yellow to white and the river was drybrushed with a light grey.

Then I moved onto flocking the board using several shades of Woodland Scenics flock and wood glue. This was the most time consuming step and its best done in sections. After the flock was added it superglued on some random bits of clump foliage and small flowering bushes.

The final touch was to pour some clear resin into the river section. I hot-glued scrap plasticard on either end of the river to create a set of dams that would keep the resin in while it cured. Its key to get a good seal here. One final piece of advice is that if you're going to use resin for the river choose a brand that cures with a low heat. The curing of the resin is a chemical reaction and some can generate enough heat to actually melt the foam - just like the heatgun does. I recommend Enivrotex Lite as a brand to use. Once you've poured the resin, give a few passes with the heatgun  on a low setting - this will eliminate bubbles and your river will look better for it. Give the resin a good 24 hours to cure somewhere where it won't be disturbed. Don't leave it out overnight or morning condensation is liable to ruin the project.

Now I have a full 4'x12' set of gaming boards - either to use in one huge table or to subdivide into several.


Sunday, May 1, 2016


Artists rendition. Contents may vary from real blog author.

Whew! I've been away for the last two weeks on an absolutely fantastic trip to Paris and London with my lovely wife. We had an amazing time - eating baguettes, drinking cafe cremes, eating fish and chips, drinking pint after pint of cider… a once in a lifetime trip. In between the scrumptious food, we saw some amazing sites. I even managed to sneak in a trip to the Musee de Armee in Paris and got a full fix of Napoleonic geekery!

Napoleon's tomb. This is how I want to buried now.
French Cuirassier. He had very little to say.
His gun is bigger than yours. No. Really.
Ah, Paris!
The days when Casual Fridays weren't a thing. Fat author for scale.
Arc de Triumph - so you know.

A trip to the British Museum to see all the plunder from around the globe!

Made me want to play SAGA again.

Trafalgar Square and a gathering storm!

Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!

Since our arrival back to the states (and overcoming the jet-lag), I've managed to get a little hobby time in. I squeaked out the two Magus-es (Magi?) from Deathwatch: Overkill and 2 more marines. I had labored under the delusion that the marines would be easy - they are just black and silver, easy peasy right? - but I can see they are going to take me more time than I'd thought. 

I'm pinching your head!
Talk about having your hands full.
Brother Chaplain Somethingsuch. I'm sure I'll learn the names eventually.

Brother Boltgunguy.
This past weekend also saw the arrival of nice weather in Seattle, and for me that usually means terrain board building! I managed to add another 4'x4' section to my generic board so I can play on a 4'x12' if the insanity moves me to do so. I tried documenting the process, so keep an eye out for a step-by-step tutorial soonish.

Still gotta pour the resin on the second river section. Still time to ruin it!