Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Portable Game Table

Though no longer an apartment–dweller, I still face the constraint of storage space for gaming materials, and although I would really like a good gaming set–up with lots of terrain in several scales, I simply don't have the a place to put it all.

I have been sketching out some solutions to the storage crisis of not only various terrain pieces that I plan on constructing, but also the standard 6ft by 4ft gaming surface that so many miniature games share in common.

The design I have settled on building is a 6x4 game table with a 2 inch lip/support stretcher all around. The board will fold in half twice, creating a 3ft by 2 ft box, with two internal compartments, where I intend to store trees, hills, crop fields, and buildings. I have some specific plans for terrain that can span several of my main games, but that will be for a separate post. Originally I started on a design that folded in half, minimizing hardware needed, but 3ft by 4ft is bigger than it sounds. I abandoned this plan when I realized that it would be larger than my drafting table! Also important that this fits into my car, or the whole "portable" thing is lost, and my trunk is only 3ft wide at the opening.

Sketchbook in hand, I sped to the local hardware store and purchased one 8x4 piece of MDF hard board. (I may have the exact name of this material wrong), and had the friendly staff there cut it down int the 2x3 sections, with a 1ft strip left over, which will likely serve as a base for future terrain pieces. Supports will use 1" x 2" strips of pine, needing 40 ft total. The most expensive part of the project so far has been the hardware end. Even though I only need 6 hinges, that easily took up the lion's share of the budget. I would suggest scavenging them from preexisting boxes or other found sources if possible.
Measuring the Miter
Back home, I measured out my frame using the hardboard surface itself as my template, to ensure as good a fit as I can manage. Though not strictly necessary, I opted for a slightly better finish, and mitered the corners for a prettier join. On the sections that finished properly, this looks really nice. I did, however, have some difficulty with my hand saw and mitrebox at some points.

In need of a shim.
After I started to make better use of my C–clamps, the corners started to turn out better. The board surface is attached to frame using small brass tacks and carpenter's glue. I;m a little wary of the tacks being strong enough, but anything more splits this wood, since I went for the "normal" wood and not the "premium" wood.

Strengthening the corners by putting some larger tacks into the long board.

Having completed my first board, I'm considering my methods, and preparing to hopefully do a better job on the next 3. 

Monday, October 15, 2012


In a busy life, it is a rare treat to be able to spend an evening playing games with a friend. It turns out that this last week was one. I was lucky enough to get a game in with my friend Zach again, this time it was to be Flames of War. The match was to be 1600 points, pitting my British armoured company against the German Panzerkompaine for some late war tank on tank action. Zach chose to play German, and selected a list consisting of StuG IIIs and Tigers, with SP artillery support. The british armour was a force of Sherman IIIs and Fireflies for additional antitank, with air support.

British Armoured Column driving along a hedgerow road in Western France, right into a Wehrmacht trap!
We played the Roadblock mission, and I was set to be the attacker, with Whitlow's Panzer Division defending. My armoured column had to secure a road though Western France along a small town among the hedgerows. The game would start with an ambush against one of my platoons.

Tiger Ace Whitlow takes aim at the Armoured Column's command section
Wisely, Mr Whitlow chose to ambush my command platoon. With so few units in the game, this could cripple an army and force it to withdraw before they acheive their objectives. His heavy tank platoon sprung the trap, knocking out 3 of the 4 Shermans in the command team, and driving the fourth into fleeing the battle before the fighting even really began. At such close range, their armor had no hope of stopping the fearsome 88s shells.

Four to one, the Shermans rush the Panzer VI squadron
The Sherman platoon ahead of the Company Command team on the road responded to the ambush, and raced cross–country to engage the Tigers head on. Between their combined firepower, they got a lucky shot through and managed to knock out one of the Tigers.

Our Hawker Typhoon looks absolutely NOTHING like a P-47!
After an uneventful round the remaining Tiger wiped out the attacking squadron, but Allied air support came through and unloaded its cannon into the remaining Tiger, clearing off the objective it was holding.

The British gains, however, came too little, too late. Despite making a decent account for themselves against two StuG platoons, a third arrived as reinforcements, and did just enough damage to drive another Sherman team from the table. This put the column below half strength, and without their company commander to lead them, they fled the battle with the Germans still in possession of the road.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

East African Tribesmen Part II

Continuing on in the sheer joy of painting my Perry Brothers' plastic Mahdist Ansar, I've completed my first small band of 5 of them. I decided to do all five in red clothes, for some uniformity in the squad.
I intend to complete the rest of the box in several different ways, from actual Madhists to some various East African Tribes. Turkana is high on the list, if I can sculpt their distinct shields to my liking. For now I am creating kind of generic warriors, and running them shieldless.

I wanted this figure to be a sort of a leader to the warband, so I picked a body that was more fully robed (so that he would have more of the band's color on him) and chose a bearded head, which I painted slightly greying.

The skin still follows the Perry Brothers' tutorial on their webpage, and I cintinue to appreciate the results.

Fezzes are cool! And so are Martini Henry rifles. The guns in this set are superbly sculpted, and even include details like sling mounts. I'm mostly pleased with this figure, but don't know how the red fez does alongside red clothes. Might need to repaint in a contrasting color.

Another Martini Henry toting tribesman rushes to the scene. Not entirely visible with the grass basing, this one wears trousers, in this case done as unbleached cotton.

This charging spearman shows the nice detail of the beaded necklace, present on all of these models. It makes for a characterful detail, while also giving some camouflage to an otherwise obvious seam of head and body, which could be an issue on a bare-chested miniature.

One final shot of the whole group, to show off the basing, which follows my african basing convention in the Paint Journal. By spreading out the bristle grass basing, it does not overwhelm any individual figure, and bulks up as you put more miniatures into the group, to build up the impression of location overall.

What other ways should I use these fine sculpts? There are quite a few remaining in the box as pure plastic potential.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Continental Army, Part II

This is my second installment of Continental Regulars of the American Revolution. The figure pictured here is the test model for a group of Old Glory Continentals on the march. I have gone for a different version of the American uniform, this time clad in the earlier brown coat that was prevalent before supply of French coats made blue the standard. I like the brown also for tying a little more into the homespun look of my minutemen.

This figure was also an exciting departure in painting technique, as I used it to experiment with a lighter use of color. Instead of beginning with the darkest colors, and building lighter toward the highlights, in this case I primed the model a medium grey, and began with a thinned down light brown, and added darker and thicker paint into the low areas, building up the shadows with the thickest paint, which allows thelightness of the priming to come through in the highlights. The process takes me a little longer, perhaps because I'm not used to it yet, but I am excited at the results.

Monday, October 8, 2012

17th Light Dragoons

Providing cavalry support to my AWI Crown Forces, I am working on a squadron of His Majesty's 17th Light Dragoons. As I have probably stated before, I really enjoy painting horses. I treat them as a second character, and enjoy adding the small details like socks and blazes to give each horse its own unique personality.

As is turning out to be somewhat common, many of the historical depicitions of these particular uniforms disagree with each other on the details, What I have gathered for certain are that they wore red coats with white facings, with white lace, and a red-crested helmet. I have seen several variations on the small clothes, between what looks like wool, linen, and leather. I chose 

As to basing, I used my paint journal to match the soil color to my previous colonial miniatures. The foliage and flock present was chosen to give the appearance of crossing an open field, so the terrain is mostly grassy, with a few small shrubs, and tufts of higher grass, made the same way as my African grassland bases, but shorter. As in the case of the FoW German bases, these are largely influenced by my grandparents' farm's pasture.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bretonnian Questing Knight

As another fun change-up, today I present a figure from Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Battles range. I have been [very] slowly working on  Bretonnian force, which is based on Chivalric Knighthood and the Arthurian Legend. In my opinion, these are some of the best scuplted figures GW offers.

This particular knight is a Bretonnian Questing Knight. These knights have gone above and beyond normal chivalric vows, eschew their lances, and go on the noblest of quests in search of visions of the Holy Grail. They apparently aren't at all adept at traveling light. Our current nobleman rides into the field bedecked with a chest of drawers among his equipage.

This sudden resurgence of interest in fantasy knight figures is owed in no small part to Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell, and to A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. Between these two I have suddenly found the motivation to take the brush to some patiently waiting archers and knights. 

Knights are a fun challenge for the miniature painter. Done properly to the standards of history, legend, and fantasy literature, they should each wear their own unique sigil, and wear the colors and devices of their houses. Doing large batches of knights at a time can be creatively exhausting as you scrape the far corners of imagination for any remaining kernels of ideas. I try to stick to strict heraldic colors, being red, yellow, blue, black, and white.

The sigil for this knight is a Fleur de Lis, reversed black on white or white to black. The devices are free-handed, though I did cheat and use a white paint pen for the white on black.  He is painted as a noble of Mousillon, a disgraced and somewhat suspect realm in Western Bretonnia. A fun detail on this particular figure is the chest of drawers and other baggage. I took the chance to create an illuminated manuscript on the open book, which is based , to the best of my painting abilities at this scale, on actual medieval and dark age illuminations such as the Book of Kells.

Though I wanted the figure to be predominantly black and white for the heraldry and barding, the overall effect was somewhat dull and muddled, so I added yellow as an accent to bring some interest and color to the composition. The stripes on the barding are actually taken from First World War German aircraft markings, but seem to hold the proper look here.

The basing has been influenced in no small way by Agincourt. In addition to normal base sand and flock, I have sculpted some hoof-prints in putty, so it could paint up as muddy ground. A drop of gloss varnish completes the look.

Hopefully my fantasy book series' will hold out long enough to do a few more knights and another group of longbowmen (did I mention the magic of painting with books on tape??!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Paint Journal

One of the recurring themes for me lately has been the effect of an adult life on my hobbies. As I have mentioned before, it is more difficult to get games to happen...etc.

As the time between patining sessions stretches for weeks or months sometimes before you revisit any particular project, the limits of memory are tested as I stare at a blank model (or more often, base) and wonder how on earth I painted it last time. Trying to create continuity over an extended period of time, with life and career in between has become a real challenge. 

Reflecting back to a younger self being tutored by a more experienced painter, he had made a case for keeping a record of your paint schemes. Being young at the time, I tried it out, but lost interest, and eventually the journal, and figured I could remember what I painted on my models. As it turns out, it was of the best lessons he gave me.

The concept is simple, but the execution takes discipline. I have restarted my paint-journal, so that I can pick up on projects as I have the time and motivation, and make consistent and continuous units of miniatures. Since I tend to work in 2 or three color layers, I write down what each layer color is, from left to right, and paint a small swatch of the color, in case the manufacturer discontinues my shade, or changes its name.
As an example, here's my African explorer, now with a completed savannah base, painted to match the tribesman's. As I continue with my Africa series, I can always come back to the same basing system.

I am also thinking of making a library of color effects in this journal. Basically, this means that when i find a way of painting red that I really like:

I can be sure that I will be able to replicate it exactly later on. I think of this particlar method as having a lego drawer, where I can grab out parts that I know will work, instead of reinventing redcoat red every time I pick up a new set of British troops...

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