Wednesday, April 18, 2012

While the Cat is Away

Today the wife and kids were out of the house and that left me free to run wild. I changed into comfortable clothes and then set about to spray paint terrain with carefree abandon.

I had originally planned on using a Hotz Artworks mat for the Salamanca game at Huzzah! but I wasn't able to find one that was bright enough. Grass (especially New Hampshire grass) is a lovely shade of bright green with hues of yellow in it. To simulate that color radiating beneath the bright Spanish sun I felt like I had to opt for an "unrealistically" light hue. Further, the 10mm figures need lots of light to stand out and some of that has to come from reflection. In the end I chose something the hue of pistachio ice cream.

The next step was to paint hexagon borders on the mat, since Commands and Colors uses a hex map. You can buy stencils for hexagons but that doesn't give complete shapes. I opted to lay down hexagon shapes and then spray paint over them creating complete border lines. With memories of far more horrifying projects from the past fresh in her mind my wife stepped up and produced a hundred or so five inch hexagons using paper and her quilting tools. I think she felt this was a vast improvement over airbrushing in the baby's nursery or power sanding insulation foam in the living room.

I went outside, sprayed the game mat with Elmer's spray adhesive and lay down the tiles with a few millimeters gap between each. The adhesive worked like a charm and the whole job sped along nicely. Then the wind blew the hexes into the back yard and I moved the whole process into the garage. Next came a light coat of brown paint and then the whole thing was left to dry.

The end result was a very nice surprise. The hex borders look just terrific and the irregular painting process has left the mat with some nice areas of greater or lesser brown shading. It looks very "organic" and field-like and for a first try I'm just thrilled.

Now to flock hundreds of troops!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Buildings in Progress

Tonight I finished my southern Spanish houses for the Salamanca game at Huzzah! In the end the work was pretty straightforward. They were primed in gesso, stained in dark gray and red, and then received several coats of dry brushed white, red, and orange. The terrain from Total Battle Miniatures looks a little better in my opinion- the rooftop detail is crisper and the wall texture really stands out. Nevertheless the town as a whole looks good and I'm ready to start work on the rest of the terrain.

I picked up some 6mm civilians and animals from Angel Barracks and a bridge from Timecast. At the moment the bridge is looking just terrific and the civilians are looking adequate but for 6mm probably they're fine. After that is the game mat. The mat is looking to be a shade of green far lighter than "reality," but the effect should be to bring out the colors in the tiny 10mm troops who would otherwise be lost in a darker background.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Adler Hobby in New Hampshire

My home base for gaming here in western New Hampshire is Triple Play Games. Triple Play has a very strong board gaming and card gaming community, along with some Warhammer and Warmachine gaming. It doesn't host the most active historical miniatures group but you can't have everything and the gamers there are super friendly and fun.

A few weeks ago I was invited to a Black Powder game at Adler Hobby in Hollis, NH. It's roughly seventy miles from my home and thus a scant two hour drive. Thank you New Hampshire! I ended up having a lot of fun with the game but also left feeling pretty impressed with the site. Adler Hobby is located in a fellow's garage. When you walk in, however, you stumble onto a terribly well stocked miniatures store with a large and well thought out selection of miniatures and games. Adler doesn't try to carry everything but what it does carry is useful and good quality. It's really a historical miniatures store so don't expect Warhammer or Magic, The people there are friendly and fun and the owner is hospitable and pleasant. If I were closer or my state had more paved roads I would certainly be gaming there often. As it is I recommend it to anyone in the area.

Battle of Dennewitz Black Powder Game

As Huzzah! nears and my armies lurch towards completion it seems like a good time to start a totally new project. Rich at Boston Trained Bands is running a Black Powder game at Huzzah! based on the Battle of Dennewitz and wrote to see if I had any extra 28mm French troops. Although I only had a handful I did have a bottle of Army Painter blue primer left over from the 10mm project and that's almost the same thing really. I ordered a set of Victrix French infantry and set to work.

Plastic troops are certainly nice in that they're inexpensive and allow you to avoid that whole lead-shavings-in-the-kitchen dilemma that lead figures bring about. The downside to them is that they take some time to put together and of course they're a little fragile. My first set of Victrix figures was a pain to assemble but this one fell together pretty well so there's a tribute to having some learning curve. Then it was out to the front lawn and time to spray them deep blue. In the process I left a mysterious blue patch in the grass just in time for Easter so now the kids think that the Easter bunny leaves both eggs and occasionally blue crop circles.

Next step is block painting and then the dip.

Terrain for the 10mm Napoleonics

The game I'll be running for Huzzah! is set in Spain and needs some nice terrain. In the past I would set out to scratch-build all my gaming material which is of course the traditional and correct thing to do. Sadly, my skills as a craftsman are so poor that these projects were almost universally disasters. Granted I can now use insulation, foamcore, styrene and wood pretty well but only after the fact and that's not much consolation when your terrain at the moment looks like ice cream cake on a July afternoon. Plus, I left the house covered in wood shavings and aerosolized insulation.

This year I decided to bite the bullet and buy my terrain like some rank amateur. I wanted to set up a few villages and that meant using fairly small houses. I settled on 6mm scale, which is slightly smaller than "N" scale for model trains. My online shopping led me to Angel Barracks and Timecast Models, both in the UK. I placed my orders and as I clicked "purchase" my wife eyed the power sander and airbrush and said a prayer of thanks to whoever saved her from home crafted terrain and the household disaster that accompanies it.

In the end I was pretty happy with my purchases. The goods from Angel Barracks arrived like lightning and were well packed. I had a few emails back and forth from the fellow who runs it and he was super helpful and pleasant. The Timecast items took a bit longer but were nicely packed as well. In the end both sets were good- nice detailed resin buildings with good sculpting. The Timecast items were cast in a grey resin, the Angel Barracks in yellow. I feel like the details on the Angel Barracks buildings (which were distributed from Total Battle Miniatures originally) were a bit more clear and the resin seemed less brittle. There is more texture to the walls and the roofs are a little more realistic. It's the difference between A and A+ but there you go. Next step is painting.

My Next Project

Now that I'm about 75% done with my massive 10mm Napoleonic British and French armies my mind naturally turns towards, not using them, but launching on another scale and time period entirely! Of course if the local players show any interest in Napoleonics that plan could change but they seem largely trapped in the morass called Flames of War version 3.

Which, by the way, seems even more a-historic and cumbersome than version 2.

Of late I've stumbled across 40mm and 54mm toy soldier gaming. In these games you field larger sized soldiers which are painted in the traditional manner- bright gloss! The miniatures are far less detailed than those seen in modern games and thus the paint schemes are much simpler. Finally, you can play in your garden or on your patio, stopping every now and then for a chip or to chase away the curious cat.

I think it would be a bit of a lark to field some colorful toy soldiers and have them decide the fate of tiny central European duchies in the 19th century. After agonizing over the colors of the cuffs of French dragoons it might be different to just let loose and paint cheery colour schemes on zouaves and spahis and then face them off against camel corps and bicycle troops. To get a sense of this sort of gaming check out Megablitz and More!

The first step is probably to pick up Funny Little Wars from the Virtual Armchair General. Then I'll get a new PO box so the wife doesn't notice the influx of completely new hobby supplies!

Huzzah! 2012

Miniatures gaming season begins with the Huzzah! convention in Maine. This is Huzzah's third year and it looks to be a lot of fun. As it gets harder to take time off from work and family I get pretty picky about my gaming time. I have developed about zero tolerance for grumpy or super competitive players. They're no fun and if I'm suffering some cranky macho player I'd be better off reading Trumpet of the Swan to my son. I also like to see a pretty game table. It makes me want to dive in and play. If I see a table with unpainted terrain and some salt shakers I just wonder whether the salt shakers represent pillboxes, daleks, or are actual salt shakers left behind from the game master's lunch. Happily Huzzah! has some great players and the games are typically stunning.

Interested gamers should take a look. Portland is a pretty city and there's lots for the family to do while visiting. All the games look good but I would recommend taking a look at Aerodrome, which is a very fun and simple WW I air combat game. I'd also take a look at the Force on Force games and Have Fun Storming the Castle, which is just gorgeous. Finally, I'm growing fond of the Black Powder/Hail Caesar system and they'll be well represented.