Saturday 29 October 2011

Hi Steve

Coincidence strikes.  My wife Cathy is from Stoke-on-Trent (well, she was born in Blackpool and grew up in Blythe Bridge just outside Stoke), and now Steve from the same place has joined to follow; his blog is here so do have a look.  He has some really nice Hat Napoleonics, which reminds me to do something about my large 15mm Russian army.  Must find more time...

Idea for terrain boards

For a while now I've been somewhat dissatisfied with using cloths for terrain, even nice ones like those overpainted by Jonathan at the club.  Regardless of how well done they are, they are still very flat, and a criticism that is often levelled at ancients games is the billiard table look.  Now most battles in that period were not covered in terrain features, or at least not so much as seems to be the case for Napoleonics and certainly later.  Many gamers go with terrain tiles, usually made from polystyrene, but this brings up the issue of storage space, especially considering the area of tabletop coverage needed for a large game.  Cloths win out easily here, but for a while I've been musing about a compromise that would be portable, relatively easily stored and also a bit more interesting than the flat look:
A long time ago, I used cork tiles like the one above for rough ground.  This has always been in the back of my mind, and I think now is the time to commit to producing a full batllefield using this look as a starting point.  On the web, I found an English company called Siesta Cork Tiles that seems ideal here and the image above is taken from their catalogue.

The good thing about this kind of product is that it it is already rendered in three dimensions.  I reckon that if I drybrush a light sandy colour over the raised bark portions and put some greenery for variety in and around the lower sections, I could maybe produce a battlefield that is still technically flat, but that looks a lot more interesting than the usual.  I want a semi-arid look that can be used for just about anywhere from the steppes to the mediterranean, and that also matches the look of my figure bases:
I have been experimenting with my basing, most recently with wood bark chippings for the garden, although that didn't look right.  There was too much of it, and it made the bases a bit too dark.  However, Willie from the club gave me a sample of astroturf imitation grass, which you can see on the right of the photo above, with some 25mm Roman cavalry for scale.  This stuff would make great bushes, but I also think that if I cut it down it will go well on the cork tiles.  The experiment with the wood chips was not a failure, since it turns out that they make good foundations for layering my usual Ronseal plastic wood to build up small areas of ground that are higher than usual - another thing to keep in mind for terrain in the future.  That would make good areas of rough going.

Siesta provides the tiles in several sizes; I want to go with the largest possible because I want to reduce the number of terrain tiles as much as I can - too many grid lines can look a little strange.  However, this raises another problem, which is durability.  I'll solve this by gluing each tile onto a plain one, to double the thickness and make them less liable to be damaged in transit.  They will still be a lot less bulky than polystyrene tiles, which don't take kindly to too much rough handling.  I want to make these boards as robust as I can to cut down maintenance time.  Even quite a large number of these should fit easily into some cheap artists' carry cases for portfolios.

And here's the good bit: the double layer of tiles will enable me to make river or gully sections really easily.  I'll just cut one of the standard tiles, remove a bit, and glue the separated sections onto the base tile,  add some PVA and voila, a stream (or whatever).  For hills, I'll buy some cheap polystyrene tiles and face them with the cork, painted to match the rest of the tabletop.  The combination should allow me to represent areas like the hills and rivers at Plataea without too much trouble.

This will be expensive, probably well over a hundred pounds, but I think the result will be worth it.  I like the idea of trying this myself, and I will have the time.  We already have almost all of the figures we will need for Plataea, so this time around I can spend my time making a good tabletop.  I like to concentrate on one major project at a time if I can.  For the last few years the Society of Ancients featured battle has given me the impetus I need to keep going with figure painting; now it's time for the terrain.  I don't mind the cost, because I'd be spending that over several months on figures anyway.  I have felt for a while now that we have all of these nicely painted armies, so it's about time to spend some money on the battlefield.  Well painted armies are let down by badly painted terrain.  I have no idea how much my two-year Republican Roman project cost, but it's certainly a lot more than this tabletop. And that's just one of the arnies that fight across this terrain. If it works out, it will be permanent; durable; portable; and infinitely re-usable.  It can also be stored easily.

One objection would be that companies out there already make premium mats that come close to what I'm suggesting.  So why not just buy one of those?  However, I'll get a lot more than a single mat for the same outlay; mine will be much more easily repaired; and if a bit gets really badly damaged, I'll just need to replace a small section, rather than buy an entirely new mat.  Plus the DIY element of it means that I can produce the terrain types to match quickly and cheaply.

It will take me a few months to get all of the materials together, but I'll make this a series of Work in Progress posts so that anyone interested can see how it goes.  Wish me luck; I hope you can sort of visualise what I'm planning from the description.

Monday 24 October 2011

Welcome to Tiny Legions too

Tiny Legions has joined here too, so I've returned the compliment.  I really like the dwarves over there, which reminds me that I have a large fantasy armies project to sort at one point.  So many things to do, so little time.  I suppose that makes me a typical gamer...

Welcome to Guidowg!

I've just reciprocated by joining Guidowg's blog here.  There are some truly lovely Aventine Romans amongst other goodies; do have a look.  I'm still trying to resist buying these myself; I can feel my willpower weakening.  But I have too many other things to finish first...

Sunday 23 October 2011

Last of the Romans

This lot finishes off the Republican Roman project:
Unarmoured Roman cavalry by Crusader Miniatures.
I tried something of an experiment with the bases.  We have a whole load of bark chippings left over from gardening during what passes for summer here in Scotland.  I painted the light coloured ones a base deep red, in the hope that they might look like sandstone when finished.

I think it looks fine, which means that I have a ready made supply of cheap basing materials.

The shields that came with them are smaller than the previous time I bought these figures, so I purchased some Little Big Men 15mm shield transfers and used them.  The emblem is exactly the same as one of my legions, and I was able to fit it onto the standard as well.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Wargamerabbit tracked to the warren!

Found it.  Wargamerabbit joined my blog as a follower very recently, but Blogger has a really annoying habit of not showing you full details of someone's profile when you click on their thumbnail.  However, the rabbit has posted a battle report on TMP that has allowed me, crafty hunter that I am, to trace him home to his Wordpress warren here.  Pure chance, of course...

First club game in months

I finally made it back to the club on Tuesday for a one-off game suggested by Simon: Early Seleucids versus Indian.  He has been painting lots of Indians recently and this was a good opportunity to put them on the table.  2500 points instead of our usual 2000 for Tactica II.
Above: the Seleucids, whom I chose and deployed.  Phalanx in the centre (played by Willie) and everything else on the wings (David on our left, me on the right). 
Our central phalanx is particularly powerful.
The troops under my command.  A mixture of light infantry, elephants, camels, cavalry and skirmishers.  I also purchased some scythed chariots for this game, because I felt like it.  It seemed like a waste not to use them, especially in a relatively large battle, even though they are almost always rubbish.
A shot of the far right of the enemy army (Simon in command, grinning happily).
The enemy centre: a long thin line of infantry archers, hanging back as much as they possibly can.
The Indian left, facing me, commanded by Gordon. A very powerful host of cavalry, chariots and elephants, with plenty of skirmishers out front.  From the outset it is clear that we are going to have to try to win in the centre while somehow slowing down the strong enemy wings.  Gordon and Simon split their infantry centre between them.
The initial action on my wing isn't very active.  I start to angle my troops to try to keep Gordon's masses off the right flank of the phalanx, which is occupied by the Argyraspides in the traditional position of honour.
On our far left David hangs back, while Willie presses forward with the phalanx in the centre.
The link between the Argyraspides and my wing.
A shot of my extreme right.
In the meantime, David is already in combat and doing well.  The combination of his good dice and Simon's rotten ones is helping David to hold off Simon's superior weight.  This gives the left of Willie's phalanx some hope.
I feed my troops in piecemeal, hoping to use each unit to hold off as many of Gordon's units as I can, buying time for the phalanx to win in the centre.
The camel riders perform miracles, holding up two colums of enemy horse and a large unit of chariots.  I hardly hit anything, but then neither do they, and that matters more.
The Argyraspides just to my left go in against two Indian infantry units.  It looks fine to start with, but this is the one part of the field where the enemy fights well.

On the other side of the battlefield, David continues to do well.
Here David's elephants even get to help out the phalanx against the enemy elephants.
The phalanx crashes into the thin enemy infantry line in the centre.  This is pretty much a foregone conclusion. 
Breakthrough on our left.
My wing continues to be ground down.  Here the Companions go in against chariots and elephants.  Things are getting pretty desperate for us here as I have to sacrifice my elite troops to continue to protect the right flank of the infantry centre.
Fortunately, some of the Indian elephants are stuck in a bit of a traffic jam behind the front.  By throwing in the Companions, I have managed to cramp the enemy's style, stopping these reserve units engaging into the centre.  Now it will all depend on how long the Companions can hold out against far superior numbers and weight.
I even have to use my Skythians in combat against the Indian cavalry.  I am getting desperate!
However, I have bought enough time for the centre of our phalanx to crush all before it.  Some of the units even find the time to turn around.
But it is all too much for the Argyraspides: above is a close-up of the two victorious Indian infantry units just to my left.
My Companions hold out against three enemy units for four turns, but eventually my wing collapses entirely.  I lose every single unit!  On our left, however, David manages a draw and our forces are victorious in the centre.  We win by two figures.

Next week: the Empire Campaign continues with Ptolemy attacking Antigonus.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Welcome to the Wargamerabbit

Just saying hello, and thanks for looking in on us.  Please let me know if you have a blog so that I can reciprocate.  One of the annoying things about Blogger is that it doesn't always let you know these things...


Saturday 15 October 2011

Hi Simon!

Simon in Ayrshire, that is.  Simon used to be a member of our Phoenix Club in Glasgow, and then moved to civilisation in the form of anywhere that isn't Glasgow.  His blog is here.  Check it out for one of the largest sand tables on earth, plus photos of Napoleonics and WWII.  Jealous, I am.

One disturbing question remains: why are so many wargamers called either Simon or Paul?

Sunday 9 October 2011

Spartan Command Bases

These are unit commands for the two Perioikoi units at Plataea:
I made them up from half a dozen Old Glory command figures I had left over, plus a couple of officer types I originally based as single generals.  Those are the guys with the raised swords.  I have absolutely no idea of the manfacturer; I got them from Eric at the club a very long time ago.

Saturday 1 October 2011

On the Painting Tray: October 2011

Last month I started on the project for Plataea by revamping 32 Spartiates.  This month, I'm keeping the momentum going by painting 8 Spartan command figures and gluing up a dozen Wargames Factory Numidian Light Infantry as slingers.  I also want to finish my Republican Romans by painting the last dozen unarmoured Crusader cavalry.  Any extra time can go on dullcote for the rest of the Spartans I completed a while ago.  The paintjob is fine, but the varnish is a little bit on the bright side.