Thursday, July 31, 2008

Almost universal agreement

I went through my rules, "Piquet," "Warfare in the Age of Reason," "Flint and Steel," "GaPa," and I checked online the recommendations for "Might and Reason." Either basing is nearly irrelevant (GaPa and M&R) as long as it is consistent, or there seems to be a universal consensus that infantry figure should be mounted on a 3/8" x 1/2" area each.
This makes me think that a solution 1 1/8" x 1/2" - 3 figures per base - will be the most flexible and easily adaptable to any set I'll eventually decide to play.
Which was my original idea, before I got into debating this temptation to adopt the "Koenig Krieg/Napoleon's Battles" basing scheme, over the past two days... sometimes, should just stick with my first, intuitive solution...

On a related issue. I added a few other interesting links to blogs that fully deserve attention... and by what I can see, anarchy rules when we come to basing systems! (I cannot miss the irony of it: this is oh-so-not-Age-of-Reason!)

Once again, I think the bottom line is: I can go wherever my heart will take me. I think I will end up with 24-figure battalions made of 8 bases each with 3 figures. As I originally intended.

In the meanwhile, I had the excuse for spending a good amount of time looking at the wonderful pictures of several like-minded gamers... I loved any single moment of it! Thanks guys for all what you share online!

On Grant's rules, 6- and 4-figure firing groups

Yesterday I wrote:
if I ever want to play Grant's rule, I need to do some statistical work to transition from a 6-figure to a 4-figure firing group.
Well, courtesy of an unusually slow commute, today I did some statistical work, and I came to the conclusion that... IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE!
If my math is right, moving from a 6-figure to a 4-figure firing group reduces firepower by one-third; assuming that hits are directly proportional to firepower, the problem is easily fixed by rolling a 6d to assess casualties, and consider in turn 5 and 6 (remember: against a 4-figure base) as a miss. Which will reduce losses by one-third! In other words: in Grant, you first roll to decide how many hits, and then you check which figures were actually hit; with my fix above, you first roll to decide how many hits, and then you check which figures were actually hit with the additional possibility that a 5 or 6 on a d6 will result in no hits on a 4-figure base.
Bottom line: one less argument against the NB basing scheme.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Link to a new blog

I am very glad to provide a link to a relatively new blog, "Konig und Kaiser," who went online only a few weeks before "Desto Fante." The author, CWT, hails from one of my favorite spot in the planet, Scotland. He has left a few comments on my own posts before, and I apologize if it took this much to add a direct link to his pages.
He is now offering a few very interesting thoughts on Sam Mustafa's rules, "Might and Reason." Worth checking it out.

Basing - some more ruminations

No painting nor hobby-related activities tonight, as professional duties keep me busy until late in the evening. But I have been ruminating a few thoughts about how will base my WSS miniatures that, as you read yesterday, are quickly moving along the painting production-chain.

I already posted once about my general philosophy on basing miniatures. It is really based on the KISS principle: same Litko bases through the different periods, with only one modification for WWI in the number of figures for base.

When I started working on the 18th century miniatures, I was thinking to stick to my convention, opting for a 3 figures per rectangular base, 0.75" x 1.5". As I do for my Napoleonic or 19th century. This system has a few advantages:
  • it is the basic system for my favourite rules, "Piquet-Cartouche" and "Warfare in the Age of Reason";

  • if I want to scale up to larger battalions, in the above rule-sets I can double the number of stands from four to eight, with no inconvenience as far as the mechanisms of play are concerned, thus enjoying 24-miniature battalions (I know this really resounds with the "old school" gamers among you!)

  • this system can easily accommodate other rules, i.e. GaPa and Grant's "War Game" which is based on individually mounted figures, but can be easily adjusted to 3-figure bases.
Then, so far so good?
Well, not really. For starter, there is a very minor, aesthetic inconvenience in the 3-figure per stand, 4- or 8-stand per battalion: I do not like how these units look in march column. More substantially, I am not thrilled by the way these units look in line, either. Let's face it: pretending that a line of 12 miniatures is a battalion is lame. I can put up with it for the Napoleonic period, where the sheer size of most battles is such that I need to economize on space and on the number of miniatures. But for smaller scale affairs, as my 18th century imagi-nation battles will likely be, it is something I do not need to endure.
Therefore, I am considering something different: for the first time in my gaming life, I am pondering to adopt the old basing scheme for "Napoleon's Battles," which indeed was, according to Coggins' original intention, a rule-set for the 18th century. That means slightly more "square-ish" stands with 4 miniatures. Here's some advantages:
  • fantastic look in any formation: line, column, march column;

  • no need to double up stands to "beef up" the look in "Piquet-Cartouche" or "Warfare in the Age of Reason": standard game mechanisms will remain the same, with a basic battalion now made by 16 miniatures on 4 stands; actually, I would gain a few spare miniatures from each Minifigs bag;

  • no changes need for GaPa, either, although I need to recheck the recommendations in the booklet;
But here a few disadvantages:
  • if I ever want to play Grant's rule, I need to do some statistical work to transition from a 6-figure to a 4-figure firing group;

  • since I am not going to move up to 32-miniature battalions ever, it means that I will only game with a 16-miniature per unit max; somehow I like the flexibility to play 12-miniature units in larger battles and 24-miniature units in smaller scale affairs.

  • If I am moving to the "Napoleon's Battles" system, I need to completely rethink the size of cavalry units: a perspective I am less than thrilled about.
Bottom line: this is probably too much thinking for a no-brainer issue. I should just stick with my standard, go for 12- and/or 24- figures per unit, forget about NB, and live happy.
But hey: I didn't get my painting fix, and I need something to keep my mind busy tonight!
Needless to say, I would very welcome your opinions and thoughts.


OK, guys...

I am looking again at the windmill, and I have to say: it looks vaguely phallic... Painting it with a light flesh-tone brown didn't help, either. I tried to hid this fact by changing the angle of the photograph, but I am growing more and more uncomfortable about the whole affair.

I think I will go back and repaint it in some darker, grey-ish color. Or maybe I will just decide to be blatant about the similarity. I need some thinking on the issue.

Philadelphia Inquirer: War buffs do battle (no blood)

Apparently, Historicon was nicely featured by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Notable excerpts:

In the subculture of war gaming and "conflict simulation," which includes board gamers and computer gamers, historical mini-gamers are arguably the most diligent, imaginative and multitalented.

Among war gamers, historical miniaturists are regarded as the most social and sociable.

(Emphasis added.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cruising dangerous waters: gris-blanc

I didn't have time to work on more comparisons among miniatures tonight, but at least I was able to get some painting on the WSS French I received yesterday from Minifigs. Of course, when we are discussing French uniforms from the XVIII century, it is impossible to escape the never-ending controversy about what is their "gris blanc" color. There are at least four threads on the topic on TMP, and some more in the yahoo groups for the "Seven Years War" and "Lace Wars."
At the end of the day, my take from all those exchanges is the following: it doesn't matter. If it looks good to me, it's good enough - after all, it is my lead being pushed on my table, and if you have a problem with it, stay at your home! But since these miniatures need to be painted, one way or another, I had to pic some bottles from the Vallejo box...
Here's how I proceeded. Gris-blanc is not really grey; but it is not white, either. It looks a pearlish off white when compared to bright white, but it looks white when compared to anything else. I then put on my palette some white, and just a minimal drop of a grey; at the end, I will "miracle dip" the miniatures with the more brownish Minwax Polyshade ("Antique Walnut Satin".) Hopefully, the final effect will be somewhat off-white, between grey-ish and cream. For the time being, here's how these infantrymen look at this stage of production.

Some work continues also on the Prussian fussiliers, but nothing worth reporting with a picture yet. Finally, I also dip the brush into some ground color for the mythical windmill... here, in exclusive, a preview for your eyes' only!

Some more Historicon pics

I am adding here a few more pictures from Historicon. The first one is from the game that my friend Joe ran - it was a Russians vs. Polish affairs, 1500 circa, if the memory serves me well. The second pic was from a WWI game, which I believe was run two years ago. In any case, an impressive display of no man's land. The third photo shows one of the large space that the Host reserves to the convention: lots of tables, and lots of games. This year, to avoid over-crowding, there were a few additional room made available to HMGS, although not all of them were exactly "prime." Finally, pic #4 was taken as I walked through the aisles of Distelfink Ballroom, another impressive setting for a ACW game.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When it rains, it pours...

I came back home from work today, and I found in the mail those samples I ordered weeks ago from Minifigs! This is actually the substitute order that Tom Dye sent again after we realized the first attempt went for nought because of a wrong address. So, all the sudden, I am surrounded by all the samples I was looking for! OG15 and Minifigs for SYW, and Minifigs, Essex, Irregular and Edition Brokaw for WSS. There is enough material for several postings!
I got so excited that I immediately started working on these - and I have already primed a good amount of my new toys. I hope I will keep momentum in the coming days.
First reactions. Hands down, Minifigs are the winner. Just beautiful: simple and elegant, yet detailed and not without some dynamic in the position of the figure, despite the "march attack" pose which in itself tends to be rather static. These must be third generation casting: clean, impressive miniature. Only some flesh under the legs, easily removed in just a few minutes of work. I will struggle through the OG15 currently in the closet, but I will never again buy from that line.
Essex, very good as well. Slightly more stocky than Minifigs, but similar style and height. Some proportions seem a little off to me (look at the miniature's left arm in the pic below), but overall I would say Minifigs and Essex are compatible with each other. Here's a comparative photo of a Prussian fusilier, Essex on the left and Minifigs on the right.

Prices: Minifigs come at $9.95 per pack of 24, or 41c per miniature; Essex are $4.59 per bag of 8, or 57c per figure. Do you really need an economist to do the math? Minifigs is the winner.
Price-wise, Edition Brokaw does even better at $4 per bag of 20, or 20c per figure. These are old style 15mm, and since I was myself a cash-strapped graduate student until a few years ago, I am glad that there are cheap opportunities to jump into a new period at excellent prices. That said, I would say that the difference between a 41c Minifigs and a 20c Edition Brokaw is far from negligible, and since, Baruch Ashem, I can go for the Minifigs, I think there will be little turning back. In this photo, Palatine Elector infantry from Edition Brokaw waiting for priming.

I still need to work on the Irregular miniatures, so expect some more pictures in the days ahead. They look good when I bought them, but I am not sure they can stand the comparison with Minifigs.

Historicon 2009 is only 353 days away...

... but for the time being, we can still revel in the good memories on the 2008 edition. I made it home yesterday, waking up at the wee hours for a 8:30am flight from Baltimore. I was even a little early to the airport, so that I was able to relax, and enjoy a nice breakfast at the BWI Phillips restaurant: crabcakes omelette and bloody mary. Not bad for somebody who is never up before 11am on Sunday, and goes for hours with the only support of a good cappuccino. And it was a true joy sipping my bloody mary while reading a few chapters of Charles Grant's "The War Game" -- yes, as somebody pointed out in early comments, the book was indeed available at the booth of "On Military Matters"... and could I have ever left an unbought copy on the shelf???
I already posted on the first day at the convention; it will suffice to say that the second day, Saturday, was likewise enjoyable. More shopping at the flea market: at the end, I left Pennsylvania with five Ospreys: Indian Mutiny, Infantry and Cavalry of Frederick the Great, Austrian Infantry and Cavalry 1740-1780. Remarkably on topic, by the way - during my Historicon shopping sprees I tend to give in to the impulse of the moment: but not this time. I am glad to report the purchase of a windmill, by Hovels. Wait for pictures soon. I checked a lot of terrain in Dealers' Hall, and now I think I will make an order for PaperTerrain buildings in the 10mm scale, that are perfectly suitable to 15mm miniatures when play at grand-tactical level.
I also continued my miniatures shopping, adding more Tin Soldier Abyssinians from the always nice people at Silver Eagle. I took home some samples of WSS Irregular, and WSS Essex as well. Finally, I bought a WSS Palatine Elector army pack from Edition Brokaw/Pat Condray, at the amazing cost of $35. The miniatures are old style 15mm, but seriously: $35 is a real deal.
As always, the best part was to connect with old and new friends. Peter, Joe, Tom from CT, Eric, Brian, Mark (?) from the Charlotte gang, Ken, Freddie (who looks in fantastic shape!), Brent and Jim, Ray, Chris and Pat brothers always at the top of their game, Tony, Iain, Rob - best to all of you, and my apology if I am forgetting someone.

Overall, it was a very good convention. After the complaints I read about Historicon 2007 (which I missed) I thought this year the execution was almost flawless, in terms of facilities: air conditioning running, plenty of decent food available, even with a few options for choice, plenty of space in the gaming area, without too much over-crowding. I would say moderate attendance, although the added gaming space can make the assessment tricky. To be frank, considering gas prices I was expecting less people, and the parking lot at the Host was full both on Friday and Saturday. Yeah, the Host remains an overall stinky place, and just when you thought that carpeting could not become any more stickier, here it went to prove you wrong. Alas, I also need to report that daily showering remains an under-appreciated morning rituals for some of the convention attendees.

On a related but different and inappropriate topic: the Osprey Publishing booth was run by a very hot young lady. For a miniature wargaming convention, it was a first. But I am a married man: and I got my Ospreys at the flea market instead.

For those of you who missed the show, I add a couple of pics (of the convention, not of the Osprey chick!) Here's Dealers' Hall.

Here's the theatre, where the Flames of War tournament took place on some amazing terrain. I am stll unimpressed by the game, but the whole affair was run in a superb manner.

Last, a couple of eye candies from games that unfortunately I did not play, but that stood out for the beauty of the settings. Congratulations on all the game masters, a true inspiration for all of us!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hallo from Historicon

I am here in Lancaster PA, and I am fortunate enough to have a good internet connection at my motel. I will not do "live blogging" from Historicon (although the idea may be cool for the future...), but I just want to share some highlights about the day.
I came in yesterday night, and it was late - the flight landed in Baltimore at midnight, it took forever to check in at the car rental terminal, and I got to the hotel by 2am. This morning I made it to the registration by 10am (as my friend Massimo quips, I am barely functional without my daily 12 hours of sleep... Starbucks coffee helped) and I immediately went for a stroll at the flea market. It was a good idea, because for an average of $6 I was immediately able to secure four Osprey titles: on the SYW Austrian cavalry and infantry, on SYW Prussian cavalry and on the Indian Mutiny. A few other temptations, to which I was able, broadly speaking, to resist.
One of the pleasures of attending the convention is reconnecting with old friends and my regular Historicon crowd. Fred, out of California, was right there at flea market, and we had a nice chat right away. I ran into few other familiar faces - Mark, with whom I did some good gaming back in my Virginia days: Jeff, whose dad Bob will come in tomorrow. Needless to say, it was very, very nice.
It was time to move to Dealer's Hall. I will try to take a picture of it tomorrow, because it is hard to deliver the sense of awe I always feel in stepping in what is the largest shopping venue for miniature wargaming in the planet. At booth #1 I found "On Military Matters", where I picked up GaPa, the rules for WSS I had previously ordered from them. I also added a very good guide to the WSS, "Armies and Uniforms of Marlborough Wars" by CS Grant.
As I was wandering through the aisles, I tried to stay focused on my original plan, without giving in to the impulse to shop outside my current project. believe me, it is easier to say then to discipline myself... but I was a good boy, so I didn't go astray. At least: not too much. I swear, I know what I am going to do with that Mosque. And I did indeed plan on buying the windwill - the Hovels' one was there on display... and now it is here... and so are a few samples of Marlburian infantry from Irregular.
Some more chats - "Gonsalvo" and "Pacerni" were busy running a "Piquet - band of Brothers" game who was well attended; Ken was with them. Another stroll through the gaming area, and I realized it was 5pm. Time for a nap back at the hotel.
I was back at the Host by 7pm, right on time to join the whole Piquet gang on a demo of the new "Piquet/FOB WWII" game. While WWII is not currently on the top of my gaming interests, the good company was the real reason - and indeed a good fun was had by all, as a Russian armored forced broke through a powerful German defensive line. I took command of a battalion of motorized Russian infantry, and despite suffering some bleeding by Fred's Panthers I was able to successfully support our enveloping maneuvre.
The day ended with a beer near the pool with Eric, and Pat & Chris. And of course, with some blogging to fix these moments in my memory.

Tomorrow... is another day. I would not mind some more shopping - WSS from Edition Brokaw is something I really want to look into. And I still need a bridge. And a few other items I must check out for future reference. Also, I want to take a few picture - unfortunately, I will not be able to post anything until I will get back home on Sunday. As for the gaming - I still need to check out the convention program. I am signing off, and doing it right now!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Historicon minus 2

Hotel reservations – confirmed; printed.
Car rental reservation – confirmed, printed.
Flight reservation – confirmed, printed. Online check-in available tonight at 9:30pm.
Mapquest itinerary & directions: printed.

32 hours, and counting…

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Historicon minus 3!

The title says it all...

Monday, July 21, 2008

And now, for a change...

I am cheating a little bit with the dates, here, since these miniatures were actually finished and mounted on their bases one week ago... but somehow it felt inappropriate to post these pictures on that day...
This post may well belong to a thread about "projects that stay dormant in your closet - a continuing series." As I mentioned in the past, WWI is one of my gaming interest, but it is also one of the period where I have been more disorganized, painting only sporadically, and never getting "the job done." Until, a few weeks ago, I realized how close I was to complete a few units.
[Probably the existence of this blog, and its few readers, it a major provider of motivation to bring units to completion!]
In any case: in just a session or two, I was able to make major progresses, and I am now glad to report that a first German battalion in picklehaube has been completed, and a second battalion in stahlhelm is nearly completed. The whole project includes three battalions (one regiment) in pickelhaube, and three battalions in stahlhelm ( asecond regiment), for a grand total of one full German brigade (based on "Command Decision - Over There" standard, and "Piquet - Barrage.")
Now, I know the purists among you will be jumping on the chair screaming. Of course, pickelhaube and stahlhelm should be mutually exclusive, and definitely not be worn by different regiments in the same brigade at the very same time. But you know what? This is a little sacrifice I am willing to suffer, in order to achieve some flexibility in terms of WWI periods (depending by what will strike my fancy, I will be able to do Marne 1914 or Caporetto 1917 having at least half of the units right.) Also, this solution will help to resolve the problem of unit ID, which is always an issue (especially when playing "Over There.")
So here's a few pictures.

All these miniatures are 15mm Minifigs, painted over a relatively long span of time and finished in recent weeks with the technique of "miracle dipping."

Friday, July 18, 2008

No comment needed

Not indeed, I suspect... and now you know what I have been working on this evening. I guess this is good news for all my "tricorne" friends!
It has been, professionally speaking, a busy week, which only allowed occasional painting time. And since I have not completely given up on those 15mm OG Prussians and Austrians, I figured out they might well be my "filler" for the down time. As you see, some minor progresses have been accomplished. Again, these are tough figures, and I am actually contemplating a few adjustment to my painting style in order to proceed in a smoother way. But, I guess, the project is going, despite all the initial uncertainties.
On this very same matter. I had a very nice conversation with Tom Dye at Minifigs today. It is always a great pleasure chatting with him - his enthusiasm about the hobby is contagious. And I found out he is a big fan of SYW and the Marlburian period. In fact, he shared with me some exciting development for these ranges at Minifigs. Of course, I am not spilling the beans here - enough to say that some good, good stuff is on the way!
On a less positive note -- my order of SYW and WSS samples was sent to the wrong address. Bummer. We are working to a solution, but it likely means I will not see any Minifigs sample before Historicon. And I am not happy about it.
And since we are on SYW-WSS topics: today I printed out a very interesting article. It is the "files" section of one of the Yahoo groups, either the "old school wargaming" or "lacewars." Or "syw"? Anyway. The title is "Fictitious Wars', by N.H. Hyde. Not sure where it is from - looks like a pdf from some old newsletter. But this is the most extensive treatment of the "imaginations" ideaI had the opportunity to read thus far, and I am very, very intrigued. I suspect that, sooner rather than later, I will start looking for some of C. Grant's books. For the time being, I am beginning to see the possibilities... and I like them! I will elaborate further in the near future.
I will be gone for the weekend. I am taking off tomorrow to the Mohawk Valley again, for... well, for "another op'ning of another show." But I will be back on Sunday night, and I have a long-ish layover in the National Capital tomorrow. So maybe I will post between now and Sunday night. Who knows. In any case - you all enjoy a great summer* weekend!

* And yes, I am fortunate enough to have readers from "down under"... I just hope the winter won't be too harsh on you, guys!

Note to self - Magister Militum

The questions raised in my previous post received several interesting answers on TMP. A great recommendation pointed me in the direction of Magister Militum, a British manufacturer with a line of Revolutionary French miniatures. Among them, a "Parisian Mob" in Phrygian hats, and Austrian infantry in casquet. They are distributed in the U.S. by Little Wars in Houston TX. I think Little Wars will be at Historicon: I need to have a chat with this people.
What a great way to start a Friday!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A little perplexed

A few days ago, during a raid on eBay, I was able to secure some interesting miniatures, at a very cheap price. They are old Minifigs Revolutionary French, and I looked at this as an affordable way to beef up my French Revolutionary Army in the hope, sooner rather than later, to get into Valmy, or Suvorov's Northern Italian campaign.
The package was delivered today. It included cuirassiers in bicorne and grenadiers in bearskin, who were exactly what i expected. In the lot, nevertheless, there were also two blisters of "Line Fusiliers or Light Chasseurs, leather caps." I confess I was not really sure what to expect; in my naivete, I was thinking something closer to a Phrygian hat. Well, I was wrong. What these figures are wearing is a type of cap, almost a casquet or helmet, I have never seen before. I went online, and I googled, until I finally found a reference from Napoleon's expedition in Egypt. Here's the related picture:

I am talking about the hat shown on the two figures at the center. What exactly is this? And what do I do with these miniatures? My first reaction was to "dilute" their presence mixing them with traditional infantry in bicorne. Or Tarleton. That would look more revolutionary to me. Could they stand in for Valmy infantry? Plus, does anyone produces 15mm infantry in Phrygian cap? That would be cool.
I am still scratching my head on this development. Not sure where this development will bring me. Need to think about.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sudden realization

I have truly enjoyed looking at the latest pictures on the Miniature Conflicts blog. A few days back, commenting on the excellent battle report posted in that site on TMP, I asked the author for more close-ups, and I was thrilled to see his pictures today. Since I am still working on the preliminaries stages on this period, new for me, I sincerely welcome all the inspiration i can get!

And looking at the pics, I also had a sudden realization. You may remember my complaints about the Prussian battalion that I primed a couple of weeks ago. Well, as a matter of fact: in the same box in the closet, next to the OG Prussians, I also have a bag of SYW OG Austrians... and by what I see (I cross-check on Google as well), Austrian uniforms for the period were simply white, with colored facings. Of course, I hope to get an Osprey volume at Historicon to retrieve more information, but a white uniforms is much less challenging to paint than a multi-color one as the Prussian, so off I am now to prime some Austrians. I believe that, with the right colors for the facings and maybe a final dipping, I can pull out more than decent SYW Austrian from thse now infamous 15mm OG bags... so, off I am, priming Austrians! Hope to report back soon with some progress on the "Age of Reason" project!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Periods I play - it shold have been my introduction on day #1

This is some information I wanted to share in the first day or two of blogging, for sake of introduction, but I kept postponing the actual post in order to articulate better my thought.

Here's a list of historical periods that stroke my imagination, to the point to start wargaming them. Of course, growth has been disorderly at best, with a lot of stop-and-go, rethinking, changes of hearts. Add to that my slow painting, and you truly understand the patchwork nature of my collection of miniatures, and of my gaming.

  • Napoleonic. This is where all started. With the Waterloo - La Haye Sainte by Airfix when I was five. With a Miniature Figurines catalogue fortuitously ending in my hands when I was 16. With an occasional purchase of French infantry in overcoat at an Italian militaria show when I was nineteen. With my first order to Southampton when I was twenty. Anyway. I have never been able to deny myself any sub-period, so I am ending up with a little bit of everything. Revolutionary Wars, 1805, 1809. Soon Peninsula and 1806. Probably Egypt and anything past 1812 will come at a later time. But I am afraid it will come, soon or later...

  • Colonial. Again, a fascinating era where I am not able to pronounce any firm "no." Sudan? Egypt during the Arabi revolt? North-West Frontier? Zulu? Boer Wars? Abyssinia? The Legion Etrangere in North Africa? Boxer Rebellion? Indian Mutiny? I just want them all. Maybe for a small, occasional skirmish every now and then. But it must be done.

  • WWI. Here's I am getting a little more discriminatory. I am absolutely fascinated by the war in the Near East: Mesopotamia and Palestine. I am very intrigued by 1914, before the war settled into trench warfare. Maybe East Africa, where miniatures can be easily recycled from other theatres. And I am slowly collecting Italian and Austrian troops for 1915-1918.

  • Italian Risorgimento. As for the middle of the XIX cent., I never completely clicked neither with Crimea nor with the FPW, but I am fascinated by the Italian Wars of Independence. Which provide the opportunity to collect French and Austrian troops, plus Sardinia and several Italian minor states. Very colorful.

The aforementioned projects are those in which, at different degree of completion, I am already active in. There are a few other periods that are just work in progress: some miniatures collected, a few less painted, a few rules read, but no actual game already played. I think those will deserve a post of their own.

Bastille Day!

Salut a' la France! Vive la Republique! Vive Carla!
Aux armes, citoyens!

Let's all stir our revolutionary ardor - pastis, anyone?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Historicon minus 12!

I will be back at the great HMGS-E convention - twelve days and counting!

I have not been to a convention in exactly two years. It feels like a long time. Attending HMGS-E used to be much easier when I was living on the East Coast. On a few occasions, it was almost a spur of the moment decision: I woke up in the morning, went for a road trip to Lancaster, or Gettysburg, or Timonium, (... mmm, scratch that, I prefer to forget that year...) and drove back late in the evening. But now I live in the Midwest, and the trip needs to be properly planned: it requires a round-trip flight to Philly or Baltimore; renting a car; booking a room at one of the hotels near the Host. And all of this on a shoe-string budget: money is for Dealer's Hall, not for a bed where I will crash a few, forgettable hours. The preparation takes some effort, but again: diletantes think strategy, professionals think logistics...

I should add this Historicon happens at a great time. I mean: it always happens in July, but there were times in which I was not feeling particularly motivated on any specific project, so attending the convention mostly resulted in bumming around, and impulse shopping. [Yeah, I know... those ECW pikemen, still forgotten in some box in the closet... what was I thinking?]

At the contrary, this year I feel very motivated about both ongoing and new projects; I have a clear idea of what I am looking for, and yet I am flexible enough to snatch some golden opportunities in Dealers' Hall or at the flea market if anything great will appear before my eyes. Focus on Napoleonic - Valmy Prussians, Suvorov Russians, Peninsula British, maybe some Saxons or Bavarians for color. Focus on WSS/SYW, as well, especially painting guides. I need a windmill, and a bridge. I want to look into paper terrain in 10mm. Seekrieg V. An Humvee or two. Some modern troops for Ambush Alley. I am mostly OK with colonials, but I won't say no to additional Pathans or Abyssinians. Oh, and those British marines in forage cap.
It's a long list, there will be a lot of painful decisions to take on the spot. Decision, decision. Historicon, I'm coming!

I also look forward reconnecting with several old friends, and maybe acquainting myself with a few new one. I will make sure my tag will include "Adik" or "Desto Fante", so I hope to meet some of you guys out there reading this blog. If you spot me around on Friday or Saturday, just come and shake my hand!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Disappointed by USPS

I have been waiting for a couple of small packages to arrive, any day by now, and yet the mailbox was still empty today. I understand it's summer, people take vacation and the mail service may well be understaffed; I understand we just had July 4th, and it was on a Friday, which means that the whole system shut down for a long weekend. Fine -- but come on, it should not take this time to ship from Indiana or Colorado! I am not waiting anything really important - a few bases from Litko, and some samples from Minifigs. But I am beginning to get impatient! Please please please: can the mailman deliver by tomorrow? We have a WSS/SYW project to evaluate, here!
On other matters. If you paid attention to the news today, you must have realized it was just another insane day on the markets. Which, in turns, means an exciting but exhausting one for an economist. Thus, tonight, I opted for a bicycle ride along the lakefront to unwind, and I took the night off from painting. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a productive day.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Et voici, les chasseurs!

I finally completed the three units of French chasseurs a cheval I've been working on for some time now. Here's three nice pictures, for your entertainment!

This was a very productive night; now, exhausted, I will sit down, rest, and catch a movie on TV.

Per your request

Yesterday I was asked to post a shoulder-to-shoulder comparison between a "dipped" miniature and a "plain" one. As I was basing my latest Hungarian regiment tonight, I took a couple of pictures. Because of the bad lightening in the room, I struggled with exposure, but here I can offer you two decent shots.

The unit on the left was dipped; the one on the right was not. I actually believe I should have done exactly the opposite: the Hungarian base has enough color that a further highlighting of the whites is not necessary; on the other side, the Austrian base is completely white, tunic and breeches, and it might have benefited from some shading.
I like the effect of dipping on certain figures: the ones where whites prevail, as in the case of Arabs or Dervish. I do not think dipping will enter in the standard routine of my Napoleonic painting, but I will probably dip some Austrian and Saxon units on a "as needed" basis.
Hope this will be helpful - thanks, as always, for the much appreciated comments!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What's the English name for...?

No, not the plume on the front: the piece of red cloth hanging on the side of the colpack, along with the pompon.
In the picture: "Trompette du 1er chasseurs à cheval, compagnie d'élite, en grande tenue."

Slow but steady progress

Another unremarkable evening with some minor progress on the Napoleonic front. Before basing IR 60 Graf Gyulai, I decided to dip the unit. I mean, a dip in the "miracle dip" -- Minwax Polyshades Tudor. The dipping technique is something I have began to practice about two years ago, and it worked miracles with my colonial miniatures. As far as Napoleonic figures are concerned, I am less than tepid. I do not think that the effect is really worthwhile over the usually colorful and flamboyant uniforms of the period. If I decided to dip the Hungarians, tonight, it was just as a test: I was curious to see whether, with these uniforms almost completely white, there was anything to gain by adding the dip's special effect. I would say: probably not. A few details were highlighted, a few painting sins were hidden, but overall, I do not think it is worth the effort. If it ain't broken, don't fix it: and my Austrians aren't broken, after all.

Some exciting news about the French chasseurs a cheval. By tomorrow night, I should able to have three completed units (eight cavalrymen each, plus one officer) plus an overall commander, for a total of 28 miniatures. Tonight I had to decide how to properly identify each unit. I resolved to throw "historical accuracy" out of the window, and I came up with the following system, which matches epaulettes to that sort of hanging cloth on the side of the colpack. [These are, by the way, "elite" chasseurs.]
So, here's the matching criterion: one unit (and his officer) will wear red epaulettes and red hanging bag; the second, yellow epaulettes and red hanging bag; the third one, don't you guess?, red epaulettes and yellow bag. The overall commander will have silver epaulettes. Clever, isn't it? I hope to have pictures to show in one day or two.

If I keep painting at this pace, I should be able to deploy the troops for a battle soon. I browsed through C.S. Grant's "Scenarios for All Ages", and I found a set-up that striked my fancy, and suited my forces pretty well: scenario 22, or "Making the best of a bad job."
... it sounds like I may have a project for the weekend...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Progress report

Hot and humid night in Chicago. Very hot. Very humid.

Some minor progress to report. I am in the very tedious stage of completing several units of Napoleonic French and Austrians. The very final touches - barrels of guns, plumes, pouches - can be a very slow going, and I chug along for most of the evening doing a relatively lackluster work, which hopefully will pay off later when these units will be completed and battle-ready.

Fortunately, I have a good news to report. IR 60 Graf Gyulai is ready! Twelve deliciously painted miniatures in their Hungarian uniform, helmet, and Stahlgrun facings. Here a pic - tomorrow the official "basing" ceremony.

And here's a nice close-up. For once, I was not horrified to look at my paint job up close. Maybe I'm getting there...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sudan Maps

For those of you who share my passions for maps, here's something exciting!

The University of Bern made available some excellent maps of Sudan. At the moment, it seems to cover Western (Darfur, Kordofan) and Southern (Equatoria) Sudan. These, and Google Earth satellite imagery, are going to bring a complete new dimension into my Chinese Gordon campaigns!

Why I only collect 15mm miniatures

In a previous discussion on my "Age of Reason" project, I have been recommended some 25/30mm miniatures. I confess, I have been tempted to seriously considered a new period in a new scale, but after some further consideration I am inclined to stay the course, and look into 15mm options. 15mm is the my scale of choice, for all my periods: napoleonic, colonial, WWI. Why?

When, in the late '80s, I decided to start a serious collection of lead miniatures, I faced the common dillemma: which size? At the time, the two options were either 15mm or 25mm. (Nowadays, at least 10mm and 20mm would be serious contender for several periods.) It didn't take long to settle for the former scale, 15mm, driven by four considerations:

A. cost. 15mm were (and still are) cheaper, and more competitively priced than 25mm. Keep in mind: at the time I was buying with Italian liras, not the strongest currency for purchases in the USA or UK;

B. space. With 15mm I can play a decent size battle on a relatively contained table. I never even dreamt of a space larger than 4' x 6'. We didn't have hobby-dedicated basements in Italy, and in the US I have lived in major urban areas, where space comes at a premium.

C. figures availability. At the time, 15mm lines were covering all my wargaming interest, even more than 25mm (for instance: Miniature Figurines had WW1 in 15mm, but not in 25mm.)

D. painting skills. I considered, and still consider, myself as an average painter. Of course, skills have improved over the years, but I would rate myself at 6-7 out of a scale of 10. I compare my miniatures with the occasional purchases on eBay: some of those don't deserve anything better than a 5, but some other pieces are clearly in the 8-9 range. For these reasons, I wanted to buy miniatures that would look good in larger groups, at a distance of 3'. The red pimple on the nose of the second infatryman from the left? Not something I want to deal with.

20+ years later, I still stand by my early decision. The rationale for C has faded away: nowadays, you can basically find figures for any conflict, in any scale; if you don't, you can have them done on-demand at Eureka's 300 Club. Figures availability isn't an issue anymore, unless you are working on the most arcane of the conflicts (yes, wargamers have that tendency…)

A. and B. remain valid point. Space remains a constraint; price have fluctuated, but they never changed in such a dramatic way to make 25mm affordable or smaller scales more desirable out of purely financial considerations.

On D., I am ambivalent. Nowadays, 15mm can be extremely accurate. I would not hesitate to compare the amount of detail in today's 15mm to the quality of 25mm twenty years ago. Since there are plenty of opportunities for painting details, I could easily move one notch up, to 25mm. But I still think that the efforts that go into a well painted 25mm miniature are an investment, in time and painting skills, that I am not particularly interested in doing at the moment.

Back in town

I am back home, after a very early flight from Albany. I think I will crash soon, and I am already savoring a restful night of solid sleep.

But before calling the day, a quick update. I finally posted a couple of pictures from the Old Glory SYW range we discussed last week. Before I left for the Mohawk Valley, I had received confirmation from Tom Dye at Minifigs that my sample was shipped, so I expected to received the small package in the next couple of days. I order SYW Prussians from Minifigs, to make a shoulder-to-shoulder comparison with the OG figures who failed to inspire me. Also, I have a WSS sampler to whet my appetite. If, as I expect, Minifigs miniatures will pass my examination, I will probably start painting some units for the Marlburian period soon.

Incidentally, 15mm OG SYW Prussians are also the topic of this conversation on TMP.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Some progress on Revolutionary Wars

You may think I am enjoying a nice vacation and getting all distracted from my wargaming projects, but nothing could be farther from the true. Aside some good progress on Griffith's "The Art of War of Revolutionary France" (and conversely, very little progress on "Monetary Policy Strategy"...), I have been keeping an attentive eye on a few very interesting auctions over eBay. And I am glad to report that I successfully completed some bidding, and I will soon add to my French revolutionary/early napoleonic forces. Enough to have a good jump start on a few projects I kept on my back-burner for quite some time, including Valmy and the Italian campaigns of 1796 and 1800.

I've always been surprised by how little consideration this early age receives by wargamers. True, its battles are less massive than those in the golden age 1805-1815. But this actually turns out to be an advantage for solo wargamers, or for those of us constrained by smaller gaming tables or limited available troops. Personalities may also be less flamboyantly appealing than those in the golden age, but many generals in this early period deserve better consideration: Dessaix, Kellerman, Dumouriez, Kleber, Hoche, Brunswick, Coburg, Suvorov.
I think it will be a lot of fun to finally explore this period further. I will keep you posted as soon as the mail will deliver the new additions to my collection, and the painting process start.

A little adventure, with a wargaming after-thought

On a break from my operatic full-immersion, we got into a little of an adventure yesterday. With my singing posse we decided to head to a short hike into a gorge on the right bank of the Mohawk River, to visit some beautiful waterfalls. It was supposed to be a short, easy walk -- 15 minutes or so. And we had a teenager local friend as a guide. It sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, our guide got lost, and took the wrong path, and soon we found ourselves entangled into a 2-hour hike in broken terrain, along the bank of a little creek.
It made me think how much we under-appreciate the role of terrain in our age of maps, Google Earth and Garmin. And, in turn, how little we appreciate this challenges when setting up our tabletop battles. Something definitely to keep in mind in my colonial games, and if I will ever get into AWI.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On the road

Hello from the airport!

Fo this long weekend, I am flying to Upstate New York, and I will be in the historic Mohawk Valley, theatre of some intense campaigning during the American War of Independence. My vacation in the area, though, has nothing to do with miniature wargaming, nor history: it will be completely dedicated to the other major and consuming passion of Desto Fante, i.e. opera.

The weather here has not been good, so we are facing some delay. Fortunately, I had a couple of good books with me. I doubt my readers will enthusiastically howl to the moon for "Monetary Policy Strategy", by Federal Reserve governor Frederic Mishkin, but I also took along Paddy Griffith's "The Art of War of Revolutionary France, 1789-1802." Interestingly, his first illustration at page 160 is... the mill of Valmy! When you say the coincidence...

Expect light posting between now and monday - but I will have Internet connection, so I hope to be able to offer some insight every now and then. Maybe during intermission.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I do not have a windmill

The title says it all. How could I possibly live without one? How did I manage to live 38 years and never, ever have contemplated the purchase of a windmill before? I mean... HALLOOO?! Valmy, anyone?

So, here a few options, popping out from a quick Google search & some digging in TMP archives...

So many choices... and only three weeks until Historicon to make up my mind!

Responding to a few comments

Thanks for all the very valuable suggestions in the comment section under the previous post!
[Jeff- you're right, I made a correction and credited you for the RSMs suggestion! ... by the way, I need to stop looking at that website! :-) ]

One reason why I want to explore paper buildings is the chance to play around with the printer scale. I may end up with building in-between 10mm and 6mm, to avoid the risks of odd looking hinted by Alte Fritz. And yes, I do want to have at least three or four building per town/village, as recommended by the Prince of Hesse-Engelbuth, to avoid the lame visual I mentioned in my post.

Since we are talking about paper terrain: I found a very extensive collection of links to website that offer paper models at:

Miniature Wargaming

I am not sure whether to classify that site as a blog or just a website; either way, it's a great resource, which I check out frequently. Bookmarked!

Light blogging night - but I will be traveling tomorrow, so I may have the time of something more substantial while hanging at the airport.