Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Marry Christmas to all DestoFante's readers!
My best wishes for holidays of peace and joy for all of you!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A year in review

DestoFante will be on the road for the next 10 days. First, Christmas with Mrs. DestoFante & her family in Florida; then, New Year’s celebration with my family in Italy. I expect the program to include a first jump in temperatures from -20°F with wind-chill in Chicago to 82°F in Southern Florida, then another sudden drop to the mid 30°F up in the Italian Alps near the Swiss border where my family live.
And DestoFante detests sudden changes in temperature.

These travel plans also mean that, maybe with the exception of a few hours of painting that I hope to squeeze in tonight or tomorrow, the wargaming year is coming to a close. It seems the right time to make a quick summary of the accomplishments of the past 12 months (there will be opportunities to discuss the projects for 2009 at a later time.)

First of all, this blog. It provided “method to the madness.” It has been a wonderful instrument to reconnect with old friends, and make several new ones. It really keeps the excitement going, and it works well as “discipline device”: it keeps me focused on my projects, and it provides the incentive to get things done, or to articulate my thoughts of the several different aspects of the hobby.

In terms of new periods, in 2008 I broke ground on three major projects: the Marlburian age, an “AK-47 Republic” imaginary African state, Lopongo, and my first foray in naval wargaming with 1/6000 WWI models.

Old projects never die, nor fade away… nor really get completed, because you also have one or two units here and there that can be added. In 2008, I made progress on the miniatures of my Abyssinia campaign, and I completed a few Napoleonic and WWI units.

In terms of rules, I was glad to provide some input to my friends EB who is working to revise the colonial module for an excellent ruleset (hint, hint: these are my favorite rules.) The project is due for publication in 2009, and it will probably be available at Historicon.

I also had the opportunity to buy and read two excellent rule booklets, among the best I have seen in several years: Sam Mustafa’s “Grand Armee” and “GåPå.” I promise a post on the topic of rules a long time ago, and for one reason or another I have not been able to write it yet, but I am looking forward to share with my readers some of my preferences & pet peeves on the thorny issues. Since I am very particular about what I like and what I dislike in rules, it is quite significant that in a matter of a few months I found not one, but two sets I sincerely enjoy very much.

I should add two further rule books that are going to have long-lasting impact on my gaming: the old but newly republished “The War Game” by Charles Grant, and the revised XVIII century module for Piquet, “Cartouche 2”, which hopefully will be delivered in time to appear under my Christmas tree in two days.

As for terrain and scenery, in 2008 I learned that paper models are cheaply (or freely) available, and they have reached an excellent quality. I plan several purchase at PaperTerrain over the next 12 months, as terrain is one area where I have been lagging.

Finally, this year marked my return to Historicon after a one-year hiatus. As usual, the experience was blast – both socially and in terms of shopping. The show is always the same, but that’s the way we like it. Crossing my fingers, I hope to have the good luck to return to Historicon in 2009, although it is too early to tell.

All these small and large accomplishments, I should add, were achieved during an unusually busy professional year, when we saw changes of historical magnitude in our economic and financial landscape. The almost complete silence in blogging during September and October were the direct result of such a dramatic time; nevertheless, the hobby has also been a major stress-reliever during a very tense period.

I should have time to make a few plans for 2009 during the flights in the next week or so, and I will definitely check in for the seasonal greeting over the next few days. Not sure if new pics will come available, but I will post any good ones I will get in my hands!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Freezing temperatures...

... make for a perfect painting afternoon! And I am glad to report some further progress in my Marlburian project. I am currently working on a few units from the Army of Electoral Palatine I bought at last Historicon from Editions Brokaw, plus one French infantry from Minifigs, plus one unit of Brandenburg grenadiers. Here's a few pics, taken before I realized a major mistake: belts and bandoliers should not be white, they should be buff or leather! Since then, I promptly corrected the error with some appropriate retouches -- unfortunately, no picture to document the final result.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

ISO a good boardgame for my father-in-law

Hello my dear readers,

I apologize in advance for this open and somewhat off-topic request, but I trust your indulgence and broad knowledge of everything-wargaming as I work on my Christmas list…

My wife suggested that, as a present for my father-in-law, we look into a military boardgame. I have been concentrating on miniatures for two decades now, and my Avalon Hill days are long gone, so I am not really sure what to look at. My father in law is a retired high school principal, with a keen interested in American history, in particular AWI and ACW. He never played wargames before, but he seemed genuinely interested to my gaming hobby. I do not expect him to pick up brushes and miniatures, hence the idea to proceed with a boardgame first. Ideally, I'd love to find a game with the following features:

a. good/high solitaire playability;
b. very good historical background;
c. medium complexity: something engaging for an adult, not too simplistic yet not too overwhelmingly complex;
d. focus on the American War of Independence or the American Civil War.

I am sure that, out there, there must be a "present day" AH "1776"… I just don't know where to look. Any suggestion & recommendation will be greatly appreciated – and hey, if any winning idea will come, I'll buy you a drink at Historicon!

Thanks in advance!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is paper the new black?

Of course it is not, nor I would ever dare to state the contrary. Yet, I think that for people in the right mindset, with the proper expectations, and for the right price, paper can go a long way on our wargaming tables.
Enter exhibit A.

This building was downloaded a few evenings ago from this website. If I well understand, the models are inspired by buildings in the French island of Reunion (which, by the way, I thought it was a penal colony.)
Yes, this is not perfect. It is not the solid, stocky building I would have bought at JR Miniatures. Not the excellent, hard cardboard models from the always intriguing Paperterrain. But hey, the price is certainly right: they are free to download! All I needed was a color printer, some glue, some patience, and a couple of hours during a rainy afternoon. And rest assured this palace will come handy again and again: I already envision it as the Prince's Palace in my XVIII century imagi-nation, the Principality of Saxe-Pape-Cyssor, and it will also serve as the presidential palace in Lopongo.
I hope, eventually, to refine my skills in paper building - starting with a not exactly simple project has probably affected today's final result, too. But again, with the right expectations and the right mindset, I believe this palace will be in proud display on the tabletop soon.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Annoying delay

You may -- or may not -- have noticed very little action in my fictional African Republic of Lopongo. Unfortunately, we ran into some headwinds. In order to get ready for a first, "fighting" scenario, I was waiting a few miniatures I ordered through a winning eBay auction. It was a very nice lot: some vehicles, some Peter Pig figures, a few other interesting items. Even the price was more than fair.
Alas, the US Postal Service lost the package! As I file complaints and insurance claims, I am apparently stuck with an annoying delay in the project. I need a few figures to get started on the first scenario (and I am not telling about it yet!), but I am reluctant to do another order now, in December, with holidays looming - and USPS notoriously overstretched...
Thus, in the meanwhile, I have been doing some background reading to add some realism to the first developing plot in Lopongo: the oil deal between the government and the French. I learned a lot about the economics of oil in Africa and, ironically, I have used part of that information in my professional capacity before than on the tabletop. I look forward to move the Lopongo story forward with a detailed post about the economics and politics of the oil deal soon.
In the meanwhile, I am glad to refer to another blog of interest for those of you following modern insurgencies/conflicts: Tiny Metal Men, faring from Australia, with some catchy materials. Read there, and keep an eye on here, too.