Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another quiet night of painting...

This is becoming a recurring theme for this fall. I am able to squeeze in a little bit of painting, let say 90 minutes to a couple of hours. Not much to register any major breakthrough, but still a very enjoyable session, actually relaxing and not too tiring on my eyes. I usually work on a batch of figures: 24 marlburian miniatures (a battalion), or 24 Napoleonic ones as I did today. This is a rather rewarding strategy: I work on a small group of figures so that I can do some actual progress, and I do not get bored as I did when working on the boots of 60 miniatures in one sitting. The downside is that progress is slow, but hopefully there will be soon a good number of figures ready for basing - and then, you can count on some good picture!

Post number 100

I just realized that the previous post was number 100. One hundred posts since June 21st - not bad! When I started blogging, I was not sure how frequently I would be able to write my wargaming notes. Apparently, I did better than expected, but I still feel some frustrations about the past few weeks, which have been professionally very demanding. In any case - I am still here, and happily so!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A night of peaceful painting

... and the nice feeling that progress is happening in my "age of reason" project! I spent a couple of hours adding a few but fun details - the cuffs, the tricorne lace, the belts...
Here's, in no particular order, some of the work for the night. The first two shots are Minifigs WSS French; the third, the infamous Old Glory SYW Austrians; the last, the Edition Brokaw WSS Palatine. On this final line: the sculpt is somewhat rough and "old style", but I have to say these miniatures are easy to paint, and very fun to work on. Despite the tentative details, they have a shot of becoming favorite of mine along the Minifigs range!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A new, exciting colonial blog

It was opened in mid September, but somehow it slipped from my attention until now... The "Campaigns of General William Augustus Pettygree" is an "old style" wargaming blog that brings us back to the North-West Frontier... I can't wait to have the time to read all the past posts (the recent ones are very inspiring!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New brushes

I haven't bought brushes in quite some time. Actually, a long time - it must be more than a few years. Probably I got by because I take good care of them, but they were beginning to show signs of wear. Points weren't as fine as they should, and I was beginning to have hard time in catching some of the tiny details. Time to go shopping for some new tools!
Fortunately, in the Chicago suburbs we have a very nice hobby store - Game Plus in Mount Prospect. I headed in that direction for some shopping yesterday, and here's what I took home.

Four spanking new brushes, three in a nice set by Reaper. Size 5/0, 0, 1, and 2 flat. This addition should provide some mileage to my current painting projects - Lopongo, WSS/Saxe-Pape-Cyssor, etc. This purchase will also give me some leeway to transfer the old brushes to some heavy-duty task, like dry brushing camo or horses.
To tell the truth, I have done some more painting today wild those old tools, which served me so well over the years. Maybe they could have kept going for a while. But it is nice to have something new!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lopongo miniatures - a preview

This is my first attempt to paint contemporary armies. An interesting journey: clearly, painting camo is not as easy as I first thought, but with some exercise I should become able to produce OK, "wargame standard" miniatures. It is a work in progress, but I want to share my first brush strokes.
The first group will be mercenaries: South Africans, Rhodesians, Belgians, some veterans from the French Foreign Legion. Not sure yet whom they will work for - a big oil company setting up operations in Lopongo? A PMC (private military company) hired by president Kwanto Sei Bruto? or maybe by a district governor with ambitious plans of his own? Stay tuned! For the time being, here's how they are coming along.

The second shot is for Lopongo regulars. As you may expect, these are likely under-paid and under-trained men from which you would not expect much... unless motivated by the desire of better pay after a radical political change, or inspired by a visionary religious leader, or driven by long-seeded tribal animosity...

The Republic of Lopongo

I did it. To relax from the stress caused by the global financial meltdown, I took a breather and created my imaginary Western Africa nation, the Republic of Lopongo. I opened a blog about it, "Qui Lopongo", where an independent news agency will report events, breaking news, and in-depth analysis from that unfortunate spot on earth. I even drew a few maps, that you will find in the blog under a detailed "Country Brief". I plan to keep "Qui Lopongo" in character, and post all the wargaming information on "Desto Fante".

A few words of introduction. I was fascinated by Peter Pig's AK-47 miniatures when they were first released. After all, who didn't love a book like "Dogs of War" or a movie like "Wild Geese"? My problem in embarking on a wargaming project, though, was the AK-47 rules. I love the tongue-in-cheek style - which I deem necessary to a subject that may be unsettling to many - but I was less than impressed by the actual gaming mechanisms. A couple of things have changed. TooFatLardies just published a supplement for the post-colonial African conflicts, B'Maso, tailored for their WWII rules IABSM (which I enjoy a lot) and for their skirmish set TWT (I never remember what that stands for, but it is IABSM at a smaller level, i.e. IABSM is company vs TWT is platoon.) Second, an interesting ruleset is out there for modern regulars vs. irregulars types of fight, "Ambush Alley". Thus, I came to the conclusion that with IABSM, TWT, "Ambush Alley", and the compass of B'Maso it will be possible to play AK-47 scenarios - even a nation-wide campaign! - which both maintains the chrome and provides fun game mechanics & narrative.

In the Country Brief, I went to some length to set the background, and I also add some "color" to the personalities involved. Italian-speaking friends will probably take note of the ironic nature of the names used - unfortunately, with a few exceptions, most of the jokes go lost in English.

Finally, a few acknowledgments. There are two great websites that have offered ever-ending inspiration for Lopongo: Ztum-Setum and Bongolesia. I've never met personally the gentlemen behind Ztum and Bongolesia, the members of the South East Scotland Wargames Club and Mr. Murph in Indianapolis, but my kudos to them! I hope Lopongo will be as inspiring and fun as their African imaginations!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Excellent service!

On September 22nd, I placed an order to Silver Eagle for the few Abyssinians figures I need to complete the roster of my army. Monday September 22nd. I got a nice reply by Jacob, who told me a few items were out of stock. I agreed to split the order, and... Wednesday September 24th, I got my package! I mean - 36 hours to go from CT to Chicago. WOW! Bravo! I received this past week the second installment, which I was not expecting until the second half of the month!

I should add: I have received some very good service by several dealers over the past six months: Silver Eagle, Minifigs USA, PaperTerrain, Peter Pig, JR Miniatures, TooFatLardies. Maybe I am just lucky, but I like to think that we have some truly exceptional individuals serving the wargaming community!

Gentlemen, there is only one way to express our appreciation and gratitude: we'll keep spending!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Back ache

DestoFante has been grounded for the day by an annoying back ache. He is lying on the couch, in pain. He thinks that a good glass of Scotch whiskey is all he needs for a prompt and complete recovery.

Mrs. DestoFante disagrees.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Painting the Age of Reason miniatures

Here's a preliminary, photographic report on the progress, or lack thereof, made last week, amidst tumbling markets and failing economies. These two sets are respectively French WSS and Prussian SYW, both by Minifigs USA. I am painting 24 of each, in order to have two "big" battalions by 24 figures each - yahoo! As you will notice, still a long way to go, and I still need to get completely comfortable with the Prussians. The French feel more straightforward, or mybe it is just my preference for WSS over SYW. After all, if you remember my thoughts back from the summer when I started all the blog, the whole was to experiment with different periods within the 18th century, and go for the one I feel more comfortable painting. Anyway, preliminary as they are, here's a glimpse to what is being worked on.

And in true spirit of the times (the current, not the XVIII century) please notice the worthless stock quotes in the Wall Street Journal I used to protect the underlying table.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

On other matters...

A couple of weeks ago I moved my Marlburian project along, very slowly, with a few of painting sessions in between market collapses. Pictures were taken, but the lighting was poor. I will post soon a few samples anyway.
In stark contrast with the polite and chivalrous style of warfare in the Age of Reason, I also read with some interest the latest supplement by the guys at TooFatLardies, B'Maso, which deals with post-colonial wars in contemporary Africa. This work quickly brought me toward two other books that I literally devoured, "The Wonga Coup" and Forsyth's "Dogs of War." Connecting the dots, I realized that there is a very interesting opportunity to translate the imagi-nations concept into modern Africa, and I actually did some background work to outline a fictitious West African state, plagued by a paranoid dictator, diamond-trading guerrillas, oil-protecting mercenaries, coup-plotting colonels, and order-restoring French paras. This would be an excellent excuse to spend some money on Peter Pig's AK-47 miniatures, and paint some khaki uniforms. We will soon hear more about this, too.

Abyssinian Wars Project

Before the turmoil on financial markets completely absorbed my life, I hinted a few times to a colonial project I have been working on for a few months. My friend EB is writing the 2nd edition of a great set of rules for the colonial period, and he asked me to contribute the army lists for the publication, expected to go to the press next year.
It was tough to find the time, but I finally delivered EB some drafts last week, and apparently he thinks they are really good. Some more work to polish the ratings, and add a few optional rules, and voila', we will be in good shape. Stay tuned, because when the time will come, I will provide plenty of information about our project.
In the meanwhile, I took the opportunity of this contribution to go through an inventory of miniatures I have available for the Italian-Abyssinian War, 1887-1896. My playtests were conducted with some Mahadist units as stand-in, but I realized that, with little efforts, I may have a full, completed project!
So, first of all, I pick up the excellent scenarios booklet "Colonial Campaigns - Ethiopia 19887-1896" by Mark Fastoso (whom, incidentally, I also help with playtesting.) Second, I tallied up all the units you need to play the 10 scenarios, thus deriving a nice matrix of what do I need to have in storage. I counted five types of units for a total of 13 units for the Italians, plus leaders (mounted and foot) plus guns, MGs and wagons. The Abyssinians forces display also five types of units, for a total of 16 units, plus leaders and guns.
Next step, with my little matrix in hand, I paraded the existing forces on the table for a roll call. Some units are already battle-ready, some other miniatures are at different stages along the painting process, and a few are still in their sad little bag, unpainted. I took a few pictures, one for the Italian

and two for the Abyssinians.

This quick survey highlighted a few shortcomings, which I immediately try to fix with an order for a few bags. I received the missing pieces during my recent "sabbatical", so to speak, and as soon as I'll come back to wargaming in full swing, I will have in my hands all I need to complete the two armies in a short time!


I am back. It seems ages ago when I was able to post here almost on a daily basis, and now almost two entire weeks went by without me popping in, not even to just say hello.
If you have been watching the news, you probably suspect the reason of such a long absence. The situation on world market has deteriorated steadily, and now our economic shop has a forecast for a recession in the fourth quarter of the year (that is: now) until the late spring 2009. We have been working almost around the clock, literally: a few decisions by the federal authorities were taken on Saturdays or Sundays, so I have been working during weekends, and some other events took place during night time, because of the time difference with Europe and Japan. These days, it is not uncommon to start exchanging emails with my boss at 3am, and stop past 11pm. Needless to say, Mrs. DestoFante is not happy! I will now proceed, in a different post, to some wargaming updates.