Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My Game Room

I have been gaming for 42 years now, and as an adult I have had just two times in my life that I had a room dedicated to gaming.  Both of those times the room only lived a year or so...divorce and changing situations put early ends to both.  Now, after all these years, my life has finally settled down and I have been blessed with a life partner/wife who is happy for me to have a room to call my own, the calm to have time to build it, and the house with room to grow to provide it.  I bought this little rancher almost four years ago, when only the ground floor was livable, but I knew the once-finished basement could be reclaimed and made fresh and livable again.  This summer, it finally began...the birth of my game room!

For the first few years, it was a storage room.  I moved stuff in and shoved it on shelves in a hurry, and being a single dad of three little girls I rarely had time to dig around much.  Once Linda and I started clearing the room out I came across a real treasure...a box with several units of 15mm Macedonian cavalry that I had primed and mounted to paint, then moved and forgot. 
Hmm...check this out.  A paint tray/soda carton with...wait, what's this?

Macedonian cavalry??  So THAT'S where they went!
Once we got the storage stuff cleared out of the room, I realized that we were going to need to re-build the old, steep stairs down into the basement and make them more conducive to middle-aged knees and safe for my little girls.  So we ripped out the old stairs, stared at the new pieces of wood for a couple of hours until the angles clicked, then cut and nailed the new stringers and treads into place.

Meanwhile, back in the room crammed full of stuff, I started sorting through my mountains of miniatures and piles of princesses with help from Chef Rose (not sure what she was going to cook on, but she was dressed for the part!)
Look, another find of something that I thought was long gone...perfect décor for my man-cave!
Sadly, we kind of got well into the remodeling before we remembered to take pictures.  Once we got the junk out of the room, we pulled down the old crappy acoustic ceiling tiles, replaced the basement window, cleaned the heck out of the fireplace stone, put several coats of Kilz and finish paint on the pine wallboards, and cut a doorway into the closet wall to open the room up into the large storage closet. 

Then we started on the floor...
I had never done laminate floor, but thank goodness my dear cousin Paula flew out from Missouri and really worked her butt off helping me get this room going.  She got us going on the laminate and now I think I can finish the rest of the basement on my own with Linda's help.  Here's the same view (roughly) after the flooring is down.

Linda is very keen on finding new ideas on Pinterest.  She has come up with quite a few ways to use wooden pallets, which I can get free at work; I've used them in her garden, and have some ready to convert to shoe racks, storage shelves, etc.  Well, she found a cool picture of using the pallet wood on the wall as ship lap, so we thought we'd try it.  My buddy and co-worker Mike K very kindly shared some pallets that have 1"x6"x7' boards, and I soon had enough to do one wall for a really neat contrast.
Once again, Daddy gets help from little hands!  Rose is turning up everytime I need little helper!

I won't bore you with more step by step...and again, I kind of forgot to take many pics!  So here are a few shots of the finished room.  I tucked my old component stereo into the fireplace (inspector told me the flue is cracked and shouldn't be used), put in a couple of easy chairs and a bookcase of military history books and gaming books and I've got a comfy little hideaway to read or just stare at pictures.
For now, the bulk of my minis are stashed under the table.  I plan to get a nice bit of cloth to drape around the edges of the table to hide the stuff underneath.  A mixture of barstools obtained on Craigslist and I've got seating adequate for once a week visits from the gaming group.  Down the road I'll be building a bookcase on the far wall where the back of a bar chair can be seen; there will be a horizontal case along that wall running to the right, with a bench for seating and storage underneath.
Looking the other direction from the above photo, here's a good shot of the pallet wall and how I decorated it.  I have my painting table to the left of the door, and inside the closet are plastic storage shelves of minis, terrain, and other gaming flotsam.
In addition to being my gaming room, and my little getaway and stress reliever, the room also gives me a place to decorate with the things that are special to Napoleon print, a miniature reproduction Imperial Guard flag, and a very special sombrero given to me by my sweetheart oldest daughter Ali Eubanks! 

My sincere thanks to my awesome cousin Paula for helping so much with getting this room started, and especially to my wonderful wife Linda for caring enough to let me do this.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Flea market mania!

I love flea markets, true flea markets where people sell old stuff that they are tired of.  You just never know what you're going to find.  Most of it is just stuff to look at, nothing to take home, but there is the thrill of the hunt and, when you do spy some treasure that you can't live without it's always fun to haggle with the seller.  In fact, it's almost expected!  Buying in the flea market without haggling over prices is just plain...well, it's boring.

I have been going to HMGS conventions here on the east coast since 1993 or so...for a long time it was Cold Wars, then Historicon, and finally Fall In!  Early on I discovered that, to fund my new projects, the best thing was to take old projects to the con and sell in the flea market.  I'd dig around for an army that hadn't seen action in a few years, or a project that never got completed, or just whatever gaming odds and ends were laying around collecting dust, and pack them off to the con to convert to cash.  Some cash would make it back to the bank, and some would conveniently fund the next army.  It's the Circle of Life in the gaming world!

My new wife, Linda, has heard me talk about working the flea market for a while now, and though I had to skip it last year I was able to make this year's Historicon and do two sessions of the flea market.  Linda thought it would be a good idea to take some photos during it, since she very lovingly offered to assist me with it.  It was so nice having her there, mainly so she could see the emotional ride it is but also to help me.  So, without further ado, the photos!
Probably the most unnerving part of the experience...getting everything loaded onto the hand cart and safely rolled into the flea area.  A couple of years ago, I had a box like the white plastic tray holder in the picture, and it had 1/1200 sailing ships in it.  I was tired that morning, and so as I rolled my cart to the ramp on the sidewalk I lost my focus for just a split second...long enough to tilt the cart and two drawers of sailing ships crashed to the sidewalk.  Took me a year to get them all glued back together again.

You don't get much to work with.  I had two tables, or to be more precise, I had a table and my wife had a table.  I signed her up as a member of HMGS so she could sign up for games; it didn't occur to me until later that she could get a flea market table in her name, but it sure came in handy!  That definitely helped, as I had a lot of stuff to sell.  Objective for this con: enough cash to help defray the costs of remodeling our basement!

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We had a pretty good location; an aisle and an end on the first row into the flea.  Now to put out the pretty stuff...painted 10mm Napoleonics to attract attention and hopefully draw some buyers.  It's always a challenge to decide the layout of stuff so as to get people to stop and look.  I've walked right by good deals because the first thing I saw on the table was a pile of shtuff, or something not very attractive.
I've spent too much time taking stuff out of boxes and arranging it on the table.  Now I try to transport figures in something that can show off the figures while keeping them in the carrier.

I've had this collection of 10mm Napoleonics...literally thousands of figures in Russian, Prussian, and French/French Allies armies.  I've probably had them for 10 years...and they've been on the table exactly twice.  With all the stuff going on, they fell into the category of "excess to the needs."
I always have a great time socializing in the flea market.  I know so many guys just from the conventions; we see each other once, twice, maybe three times a year and exchange some great talk and good memories, then move on.
Steve wound up picking up quite a few of my 10mm Naps.  He is very big into that scale, and has a pretty interesting blog called Sound Officers Call!  Very nice guy and a new addition to my "see you at the next con" friends.
I've always been told I have great stuff and very good prices, and this con was no exception.  I like to get a fair price on stuff, and I always round down in favor of the buyer.  I'd rather someone take figures home to game with them and enjoy than to pack them away in my basement for another year.

Post-script...August 7th, 2016: Since coming home from the convention I have been so swamped working on the basement and my game room that I completely forgot that I had this blog post going.  Although it's been a few weeks, I still wanted to share my thoughts and feelings about the con and the flea market.  While it's always nice to come back with some money in my pocket, and usually some new toys that the flea helped pay for, the social time of the flea market is the key to my continuing to do it.  I know I could use the Internet to sell throughout the year, and I do a little, but the flea market at the convention is so much more fun...and that's why I enjoy this hobby!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A close-run thing...French and Dutch sailing ship action in 1796.

The date is June 21st, 1796.  France is in the throes of revolution and the Terror, and her armies are trying to gobble up territory around her borders.  The Revolutionary Government has decided to send the French navy to test the willingness of the tiny Dutch Republic to fight, rather than submit to France's control.  The fleet is not a large one, but then no admiral wants to risk failure and the wrath of the Directory...and the guillotine!

Admiral Malcolm deBailey, an English Scotsman seeking fame and fortune, has volunteered to take a fleet to capture or destroy a Dutch fleet that has taken advantage of the British navy mutinies to scour the seas for some privateer booty of their own.  He has under his command the Tonnant (74), Neptune (74), Aigle (64), Berwick (64), and a lone scouting frigate, the Sybille (36).  The sure-minded Brit has decided to engage two Dutch squadrons: first, under Commodore Bingham, the Brutus (64), Wasenaar (68), and the Argo (40); second, under Captain Eubanks, are the Haarlem (54), Erfprins (54), Delft (50) and Amphitrite (36). 

The game is called Form on The Admiral's Wake, written by my friend Brian Dewitt.  They use hexes for movement, and game mechanics are controlled by cards that are shuffled and turned in each game turn.  The rules are very simple...literally two pages...and in my opinion are a blast to play.  I truly get caught up in anxiety and anticipation waiting for just the right card to come up so I can pull off my tactical masterpieces on the table.  There are cards specific to each nationality, and cards that apply to all at once.  Some cards are move only, some are turn only (which is indeed separate from movement), some allow reloads for crack/elite crews, some for all get the idea.  Some nationalities have more cards than others; I'm assuming Brian did his usual thorough research in coming up with the fact that the British and Americans reload faster than others, move more often than others, while the Spanish and Russians move less often than most.  French are pretty average, as are the Dutch.

This was our weekly gaming get-together, although this week only three of us could make it.  We've played the rules before, so the game went quick.  We set up with the French under Malcolm on a reaching position and running on course to cross the Dutch line.  The Dutch under Ron and Rob were also reaching before the wind.  Things went fairly evenly for the first turn; the French came down towards us and we moved towards them waiting to see who turned first.  I didn't bother to take photos at the beginning of the game because it really didn't seem like it would be much to see...Malcolm would ride down, cross our T, we'd founder around and laugh and then game over for the Dutch.  However, as you roll at the end of each turn for wind direction change, Ron rolled and sure enough, the wind shifted one hex-side the French were running down upon the Dutch and we were close-hauled...crap!!  Now there was no doubt that the French, with the wind behind them, would easily pull well into position to cross the Dutch T.  We were separated into two squadrons, with Commodore Bingham ahead and to windward of Captain Eubanks. Ron was in place to take the worst of the cannon my mind I was hoping Malcolm would be so busy pounding Ron that I could slip around the front of his line and take out his lead ship (or two!).

Sadly I don't have photos of the first few turns but the maneuvering played out with the poor Dutch unable to do much as Malcolm's French heavies crossed the T of our lead ship of the line (but fortunately at too great a distance to benefit from the rake bonus) and then the French squadron turned to gracefully move down the starboard side of the Dutch fleet (which had somehow managed to shake into one long line astern of the flagship, Brutus), exchanging broadsides as they went.  Malcolm's dice were they often are in sailing ship games!...and he dealt out far more hits on Ron's squadron than Ron was able to give back.  It wasn't long before the poor Wasenaar was pulverized into a crippled hulk, barely able to keep sailing.  In fact, after the French passed by Ron's squadron and began exchanging broadsides with my ships, the Wasenaar didn't even attempt to wear ship...Ron just sailed it straight out of the battle!!  It was already starting to look ugly for the Dutch when Lady Luck, that oh-so-fickle dame of the gaming table, evened the odds.  Ron rolled a broadside at the Berwick, which had taken some damage already, and hit with five out of six dice AND scored a critical hit.  (When you roll d6 to hit, you also roll one d12; if the number on the d12 is equal to or less than the number of hits you scored, you get a critical hit).  There are 12 possible critical hit results; a 12 is a major explosion that sinks the target.  An 11...which Ron a minor explosion that deals an additional d6 hits.  He rolled a 6, which put a total of 11 hits on the poor Berwick and broke her back on the spot.

The next few turns are a blur; the Dutch were wearing ship and praying for reload cards (once you fire, which you can do on any action card, it takes two reload cards to fully reload your broadside), while the French were passing through our lines and blasting back at us.  During this, poor Brutus took the brunt of the hits and became crippled and eventually struck her colors.  It fell to Captain Rob to pull his squadron together and attempt to turn a slight defeat into a major victory for the Dutch.  Ron bravely pursued the action with his frigate, too. 

Now we catch up to the pictures I took.  This first one shows my Haarlem passing between Aigle and Tonnant (Neptune has broken away from the squadron and is out of camera) and Haarlem has caught fire from the close-range blasting she is getting.  Just upwind of the Tonnant (on the left) are my two smaller ships Erfprins and Delft, with Ron's frigate in the background.  I'm not sure where my little Amphritite has gone to!
A closer view of the above: Haarlem bracketed by Tonnant and Aigle.  Hang on, brave lads!  Support is coming!

 At this point, in this picture above, Haarlem has fallen behind the French heavies but one of my smaller ships has managed to fall in behind the Tonnant...albeit with flames spreading from her rigging!
 This is a picture of what joy looks like...I just needed one more lucky hit to force Tonnant to strike her colors and here it was...two hits AND a critical hit.  Tonnant was no more.  It was turning into a pyrrhic victory for the Dutch.  Malcolm decided to start running, but as we found out, there are more move cards for the Dutch, plus there are more move cards for undamaged or uncrippled ships...and that was my squadron!  The French had suffered so many hits while moving down our combined squadrons' line that now every hit drove them closer to the crippled point.
Tonnant, surrounded by my squadron, being pummeled into submission.

 In the interest of playing the game out, after running before the wind for several turns, Malcolm and his French were finally caught by my squadron and so the Frenchman turned with fear and vengeance in his eye, and in one lucky turn of shooting beat my poor Haarlem to the gunwales and forced her to strike (the little white ring on the main mast).  Meanwhile, brave Delft (50) is going toe to toe with the remaining French heavies.

 Delft managed to inflict enough damage to slow the French ships of the line enough for the remaining small ships to catch up and it was like hyenas on a pair of wounded lions.  Being practically undamaged for most of the game, my little ships were far more maneuverable than the French wounded giants, and I was able to get into position to inflict some serious rakes on them.  In the picture below, Aigle finally strikes to the Delft after one fierce round of boarding action!
At this point it was time to call it a night.  Sybille wisely left the area of battle to seek out French reinforcements, and the Dutch sailed home to claim a very close-run thing.  As always, it was another very enjoyable game of sailing ships!

Monday, June 13, 2016

My "new minis" meet my old minis...more on my WSS collection.

This is a follow-on blog to my previous post entitled "New minis, new friend," in which I describe the beautiful 6mm Baccus collection I acquired from my new friend Alan in Australia.  As soon as I knew it was on it's way to me, I ordered some bases from Litko so as to rebase some WSS figures I already had.  The bases arrived, and the rebasing commenced!  First, I converted the Baccus figures I already had to the bases that matched my new collection.
The figures came off the old bases fairly cut fingers or damaged figures.
 After a couple of nights' work, I had four more British regiments and seven more French regiments ready to be based and made pretty for joining the standing armies.

Honestly I have to admit that sometimes I might, just perhaps maybe, have more figures than I realize.  All along I was thinking of a box with two Baccus armies that I picked up in a Historicon flea market some years ago, and then when I dug out the boxes to start blending the armies together I realized that I had more French and Bavarians that I had purchased from a guy in England a few years ago.  They were on the right sized bases, but they were based in two ranks rather than three ranks as my new Franco-Bavarians were.  No matter, says I; I can live with that slight difference.  Although the bases are the brighter green ones below, once I repaint and flock the bases they'll all look like the darker bases.

Notice the difference in the two-rank vs three-rank units; each unit will still only represent one battalion, so the number of figures per base is irrelevant.
There's only one problem at this point; I realize that I now have a total of 18 British-Dutch infantry units but I have a whopping 28 Franco-Bavarian infantry units.  Now, I know there are plenty of wargamers who put a lot of stock in the invincibility of the "thin red line" but that's a pretty big difference.  So, let's look at my options.  First, there's the obvious...just don't put all those French on the table at once.  Really?  You mean, have figures that I don't actually play with?  Isn't there some rule against that in the Gamers Code?  Ok, seriously now, there's option number two: buy more Baccus British infantry and paint them myself.  That's the option I usually go more!  That's probably the option most attractive to me so far, but there is actually a third option.  This one I'll take your thoughts on, because as the pictures illustrate it's not the optimum option.

I have in my possession a vast collection of 6mm WSS (or maybe SYW...hard to tell at this scale!) of another brand.  I know the brand but I won't mention it because I don't want to slight them.  I do not intend this comparison to be a slight or a statement of preference; I sincerely just want to illustrate the difference in size of my available resources to see what  you all think about mixing them in an army.

 The other brand is painted quite well, with King's colors and Regimental Colors for all of the British, and regimental colors for the French.  If I use them, I would have more than enough British to even the balance of power.  I wouldn't mix figures on a base; I would just base up the slimmer figures in regiments.  They would compare something like this below:

Baccus on the right in the pic.
With the new Litko bases being about a millimeter thicker and the slimmer figures being on thin cardstock that I'm not about to destroy to rebase them, it will actually make them about the same height as the Baccus figures. 

So now it's crunch time; do I buy more Baccus and sell off the slimmer guys, or just use them and not worry about the slight size difference?  I'm open to comments.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

New minis, new friend

Several years fact, the first year that Historicon was held in Fredericksburg, Virginia...I came across a deal in the flea market.  I have always been enamored by the Marlburian period of history; one of my favorite books is The First Churchill, about John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough.  I've had some armies in 15mm for the period, but never a British army.  So this deal was a box with a starter army of French and British in 6mm.  The figures were Baccus, so were beefy enough with some detail, and the paint jobs were quite good.  Without even counting the figures I snatched it up, looking forward to finally getting my hero (so to speak) on the table.  Sadly, once I got them home and really counted noses I discovered that I had about six battalions of each side, and about the same number of cavalry units, with four artillery pieces per side.  Definitely a starter army, but not much more than that...and I have become well-known in my gaming circles as one who likes the armies big, the battles big, the spectacle big...I like big games and I cannot lie!  Suffice to say that this purchase found it's way to the gaming storage area and has never seen life on the table-top battlefield.

A few weeks ago I saw a post on TMP of someone who had a WSS lot on auction on ebay.  I clicked on the link and saw my of a beautifully painted collection of British AND Dutch with an opposing force of French AND Bavarians...6mm...Baccus...enough to play on it's own to my standards but by adding my box in the basement to it I would have the mother of all Marlburian collections ready to put on huge (in my mind, at least) games.  Just one problem: the seller clearly stated that he would only post within Australia, where he lives.  Nooooooo!!!!!  It was like a bad dream...just what I needed to finally get some Marlburian gaming going and yet so out of reach!

I went out on a limb, sent the seller a message through ebay asking if he would consider letting me bid on his auction.  Turns out he is a very nice guy, and after a couple of email exchanges we were corresponding daily...he was actually pulling for me to win the auction, and I was calculating the exchange rate daily to see if I should modify my max bid.  Before the auction even ended I realized I truly enjoyed chatting with my new Aussie friend, and was a regular visitor to his own blog site.

After a week of nail-biting, upping my maximum bid several times and hovering over the computer, I finally reached zero hour...and it was mine.  It was such a great feeling!  Now for the patience part...I had to wait on the postal service of several countries to get my armies to me.  God must have had one of his wargaming angels watching over this package; it was mailed by Alan on the 23rd of May and arrived at my house in Virginia on June 1st. week from Australia to Virginia!!  I'm convinced Marlborough's ghost was riding watch on that airplane ride!

Now, waiting for miniature figures (painted ones) to arrive is always nail-biting enough as it is.  You never know how well the seller is going to pack the little soldiers for travel.  I've had guys promise me they have shipped tons of figures with nary a scratch, only to hear the box rattle when I'm turning it over to open.  I've had pikemen that were so entangled I've had to walk away for a few hours to calm down; chipped paint where the figures banged against each other because the packer thought a few Styrofoam peanuts would keep the (metal) figures from settling and bumping each other.  Tip to seller: just because you carry the box flat and steady to the post office doesn't mean it's not going to be tossed, flipped, rolled, dropped, run over by forktruck (seriously...tire prints on the outside of the box!)...or just disappear entirely with only a "We're sorry" note from the postal service.  So coming from Australia...Alan promised he had packed them well, so I held to that and waited.  When I opened the box, I couldn't believe my eyes. 
Each stand was individually wrapped in bubble wrap, then taped closed.  Each artillery stand, each limber stand, each command was amazing!  Nothing budged inside that box, nothing rubbed.  Alan even laid them out neatly in rows and by nationality, then put a label in place so I would know that!!  At first I was opening cavalry and artillery, then my wife handed me something and asked what it was...

I couldn't believe it; he had even carefully folded a piece of cardstock over the infantry and wedged it between the ranks of figures so that the flag staffs (which are very thin metal and quite bendy) wouldn't get broken.  My admiration for my far-away friend, which was already in place, grew even more.  I have never had someone take such care to make sure the miniatures they sent arrived in perfect condition.  My wife said it right: you can tell when someone paints the figures themselves, because they pack them with tender, loving care.  She has seen me unpack quite a few armies, and has become quite wise in the ways of shipping miniatures.
I'm a little OCD...I line the armies up on parade as we unpack them.

Here are a couple of shots of the armies.
The Franco-Bavarian contingent, lined up for inspection.


 Here is my attempt of spot-lighting Marlborough's finest.

Now I have to rebase the old armies that I had; I've already ordered bases from Litko to make the change.  Once that's done, I'll muster the entire force for a follow-up posting.  Of course, once I get them into a game I'll have to post that too.

June 1st truly was Glorious!  My earnest hopes that the armies were as prettily painted as the ebay pictures suggested were answered, and they arrived in excellent condition.  Best of all, I have a new gaming friend in Australia who I look forward to chatting with.  This is the perfect example of why I love this hobby!  Thank you, Alan, for the care you took in packing these boys off to me.  Good on ya, mate!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Marital bliss and Gaming 101...

As I sit here writing this, my fingers toes legs and arms hurt.  In fact, I pretty much hurt from my toes to my neck.  You see, I spent the day buying painted armies, playing a game on a non-game day with my buddies, or spending quiet time painting my minis by myself.  Yep, I said "or".  How did I get so sore, and why did I say "or", you may ask?  Listen well, young padawan...I have some sage advice for any gamer with a wife or girlfriend that doesn't "understand" your gaming needs and our hobby overall. 

Happy wife, happy life.

It's trite, it's cliché, it's sappy...and it's darned good advice.  Took me quite a while to get it right, but I figured it out and now I have a loving, happy wife who gives me all of the above when I really need them...not all at once, mind you, but at some time or another. 

Why am I so sore, then, and how does it relate to making my wife happy and getting my gaming needs fulfilled?  Because a few months ago I took a patch of woods just next to our driveway, cleared it of shrubs and trees, and this morning started on this project:
Not sure what that is?  It could be a man-cave.  Might be a 300-plus figure 15mm Napoleonic French army.  Could even be an army that I haven't even seen or bought yet.  Because that picture above, after about 8 hours of tiring, hot, dirty labor of love, turned into this:

Gamers come in many different flavors: you've got your casual gamer, who may or may not own any figures and doesn't have a designated game night.  There's the gamer who probably has one or two armies, plays only one or two rules sets, and has game days but they are maybe once a month or less.  I'm more at the other end of the scale from these...after 40 years of gaming historical miniatures I am still finding new periods and scales to get into, and have more freakin' minis than I can even remember (not true...I remember each and every one by their little lead face and made-up name...just being dramatic!), and I can be dragged whole-heartedly into buying a new army as simply as someone saying "hey, wouldn't it be cool to do the South American wars of independence?"  So I spent today totally dedicated to busting my butt, sweating like a dog, and hurting tonight like I climbed Mt. Everest, because I finally figured out that this:
Your welcome.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sweet Native American revenge....served cold and in plastic.

One of the neat things about gaming is that sometimes, things happen "randomly" that we can't control but somehow serve justice.  Have you ever had one of those times when you debate some point of rules, go round and round about how to interpret something, and then when you roll the dice to let Fate make the call it goes a way that totally makes sense and you could have saved yourself 30 minutes of debate?!  How about one of those times when you point out something to your gaming opponent, even though it means you'll probably fail your charge or take a lot of casualties...and then when he rolls the dice it goes your way anyway?  Am I the only person to spend extra time painting an elite unit of something...say French Imperial Guard...just to have it break morale at first contact, or get dog-piled by your opponent's table-top forces and die a glorious yet useless death on the table?  Probably not.  Last night my gaming buddies and I played a game of Black Powder, set in 1777 in upper New York colony, and justice was served by a hard-fighting band of American Indians that, in a very small and totally fantastic way that only a gamer could appreciate, struck me as slight payback for the terrible injustice served out to the indigenous Native Americans since English settlers "discovered" the New World. 

We were playing out a raid scenario wherein a British line infantry regiment, three Loyalist infantry regiments, a detachment of Queen's Rangers and a warband of sympathetic Indians went out to harvest some food (conveniently already harvested and turned into edible goods by the local indigenous rebel population), appropriate some livestock for the King (after all, it is his Colony!), and turn a few rebel barns into kindling.  Opposing us were some rebel Militia infantry, rabble cavalry, and some French sharpshooting riflemen.

I won't bore you with a play-by-play of what each unit did and how it turned out, because the point here is the Indians.  This was a unit of eleven Warlord Games Indians that I picked up in a deal and Linda and I finished/touched up to make playable.  While the regular and Loyalist regiments marched down the road as formed troops should, my Indians came on the table in a wooded area with a dismounted unit of militia cavalry within charge ranges.  Now, we all know that irregular or skirmish or warband troops don't usually amount to much, right?  So I figured I'd throw the Indian braves at any valid target within reach and just laugh about the expected outcome.
Brave Onondaga warriors charge through the woods at the dismounted cavalry.
 The initial round of combat went well for the Indians; they inflicted casualties on the cavalry and suffered none in return, but alas the cavalry commander, Col Zachariah Bing, managed to rally his men to fight another round.  Sadly for them, while the order to stand their ground succeeded apparently none of the men actually wanted to fight as they caused no casualties again on the Indians and decided to beat feet, leaving dead and wounded for the Mohawk warriors to scalp!
One brave lingers to gather scalps while his brothers seek more blood!
 Flushed with fury and splashed with the white men's blood, the whooping warriors sped through the woods towards the closest enemy...a unit of American militia in open order, with their backs to the chaotic horde about to fall upon on them. 
White men with their backs to the brown terror about to break upon them!
 These men, who days before were farmers or store clerks, didn't even have the sense to run after the bloodied tomahawks and swords flayed them, again with the Indians taking no casualties in return.  They stood fixed to the bloody ground, trying to hold back the screaming horde long enough for a band of domesticated brown-skinned men who had become lap-dogs of the Colonial invaders to come to their aid.  Alas, even this reinforcement could not stop the mad anger of the Mohawk warriors.  The militia broke and ran from the field, disappearing into the woods, and their Indian allies found their inherent skills at negotiating woods at a quick pace and retreated away from their savage northern brothers.  The Onondagas were spent, though, after destroying two groups of white men, and had to fall back to rally.

Honestly, at this point I was thrilled!  My Indian warband, which I had not expected to last one round of hand to hand in the game, had destroyed two units and broke a third.  This was incredible!  I didn't even care that my one regular British line regiment...the guys who were supposed to strike fear into the hearts of the Colonials, were slowly dragging themselves cross-country, over fence and through creek, to attempt an outflanking of the rebels that the militia Colonel Dav foresaw and prepared for.  But who cares??  My Indians were kicking butt, so much so that I attached our division general to them to rally them...and no one missed him!! 

For several turns, while I rallied my Indian braves, my partner Charles and I did everything we could to break the rebel army with our "regular" no avail.  So finally, as the gaming evening wore to a close, I had rallied the Indian warband and had moved them down the road towards the farm we were planning to raid when I saw one last opportunity for glory.  In the best spirit of "what have I got to lose?" I got them away from Brigadier JD Martin's brigade (which he lost command of after the battle when General Ron Bingham relieved him for failing to bring his brigade into battle for the first half of the game...damned command rolls!) and managed to charge one of Colonel Dav's faltering militia infantry units.  I guess the burning wheat field behind them and the screaming savages splashed with blood in front of them was just too much for the militia as they became the third unit to break and run from the Mohawk warriors.
What have we got to lose?  And another regiment breaks!
There were no MVPs back in 1777, but had there been, this unit of brave Onondaga Mohawks, seeing their lands taken from them and the comfort of their pastoral existence perverted by the "discoverers from over the water," who slaughtered and broke three regiments of American Colonists and drove off a band of their brothers who had sold out to the white man, would surely have been so honored.  I never imagined I would have so much fun with them.  I may not risk bringing them out again, as I just don't know that I can repeat their feats of glory when, for one brief evening of fantasy, eleven plastic warriors punished the white lead invaders for what they were about to do to their Native American brethren.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kids need their dad to like their paint job...period.

I'm not a perfect dad, not even almost perfect, but I try real hard.  And I love my kids very, very much.  So one day I'm sitting at my paint table working and my 7-year old daughter slides up next to me and says she wants to help me paint stuff.  I think it was 10mm pike and shotte infantry...which is challenging enough for me what with the scale and the colors, forget showing a 7-year old how to paint it.  So I looked around my paint table and voila!  I see three 15mm Carthaginian war elephants, plain ones with only a rider and no howdah, already primed and just waiting for the brush.  So I get the paint out, select a suitable brush for her, give her a brief idea what to do and pull up a stool next to mine. 

This girl is very detail oriented, and very, very meticulous.  She is leaning in, watching every brush stroke.  She is using paint sparingly, almost too sparingly for an elephant, and before I know it she's done with the grey on all three!  Smooth surface, no globs, covered everything adequately...I'm impressed!  And she's not ready to quit!  So I pull a few colors to use for linens on the riders, let her choose which ones she likes (a different one for each rider...boring old me would have used the same on all of them but not her!), pick a finer brush...and hold my breath.  Son of a gun if she didn't very carefully dress each rider with her brush, with only a spot or two on the elephant!  But she still doesn't want to quit, and I'm starting to think of how I'm going to knock one heck of a dent in my lead pile in the basement!  I could keep her busy for weeks...months even!

The flesh is going to be a real test.  You know Carthaginian elephant drivers...they have a linen cloth and not much else, but still the legs are wrapped around the elephant so there is a real risk of flesh getting all over the place, but I give her an even finer brush, open the flesh paint, and give her some minimal directions.  This one goes a little slower, because as I said she is a very meticulous kid, but while I'm still carefully going through the rows of pikemen and musketeers she has brought the three riders to life!

Finishing touches...I showed her the tusks on the elephants, how small they are, and asked her if she thought she could paint them.  Didn't scare her off at all...this time I watched her as she carefully and gently put tusks on the great beasts.

Now, throughout this process I was of the idea that once she got the main part of the painting done, I would put what to me would be the final mark of artistry on the pieces...the large cloths draped over the elephants' backs.  However, before I could bring the painting time to an end she cut me off at the pass..."Daddy, do I get to paint the blankets any way I want to?"  I paused, my mind racing to come up with how I could gently tell her that the blankets needed to look just right, have some carefully drawn Carthaginian symbols on them, weather them to look war-torn and sand/ other words, be done by Daddy.  I couldn't do it...I knew it would really hurt her feelings if I stole this last piece of artistic license from her.  I made what I think was the best decision I have made in a while...I told her to paint them however she thought they should look.

Here are my newest war elephants to join my Carthaginian army...I wouldn't change a thing!

She even painted and flocked the bases...all I did was glue, prime, and seal them when they were done!
I recently read a book called "52 Things Kids Need From a Dad."  I highly recommend it; it will reinforce what you're already doing, and probably teach you a few new things.