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.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

For all you gamers superstitious about your dice

My wife, Linda, knew I was a gamer when we got to know each other and before she married me.  When she came to my house for the first time I subjected her to the grand tour of my gaming area.  It started out simple at first, as I shyly asked what time period she might like and I then pulled out armies corresponding to that period.  Sadly for her, the more interested she acted the more I pulled out until finally I think I might have been foaming at the mouth.  So she knew I was a little crazy about gaming...or because of gaming, not sure which. 

My normal game night is Tuesday night, and the usual venue was at my friend Ron's house as I had been a single dad before Linda came along and really couldn't game at my house.  After Linda came to live with me and saw me leaving for gaming, she never saw me carrying dice or tape measures as Ron always provides those.  It was on one of the first opportunities I had to host at our house (because I truly "fell into it" and married a woman who actually encouraged me to invite my friends over to game at our house...I'm waiting for the genie to disappear back into the bottle!) that I was getting all the gaming accoutrements ready.  Linda was helping me.  I reached down beneath my game table and pulled out my dice box...and Linda's mouth dropped open as she gasped out loud "Oh my gosh, are you kidding me??"  This is my dice box:
Of course, her first question was the obvious: why do you need so many dice?  I explained to her how sometimes the dice stopped rolling good numbers, and I had to buy more to improve my chances on the game table.  She didn't buy that.  Dice rolls average out, she said.  Dice can't possibly "roll" good or's just luck.  Now, I've heard the uninitiated say that before.  They just don't understand.  No one can truly understand the perverse nature of dice until they've rolled five 1's and a 2 (always one die who wants to be good) when you need 5s or 6s...or roll fourteen dice and not get anything above a 3.  I have a poster that is going in my game room when it's completed.  It sums up what we gamers know to be as real as rain and sunshine, but non-gamers call insanity:
Tell me I'm wrong...please.

Opening shot...a quick look at my latest purchase!

I recently was successful in purchasing a nicely painted French Napoleonic army on ebay, which I'll share with you as my opening post.  This is a 15mm army, mainly Essex figures.  I have a ton of 10mm Napoleonics, already painted and ready to game with.  I bought them because I thought 10mm would be a great scale to allow me to do large battles on a 4' by 8' table, which is true.  However, in my gaming circle the other guys with Napoleonic figures all have 15mm.  Now, we all share our figures when we're doing a group game; that's kind of the purpose of a group, isn't it?  Each person doesn't have to invest in every period we play; each member builds whatever floats their boat, and if I don't like painting 28mm Wild West then I'll play with yours, and you in turn are welcome to play with my 1/285 Cold War armor since you don't like painting them yourself.  It's part of what makes our gaming group so great.

So I saw these on ebay.  I have several hundred unpainted Essex French Napoleonics in the painting line-up...they've been there for years, of course, but they are there!  So when I saw this army on ebay I thought how nice it would be to get a good core of an army, and it might push me to pull my unpainted stuff out and start painting.  This starter army has a very well-rounded mix of units. 

We have played Napoleonics with both Black Powder and Napoleon's Battles.  We like them both, and have figures based for both, but since most of my figures are based for the latter I will use that rules set as a base of organizational description.  So...I have two light infantry brigades, four line infantry brigades, a cavalry brigade of one dragoons unit and a chasseur a' cheval unit.  This makes up a good line infantry corps with a brigade of cavalry support.  Top that off with a heavy artillery piece and a medium one and you've got a very nice force. 

Here is a closer view of two of the infantry units.  I like the way the guy I bought them from did the flags; there is a kind of varnish-looking coating on them that makes them both stiffer and more durable.
Now, to give this force some extra punch, it comes with a ready-made Imperial Guard force!  This is what really pushed me over the edge when deciding to purchase this army.  I have three little girls and a wife, so I just don't have tons of time to paint.  I much prefer the playing, and do some painting when I have to just to build the forces I want.  So here I get the chance to get a ready-made corps to put on the table, AND the Imperial Guard that every French player wants to have but doesn't always get to because they're burned out from painting the main forces!  Boom...ready to play.

Old Guard Chasseurs and Grenadiers...four regiments worth!  Plus a mixed unit of Imperial Guard Genies and Marines.  Top that off with a cavalry brigade of Grenadiers a' Cheval and a stand of Empress Dragoons (have to pay respects to dear old Josephine!) and you have one very nice can of whoop ass!
 Here is a shot of the line chasseurs a' cheval unit; again, very nice jobs on the flags, and these are actually painted as the 27th Chasseurs (Arenberg Legion) and 28th Chasseurs (Tuscan cavalry).

I think I'll start adding to this force by painting a unit of Dutch Lancers of the guard, then some cuirassiers, hussars, and then more line infantry.

Ok, it's a rainy Sunday afternoon and the kids are climbing the walls so it's time to play daddy again.  They've been very nice in letting my do this inaugural blog post, but they must be answered to!  I hope you have enjoyed this little article.  Until next time...Good gaming!