Monday, August 24, 2015

Difficult Duty

 Yesterday was a tough day here in St Michaels.  My lovely wife ( pictured to the back right) hosted her Women's Dental Students Association summer event at our place and I was "required" to play the dutiful host.  Yes, It was a very difficuly duty that required me to muster up enough food to feed this ravenous horde.  Don't believe what people say about young ladies eating like birds - it's just not true.  Many fish, chickens and crabs were required to sustain these "dental scholarinas".  OK, maybe it really wasn't all that tough....

 I did manage to get a little work in on some mini's before the "Assault of the She-Wolves" and assembled the first box of Perry AWI plastic Continental Infantry and a general from the Fife and Drum line.  I really like assembling plastics.  Each Perry figure comes with 4 parts - a body, 2 arms and a hat choice (from 3 options).  Not hard to assemble at all and you get a chance to inspect the figure closely to plan the painting.  Next step will be to prime there lads.

Overall, I really like this box set.  In additon to the regulars which I built this time there's an option to build out milita with different arms / rifle combinations.  All-in-all a really nice set.


Monday, August 17, 2015

A Good Day on the Chesapeake

 Sunday turned out to be a wonderful day were nothing went as expected but everything turned out for the better.  Early in the morning my son and I got up and left for a sail on the Bucentaure.  Unfortunately we really didn't sail (as in the picture - it's from another trip).  There was no wind and a sail boat without wind is just, well ummm... a very slow power boat.  So we turned back to port and decided to do a lot of maintenance wish included such glamorous duties as emptying the holding tank on the head (yuck) and a lot of minor repairs / improvements.

Three hours later we were done and went back to the house.  It was a lot of fun working with him on the boat.

 When we got back to the house it was time to mount a daring rescue operation - a humming bird was trapped in the garage and couldn't get out!  Queue the dramatic music, if you please.

Being quick thinking yet sensitive nature types we decided to capture the bird using a plastic paint cup an a piece of cardboard.  Hummingbirds are very delicate so one needs to distract them with something shiny come up from behind and place the cup over them and, finally, slide the cup over some cardboard.

 A few comic attempts and then success - the picture shows the little guy (or gal) as I was in the process of releasing.  All' well then ends well and I was sure that such courageous behavior would warrant an afternoon on the hammock.

 The Boss-Lady had other plans and I was tasked with grinding yet more tomatoes for sauces - a picture of our genuine Italian plastic food mill which is a must for making sauce.  We made another 3 gallons of tomato sauce that ended up in the freezer.  I spent 3 hours cutting and grinding those red menaces but ensure enough sauce to last the winter is a most worthy goal.  Plus there may have been a tomato peel fight with my son (we were outside so it's OK)
 There was a reward for a hard days work - my lovely, yet fierce, wife made peach ice cream.  Mmmm ... homemade peach ice cream.

A rare shot of the Boss-lady inspecting how well I did the dishes - there were more than a few that needed so "touch-up work".

Despite not being able to sail it ended up being a very fun day and yet another example of how nice the Chesapeake Bay region can be.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A New Project: AWI

 Here at the Lair, we are embarking on a new project and time period - the American Revolutionary War (A.K.A. the American War for Independence or AWI).  My starting forces to be painted are 3 boxes of plastic Continental Infantry from the Perry brothers that I picked up from the Architects of War booth at Historicon.  Hmmm Perry miniatures - what a surprise.  The Perry's also have a large range of metal AWI figures as does Fife and Drum Miniatures.
 Each box has 38 figures which consist of 30 rank and file infantry is 6, 5 figure sprues and...
4 rifleman figures on 2, 2 figure spurs and a single command sprue of 4 figures.  Each successive Perry plastic set gets a little better and these Continental Infantry are no exception.  They can be modeled as either militia or regulars and there are a lot of arm / pose combination possibilities.

My gaming partner-in-crime, Mike, is a bit of an Anglo-file and will be painting up the British side of this little fracas.  We're both leaning towards basing for skirmish gaming rather than "big battalions".  The implication is that we'll use  round bases rather than squares for each figure.  I've got enough "big battalion" formations for both the War of 1812 and the ACW so focusing our AWI collection on skirmishing is a nice change up.

This project will be aimed at putting on an even bigger show at Historicon 2016 where we are planning to do a series of games on both the AWI and the War of 1812 - but, as always, with a little historical twist.....

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sean's Summer Job

My son has a great internship at Farr Yacht Design this summer doing programming for them.  It's kind of a dream job for a tech and sailing crazy college student but there is one hitch - it's unpaid.  In order to make a little cash over the summer, Sean has been building quad rotors for people.  He'll clear about $300.00 for each one he builds which I'm sure will go exclusively for books and other educational supplies while at college.

The video above is a one of the first test flights of the basic design.  The landing is a bit abrupt but safe as Sean forgot to recharge the battery from earlier tests.  Some of the earlier flights didn't go so well as he was tuning the program he wrote for flight control.

Here's a picture of the first quad that will be delivered today.  The rotors have been removed for transport.

 To Sean, this is a simple design and he's added mounting rails under the center so people can add go-pro cameras and such.

Sean's thinking about continuing his custom work while in school (I'm not so keen on that) but may do it as a fund raiser for the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Club (he's the treasurer).  

At least he wasn't being lazy this summer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mariners Museum

Last week, the family and I went on vacation to Williamsburg, VA.  I'm a sucker for colonial Williamsburg and we had a great time.  I also had a chance to visit the US Mariners Museum in nearby Newport News, VA and I have to say I was blown away.  The center piece of the museum is the USS Montior's turret and an exhibit on the Monitor vs Virginia (aka Merrimac) encounter at Hampton Roads.  Currently there is also a great Nelson exhibit, a history of the US Navy, some wonderful exhibits on boat building through the ages and one of the finest collections of model ships I've ever seen.  To be honest this was the highlight of my trip and I'm already planning a return.

The entrance of the Monitor / Virginia exhibit is one of the Virginia's guns that was disabled during her encounter with the Union fleet the day before the fight with the Monitor.  The USS Cumberland was rammed by the Virginia and despite sinking kept firing her guns and managed to shoot the muzzle of one of the Virginia's guns.

 In the museum there is a full scale replica of the bow of the Virginia being readied for it's up coming fight with the monitor - the display shows the replacing of the gun damaged by the Cumberland.

 The interior of the Virginia - it's a lot more cramped than I would have thought.  I can't imagine what it would have been like to be inside these iron ovens while the guns are firing.

 A cross-section of the Virginnia's armor - 10 inches of pine 8 inches of oak and 2 of steel.
 The gem of the museum is it's monitor exhibits. In addition to then actual turret, there are several reproductions that show the turret as they found her when it was raised...
and a fully restored turret cross section - even tinier than the Virginia's interior.
 I was fascinated by the turning mechanism for the turret and probably spent 40 minutes trying to figure out it's detailed workings.
 The actual turret, guns and steam engine of the monitor are not on display and are being preserved in vats of chemically treated water that preserves the metal.  Here's one of the Monitor's guns.
 The day I visited the turret tank had been drained to allow some academic research - again I spent 30-40 minutes gazing at the turrets and guns in their preservation tanks.
 There is a very neat exhibit on the interior of the Monitor which wasn't as cramped as the turret leads you to believe.  The crew accommodations are not spacious but bigger than I thought.  First up is the Captain's cabin
 and then the XO's
 Some 1/1200 scale miniatures of various Union ironclads from Langton Miniatures
An amazing diorama of a US colonial ship yard in what I think is HO scale (1/87th)
 This may be the upcoming theme for my 2016 Hisotricon games......
 The ship models are fantastic and I took pictures of maybe 60 of them - here is a US Whaling vessel.
the CSS Alabama - a ship that factored heavily in my imagination as a kid growing up along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

I really can't recommend the Mariner's Museum more highly - if you're in the area it's a definite must see.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Our garden was left a bit untended during last weeks Historicon activities....

and we have a surplus of produce including two big baskets of tomatoes.  My wife and I made tomatoe sauce all day on Saturday and now we've got about a gallon to freeze.  MB finds a mix of the Roma's and cherry tomatoes makes the best sauce.  I find whatever she makes is an angelic ambrosia and worth every ounce of effort.

Maybe not directly related to miniature gaming but like armies, we gamers do both travel and paint on our stomaches!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Histporicon 2015: My ACW Battle Game in Review

On Friday (July 17th) Mike and I ran our second game - a fictional land battle pitting a combined CSA / British Intervention Forces (BIF) against a Union army.  The objective of the game was simple - the CSA/BIF had to exit two regiments off the road near the church (bottom center of the picture).  We used the Longstreet ruleset which I both like to play and find very easy to use in a convention setting. The rules aren't as detailed or realistic as Regimental Fire and Fury but still give a great game.

Opposing the CSA/BIF force was a Union army of 16 infantry and 2 calvary regiments plus 5 artillery batteries spread across 4 players - 3 Brigade commanders and an overall CIC.  Pictured here is the left flank Brigade - one of it's infantry regiments is in march column just to the right of the picture.

The Union center was held by a Brigade of Irish regiments, who were just aching to get a crack at the Brits.  Also pictured is the reserve brigade that was under the command of the Union CIC.  There's an artillery redoubt in the small hill with pine trees in front of the reserve brigade.
Lastly, the Union's right flank was defended by an infantry brigade and some artillery positioned on a large hill.

Opposing the Union was a large CSA/BIF force that numbered 20 Infantry and 3 calvary regiments.  They were a bit short on artillery having only 3 batteries.  Pictured are two CSA infantry brigades on the CSA left flank.

The other flank featured a very large BIF force - look at the pretty uniforms but can they fight?  Oops - this picture was taken before Mike arrived with the British Lancers so they're not in the picture!
Lastly in the center was the CSA reserve force which would be thrown into the battle by the CIC at the outset - there will be no holding back on this assault!
Battle is joined!  Mike and I were very fortunate to have 8 great players - some of whom have played in both our past Historicon games and the previous day's Ironclad clash.  I think the most important part in having a good con game experience is setting the right tone and havinf a good set of players.  Mike and I were very fortunate that we had all of that in every game we ran this con.

By the way, the Lancers showed up! (center, lower-left)

The BIF makes it's initial advance.  In response the Union calvary regiment runs back and dismounts in the pig sty which forms a mini fort. This was a very important move as calvary held up a few BIF battalion 4 critical turns.
In the center the CSA advances across the board and begins to take losses from a hail of artillery fire.
Both sides are loosing stands to artillery and rifled musket fire
The BIF lines up it's lancer for a charge...
and begin to wear down the calvary unit holding the pig sty.
A view from the Unions lines - that's a lot of grey coming our way
A whole lot of grey...
Confederate losses mount as the initial assault is thrown back
With the Pig sty cleared the BIF begin to push the Union blocking force back
It's being to look dicey for both sides as regiments begin to break.  In Longstreet when a regiment is reduced to one stand it's removed from the game

The final rebel assault break the Union line just as the BIF force a crossing of the river.  A battered rebel regiment makes a break for the road - with only two stands the next loss will result in it's breaking.  Unfortunately for the web's theres a single Union gun right in front of the unit.  The gun fires a round of canister at the rebs and scores three hits.  All the Union player needs to do is roll at least one 4+ out of three dice rolls for the hits.

The Union roll the dice and gets a 1, and then a 3 and then a 1!  No kills and the regiment makes it off the table.

At that point we declared the game a rebel victory and all the players cheered the result - it was a grand game and a lot of fun to run.

I was very surprised the see that Mike and I got an award for this game also.  I know the PC thing to do is say "aw shucks..." but I was really pumped to get the award.  Mike and I put a great deal of effort into getting ready for the con from painting minis to making all of the terrain - everything on the table scenery wise was made in the past three months.  It was very gratifying to get some recognition.  I know, I know I sound like an ego maniac.

Later in the evening we ran the game again and had some of the vendors join us - specifically Ed and Jaimie from Architects of War and the guys from Trenchkworx (they make THE best 28mm 3d printed and resign tank kits).

We ran the same scenario but...
The game ended in a decisive CSA/BIF victory as the Union decide to counter attack in the center and lets just say it didn't go well.  Then again, if the attack worked it would have gone down in gaming legend so I say it was the right move just with the wrong dice rolls!