Thursday, January 28, 2010

Help with Planning a Wargaming Room

I'm planning on redoing my wargaming space, which you can see a picture of to the left.  The total space I've been allocated by executive management is roughly 12' by 20' and it also has a 4' by 20' closet (just to the right of the photo).  The closet is crammed full of sh.., oops I mean "stuff", that can be cleaned out and used for game related storage.

What I'd like to have in the room are the following:

(1) 4'x8' Game / Project Table w/ 4 stools
(2) A small painting station
(3) a few glass display cabinets for mini's
(4) a flat screen TV for game day appropriate entertainment
(5) book cases

By the way, I recommend Craftsman brand workshop stools from Sears - they are very comfortable, high quality and a good value.

I'd like to do this as cheaply as possible but I do have a directive from the top that my space can't look cheap.

Here's where you come in - I'd like to get suggestions or links to other game rooms that can be used as inspiration, especially efficient and small painting spaces.  Please be aware that I will either take personal credit for any ideas my wife likes or disavow any involvement and throw you under the bus in one fluid motion at the merest hint of any disapproval.  Any readers who are married will understand this behavior is a normal survival strategy and isn't meant to be anything personal.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Battle of Fuentes de Onoro

Last night the ECAMGA club refought the battle of Fuentes de Onoro in a rather grand style.  You can see the table to the left which was about 18' long and 6' wide.  The French had over 1,000 figures and the British/Portuguese had around 800-850.  Each side had 4-5 players and an overall commander.  In a demonstration that merit and command are sometimes be disconnected, I was chosen to be the French commander, which meant I could come over to see the battlefield the day before to plan my strategy.  I was very fortunate that the players who selected the French side had a high degree of tolerance for incompetent command.  I decided to consult my son, Sean (14), for advice on strategy and he jumped at the chance to write up a plan for me.  In typical fashion I was presented with an 8 page power point deck that outlined our plan of attack.

It was a simple plan that involved throwing everything at the right flank and holding the left flank.  There was some cunning in his strategy as the last page of his strategy deck contained a false plan that was the mirror image of the real one with instructions that I lay the deck down in the view of my opponents a few times during the organization phase.  The scenario had all of the units starting off the board so a subterfuge on setup could prove important.  I do worry that Sean's sly strategies may bode ill if ever he decided to be a rebellious teenager.

Most of the players for this evening's game were new to the system (which is a house set of rules that are simple and fun (no dice, but command cards for random events) so there was a training session to start with.  It's a motley looking crew to be sure.  You can see the "false" plan in the lower center.  The game room we play in is very impressive and it's a real privilege to get the opportunity to push around toy soldiers there.

The Battle Begins:
After two turns you can see the French line forming up on the right side.  The British are fairly evenly distributed across the whole field but most of there elite troops are deployed on the far left.  Perhaps our ploy has worked?

The Main Attack Forms Up:
3 Divisions of French Infantry get organized for the attack.  The 3rd division moves through the town to the far right while the 2nd and 3rd Divisions form up into grand columns for the attack.  The attack is supported by a grand battery on the hill and another gun section near the town.  We've concentrated about 60% or 650 figures of the French army here.

The 2nd Division's column is just about to make contact with the British line.  Just off to the right of the picture s the 3rd division which is forming up to join the assault.  To the left is the first division which is planning to make contact in a few turns.  The 2nd divisions attack proved to be very successful and swept the British from the hill.  All three divisions then wheeled in place and prepared to move up the line.

Seesaw Calvary Action:
In the center there was a very fun Calvary fight - the picture at the left shows the state of affairs just at the start of it.  2 brigades of British calvary charged the exposed french dragoon unit in the center of the picture.  Their charge routed the unit, but there momentum carried them into the big carabiniere unit which they essentially bounced off and all units ended the turn disordered.  The next turn the french calvary commander charged his untouched Cuirassier unit into the disordered British calvary and routed them from the table.  Our game system features command cards which players can play on either their forces or their opponents and the British player decided to play a "commander shot by a stray round" card which killed the Calvary commander and forced the cuirassier unit to draw a Calvary morale card.  Most morale cards say things like "stand, shaken", "move back 100 paces", or rout" but every now and then you draw one that say charge nearest enemy and that was the case last night.  The Cuirassiers raced off to charge the British line and managed to sweep a few infantry units off the table and essentially cleared out the British center.

The Left Flank Desperately Holds
On the left flank the 4th division was assaulted by the bulk of the British army and took horrendous casualties but managed to hold them off long enough for the main attack to drive home.  The player who commanded this unit, Joey, was a great sport given that his command was a tough one and he had to listen to my boneheaded advice.  He also had some bad luck in card draws as his light cavalry unit charged all those British behind the stone wall in the upper right of the picture.  It wasn't a pretty outcome for the French

The game ended in a French victory and it was a grand evening.  While my role did not involve pushing toy soldiers around it was fun and I got to see my miniatures on the table for the first time.  I look forward to our next game.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The French Are Ready For the Tabletop

I've finally finished my french force (with 5 days to spare!).  All the figures are painted, based and the units have flags.  The overall force consists of 5 line infantry battalions (36 figs each) and 1 Guard Battalion (43 figs), 3 Artillery batteries (2 Guard and one line) and three cavalry squadrons (1 28 fig Carabiniere, a 24 fig Cuirassier and a 20 fig light Cavalry unit.  Add in the 2 Generals on the command stand and it totals 308 figures - whew!

The vast majority of the figures are either Perry plastic or metal.  The Guard infantry and artillery unit are Foundry.  I'm not very happy with the sculpting of the Foundry Guard artillery crews but they'll do for now.  Here's a close up of the artillery units.

I have 8 other crew members to finish off for the guns at the rear of the picture and will get to those at another time.  All the figures are based using metal stands and magnetic sheet under each figure to allow for casualty removal.  One of the most tedious aspects of the whole project was sticking the both the magnetic and non-magnetic strips on the bases and figure stands.  I did a lot of that while watching the NFL via Direct TV's "Direct Ticket" package.

I'll likely get around to the other artillery crews in Febuary.

While the scenics on my basing is ultra simplistic (brown acrylic paint mixed with white glue and flock) it does the trick.  I'll go back and add some details when I have the time.  I do realize the pom colors on each infantry battalion are the same.   While not historically accurate, it does make it easier to distinguish units so that was a concession to gaming use - which why I built the army.  The flags are mostly free downloads from the Warflag Site.  Just remember to set your print settings to picture quality when printing out.  I reduced the print to 70% to fit the Perry flag poles and they came out pretty good.  My club has a big game coming up on 1/23 so I'll let you know how my 308 angry little frenchmen do.


Sunday, January 10, 2010


My little French force continues to grow.  The picture to the left shows the completed units (well mostly completed).  In the center of the picture are 3 infantry battalions, the first two were discussed in the previous Army Painter post.  Towards the rear is the battalion of grenadiers, which brings my little force to six battalions of infantry.  The only remaining work is to finish apply ground cover to the bases and touch up a few details.  You can also see the command base I've put together.  I'm not that happy with the painting of the officers so I might go back and redo them.  The third line infantry battalion, which has a mix of regular and great coat infantry, hasn't been "dipped" yet.  Here are some close-up pics:


I also received 2 cavalry units I had painted by a local painter.  His name is Mike Marchant and he can be reached via email at:  I discovered him via e-bay when I purchased 12 cuirassiers and thought I'd get him to finish up my remaining cavalry (12 other cuirassiers - Perry plastic, and 20 light cavalry - Perry metal.  I think the figures came out really well and I recommend his services.  Here are some pictures:

I'm just about done with this phase of the french.  I need to finish up a 2 guns and crews and one more command stand.  After that, it's to the tabletop on Jan 23rd for a club event and then perhaps some Prussians or Austrians.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Army Painter

I've just finished dipping three battalions of french infantry using the medium shade from Army Painter.  Overall, I really like the results, but like any new endeavor, I made some mistakes along the way.  Here are some things you might want the keep in mind:

(1) Have a wick handy to sop up any concentrations of dip that may still be around post shaking.  I found on areas where there a long straight lines (muskets, flag poles) that the dip will still pool post shaking and cause a "rust streak effect" during the drying process.  Not a major disaster, but it will need some touch up.

(2) Wear rubber gloves and have an old plastic spork on hand.  Why?  Because sometimes figures slip out and go swimming in the dip (reminds me of some of my Katrina disaster recovery activities - the viscosity of the dip matches the water in NOLA, ughhh).  A spork is a great way to fish them out because the plastic is less likely to chip your paint job.  I think I had one swimmer per each 36 man battalion.  Even with gloves don't go fishing around with your fingers - remember Archimedes eureka moment.

(3) Give the dip sufficient time to dry - drying times are really impacted by ambient temperature.  I was working in an unheated garage and had a few space heaters going.  I let the figures dry for 48 hours just to make sure.  Note: be very careful with space heaters as the dip is very flammable (one of the ingredients in Naphtha) - always create a cross breeze to disperse the fumes.

(4) Do this outside (I had the both garage door and the opposite window open) - the fumes are very powerful.

(5) Enjoy learning how to do something new.  There will be mistakes but everything can be corrected and these are just toy soldiers.  One of my battalions really came out over dipped but now that I've affectionately renamed them "les bastrads sales" they are becoming my favorite unit.  My apologies if my french is a bit off - I used the Yahoo translation service.

(6) I used about a third of a can of dip on the 115 figures I dipped so my guess is each can cover about 300-350 28mm figures (likely less if they are cavalry).

I really like the product and recommend it highly.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Look Back on 2009 and a Glimpse into 2010

I'm afraid this post will be subjecting you to yet another "year in retrospective" blog entry.  Some may say that I'm plumbing the depths of narcissism with a post like this one.  I prefer to think of it in a more charitable light - think of this post as the electronic equivalent of one of those "Show and Tell" sessions you all participated in during elementary school.  Sure it's a bit of "hey look at me and my toys" but with a tinge of innocence.  Certainly the grammar and spelling of my posts harken back to those elementary School days....

2009 was the first full year of my being a miniature modeler after I made the switch from model railroading in mid 2008.  Overall, I have really enjoyed the hobby and am glad I made the change.  I've also managed to keep my son's interest in sharing a hobby with his father as his interest in trains has long past (oh how I miss the days of "Thomas the Tank Engine").   Another reason for the switch is that while model railroading (or MRR) shares much of the same craft skill set, it is by it's nature a relatively lonely endeavor where gaming requires one to interact with other participants - I find that both more challenging and a lot more fun.  Surprisingly, from a cost perspective, even with the occasional unit painted by hire, the cost of a miniature gaming hobby falls well below MRR.

So what did I accomplish in 2009?  Here are my painting totals and projects completed:

28MM Napoleonics (Mostly Perry Plastics)
Infantry: 160 (3 battalions of 36, 1 of 42)
Commisioned Infantry: 72 (painted by a "pro")
Cavalary: 28
Command: 2
Artillery: 1
Artillery Crew: 4
Total: 267

6mm ACW:
Infantry: 624
Cavalry: 114
Art Pieces: 15
Artillery Crew: 60
Total: 813

15mm WWII (Battlefront / Flames of War)
Tanks / Other Vehicles: 15
Figures: 78
Artillery: 5

28MM WWII (Bolt Action Miniatures / Warlord Games)
Figures: 12 US Paratroopers

Trafalgar (Langton Miniatures)
2 74 Gun Ships-of-the-line
1 44 Gun Frigate

Uncharted Seas:
Dwarf Fleet: 14 Ships
Orc Fleet: 11 Ships

Warhammer 40K
Eldar: 21 figures
Space Marines: 5

Other Related Projects:
- Built a wargaming / project table
- Scenery for Flames of War
- Black Powder Ruleset
- Joined a Wargaming Club (ECAMGA)

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me in 2009 was how much I fell for 28mm Napoleonics.  I can remember when I started this hobby specifically saying "NO" to larger scale Napoleonics due to the complexity of the uniforms.  Then I fell in with a gamer who has an extensive collection of figures and one of the finest game rooms I've seen and my attitude changed from "don't want that" to "gotta have it".  Oh well, never say never in this hobby.

What didn't I like about 2009?  The only real negative from a hobby perspective was the quality and spirit of the discourse I saw on the TMP forum.  I was astonished at the vitriol displayed by posters on such topics as the moving of Historicon or the astonishingly inane complaints about "pretty" rule books.   Our hobby can draw some fringe elements but sometimes the behaviour on the forums gets out of hand.  I realize that most people tend to be a lot braver arguing via an electronic medium than in person, but there really is never an excuse for bad manners.  Had TMP been my first introduction to the hobby, I doubt I'd have pursued it much further.  TMP can be a great source of hobby info, but it also tends to cater to the Jerry Springer fan in all of us.

So what are my goals for 2010?  I'd like to concentrate more time on playing.  During 2009 I think I played games only 10-15% of the time I devoted to the hobby.  I'd like to get that up to at least 25-30% and hopefully can now that I've got relatively good forces for 5 systems (28MM Nap's, 15mm WWII, 6mm ACW, Uncharted Seas and 40K.  As my son continues to enjoy playing 40K I'll make a special effort to keep up with him there.

As for building armies, I still want to flesh out my French force.  I've got 267 figures finished and would like to get it up to around 450 figures - which shouldn't be too hard as I've got a good pile of unpainted figures and have 72 infantry and 44 cavalry in process via commissions.  The only outstanding items that need to be purchased are few more command figures and some artillery limbers.  Given the cost of metal limbers, I may wait on those in the hopes the Perry's will be coming out with some plastic versions.  I am also planning to add another 28mm army for the French to fight and am trying to decide between the Prussians and Austrians.

I want to continue to refine the black powder rules for 6mm ACW so I can host my game club for a few events.  I've played some trial games with my son and the rules are really fun, but require a little tweaking for the micro scale.

Lastly, the real question is what will be the "new scale/period" to model in 2010.  Hopefully the answer will be nothing but we all know that's a low probability outcome.  I'm mighty tempted by the 28mm line of Romans from Warlord games or maybe Firestorm Armada or maybe Roman Seas from Hotz Artworks, or maybe......

Aiyy Carumba!