Friday, 1 July 2011

Get thee behind me, temptation. And other ponderings.

Still here, still painting/modelling/hot glue gun-ing. When I posted to the G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. Yahoo Group about the Teamsterz trains I accidentally put a link to the overall blog rather than the specific posting, so I thought I'd take a break for a couple of days to keep the trains post on top.

Work on the VSF project has been proceeding overall. I've just put a coat of Army Painter Quickshade on a unit of Masked Minions and a couple of random Germans. I've also tried out the Army Painter Colour Primer on another unit of Germans, giving them an Ultramarine Blue undercoat. This has worked better than I'd thought, so I think I'll use it for the rest of the German regulars.

I also had a bit of fun painting up a special figure for one of the players, which seemed to come together very quickly. Which got me thinking. Conventional wisdom says that if you want to paint a unit of figures, you do them production line style... paint the boots on all the figures, then paint all the pants, then paint all the jackets etc. I'm beginning to wonder if that might not be the best way. For one thing, I'm finding a mix of fatigue and boredom quickly sets in trying to do too many figures at once. A 10 figure G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. unit is about my limit before I really don't feel like painting another hat that particular colour, or my eyes start to strain a bit. As an experiment I'm doing my next unit of Germans one at a time, completing each figure before moving on to the next. I have the officer and sergeant done already, 8 more troopers to go.

On the vehicles front, I've done a little bit more work converting Atlantis toys, and picked out a couple of Wild Wild West-based vehicles that I had previously used in 15mm. Since I won't be doing VSF in 15mm any more, and there's nothing really specific to tie them to any one scale, a very quick conversion (adding a larger gun barrel using plastic pipe) makes them suitable for use as 28mm steam armoured cars.

What's that? Not doing VSF in 15mm any more? Yes I'm afraid it's true. I'd always been an advocate of 15mm on the G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. list, but now I have started to transition to 28mm, I can't justify keeping two parallel collections of figures and vehicles for fighting essentially the same type of battle. It's part of the process of rationalising the game collection and working out what I'm likely to play and when. 15mm is becoming my "solitaire & coffee table" scale for games at home, for which I'm totally sold on the Heroscape/Portable Wargame combination which calls for the figures to be based in elements. Unfortunately the 40mm hexes are way to small to accommodate most 15mm vehicles, so those of my 15mm vehicles that can't be rescaled to 28mm or otherwise re-purposed are sadly going to have to be disposed of.

Speaking of H/PW, one afternoon this week I tried out various basic standards to see what fits well. I've settled on 30mm x 15mm bases for infantry, slightly smaller than the Heroscape hex which gives you a little wiggle room when placing units. It's also possible to fit two units together into a single hex, which lead me to the near heresy of having one real-world infantry unit represented by two bases, which can either be in the same hex for column/march or spread out across two hexes when in line. It adds a little bit of tactics back into troop deployment, and allows you to represent half-strength units, or split units off for detached duty. I'm thinking that two bases of the same unit that are either in the same hex or adjacent in line can both be activated for a single activation point. This is something I intend to try out next time I have time for a game.

I did also try out 40mm x 20mm bases, which also fit the hexes, though a little more snugly. That might be a better size for gaming with 1/72 scale plastic figures. Earlier this week I was inspired by Solo Wargaming in the UK to have a look at the collection of plastic figures sold by Transport Models of Preston. I was absolutely staggered at the variety. I have a soft (plastic) spot in my heart for these sort of figures, having fought many a mighty campaign as a child with Airfix figures and having been introduced to the wargaming hobby proper by two books which used them extensively (Battle! Practical Wargaming by Charles Grant, and Introduction To Battle Gaming by Terence Wise) I've used unpainted 1/72 plastics a couple of times to play around with new periods or rules, but never really thought of them as a contender for serious wargaming these days.

But looking at the selection available from Transport Models, I'm rapidly revising my opinions. All the old arguments against soft plastics are falling by the wayside.
"They don't hold paint well" - No longer true, as there are now primers designed to cling to soft plastic, or you can prime with PVA.
"There are always too many 'silly' poses not suitable for wargaming." - This is less and less true, with more figure manufacturers producing sets that are aimed at wargamers with sensible poses. You may still get the old "figure being shot" or "drinking from canteen" pose, but they tend to be re-releases of older ranges.
"There's only a limited selection of figures available." - It certainly looks like these days the major periods are covered at least as well in 1/72 plastic as in 28mm white metal.

For a hypothetical horse & musket period game in the Heroscape/Portable Wargame manner, one box of infantry, one of cavalry and one of horse would represent a quite respectable army, for less than the cost of a single G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. unit. I'm finding it increasingly hard to resist the temptation to shoot up the M6 and pick up a few boxes of plastic to try it out. But so far I'm managing to stay focussed on the VSF stuff.

Another big online temptation is the Very British Civil War setting. Stylistically speaking there's a lot of overlap with G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. style VSF, an emphasis on individual characterful figures, cobbled together fighting machines and an imaginative and whimsical sense of humour. In some ways that makes it an easier temptation to resist - Why invest so much one troops and vehicles to play a type of game that I can more or less play already, albeit set 50 years earlier and with more "speculative" technology.

But y'know... all the cool kids are playing 1938 these days...

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