Monday, 31 October 2011

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot!

Well, no gunpowder, but plenty of the other stuff.

Behold the kingdom of Novembre!
Novembre was a stable prosperous island nation with good relations with its nearest neighbours. It is divided into three main regions: the Northern Marches, the Midlands and the Southern Plains. The current capital is Unaville, founded named by the late King after his daughter. Unfortunately the king had no male heir and so Queen Una is the current ruler. She has so far refused to take a husband, leaving the kingdom without an heir. This state of affairs also contradicts one of the primary edicts of the Church of the Nine, Novembre's state religion. This puts Archbishop Trente, head of the church, in the position of Una's most prominent critic and opponent.

Things reached a crisis point last year, when the Archbishop made the long journey from his mountaintop abbey at Heaven's Gate to the capitol, where he hoped to plead with the Queen to bow to convention and choose a spouse. The two did meet, but tempers flared and all diplomacy failed. The Queen issued an edict pronouncing Archbishop Trente a traitor to the crown, while the Archbishop spent his entire journey home preaching at every church and temple, loudly condemning the "Red Witch of the South" in what became popularly known as The Trail of Lamentations.

Summer passed into a winter of discontent, as the kingdom's divisions continued to simmer under the surface. But when spring arrived, nobles up and down the kingdom found themselves rallying to one side or the other. Archbishop Trente led the so called "Pilgrimage of Hope" south, with the aim of once more confronting the Queen. This time however, the so-called pilgrimage consisted of a body of well armed temple troops backed by local levies.

When Trente found his path blocked at Middleburn by a body of men led by the Duke of Medwinde, it set the scene for the first battle of the Novembre Civil War.

So if you haven't already worked this out, this is the setup for my planned solo medieval campaign for Solo Wargaming Appreciation Month. The challenge was to do some big solitaire game, above and beyond your normal gaming efforts. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, inspiration struck when I found a box containing my old fantasy/medieval human army, plenty of elements for a couple of DBA sized armies with some variations.

Here's how things are going to play out. Each real-time week I'm going to fight a minimum of one battle from each of the three regions (North, Midlands, South). Starting out in the central town, the winning side pushes the opponent back one space up the road. If a force is defeated in its home space (i.e. the end of the line) then the cause is lost in that region, which declares for the other side. The battles themselves are going to be semi-randomly picked scenarios from the three Charles S Grant scenario books ("Scenarios for Wargamers", "Programmed Scenarios" and "Scenarios for All Ages")

There's one minor change from the original plan. DBx was always notorious for not doing a good job of handling medieval battles, so I'm going to try out "Rally Round the King" from 2Hr Wargames. I've long been a big fan of 2HW's various skirmish rulesets, but this is the first time I'll be trying one of their big battle rules.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a battlefield to lay out. November, and the war, starts tomorrow!

Friday, 28 October 2011

My Tank! Has Armour Plate. To save me from hate.

With epic room clearing task finished and the Elder Vesuvius packed off to his weekly hospital visit, I was able to sit down today and finally take a proper look at the Black Pyramid resin landships that you may recall were previewed at Britcon a couple of months back. Well as soon as they became available about two weeks ago I ordered all three models. The add-on kits that were also demoed at Britcon aren't available yet, but hopefully will be soon. What I didn't realise when I placed my order was that Black Pyramid have a special offer on at t he moment - for every landship ordered between now and December 31 will receive a free pack of Tea Wars miniatures. BP kindly pointed this out and asked which figures I'd be wanting, so I asked for a couple of packs of Aether gunners and the Command pack. More on them later.
The first thing you notice is that for your £17.50 you get a big chunk of resin. All three models are roughly the same size, despite two being dubbed "medium" and a "heavy" landships. But cunningly the hulls of these two landships are hollow shells, so the vehicle is a lot lighter than you'd expect given the size. The moulding is very crisp, and of the three vehicles only the Heavy Landship required significant sanding to level off the bottom of the vehicle

Without the extra add-ons that were shown on the Britcon preview vehicles, these three come out quite plain looking, leaving me wanting to dive into the Ramshackle tridlins box to "finish them off". The two landships are boxy and slab-sided, and the heavy version really does need a pain of wing sponsons on either side to make it really rock out. The amoured traction engine is, in its default configuration unarmed, making its use on the battlefield limited. I've armed mine with a couple of spare mortars from Ramshackle's Scrap Tank turret pack, mounted sideways like sponsons.

The one piece missing from all three models is a small but vital one. None of them come with any sort of smokestack. Anyone who's ever kitbashed a steamtank from another vehicle knows that the smokestack is what says "Hey, this is a steam powered contraption" and is the first thing you consider adding. Missing out the smokestacks from the basic models and including them in the add-ons is like selling a car (steering wheel not included)

But apart from that these are three good, solid, plausible steam conveyances. With their slab sides and lots of flat surfaces, they make a good starting point for further customisation. It takes some lovin' from the bitz box, or BP's own add-on packs to really make them sing. Worth £17.50? Weill they're a similar size to the Scheltrum Armoured Pullman, which is the same price. Ironclad's models work out a few quid cheaper for a vehicle with similar overall dimensions, but don't quite match the chunkiness of these models. Overall I'd say these are well worth it, provided you consider the need for customisation to be an opportunity rather than a flaw.

As mentioned earlier, Black Pyramid's special offer meant that I received three free packs of figures with these steamtanks. The regular infantry are multi-part figures - head, torso, legs and weapon being separate, and come with plenty of spare heads and weapons. The command pack comes with one complete figure (wrapped in some sort of weird science electrical gear, so I'm guessing he's some sort of communications operator), and a standard bearer and officer with separate heads. Since the default Black Pyramid "Tea Wars" infantry comes with a tropical-service pith helmet, they're of limited use to me and my strictly home-service collection, so I'm going with the idea I mentioned previously and using BPs spiked helmets with gasmasks to turn these Aether weapon gunners into a small elite Special Aether Service unit.

Finally it's with mixed feelings that I read that Black Pyramid have now acquired the Steam & Steel range of figures from Design28. While I'm sure BP will be a good home for the range, it's sad to think that the range isn't going to be expanded, as the sculptor for Design28 had some really nice, quirky ideas. Since I'm currently on a quest to boost the number of steampunky adventurer figures I have (rather than historical soldiers or civilians) I'm looking forward to when they'll be available again.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Cause that light at the end of the tunnel, is the front of an oncoming train

(pauses for a moment of unashamed nostalgia remembering teenage me rocking out to "Skyscraper")

We're getting to the "light at the end of the tunnel" stage of the room clearing - one more day of dumping stuff into plastic crates or black bin liners. Roll up the disgusting old carpets, unscrew the old and dodgy shelving from the walls and that will pretty much be that. Today I got down to the last box of actual, semi-organised wargaming stuff on the shelves - buried for years in a wooden case on the bottom shelf was my 25mm fantasy/medieval army. I gave away most of my metal fantasy figures years ago, when I switched to using paper miniatures for roleplaying games (cheap, infinitely customisable and disposable) but hung on to this quite sizeable block of troops. Opening the box for the first time in what must be fifteen years, it struck me that this was actually a pretty complete batch of painted and based figures, with a good mix of infantry and cavalry, all ready to game with.

And that's when it hit me, what I was going to do for Solo Wargaming Appreciation Month - a grand fantasy/medieval civil war campaign. using Hordes Of The Things There are no fantasy races, monsters or heroic character figures in the collection, so it's going to be a generally realistic sort of background, like the early stages of A Game Of Thrones.

I'm still firming up ideas on how I'm going to run this - my initial thought is to have three theatres of war "The North", "The Midlands" and "The South", fighting a minimum of one battle for each theatre per real-time week representing a month of campaigning. Each battle will be a semi random selection from the three CS Grant wargame scenario books, with the forces scaled roughly up or down to get roughly close to the ideal "twelve element" DBA army.

I know this seems like it's totally from left field, compared to the usual wargaming periods I blog about (VSF and ultra-modern) but it really is a huge throwback to the sort of gaming I used to do a hell of a lot of back last century. Thinking about it has me even more nostalgic than that David Lee Roth song!

In other news, the imminent end of the room clearing project should give me a bit more time and energy to devote to figure painting and steam-tank building. The first unit of glengarry-wearing Scotties have been stuck so very, very close to completion this last week and a half, while the Fenians have been waiting patiently in the wings with only the Colonel and the standard bearer basecoated. As I mentioned in a previous post, so far this year the vast majority of the painting I've done has been with natural light, a vanishing resource now that we're well on our way to winter. Following Scott's advice in the comments, I've rearranged my painting table so that there's now an anglepoise lamp pointing directly down over the working area, but with an important twist. I splashed out on a "daylight bulb" bought online via Amazon. Light from old-fashioned tungsten bulbs always had a noticeably yellowish hue, and light from modern Energy Saving bulbs is... well, crap is the best word for their dim performance. These daylight bulbs are said to match both the spectral frequency and the intensity of sunlight. The difference is very impressive, especially in a confined space like a painting table. At a quick glance it does indeed look like natural light, and while I haven't had time to do any extended painting with the new setup, I did manage the aforementioned Fenian standard bearer with it, and found it acceptable in use when the light outside was no-where near sufficient to paint by. I'm looking forward to giving the setup another try towards the end of the week.

I had a call earlier from mi hermano voluble, Jonesy. I'd been unable to join him on our planned return trip to Other-Other Chris's this past weekend, where he and O-O-Chris gave the Force on Force rules one last college try. The verdict... they won't play Force On Force again. Even though we *think* we've gotten to the core intent of the rules after the problems we originally had, Jonesy reported that in play they found the rules too badly written to be practical - vehicles with different stats in different sections of the book, more contradictions and a scenario terrain map described as for a 6'x4' table but shown as a square map. Instead Jonesy and O-O-Chris will be dusting off the venerable Ground Zero Games rules Stargrunt, in 25mm. They used to play that a lot back in the day, and I know they have a wide selection of figures and vehicles ready for it.

The good news is that frees me up to stick to doing ultra-modern skirmishing in 15mm, without the distraction of a nearby fellow-gamer doing it in 20mm. For rules, for man-to-man skirmishes I still have Chain Reaction (or possibly Flying Lead from Ganesha Games, which I've been wanting to try for a while) but it remains to be seen how large a game those rules will scale up to and I suspect they'll start to creak a little once you get to the scale of game Force on Force seemed to be pitched at.

Monday, 24 October 2011

We'd like to be unhappy but we never do have the time.

This blog started off being concerned with my inability to get any actual wargaming done.

This post, however is going to be about my inability to blog about my inability to get any actual wargaming done.

Family Duty has become significantly more Full Time than was originally planned - agreed days off have failed to materialise, and the working day is starting earlier and ending later with more variability than expected. Happily this isn't entirely down to medical grounds. In fact this week we received the good news that my father is responding well to the new treatments, and is not only visibly stronger but has now gone nearly two weeks without the transfusions he previously required weekly.

Unfortunately this newfound vigour has manifested itself in a drive to engage in a Grand Project, namely clearing out the junk room, redecorating it and moving into it from his current, smaller bedroom. Formerly my bedroom when I used to live there, it started out full of the junk that I couldn't fit into my one bedroom flat when I moved out (which included a large amount of bulky gaming stuff.) Over the years it transitioned to full junk-room status, being the dumping ground for Xmas decorations, zimmer frames and on at least one occasion, a semi-functioning porta-potty.

Clearing this room has been an ongoing, low-level task for much of this year, and has been one of the drivers for my getting back into wargaming (finding a box full of figures, waxing nostalgic... you get the gist) but the Old Man announced a couple of weeks ago that he wanted it completely emptied by the end of this month. I am now surrounded by plastic storage boxes full of what can only be described as gaming archaeology. You know, all those old projects you think you start out trying but never quite take off? You know the ones where half the figures get undercoated, then shoved in a box and forgotten?

In a way it's fascinating, seeing the things I've dabbled in over the years. There's a 6mm Samurai DBA army here, along with a fairly extensive quantity of unpainted 6mm Heroics & Ros English Civil War figures stuck to temporary card bases. I'm not sure why I ever thought 2mm science-fiction miniatures were a good idea, but there's a box of 'em here. I used to do a lot of sci-fi gaming, which explains the box of crudely scratchbuilt TIE Fighters to match a small number of X-Wings. There's the box of Star Trek micro-machines that had their 15 minutes of fame back in the day, and another box containing four crudely sculpted knock-offs of the Babylon 5 Star-Fury fighters, along with a set of vector movement rules I wrote specifically for them.

The worst thing about all these little half-baked projects is , like the 15mm stuff I mentioned a few weeks back, there's nothing complete enough to be sold as "ready to play", but the half work I've already done with them in a lot of cases would probably devalue them as fixer-uppers (personally I'd rather buy completely unpainted minis than pre-undercoated. I'd feel I'd have to strip the primer off first before doing anything with them.)

Not everything here is an abandoned write-off. I used to do a fair bit of 6mm SF and ultra-modern gaming, and the two tool-boxes of figures and vehicles may yet see action once again. There are several fileboxes of Hot Wheels cars in various states of conversion for Car Wars and similar automobile combat games, along with their 1/43 counterparts for use with 28mm figures in modern/near future skirmish games.

Anyway, being so busy burrowing through this pile of junk has been the reason I've not been able to post this last week or so, but hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly. Among the upcoming topics...
  • What to do for Solo Wargaming Appreciation Month
  • The new steam tanks from Black Pyramid (short version - they've arrived and look great!)
  • More VBCW musings (and how great the guys at Solway are)
  • How I've taken up Scott's suggestions for my painting table
  • The next big GASLIGHT game
  • What to do with those plastic wedding carriage party favours.
All of which I'm itching to waffle about.

And only an hour for lunch.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Hallo, hooray. There's a price to pay...

The other day I bought a Nerf gun.

(Serious wargamers, bear with me please. There's a long chain of thought that eventually comes back round to relevance, honest.)

If you've never heard of them, Nerf is a brand of toy weapon that fires soft foam darts that are as safe as any possible projectile could be. They are generally made of bright, primary coloured plastic, which obviously means that repaints and customisations are very popular. They are also quite popular in the Steampunk community as the basis of costume weapons, as the basic Nerf pistol, the "Maverick" already looks like a weird-science gatling pistol.

The reason I bought a Nerf gun, if ever a single 41-yr old ever needed a reason to buy an expensive toy aimed at tween-age boys, is that next year's Asylum Steampunk festival will include a live-action Zombie-hunting event, for which the only approved weapons for hunters are those in the Nerf N-Strike range. Since my current costume weapon was merely a light and sound raygun, I needed to re-arm for next year's event. When on a shopping trip to Costco I spotted a Nerf Stampede ECS at a knockdown price, I picked one up on an impulse buy.

Now the Stampede is towards the top end of the range and is a fully automatic rifle. All nerf guns fire the darts with compressed air, normally generated by some sort of pump-action. The Stampede uses battery power to drive a piston, which lets you fire a couple of rounds per second, a very high rate of fire by Nerf standards. The Stampede is also one of the Nerf "Clip System" guns, which means it takes a box magazine (unlike the Maverick, for example, which is a revolver) The standard magazine size is six rounds, but the full-auto Stampede comes with three triple-sized magazines.

So after unboxing and assembling the gun, and after test firing and, of course, giggling like a schoolkid at the result, I sat down to think about how I'm likely to use this firepower in the "real combat" of the zombie hunt. The hi-capacity mags are great, but I wondered if there would be a risk in combat of losing track of how many rounds had been fired. When the gun goes empty, it continues to cycle and "fire", and it might take a couple of blank shots to realise that there were no darts being fired. Which could, of course, prove deadly when faced with a horde of slavering undead nipping at your heels.

So then I started thinking if it might be better to stick with the smaller 6-dart magazines for normal duty, switching over to the 18-dart magazines only for the heaviest fighting.

(Seri0us Wargamers - Here we are at the relevant bit)

Which was when I realised, in a lot of ways I was retreading some of the same debates that went on over the introduction of rapid-firing rifles to the 19th century military. Pundits feared that presented with a rapid firing magazine-fed weapon, ordinary soldiers would most likely fire off all their ammunition too quickly and ineffectively. Many insisted single shot weapons were effectively superior because they encouraged fire discipline that would be lost if the soldier could just blaze merrily away. There was at least one weapon I've heard of that came with a blocker in the magazine that turned it effectively into a single-shot breechloader. The soldier could remove the block when ordered to in combat, allowing the rest of the magazine rounds to be used. Thus an officer could control his men's rate of fire and ammo expenditure at long range, but when the enemy drew near unleash the rifles' rapid fire capability.

Most of the times I've seen this debate discussed in gaming or historical publications it's been with a barely concealed eye-rolling contempt for the conservatives arguing against innovation. Of course, we say, bigger magazines are obviously better. Silly Victorians for doubting it!
It goes right along with Of course machine guns should be deployed as infantry support weapons. Silly Frenchies with you mitrailleuse in grand batteries! and even Of Course armoured vehicles should be concentrated to punch through enemy lines and then use their speed and mobility to exploit the breakthrough. Silly 1930s British and your infantry tanks in penny packets.

What I'm saying isn't just that hindsight is 20/20 and it's easy to see the advantage of an innovation, 100 years or so after it was adopted. I'm saying that maybe we're actually blinded to the fact that some of the reactionary conservatives' complaints may actually have been valid points when viewed against the backdrop of war as it was fought in their time.

I'm looking at the zombie-hunt as vaguely comparable to one of Victoria's "Small Wars" with a smaller force with limited supplies facing a foe with much less firepower but overwhelming numbers. While it might be briefly fun to rock & roll on full auto with my Stampede, peppering zeds with darts... every extra shot that hits an already hit zombie/fuzzy, represents another zombie/fuzzy that I won't be able to shoot when I've run out of ammunition too soon.

Of course today, in the real world, the paradigm of infantry combat has changed so completely, we've adapted doctrine to match, with squaddies carrying up to three times as many individual rounds as their nineteenth century counterparts could expect, plus ammo for support weapons. Then again when you hear stories of our lads in Helmand, pinned down, cut off and down to their last mag each, you start to wonder whether the Victorian exponents of Single Shot firepower may have had a point.

Food for thought anyone?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Look at me, still talking when there's science to do.

Those of you playing along with the blog post title/song lyric game will have already worked out that this is a "Still Alive" post.

Those glengarry-wearing infantry from Rapier Miniatures are proving to be much more of a struggle to paint and progress a lot slower than I originally expected. I have 5 painted up to about 90% complete, just needing a couple of details like water bottles and the bonnet checking to complete. I've got another 5 catching them up at about 70% complete. With grey skies and pretty poor natural light over the last few days, I'm struggling to focus on the finer work, so I'm just doing little bits here and there when I can. In addition to the Scotties, on my painting table I've got a random selection of civilians and adventurers which I'm delving into now and again for some light relief, and once the Scotties are done next up will be the long delayed Fenians.

So while avoiding the tyranny of the painting table, I've been reading the original sourcebook for 1938 A Very British Civil War. It's a nice glossy product, full of photos an illustrations, and does a good job of setting up the fictional civil war against the backdrop of real history. I found it filled out a few pieces of the story that I'd not been able to pick up through reading discussions and blog posts about the setting online. I would love to pick up the next two sourcebooks (Gathering Storm 1 & 2) but since buying the original book something funny appears to have happened to the Solway webstore page, which keeps coming up blank for me.

I'm not about to hare off and start buying figures for VBCW, not when I'm already backed up with the VSF figures. To be honest, most VBCW games I've seen on the web look so similar in style and tone to the GASLIGHT games I've played, I'm not sure what playing 1938 would give me that 188x doesn't already. But VBCW is a good source of inspiration and ideas that can be ported across to a VSF game, and a Very Victorian Civil War is a very plausible alternative to my current "England Invaded" setting.

Finally I keep coming back to the idea of completely ditching my 15mm figures. I still think the scale has a lot going for it, and 15mm SF, VSF and modern appears to be going through a renaissance at the moment. But I've a serious need to de-clutter the flat right now and there's a strong case for streamlining where I've got duplications across scales. For instance, there's no point me keeping 15mm and 28mm zombies setup for essentially the same kind of game, especially since that would mean keeping two different sets of terrain in the different scales. If mi hermano moderno Jonesy is still keen to play Force On Force modern games in 20mm/1:72 it would make sense for me to join him in that scale for my Axis of Naughtiness modern imagi-nation games (that I'd previously thought to do in 15mm). If not, there's still a strong case for it, and an almost as strong case for switching it to 28mm (one scale to rule them all etc) I've already switched the VSF gaming entirely to 28mm, leaving me with two crates full of 15mm figures in various states of readiness (some still bagged, some based, some primed and some ready to play).

And then again there's the hassle of actually finding a way to dispose of all these "unwanted" 15mm figures, plus the loss in investment of time and money (sadly my painting doesn't exactly add value to the figures, so I'm liable to get more for the painted figures if I strip them before selling). And add to all that the fact that I still think 15mm has a lot of advantages over 28mm.

Decisions, decisions...

Monday, 3 October 2011

I see a red coat and I want it painted black

As per R1ck's request, sorta. In actual fact I'm doing the complete batch of 20 figures in dribs and drabs and it just occurred to me that these five made a half decent "step by step".

In the past I've always used either a black or white undercoat depending on the technique I was trying - black primer if I was primarily dry-brushing colours on to give shading and depth, white if I was going to do a black outline and fill the gaps, or more recently if I wanted a flat basecoat job to be shaded by Quickshade or similar.

These figures have been primed with Army Painter Pure Red Colour Primer, part of the Army Painter speedpainting system. This has a nice flat matte finish that the other colour paints adhere to very well. But by priming in the models' most significant colour (in this case the red jacket) you can save a deal of time by just painting the other colours and leaving the primer to show through.

Since this was the first time I'd painted these figures, I picked one to paint to conclusion, to get a feel for the sculpting style and pick up any potential pitfalls. That's the sergeant on the right, who's more or less finished and waiting for the Quickshade to do the dipping magic. If you look closely you can see I have indeed painted the checkered band on the glengarry. It wasn't too hard, although it's highly impressionistic and doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, it looks just fine at 2-3 feet away.

The general method I evolved when I was painting up for the Big Birthday Bash was as follows - split each unit of 10 figs into groups of 5. Officer and NCO figures I tend to do all in one go, much like the sergeant here. For rank and file I pick one part of the figure, e.g. the pants, and paint that on each figure in the group, then pick another e.g. the hands and faces and do the same. The order I do things varies by figure... sometimes it will be easiest to paint the brown and the black of the rifle before painting the flesh of the hands, othertimes a different sculpting style might make it easier to paint the hands and then paint the wood and metal around them.

Once I've got all the base colours painted onto the whole group, I put them down and do the next group. With both the groups of the unit completed, I then regroup them and go through the unit one figure at a time, fixing any faults I can see. This involves a lot of swapping paint colours and often I find myself having to tidy up a new problem caused at this stage e.g. If I've splodged some white from the webbing onto the jacket, I'll tidy that up with a stroke of red, but then I might find the correction makes the belt look too thin, so out comes the white so that can be repainted. And so on and so forth, making this a fairly laborious stage of the process.

Then all the figures have been "fixed", the unit's put aside ready to be Quickshaded, then the base painted and textured.

I do sometimes diverge from this routine, usually when I know I don't have the light or the right frame of mind to do a potentially tricky bit of painting. Like yesterday, with the light fading and feeling a bit bleurgh, I didn't feel up to picking out webbing and collars on the current batch of figures, so instead I just went through the whole batch of 20 scotties and painted their trousers. That way at least there''s some progress made on the batch as a whole. Today I might go back to the group of 5 I started working on, or I might just paint the boots on all 20 figs. As long as there's more paint on the figure at the end of the day than at the start, it counts as progress and eventually the batch will be completed.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Donald, whurs yer troosers?

I haz a noo hat.

It's a glengarry, a sort of Scottish bonnet, which has been official military headgear in the British Army since Victorian times. Mine is wool and was a steal at around a tenner including postage from eBay. It's comfortable and surprisingly cool to wear, even in the indian summer we're currently experiencing.

I picked this up because I have a couple of units of glengarry-wearing figures on the painting table now and wanted to see what one looked like in real life. That and... y'know... hat. The figures are from Rapier Miniatures, from their Zulu War line. To be honest I'm hesitant to recommend them, as most of the figures have had a serious flash line down the left side of the face, which with the best trimming and filing I can manage will leave more than a few of the laddies looking badly battle scarred. But they were the best option I could find for representing Scottish troops in the “England Invaded” games. Many manufacturers do figures in pith helmet & kilt but I couldn't find any kilted troops suitable for Home Service. The Rapier figures, in glengarry and trews, will do for one of the lowland Scottish regiments I think, though frankly I'm going to chicken out of attempting a tartan for the trews and put them in regular blue pants. (I know tartan is easier than it looks if you know the technique, and have even managed a passable plaid in the past on 15mm figures, but right now I'd rather not strain the eyes too much. I'm in two minds whether to attempt any impression of the red and white chequering

These chaps will be the first British troops I've done using the Army Painter Pure Red primer. So far the results are looking good, with the Pure Red being a near exact match for the craft paint red I used for the other British troops. I've painted one Sergeant figure to near-completion and made a start on four more. With luck I'm hoping to have at least one unit completed by Sunday.

I've also been experimenting a bit with the Army Painter Dark Tone Quickshade. This is advertised as being a very bold shading, suitable for dark painted figures. In actual fact I'm finding that's not quite the case. Whereas the Strong Tone pigment is a sort of brown, the Dark Tone is a much purer black. If you use the “paint on” technique rather than dipping, you can easily reduce the amount of shading to a much greater degree and the lack of “colour” in the shading has less of an effect on the base colour. This makes the Dark tone ideal for figures with a lot of white in their outfit, which the Strong Quickshade would turn into a dirty khaki.

Finally on a personal note I now have internet access at my elderly parents' house, which means I'm no longer totally cut off from the 21st century while on Family Duty. Ah sweet Wikipedia, how I've missed you! Never leave me like that again!