Sunday, 29 January 2012

Knee-deep in the hoop-la.

So this afternoon, mi hermano del gestor de proyecto Jonesy came by and we had what could best be described as a relaunch meeting for the Victorian City terrain project. If you've been following the blog for a while, you'll remember last year we were working on some scratchbuilt Victorian slum buildings, after which I kinda went a bit mad with the credit card and bought a whole load of buildings from PMC, Sarissa Precision, Warbases and Ziterdes.  Well my primary goal for this year is to get this city terrain completed and on the table.  Since there was now way too much for one poor fool to keep track of, I asked Jonesy for help.

We started by unboxing all the buildings that I'd acquired and fit as many of them as possible onto my 4 ft square wargaming board.

The Great White Whale in the foreground is the fantastic Ministry Building from Amera Plastic Mouldings, the dark blue-grey primed buildings are Sarissa Precision laser cut MDF, the plain MDF on the right is the Warbases corner tenemant building, the sandstone buildings in the furthest corner are PMC resin models and finally the left and right corners are occupied by Ziterdes hard foam buildings.

What's scary is that this isn't even all the buildings we have.  There's another Warbases tenement and terrace, the Amera church and all the scratchbuilt buildings we had been working on.  But this was the first time I'd had so many of the buildings on the table together with any street-like spaces between them.  Despite the buildings being of different materials and styles, I was pleased with how well they seemed to work together, clashing and contrasting but in the way that real city buildings do.  The overall effect did seem suitably Victorian.

Between us, Jonesy and I thrashed out all the design decisions that had been rattling around my head, and then we developed a plan.  The Ministry, epic as it is, will be backburnered for now as constructing it will be a major project in its own right.  The Ziterdes buildings, while they will benefit from a little TLC, don't look too bad in their raw state on the tabletop, so for now we'll use them as is.  The PMC buildings are also ready to use and need no work, although we did note that they might benefit from a repaint later to make them fit better with the rest of the buildings.  The Warbases buildings can also more-or-less be used as-is.

Our main focus is going to be the Sarissa MDF buildings.  We agreed the Wolf Grey I'd primed them in was a little too blue, so at the very least they're going to need some heavy drybrushing to tone it down.  I've also been tasked with getting new baseboards made with the improved cobblestone texture paper I'd found.  These are going to be three 4ft by 2ft boards of 3mm MDF, plus the two half-boards that I'd already cut.  That gives us up to 8'x4', with the option of breaking up the shape with the half-boards.

The important thing is that we've decided to put on a GASLIGHT game at the local club with this setup for the first Sunday in March, so we're committed to having at least the baseboards and the Sarissa buildings completed by then.  Remember when I posted yesterday that working towards a deadline was the best motivator for getting things done?  Well Jonesy reads this blog and he quite rightly reminded me of it.  I think the target's we've set are achievable, though I think I'd like to see if we can get a quick win with regards to polishing off the WIP scratchbuilt slums as well as the Sarissa buildings, and maybe roofing the Warbases terraces (which are otherwise 95% complete)

And of course, finish the remaining British figures on the painting table...

And a couple more from the Steam Tank queue...

<sigh> If only someone would invent the 48hr day?!!!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Lazybones, sittin' in the sun

Day 5 of DO-WOP/WAMP turned into a complete bust for me.  The Motivation Fairy failed to call, and in her place the Apathy Fairy stomped my good intentions into the ground.  Short of spray-varnishing those rough terrain markers, I didn't do a darned thing, gamingwise on Friday.

As a motivational exercise, the week has been a mixed success. It did get me a little further with my paint queue, and got me to finish a half-started project.  But the requirement to have something concrete at the end of the day may have been self defeating, as it put me off trying anything that was going to take more than one day's work to complete (through drying times or sheer amount of effort involved, like painting a whole unit of ten figures, or making some new road junctions.)  With hindsight, there are a couple of other half-finished projects on my shelves that  I could have dug out

I think for getting stuff done, nothing beats the motivation from a very real deadline, such as a scheduled game.  But an exercise like DO-WOP or WAMP is well worth trying as a second-best option.  Thanks to myincubliss for the idea.

Ironically I've done quite a bit today.  Starting with the Black Pyramid Heavy Landship...
She's been primed and sitting on my shelf for weeks, and it's only taken an hour or so to get her to a state where she wouldn't look out of place on the wargame table (though I'm toying with the idea of giving her a black wash to try to pick out the detailing a little more).  Note that this pic shows one slight flaw with the casting, the rear of the left tread isn't sitting quite flush with the body leaving a slight gap.  I hadn't noticed this until seeing this photograph and on the tabletop looking down at wargames distances it's impossible to spot, so I'm going to let it slide.  For perfectionists, it would only take a few minutes doing a better job of sanding down and/or filling the gap with putty, so I wouldn't let it put you off this rather nice model.  This particular model has wing sponson guns and a fuel bin added from Black Pyramid's add-ons selection.

The only thing left to do is knock up some decals and come up with a name for this wee beastie.  My current  German landships are all named after Wagner operas, (Siegfried, Parsifal and Lohengrin) so maybe this should be the "Gotterdammerung"?

I also made significant progress on four other vehicles in the "Evil Genius" queue, including the converted Brass Coffin from Ramshackle Games.  It's looking pretty good and should be finished sometime next week with a bit of luck.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

When the going get's rough...

Day Four of DO-WOP and another quickie terrain-build.  Rough terrain.

Unlike yesterday's hills, these were a brand new project.  I'm afraid the motivation fairy didn't visit until quite late in the day, around 3:30, so I needed a very quick and easy task that would nevertheless still be useful.

The bases are cut from cheap-as-you-like vinyl floor tiles, shiny side down.  I removed the paper backing revealing the self-adhesive side, but painted over that with brown household emulsion.  With the paint still wet I then applied a few blobs of white PVA glue and stuck clumps of cat litter to the glue.  It doesn't matter if the smaller granules stick to the paint, it all adds to the broken ground effect.  Feel free to tamp down the cat litter over the PVA glue, before shaking off the excess.  I also sprinkled a little bit of sand here and there to add to the texture.

With the paint still wet I quickly gave each piece a thorough coating of flock.  I actually sprinkled a little lighter shaded flock on first before covering the rest with my standard mid-green, which gives a nice variation.

Once everything's had a chance to dry tomorrow, I'll give them all a quick spray of matt varnish to try to hold down some of the cat litter, but apart from that the seven pieces here took just under an hour from start ("Hmm maybe I can do something with these old vinyl tiles?") to finish (when the photo was taken.)

Incidentally, I'm totally sold on the use of vinyl floor tiles as bases for flat or very lightweight terrain pieces.  I've yet to notice any significant warping, but because the material is so flexible it's easy to bend back flat.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

King George commands and we obey...

Today's work has left me feeling over the hill.  Or at least, over these hills.
These are the last of a batch of home-made hills that I started for the Big Birthday Bash last year. They were cut and undercoated just too late to be finished for the game, and so have languished in the Cupboard Under t'Stairs since then.  Painting and flocking them was an easy win for DO-WOP Day 3.  These are so easy and cheap to make, there's absolutely no reason to ever buy commercially made hill pieces again.  I think combined with the hills I'd previously completed these will be enough regular grassy hills, the next batch I do will either be hills with an impassable rocky cliff on one or more sides, or possibly some desert coloured terrain.

Last night I went round to visit Mi Hermarno Antiguo Jonesy.  For the last year or so he's been running a games evening with a bunch of friends which I've dubbed the Old Farts Gaming Night (I can get away with calling it that, as the one time I visited I was delighted to discover I was the youngest person in the room.)  I don't normally go there, simply because the games they've been playing haven't been the sort to float my boat.  But the last two weeks Jonesy and the Old Farts have been playing the excellent fantasy skirmish game Song of Blades And Heroes, using 40mm figures, part of his new year project resolution that I've alluded to in previous posts.

SBH is a nice, simple set of rules that hide a surprising amount of depth.  There are five or six direct supplements, plus versions for Napoleonics (Son of Drums and Shakos), Horror (Fear and Faith) and modern gunplay (Flying Lead).  The activation system is quite innovative.  When a player's turn comes around they may choose to activate one of their figures with either one, two or three dice.  These are rolled, and the number of successes gained becomes the number of actions the figure can take in its turn.  Obviously more actions is better, but there's a downside.  Whenever a figure rolls two or more failed activation rolls, that players turn ends and initiative passes to the other player.  So a player with poor quality troops might play safe and limit them to one activation dice per turn, so that they can at least guarantee to do something.  A player with better troops might decide it's worth taking the chance of getting more actions by rolling three activation dice for them.  This decision meking process is the heart of the game and is the primary source of friction as you suddenly find yourself unable to complete your plan due to a critically failed activation.

Last week saw a group of Roman legionnaires battling against a group of Egyptian undead.  This week I didn't play but watched focussing on picking up the rules.  We ran a treasure hunt scenario, and although Andy's small warband of Minotaurs found the treasure first, they were slaughtered by Jonesy's disciplined and organised Romans, who didn't take a single casualty.  Despite that the game works really well and I'm looking forward to playing it again, as well as giving Flying Lead a try for both Victoriana and Street Violence skirmishes.

There was one other distinguishing feature of this game.  As I mentioned we were using 40mm tall figures.  These were plastic, and from a manufacturer you may have heard of......


Yes we have started experimenting with using Lego minifigs for light hearted gaming.  They offer several major advantages over conventional wargames figures - they don't require painting but come ready to play, they are durable and don't require padded carrying cases, they have a selection of swappable weapons and equipment.  While you may struggle to find suitable figures for some historical eras, fantasy and modern periods are well catered for, both by Lego and also a Polish company called Cobi who produce 100% Lego-compatible figures, including modern soldiers.

For a warband-scale skirmish game like Song of Blades And Heroes, the Lego minifigs work exceptionally well, and act as a helpful reminder not to take the game too seriously.  I'm not about to bin all my regular miniatures in favour of smiley plastic men, but as a light-hearted diversion from regular gaming, I'm sold on the idea.

Not convinced?  Will try to get pics of the next game to show you how it looks in practice.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Tea for two..

It's day 2 of DO-WOP and I can proudly reveal...

..two painted figures, complete but for the basing textures.  This was taken moments after the Quickshade was applied and after seeing this picture I was able to catch the excessive pooling on the left hand guy's chest.

OK not massive progress I have to confess, though I did a bit more work on the Scotties and assorted bits and pieces on about half a dozen other civilians.

I also received a set of stagecoach horses from Dixon Miniatures, for use in converting those cheap plastic wedding coaches to something useful.  The horses that come with the carriages are stylised semi-flats, so my first thought was to try Irregular Miniatures, my usual go-to guys for odds and sods.  Unfortunately their horses are a bit underscale for 28mm, and looked tiny next to the wedding carriage.  Dixon was my next port of call, and while still a little on the small side, they don't look too bad.

I have six Dixon horses, so the plan is to convert three of these carriages into "Growlers" or four-wheeled horse drawn taxis (as compared to the better known two-wheeled Hansom cabs)   I have Westwind Miniatures' Hansom Cab model, along with several assorted horse drawn carts from Irregular, plus some horse drawn vehicles from Lledo's "Days Gone" range.  Between al these I hope will make up a passable set of traffic for the Victorian Cityscape project.

Monday, 23 January 2012

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing...

So here we are at the startof what I'm going to call DO-WOP...  DrVesuvius's Original Week Of Progress.  An entirely original concept, in no way borrowed from, inspired by or blatantly stolen wholesale from any other blogger.

If you remember, the idea is to do something gaming related every day, have something concrete completed by the end of each day, and to blog about it.

So Day One....



(tumbleweed rolls by)


Look it's not my fault, OK.  I actually made pretty good progress on the unit of Rapier Minis Scotties.  If I'd been able to spend the whole day on them I think I might even have brought them to a state of semi-completion.  But even then some jobs are just two-or-three-day jobs.  In this case when I do finish them I'll want to step away from the figures for a day and come back fresh the following day to check them for mistakes and do any neatening up before the Quickshade is applied.  When I realised this, I switched over to painting a handful of armed civilians, but sadly it was too late in the day to even get these finished.

So no concrete finished article yet, but at least I got the ball rolling.  I should be able to finish the Scotties easily tomorrow, with a view to Quickshading them Wednesday.  The civilians I ought to get completely done and dusted tomorrow, as they're a lot easier to correct.  I've also got some polystyrene hills that just need flocking to bring to completion, another easy win.

It seems to me that something like DO-WOP or WOMP might be better for clearing up started and half-completed projects than seeing anything through from start to finish.

I wonder if myincubliss is doing any better?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Got my mojo workin'

I reckon we've all struggled at one time or another to maintain motivation for a hobby or project, which combined with the classic gamer ADD can see us flitting from one thing to another, but never actually finishing anything.  This is where our "lead mountains" come from, and can also lead to disillusionment and burnout.

Over on the Lead Adventure Forum, myincubliss has announced his personal solution to this problem.  With a week off work coming up, he's declared it to be the "Week Of Mega Power" and has pledged to do something gaming related, and then blog about it, every single day of the week.  I think it's a fantastic idea, just to set yourself a target like this, especially if you wrap it up with a slightly silly name like he has.  No seriously, think about it.  If you pick a name that makes you grin stupidly when you think about it, your brain starts to associate those "feel good" endorphins with the project, which makes you subconsciously want to think about it more.  I'm thinking back to summer of last year when I was doing all that preparation work for the Big Birthday Bash and can't help wonder if the slightly silly name played a part in getting so many figures and vehicles painted and ready.  I've certainly not been able to match that level of productivity since. 

I'm certainly going to be following incubliss's progress on his blog this week, and see if I can't have my own little "week of mega power" next week.  As a slight tweak to what myincubliss is doing, I'm going to make a slightly different pledge.  Rather than potter around doing a bit here and a bit there and not actually achieving much, I want to finish each day with something concrete that has been completed. I want to be able to blog every evening and in that post say "See this, here? I did this today and now it's ready to use."  Whether it's a steam tank, a building or just a couple of figures, I want to have achieved something every day.

Today I re-setup my miniature painting station at my father's house.  As I've mentioned previously in this blog, my day job nowadays is more or less acting as his full-time carer, though fortunately he's in such good health at the moment that I do get a lot of free time between tasks during the day.  So having a painting station set up here is a good way to fill that free time (in theory, if I can resist the temptations of the internet!).  It's a good job I'm using cheaper craft acrylics as my main paint source these days, as it meant I've been able to afford to completely duplicate my paints set, one for my flat and one for my father's house.
The table's at a bay window that gets the best light throughout the day, but the desk lamp (as suggested by Scott) supplants the meagre winter daylight we have here at the moment.  One extra expense, and one that I'd highly recommend, was to replace the bulbs in both the desk lamp and the main room light with 25w daylight bulbs.  These are a lot more expensive than the usual energy-saver bulbs, but they're a lot brighter and more importantly the light they produce is a closer match for natural sunlight than any other sort of interior lighting (old fashioned tungsten bulbs tended to be too yellow, flourescents tended to be too blue).  The daylight bulbs produce a clear, white light that is excellent for any sort of hobby work.

While I was re-arranging the room for the paint station, I also dug out my old 4'x4' wargame board.  Dating back to when I was mainly doing 15mm colonial gaming around 2000, this was simply a piece of 10mm MDF painted green on one side and covered with cork floor tiles on the other, that could be placed on top of a dining table to give a decent playing area.  Nothing spectacular, just a very convenient compromise for someone with no room for a full-size permanent gaming table.  Eight years of being consigned to the garage and it's developed a very slight warp but nothing too serious, and the green side has acquired a few marks that I believe to be snail tracks (possibly left by the little fellow who had to be pried off before the  board was brought back into the house!).  The cork side still seems in pristine condition, so a lick of paint on the green side is all it needs to return to its former glory, but it's still perfectly usable as is and gives me another possible gaming venue for small-medium scale games.

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me...

If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor, when I'm gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must
Parting is hell.
But life goes on.
So sing as well.
- Joyce Grenfell 1910-1979
Thanks to everyone for your messages of support in the comments.  Yesterday was my mother's funeral, and it was pretty much everything you'd expect such an occasion to be.  When she was alive she used to love collecting little poems and witticisms and in a folder of such that she'd left behind for us, the above poem was right at the top of the pile.  Which strikes me as a pretty clear cut set of last wishes, don't you think?

So in that spirit, after thoroughly toasting Mum's memory and all the family and friends and neighbours had all left my father's house and after a quick tidy up, mi hermano derecho Jonesy and his daughter were escorting a somewhat tipsy Dr Vesuvius back to his flat, when their principal made the following slightly sozzled declaration...

"Let's go to Toys-R-Us."

Now if you've only ever wargamed the historical horse & musket period, you might fail to appreciate what a treasure trove your neighbourhood toy store can be for vehicles, props and terrain, especially for the modern/science fiction gamer.  I have some excellent 28mm palm and jungle trees that came from dinosaur and safari playsets - (If you don't plan on including dinosaurs and/or African wildlife in your games you can do what I did and strip the useful terrain bits out of the buckets before sending the rest on to the nearest charity shop.)  And thus it was that on Friday afternoon, the remnants of a funeral party arrived at "Britains greatest toy store" and started poking through the Lego.

Sadly there were no legendary bargains to be found, like old Wild-Wild-West toys or foot tall mecha from the Battletech cartoon series, both of which I've found at knock down prices in the past.  There was however a huge Emergency Services playset containing several vehicles (police car, ambulance, fire engine, recovery vehicle, rescue crane and helicopter) and a selection of street signs, barricades and other knick-knacks, all of which broadly compatible with 28mm figures, knocked down to £15.  I picked up two sets, which will be more than enough for zombie/street violence gaming.

Jonesy also spotted one of my favourite cars in the Matchbox selection... a '68 Ford Shelby Cobra GT500KR, which he presented to me as a surprise after we left the shop.  Sadly it's a convertible, which means I'm going to have to look through my box of Stan Johanson Miniatures bits to see if I've got a suitable driver figure.

(I also picked up a Nerf N-Strike Barrel Break IX-2 for Steampunk costuming purposes - off topic for this blog I know, but I will just say I believe it is the best nerf gun there is for an off-hand backup weapon, giving you two one-handed shots before you need to use your second hand to reload, plus it has an ambidextrous barrel-break catch release.  It even looks pretty steampunk out of the box as well.)

With life returning to a semblance of normality, I can start getting back to gaming projects.  The Victorian cityscape is still top of the list, along with a selection of non-period specific zombies (a mix of old GW and new Mantic plastics) for use in a Steampunks vs Zombies game.  I've also received the last of the figures I splashed out on over Xmas for modern/near future Street Violence/Zombie gaming.  These are the legendary "Thugz" figures sculpted by Bobby Jackson, which I've always admired.  So that's another foothill for the lead mountain.

However I may have to make a slight diversion through 28mm sci-fi and/or fantasy.  An old non-wargaming friend of mine (and occasional commenter on this blog) told me his eldest son (12) had received some miniatures for Xmas and was asking about painting and gaming with them.  I spent an enjoyable hour or so this afternoon talking with the lad over Skype about how I paint figures (badly) and how wargaming work.  But there's only so much you can do remotely even with a two-way video connection, so I suspect I may have to dig out my own unfinished pack of em-4 Space Ranger figures (the same as he's been given) and arrange a visit to work on them in person and maybe give him a demo game.

But if it can bring another potential gamer into the fold it'll be well worth it.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Forty thousand men and women every day

I arrived at my father's house today at about a quarter to one, to have him tell me that a nurse from the hospital ward where my mother was staying had been trying to get in cotact with me.  Cursing I realised I'd left my mobile phone back at the flat, so I raced back to get it to see if she'd left a message.  As I came through the front door I could hear my mobile phone ringtone, and managed to dive to the phone in time to pick up the call.

To be told that my mother had just died.

It was, by every account, a very quick and painless passing, which is as good as we could have hoped for given her illness.  It was not entirely unexpected, the day before I'd been told she had "weeks and months rather than years" left, and to be brutally honest, Mum had deteriorated so dramatically in the last few months she was the merest shadow of her former self.

There'll be another brief hiatus on this blog, while all that needs to be done is done.  Then we can start 2012 for real.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

It's gonna be the future soon

So much for 2011, what are the goals for 2012?

Well on New Year's Eve mi hermano prognostico Jonesy came round to my flat to see the new year in, and rather than just do our usual video-watching evening thing, we chatted and amongst other things discussed future gaming plans for 2012.  We each came away with an immediate gaming project (which we'll both co-operate on) and some slightly fuzzier longer term plans.  We both generally agreed on "do more gaming" as a good resolution to start with.  Jonesy's project for 2012... well really he ought to start his own bloody blog to discuss it.  For now let's just say it takes the idea of playing with toy soldiers to the next level.

Now I'd already been thinking about plans for next year.  As I mentioned in the last post I'd been thinking about Tomorrow's War and my old 15mm SF stuff.  On the plus side I have a metric tonne of infantry, and would only want to buy some vehicles to make up a couple of modest fighting forces for it.  On the big down side, it would be another period and scale where I was completely going it alone.  I have a couple of friends (Marvin the ARVN and "t'other Chris" )who gave TW a try using Games Workshop Warhammer 40K armies, while Jonesy and the Other-Other-Chris are planning on going back to their legendary Stargrunt games in 25mm, but using the Tomorrow's War vehicle rules.  As it is, by raiding my lead mountain I can get in on both those actions - I have a fair selection of Alternative Armies Ion Age figures in Heroic 28mm, which fit well with GW figures. Including a half-decent number of Shia Khan figures which are already painted.  In 25mm I have a 3/4 completed UNSC Powersuit platoon, an airmobile unit in VTOLs with gunship support. Plus delving deeper into the lead mountain, I have tons of 25mm Denizen figures (Federation, Ventauran and even K'hiff) and a selection of resin vehicles that could serve either scale.  So if I'm going to be doing any science fiction gaming this year, it makes sense to be planning for 25-28mm

But for the new year project, I took a different approach.  Instead of  asking what period/scale I fancied doing, I looked at what resources I had already got in various states of completion, and what bringing any of them up to a state of full readiness would enable.  In the end I decided that the city terrain project, if brought to completion, could be used not only for the originally planned Victorian steampunk games, but with a couple of updated buildings here and there could also work for pulp, modern or near future games, including  zombie games.

So the short term plan is to push for completion of the Victorian City terrain.  While that's ongoing I'm going to try to paint a decent number of non-period specific zombies, mainly my old Games Workshop plastics and a box of Mantic zeds which I ordered over Xmas.  Once completed, the City would then be ready for both full-on GASLIGHT street battles and steampunk vs Zombies games.  Phase 2 would be a selection of more modern looking buildings that could be swapped in, to adapt the city to use in modern day/near future games.

I've always been fond of non-military skirmish gaming, which is why I've already got a modest collection of Foundry Street Violence/ Copplestone Kill Zone (from EM4) and Future Wars (from Copplestone Castings) figures.  For my Xmas present for this year, I've treated myself to a smorgasbord of new 28mm figures from a variety of source, all suitable for modern day/near future gang wars.  I have yet to see if my current daub n dip technique that works so well with Victorian/Steampunk figures will also be suitable for more modern looking figures.

Thus far the main objective - complete the city terrain ASAP, with a view to using it for both Victorian and Modern games, which may or may not include Zombies.

Other sideprojects I'd like to spend some time on next year...

  • Not so much a sideproject but more a tweak to an existing game.  I'd really like to do some GASLIGHT/VSF games with more of a big battle feel. Although I'm fairly confident that in practice we could manage larger games in GASLIG|HT with experience players, I'm getting some fierce resistance to the idea from the people I play with.  To that end I'd like to do some experiments with multi-figure movement trays for units in close formation and possibly look at some alternative rulesets, maybe even a return to the venerable Soldier's Companion from Space 1889, or Larry Brom's "The Sword And The Flame".
  • I''m still intrigued by the possibilities of The Portable Wargame in conjunction with Heroscape hexed terrain. It's my intention to delve into the old 15mm colonial/VSF figure collection and put together a couple of late 19th century armies for it, with a view to producing a genuinely portable wargame set, as per Bob's original vision.
  • I had a lot of fun dusting off my old 25mm fantasy/medieval figures for Rally Round The King last November.  It might be fun to get them properly rebased into elements and maybe pick up a few character figures as heroes and magic users - I noticed that Mega Minis produce the old Julie Guthrie Grenadier Fantasy figures, which are as beautiful as they ever were, and Denizen are still producing their fantasy range, both of which are excellent sources of 25mm fantasy characters and very cheap by modern 28mm standards.
You'll notice that apart from possibly buying a few bits and pieces, all three of the above sideprojects mainly involve doing something new with stuff I already have, rather than buying too much new stuff.  In some ways I'm going to try to make that a major theme of this year - to make better use of the stuff that I've got rather than adding to the lead and resin mountain for the sake of retail therapy.

Finally, with metal and resin prices still rising, I want to be on the lookout for cheap toys that can be pressed into service for any of the above games.  I'd especially like to find some cheap tanks and military vehicles for 28mm, seeing how a 28mm MBT/APC can set you back £20 a piece in resin.  So I'm going to try to hit the Pound shops a little more often this year, and maybe look for some other sources of bargains (like car boot sales)
So in summary, the plan for 2012...
  1. Complete the City terrain (PRIORITY)
  2. Keep painting Steampunk/VSF figures
  3. Paint Zombies
  4. Paint Gangs & Police for Chain Reaction/Flying Lead "street violence" games.
  5. For Tomorow's War - complete UN Space Command (for 25mm) and/or Ion Age (for 28mm)
  6. Try tweaks to GASLIGHT or other VSF rules for bigger battle feel.
  7. Build 19th century Portable Wargame setup in15mm from existing figures
  8. Rebase and flesh out 25mm fantasy/medievals for Rally round The King/HOTT
  9. Don't buy any new stuff unless it's to complete a particular subproject.
  10. Look for cheap toys that can be repurposed for gaming
  11. Play more games
Heres to 2012 everyone.  May your best in the year just passed, be your worst in the year to come!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

That Was The Year That Was....

So let's look at how Dr Vesuvius has done this year in his quest to get back into the wargaming hobby.

Total number of wargames played - 11
  • 3 GASLIGHT games with other players, 
  • 1 GASLIGHT solo tutorial game, 
  • 2 solo games of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame, 
  • 2 games of Force on Force
  • 3 solo games of Rally Round The King for Solo Wargaming Month.)
The bulk of my efforts have been towards the 28mm Steampunk/Victorian Science Fiction collection, where I went from having a single unit of British and a single unit of Germans and about a dozen civilian adventurers painted, to 6-8 units of infantry a side, plus a unit of cavalry plus assorted steam tanks, walkers etc and about 75 civilian/Adventurers all painted and table ready, with an even bigger backlog of figures and vehicles in various states of completion.  My personal interest in this genre/period was greatly boosted by the experience of attending The Asylum Steampunk Convivial, my personal highlight of the year.

As part of the overall 28mm Victorian Science Fiction project and in addition to the ongoing recruiting of character figures and steamtanks, I've launched four sub-projects, of which only one has seen any significant progress but which I think will be key for gaming in 2012.

  1. The expansion of the Evil Genius army - I have five units of regular uniformed troops and five unique vehicles  lined up for this.  The vehicles are primed and two are on the painting table, but the troops remain untouched bare metal.
  2. The Russian VSF force.  I have the infantry all based and primed, and a couple of vehicles from my old collection already earmarked for Russian service.  Frankly I'm panicking about how I'm going to paint the distinctive stripey shirts on my Russian sailors, so for now this is well and truly backburnered and all Invasion of England games will have to be restricted to the Southern (German) front.
  3. My long cherished Fenian Brotherhood VSF force - four units of regulars and four vehicles.  Although I had two units of The Boys sitting on my painting table throughout November and December, I've made no headway into them at all, apart from a single officer and standard bearer. Sadly returned to the figure cases and consigned to the back burner for now.
  4. The Victorian Cityscape Project, as chronicled in earlier blog posts, saw me first scratchbuilding some terraced hovels, ably assisted by Jonesy, then in a binge of pre-Xmas shopping I purchased a ton of buildings from Sarissa, Ziterdes, Warbases, Amera, PMC and Oshiro.  Only a fraction of the buildings are anywhere near table ready, and the work already done on the baseboards looks set to be scrapped in favour of a superior cobblestone surface, but this looks like it's going to turn into the key project for 2012 (see below)

Returning to GASLIGHT after so many years was like reuniting with an old flame. And yet, though GASLIGHT still gives a very enjoyable game, I'm still sorely tempted to try a few new rulesystems to get games with a slightly different feel or larger scope, or maybe write my own "perfect" ruleset (which would essentially be a rewrite of GASLIGHT, since it's already delivering 80% of what I want.)

Work on the 15mm modern Imagi-Nations that gave this blog its name has pretty much stalled completely, and the planned 15mm zombie collection has been supplanted by 28mm, mainly down to the inspiration of other zombie gaming bloggers like Vampifan and LTLDad.  In fact I've found myself drifting away from 15mm, a scale I've always favoured.  Ironically, we're in the middle of a boom period for 15mm sci-fi gaming, and even for 15mm Victorian Science Fiction, with several manufacturers starting to bring out suitable figures and steam vehicles.  However alea iacta est, and having given away all of my 15mm VSF gear that couldn't be retasked for 28mm, I've zero inclination to start collecting it again from scratch.  I'm left with the figures that were originally purchased for pseudo-historical Colonial adventures, more on which later.

The brief dalliance with 20mm modern gaming using Force on Force ended unsatisfactorily, although I'm promising myself a second fresh look at the rules along with the sci-fi version Tomorrow's War (which mi hermano santaclaus Jonesy very kindly bought me for Xmas).

Things that have tickled my fancy in 2011

  • Kaiser-Rushforth Multicases - I'm now a complete convert, with all my VSF stuff being stored in KR cases or GW cases with KR foam refits. It's my default storage solution for any individually based 25-28mm figures.
  • Old-school horse & musket gaming as exemplified by the wonderful 18th century imagi-nations at the Emperor vs Elector blog (tips hat to Tradgardmastare and Fitz-Badger who I know are visitors from that corner of the web)  I find myself absolutely entranced by the spectacular battle reports, often featuring huge units of beautifully painted figures.  The background narratives, the toy-soldier aesthetics, the nostalgia for old-school gaming, all are things I aspire to in my own wargaming, especially the VSF games. I've even picked up my own copies of "Charge" and "The War Game" to try to soak up the nostalgia for the period.  Sadly, I have to accept that this is a period and style of gaming that I am probably never going to be able to get into.  The reasons are numerous - I can just about cope with painting a unit of ten 28mm figures using my "daub n dip" technique.  A unit of 30+ figures, from an era when military uniforms were possibly at their most complex and detailed, just doesn't bear thinking about.  More significantly, I'm just not sure I have a decent enough grasp of the period to produce a suitable imagi-nation, or build an appropriate army.  I just don't feel I could do it justice.  So for the forseeable future, I remain the unwashed street urching gazing in through the "Emperor v Elector" toy shop window with longing admiration, and if I want a tricorne-era horse and musket game, there's always Empire: Total War to fall back on.
  • 1938 - A Very British Civil War.What's not to like?  Dad's Army meets P G Wodehouse, with colourful units, delightful inter-war vehicles as well as a degree of Heath-Robinson-esque improvisation.  And of course, afternoon tea.  I've bought all the VBCW sourcebooks to date and greatly enjoyed reading them, and avidly follow the fine gentlemen of the Edward VIIth Cocktail Lounge at the Gentlemen's Wargames Parlour. Although the creators of the setting have now brought out their own set of rules for the conflict, I'm delighted to see that they still keep the sourcebooks entirely rules-neutral and encourage everyone to play with their own favourite (or self-written) rules, something which is a refreshing change from the standard commercial wargame practice of tightly bundling wargames rules and settings and sometimes even figure ranges, to the exclusion of outside influences.  I approve of Solway's approach wholeheartedly. Everything about VBCW is so close in tone to my existing VSF gaming, it feels very familiar and comfortable.  However  there also lies the reason why I'm unlikely to ever invest time and money in VBCW armies.  I've already got a significant investment on forces to play light hearted "Jolly Tea and Cricket" games set in 1889, it seems an entirely wasted effort to duplicate all that simply to play a functionally identical game, except set fifty years later and in khaki instead of red.  VBCW has however directly inspired a line of thinking that led to a potential new background for VSF gaming - how about a Very Victorian Civil War (OR if you prefer "Winter of 1879")
  • The fine works of Mr Robert ("Bob") Cordery and his use of gridded terrain in what I think of as "operational" level wargames.  Brother Cordery has sold me on the virtues of Heroscape terrain in wargaming and his 1st edition Portable Wargames rules hit a sweet sport for me in the way that it felt comparable in a lot of ways to DBA and its family of games, without merely being another tired retread.  I've yet to play the 2nd edition or his more recent "Memoir of Modern Battle" rules, though I find the latter particularly intriguing as a possible way to resurrect the Axis of Naughtiness imagi-nations quickly and cheaply.
  • Finally, a nod specifically to Vampifan's World of the Undead.  While Vampifan's blog is a treasure trove of zombie wargaming material in its own right, it also acts as the hub of a larger circle of gamers covering the genre in a wide variety of formats and scales.  I often find myself visiting there purely as a jumping off point to explore the blogs he links to.  Which sounds like it does Vampifan a great disservice, but it shouldn't.  I've spend hours going through his earlier posts, following his All Things Zombies campaign, admiring his simply spectacular cardmodel buildings (all with fully detailed interiors)  The irony of this all is that prior to this, in real life, I wasn't particularly a fan of the zombie apocalypse genre or splatterfest gory horror in general.  But Vampifan and his fellow zombie bloggers have opened my eyes to the gaming possibilities of the genre.  It offers personalised, skirmish level gaming with a natural campaign structure.  It's almost perfect for the solo gamer, with a foe that is literally mindless and whose actions can be very easily programmed via simple game mechanics.  And that also makes it perfect for an entirely co-operative wargame, where multiple human players are all on the same side (athough judging by some of LTLDad's games with his family, some more than others) against the programmed zombie horde.
This is turning into a much longer post than I'd originally planned, so I think I'm going to split it here and do "Plans for 2012" tomorrow.

So in summary, how was 2011, the year I returned to wargaming?  Well I actually managed to roll dice and push toy soldiers around a table a few times, just a lot less than I'd hoped to.  I've discovered that I can actually start to enjoy painting figures, now that I've discovered my "daub and dip" technique and settled down with my "toy soldier" style.  I've also rediscovered the joy of building wargames terrain, which is second only the satisfaction you get from seeing all those separate terrain projects laid out on the table suddenly come together to look like a real place in miniature.

The biggest problem was Real Life(tm) getting in the way.  I've had to cancel at least four scheduled GASLIGHT games this year due to emergency Family Duty.  But I have found ways to continue working on and enjoying my hobby, like setting up a painting station at my parents' house for use while I've been there.  And I still maintain that it's at times like these that we most need our hobbies to distract us and help us unwind. 

So here's to 2012 and a Happy New Year to one and all.