Tuesday, 30 November 2004

A terrain experiment

I borrowed [Games Workshop](http://uk.games-workshop.com)s latest [terrain book](http://uk.games-workshop.com/storefront/store.uk?do=Individual&code=60049999083&orignav=9) from Alan the other day. It did not leave much of an impression on me -- I find that it leans too much towards the results of terrain building and not to the terrain building itself: lots of eye candy but not enough hard information and tutorials on actually building the terrain, but that can be just me.

One good idea that I did get from the book however, was the use of dyed bathroom towels as terrain material. In a somewhat uncharacteristic burst of enthousiasm, I decided to try this out myself. I 'rescued' an old towel from an ignominious fate in the waste bin (no matter the fact that it wasn't quite at that stage yet -- let's hope my wife has not counted the towels) and dyed it green. This is a small photo tutorial on how I did it.

Paints and an innocent towelThe dramatis personae: green and black paint, burnt sienna pigment and an innocent towel. The paints are actually textile paint, but that does not matter for this -- they could have been normal acrylic paints as well. They are also quite old, as you can still spot the price tags in Belgian Francs, so they have to be pre 2002 (when the Euro was introduced as a day to day currency). The pigment I used is normally intended to be put into white household paint to generate your own private colour -- very chic. Belgian DIY'ers will recognise the house brand of Brico, a fount of inspiration for wargamers.

The towel being dyed
Work in progress. The unsavoury pea soup like mixture in the bucket is water with a bit of the green textile paint and just a squirt of burnt sienna. It does not need much -- there's about half a teaspoon's worth of paint and a quarter of that in pigment to about 3 litres of water. I did not use the black paint as I thought the colour of the mixture was a nice olive shade which looked quite natural. The towel is just dunked into the bucket and left there for a few minutes.
The dyed towelThe result - a green towel. Notice the more saturated green spots where the green paint was not mixed properly. In this picture, the towel looks fine, but after drying, I find it to be a bit too light. Perhaps with the next towel (one is bound to wear out soon, no?) I'll either add more paint or add some black to the mix.

I plan on using the towel cut up into irregular pieces, drybrushed and covered with various grades and colours of flock to break up open and grassed terrain. We'll see how it works out.

Sunday, 28 November 2004

Progress with my WHAB army

I finished another batch of Saxons this morning. They were slightly disappointing in quality in the end, I'm not sure why - maybe because I'm getting lazy or impatient. In particular I was unhappy with the faces and bare legs - the usual wash and highlight that I use leading to a rather messy result. I think the reason may be that in the wash mixture that I use, my current white glue is not dissolving properly (the WH guide to painting suggests you mix ink, water, a drop of flesh paint and some white glue). Any suggestions welcome.

I'm now up to 74 spear wielding peasants, 8 skirmishers and 16 heavy infantry plus a General and standard bearer piece. About 800 points worth.

But to get to 2000 points, an awful lot more are needed!

Saturday, 27 November 2004

Now this is a gaming web page

May I turn everyone's attention to [Back of Beyond Magazine](http://www.backofbeyond.de): a magazine / web page dedicated to pulp wargaming, and formatted and laid out in the way one would expect of a pulp newspaper. And all the pictures are off well painted miniatures, too! So everybody go there, but read the next paragraph first :).

There really should be more web pages on miniature wargaming like this. The only one I can think of that is comparable in content and setup is the [Major General Tremorden Rederring](http://zeitcom.com/majgen/) home page. Which brings me to a possibly interesting question - why is it that it is this general period of wargaming and wargamers, i.e. the Victorian / Pulp genre, seem to be the ones that come up with this type of quality page? Is it difficult or impossible to do for other periods, or is it that there are in fact pages out there that I don't know about which are comparable in quality? Comments welcome!

Thursday, 25 November 2004

Look ma - we're at number two!

For the sake of later generations: we are proud to say that [TTM](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm) has been the number two site on [Miniature Wargaming Topsites](http://www.miniaturewargaming.com/topsites), at least for a few hours, as this piece of a screenshot shows:

![Number two site](/snv/ttm/pics/topsites_2.png)

Of course, the fact that John, the owner of the site, moved it to a new location and that we were the second site to reregister there _might_ have had something to do with this. Oh well.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Anderida 2004

Graham and I made our fifth appearance at this DBM doubles tournament. Each year there is a 'theme', which effectively identifies and limits the armies you can take. This leads to unusual encounters and some interesting armies on the table that are not usually seen. The theme this year was armies in Germany from the beginning of time (DBM army lists Book 1 is the wargaming equivalent of the Book of Genesis) until the end of ancient wargaming as we know it (about 1500 AD).

The choice of armies as always was rather fun. I favoured Polybian Romans, on the grounds that I wanted this army in my collection, and Burgundian Ordonnance, for the colour. Graham was more pragmatic in approach, seeking the killer army in the list. He came up with the Sciri, a hairy, unwashed tribe of the 4th Century who had the Huns and Dacians as allies. Well, allegedly once in 371 AD or something according to the esteemed authors of the DBM Army Lists. As usual, I let myself be talked into this. Graham is now Management Class and has even married a Director Class lady, so he is a man to be obeyed! Our first thoughts were to scratch together the army from our various collections, but I couldn't bear the thought of using Sub Roman Britains as Gothic Cavalry, so I did a quick paint job. I bought Donnington figures, which have nice poses but are of terrible casting quality. Lots of cleaning needed, and the lines on the figures are often vague so this makes painting trickier. Nonetheless, I completed them reasonably quickly, with a record being the 80 Dacians over a weekend.

Our army was split into four commands. Two commands of Sciri, each consisting of 8 elements of fast knights and 20 elements of archers plus some supporting skirmishers. As allied commands (for those who do not know DBM, allies have the fatal tendency to be unreliable in a battle) we had a tiny Hun command of 7 superior Light Horse and a large command of 30 odd unwashed, hairy warband and falxmen from Dacia.

The tournament is held in Pevensey Bay, a really nice, small seaside hamlet in East Sussex, where William and his Normans first landed back in 1066. We stay in the Priory Court Hotel, which is more of a pub really, next to William's Castle and an old Roman fort from a previous conqueror. It makes a nice walk in the morning through the castle grounds, past the first Saxon church in England to the newspaper shop. This tradition is now added to by the appearance of Graham's old friend, Paul Stovell and his 10 year-old son James, a skilful games player adept at very pertinent one-liners that leave the recipient speechless and on-lookers in hysterics.

Game One was against a Middle Imperial Roman army. Or at least that was the billing. Until our opponents turned up, declaring that they had in fact Sarmatians. So a rapid change of plan was in order. These Sarmatians had tons of fast knights, even more than we did, plus an ally of superior warband. The game started with us attacking and our first dice rolls revealed our strategically placed Dacians (in the centre) and Huns (on the left) to be unreliable. Gulp. The opponents plan was to kill the Huns, and this, in the rules would lead to the Dacians joining their side. On the right, Graham had the two commands of Sciri. He charged his opponents knights, but when he ran into an ambush, things looked black. However, two things went our way. First, our opponent advanced right up to the unreliable allies and then halted (if you attack an unreliable then, not unreasonably the Ally decides to fight after all). It was Murphy's law that immediately after this dither, my allies became reliable (this happens on a die roll of a 6 at the beginning of a turn) and my skirmishers destroyed 3 knights. On the right, Graham was defending brilliantly and also causing heavy casualties, so heavy that suddenly the game turned around and we sent the Sarmatians home. A good start and an 8-2 victory.

Game Two was against, guess who, Paul and James (see above). This year, they had brought a Castle and a medieval German army of Knights, spearmen, light horse and the like. With glee and much gloating they succeeded in placing their Castle on a massive hill on our base line and fortified it with troops and a baggage train. I don't know if it was the Castle, with its rotating dungeons and movable drawbridge that distracted me or if Graham had not drunk enough beer at lunchtime, but we were well and truly thrashed. We dithered over three deployments and the one we went for was the worst imaginable. Suffice to say our troops were sandwiched into a corner and eaten alive by the joyous and skilful Stovells.

Sigh. A pretty poor show. Saturday evening had us playing San Juan, a great card game and, I decided, much more fun than DBM. I passed on the bridge though, not knowing anything about this obscure game (I leave that to my wife, who is a fanatical and fire-breathing Bridge ace).

Sunday morning, we decided, would go much better, and this seemed indeed to be likely when our campaign against Jeremy and Darrell's Avars began. Graham's knights smashed through their front line while my left wing advanced slowly but steadily, ready to strike. Our opponents made a bid for an Oscar with wailing and complaining, but, when everything seemed to be going well, things started to unravel. Graham's knight charge petered out and the Avar reserves nobbled them. The Huns moved from side to side of the table, ineffective and confused as we could not decide how to use them. I advanced my own knights but they got isolated and in their turn were killed off, with even an inferior auxilia killing 2 or 3 of them. Before we knew it, it was game over and another defeat. We have played Jeremy many times, and every time something like this (or usually worse) happens. I guess we should have known.

Lunchtime felt like a summer's day at the seaside and when my (very good) fish and chips were finally served I decided to eat them slowly in the sun, chatting with Eric, the amiable organiser of the event. Poor Graham missed out on a hot lunch and Eric and I sent him off to get our last game underway.

This was against a Dacian army. A great opponent for us, we foolishly thought. The terrain fell for them perfectly, with a barrier of woods and steep hills right across the middle of the table. This would be tricky. The Dacians would certainly not try to come out of their hiding place, as this would expose them to our 'powerful' knights. So we took the idiotic decision to flank march our own Dacians, relegating them (not for the first time this weekend) to useless inactivity. Meanwhile, we set up our depleted army and complacently awaited developments. These rapidly came when the Dacians charged us. There were many thousands of them and we were soon overwhelmed. Despite the loss of the right flank (mine!) to bold Dacian bowmen and warbands, we held on grimly to the last die roll of the game, which we lost and our army fled in ignimony and deserved shame.

Another Sunday afternoon fiasco, this is getting to be a regular habit! Actually I feel quite sorry for Graham, who is a good player normally. I think my influence is dragging him down. One problem is that I can't take the games seriously enough, which must be frustrating for him. I will encourage him to find another partner for next year, I think, and he will probably end up a Champ, as opposed to the Chumps that we were this year!

Theme next year - any army in the DBM lists that is valid for 1005. Interesting?

Monday, 22 November 2004

Foundry Paint System - first impressions

So [I bought a few sets](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000036.html) of the [Foundry Paint System](http://www.wargamesfoundry.com/paint/index.asp) paints and promised to do a review on them once I had used them. A promise is a promise, so here's my first impressions after using the paints.

In short, I like them, more than I thought I would. It's not that they are significantly better than [Vallejo](http://www.acrylicosvallejo.com) (my preferred paint until now) simply as paints - they certainly are not the better of Vallejo in areas like coverage, pigmentation or ease of application. In fact, in many of these areas, I would prefer Vallejo over Foundry. As paints _tout court_, the Foundry paints are good, but they are not significantly better than anybody else.

What I do like about the Foundry Paint System is what makes it a _System_, no matter the slightly presumptuous sound that may have. It's the fact that the paints come in sets of three -- shade, base colour and highlight -- that makes this line of paint so good. Despite the advantages of mixing the highlight colours from the base colour I [stated earlier](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000007.html), it remains a somewhat hit-and-miss affair, which you no longer have with the FPS. This is reason enough for me to gradually make the switch to the Foundry Paint System: you always have your highlight colour available, even if it is a colour someone else chose for you. And it is the highlight colour that goes a long way to making or breaking a three-layer paint job.

Additionally, just painting with the paints and seeing them face-to-pigment has taught me something which I had not appreciated before: the shade colours are actually fairly light in value, corresponding more or less to the lightness of the base colours I am accustomed to use. Part of what makes a Foundry three layer paint job look the way it does is just that: the shade colour is already fairly light, which brings about a good contrast between it and the black prime coat (black priming becomes essential for this). I had not appreciated this before, but I can already see me migrating towards this style a bit more (which will be automatic with the FPS anyway).

In short, if anyone is looking for a Christmas present for me, pallettes 3, 4 and 10 are next on my list :).

Thursday, 18 November 2004

Old West Mexican

Old West Mexcian 1

Old West Mexcian 1,
originally uploaded by robartesm.

This is as much a test of the Flickr post-to-blog gizmo as anything else, but anyway. The figure you should see pictured on the left here is one of the first ones I painted with some of the Foundry Paint System paints I bought at Crisis. His jacket (both green and yellow colours) and the red shirt have been painted with the Foundry colors. The trousers are Vallejo, but I really went to town with power highlighting on them to match the Foundry highlights.

Overall, I think it worked out quite well. Any reactions?

Sunday, 14 November 2004

Blitzkrieg Commander

Some time ago, [I mentioned](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000028.html) having bought [Blitzkrieg Commander](http://www.wargamesdirectory.com/html/bkc/default.asp), one of a new crop of WWII wargame rules (the remarkable recent explosion of rulesets in this period will probably form the subject of another post). I have now read (most of) them and will share some of my thoughts, unencumbered by any actual experience in playing any games with the rules (so a pinch or other handily sized portion of salt might be in order).

### Pedigree ###

First off, it seems that the rules are based, at least in some limited way, on the [Warmaster](http://www.warmaster.co.uk) rules, which are considered by many to be the most 'developed' wargames rules from [Games Workshop](http://uk.games-workshop.com). I have not read or played these rules, so I cannot comment on this. If someone is reading this that by any chance has played both rule systems, feel free to comment as to their similarity (or lack thereof, as the case may be).

### Command & control system ###

Blitzkrieg Commander has an interesting command & control system: each army has a number of commanders of varying capacity (expressed as a number between 1 and 12, not coincidentally the range one can roll on 2D6). To enable units under command of that commander to do something, the commander needs to roll equal to or lower than his command score. If unsuccessful, that commander is done for that turn. If the command roll is successful, the units execute their action (moving, firing, whatever) _and the commander can continue to issue orders_, with a -1 modifier to the command roll per extra successful order.

This last thing is what makes the command & control system so interesting: you can continue to issue orders with a commander, as long as you keep succeeding the ever more difficult command rolls. With a decent commander, this means that you can _probably_ get in multiple orders, but you're not sure. This means that players should prioritise their actions and do the most important ones first, which I think is quite realistic (not that I have any relevant real life experience). From experience with other systems like this, I find that this gives a tense and exciting game, which can only be applauded.

### Combat ###

The combat system of Blitzkrieg commander is unified across different types of combat: whether close combat, direct or indirect fire is executed, the same system of resolving the combats is used. This is good. What is worse, is that the system that is used seems a little top heavy.

To hit someone, you roll a number of D6 equal to the attack value of the firer, where the ones above a certain target number -- depending on cover and with a very small number of modifiers -- are hits. The target then rolls saving throws for these hits (mostly only armoured targets have saving throws). The hits that are not saved are then actual hits, which need to be recorded or indicated near the target (by means of chits or a small die or such). Each unit has a number of hit points, and if it has received that many hits, it is wiped out. If a shot does not wipe out a unit, it can suppres or recoil that unit. That is determined by rolling a number of D6 equal to the number of hits scored and trying to roll the to hit number again. Any 'hits' result in suppression or recoil if the target was already suppressed. If rolling for a recoil, the total number of pips rolled is the distance the target unit will recoil.

As you can see, that's lots of dice rolling. I do not have a problem with buckets of dice style games (I like [WAB](http://www.warhammer-historical.com) for example), but this system adds some complications on top of that. While in WAB, you just roll to hit, reroll the hits to wound, and reroll those to save. In this system, the basic flow is similar, but there are added complications when suppressing and especially when recoiling, which I suspect will slow down combat resolution a bit. Add to this the need for bookkeeping and I think the system might be a bit top heavy. That said, I have not played any games with the rules yet, so I might well be wrong.

That's about it for this mini-review. I think I will have to play a game with the rules to get a better feel for them, and to see whether the cringing feeling I get when looking at the combat system is correct or not. Exciting, is it not?

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Participation Game

Here's a design document for a new style of particpation game. Any comments are welcome.

Download file

Miniature photography - part 2: camera settings

After the [previous entry](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000035.html) discussing lighting, this entry will focus (ahem) on the camera settings I use to do miniature photography.

### Focus ###

The entire purpose of photographing miniatures is to be able to see them clearly, so an in focus, sharp shot is mandatory. Most cameras have a decent autofocus that should be able to focus on the miniature easily, especially if it is well lit and there are no distractions for the camera (i.e. put the miniature in front of a uniform background so the camera has no troubles deciding what it should focus on). However, the rub usually lies in trying to get close enough to the figure to get a decent frame filling shot -- for this you need a _macro_ lens or setting on your camera.

What this does, is enable the camera to focus much closer to the lens than usual. With the macro setting on [my camera](http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/cameraDetail.php?cam=506), I usually can get to within 7-8 cm of the figure, which for a 25mm figure results in a shot that is just slightly smaller than the frame, so that's OK. I have recently [read](http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/cameraDetail.php?cam=506) (and verified) that my camera can support an external macro lens wich has a shorter focal lenght and will allow me to get even closer, so I might look into that and modify my Christmas wishlist a bit :)

A further important point focus wise is _depth of focus_. A camera focuses on a point at a certain distance from the lens, and has an area around that point where it focuses -- this is the depth of focus. For a miniature, bad depth of focus might mean that the face of a miniature is in focus, while the back of a hat, or a forward pointing arm is not. It is important to get a good depth of focus to make sure the entire miniature is in focus (for a shot where I got this wrong, see [this photograph](http://www.flickr.com/photos/robartes/1288936/) ). This is done by reducing the aperture of the camera: the smaller the aperture (the physical opening through which light enters the camera body), the better the depth of focus. Which brings us nicely to the next point.

### Aperture ###

As mentioned above, a good depth of focus is essential for photographing miniatures. The way to achieve this with consumer level cameras is to manipulate the _aperture_ settings of the camera. This, of course, assumes that your camera comes with a way to override the automatic aperture settings (on my camera, this is called _Av_ or _aperture priority_ mode), or that you have a SLR where you can set the aperture on the lens (the camera then selects an appropriate exposure time).

If you can do this, the rule is simple: smaller aperture means greater depth of focus. The smaller the aperture, the more of your miniature will be in focus. So should we simply set the aperture as small as possible? Not really, as a small aperture also means that less light will enter the camera (logically), so the camera will select longer exposure times, which come with their own set of problems (stabilisation, see further on). So, you need to compromise -- I usually take my photographs with an F-stop of 9.8 or so, leading to exposure times of about a quarter of a second, so I do need some extra tricks to get a stable image.

### White balance ###

Take a painted miniature, or even a piece of coloured paper, and look at it in daylight, under fluorescent light and in the light of a standard incandescant light bulb. You will notice that the colours will look different under these different lighting conditions. This is because every light source has a certain 'temperature', which reflects the distribution of colors it has in it (it is called a 'temperature' because it is linked to the radiation of a perfect black body at a certain temperature - if light has the same color distribution as a black body of temperature X, it is said to have a color temperature of X. X is usually in the high thousands, BTW). Because different sources of light have different colors in them at varying amounts, they show other colours in biased ways (as color in a miniature is determined by reflection of incipient light, the color percieved is dependent upon the color of that incipient light).

For a camera to correctly show the colors of a miniature, it needs to be told about the color temperature of the light illuminating the miniature. This is done through the _white balance_ setting. In conventional cameras, this is done using filters and special attachment, but most digital cameras have facilities on board to correct the colors on the fly. Most cameras have a few preprogrammed white balance settings (e.g. fluorescent light, incandescent light, daylight...), and if you're lucky, as I am, your camera allows you to manually set the white balance. In my case, I simply have to take a quick snapshot of a white object (I use the paper backdrop I put miniatures against) under the same light, and the camera adjusts its white balance from that. Easy.

If your camera does not have a manual white balance setting, you'll have to experiment with the automatic settings to get a good result. Of course, if your camera does not have a way of specifying a white balance, you'll just have to go with what you get, and possibly do some image manipulation later (that's part 3 of this article series).

### ISO ###

Traditional photography films have an ISO rating, which reflects the coarseness of the silver halide grains on the substrate (can you tell I have a chemical background?). The standard ISO ratings are ISO 100, 200 and 400. The higher the ISO rating, the bigger the grains and the more light sensitive the film is. Unfortunately, high ISO ratings naturally also mean more grainier photographs, so as usual it's a case of balancing pros and cons.

For a digital camera, ISO ratings make no sense (as they do not use films), but most of them do provide an ISO rating, which simply reflects the voltage set across the CCD to increase light sensitivity. High ISO ratings in this case have the same effect as with films: better light sensitivity but noisier photographs (more voltage means more noise). For this reason, I always set my camera to use the lowest possible ISO rating (100). You will need more light and longer exposure times, though.

### Light ###

Did we not talk about this already? [Yes we did](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000035.html), but let's now quickly go over the ways to increase the cameras light sensitivity, most of which we've already covered. First off, there's aperture and exposure time. Bigger apertures and longer exposure times lead to better light sensitivity, but have their problems as well: loss of depth of focus and increased need for camera stabilisation, respectively. On some cameras, you can also deliberately over (or under) expose a photograph. I usually do this to a certain extent, but too much will lead to extra noise in the photograph. Finally, you can also increase the ISO setting, as mentioned above, but that introduces more noise as well.

So, as with most, all of these have their checks and balances, so it's a question of doing some experimenting and seeing what works best (and providing enough light in the first place, of course).

### Camera stabilisation ###

As you take pictures in low light and/or with longer exposure times, you will get into the region where moving the camera while taking the picture will blur the picture (this is from about 1/30s exposure times or so), which is not good. Unfortunately, I regularly find myself taking photographs of miniatures with exposure times of quarter seconds, half seconds or even longer. For this, good stabilisation of the camera is an absolute necessity.

The holy grail of stabilisation is a tripod, of course, but I don't have one of those yet (it's on my wishlist :) ), so I use another common trick. I put the camera on a flat stable surface (read -- the kitchen table) and use its timed shot feature, where it takes a picture ten seconds after you've pressed the button. This is intended for photographs where the photographer wants to be on as well, but it works very well for taking long exposure photos, as your shaking hands are not on the camera and there's no button push to move the camera when taking the shot.

Whew, that's it for this installment. The next one will be the final one and talk about what you can do with an image manipulation program to increase the quality of your pictures.

* [Part 1 - Lighting](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000035.html)
* [Part 2 - Camera settings](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000038.html) -- You are here
* [Part 3 - Post processing](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000054.html)
* [Part 4 - Stage setup](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000132.html)

Monday, 8 November 2004

Prussian empire - Flashpoint Holstein

Holstein is a small border town in Platteland. It is a market town, attracting the local farmers who come to sell their cabbages and pigs. It appears to be of little strategic importance, but has a political interest as a former Prussian town, grabbed (liberated) by the Plattelanders during the great religious conflicts of the 17th Century. Its remote location and small population have made it a quiet and safe location. Until now.

The Prussian airforce has airlifted two battalions of troops to the region. They surprised and easily overcame local defences and have seized the town. Armoured reinforcements are on the way from the nearby Prussian barracks of Woi.

In response, the Platteland Government has sent its second brigade of infantry plus a regiment of armoured cars, who were stationed near Binnenland, to the conflict zone.

On both sides, there is now evidence of general mobilisation.

What will happen?

Options for the Prussians

- withdraw

- dig in and defend, limiting incursions to Holstein

- take offensive actions, eg bombing of roads and brdges, reinforcing with armour, send U-boats to Zuidhafn

- start to negotiate

Options for the Plattelanders

- concede Holstein

- take counter measures, eg against Wocht or border stations

- pitched battle for Holstein

- negotiate

- call on Albion or Rusland for help

Crisis 2004 - my thoughts

Another year, another [Crisis](http://users.skynet.be/tinsoldiers/html/crisis04_titelblad.htm) has passed. First off - thanks to everyone at [TSA](http://www.tsoa.be) involved in the organisation for putting up this great show (and, more importantly, suffering our presence each year :). Great work guys!

On to the personal bit. [We](/snv) took a rehash of our [Zeebrugge](/snv/zeebrugge/zeebrugge.html) game, using the same terrain but setting it during a fictional [Operation SHIELD FRIENDLY](/snv/documents/osf_web.pdf) in August 1944. The game was well received (although I think we spent less effort this year evangelicising it) but, as predicted, did not win any prizes (I would have been quite amazed had it done so). As to the result, the Germans easily beat off the British assault, leading to the safe escape of the submarine prototype.

Personally, I had entered this figure in the painting competition, in the single historical miniature category:

![Celtic chieftain](/snv/ttm/pics/celtic_chieftain.jpg)

I thought the paintjob on this figure to be pretty good (considering I only spent around 4 hours on it, base included), but my hopes flagged when I went to check out the competition. Luckily, it did not turn out that bad at all, as I got two bronze medals (one in category, one for Celtic figures -- although there probably only were three Celtic figures :) ) for it. According to Willie, this year's scoring of the competition was very tough (there were only two gold medals in the entire competition), so I'm quite chuffed with this achievement. The figure will make a perfect general for my Celtic army for our upcoming WAB escalation campaign.

Purchase wise, I got four sets of [Foundry](http://www.wargamesfoundry.com) [Paint System](http://www.wargamesfoundry.com/paint/index.asp): the black and white, some reds, some yellows and some greens. I'm quite curious as to whether I'll like painting with these (I know the paints themselves will be pretty good, given that they are produced by the same firm that produces the Coat d' Arms series as well as the old [GW](http://uk.games-workshop.com) paints, and that the Foundry apparently has had them put in quite a lot of pigment), and I'll report my findings here once I have painted up a few figures with them. My second purchase was in the bring & buy, where I picked up almost 100 of the now out of production Goedendag Miniatures Flemish Communal infantry. They do seem to be a bit of a bother to assemble, as they consist of seperate torsos, arms, weapons and heads, but knowing my current style of building units, I'd probably have converted most of them anyway (head swaps etc), so this will give me more freedom to do so (famous last words). They will form the infantry arm (about four units or so) of a future Flemish 14th Century army.

Now on to the rest of the convention. My general impression was that the overall level of the convention was better than last year. There was certainly more lighting, the catering problems had been cleverly solved by providing discount tickets for the nearby [Quick](http://www.quick.be) (although there apparently was quite a spectacle to be seen in a competing sandwichbar) and attendance seemed to be up. I did feel that the general level of the games presented had levelled off a bit (to some fault of our own of course, as we were taking an 'old' game). Over the last couple of years, the number of 'wow' games has risen steadily, but I thought that this year, that number has stabilised a bit (at least not risen anymore).

That said, there were some beautiful games around. TSA had done a rendition of the assault of the Evil forces on Osgiliath, built entirely in Hirst's Arts blocks, that was pretty popular with visitors throughout the day. Peter & Petra Schulein of [Murphy's Heroes](http://www.murphysheroes.nl) presented _A hot day in June_, a beautiful 6mm version of a 1967 or so battle in the Egyptian / Israeli desert. Going right along, the [Dortmund Amateur Wargamers](http://www.multimania.com/daw) presented an exquisitely done game on Operation Felix, the planned but never executed German assault on Gibraltar in 1941. This game featured their trademark well crafted and finely detailed terrain and troops, and deservedly won Best Presented Wargame (again).

On a side note, this might say something about the state of wargaming in Belgium: on Belgium's premier wargames show, only two Belgian clubs have ever won Best Presented Wargame, all of the other awards going to German or Dutch clubs. Should we be worried about this? Comments, please. It was heart warming, though, to see [Stipsiczs Hussars](http://www.wargames-central.com) win the new prize for Best Participation Game, after years of staying under the radar. Well done, Fons & Marcel!

Les Chemins de Feu presented a well modelled game on the Russo-Finnish winter war, featuring some very realistic icy lakes and snow. This game excelled in the surrounding paraphernalia as well, having a few (original?) period weapons along, and continually displaying a Norwegian-Finnish DVD on the war, among other things.

Finally, [THS](http://www.ths-wargames.de/), a German club, presented Phil's dream -- a full size 25mm game on the Boxer Rebellion, featuring the city wall and what looked like most or all of the Legation Quarter in Beijing.

That's about it for this installment. I'll put up some photos of the convention fairly soon(ish).

Wednesday, 3 November 2004

Miniature photography - part 1: lighting

One of the things that crops up regularly on various miniature painting related sites and mailing lists, is the issue of photographing the little buggers. I am certainly no Duncan Macfarlane (editor of Wargames Illustrator, and professional miniatures photographer), but this entry explains how I take the pictures you see in the sidebar -- perhaps someone will find it useful. While typing up this entry, I realised that it is going to be quite long, so I am splitting it up in various sections. This section deals with what camera I use and the most important thing about miniature photography, lighting.

First off, my camera is a [HP Photosmart 945](http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/cameraDetail.php?cam=506) [digital camera](http://www.dcresource.com), but any camera, digital or analog, with a number of features which I explain below will do. Also, my camera is a 5 megapixel one but you do not need nearly that much resolution to take photograps of miniatures you want to display on a web page. In fact, I can't even use the full 5 megapixels, as the fixed lens on the camera cannot focus close enough to allow the miniature to fill the frame and thus use the full resolution. In this case, bigger is not better.

The most important part about taking pictures of miniatures is lighting. There can never be enough light on your miniature. The reason why is basically twofold. On the one hand, you need the light to show detail, quite simply. Without adequate lighting, the figure becomes a shady, undetailed ghost of itself. You can try to beef up the lightness of the picture in an image editing program afterwards, but that is usually quite unsatisfying, as your original picture does not have enough dynamic range (different values of "lightness") to work with (and, to quote a certain Mr. Baggins of Bag End, near Hobbiton, the Shire, extending this small dynamic range is like spreading butter over too much bread). So make sure that you have enough lighting to begin with.

The second reason you need lots of light is because of the tricks we're going to use when photographing the miniature (notably setting a low ISO value and choosing a minuscule aperture), which all require more light than normal to hit the camera.

I usually use a deskside light with a daylight bulb (by which I paint as well) immediately above the miniature, with occasionally a flashlight (with a white cloth across the buisness end to diffuse the light) for extra spot lighting. However, in most cases, that is usually not enough light, so I have to _massage_ the photos afterward in an image editing program, which as said leads to mixed results. When I have my wargame room in the new house set up, I'll include a small stage for miniature photography with some extra lighting, but for now, I'll continue the way I'm working at the moment.

BTW, do not use the camera's built in flash. It does provide enough light, but it does not lead to good results. It usually leads to overexposed highlights, which takes quite some work to correct afterwards (the dynamic range is skewed to one side). Also, with a builtin flash as my camera has, it is impossible to avoid quite stark shadows as evident in the picture below. To give you an idea, The composite picture below show a miniature I photographed with flash (left) and with other lighting (right). Note that the blueish tint of the flash photographed miniature is an artifact, as the white balance of the camera was set to the value for the other lighting -- the blue tint is not inherent to flash photography. Also note that the photo on the right could use more light -- this was one of the very first miniature pics I took, so I was (and still am) still learning.

![Flash vs no flash](/snv/ttm/pics/flash_nonflash_comparison.jpg)

That's it for part 1. Next up will be some specific camera settings (ISO value, aperture, focus, white balance) I use, and why.

* [Part 1 - Lighting](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000035.html) -- You are here
* [Part 2 - Camera settings](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000038.html)
* [Part 3 - Post processing](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000054.html)
* [Part 4 - Stage setup](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000132.html)