Thursday, 30 December 2004

Phil's History, Part 3

As mentioned in my previous posts on the subject (you can read part 1 and part 2 ), around 1984 I finally discovered fantasy games, in the guise of Warhammer 1st edition.

Fall of 1984 was also the year I enrolled as a freshman at the university (after some gruelling entry exams to get into the School of Engineering, oh, the memories of that event ;-)), so it meant I was ready for new things, and that meant fantasy roleplaying! It happened that that year, a Dutch FRP game was published, "Oog Des Meesters", a translation from the German "Das Schwarze Auge". D&D at the time was something I had heard about, but never had seen myself, so a Dutch roleplaying game was definitely a big sensation for my club of gaming friends.

During my years at the university I mostly played fantasy, not only roleplaying, but also miniature fantasy battles. By 1987 or so, GW had published their 3rd edition of Warhammer, and it was this version we were most addicted to. Warhammer 40K also was published during that period, and I slowly but surely was turning into a GW fanboy. I also bought my first blister pack of miniatures then, "Undead Orcs" from Grenadiers (I bought them in Rudi Geudens' shop). Those 3 skeletal Orcs are still part of my undead miniature army, and occupy a base of 4 figures, the 4th figure being a skeleton painted by Bart Vetters, which he donated to me because he "wasn't into fantasy".

In 1988 I met a couple of other gaming addicts in Leuven, which meant even more gaming! We quickly formed a gaming group, and the core of this group basically is still the same group of people I play many games with today. Anyway, I was much impressed by these guys, because they actually went to London to buy GW stuff! So quickly, I joined them on shopping sprees towards London, leaving with a small backpack, and returning with a kitbbag full of orders for the home crowd. This might look pretty silly now, but apart from the "Tin Soldier" in Sint-Niklaas (run by renowned veteran wargamer Rudi Geudens, Hi Rudi!, full story of the shop and a piece of Belgian wargaming history here), there wasn't really any gaming shop known to us, and London was the place to be to get all the newest roleplaying games, miniatures, accessories, etc.

That same year (1988), there was also a (first?) fantasy gaming convention run in Antwerp by Peter T'Sas, who was then just starting his shop in Antwerp "The Lonely Mountain". It was memorable for another reason, because at that convention, "Schimmen & Schaduwen", another Dutch roleplaying game, was first presented to the public. I wasn't involved in the development of S&S at that point, but three Leuven gamers were, under the name of "The Wise Tree". S&S was very much inspired by Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but since it was the first effort in Belgium for a Dutch FRP after OdM, it created a bit of a stir.

In any case, those were exciting times for me. I still don't know whether it was because gaming started to grow big in Belgium, and we were in the middle of it and experiencing it all, or whether gaming had been there all along, and we were just discovering it.

First playtest of "Te Wapen" report

As mentioned in an earlier post, I'm developing some fantasy rules for quick and easy battles. The system is based on the Battlecry / Memoir44 engine, but of course, with the necessary fantasy flavour thrown in.

Bart Vetters, Vincent Mattelaer, and myself gathered in my gaming attic (which also saw the first game happening there), around my knee-height gaming table. I did prepare 2 scenarios from a wargame scenario book. The first one was a classic 'hold the ridge' attack and defence scenario, while the second was a break-out scenario. We also played a third battle, which was more an encounter-type battle.

We used the rules as I had written them up, but the game produced a few comments and thoughts on how to tweak the system. An updated document of the current rules can be found here.

One of the things we noticed is that the BC/M44 system is very much tuned towards ranged combat. Troops run around, seek a good spot, and try to fire on the enemy. In fantasy (or ancients for that matter), the emphasis is much more on close combat, and you sort of expect the 'frontline' to remain somewhat intact, at least during the intial stages of the battle. Instead, the games had a significant skirmish feel to them. Troops could run around, attacking foes on the side, or sometimes in the back. This is not a bad thing, but at least for me, it didn't quit satisfy me. The rules so far have no concept of flanks or rears for individual units, so a 'clever' charge in someone's rear does not give you any bonuses. This could be solved by giving the troops an orientation, but then it was felt this would overcomplicate an otherwise elegant and simple ruleset.

Skirmish games are not bad of course, but my hope is still to come up with a ruleset that can recreate in feeling and visual appeal famous fantasy battles such as Pellenor Fields or the Siege of Minas Tirith. I have a strong feeling it can be done with this engine, but some more playtests are necessary.

Bart took some pictures of the table, so I expect they will be available soon.


Foundry antics

[The Miniatures Page](http://theminiaturespage.com) [announced](http://theminiaturespage.com/news/797893/) the imminent release of the [Foundry](http://www.wargamesfoundry.com) Medieval Warfare rules the other day.

For those of you that are not versed in the wily ways of wargame rules, Medieval Warfare is a ruleset produced by Terry L. Gore, of [Saga](http://www.saga-publishing.com/), who among other things produce the excellent Saga magazine on medieval and dark age (or early medieval) history. Apart from Medieval Warfare, there is also Ancient Warfare, Renaissance Warfare, Victorian Warfare and a few other Warfares that have not been released yet (I even think I have a copy of Ancient Warfare in my rules bookshelf somewhere - I'll have to check). For the last couple of years (at least), the Foundry has apparently had plans to publish a version of these rules, polished up with (Foundry) miniature photos, painting and modelling guides, and generally the kind of 'fluff' one also gets in publications like [WAB](http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/WABlist) (not that there is anything wrong with that).

It seems that now, after only a few years of urging by Mr. Gore, Foundry is finally gearing up to a release of the rules. And that brings me to my point (_what, already?_). A couple of years ago, it seemed that Foundry was on the way of redefining its involvement in the hobby, orienting themselves more along the line of a business rather than a hobby venture, following in the footsteps of the ten pound gorilla of the miniatures hobby, [Games Workshop](http://uk.games-workshop.com). Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, they messed it up quite a bit, loosing some of their major sculptors (the Perries, Mark Copplestone) and quite a lot of their karma with the general wargames public.

Even though their figures remain some of the best in the hobby (although with a lot less of a lead, if any, than five years ago), some of their decisions with regards to pricing and packaging of their figures, the long transitional period where it seemed that there was a different pricing structure every other day and their perceived attempt to turn Wargames Illustrated into Foundry Illustrated has set quite a lot of bad blood among the hard core of historical wargamers, to the point that until a year or so ago, almost every miniature related mailing list or forum had its regularly recurring 'Foundry bashing' thread.

The last year or two, however, has seen the Foundry returning to a more stable state. Gone are the days of regular releases of entirely new gimmick period figures (Judge Dredd, War Orcs etc) that were clearly aimed at trying to build a 'Foundry Hobby' much in the style of the 'Games Workshop hobby'. Instead, we see the rerelease of old historical ranges that had been unavailable for years (a move correcting what was probably the most questionable decision they made during their wild period) and a general refocus on their core clientèle of historical wargamers.

However, I think that their move into ruleset publishing (no matter how long delayed) indicates that they have still not given up the dream of building a 'Foundry hobby', especially if you consider the fact that they now also provide paints, brushes and generally most of the items you need to build an army.

On the one hand, I think this is a good thing: for the various hobby shops out there, historical wargaming has always been a losing venture, especially in the current days of internet shopping. There simply was no way of stocking even remotely sufficient amounts of the myriad of figure lines of even a single manufacturer to please historically inclined customers, and that's not even speaking of the incredible plethora of historical manufacturers that are supplying our side of the hobby (or habit ? :) ). When a single manufacturer starts bundling things together, it also paves the way for fringe stuff like rules starter kits and army kits including paints and brushes, which are things that I think _will_ be profitable to sell for hobby shops, and consequently will be sold and might even bring more innocent young ones into the fold of historical wargaming (insert maniacal laughter here).

On the other hand, there is the (possibly misguided) gag reflex most historical wargamers have when one thinks of the Foundry mutating into a historical Games Workshop (or even more sinister, being acquired by GW and becoming GW Historical).

I think interesting times are ahead of us. Any ideas?

Monday, 27 December 2004

Wargame elitism

[An interesting discussion](http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=34574) has started on the [message boards](http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/) over at [The Miniatures Page](http://theminaturespage.com). The author starting this thread was a bit peeved when he asked for a few quick pointers on a new period he wanted to get into and only got a holier than thou answer berating him for wanting to approach the period in such a shallow and undocumented way (the thread in which this exchange occurs about halfway through is [here](http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=34505), should you wish to verify facts for yourself). I might chip in to the conversation over at TMP, but allow me to express some of my views here.

This episode touches on two points I have given some thought to before, one related to wargaming, and one to that big 1:1 wargame that is life itself. This is essentially a difference of opinion between wargamers of different persuasions. I plan to elaborate a bit on this in a further post, but there are a myriad of ways you can subdivide wargamers, if you are so inclined. On one axis, you could divide wargamers based on the games they play, whether in general terms (fantasy, historical, ...), in terms specific game systems ([Warhammer](http://uk.games-workshop.com/warhammerworld/warhammer/warhammer.htm), [Blitzkrieg Commander](http://www.wargamesdirectory.com/html/bkc/default.asp), ...) or referring to various periods or races they play (WWII, English Civil War, Skaven, ...).

Another axis sorts wargamers into various styles of play: there are those that play wargames for the games aspect, and often do so competitively; there are those that play for the social or fun aspects of pushing tiny tin men around with a group of friends; or those that play games to deepen an understanding in military procedures or history. It is along this axis that the two antagonists in the debate referred to differ: one is interested in playing with toy soldiers, the other one enjoys historical simulations. Taken to its core, the discussion is nothing more than a simple disagreement between different factions.

Where it derails (although this is -- still -- far from the sometimes spectacular and messy flame wars that can erupt on various message boards across the Net) is that one (and quite possibly both, given the fact that the author found it necessary to start a new thread complaining) party feels the need, sincerely or spur of the moment because his cat just scratched the wallpaper, to attack the other sides' point of view instead of accepting it as merely different and building a constructive discussion. That's the second point I referred to above: we, as the species of Connected Homo Sapiens, are far too often more concerned with rabidly defending our -- often misguided at best and down right wrong and damaging at worst -- convictions and _idée fixes_ rather than accepting other ideas as possibly interesting different angles on the same thing.

To put this back onto a wargames track, my own view aligns more closely with the original poster's -- I play with toy soldiers among friends, using miniatures and terrain which also give me great enjoyment to paint and model. What's everyones take on this?





Saturday, 25 December 2004

Seasonal wishes

Let me take the stage to wish a Merry Christmas, Winter Solstice, or whatever pagan or other occasion or capitalistic spending spree you choose to celebrate at this particular date of the year to all our readers (yes, all three of you) here at [Tiny Tin Men](/snv/ttm).

So there.

For those of you with authorship on this blog, I expect a detailed breakdown of any miniature related presents you received!

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

Legends of the Old West

Continuing my tradition of [reviewing rulesets without playing them](/snv/ttm/archives/000041.html), allow me to present my thoughts on the new [Warhammer Historical](http://www.warhammer-historical.co.uk) Old West ruleset, [Legends of the Old West](http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/LOTOldWest). Only this time, I haven't even read all of the rules - I gave up halfway through. That should give you a clue about the bias in this review :)

To start with the things that I like, the book is very well presented, better than the other WH books. Each and every page in LotOW is in full colour, and the book is illustrated throughout with good photographs of miniatures illustrating the various rules and mechanics under discussion. The book also includes the now standard painting and modelling section, although in this particular book, that section seemed a bit anemic to me. So in all, good points on presentation.

Another good point is the fact that this book will undoubtebedly draw a few more gamers to the historical side of the hobby, although I'm not quite sure about that, as GW players usually seem to identify themselves with a system (_I'm a Warhammer Fantasy player_ or _I play 40K_) as opposed to a period or style of play (i.e. fantasy or sf), and for them, LotOW will be just another system, with no potential crossbreeding into the world of historical wargaming.

On to the bad points then. As I've said, I've not even managed to read all the rules, so I cannot give a balanced review on this book. I'll just mention why I could not finish reading it -- this is one gamer's opinion, not a review. There are two major reasons why I dislike LoTOW, one reasonable one and one silly one.

The silly reason is language. The book is written in English, but it is rife with expressions like _howdy pardner_, _shootin' phase_ and various other examples of stunted English. Now I'm sure that this has been done out of a misguided wish to inject a certain period feel into the language, but it grates on me terribly. Besides the fact that this form of 'Old West English' is probably a Hollywood creation (nothing wrong with that, the rules state that they want to recreate the Hollywood version of the Wild West), that slang was used in oral communication, not in written communication like a book. The fact that I am personally not a native English speaker might have something to do with this, but I have to stop reading this kind of language after a few pages of it.

The second reason I dislike the rules is their general feel. I do not mean the rules mechanisms themselves (as I cannot form a decent opinion them, not having read them all), but the atmosphere created through them. At least for me, these rules create an atmosphere where everything needs to be spelled out to the letter, and where every little thing needs to have a rule so that players can turn to the holy book and prove their right (or wrong, as the case may be). For a game like DBM, which is geared towards tournament play (or at least has warped to this purpose, having been adopted as the major tournament ancients ruleset), one expects this, but in a skirmish ruleset such as LotOW, I expect a much more laid back and relaxed attitude. Sure, the rules say that in case of a dispute, you should roll a die or draw cards to resolve the dispute, but they belie that sentiment throughout the rest of the book by painstakingly crafting rules for each and every situation imaginable (attacking a horse in HtH, anyone). In an understanding group of gamers, the kind of situations that LotOW seems to need to spell out fully, can be dealt with by consensus, and need not be written out and officialized. Again, it might be just me, but this is the atmosphere that these rules create for me.

I think that for any Old West games I'm organising, I'll stick to our trusty _Shootist_ for the time being. Nevertheless, in the spirit of open mindedness I am perfectly willing to be proven wrong (and will report so here if that is the case) should anyone invite me to a LotOW game. I'll even bring a posse.

Saturday, 18 December 2004

Black Gobbo magazine

While being generally historical wargamers, we do peek over the fence occasionally and look at the wild and wonderful world of [Games Workshop](http://uk.games-workshop.com) games. While there certainly are parts about the whole GW _spiel_ that grate on me, one thing that they do extremely well is generate enthousiasm for the hobby and all areas it encompasses. And they support it well on the Internet (which is something I find myself considering an ever more important part of what I look for in the various outfits supporting our hobby).

One of the best examples of this last is the excellent [Black Gobbo Magazine](http://us.games-workshop.com/e-zine) published regularly by [Games Workshop US](http://us.games-workshop.com). This magazine usually features articles that are interesting and useful for all kinds of wargamers, and not only GW players. Sure, their will be articles on the [Battle of Maccrage](http://macragge.uk.games-workshop.com/), which is perfectly understandable, given that it supports their latest WH40K release, but there are also many articles on the modelling and painting side of the hobby. Their [latest issue](http://us.games-workshop.com/e-zine/issues/blackgobbo-29/default.htm), for example, has an [article on large bases](http://us.games-workshop.com/games/warhammer/terrain/lg_bases/default.htm) and one rather goofily named [Stupid Hobby Tricks](http://us.games-workshop.com/games/warhammer/painting/tricks/default.htm) that nevertheless features some useful tips & tricks.

I can heartily recommend this magazine to all miniature wargamers - it has earned its place in my bookmarks list!

Wednesday, 15 December 2004

Fantasy Battlecry/Memoir 44

I mentioned before that I was working on a fantasy version of the Battlecry / Memoir 44 engine. There are various reasons for this:

1. I have a large collection of 25mm fantasy figures
2. I like the BC/M44 engine
3. The DVD release of LOTR/ROTK has stirred my interest in fantasy games.

My first attempt at writing down the rules is in the attached pdf file. It is still a very incomplete document, but any comments are welcome. I was planning to run a few games during the Xmas break. More news too follow ...

Te Wapen, Phil's 1st draft on fantasy BC/M44

Tuesday, 14 December 2004

Mes excuses, M. Napoleon

On Friday evening, Graham Number 2 (as I call him, he being the second gamer to arrive in Brussels with this name - Graham Number 1 being my dbm partner and recently married to the fiercely non-wargaming Lynn), invited me over for a little game of 'Grande Armee'.

This is a fast play Napoleonics game, apparently owing something to Volley and Bayonet, although this is not a system I know.

We played it with my 6mm figs, using a 30x30 mm base (approx 24 infantry or 8 cav) to represent a regiment. So with about 3 or 4 regiments per division, we each had about 12-16 infantry units, a cavalry unit plus about 5-6 artillery units. Each unit has strength points, between 3 and 7, which determine the number of dice to roll in combat (a 5-6 normally scoring a hit) and the number of casualties it takes before routing. A nice simple system. The interesting bit is in the command points. Each turn you roll a die to see how many command points you receive. There is a matrix and depending on the type of army (French system is better than the pre-corps system) and your leadership rating (Nappy is magnifique, mon General a ete null...) you get CPs. These are used to command your sub generals. The thing is that each turn can have up to 6 sub turns and as long as you have CPs left you can order your troops for a second, third, etc time. A die roll per phase determines the end of the turn, and it progresively becomes more likely that the turn will end.

What happened in the game? Our correspondent on the scene, M. Claude Sur L'Horizon, reports:

'Mon dieu, why you ask zees question? Les imbeciles sur le French droit attaque ze flat footy Autrichien gauche. Quel massacre! Nobody told ze French General Grandjean (Petitcon I call heem) zat ze strength points of ze French are very petits, no more zan 4 et ceux des ennemies sont very very much. Bouf! Ze droit is lost.

Sur le gauche? Aie, aie, aie. Ze Bleue Big Battery, I think you say in anglais, is mooved forward and is stop-ped and does not fire ze guns. Oh la la, ze French try ze attaque in ze centre and encore c'est la honte...'


I think I had better stop him there. You get the picture. One interesting point was that, in this 4 turn game (games limited to 3-6 turns), the first three turns ended after just one impulse. This meant that the French could not use their superior command and control to their advantage unti the last turn, and then it was a bit late. But the last turn showed what was possible, as the French centre started to knock the Austrians about a bit.

Summary - excellent game, simple rules, elegant, no messing about. I like it a lot and for an evening's bloodfest, it's perfect.

Monday, 13 December 2004

War of the Ring

Our brief states that [TTM](/snv/ttm) is a blog about miniature wargames, with the occasional other form of gaming sneaking in. This post is one of those occasional ones on other forms of gaming -- boardgaming in the case at hand (although to be fair, the game has Tiny Plastic Men. And Elephants. And Orcs. Trolls. Hobbitses. And ... oh, never mind). The game in question is [War of the Ring](http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/9609), a board game which Alan and myself have played a few times now.

WotR is a game on, amazingly, the War of the Ring in Middle Earth. It is a game that encompasses the entirety of the events in the final year of the Third Age, with both the Quest of the Fellowship to destroy the One Ring and the global war featured in the game. It features a Good and an Evil (Free Peoples and Shadow) player, controlling armies of Men, Elves, Orcs and whatnot, with the FP player simultaneously trying to move the Fellowship to Mordor to cast the Ring in the Mountain of Doom.

There are a basic four victory conditions in the game: two for each side. The FP player can either gather up 4 points worth of Shadow strongholds (e.g. Moria and Dol Guldur) or destroy the Ring. The Shadow player needs to conquer 10 points in FP strongholds (this might seem disparate, but the Shadow armies are much larger and much easier reinforced than the FP armies) or push the fellowship to 12 points in corruption, leading Frodo to claim the Ring for himself and loosing the game for the FP player. The game is driven by 'action dice' and event cards, and the tactics involve using these essentially random factors within a strategic framework (the 'master plan').

What makes the game a real hit, is a combination two factors: the razor like game balance and the sheer endlessness of different strategies to play. The game balance is very well done, with many games hingeing on the roll of a die or the drawing of a single damage chit. It is absolutely mind boggling to imagine to amount of playtesting that must have gone into making a game with so many variables teeter on so fine an edge in play balance. Very well done.

The second great point about this game is the variety. As in [Axis & Allies](http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=ah/prod/axis), you can try out a virtually infinite plethora of different strategies. As A&A, the game also has a certain chaos quality to it: given two games with the same players playing the same general strategies, the two games can differ radically, depending on a single die result or event card draw early in the game.

These two factors together make this one of the best boardgames ever, and combined with the setting amidst the epic struggles of Middle Earth this means that we will play this game for years to come.

Now let's just hope noone gets tempted to paint the playing pieces. :)

Friday, 10 December 2004

Miniature photography - part 3: post processing

After parts 1 & 2 about [lighting](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000035.html) and [camera settings](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000038.html), this final part in the miniature photography mini series will deal with post processing your pictures in a photo editing program. While some might think of editing photographs of painted miniatures in a photo editing program as cheating, I hold the opinion that as long as you only improve the _photograph_ and not the _subject_, one is still within the realm of the acceptable. So, improving the tonal range and general quality of the photograph is alright, editing away a painting mistake or blurring parts of the miniature to hide imperfections are not. Enough said on that subject.

Processing pictures in a photo editing program needs a photo editing program, obviously. I use [The Gimp](http://www.gimp.org), but other popular choices are [Adobe Photoshop](http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/main.html) and [Paint Shop Pro](http://www.jasc.com/products/paintshoppro/?). All of these three programs offer largely the same functionality but hide it away in different menus and toolboxes, under different names. As I realise that the Gimp is not the most used program out there, I'll try to keep the descriptions in this entry general and not use Gimp-specific terms so that people with other programs can find the equivalent tools in their programs. Unfortunately, that also means that this will not be a step by step tutorial, but rather more of a hazy overview - if you want a tutorial, you can do much worse that hopping over to [Cool Mini or Not](http://www.coolminiornot.com) and having a browse through the articles section (_after_ you've read this entry, of course).

To illustrate the operations described in this entry I will use a photograph of a recently painted figure of a Celtic warrior, as featured on my [Flickr Photostream](http://www.flickr.com/photos/robartes) [here](http://www.flickr.com/photos/robartes/2061940/). Throughout the article, I will illustrate the various manipulations I usually do on the photographs, starting with the original photograph straight from the camera (clicking on the thumbnail, and any thumbnail in this article, will lead you to a larger version of the stage):

The original image

This is the original image, taken against a white paper background with a single overhead light source. This photograph needs some work: obviously, the cork the figure is mounted on as well as its unpainted base need to be snipped off, and the single light source also leads to some problems, notably an uneven distribution of highlights and shadows, and some noise as a result of a general low lighting. We'll correct most of these problems in due course, starting with framing the figure through cropping.

The image cropped

This step is where you frame the miniature. It is as simple as selecting a rectangular region around the miniature and using the 'Crop image' (or some such) function - note that this is different from the regular crop function, in that it crops the image and resizes the canvas so that the image is no larger than the cropped selection. Regular cropping cuts away the remainder of the image, but leaves the image at the same size, resulting in large amounts of nothing around the cropped region. In this step, the cork is removed, but the figures' base is still present - that will be edited out further down the road.

The image despeckled

The next step I usually take is to apply a despeckling filter. This filter removes specks and grains from the image - for a digital image, these specks result from a too high ISO setting or too low light, causing image 'noise'. Not much noise was present on this particular image, but the despeckle filter did reduce the contrast at the edges of the figure a bit, notably around the spearshaft, which is nice too. The general effect of this filter is now to 'smooth' the image a bit (which is only logical, as the despeckle filter blurs some pixels, only less so than a full Gaussian Blur or some such filter).

The figure isolated from the background

In the next step, the background is deleted so that we can add a different one later. To do this, I have used the 'Magic Wand' tool, which is a tool that selects contiguous areas of similar pixels (both Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro (I think) have this tool, although possibly named differently) and is one of the most useful and magical tools in the Gimp toolbox. This is also one area where having only a single light source can bite you - a single light source means that the background has some variation in shading, not much but enough to make the magic wand tool not select it all at once. Luckily, you can easily add to a selection (in the Gimp by holding the shift key while clicking). After most of the background is selected, the freehand selection tool is used to adjust the selection a bit, and the selection is then inverted (to get the figure instead of the background), feathered (to get a border), and floated and anchored to a new layer. The original background layer is deleted, so what remains is the figure on a transparent background. Those of you _not_ using Internet Explorer will see this transparent background on the picture to the left (well, they will see their browser's background, of course), but IE does not do transparency in PNG (boo hiss), so IE users should see a grey background.

Colour tools magic

This step is where the _real_ magic happens. Althoug you would not tell on first sight, there are some problems with this photograph, mostly related to the use of a single light source: there is an uneven distribution of highlights and shadows, with the highlights at the top of the figure being almost washed out, and the lower half of the figure being generally too dark (the light source was overhead). The colours themselves are mostly fine and represent the actual colours, thanks to the setting of the white balance on the camera to match the lighting. In this step, we will correct the colours and value (lightness) distribution of the image. This is done through adjusting the 'levels' and 'curves' of the figure. Going into the detail of this would take us too far, but I basically lifted the shadows and midtones up a bit and toned down the extreme highlights, both through the curves tool, and stretched the value distribution across the full range of values using the levels tool. The result is a much improved image, I hope. I realise that this is all a bit theoretical, and might post an entry in the future with a detailed step by step rendition of this process, but for now, just saying that the curves and levels tools are among the most important in image post processing will be enough, and any aspiring miniature photographers should familiarise themselves with their use.

The final result

Finally, I add a new background by simply adding a layer below the figure layer, and filling it with a gradient from a medium grey to a light grey, with the light grey at the bottom. The resulting image is then exported to a jpg and is the final image to be published.

That's the end of this mini series on miniature photography; I hope it has been helpful to some. Finally, as with painting itself, the most important ingredients in miniature photography is practice, practice and practice. So don't be afraid to experiment - it might not look like anything but will help you improve your next pictures!

__Update__: turns out this is not the end of the series. There's a [part 4](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000132.html).

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

Tuesday, 7 December 2004

Eye candy

While [TTM](/snv/ttm) is not primarily a link blog (there are [other](http://www.miniaturewargaming.com) [sites](http://theminiaturespage.com) that do this a lot better and more comprehensively than we ever can), occasionally there is something out on the Web that attracts our attention, and we can't fail to mention it here.

This time, what caught my attention is [this gallery](http://www.wargamesfoundry.com/OLDWEST/index.htm) of [Kevin Dallimore](http://www.kevindallimore.co.uk)'s painted and often converted Old West figures. For those of you wargaming on the South Pole out of contact with the rest of civilisation, Kevin Dallimore is the British painter that pioneered the high contrast, three layer painting style that has been appropriated by [The Foundry](http://www.wargamesfoundry.com) as their house style.

Those of you familiar with my own style of painting will know that I use a similar style as the one on the models pictured on that page (although I usually stay well below that level of contrast, preferring to leave that to the professionals), but I can only ever dream of achieving a quality of colour and finish that approaches even Dallimore's least inspired works. So, everyone [go there](http://www.wargamesfoundry.com/OLDWEST/index.htm) and be amazed.

And to pile even more eye candy into the already well filled stocking, here's some links to other painters that have adopted and perfected the Dallimore style:

* [Steve Dean](http://www.steve-dean.co.uk)

* [Tom Weiss](http://www.twfigurines.de)

* [Spencer Keen](http://www.spencerkeen.com)

* [Chris Steadman](http://www.back-burner.co.uk)

And after you've looked at the best, look at my own work on my [Flickr photostream](http://www.flickr.com/photos/robartes) and compare :).

Friday, 3 December 2004

Blitzkrieg Commander: first game

After posting on WWII ruleset [Blitzkrieg Commander](http://www.wargamesdirectory.com/html/bkc/default.asp) [before](/snv/ttm/archives/000028.html) and after [reading](/snv/ttm/archives/000041.html) it, we have now played a game with these rules and have turned into instant fans.

Alan, Graham K and myself played a Low Countries 1940 game the other day, pitting a German infantry battallion reinforced with some panzer companies and the usual regimental assets against a Dutch infantry battalion with some support in a fierce battle for the village of Nergenshoven. We used the "Advance" scenario from the [Errata document](http://www.wargamesdirectory.com/downloads/bkc/BKC-Errata.pdf) on the BKC web page, which involves the attacking side (the Germans in our game) trying to methodically capture most of the table, with the defender's aim being to prevent this of course.

I am happy to say (and the author will be pleased to hear, no doubt) that the game went swimmingly and smooth - after the first couple of turns, I no longer had to give directions to the player as to the rules, since they were running the game by themselves (I was umpiring, Graham played the Germans and Alan took his Dutch out for their first outing). Many rulesets claim this feat, but this is the very first one, especially for WWII games, where I have seen this actually happening. It helped of course that both Alan and Graham are experienced WWII gamers that know their mortars from their machine guns, but it is still quite impressive to see them playing the game -- correctly -- without reference to the rules whatsoever after only a few turns of play.

The command system turned out to be a hit as well. Both players were repeatedly asking themselves whether they should try one more order with a formation, at the risk of not only failure, but also catastrophic failure. In one quite amusing incident, a company of Dutch infantry spent most of a turn shooting at shapes vaguely seen through a high corn field, which of course turned out to be other Dutch (in rules parlance, a command blunder resulted in Dutch troops getting caught in the crossfire from other Dutch troops). It did seem a bit counterintuitive at first that a CO (the highest commander on the field) cannot issue orders to troops subordinate commanders have failed to order, but it does fit in the concept of the command system that way.

And I'm pleased to say that, despite my earlier misgivings, the combat system is a true pearl. It flows very smoothly, mostly due to the fact that there is no looking up of to hit numbers, and the distinction between suppression and falling back comes naturally when playing. The combat system succeeds perfectly in its intention (as stated by the author) of not getting in the way of the players and the game. Very well done!

There's one slight niggle though: the quick reference sheets were confusing to use, at least for us. Possibly because of layout restrictions, the various sections of the QRS belonging to a certain game phase seem to be spread across both sides of the sheet, resulting in quite a bit of confused flipping. However, this is a minor niggle, as experience showed that the players knew the rules after only a few turns of play.

To sum it up, both players bought or have arranged to buy the rules after the game. Enough said, I should think. BKC is an extremely good WWII ruleset for our style of play, possibly even the best out there.

Oh yes, the outcome? History repeated itself: the Germans captured the village of Nergenshoven and fulfilled their victory conditions. Alan's Dutch, befittingly for figures on their first outing, were soundly defeated.

Wednesday, 1 December 2004

What I'm currently painting

In a comment on Alan's entry on [painting his Saxons](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000049.html), Phil mentioned what he has been painting lately. Recognising (and stealing) a fun idea when I see one, here's what's on my painting table:

* 28mm Celts - [Old Glory](http://www.oldgloryuk.com) and [Foundry](http://www.wargamesfoundry.com). These are for my [WAB](http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/WABlist) army to be used in our upcoming escalation campaign (on which details will follow later on the [club website](/snv) ).
* 28mm Sub Roman British archers - Old Glory. Just the one remaining out of a unit of ten. These are to complete my other (virtually finished) WAB army.
* 28mm Old West - Foundry, from when they were still the schizoid nephews Guernsey and Wargames Foundry. What can I say? Just the buzz surrounding [Legends of the Old West](http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/LOTOldWest) inspired me to dig some of them out of the Mountain of Lead in the cellar.
* 15mm dwarves - [Essex](http://www.essexminiatures.co.uk). The abortive attempt for a second [HoTT](http://www.btinternet.com/~alan.catherine/wargames/strong.htm) day put these on my painting table.
* 28mm Boxer Rebellion - Old Glory. I'm painting these for Phil, as a leftover of my short attempt at a painting service.
* 28mm Darkest Africa askari - Foundry. They moved on my painting table in preparation for the [Exploring the Congo](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000018.html) game, and still haven't left.

As you can see, I tend to subscribe to Phil's current opinion that variety is the spice of painting. I agree with him that not painting for projects that have to be finished quickly is much more agreeable than the hithertofore more usual deadline pushing painting marathons.

You can look at photographs of most of the finished versions of these miniatures on my [Flickr](http://www.flickr.com) [photostream](http://www.flickr.com/photos/robartes), the five most recent of which also show up in the sidebar.

Perhaps people can comment on this entry with their 'Currently painting' lists? If this catches on, I might make this a monthly recurring entry in its own category (all the easier to generate content that way :) ).