Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Battle for Rohtang Pass

In the sequence of 'Schild en Vriend' revival games, the May game (after WW1 in December, Lowenheim in January, WW1 in March, Memoir44 in April) was a 25mm fantasy battle using the Te Wapen rules ( ).

Four players were present: Maarten, Alan, Eddy and myself. Eddy was so kind to provide us with an after action report:

Just a small AAR on last night�s game The Punitive Expedition into the Orc
homelands after the successful raising of the siege of L�heim. As fate
would have it Alan and me would be playing the brave humans, Maarten and
Phil playing the ugly, cowardly bad guys so it seemed that the God of Dice
was for once going to play fair tonight.

It would be a classical medieval/fantasy battle and Phil re-assured us that
�There would be no suprises�. At that point in time we should have realized
anything Phil says has the believability of a press statement by Mohammed
�There are no Americans in Bagdad� Saeed al-Sahaf but that would become
painfully clear in the game ahead.

So we split-up our army into 3 sections to be able to navigate the 3
mountain passes leading up to the Orc plain � and presto, suddenly archers
appeared out of nowhere to pepper our trapped troops with deadly arrows from
the safety of the mountains. �Well, you can�t call that a surprise, can you
- you�re moving through mountain passes, what did you expect ?� was the
only comment from Phil so we knew that there would be other trouble ahead.

Those archers had cost us two units, both of them ranged units (blunderbuss
and archers) and managed to delay our approach considerably so while the Orc
army was happily setting up a battleline only our cavalry had managed to
extricate themselves from the mountain passes and form-up in a line. There
they would wait a couple of turns for the infantry to catch-up and cover
their flank.

As our cavalry was on the left, and the Orc cavalry / wargs was on the right
a gigantic cavalry clash was clearly going to happen so it would be
important to get the first charge in. Through some cunning play (read :
luck) it were the humans who got to launch their charge first. And what a
charge it was � virtually annihilating the Orc cavalry but then it dawned on
us that it had all been a gigantic trap as the deadly card of �Judgement
Day� was used on our troops � twice - This had the effect of removing just
as much figures from our units as we had killed in that charge. 2 heavy
cavalry units got wiped-out, with a third just hanging on and our most
powerfull unit � the Red Dragon � frozen in place. It was a disaster from
which the left flank would never recover. Gone was the tactical plan to
occupy the enemy burial mound.

So with our left flank gone, our right flank still hopelessly stuck in the
mountains and out of the game, our only hope lay in the centre where we had
a local superiority as the Orc army had concentrated too many of their units
on their right flank to counter our cavalry. But the God of Dice hadn�t
abandoned us : Maarten and Phil were getting low dice while even our
long-shot totally-against-the-odds attacks managed to kill some enemy units
so the unit kill tally was slowly turning into our favour. With one unit
killed equaling 1 VP we were even ahead by 1 point throughout the middle of
the game though we didn�t control any of the victory locations worth 2 VP�s.
It was getting late so at that point Phil declared that since neither army
was likely to fulfill their victory conditions a �moral victory� would be
given to the first army to reach 10 VP�s. It was 7-6 in our favour at that
moment so a desperate struggle in the center ensued with both sides going
for kills regardless of the consequences. The Orcs were up first killing 3
of our units so it was 7-9 and they were only 1 VP removed from victory, but
in our next turn the last cavalry unit coupled with a wizard�s fireball
attack and even a regular infantry attack (the only one in the game IIRC,
all the rest being ranged, cavalry or magical) managed to kill an orc unit
and in a stroke of genius Alan also managed to occupy the central victory
location stone which netted us an additional 2 VP�s : 10-9 � we had �won�,
but given the carnage all around us, we would have settled for a draw

Aftermath :

As this was a card-driven game with activation, attack bonus and opponent
counter-cards we had to use-up all our cards to get out of those bloody (in
both senses of the word) mountains and out into the plain while the Orc army
had had a chance to accumulate some deadly counter-cards which they used to
good effect. I don�t think we ever used either a bonus card or a
counter-card throughout the game which is fine as it means the system is
flexible enough to cope with different situations and strategies.

I should have brought along my digital camera (and I will next time) as the
table looked spectacular. For those who were there here�s what I would have
taken pictures off : the Orc army lining up beautifully in the center of the
table, the total confusion in the mountain passes following the ambush, the
human heavy cavalry drawn up for battle on the hill and the charge downhill
and the scenes of Armageddon in the centre as both armies just battered each
other to pulp.

Sunday, 7 May 2006

Hyperborea - latest

We've just completed the first full turn of my new Ancients campaign. We had an interesting if cautious first round, with some players sending in five pages of orders and others being rather minimalist - neither is a criticism, but it was interesting to see the different approaches.

The latest events are summarised in the second edition of the game newspaper.

Processing the orders was fun, basically I look at the game situation, the explanation of the player, the likelihood that it will succeed anfd then I roll a % dice. The higher it is the better it will succeed. Suffice to say I had the usual range of massive successes and pathetic failures but the result is a story that develops.

For those who want the background, you can see this in previous posts on this blog.

For the next turn, we have a Peace Council, which is Phil's idea and something unusual (unique?) for a wargames campaign. It promises to be interesting, so watch out for a full report here.

In the meantime, here is an annotated map showing what is going on.

hyperborea - turn 1

Originally uploaded by ahuyton.


Saturday, 6 May 2006

Foundry Dallimore painting book

Having been painting for years in what is now generally accepted to be the _Foundry style_, as 'invented' and pioneered by the illustrious Kevin Dallimore, I was very interested to see that Foundry had a book planned written by Dallimore about his, or the Foundry's, painting style. Of course, there's a gap the size of a healthy [narwhal]( between Foundry _planning_ to release a book, and actually releasing it (just look at what they did / are doing to the late Terry Gore _Ancient Warfare_ and _Medieval Warfare_ rules), so it took quite a while for the book to actually appear. However, I ordered a copy once it became available on the [Foundry site](

I had high hopes for this book, but I came away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is of course the ultimate in what is often referred to as 'wargames porn', i.e. lots of pictures of truly amazingly painted figures, the likes of which are hardly ever seen in real life (another parallel there). If you want to ogle at hundreds of exquisitely painted figures and vehicles, this book is your ticket to nirvana.

On the other hand, I had hoped that Mr. Dallimore would have explained his technique a bit more. Now, there are of course lots of step by step photographs of miniatures being painted in his style, which illustrate the basic 'three layer' concept quite clearly, but face it - the basic three layer concept is exceedingly easy to grasp: you put three layers of paint on and you're done. You do not need seventeen step by step photo series to get that.

What I would have liked to see, and did not find in the book, is the two things that make or break a three layer paint job: colour choice and topography of the paint job. Or in plain English: what colours to use (in terms of value and chroma difference between the three colour layers) and where to put them. That is never explained, possibly because it is very difficult to explain.

The colour choice (not the colour balance of the entire figure, but the amount of difference between the three layers) is more or less implied by the book's use of the Foundry Paint System colours. The assumption is that as Dallimore has designed the colours himself, they represent the 'correct' colours to use. For example, as I have [remarked earlier](, the shade colour is already quite light, a fact that I had not appreciated before. In effect, my 'three' layer paint jobs are mostly two layer paint jobs, as my shade is usually so dark as to be indistinguishable from the black base coat once the highlights are applied. This is probably the reason why the shade colour in the Foundry Paint System is so light, and presumably why Mr. Dallimore formulated it that way. However, none of this is mentioned explicitely in the book, which is something I had expected.

The second point, where to put highlights and how much of the underlying layer to cover, is also not explicited anywhere. You can infer some of this from the step by step pictures, but again it is never stated (beyond the occasional tantalizingly short remark).

Now, perhaps I expected too much from this, and indeed the two areas that left me wanting are very difficult to explain, but I had expected a bit more. Too bad.

What I did pick up from the book is what colours to use in an intentional two layer paint job. I have been using two layer paint jobs increasingly on figures (see, for example the latest bunch of [Celts]( whose skins are simple two layer jobs) but have been struggling with getting them to 'pop' as much as a three layer job, mostly by not knowing which colours to use as the two colours in question. The book's section on two layer paint jobs, in concord with some areas in the rest of the book have helped me in deciding this - skip the highlight colour and treat the shade as 'mid' colour, i.e. leave fairly noticeable areas of black.

That's it for me - mixed feelings for the book. I've lent the book to Alan, so I'm curious as to what he thinks of it (Alan, that's your cue :) )

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Lighting redux

In my [first article]( in the miniature photography series, I talked about lighting. The gist of the article is that lighting is very important and that you cannot get enough of it.

I have been struggling to get enough light on my miniatures with the desk lamps I'm currently using to paint by, but never quite succeeded in doing so. The photographs turn out OK, but you can still see evidence of uneven lighting on most photos, as well as some blatantly underlit photographs, as in this Viking:

Viking character 1

(if you don't see what I mean, click on the photo and select the largest picture on the 'All sizes' page).

This weekend, however, I found the perfect recipe - no more underlit or unevenly lit figures - just use sunlight! The last four pictures of miniatures I took are done in simple daylight, with no extra lighting added (though, admittedly, with long exposure times), and they are just perfect (lighting wise, that is). Check out this dwarf (who, incidentally, will go up on Ebay soon):

Dwarven artillerist 2

This pic was taken with the dwarf sitting on my living room table in normal, indirect, sunlight (not direct sunlight to avoid hard shadows). Nothing more was done with the picture except to snip away the background and replace it with a white page.

Of course, as I take most of my pictures at night after having just painted them, I might have to rethink my photo taking strategy :)