Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Surely the sky must be falling down...

... when I've stopped painting eyes on my miniatures.

Case in point is this miniature, and the ones before it in my [Flickr photostream](http://www.flickr.com/photos/robartes):

Arthurian spearman 3

As noted in the comments on one of my earlier pictures, I've finally crossed a final frontier in painting. Over the years, I've always tried to paint each and every miniature as if it was going to end up in a painting competition (and most of them eventually did), but as many a wargamer knows, if you want to actually play with your painted toy soldiers, that standard of painting is not compatible with getting lots of figures on the tabletop.

So, in order to change this, I have gradually lowered the standard of painting for my figures, starting with 15 mils, then 20 mm figures and now, finally, I have crossed the final frontier and started painting the big boys to a tabletop standard as opposed to a competition standard. This evolution is inevitable if you want to actually play with your toy soldiers, and I still think of myself more as a wargamer than as a figure painter.

First indication of this was when I, after ten years, did not enter a figure in the Crisis painting competition -- a trend that seems to be general as the organisers complained about a lack of historical subjects in the competition. This is normal, as the competition [has moved](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000134.html) towards a competition for painters, no longer for wargamers.

Now what is different about the 'tabletop' painting standard? For one, I don't paint eyes anymore. It's only a few minutes gained, but every minute counts. I also lower the number of layers to the minimum I can get a way with. On large areas, such as the above figure's cloak, I still do three layers, but the vast majority of areas get only two (e.g. the skin and trousers of the figure). Detail stuff, such as the belt get only a single layer, and I often don't even bother painting the shoes (they just get a drybrush of the color of the base over the undercoat).

Another 'trick' I use, which is nothing new of course, is to have number of figures on the go. That way, whenever I take a color, I apply it to various figures, e.g. this figure's cloak is blue, that one's trouses will be blue, and that one's tunic. This way, you get some of the benefit from an assembly line painting system without some of the disadvantages.

And does it work? Well, over the last three weeks or so, I painted over 10 figures, which is not much by some standards, but is significantly more than my previous output.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Battle of The Angle (ACW)

Yesterday we played another 'back to basics' ACW game, using floppy plastic figures and hexified Brother against Brother. The game was based on scenario n° 2 _Threat to the Flank_ from _Scenarios for all ages_ (Grant & Asquith), with the Union troops being the attacking troops in the face of Confederate resistance.

The Union troops needed to throw the Confederate forces off a hill on the way south 'before nightfall'. Said hill lay behind a river, the part of which immediately in front of the hill was fordable, while the rest was uncrossable, except by a bridge off towards the edge of the table. To accomplish their goal, the Union had sent a sizable force (2 infantry units, two cavalry squadrons and a gun battery) on a flanking march towards the bridge with the intent of outflanking the main Confederate position. Unlucky for them, a Confederate scout had detected the flanking movement and the Confederate commander had responded by sending his own detachment of 1 infantry unit, 2 cavalry squadrons and a gun battery towards the same bridge. That was the starting point of the scenario.

In our game, the Union side was played by Eddy and Phil, while Koen and Bart played the Confederates. As one of the Confederate players, I'll describe the battle from that viewpoint.

The plan

Our plan was fairly straight forward. We wanted to defend the hill slightly forward of it, behind an angled row of hedges (soon to become a Bloody Angle of our own) with an artillery battery on the hill behind it. The flanking force was to deploy its battery well forward to a spot where it was covered by woods on the flank and with a clear field of fire to the bridge. The infantry unit (the 7th Georgia) was to provide fire support on the flank of the battery, while the cavalry squadrons would charge anything crossing the bridge.

Phase 1: Union approach

The initial turns of the game saw our planned deployments developing satisfactorily: the infantry units moving up to the hedge at 'The Angle' received some long range musketry but reached the hedge more or less intact while the artillery battery on the hill inflicted some casualties on the opposing Union troops. On the flank, the artillery and infantry quickly reached their appointed positions, while the cavalry cautiously moved up to a stream on the way to the bridge.

The Union advanced fairly cautiously, making good use of intervening hedges for cover on the way to the central hill. On the flank, two Union cavalry squadrons rushed over the bridge, while their infantry attempted to infiltrate in the woods across the river from our artillery battery.

The Union artillery deserves special mention in this phase. Both batteries were virtually wiped out without firing a shot by turn 3. The battery on the Union left side (opposite the main hill and The Angle) was devestated by Confederate musketry causing 80% casualties with one volley of one infantry unit (go 1st Maryland!), while the flanking artillery attempted to set up on a hill opposite the Confederate 7th Georgia, which wiped it out of existence with two volleys. Some of the loudest cheers in the game thereafter were heard when the two remaining gunners of the hill battery managed to load their gun and let of a shot :).

Also deserving special mention was the 2nd New Jersey Infantry which, in a mad display of inspiredness, charged out of cover, across the river and up to the hedge at The Angle while the rest of the Union troops were still moves away. Amazingly, the 2nd New Jersey would survive till just before the end of the game, always being the furthest advanced northern unit in the game.

Phase 2: The crunch

All of this preparatory maneuvring led up to the crunch a few turns later. On the flank the Confederate artillery and infantry eventually redeployed to help their beleaguered colleagues near The Angle, but the real fight there was between gentlemen: the four cavalry squadrons (two on each side) got into a big swirling cavalry melee lasting a few turns. When the dust had settled, only two horsemen on each side were left standing, being out of command or retreating.

In the center, The Angle became the Bloody Angle. Union infantry moved up close and started reducing the Confederate infantry behind the hedge by fire (although they also took casualties proportionally from the return fire). When the line was weakened enough, a Union cavalry squadron charged in to break the line. It succeeded, destroying the last remaining Confederate infantry, but was itself promptly counter charged by the Confederate cavalry squadron that had been deployed behind the infantry line all game patiently waiting for this opportunity to counterattack. Add in another Union cavalry squadron and after a few turns the space behind the hedges resembles nothing less than an abattoir. Bloody Angle indeed.

Unlucky for the Union troops however, the various cavalry charges and musketry exchanges going on had knocked out all three of their officers, leading to the entire army being out of command and having to take a forced pause.

At this point, it was near midnight real time, so we decided to call it a day.


As to the result of the game, the consensus was that the Union would probably have succeeded in getting over the hill (there was by then only one full Confederate infantry unit left on the hill -- the redoubtable 1st Maryland), although given the fact that they had some reorganising to do and they were currently leaderless, they would not have succeeded 'before nightfall'. The exact definition of 'before nightfall' is not mentioned in the scenario, however, so there is some room for discussion there :)

It was a very enjoyable game, with particularly the swirling cavalry melee on the flank and the bloody fighting around the Angle 'feeling right'. I think everyone had great fun (of course, Phil's bottle of champagne before the game might have helped there). The BaB rules have proven their worth again, and with a small bit of tweaking in the cavalry hex conversion rules and a rather larger bit of tweaking in the melee rules (which can be cumbersome), they'll serve us well for many games to come.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Dude, where's my sand?

Whilst idly browsing [Ebay](http://www.ebay.co.uk) (as one does), I came across this auction:

Buy basing sand

That's right: you can buy a handful of sand. The same stuff that's outside everyone's door, in every backyard and every gutter, or that -- if you live in Alaska and it's minus seventy or so -- you can buy from your local DIY store by the 50kg bag for the same price as this auction's meagre 100 grams.

Anyway, if you're looking for sand, [look no further](http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/SALE-BASING-SAND-Wargames-Figures-Scenery-15mm-28mm-DBA_W0QQitemZ180068966955QQihZ008QQcategoryZ123863QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem). I really don't know where to start here. There is the use of a number of totally irrelevant (28mm sand, anyone?) but high scoring keywords in the auction title -- certain to be appreciated by the discerning bidder. Or the fact that one of the first lines in the description mentions 'over inflated prices' at hobby stores -- probably as opposed to merely inflated on this offer. Or the implication that just by buying this sand (not any other, mind you) will lead you to the ultimate in figure basing.

Ah, Ebay :)

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

A new 'painting tray'

Those of you who follow me less than regular [workbench photos](http://www.flickr.com/photos/robartes/sets/72057594098116252/), have seen that I put figures on champagne type corks (lots of those around these days), using a bit of blue tack (which is white in Belgium) while painting them. The corks are hefty enough to handle comfortably and keep me from handling the possibly freshly painted figures.

On the [painting station](http://www.nirya.be/snv/ttm/archives/000006.html), the corks are held down using blue tack again. This is a workable system, except that during painting sessions, I set the corks on the table next to the painting station. As that very same table is used by my wife when she is working on her laptop or correcting papers and exams (she teaches chemistry), it tends to wobble unpredictably on occasion. This has predictably led to several of the figure and cork stacks tumbling down to a messy end on the floor. Not ideal.

The solution is, of course simple:

The painting tray

The box is a simple shoebox (albeit of children's shoes), while the dividers are 5mm balsa wood. I had built this box originally to accomodate a type of 'matrix painting' but it only recently dawned on me (I'm slow sometimes) that it can be used to hold the corks and figures for normal painting sessions too.

So there you have it, a [Hyun](http://www.weetoysoldiers.com) style contraption to ease a wargamer's life :).