Wednesday 30 August 2023

Maybe the blog is dead, after all

 Well, we had a good run. I was far more active when I had more time, but for some years I have had a job (mirabile dictu! - that's Latin for "remarkable to recount") and been a member of a gaming club, both of which have absorbed (and continue to take up) a lot of my time.

I'm an intermittent user of Instagram, where you can generally see small metal or plastic things covered in paint, not me covered in an ill-fitting bikini, as seems to be the style. No judgement, mind. I just don't fancy my chances in a bikini. Anyway:

What am I up to these days when it comes to gaming?

  • 28 mm Stargrave is a regular feature. I have far too many of Northstar's plastic kits to ever field them all!
  • 28 mm and 1/72 Black Powder Napoleonics is a surprising feature here. I have long been grumpy about IGO-UGO games (and we've recently begun modifying BP to address this deficiency - perceived defeiciency?). However, it has the merit of simplicity...most of the time. Every couple of turns there's an absolutely baffling rules question that cannot be resolved by referring to the rulebook, causing us to roll a die or me, as umpire, to proclaim the ol' Verbum Dei (Latin for word of God) from atop Mount Ararat or wherever is more convenient. Shako 2 has also shown up a bit. How did these things happen? Well, I had a load of 1/72 minis from the '90s, and then we had a Pandemic just when some friends were supposed to be visiting, so I bought some Austrians and painted them so we could play online. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
  • Remembering to translate Latin for people. Theory of Mind is worth a gander. Pre-autism diagnosis I used to assume folks'd know what I meant. In parallel, many people did assume (and many still do) that I know what they mean and vice-versa. It's cost me a few friendships, that. But isn't that life? Is that really gaming, though, Pete? Mm, well, let's say that clarity of communication has been a problem for commanders throughout history, thereby pretending to have answered the question, despite not doing so.
  • I have a bunch of ACW stuff in my plans. Altar of Freedom by Greg of Little Wars TV fame has seen a run-out in 6 mm. Black Powder's ACW variant, Glory, Hallelujah! will see a 15 mm campaign shortly, I hope. Sharp Practice is bound for some 28 mm ACW and Napoleonic adventures.
  • A truly crazy assortment of RPGs has pushed its way into my life. Since joining the club of which I am part, a truly adorable band of the sweetest people has clasped me to its heart. There have been piratical swashbucklings, dungeoneering and dragooning, adopting polar owlbears, vanquishing attic (not Attic, i.e. Athenian) ghosts, and many, many more. That Lovecraft fellow still cannot - IMO - write worth a dam, but other people can read him into a state where he's entertaining. The Lunar Empire is something of which I was formerly unaware, but which is now surprisingly visceral in my noggin!

Please do drop us a line on Facebook - - if you fancy popping along of a Thursday to a spot in Congleton in south Cheshire (and arguably north Staffordshire). While we are mad, we are also pleasing company. :)

Wednesday 9 March 2022

Xenomorphs for Stargrave: Outpost 37

 I've been assembling some Xenomorphs from Gale Force Nine. I got a little grumpy about some of the tails on the Warriors, but in retrospect, that was only 3-4 figures out of 24. Likewise, the foot locking points for one or two figures made me grumpy, but again that's 24 figures. The Queen is perfectly lovely to assemble, although the instructions really do have a spot of confusion about which leg is the left and which the right.

I went with a very simple paint scheme for the Warriors, but I intend to pay more attention to ol' Queenie when I paint her.

We began our Outpost 37 campaign last Thursday, and one of my guys survived until the end of the game. It was a good laugh!

Who are we? Mug & Game in Congleton, Cheshire. We meet three Thursdays a month at St John's in Buglawton.

Sunday 19 December 2021

This Blog Aten't Dead

 What can I say about the past few years that has not been said? I shall confine myself to the ever-pertinent monosyllable, "Oof".

Much to my surprise and resistance, I have become embroiled in a madcap scheme to collect 28mm Napoleonics. For decades I have been adamant that this is quite the wrong scale. It takes forever to get everything you want done. I can't say I've changed my perspective, but I admit the formations do look appealing when they're done. Moreover, it's a scale other folks are happy to game at, even though the painting takes a while, no matter how many corners I cut!

Over the course of the pandemic, consequently, I have painted for Black Powder two (24-man) battalions of Hanoverians, three of British foot, 17 Riflemen, a pair of French 12-lb guns (to represent a single battery), a single Royal Artillery gun and crew, at least thirteen French battalions (including Swiss, Irish and Italian units to spice things up), five Prussian battalions and a dozen Jaegers, three (12-man) regiments of Chasseurs à Cheval, two Prussian cavalry regiments, half a dozen brigadiers, two dozen casualty markers to hold dice, and movement trays for all the above. I've also completed a huge hill with a footprint of nine sheets of A3 paper.

I've even - gaps between lockdowns permitting - managed to fit in a few in-person games of Black Powder. Remarkable. Fingers crossed, next year we'll be playing a campaign. :)

Saturday 21 November 2020

Getting into Black Powder and Napoleonics cheaply

If you are interested in Black Powder, but daunted by the prospect of painting lots of large models, the following may be of interest. I'll go through the background, the painting, basing and gaming, then touch on future plans.
  • Background: 1/72 plastics
  • Painting: An easy formula for general use and a specific recipe for Austrians
  • Basing: A scheme adapted from Shako that works for Black Powder
  • Gaming: Some general notes on playing with smaller figures.
  • Postscript: Future plans.

Back in my uni days I played Shako, providing both sides in 1/72 plastics. For a long time I after I had no games, miniatures languishing in boxes, others unpainted. About a year ago I invited some friends to visit during the summer of 2020, and at the same time my club had started getting into Black Powder. I had signed up to produce a French force for this, but I didn't fancy producing vast numbers at the time - and tried to keep myself on a short rein. I thought back to my old Shako forces, and fancied I could use them as a springboard.

My friends honeymooned in Vienna, so they were quite interested in leading some Austrians to glory against the French. Games Workshop's Contrast paints were out just then, and I realised I could produce some tolerable Austrians for a minimum of effort. I bought two packs of infantry, a pack of artillery, one pack of heavy cavalry and another of light, and brought them to a tolerable standard within a few months.

  1. Wash your miniatures with lukewarm water and washing-up liquid and let them dry.
  2. Glue them to a tongue depressor or lolly stick for painting.
  3. Apply a coat of PVA glue and leave to dry.
  4. Prime them in the colour of your choice.
  5. Paint with a few simple bold colours. Don't get too hung up on detailing.
  6. Apply a suitable wash or a contrast paint.
  7. Glue them to bases.
  8. Varnish prior to applying static grass, if you're using it.
Example painting with the Austrian foot:
  1. Primed white as this was the main uniform colour.
  2. Applied GW's Contrast Apothecary White all over the models and let it dry.
  3. Drybrushed white.
  4. Flesh: a flesh colour.
  5. Facings: an appropriate colour.
  6. Musket: dark brown for wood, silver for metal.
  7. Backpacks and rolls: brown for the packs and an apt colour for the rolls.
  8. Black bits (Shako, boots): Contrast Black
  9. Apply washes to flesh and anywhere you'd like to accentuate detail.

The basing scheme I followed for Shako was 6 horse for a cavalry regiment (Two bases: 3 horse on a 2"/50mm deep by 3"/75mm wide base) and 9 men for a foot battalion (Three bases: 3 men on a 1"/25mm deep by 2"/50mm wide base). I used 1/72 plastics, which you can still buy for about a tenner a box. One box generates 2-3 regiments of cavalry and 3-5 battalions of foot at my scale, i.e. about a brigade in a box.

For the Austrians, who field larger units of foot than other nations, Shako suggested adding a fourth base to an infantry battalion. Black Powder's recommendation to have a Large unit be about a third larger than a normal-sized one. Therefore, my existing units of French were 9 men to a battalion, while the new Austrians were 12.

Ranges, movement and base sizes:
A benefit to using smaller sculpts is that you can fit in a game on a lesser space. I'm lucky enough to have repurposed a table tennis table, which can fit a 4'/1.2m by 8'/2.4m setup quite easily. I shrank all the distances in the Black Powder rulebook to 75% of their originals, e.g. cavalry move 13.5"/34.3cm per bound, not 18"/45.7cm. A lucky command roll for cavalry on turn 1 of a Black Powder game at normal distances can see them move 4.5 feet/1.37m, which is deeper than my table space allows. Using reduced distances just for 28mm models is suggested in the Peninsular War supplement that Warlord have produced, so I know I'm not alone in this! A normal foot battalion in line Black Powder's recommended scale for 28mm is c. 24cm/9.4" across and 40mm deep, whereas one of mine is c. 15cm/6" across, or roughly 2/3 as broad. Therefore, you can either fit more men onto the table or, if you have a big table, leave room for flanking manoeuvres.

Playing the game:
I mentioned above that I painted these Austrians up for some friends I invited to visit in the summer of 2020. This being the Year of the Plague, they weren't able to visit, of course. However, that hasn't stopped us gaming. We've been using video calls via Messenger on Facebook. I know many others have been using Zoom for this sort of thing, too. With a camera in your mobile, you can happily get both distant and zoomed-in views of the action. I find it helpful to offer my own thoughts, especially when introducing people to the game, "You could move that battalion there, but note my cavalry brigade is just here," swivel the camera to highlight an area they've missed, "and you'll be exposing your flank". You'll find that the more you play, the less you need to do this, but it's more enjoyable for your opponent if they aren't making the sorts of mistakes they wouldn't make in person.

We've been having a battle of a Saturday afternoon for several months now, and it's a lot of fun!
My friends and I have rebooked our in-person game for next summer, when we'll be playing in the garden. Given this year's restrictions, and the government's inconsistency in addressing them, I have in mind a three-month window (June through August), and we'll narrow things down closer to the time.
They've been bitten by the Napoleonic bug, and have picked up the Black Powder rulebook and some of the Victrix Napoleonic Austrians in 28mm. I did say earlier that I had wanted to avoid producing two armies, but "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley", and I've found myself helping a friend paint up his 28mm Waterloo starter set from Warlord in addition to my own 28mm French. Consequently, we should have a few brigades on either side on a nice big battlefield: 12'/3.6m by 6'/1.8m is my plan for the garden!

This doesn't mean I'll abandon my old 1/72 troops. I dug out three regiments of French cavalry last night - chasseurs a cheval, hussars and line lancers - with a view to painting them up. I'm sure I have divisions' worth of infantry in the house: British, Prussian and French. After years in silence, they are seeing the table again!
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