Sunday, 6 September 2015

Miniature painting projects for last part of 2015

I promised myself two small painting projects for the 2nd half of 2015. I had already compiled a short list of possible projects in the early part of the year.

And then by chance I started off on the 1815 Prussians for the Battle of Waterloo, a game that was put on for the end of August. Somebody put a few batallions up for sale in May and I decided to buy them, including some unpainted stuff, adding up to two batallions of Landwehr. It was a pretty tough job finishing in time for that, but as always a deadline helps.

I've managed to resist the temptation of buying more unpainted lead/plastic, because once this deadline's gone, there's not much chance of me painting it. I bought a bunch of painted limbers and guns and staff officers was offered by someone at the club. Good buy, but it also included a bag of unpainted cuirassiers...

The good thing is that I felt so happy about painting that I picked up another tiny project last Monday, spraying a base coat and putting on three colours on a set of six medieval monks useful for either Dux Brittanniarum or SAGA. And then some more work this weekend! Pretty easy to paint and limited detail, which is good to keep momentum going!

So what after this short project? This is what I'm thinking off:
  • Finish the vehicles for my American WWII Chain of Command force. It will be a bit of glueing, and not too much painting. Mostly spray painting and finishing. It's good to finish a project!
  • Scenery for Dark Ages which will be useful for either Dux Brittanniarum or SAGA

More distant and ambitious projects:

  • Muskets and Tomahawks. I've got Indians, French and Americans, so I can try both French & Indian Wars and American War of Independence. M&T doesn't require many troops, so doable. With an added Maroon project stemming from my interest in slavery in the West Indies. There's also this big project a number of people are starting for a big AWI battle day...
  • I've got loads of Fantasy stuff lying around for some vague project. goblins, skaven, an unfinished batch of bats, and loads more. Tempting. I might also join in the Frostgrave fun, which doesn't require a lot of figures, but with the risk of buying their plastic soldiers set, which will make excellent adventurers...
  • Normans. I bought a good sized army but half of it only in base coating. It's already enough for what I intended with them (SAGA), but finishing the force would give a feeling of completion. It does however pose questions about matching the quality and style of the miniatures already finished. That will be very hard
  • Vikings and Late Saxons. I've got two Gripping Beast boxes of plastics which with some army painter treatment might finish in good time.
  • Welsh. I've got this Welsh starter army for SAGA which can also be used against the Saxons. And Picts. And Normans. And Vikings. And Late Saxons.
  • Samurai and fantasy Japanese. Some lovely stuff from the Indiegogo, and some buildings. It's just that my painting technique is not good enough to do it justice

Oh well... I can still try to get somebody else to paint some of this stuff, which is what I decided on two years ago.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Big Battles, Big Challenges

So last Saturday I could reap the fruits of my hard work on a Landwehr battallion! A very well organised day, with a lavish lunch, good company and a feast for the eyes. It was clear that more talented painters than I had spent more time on building their armies. Mine were swamped a bit, but at least gave a good account of themselves, especially the J├Ąger.

My Landwehr joining the fray, but outpaced by cavalry

I am very grateful to the guys who made it possible: Patrick for organising, Erwin for writing the scenarios (with a little help), Jelle for selling his troops to me and Peter for lending part of his troops to me for the day.

Black Powder didn't disappoint. After 8 turns, which took us close to 6 hours to play, the Prussian troops had hardly entered Plancenoit. So instead of sweeping changes in the tide of battle, as in 1815, is was now a overloaded table with troops queuing whilst those at the front waited for the dice to roll their way. It made me wonder whether the BP guys that wrote the scenario actually playtested it.

Turn 2: You are almost in Plancenoit!

It's good to have some disorganisation, but you can just expect a 2D6 command roll to fail 4 out of 10 rolls if you rating is 8 and you need to roll that or lower. Which hamstrings most of your commands needlessly and raises frustration similarly. If that happens a couple of times of your 8 turns you play, well...

"This is why I don't play toy soldier games any more" a wise man once said...

Beautiful La Haye Sainte Model

On the other three tables they were able to (just about) finish their scenarios in time, but I have no idea whether those games felt historical. Then again, that was not the issue of the day. It was an excuse to paint miniatures and have a nice chat. Both those aims were achieved. I might be tempted to join the project next year if it helps me engage my American War of Independence miniatures. I might even pretend to play Black Powder.

Hougoumont holds out

Some day I will write the ultimate book on how Big Battles should be fought in miniature, but I'll just start with a few rules I've picked up over the years:

  • Rules. Most commercial rules are too complex for big battles. Too many exceptions, too much waiting for other players. But you don't need complex rules with lots of chance (i.e. dice rolls): the decisions of generals should play the main role. So use only the barest minimum of rules
  • Amount of troops. Limit this to about 7 units per player. More than that will mean they have to resolve combat with more than one player which slows resolution down. It also puts a lot of pressure on one player while others sit idly waiting for their troops to enter the table.
  • Time pressure. The big battles I have participated in which gave the most excitement and sense of fulfilment were those with a pretty sharp turn sequence mercilessly enforced by the umpires.
  • Hierarchy. Have commanders and sub commanders. In a tightly run battle, the challenge of command and control is at least as interesting as that of shoving units and rolling dice. It also gives the players the sense of being part of a bigger event.
  • Umpires. Last Saturday was a very pleasant occasion, and rules arguments were few and readily solved. But be prepared for rules lawyers and have umpires to decide calls quickly. The game needs to move on. Also, make sure the umpires have the same interpretation or else the space between them will be exploited by competitive players. Umpires are also very useful in keeping the game moving