Plastic Riflemen

The 1/72 (20mm) plastic Peninsular War British set from HäT includes a bunch of spare heads, some wearing the Waterloo-era Belgic shako, and others (more useful from my point of view) wearing the tapered Light Infantry shako with the bugle badge of the 95th Rifles.

That makes the set much more useful, since with a simple head-swap, a bayonetectomy and a green paint-job instead of red, I can field some skirmishers to screen my nicely ranked line companies. It also increases the wargame-worthy poses in the set quite substantially, though there are still a reasonable number that I wouldn't use, myself.

There are some detail differences between the uniforms of the Line regiments and the Rifles apart from the different shakos; the Rifles should be wearing pantaloons and spats rather than the cuffed trousers these figures have on. Their jacket cuffs should be pointed, and the jacket buttons are differently arranged. Fortunately, I am not anal enough for any of that to matter to me, so all I need to do is paint them to suit.

I flailed around for quite a while trying to find an appropriate dark green for the Rifle uniform; Most of my Vallejo paints are rather too camouflagey in tone, quite unlike the dark bottle-green the Rifles wore. I eventually settled on this one: Vallejo Game Color 72.147 (Heavy Blackgreen). It's not perfect, but it looks OK to my eye, and very much better than any of the camo greens I'd tried.

More terrain

I've been fiddling around with some more wargaming terrain pieces, in this case, a low grassy hill with an impassable rocky section on one side.

The body of the hill is made from laminated MDF, carved to shape with a belt sander. The rocks are my old favourite, pine bark chips. The pine trees are bits of tapered chenille snipped to size and painted. The grass is various grades of railway modellers' flock.

For my next hills, I want to try using a sand mould to cast them in expanding polyurethane foam. It should be fairly straightforward... but things seldom are, alas.

Dices Make Throg Brane Hurting

I'd quite like some of these dice. I have no idea who makes them, or where to get them, but if I ever find out, I'll buy some. If they're not too expensive, because they're really just a novelty, and novelty wears off, so I don't want to drop too much loot on something that I won't care about after playing with them for a couple of hours.

I'd really like to see someone trying to play one of those massive dice-pool games with these. That's something that would amuse me... for a little while.

18mm "Man at War" Napoleonics

I've bought myself some more toy soldiers, because I clearly didn't have enough toy soldiers. It's not entirely my fault; I was led astray by Evil Companions. Honest.

Anyway. I bought a box of Waterloo-era Napoleonic British infantry by Man at War for their "Napoleon at War" game — which may have been a bad idea, when it comes to mixing and matching them with figures from other manufacturers. They're described as "15/18mm scale" and measure 18mm from foot to eyebrows, which would make them giants of men among actual 15mm figures. Never mind; if it comes to the crunch I'll call them Guards or something.

As far as sculpting goes, they're not too bad. Not the best I've seen, but far from being the worst. The picture shows an unpainted and painted version of the same figure (almost the same — the unpainted guy is a flank company soldier, with the swallows-nest epaulettes, while the painted one is from a centre company. The epaulettes are the only real difference... though the flank company guy seems a trifle taller).

The figures don't need a great deal of cleaning up, but there is some to be done. They're moulded in a very soft alloy, and a lot of them arrived with their muskets wrapped around themselves like cthulhoid tentacles, so they need to be carefully straightened out. Also, there tends to be quite a bit of roughness around the somewhat massively chunky bayonets that needs to be trimmed off. As usual, there are some visible mould lines to be smoothed away, and that's about it for the pre-painting clean-up.

The test figure I did (to work out a reasonable production-line paint process) painted up pretty easily. The detail on the figures is well delineated without being too chunky, which eases painting enormously — tiny figures with in-scale lacing, frogging and what-not can be a bit of a trial to paint for the wargames table, in my opinion; I like a bit of "colouring book" help to speed things along.

The box includes plastic bases designed to hold 4 figures, for the Napoleon at War game system. I may replace those with MDF bases, since I prefer square-cornered bases to rounded ones for formation-based games like this. Ideally I'd like to mount them on 2mm MDF, but if need be, I'll go to 3mm.

Movement, Encumbrance, and Material Components

To quote Hack & Slash: On Movement
"Now the real world movement rates are very slow. Several people by themselves have done 'tests' where they map their environment or attempt to cautiously move around in these environments. In every case they say, 'I am able to walk so much faster then the listed rate'. They then reach the conclusion that the listed rate is wrong. In every single case none of the following is considered. 
What you can usually see in the dungeon, if you're lucky
The environment is cramped and pitch black. The ground is uneven in the best case. The light is torchlight. Mapping is done with either parchment and charcoal or an ink pen. There are no hash marks or clear markers to indicate distance, it must be measured. Groups range in size from 4 to 12. Many are uneducated hirelings. Many are wearing metal armour and carrying heavy gear. Movement must be coordinated and silent. The rate is an abstraction, looking around corners, stopping to listen (and having to get everyone silent first) and quiet hurried discussion about what to do make up for the time spent moving slightly faster down an open corridor. 
When you look at real world examples of these things the movement rate is much more realistic. Getting people in line and moving orderly is time consuming. Exploration of caves tends to take much longer (with modern equipment) than people assume, and we know they aren't trapped, filled with demons and monsters, and actively inimical to your survival."
I know I don't take as much notice as I should of party movement and timekeeping; it often feels like pettifogging book-keeping to no purpose, like being strict about encumbrance.

However, a large part of old-school D&D style gaming is resource management and exploration, and to play that sort of game properly you really do need to know exactly what resources you have to manage, and how far and how fast you can get those resources to where they'll be useful (i.e. the massive piles of treasure).

I've been pondering for a long time on ways to make keeping track of encumbrance as painless as possible, because I know that if it puts players to any trouble at all, 99% of them will just try to ignore it. And I think I have a workable solution, though it will mean a little bit of design work on my part.

I'm thinking of separate sheets — index cards, maybe — for each container the characters are carrying, each card marked with the container's dimensions and a number of encumbrance "slots" that can be filled with Stuff. To this end, I'll largely hark back to Gygax's old AD&D equipment encumbrance values, since they took into account not only the item's weight, but also its size and general awkwardness. There will still have to be a certain amount of common sense employed (no putting barrels into belt pouches, for example), but in general it should work out easily enough. Plus, having a bunch of cards to sort through for all your packs, pouches, sacks and porters  should neatly represent the problems of having to find that thing you knew you had but just can't quite remember where you put it...

On a semi-related note, I think I'm going to return to the idea of having set material components for spells again, a la AD&D, rather than just hand-waving the matter. Again, it's to do with the resource management aspect of the game. If you don't have the components available for the spell you want for the situation at hand, what do you do? Try and substitute something else and hope it works? Or find another plan?

Borodino 2012

This weekend, over two days, the Christchurch Cavaliers (a local wargaming club) staged a massive re-fight of the Battle of Borodino in 28mm, using a somewhat modified version of the Black Powder rules.

I only saw part of the last couple of hours. The photos here (taken with my camera, so not great quality) really don't do justice to the awesome splendour of this game.

By the time I left, things were looking decidedly dicey for the Russians, with the almost total collapse of the centre-left and the loss of the Grand redoubt.

There are a couple of much better reports at Craig's Wargaming Blog and Rebel Barracks, with much more information and better pictures.

Painted Bones

I've finished painting the initial batch of Reaper Bones (plastic) figures I bought, and now am waiting with great anticipation for the vast avalanche resulting from their wildly successful Kickstarter.

There is absolutely no way I'm going to get all of that lot painted before I die.

Click on the images, if you so choose, to see larger versions.

Kobolds... not the greatest sculpts ever made, but suitable enough for Mass Mook Attacks.
Great Worms — from left to right, sand-worm, ice-worm and that old favourite, purple worm.

Rats. Sculpted by Sandra Garrity.

Yet another miniature painting WiP post

If I ever get back to DMing my own campaign, I might have the need for a half-orc or two. Fortunately, I got a half-orc or two (or three...