Monday, 19 February 2018

28mm Metal Figure Storage

Original 'optimistic' storage
I previously posted some photos of my 28mm Zulu War armies as stored in Really Useful Boxes (example posted again right). The figures are mounted on steel 2p pieces and the boxes are lined with magnetic plastic. All looked well but when I opened the boxes after wheeling them to my local wargames club, I discovered the figures had ended up in a heap!  Some figures had come off their bases but luckily there was no significant damage.

The 0.55 mm thick magnetic plastic is usually fine for 10mm and 15mm figures on multi-figure bases, but metal 28mm figures are simply too heavy to stay put.

Foamboard dividers under construction
I've since lined other boxes with 0.8 mm magnetic sheet which is significantly stronger. I've also used foamboard to create internal dividers. I approached this in a similar way  to using foamboard for buildings.

First step was to measure the internal dimensions of the RUBs. I then played around with a design in CorelDraw. After some thought I decided to  go with four figures per compartment. This accommodates the regular infantry who have protruding rifles and bayonets and which are convenient to have in pairs.

Better protected than before
After printing the templates using an A3 printer, I used SprayMount to fix them onto 5mm foamboard, before cutting them out with a scalpel. The design is very simple. There are two long slats crossed by four short slats. Slots are cut in each set, up and down respectively, so they slot together. This is then placed loosely in the RUB with some sheets of bubblewrap above. Next time I will make the dividers a little higher so they are flush with the lid.

I will also be dropping bubblewrap pads into each compartment on top of the figures.

There may be some movement in transit, but the threat of damage should be reduced.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Goodbye to the Lead Mountain Blues

The Workbench list: now of digestible proportions.
Besides my storage crisis (now eased) another burden was the long list of unfinished projects on this blog's Workbench page. Owing to what I suspect is some bug in Blogger, this page got overwritten and had to be recreated.

This apparent catastrophe was highly fortuitous as it gave me an opportunity to rethink and to relist only the projects currently being pursued or immediately in prospect.  The rest may potentially exist but out of sight is out of mind. The shame of the lead mountain is hidden, and I feel I can return to painting etc with some prospect of progress. So much so that I have  actually added  a new project! That may sound totally mad, but it's inevitable that new projects will leapfrog old ones, and that's perfectly manageable as long as something else is dropped off the list to compensate.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Repurposing my 25mm Vikings

Back in the days when I played 25mm WRG Ancients it was common to raise a discrete army of your choice and to pit it against the armies of other players. These match-ups were usually unhistorical, and one's opponents were often WRG super armies like Seleucids and triple-armed Late Romans. This left me with a couple of isolated armies which haven't been used for decades.

I offloaded my Later Greek Hoplites years ago and I'm planning to sell my Sassanid Persians, but I thought I'd repurpose the Vikings. Although the army would be relatively small for a game like Impetus, it will comfortably stretch to two skirmish-level warbands.

I had originally thought of using Saga, but I'm now more likely to try Landwasters and Raven Feeders, the official Dark Age variant of Dan Mersey’s Mediaeval rules, Lion Rampant. Some people have criticised Dan’s rules for being too simple, but I’ll live with having fun and finishing a game, or even two, in an evening.

When I first started collecting this army there weren't many multi-pose packs about, so I bought figures from different manufacturers and ranges so that every figure was unique. This mixture will now work to my advantage. The unarmoured infantry are pretty generic anyway, while the more stylistically-specific armored figures should split well enough into typically Anglo-Danish and Viking forces, though I do have some doubts that they would have been very distinguishable by the 11th Century.

The Lion Rampant Mediaeval categories readily translate into Dark Age types. OK, I’m aware of armour development, but this is a game not a scientific simulation, and the important thing is 'relative' difference.

These are the Mediaeval game categories and the Dark Age types I will have:

Foot Men-at-Arms
Anglo-Danish and Viking Huscarls with two-handed axes.

Foot Serjeants
Armoured spearman - Select Fyrd or Viking Hirdmen.

Foot Yeomen
Unarmoured spearman - General Fyrd, and Viking Bondi who will be additionally armed with mixed weapons (i.e. will include archers).

Fierce Foot
Viking Berserkir and Ulfhedhnar.

Anglo-Danish skirmishers and Viking scouts with various missile weapons.

Next step is to take the figures off the old bases, throw away those afflicted with lead rot and then rebase the survivors on 2p coins. For skirmish games I really don’t like the look of rectangular bases, and I’m not keen on movement trays either. If I’m short of figures I can press some half-painted ones into service as I have plenty of those in the lead mountain. These were on my workbench over twenty years ago, but were packed into a box when I moved  house and have not seen the light of day since. I'll post some pictures when I've reorganised and rebased them.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Zulu War progress

I have been very lucky with the accumulation of additional 28mm figures such that I now have enough for two 24 point field forces for playing The Men Who Would Be Kings.

I have six Zulu units of 16, 3 12-man units of British Regulars, a Gatling (?) team, 8 Natal Mounted Police or Carabineers and enough spare Zulus to field a unit of Natal Native Contingent. That gives me some choice on the British side.

The figures are a mix of Renegade and Black Tree. The scale mix is just about acceptable IMO but I will need to be careful not to add any figures smaller than the Black Tree ones.

The figures are painted to different standards, some a lot better than I would have attempted, some not as good.  I may add some staining and paint here and there if I can be bothered. The bases obviously need finishing and some of the Zulus are missing weapons, but the armies are ready to transport and use.

There was a time when I  would have wanted to paint all my own figures, or, at least, have them painted for me to a tight specification, but I've grown out of that. Once the bases are complete the figures should present a reasonably unified appearance and feel like they're mine.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Fastest to table

Lancers. 2mm is now my way to go for mass armies.
I might have written something like this before but no matter as it is a topic that demands revisiting. I often wonder what miniature wargames I would do if I was starting from scratch now. Obviously I would do games that appealed to me historically, but, more generally, I would do games that could be brought to table as quickly as possible. This is partly because I lack time to paint but also because I'd like the fruits of my labour to end up on the table rather than in the lead mountain.

At one end of the spectrum I would focus on skirmish games like Dan Mersey's Lion Rampant series for which 28mm figures have the most appeal. Somewhere in the middle are games that are 'compact' or otherwise economical on figures like Crossfire, Irregular Wars or DBA. For these I would use 15mm, 10mm or 6mm, and these scales would satisfy the aesthetic appeal of playing with toy soldiers.

Any games featuring mass armies, however, would have to be base-orientated so I could use 2mm or 3mm models, and thìs end of the spectrum would satisfy my desire to play large historical battles. I think this is the way I will now go with Bloody Big Battles! if and when I get round to it. The other advantage of these small scales is of course that they put less pressure on storage and carrying.

This  is not an entirely futile speculation as it should also help me to regulate what to do in future. I feel sure I've written that before as well. The difficulty is remembering it.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Storage crisis

Floor to ceiling
Despite having a whole medium-sized upstairs room just for my personal stuff (mostly books and wargaming-related), I've run out of storage space.

The room wasn't a bad size when we first moved in some twenty years ago but with the accumulation of cabinets, cupboards, racks, bookcases and storage crates, it's gradually shrunk to a narrow corridor. Besides filling all these storage units, the units themselves are stacked with plastic boxes which literally reach to the ceiling.

One particular problem is that I now don't even have a free space for moving stuff around or getting games ready to take out. What is the answer?

Move to a larger house

Moving  house is a very time-consuming and stressful undertaking. A larger lounge would enjoy uxorial support but the demand for more wargaming space is an aspiration unlikely to achieve joint critical mass.

Put stuff in the loft

Although the loft is already crowded with domestic junk and books, I could make some more room there. However, I've tried this before and it's very inconvenient.

Have a loft conversion

This would be fairly expensive and might not give me a bigger room than I have now, unless I utilised both rooms which would be a somewhat disproportionate use of a house. The main problem, however, is what would I do with all the other stuff already in the loft?

Colonise other parts of the house

Not an option.

Compress existing storage

This is an ideal solution but I doubt if it would free up more than 10% of the used space.

Sell books and/or figures

I already have about twenty crates of unwanted books in the loft which I would try to sell on Amazon or eBay if I had time. I have sold some figures at shows, but most of my armies are, I think, still wanted. The problem is that I will probably never finish painting them and they may never be used. So I have a strong attachment to them but it's probably more emotional than rational.

This is a troubling dilemma, but I have a plan of sorts. I think I should start by chipping away at the problem, that is selling off stuff I least want and seeing how far I get. There is some scenery and even a few figures which are definitely surplus to requirements. Gaining a cubic foot here and there would be an immense help. But it's getting rid of books that would probably be the least painful and most productive way forward.

While books about uniforms, hardware, organisation and tactics are essential to any wargamer, general histories and memoirs are only of marginal interest, especially once read. There was a time, perhaps, when I would have liked to have become some sort of 'military expert' and would have required a library to support that conceit, but it's too late in life now and I have other priorities consuming my time and energy.

Any suggestions will be gratefully received!

Monday, 15 January 2018

C&C Great War tank extension

The two nearest tanks were mine (German). Yes, one looks distinctly British. No, it isn't captured, it's just substituting for one of the German ones. The C&C Great War tank extension does include two German tanks, but the gamesmaster had mislaid one...
My first game of the year was the Command & Colors Great War scenario, Villiers-Bretonneux, the first tank-versus-tank battle in history. I've played C&C Great War before. It looks like a boardgame with miniatures because it is, but the rules work well and are easy to absorb, and despite the lack of 'realistic' 3D scenery, the game has flavour and draws you into believing.

This was my first experience of the tank extension. The tanks themselves are nice plastic models, and tank combat seems to have very realistic outcomes. Tanks are highly prone to bogging down and damage is quite attritional. I learnt that standing off was the best tactic unless fighting infantry who can be subjected to 'tank shock' in close combat.

Because WW1 tank versus tank combat was relatively indecisive, the best way of winning the scenario is to turn one's artillery on the enemy infantry. As  my opponent had sensibly dispersed his infantry on his first move, he was ahead of me in that respect, though, to be fair to myself, dispersing the German infantry was always going to be more difficult. Anyway, my cannon fodder was being gobbled up more quickly than my opponent's, and then the eventual loss of a tank finally sealed my fate. It didn't feel entirely one-sided. There was a point when I thought I was going to get lucky but it didn't happen.  As in other C&C games you need to focus on attacking the enemy units which are the easiest to eliminate.

It was certainly an entertaining game, so thanks to my friend Ian for providing it.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Heigh-ho! Khurasan Elizabethan English

English High Command
It was way back in 2013 that I started playing Irregular Wars and began collecting 15mm figures for Elizabethan English and Irish armies. Although supplemented with figures from other manufacturers, the core of this collection was the superb Khurasan Irish. Since then I've eagerly awaited the appearance of the Khurasan English.

In 2014 I was heavily involved in playtesting the second edition of Irregular Wars, but this was with counters rather than figures. I subsequently completed Portuguese and Dutch armies using real lead, but the Irish have languished in boxes unpainted, awaiting their English counterparts.

The weeks turned into months, and the months into years with the occasional return to Khurasan's website to see if they were coming. I noticed the gradual addition of some Spanish and then, in December, the arrival of the English. Well, better late than never, but four years' wait is a disappointingly long time to say the least. The figures are again absolutely superb and I've already ordered my first batch.

Monday, 1 January 2018

2018 Interests

Talking of 'plans' seems a little too optimistic after last year's meagre achievements, so I'm just going to use the word 'interests' to describe this year's possible areas of activity.

Bac Ninh Byakkotai
The Men Who Would be Kings

I'm still building up my 28mm Anglo-Zulu War forces for The Men Who Would Be Kings as fast as I can see and buy them second-hand, and I'm also looking out for Egyptians for the Urabi Revolt and Pathans.

Quite a few of the Zulus I've acquired have been in groups of about 16 and painted with different shield colours, so they have very readily been organised into TMWWBK tribal units.

With my last purchase of the year I now have enough figures to field 6 Zulu and 4 British units, but I'd also like to acquire some mounted figures and some Natal Native Contingent.

Doing the Anglo-Zulu War wasn't originally my first preference, but it seems to be the most popular Colonial subject and therefore the easiest to collect second-hand.

In keeping with my enthusiasm for the offbeat, I've also been looking at the Boshin War - the civil war in Japan  between  the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Imperial Court (1868-1869). The war featured an interesting mix of modern, Westernised, forces and traditional but unarmoured Samurai using archaic weapons. Some very characterful 28mm figures are available from Bac Ninh Miniatures but the range is currently lacking in the more archaic types.


I should of course focus on painting my recently acquired 3mm armies for Rommel, but I have to confess that TMWWBK is currently consuming the time available and will probably make for a more readily doable and popular club game.

Chain of Command by
Chain of Command

I've hardly mentioned them before, but I also have some 28mm WW2 figures and die-cast tanks for the Ardennes campaign. I got as far as undercoating the figures and making some snowy scenery but that was a few years ago. Recently I noticed the Chain of Command WW2 skirmish rules so these armies might get pulled out of the lead mountain. CoC is very interesting and innovative, but it seems to require quite a learning investment.

The Battle of Sablat (Záblatí), 10 June 1619
The Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War continues to haunt my imagination - periodically - but I've made no final decisions about rules or scales. Amongst other things I'm currently waiting to see the pike-and-shot version of Twilight of the Sun King and I might knock out some counters or blocks for temporary use to try out various options.