Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Skirmishing over all or All is the Skirmish

I have had the idea of talking about skirmish games rolling around in my head.  Do I talk about modern skirmish?  Fantasy?  Historical?  Certainly, there is a lot of difference between games set in modern times to those set in medieval or fantasy settings, the mechanics can be the same.  There are a large number of the skirmish games out there and a number are derived from a mass battle game like Kings of War or Age of Sigmar, but many are not.  And for the sake of transparency, I am, admittedly, biased in my observations on any given game.  I like the Walking Dead and Mordheim, but there are some I don’t like; looking at you Age of Sigmar. 

Before we get to far let me give some advice.  Most of us Grognards will tell you things about gaming that you need to know, this is just one of them.  If you’re going to get into skirmish gaming, but don’t have a collection of minis, I would suggest that you buy a small enough force to play but not one that will break the bank.  Osprey’s Ronin for example only requires a small group (5-20) of Samurai/Ashigaru, so single box of Feudal Japanese warriors (Warlord’s box of Samurai will give you 20 minis to putter with) would be enough for two forces.  If the game you’re interested in has ‘core game box’ it probably has enough minis for you to start with and can be a good buy.  If you see a rule book that covers the time/genre/era you want to game in, start with some miniature agnostic ones that will allow you to use what you do have.  There are some free ones out there if you look online as well as places that will let you print up some paper playing pieces to putter with until you get the force you want in miniature. Oh, and don’t worry about scale.  If you want to play a skirmish game with 15mm most rule sets have a blurb in there about how to adapt them to your game.  My advice is to use centimeters in place of inches.  Heck, I have seen people use LEGOs….

What’s next once you decide on a game?  Well, it is going to sound absolutely silly but read the rules.  You don’t have to know them verbatim but you should have a good working knowledge of them, or at least enough to get started.  I don’t care if the game is a post-apocalypse wasteland or some fantasy realm of women in chain mail bikinis.  Read the rules.  Now, some skirmish games have a programmed set of scenarios to teach you the rules gradually.  Some will expect you to start with the full on rules.  Regardless, the rulebook will also give you the guidelines for organizing your forces and the details on suggested scenarios.  As an aside though, the 3×5 card could be your best friend when keeping the details of your force.  If the game does not have, and the modern game seems to love them, a set of character/unit cards then make your own.  They don’t take up much room and they beat constantly looking at a roster sheet, finding the special rules that go with the unit and so on.  It works for me.  I have said it before and I will keep saying it; it’s your game and Murphy’s Laws of Combat apply.  ‘If is stupid but works it ain’t stupid.’

What next?  Well, you have the minis to play, a working knowledge of the rules and all the play aids you want.  What now?  You set up the table and play.  No, seriously, that’s about it.  Skirmish games can be easy on the set up.  You don’t use a 6X4 foot table and it is easier to improvise terrain.  Use building blocks or logs to make putting up a small village or town center easy.  You can spend the money on the pre-painted buildings offered on some sites, and they are gorgeous, but they are best if you have the space to store them.  I am cheap and like to use stuff to outline the building spaces, sue me.  

Since most games are played in someone’s home there is always a question about terrain and storage.  I still think that the best thing is, for the casual gamer, to use what is workable, not what is pretty.  In my opinion skirmish games are perfect for the gamers who don’t have a lot of purpose built terrain but are willing to improvise.  Cut out construction paper for ponds or roads. They will last a few games and sometimes are better, in my opinion…  I have another blog now bubbling in my brain housing group…

The table is set up.  The minis painted and on the table.  Scenario is outlined and forces organized.  You’re ready to go. With some skirmish games you don’t even need an opponent.  With COVID the focus on a solo option in a game has strengthened.  With that option, your mileage may vary.

One last thing; most games that have core starter box come with the dice and the other oddments that you need to play or at least enough to get you started.  If you are just buying the rules, Oathmark for example, you need to find out, and acquire, what you need.  A quick look at the rules will tell you what you that.  The kind of dice, basing rules and so on.  Oathmark uses ten sided dice, Frostgrave 20 sided, while Kill Team uses six sided.  You can get a bag of assorted dice from most online stores or other places; I got a bag on sale at Barnes and Nobel.  I have several different types of dice and use them just as random number generators but also as game markers for different things like keeping track of wounds.  Some games like Walking Dead and Star Wars have dice unique to the game that they use along with regular dice.  Some games don’t even use dice; some use a simple deck of standard playing cards. 

A final thought on this missive.  I have not really pushed hard on any game/genre.  There are so many good skirmish games out there.  From Battletech to SAGA you can’t go wrong with a good skirmish.  I mean, really, you can go with a light ‘fun’ game or a down and dirty serious simulation to satisfy your wants and desires.  I mean with games with names like ‘Pig Wars, When Men were Men and Pigs were Money’ or ‘Macho Woman with Guns’, how can you go wrong?

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Skirmishing over all or All is the Skirmish

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Lead beards and beardy lead.

‘Guthlaf looked at short broad fighter before him.  The Dwarf’s tall orange crest marked him out as a slayer, most terrifying of dwarf fighters.  ‘Well?” the taller man asked in a low voice.  The denizens of taproom had backed from the pair to form a rough circle in anticipation of the raw violence to start.  ‘You ain’t gonna take long,’ the dwarf growled.  The leap was quick and the dwarf’s axe snapped up as he flew at the man.  Guthlaf didn’t flinch.  He stepped forward, the broad knife made no sound as it flashed from his hip.  Too late the Slayer realized his danger.  Stepping inside arc of Guthlaf brought the blade up and impaled the dwarf under his chin.  The steel punched through the roof of his mouth and into the brain.  The Slayer was dead before he impacted on the man but the weight of the dwarf’s body knocked Guthlaf off his feet.  He managed to push the body off and regain his feet, covered in the gore.  He heard a grunt and looked where it came from.  Guthlaf’s blood froze, there before him stood a female dwarf, blond with volcanic blue eyes, a smirk on the full lips of her broad face, an axe in her hands.’  — The adventures of Guthlaf Varrickson and Gisha Beloth

As always, in writing these things, it changed and morphed into something different where I started.  I wanted to write another blog about collecting miniatures from the Lead Age.  It is a nostalgia thing with me, I think.  After all, no one casts in lead (oh the health risks!) anymore and you can only get metal minis only in pewter.   I currently have 203 dwarf minis in my Warhammer dwarf army fills a bookshelf and the majority of them being lead or pewter.  I am biased but it is a pretty good collection.  Although I have dwarf minis from other companies on the shelf I don’t have the fondness for them as I for GW’s.  They are a bit different to Games Workshop’s vibe, but they are more the RPG individual player characters, like old Grenadier and Ral Partha. 

Citadel made some really cool individual dwarfs back in the late 80s and early 90s for a number of games not just Warhammer fantasy.  There were minis made for Dungeons & Dragons, Lone Wolf and Runequest.  They also had a license for The Lord of the Rings and they are quite collectable.  Those minis would, if the license allowed, be absorbed into the main stream of Citadel’s catalogue.  All of these minis make a really varied group that just fascinates me.  As the collection, and army, grew there were Clansmen, Warriors, Long Beards, Iron Breakers, Slayers and Nobles added.  I would start including support weapons to add some firepower like Cannon, Flame Cannon, Bolt Throwers, Organ Guns and Gyrocopters.  The army grew rather organically and I would just buy what I wanted rather than planning an entire force. At first I organized the small force I had just to be an infantry unit in alliance with my Empire army.  I think that the very first one was from the OLD D4 series from the Spring 87 Citadel Journal; ‘Tunnel Fighter’.  He’s still a personal favorite for me to plump down on a game table.  With his fur fringed and horned helmet and double bitted axe, he was irresistible.  He is still one of those minis that painted himself. 

What makes them collectable, and a look at EBay will prove this as the prices are really crazy at times, is that they have a vibe to them that other companies’ minis didn’t have and that modern minis just don’t have.  Regardless of their intended use in a game they just seemed to stand out.  And the variety!  They are in scale, chain or plate mail, some in brigandine or leather armour.  They can be armed with axes and swords, halberds and spears or bows or crossbows or even firearms. There are a number with horned or winged helmets and whatnot to stay in the fantasy genre.  Some are quite what you’d expect of the moody and grim warrior but some are amusing like the ninja dwarf or runner minis.  There are more.  Oh, and wizards!  There were probably half dozen of them and they were short, thick and beardy Gandalfs.  I have one and he was fun to paint but is gathering dust as he had no place in the game.

When 4th edition for WFB was published there were a number of changes to the dwarfs.  Rune Smiths took the place of wizards.  A large number of older sculpts were phased out in favor of new plastic boxes.  Those boxes sets would make whole units for players to get on the table for rank and file units.  There would still be some metal sets and individual minis for the more ‘specialized’ units but they would also fade away.  It is where the army became a group of units rather than individuals mustered into a unit.  It was still fun to play but collecting was less so because the newer minis were a bit repetitive.  WHFB 4th edition would also introduce ‘Army Books’ so my thoughts turned to organizing them into a proper army.  By this time, lead had given way to pewter and plastic.  I was still able to organize the older minis into large regiments of Clansmen and Warriors.  I actually liked the lack of unified look in these units.  They look as how I would expect dwarf militia to be.  They are not equipped like the huscarls of the nobles, but that is what the Ironbreakers and Longbeards are for.  During this period GW would support the creation of other companies like Marauder, and those companies would be absorbed into the main Citadel line in a few years.  Probably about half of my dwarfs were originally Marauder sculpts. 

I have kinda rambled on a bit and could go on longer.  The old metals are great to paint and put on a table.  I am always on the hunt for the old lead beards and probably will till I can no longer paint or game.  The Citadel dwarf set a standard for fantasy dwarfs that would influence a number of other games and settings.  That influence is still being seen in everything from computer games to miniature gaming.

Update:  I have recently bought the starter book for Oathmark and I have more than enough to create a nice army for that setting.  I will also be able to put that dwarf wizard to work!

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Lead beards and beardy lead.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Old Lead and how to swing it.

I don’t game the way I used to, just not enough time in my life to stand around a table for a few hours.  Though, with the number of lead and pewter minis from ‘the old days’ of gaming that I have, I still want to haul them out onto the table top.  Mostly for skirmish gaming.  There are a large number of plastic and quite a few resin minis in my collection and they look good next to the metal minis but it is the metal ones that just feel ‘right’.  I started out over 30 years ago when ‘old lead’ was still ‘new lead’.  Perhaps though, you have decided that you are not happy with having ‘playing pieces’ of soft plastic and want to collect metal minis?  From ancient times, you know, the ‘80s?  You want to know where to start? Keep in mind that this is just my opinion and is based on my experiences.  Yours will be different to a greater or lesser extent.  Keep that in mind while reading this as well.  Also, I am talking about stuff that was cast 20 years or more in the past.  Stuff from Reaperminis.com, Warlord, Mantic, and a host of others still cast metals.  They are great models work with but it’s the old stuff that has a special place on my table.

Grenadier Evil Dwarf circa ’80

I have blogged before about my preference for the lead and pewter minis from the early 80s and 90s.  The era was one of expansion and innovation in the industry and the hobby, along with growing acceptability from society.  In the late 70s D&D was the GAME in the small, very niche, game world.  Warhammer and Warhammer 40K were still just concepts or pipedreams and Games Workshop was selling D&D modules in the UK.  Grenadier and Ral Partha were the main places to get minis for gaming, not just for RPGs but also historical games.  Mostly in 25mm and 15mm scales as they allow a moderate amount of details and are just right for skirmish games and role playing.  The material de jure was lead and/or pewter alloys and was sold in specialty stores or mail order.  The games were being played in dorm rooms and basements around the country and world. 

Were these perfectly ‘in scale’?  Oh my no, looking at a lot of the minis from that time you can see how crude they were.  Old Citadels have oversized hands, Ral Partha have tiny ones.  Grenadier had huge heads in comparison to the body.  But that gave miniature companies a ‘look’.  They were victims of the sculpting, molding and casting technologies of the day.  There are missing fingers, short shot moldings and (the terror of the day) mold shifts that made for grossly deformed minis.  This was all before the use of auto-cads and the idea of making minis scale within the ENTIRE game system was difficult if not impossible.  They tried of course but fell short in many places.  ‘Comparable scale’ issues would dog the industry well into the 2000s.  Take for example the average 40K Space Marine to be 8-10 feet tall in the fluff but in the game scale ended up the same size, more or less, of the average size human.  With the advent of computers and CADs you can now get a big box edition of 40K and the Space Marines in the box will ‘fit’ with the smaller sets of minis.  Then the game world changed in the latter ‘90s.  Tabletop games became accessible to the average person, some of that is due to the internet.  GW became the 800 lbs. gorilla in the market and ushered in more changes for games and absorbed around two thirds of the gaming dollar.  Meanwhile, most of the major mini companies switched from lead to plastic with some companies (looking at you Citadel) discontinuing entire lines of minis in favor of multi-part plastic kits.

GW Gray Knight circa ’89

Start with figuring out how much you want to spend at any given time.  As with most hobbies, cost is the limiting factor.  If you need a cold hit of reality you need to take a trip to EBay.  It can be daunting to see a piece of lead that is going for $100 bucks.  Also, ‘Pro-painted’ as ‘well painted’.  Buying painted minis is a daunting task.  Pictures are NOT worth a thousand words when it comes to minis.  Paint can cover issues like miscasts or poor repairs.  Take your time.  Look for those minis you want to collect (and paint!).  I mentioned online shopping but you really should take a crawl now and again through a local game store.  It’s good for you and good for the hobby.  Build some rapport with the local gamers and see if they have some old minis that they want to get rid of.  If you travel for business or vacation see if there is a local game store nearby.  You may find stuff there that they want to get rid of.  I was in Reno a few years ago and spent a nice amount of money after I found a barrel (No a real barrel) full of half priced blisters from Wargames Foundry.  Did I need them for an army?  NO!  Keep in mind that you do not need to buy stuff just for your armies.

Heroquest Metal wizard

There are a few sites that I like to use for figuring out what a given minis is, when it was sculpted/cast and who the sculptor was.  For almost all miniatures cast in the ‘70s and into the 2000’s, you have to go to www.solegends.com.  Go to a page and dig around.  You will see a metric TON of minis from the past.  Another ‘global’ site is Lost Minis Wiki at miniatures-workshop.com.  HUGE number of pages to work through and you will get lost.  Then for specific companies you should try out CCM Wiki at collecting-citadel-miniatures.com. There are more but those are the ones I use most. 

You should also decide what you want to collect.  Fantasy?  Sci-Fi?  A certain race or entire lines from a given company?  Any and all that cross your path and spark an interest?  All of the above?  Okay, for me all of the above.  You will, in your quest, see that some sculptors work for a number of companies so will find that you’re buying a certain ‘look’ that will ‘fit’ with each other.  Collect anything you like.  And you will start looking for a ‘Holy Grail’ mini or twenty that you just cannot seem to find.  I have a list.  It’s a long list…

In conclusion (right, like I am ever done), collecting old metals is a fun and consuming hobby.  Once you start, you’ll want to keep after them. 

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Old Lead and how to swing it.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Musings on TWD or where did all this ammo come from?

You know that I have a deep affection for Mantic Games; ‘The Walking Dead; All Out War’.  I enjoy playing it.  It is simple to learn, has a number of good expansions to create very narrative experience it you want to follow the story lines from the comic.  If you don’t want to follow the comic but want a more home brew type series of games you have those rules also.  The expansion sets (Days Gone Bye and Fear the Hunters in particular) have rules for character creation and for playing a campaign.  So you can play a ‘long game’ through the initial phases of the apocalypse to the rise of new communities and beyond. Creating your own scenarios as the timeline moves forward can be really satisfying.

I started thinking about what I would want in group of survivors and how it should be composed.  Taking a look at my collection to start with, I have a few with shotguns and that would make sense to me as those firearms would be plentiful and the ammunition for them could be found in bulk.  Some have what look like submachine guns and carbines which, if you are not careful, will eat your ammunition supply up pretty quickly. Considering a linked set of scenarios I thought about timelines and where the survivors would be in say, five years, when you have looted and scavenged all you could in the area you’re in, remember that even with horses you’re pretty much working a 25 to 30 mile area.  I think that would be regardless of where your group starts out.  Rural, suburban or urban there are some things that all will share.  That’s the passage of time.  Food, gas and other things will be expended or become useable. Probably the only thing that will not be  quickly used up would be clothing.  Consider the amount of blue jeans lying around in warehouses. With all this in mind I started to ponder how to equip my party as time went by.  So I broke it down into how I would think things would be after a collapse by time period.  This is just a general overview.  Your mileage may vary….

The first few years would be both the most dangerous with the complete breakdown of society; walkers are out there in force (You’d also have very little knowledge about how to put the damned things down), and the general lawlessness.  It is also the easiest, plenty of food and items for survival, most things still work and there is plenty of material to use in establishing a community.  In game terms, loot markers should have a plethora of items like ammo, food and medical items.  Vehicles continue to be used as gas and other POL will be available.  The game table should be fairly open as things had not grown in yet.  The cars are just going to have a patina of dust but not looking all rusty or dirty.

By four or five years there will be a number of changes that come to mind.  The walkers will become less of a threat as before as you’ll have cleared out most in your area.  Herds could be a problem but you would have established a watch as your group will have stabilized in some sort of enclave.  Ammunition will be at more of a premium as it gets used up.  Keep in mind that even with the number of hand loaders out there, loose powder and primers will become scarce.  Yeah, I know, in the comic (the game is based on the comic) and the TV series, Eugene has a cartridge factory but I wonder where he got the primers from for that amount of ammunition (it is not a documentary).  There will be more bows or crossbows along with other hand weapons.  Food will be more of the ‘locally made’ kind as well as will first aid items.  I would probably put in more Molotov type weapons, tainted gas will burn as merrily as fresh, than grenades or other explosives into the possible loot markers.  Vehicles should be weathered as well as any other things that are exposed to the elements for a long period even if they are still serviceable.  Sure you could get them to run on alcohol but do some research and see how viable that is when you’re trying to grow enough to keep everyone fed.

After six or seven more years the firearm will probably be out of use for the most part unless you have the ability to hand load and still have supplies.  I think that most people will be armed more like the 15th century than 21st century.  Ranged weapons will be almost exclusively bows or crossbows and sidearm will be swords or other edged weapons.  Access to good steel and the ability to work it will also impact.  When you consider the amounts of metal needed to make a sword or axe, a blacksmith would be worth his weight in gold.  Food and clothing will be homespun than it was before and medical will be fairly rough and ready rather than the more delicate things.  Gas vehicles will be a thing rarely seen.  Still you’ll need motor oil and grease for the vehicle even if you had surplus grain for a distillery.  Cars will be more a source for metal and other items once their use as transportation has ended.

So there are some thoughts.  There are few minis that will cover the last period, blue jeans and broadswords may just be how it is, after all there are tons of them out there.  Hm, Blue Jeans and Broadswords would be a great name for a Jethro Tull or Uriah Heep album.  Someone get Ian Anderson on the phone…

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Musings on TWD or where did all this ammo come from?

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; MYSTERY BOX

 I will get right to it.  I have a soft spot for ‘mystery’ boxes, grab bags or whatever you want to call them.  For X amount of dollars you will Y amount of merchandise.  In the case of my recent Warlord Games Mystery Box it was not an exaggeration. But first as always a bit of history!

I had my first experience with this sort of thing with Games Workshops offering, usually around the holidays, a chance to get a Grab Bag for $50 and you would told you’d get at least $75 worth of minis.  I remember that I received a number of larger minis in the ‘bag’ that arrived in a box.  It had an Eldar dreadnaught, a Harlequin Jetbike and number blister packs of other stuff.  I remember pricing it out from the then current catalog and I was hooked as it did live up to the hype! 

Let me tell you about these kinds of things come in this sort of offering and I am not going to pull a punch.  You will get stuff from discontinued games and other stuff that the company has in the warehouse that has not, and to be honest can’t, sell.  Some mitigate that with stuff from current lines that will add to your collection, possibly or it could be something you’ve wanted to try and just didn’t want to pay full price for it.  You could also get a stuff that is just the dregs of that company’s game lines that are just crap that you can’t use or can’t trade. 

So when I saw the ‘mystery box’ advert that dropped into my email I had that moment of excitement.  Could that be as good as GW’s in those halcyon days of yore?  Could I actually get some stuff I wanted and not just a box of dreck?  Well, read on…

The box arrived on time (Thanks UPS!) and I opened it up to see if I had been taken for a ride.  Yes, there was a level of trepidation even though I had ordered stuff from Warlord before, and also found that their Customer Service was top notch, I was really thinking about what could be in there.  I can say that I was not disappointed. 

First off, the minis; I got a box of Yak-1s and package of dice for ‘Blood Red Skies’.  I don’t have this game and usually don’t go into air games.  In a similar vein I go a large blister pack of Soviet G-55 MTBs for the game ‘Cruel Seas’, again I don’t play the game so I am not sure what to do with them.  The same for the Boromite Matriarch that was also in the box, no idea what I am going to do with it.  But wait, there’s more!  I got a sprue of Bolt Action’s British Infantry and the corresponding weapon sprue to arm the little Brits with.  I can use these in both a skirmish WWII game and just as post apocalypse troops.  Oh, then there is a couple sprues of survivors and terminators from the discontinued Terminator: Genisys game.  They will go in the alternative Walking Dead pile.  Well, the humans will.  And there is a Heritage mini of Friar Tuck, keeping him and will become a cleric in fantasy games or priest in historical ones.  It is quite a nice figure.  Finally there is a small zip bags of resin minis from the now defunct Dr. Who game Warlord had.  Yes, six Doctors and K-9!!!!  They are going to get on the table by hook or crook.

Now, I also got the campaign book for Bolt Action; “Battle of France”.  It is a $30 book and I am debating about keeping it.  I have the first edition rules for the game somewhere and this is a good companion.  Still, would I use it?  I really have to think about getting into a new game.  Love the minis though… At the bottom of the box is a copy is a copy of Wargames Illustrated with an enclosed sprue of Samurai from the Test of Honor game.  Five of them with multiple weapons from swords to spears, they will go onto the shelf and be used in one of my fantasy games.  How did Warlord know that I have a slowly growing band of Samurai? Looks like the Ronin rules from Osprey Games may get a play or two…

There were a couple last things that are not, necessarily, mini related but there is a laser line and laser pointer for use in gaming.  Handy things to have on the game table. 

So there you have it.  A box of stuff, some things that I can use and some I can’t.  It was quite accurate in the advert that you’ll spend $75 and get about $150 worth of merch.  I think its well worth the roll of the dice to get the thrill of a surprise.  Sure, it’s a gamble but never tell me the odds.  Now if only I’d gotten those Judge Dredd rules….

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; MYSTERY BOX

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; 2020… Sigh…

I was not going to do a ‘year in review’ type thing. I thought it would be a bit self-indulgent.   That is until I actually figured out all the things I painted this year.  With COVID’s assistance there were 165 minis added to the collection collection.  I did leave out the stuff I painted for others.  I also wanted to share the things that I learned and/or realized about this year and the hobby.  That makes this blog a little longer than I’d like.

To start let’s talk minis.  In putting this together I had a realization that I tended to look at painting random minis as they came across my sights rather than a ‘themed’ paint effort.  That said, in painting the goblins I was probably close to a ‘Paint an entire army’ experience though they were really an experiment in not painted them frikkin green.  The minis are grouped by manufacturer and not in the order I painted them.  Finally, the categories are from my inventory of minis.  I keep track via spreadsheet by army and number.  If a collection reaches a certain point I will give them their own page. 

First up let’s look at what was added to my Warhammer Fantasy Battles list.  This is a list of Citadel minis that don’t have anything more than a smallish warband or less.  I added 8 minis.  I actually got three Bretonnian Lords painting in proper chivalric markings.  Have I ever stated that I hate painting horses?  My fave is a metal Witch Elf from 2004.  While I think the Drow skintone from Army Painter is a bit too dark, she turned out will enough.  I put her in red silk and a coppery bronze as they contrast nicely with the skin colour.  It was announced this year that the WHFB would return in a few years.  Saw a pretty meh graphic offering of Kislev and some Bretonnian blurbs.  I personally think that it is just smoke being blown at those of us who still play WHFB, as a way to coerce us to buy new products. 

Then there is the 33 added to the 40K list.  Mostly they were my trying to catching up with some old projects, like repainting some old Eldar minis, or adding to the Space Marine Adventures game that I like to play with the grandkids.  I also finally finished the minis of ‘Ash Waste Nomad Chief’ that I had started a couple decades ago.  Sometimes taking a dive into the ‘old mini bin’ you come up aces for something to paint and he just was it.  All I had done on him was his face and some odds and ends.  Suddenly he was done.  He is in the center between a Brotherhood of a Thousand and an Angels Redeemed terminator Marine.  I also used my ‘covid’ time to dabble in other colour schemes for Space Marines.  That’s where the two terminator colour schemes came from.

A blazing two for Lord of the Rings! Eowyn and Legolas from the old ‘Heroes of the West’ box and had been languishing on my paint table and suddenly I was inspired. 

Ten from sundry other companies like Ral Partha and Wizards of the Coast but also included two new companies that I had never bought from, Monster Fight Club and Knight Models. Both are producing some interesting stuff.  Check out their websites.                                    

Ten from Reaper.  Their metals are still top notch but the Bones line is really hit and miss while the Bones Black is better but still a little spotty.  I was overjoyed to get both the large efreeti and the genie and get them painted.  I am hoping to get them, at least one anyway, on the table as part of a dungeon crawl.  I am particularly happy with the skin tones on both.  The red was far more difficult than I thought it would be.  I think it worked.  I also painted an old Succubus with the same skin tone and it did not turn out as nice.

The Mantic collection had the largest increase with 41 minis added.  I finished the ‘Miles Behind Us’ (The Farm) and ‘Safety Behind Bars’ (the Prison) expansions.  The minis  In April I bought the ‘Here’s Negan’ game off of Amazon and when I opened the box I found that there were six walkers missing.  Mantic’s customer service on it quickly and in a couple weeks I had not just the missing walkers but an additional six!  Great customer service and extra minis?  They have a customer for life here.

Eighteen from Gripping Beast.  All from their old Crusades sets.  Frankish Infantry with full commands.  In a bit of a departure for me as I put together one regiment with Lincolnshire colours from my dad’s ancestors and one from Somerset for my wife’s.  I want to do a Welsh force also. 

My Empire Army had been sadly neglected with only four minis getting added.  I finally painted another Great Cannon and crew.

My Orc and Goblin warband grew into its own army with an addition of 25 Gobbos from the old ‘Battle for Skull Pass’ box.  A good friend of mine gave me a ton of minis from the same edition that she’d found in a box and they were kinda cluttering up my bin of minis.  So, with the idea of playing ‘Dragon Rampant’ or ‘Warhammer Skirmish’ I took to painting them.  Long before I had put any paint on them I decided that I would paint them something other than GREEN!  Don’t get me wrong, I will probably paint the large Orc collection I have in the closet green, but I wanted to break the colour up with more ‘old school’ red and brown Gobbos. 

For my Ultramarines I only painted four, three from the Space Marine Heroes box and one from the ‘Space Marine Adventures, Rise of the Orks’ game. 

Finally, ten for my beloved Dark Angels.  Four Deathwing Terminators from the ‘Dark Vengeance’ box set (to complete the squad), four tactical from the ‘Space Marine Heroes’ series and two, 5th Company Master, and the Tactical Squad Sergeant also from ‘Dark Vengeance’.   

Grand total of 165 minis painted.

I feel the need to make some comments about the modeling aspects of the year.  I got better with Contrast Paint and learned a lot about what my painting style would use them for; as a heavy wash or glaze.  I don’t like some but others have found a place on my paint table.  I want to mention Black Templar, Flesh Tearers Red and Blood Angels Red are fantastic all-rounders.  The browns and greys are good too.  The standout though is Iyanden Yellow.  It goes on a little brown but dries to a nice golden yellow.  Others, well, let’s just say your mileage may vary.

I puttered A LOT with making terrain and objective markers.  You should do a deep dive in your bits box if you want to do that.  I used a good chunk of my 1/35th scale boxes and bags to make them and though they are out of scale, they look great on the table top.  That being said I also found that I a number of things to make scenery and fencing with.  Always, ALWAYS, have a mini close to make sure that your fence is to scale.

I bought, in 2019, a small container of Dollar Store spackling.  I was going to play with it as a gap filler and basing material.  It dried to a large extent and I was hard put as to what to do with the crumbly material that was mostly cellulose.  It easily rehydrated but was tough to get the right ratio of water to material and it was tough to use then.  So, in a fit of inspiration I started mixing it with white glue instead of water.  Worked okay but you got a lot of shrinkage as it dried.  Then it hit me.  I pulled out a bottle of Gorilla Wood Glue and I was in business.  Less shrinkage but tough and could be painted and sanded.  It also reacted well to just about everything I put on it. 

Finally, I want to tell you what I had to relearn about painting and gaming.  I have of late painted far more than I have gamed.  I had to relearn it is a hobby to be enjoyed not something that needs to be done. Mostly these are for the express purpose to play games with the grandkids.  Still some, like the Batman or Monster Fight Club, I just like the minis.  Some of the 165 seemed to be painted in minutes others it was a labour that took months.  This is a very individual oriented hobby.  You paint the way you want to.  I need to be reminded of that too.  Just because it is painted one way on the box does not mean that you have to paint it like that. 

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; 2020… Sigh…

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; And now for something different.

It’s been a while since I talked about new minis that I have taken a stab at.  I was thinking about getting some non-Mantic produced minis to play in The Walking Dead game that were ‘all my own’.  So, wandering around the shelves in the ‘Chest (My local hobby store and thank God it’s still open!)I found a handful of new packs from a company called “Monster Fight Club”.  Looking through them (you should ALWAYS look at all the packs if you see something new) and thought that they may fit the bill though they are for a game called ‘Cyberpunk Red’.

I don’t play any of the Cyberpunk games, neither the RPGs nor computer games, though I understand that they can be quite fun.  The premise is in the near future there is a dystopian world with Cyborgs and what not.  Sort of a Sci-Fi meets High Fantasy thing.  A number of other games out there that spun off of the original Cyberpunk RPG like Shadowrun (recommended by me) and things like GWs Necromunda and GURPS Cyberpunk from Steve Jackson Games.  If you are looking for a visual for what the milieu should look like, well, the film Blade Runner is a good place to start.

Anyhow, I bought the ‘Combat Zoners A’ pack.  They are armed with pistols but one has a suppressed carbine (M4) and another has what looks like an Milkor MGL.  The minis come in packs of three and are cast in a plastic that is a little on the soft side and feels a little ‘soapy’ but a good wash with a little dish soap fixed that.  The pack also provides a sprue of separate heads along with the arm/weapon of the MGL gunner, and bases for the minis.  They are quite well posed; particularly the MGL gunner has very a casual one.   Initial comparison with the TWD:AOW showed that the scale of these minis is fairly compatible. They look like they’ve got a mix of military civilian clothes and equipment.  The heads all ski masked or cowled.  One has a helmet that looks like a motorcycle cop’s.  I decided not to use the one with the helmet.  I would have liked to have had one head, at the very least, that was bare or with just a bandana around the face and nose.  This is about my only criticism as the minis are crisply molded and look good.

Remember ‘scale’ is always flexible.

There was very little flash and almost no mold lines so a new sharp #11 blade and some patience quickly got that sorted out.  After a bath in the afore mentioned dish soap to remove any and all mold release I let them air dry overnight.  I used super glue to put them on the bases and painted the arm and heads separately.  MFC recommends the use of super glue over the standard styrene types.  I primed with a Rustoleum grey auto primer and let that dry for 24 hours.  In the meantime I started thinking about colours and basing.  I thought that they should have military green trousers for all of them along with a sandy brown for their webbing and boots. I put the MGL gunner in more military style suspenders and the others in leather jackets.  As I have not decided that they are part of a larger group I have not put any symbols on them.  As they seem more 32mm they can be used as hired mooks in other games like the Batman miniature game.

They painted up quickly and really lend themselves to painting as a group as they are just different enough to give them some individuality.  They then got some flock, sand and tufts on the base.  I had thought about putting them is a more urban basing but I liked this better.  What would really have made them better is to get some litter and trash on the base so it would look like they were standing in an empty lot or something.

My final thoughts are that they are fun minis to paint and will look good on a table top with some of the Mantic TWD minis.  Yeah, they are a little bigger in scale (scale is always flexible) than those but you don’t notice it until they are side by side.  Even then it is not super noticeable.  The weapons load out and gear easily works with Mantic minis or just about any system really.  They look good to, not to futuristic, to go with any modern/post apocalypse game.  Some of the minis are very specific to the Cyberpunk game but that should not dissuade you from at least painting some up for display at the very least.  While are some soft details that is more due to the medium it’s cast in than an issue with sculpt and it is in areas you would have to really look for.  If you see a pack, get it, you won’t be disappointed….

 

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; And now for something different.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Blathering about skirmish games?

Ahhh, skirmish games.  I have gone on about them quite often and I am not going to stop. Still, sigh, the sight of my Empire Army arrayed in Line-of-Battle with heavy cavalry on the right and left flanks, blocks of solid infantry in the center with great cannon and Hellblaster volley guns in support.  The sight of the Colours and banners waving as your army moves inexorably across the table to bring the hammer down on the enemy.  Now that is a game.  Oh, sorry. 

Skirmish games don’t have that sort of spectacle as huge crushing battles; they are more about the encounters of smaller forces that could build up to a larger encounter or that major battle.  If you have less time to play or don’t want to buy and build (or store) a huge force then Skirmish is the way to go. 

Take a game like ‘Lion Rampant’ from Osprey Games.  You have no more that 60-100 minis per side (100 is a LARGE game for the rule set, also remember that a Kings of War/WHFB could have five times that) organized into units of 12 or 6.  Add some trees and a few hills along with a building or two and your Anglo-Saxons can fight the good fight against the Viking raiders or the Norman usurpers.  The game can last 30 minutes to an hour and can be played solitaire.  The rules for how much and what kind of terrain are usually in the rules but can, and usually are, worked out between the players.  With ‘individual centric’ games, like Mordhiem and the Walking Dead games, terrain becomes even more important as the ‘battlespace’ gets smaller. 

Mechanically, there are few differences between mass battle and skirmish games.  After all, these games are about fights between two or more groups just like the larger games with ‘the scale’ on the ground being ‘closer’.  You will need a proper sized force of minis, preferably painted, polyhedral random number generators, and, of course, terrain.  More than in the larger scale games you need terrain to make the skirmish game ‘work’.  Trees and buildings in a large game get in the way of play and should be used economically to add to the tactical.  In the skirmish you have cover and concealment, you need to have fire lanes and lines of sight.  It makes any skirmish more fun and requires more thought on the part of the gamer.  Remember that you are playing on a smaller ‘field’ that should be more varied than that of a mass game. 

Another thing is that you should keep in mind is that skirmish games have far less minis to paint.  Some, like a classic dungeon crawl have as little as four heroes.  Looking at the bad guys, you can just paint them grey, put a black wash on them and call it a day.  If you look at games in a modern setting it is easy to just put everyone in jeans and work shirts, a small force of survivors in modern clothing is usually far simpler than the classic medieval schemes.  It is a great opportunity to paint with different styles and patterns and hone your skills.  Take a walk through WalMart or Target clothing sections and gain inspirations.  Plaids and checks, different shades and mimicking the different types of cloth that makes up our clothes.  One of the few things that I like about GW’s contrast paints is that it does make painting clothing a bit easier for the beginner and painting moderns is very good at learning painting skills.  I plan on doing some commentary on Contrast Paint later. 

What would I recommend for an easy to learn skirmish game?  That is a good question and one loaded with opinion.  It makes no difference if you’re a newbie and want to dip your toe into miniature gaming or the most hardened Grognard that has played for decades; get a game that interests you!  My most recent purchase is the ‘Here’s Negan!’ game from Mantic.  It is a ‘crawler’ type game based on the ‘Walking Dead All Out War’ game.  With random walkers, five ‘heroes’ and Negen following close and will kill you if you fail, well, is an interesting game.  If zombie games don’t do it for you then a quick web search will give you a number of places to get them.  Some may even be free.  (I am considering Atomic Mass Game’s ‘Marvel: Crisis Protocol’.)Try them out and see if they work for you.  Keep in mind that you can adapt rules and make your own scenarios.  Never just play a miniature game just once and don’t let anyone tell you that this or that game don’t ‘work’. 

Let’s talk about THE RULES.  Most would think that the rules are, especially if you’re skirmish game is based on a larger mass battle game, a ‘light’ version of those rules.  Not always the case, sure Space Marine Adventures is a gateway game but not really based on the 40K rules but the audience it’s aiming for is on the younger side, the rules for Kill Team, however, are not ‘dumbed down’ in any way.  Sure things are changed slightly for the scale of the game.  Reading the rules you will see those differences and adapt.  When looking at the rules, most will have some commentary on the why’s and wherefore’s of those changes. 

Finally, a comment about gaming in this genre, I’d started this with a praising of mass battle games and all that.  Skirmish games have a different atmosphere than mass games.  The ascetic is a smaller, closer experience.  I find, in some ways, far more satisfying than watching two large armies locked in combat, charging and counter charging.  The thought of a squad of Operators moving through an area full of bad guys or trying to get your party to safety after an apocalyptic event is a challenge that I can sink my teeth into (ok bad Walking Dead pun). 

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Blathering about skirmish games?

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Other Worlds and Having An Imagination.

I was blessed with parents who encouraged my reading of just about any kind of book.  In high school I’d read Heinlein, Tolkien, and tons of other sci-fi/fantasy novels and short stories.  I read horror and history books along with biographies and commentary.  Classics were available to me as well as current affairs.  All have served me well throughout what I have done in my life.  Was I indulged by my parent’s library?  Yep.  It is part of why I look back and wish I could thank them one more time.  I think this is why I can’t remember a day, with the exception of Parris Island (that’s different), when I was not reading, thinking or writing about other worlds.  My current fixation is on a couple fantasy characters and a post-apocalypse story or two.  Don’t know why they have popped into my head and taken up residence but they have.  They share darned little other than being in my brain housing group. 

Wat 1.jpg
Wat, lost in the woods

So, where are we going with this?  Well, I was going through my unpainted minis, looking for that next extraneous thing to paint and it hit me; I have a need to write fluff for every mini I paint.  It is a compulsion for me that I can’t resist.  As an example I give you a named mini from the OLD Citadel F4 Men-At-Arms series; Wat.  He is a nice lead casting from 1987 and is typical of an era when single metal castings were the norm. He is armed with a long sword and seax, armoured in a chainmail shirt with an iron helmet hanging from his belt.  He is a quite the dapper ‘Man at Arms’.  While a bit more historical than fantasy I thoroughly enjoyed painting him.  His back story?  He is a hero for Warhammer Quest when not being a soldier in my Empire Army.  He is a young man who could not stay on the farm after his family was killed by brigands while working the fields near their village.  His equipment is from being a successful mercenary and spending his money on something other than wine, women and song.         

Jade Fire Shaman2.jpg

On a more fantasy note I give you a recent casting of a Jade Fire Shaman from Reaper Miniatures.  She is a single cast mini in pewter.  I bought her after the first run of the mini last year.  She almost painted herself, as I had a good idea of how I wanted her to look.  I don’t paint non-Citadel Orcs and Goblin minis green as a rule (though I don’t always paint them green either) so she is a dark leathery flesh tone.  Her name is Vigda and she is a shaman of great power but prefers the company of humans and demi-humans over Orcs.  Quite menacing with her staff and skull along with the gods only know of items and pouches for her majicks.  Her green skirts and purple hood and cloak really make her striking to me. 

Space Wolf2.jpg

Finally, there is a Space Wolf from Warhammer 40,000.  Wiglaf Arinsson is a Veteran Sergeant with the Third Great Company in the time after the Horus Heresy in the 32nd Millennium.    Cast in the late 90s in pewter, his left arm is plastic and pinned in place; he was originally the Sergeant for a Space Wolves Devastator Squad.  He is a fine example of why I am putting this to paper, as they say. I was digging around the loose mini box (box hell, it is a six drawer rolling bin) and pulled him out in a fit of creativity.  He is wearing Mk. III Power Armour and has been a Wolf for almost two centuries.  The ‘modern’ 42nd Millennia Wolves are a lighter grey and while I have painted a few squads for a 40K Army, I wanted to do something different.  So I got a box of Horus Heresy Marines in Mk III armour and thought, darn, just needs a good backstory and a character for a Kill Team.  Enter Wiglaf.  Born on the Wolves’ homeworld of Fenris and a blooded warrior by his 12th year, he was chosen by the Wolves and survived his transformation to become a Space Marine.  He participated in the final battles of the Heresy, the Scouring, and he was finally killed in battle with Orks during the War of the Beast.

So there, three very different minis that all share one thing, other than being on my shelf waiting for the next game; they all have a coherent back-story that is rooted in the game universe they were created for.  I really enjoy this part of the hobby as I need to let the imagination out to run rampant.  I know that I have stated the Vigda the Orc almost painted herself.  Almost.  While painting her I was thinking about a colour that would fit in with an Orc living among humans.  In my mind Orcs have a more natural colour palate with earthy browns, dark greens and coppery reds but would they do the same in a ‘civilized’ setting?  Blues, yellows and purples are more ‘human’ to me.  You can see it in my human minis.  It then popped into my head that purple was the colour to use for the cloak as it would her stand out on the game table’ even with other species around her.  It was like she spoke to me that she needed a purple cloak.  So I started with my darkest purple.  I then softened it a bit with just a touch of a cream colour to the base purple and gave this a wash to shade the folds.  I think it turned out well.

When writing this blog I took some turns from what the title says.  Still, I think I made my point; Use your imagination.  Put some thought and, to be blunt, soul into your minis and your games.  Whatever game you play, your minis should be a reflection of your view on the genre as well as the game itself.  I believe this is what makes me so satisfied with a miniature game.  Yes, the game may be published by a company but the ultimate result is your game.  Is it really just four or more people sitting around a table rolling the dice and checking a table for the results?  Perhaps, deep down, it is more than that.  Perhaps the players are telling a story to each other and to themselves.  Humans need to tell stories; we know from looking at our own history this is very human.  Not as epic as say, Beowulf or Gilgamesh, but perhaps something more earthy, something more organic folktales from people sitting around fires in their communities and talking about adventures and adventurers.  I think this is the most human of past times. 

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Other Worlds and Having An Imagination.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Lore or legend? Who cares?

Yeah, perhaps a bit hyperbolic but I am a Marine, what you got?  Heh.

So, the Marines are 244 years old.  I was going to write a long blog about Marines in Vietnam during the Hill Fights but I have not been happy with how that is turning out.  You’ll see it later to be sure but I had an inspiration to write about small details that most Americans don’t know about their Marine Corps.  Victor H. Krulak, Lt. Gen. USMC, nicknamed ‘Brute’ by his Academy classmates as he was only 5 and half feet tall, in his book ‘First to Fight’ stated that the Corps exists only at the will of the American people.  I won’t disagree.

The lore of the Corps starts with the Marines being founded in a bar.  Well, that is certainly true that Tun Tavern was a recruiting site for the Corps.  I like it and have not found anything to counter the story.  The site of the tavern is covered over by a highway now.  We Americans seem to have done a lot of that with historical sites that we forget about and attach no value to till it is too late.  For all that, and in spite of the teetotalers of the country, we like our drink and do it as often as we can.  I personally have had beer rations in the field (warm and in a green can labeled simply ‘beer’) and had a bit of the national drinks of a number of countries around the world.  Oy, most was good but I doubt I will ever get a taste for slovitz….

The term ‘Leatherneck’ comes from a stock of leather worn with dress uniforms starting in 1798.  Incredibly impractical for battle it was ‘martial’ enough for the period but not worn ‘in the field’.  We would discard the stock in 1872 for good, but the name stuck and Mr. Webster would include it in his dictionary.  The current jacket for Dress Blues has a satin or other soft cloth liner for ‘comfort’ but you put sweat on it and let it rub your neck for a few hours…  I loved wear my full Blues every chance I could get but after awhile I actually was a redneck…

I have talked about this in a previous blog but I love the story so I include it here; 4th Marine Brigade was moving up to stop the last German offensive in 1918.  Just as the Marines were sitting into their positions a staff car containing a high ranking French officer stopped and said officer told the Marines a general retreat was on and the Marines needed to pull out.  The Marine officer said to his French counterpart, ‘Retreat Hell, we just got here!’  Did it happen?  Yeah, I think so.  Maybe not quite as described, but the Marines did stay and stopped the Germans.  The Germans were quite amazed at the rates of fire and accuracy of that fire from the Marine positions.  As we know from history the Germans held all things martial to a near religious standard.  The Marine at Belleau Wood impressed them.  Usually with the bayonet.

WWI stories are usually factual as the American military had actually been working on keeping accurate records of operations.  Still, of all the WWI war stories nothing beats Dan Daly, again one of the Corps, and mine, favorites.  Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Daly was the holder of two, yes two, Medals of Honor and was in 6th Marines at Belleau Wood.  Pinned down by fire he would rage at his Marines about getting after the enemy.  Finally an exasperated as only a Gunny can be, he yelled, ‘Come on you sons o’bitches!  You wanna live forever?’  They reached the German lines…  Probably chasing the Gunny for call there mums that. 

Wake Island has been heralded as ‘The Alamo of the Pacific’.  Due to the losses of the Navy a relief mission was canceled to save the remnants of the fleet at Pearl that doomed the island’s garrison.  Near the end of the battle the Command at Pearl Harbour asked ‘Is there anything that we can provide?’  The answer was ‘Send more Japs’.  I think this probably happened.  Last act of defiance as it were.

Of the original Marine Regiments formed the 4th Marines were activated in April of 1914 and were used in the Mexican Crisis of that year.  It would not be off the rolls until 1942.  They were the China Marines of Legend and I had the honour of meeting an old China Marine while on Recruiting Duty.  I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.  Anyway, after the Japanese took control of Shanghai the Regiment was moved to the Republic of the Philippines.  Here they would fight a losing battle when the Japanese landed in the January of that year.  Lacking support and supplies they and Army and Philippine counterparts would retreat down the Bataan Peninsula and make a last stand at Corregidor.  The end came there in May.  The Regimental Commander, rather than let the Regimental Colours be captured, ordered them burned.  Because of this, even though reconstituted in 1944, the Regiment can not return to the United States as tradition holds. 

Did you know that the Commandant’s House at 8th and I streets is one of the oldest buildings in the Capitol?  It was one of the few that were not burned by the British when they torched Washington DC.  The legend is that the British commander was so impressed by the stand of the Marines during the Battle of Bladensburg (24 August 1814).  The other story is that it was spared as the British commander wanted to use it as his headquarters and they just didn’t set it afire when they pulled out.  (BTW, I highly recommend you research the War of 1812 in general and the Battle in particular.)  This also leads into the legends of buried treasure on the property.  Yeah, buried treasure.

A favorite story from Guadalcanal that probably did happen as reported and it is a bit of an emotional story to me.  After being forced to retreat from the Ilu River one machine gun position didn’t get the word.  Throughout the night the weapon would repeatedly fire into the assaulting Japanese and disrupting their formations.  At daybreak, after the last assaults, the Marines sent out a party to recover the gun and bodies.  The gunner was laid over the weapon with the other members of the crew dead beside him.  They were surrounded by the bodies of the enemy.  The recovery party was surprised to find that gunner alive.  All he wanted to know was did any get by him…  When told ‘no’ he passed into unconsciousness and died. 

Jarhead started in WWII.  Most sources say that it is because the Navy would look at the Marines in their Dress Blues and thought that they looked like their heads were sticking out of a jar.  I am not sure that is true but I do know that my father-in-law was not happy that I was not at all offended by being called that.  Of course he didn’t like my question about the secret decoder ring he go when he graduated from Air Force basic. 

So, there’s a few pieces of lore and legend from the Corps.  There is a lot more out there.  The story of Lou Diamond, ‘Manila John’ Basilone, and all the wars and battles fought by Marines.  We are 244 years old.  We have fought in EVERY clime and place.  We exist because the American people want us to.  Happy birthday Marines!

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Lore or legend? Who cares?