Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; An ode to Beakies or The Most Anticipated Box EVAH!

The Dark Angel stood back and watched the tank burn.  He did not raise a hand to put down the crew as they tried to put out the flames that engulfed them.  They had turned their backs on the Emperor, the Imperium and all of Mankind.  They deserved no better than to burn in the fire of their treachery.    

GW has released a new box set;  ‘The Horus Heresy – Age of Darkness’ based in the time before the current 40K storylines when there were still Legions of Space Marines.  The box includes a hardback rulebook and most of the stuff to play in the setting of the 30th Millenia.  Yes, there are Cataphractii Terminators in the box.  Yes, two special characters also, Praetors but more on that later.  Yes, a tank and dreadnought.  More importantly FORTY(!) BEAKIES!!!!  For us old grognards that is the best thing that GW can do for us!  Most of us who have played from the late 80s cut our teeth on the original Marines for the ancient ‘Rogue Trader Era’.  Over the years we’ve been waiting for a new set of ‘Beakies’ to paint up and game with.  Now it’s here and I have one.

I make no secret of my affection for Beakies, or more accurately Mk. VI ‘Corvus’ Armour.  They were, and for some of us still are, the most iconic of Space Marines.  The original Rogue Trader rulebook was full of pics of well painted lumps of lead that were kind of in scale with each other.  The Beakie was a preeminent type of Marine armour as that was what SMs were supposed to look like.   At the start there were no other types of Powered Armour to appear until ‘91 or ‘92 with the first of what would become Mk VII ‘Eagle Armour’.  The Mk VI were also what was in the first mulitpart plastic set to be sold and they were featured in a number of pics in White Dwarf as well as most of the books published in the era.  By the advent of the 2d Edition (1993) they were on their way out and by 3rd they were gone in favor of the later marks of armour.  The later multi part kits of tactical squads would have parts of the Corvus armour and you could build one or two out of the box.  The old Space Wolf Gray Hunters had a few more beakie helmets.

The fluff would tell you that the Mk IV armour was the most prevalent of armour types inthe latter part of the Heresy and who am I to disagree?  Still, it is the Covus Beakies that I wanted rather than earlier marks that appeared in previous Heresy games.  Sure they are larger than the old plastic ones from the late 80s but  then  the technology for molding plastic has gotten better as well as using CAD to create the minis.  No issue with that.  I am just glad to see new beakies, and boy, are they nice.  As soon as I can clear what’s on my paint table I will assemble a squad to show off.  They will be Dark Angels.

But wait.  Is there a catch?  Is there something that causes consternation within the ranks of the Old Gumblers?  Yep, you know there is.  Is it the cost?  $300???  No.  Seems a bit much but if you look at the price of a box of 10 minis which is probably $60, well, do the math, so no, not the cost.  There is a ton of plastic that could make two small skirmish armies or one large army for HH:AoD.  It has a big honking rulebook that gives background for the Heresy era along with the rules for the basic game.  There are two copies of very generic force lists.  The biggest issue I have with the box is that it will cost you another $150 or so to get the two army books for both factions in order to get the unique lists and traits of the Legions of the Loyalists and Traitors along with the Imperial Army and other organizations.  With a hardcover rule book of 300+ pages should have had some  Legion specific things.  The two Praetors in the box are very much unique to the Sons of Horus and Imperial Fists as they are the two Legions on the box art.  Finally a sheet of decals for the two featured Legions. 

This blog was intended to be an ode to the Mk. VI Tactical Armour and its return to the game table in a big way, became a sort of review of the new box set.  I have to say I’ve not yet assembled or painted up so it’s more of an ‘in box’ commentary.  Also, keeping in mind that I have not played AoD or read through any of the newer ‘support books’ I would not be able to say that it is accurately ‘Two playable armies’ in the box.  If anything it is a good start and I will certainly keep an open mind about what I could do to create an army worthy of the Legions.  Considering the new pricing of the plastics of HH, $80 for 20 Marines, and the number of releases that are ‘coming soon’, I wonder if the Heresy will become a third (or fourth if you count the Lord of the Rings game) core game for GW…

The Space Wolf Sergeant, Wiglaf Arunssen, grunted at the Dark Angel, ‘More are on their way.’  The Angel growled back, ‘Let them.  They will meet the same fate at our hands, cousin.’   Wiglaf grinned and showed his fangs.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; An ode to Beakies or The Most Anticipated Box EVAH!

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; The bestest army in 40k or Maaaarrrrriiiinnnnes in Spaaaaaaaace….

In the Thirtieth Millenium the Emperor of Mankind would reveal himself and with the help of his armies he would put down all the Warlords of Earth, unify the Planet, then the Solar System, and prepare for the Great Crusade across the Galaxy to bring all of Mankind under his rule.  To spearhead this Crusade the Emperor would create 20 Primarchs to be his generals and they would in turn be used as genetic forbearers to the Legiones Astarte, his Angels of Death, the Dreaded Space Marines.  This is the tale, in brief, of those demigods of war. 

So, here we are to talk about Games Workshop’s most popular and best supported army for Warhammer 40,000; The Imperial Space Marines.  When WH40K was first published in the ancient days of 1987 the main forces established for the game were the Space Marines.  The Imperial Army got some pages, Orks were there and Eldar but the Marines were the detailed army in the game.  Though the fluff was still to be written most of the general rules about the SMs were established in that first book.  The look was set with what would later be called ‘Mark VI’ armour, affectionately called ‘Beakies’, along with the weapons and other equipment… Oh, and the deodorant tank.

Imperial Space Marine Commander with Attendant. UltraMarines Chapter

If you look back through the last thirty odd years of miniatures, books, vehicles kits and all and sundry that go with the game you’ll see the changes that all those factions go through, some good, some bad and some just, well weird.  Throughout it all the SMs will be the driving force within the game for the story as well as being the team to beat.  Other factions may be rewritten, or written out, but the SMs stay pretty much the same as far as appearance goes. Yes, they become a victim of scale creep but overall you know an SM when you see him.  Currently in its ninth edition (good God!) the new Primaris Marines still look the part.  For the most part, I mean look at those shoulder pads!  Women in the ‘80’s would be impressed…

In the 30 odd years of collecting them, there have been a bit of changes in detail and scale.  They sort of start out as odd little castings, not much larger than their Imperial Guard counterparts and are in some ways a bit less imposing.  Especially with the old RTB1 plastic ‘Beakies’.  Oy, what a simple kit!  Head on torso, no neck, then torso on legs, arms and line up the hands and weapons.  Boom.  Done.  Oh, and you get missle launchers and flamers for ‘special weapons’ and that is it.  But there was something a bit enticing to get them and build them.   I would still build them if I found them at a flea market.  They are so beloved that the new Horus Heresy box is all Beakies!  Forty of them. 

Medic, Librarian and Chaplain

GW, surprised by the popularity of Rogue Trader, would release a number of metal and plastic Marines over the decades. Starting out with the C100 Space Marines in August of 1986.  They are single castings with a backpack molded on.  Then would come the ‘Tactical Marines’ with plastic backpacks but still one piece castings in lead.  Oh, then the Terminators, the dreadnaughts and the set pieces for display.  Bikes and ‘Land Speeders’ would come next.  Over the next 15 years or so they have metal bodies only with plastic arms.  Finally fully plastic Marines would start to appear first as terrible mono-pose (I can’t find the ones I have.) to multi part kits.  These kits would be the staple of most Space Marine armies until 2017 and the publishing of 8th edition with the introduction of Primaris Marines, they are all plastic.

To go along with the Space Marines you need to have villains and those would include, of course, Chaos Space Marines.  They would go through the same cycle of metal and plastic to fully plastic.  I have enough to make a sizable warband, but I am not a huge fan of the faction.  Just not my cuppa.  Still the CSM miniatures, particularly the named characters,  fascinate me to an extent.  The changes wrought in the armour by extended exposure to the Warp, how they maintained (or didn’t) organization within the ten millennia of time from the Heresy.  The Iron Hands and the Night Lords have some of the old organization left.  Emperor’s Children, well, not so much.  Finally I love the World Eaters being just that; the Eaters of Worlds. 

This has been rather generic commentary, I know.  The idea that I will later talk about the Chapters/Legions at some length should pique your interest but for now I just wanted to share these thoughts on the Marines in general.  I’ve played Dark Angels for years and continue to collect and paint the vast majority of them in the dark green or the bone white colours of the Chapter.  Not to say that there will not be other characters from other Chapters being on the paint table.  If you’re interested, get a box of Marines and look around the interwebs for ideas and paint them up.  You won’t be disappointed.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; The bestest army in 40k or Maaaarrrrriiiinnnnes in Spaaaaaaaace….

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Meddle

Sitting in my home office on a Saturday night working on a transaction.  Waiting on the signed copies from buyers’ agent to review and send off to my seller.  Opened Amazon Music to have some music to play.  Then Meddle appeared on the screen.  You have never heard of the Pink Floyd album Meddle?

Seriously?

Let me start with this premise; it is forty five or so minutes of presaging all that would come later.  Is it a cohesive ‘Floyd’ album?  No, not really, not like Dark Side or later albums.  Too many different directions and sounds of side one.  ‘One of These Days’ is a straightforward jamming rocker, ‘A Pillow of Winds’ is a throwback to the band’s psychedelica. ‘Fearless’ is a really gentle, thoughtful song. ‘San Tropez’ is just a song that is sort of fun and ‘Seamus’ is probably the best song with a dog singing the background vocals.

Then there is side two.  The entirety of the side is one song.  Close to being my favorite Floyd outing and certainly one of the most wonderful pieces of music ever written.  Echoes is a haunting opus of all that came before in the ‘The Floyd Sound’ and a realization of all that would come later.  I love it.  It covers so many textures and genres.  There is a lot of the old Barrett influence but this is no longer Syd’s band, nor was it Roger Waters, but rather four musicians hitting on all cylinders.  Echoes would appear in performances and if you’ve not heard ‘Pink Floyd Live in Pompeii’ quit reading this and go and listen.  I’ll wait.  

Coming after Atom Heart Mother which was not my favorite and a bit pretentious, in my opinion, it is a breath of fresh air that would jump past ‘Obscured by Clouds’ (not a bad album but clearly rushed for a movie soundtrack) and into ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, on to ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Animals’ and finally ‘The Wall’.  The idea that the four of them simply went into a studio and were just playing separately and this was the result was Meddle shows where they were at mentally.  Yes, Dark Side is arguably the best album they recorded for its creativity and Wish is definitely the ultimate Floyd album.  Animals was a bit of a failure, the problems between Waters and Gilmour were coming to a head over the band’s direction and The Wall was an overlong bit of indulgence.  Meddle though, Meddle is when they became Pink Floyd.  Meddle shows that yes, it could be made into a monster. If we all pull together as a team.

Give it a listen.  With headphones on.  In a dark room.  Turn it up.  Sit back.

You’re welcome.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Meddle

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Losing an IP, or This is the End

By the time you read this ‘The Walking Dead: All Out War’ will be disappearing from Mantic Games’ website.  With that happening I decided to talk about the game and the miniatures.  Why discontinue what is a fairly popular game?  Was it the end of the comics that the game is based on?  The final end to the TV show?  Was it that they had no more source material to work with and didn’t want to strike out on their own with a new or different group of survivors?  Perhaps, all of the above, but like the lack of an explanation about the cause of the zombie virus, it doesn’t matter. 

The owner of the IP, Robert Kirkman, through Image Comics, came out with one of the best selling horror comics ever in 2003.  It rapidly gained popularity within the comic community and with that you had, in 2010, the creation of the TV show.  In many ways the show has large differences with the comic but it became wildly popular.  To the mild surprise of many gamers Mantic’s “The Walking Dead; All Out War” is based on the comic when it appeared in 2015 with a successful Kickstarter and good reviews by those who got to play it first, along with commentary about how good the minis looked.  There are a number of play throughs for you to look at on YouTube. 

Negan (with Lucille) and the Governor

For those who don’t know, the story of TWD was about survival and the game was just the same.  Battling the walkers (Oh, yes, they are never spoken of as zombies and they were meant to be a homage to Romero and his Living Dead movies. No, really.) other survivor groups, and trying to gather food, medical supplies and ammunition.  Link that with random events like fire or hordes of walkers all the while ratcheting up the tension as the threat level grows until every turn could be the final overrunning of the party and a chow down for the undead.  This is a hoot to play and can really be a great way to kill, pun intended, an afternoon, but I am starting at the wrong place.

Andrea, Amy and Dale

The ‘starter box’ has enough minis to be fully playable right out of the box with heroes and villains AND walkers.  The rules are straight forward with an alternating activation system, actions, and, though there is only one scenario in the rulebook, it was quite flexible for more things than the ‘smash and grab’.   After the release of the core box there were 6 waves of new material and several boosters of major and minor characters with unique walkers.  The last new releases of resin boosters of some characters that were part of the last couple story arcs in the comics, though the Commonwealth is missing.  I did a rare game review years ago of the game in a blog and another on some thoughts about the changes that survivors will have to deal with as time goes on.  It is all based on the love of, and enjoyment from, the game.

Lori, Carl and Rick at the start of the Walker epidemic

Looking at the miniatures in the game they are quite good, some are better than others, remembering though, they are based on the comics so they are much different from the TV.  If there is one issue it is that they come fully assembled with a cast on base, I would have liked some options in weaponry and equipment.  Yes, there are some characters that have multiple iterations of their minis depending on where they are in the timeline.  The plastic that they are made from will take paint quite nicely but you should still prime them.  They compare nicely in scale with minis from other games and I think you’ll see them in other post apocalypse games, and not just zombie games.  Many of the survivor minis have the types of weapons and equipment that can be found in most homes today.  It gives the right tone of desperate people in extreme circumstances.  I hope that this will become a trend in post-apocalypse games to make the minis that look like normal people on the street.  It’s hard to think of a dystopian future with humanity recovering from a near extinction event yet having plenty of hair dye and spandex.  I prefer a game that takes place in a more ‘realistic’ setting rather than this wildly fantastic one.

Reggie and Shane with their walker incarnations.

TWD is also about family and those familial relationships that develop within the game’s campaigns.  Those sort of things are in the game and add to its depth.  The Grimes family, the Greene’s, Morgan and Dwayne, and so on, and this leads me to one of my very few criticisms of the game and Mantic, they don’t come all in a ‘faction’ box.  Now, the Greene family would have needed multiple boxes but, well, perhaps ‘Days Gone Bye’ should have been a standalone faction.  Yes, I understand that this is a marketing strategy.   

The Greene’s; Maggie, Lacey, Hershel, Billy, Arnold, Susie and Rachel. I think we need a bigger ride…

Should the end of support be the end of the game?  Well, yes and no.  The end of the license could be the birth of a fan driven movement to keep the game alive.  Much like Mordheim and Warhammer Fantasy, there will probably be a small hard corps of players who will continue to play and share new things on the ‘Net.  In the second expansion, ‘Days Gone Bye’ as well as the Mantic Games website have the rules on creating new characters and you can create new items and events to keep the game fresh.  I am going to create a few games in the piney woods of Up State New York or perhaps in North Carolina.  I will probably look at the Reaper minis and Hasslefree or a couple other sites that offer modern figures to create the new characters. 

Walkers

All this said, the core box is still available on Amazon and Miniature Market, it is under $50, and most of the expansions and booster packs are out there.  It’s a good buy if you just want to get into a nice little skirmish game that will entertain on a rainy day.  

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Losing an IP, or This is the End

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Reaper Minis or that Little Mini Company from Texas.

When I finished my blog about GW I had already started this one. Seemed logical to talk about the company with the second largest collection on my shelf.  While writing this I was mildly surprised to find that most of my Reaper Minis are women.  There are some male dwarfs along with some knights and barbarians but most are female.  Along with that many are magic users.  Why?  I have no idea but this collection grew organically from individual minis I just wanted to buy rather than building army units for a game.  Some were bought for Skirmish games, like Warhammer Quest, while others were for Role Playing but most were just bought and painted for the pleasure of it. The Barbarian ‘Beorn’ was the first to be bought and painted, sculpted by the wonderful Sandy Garrity specifically for replacing the barbarian in WQ. 

Reaper Miniatures was founded in 1992 in Fort Worth Texas. In the next few years they would end up in a large facility in Denton Texas.  They would hire a number of great sculptors from the world of miniatures.  Sandy Garrity, Julie Guthrie, Dennis Mize, Tim Prow just to name a few.  Most of those sculptors have been in the business for years and worked for a number of miniature companies like Ral Partha and Citadel.  I like the fact that they will give those sculptors full credit on the website for their creations.  Oddly, the company’s mascot is a succubus, you were expecting the Grim Reaper himself, named Sophie and they have made almost 40 different sculptures of her over the years.  Oddly, for a subject I rather like, I have only one; Innkeeper Sophie is a nice little mini in the Bones line.  The base was a bit miscast so I cut her off of it and put her on a hex base with wood inserts.  I think that is a good looking mini in that it looks like a Shopkeeper.  Well, one with large, leathery wings, Sculpted by Gene Van Horne. 

I have just under a hundred minis from Reaper on the shelf and they are all individual in their own way.  It gives them an aesthetic and feel that are very different from games like Warhammer or Kings of War.  They are far more individual types.  This rubs me the right way as I like to write fluff for those types of things.  They also are very game agnostic which allows them to ‘fit’ better in any game. I have fluff in my head, and sometimes written down, for them.  For example there are my three bounty hunters; Kyra, Bailey and Kara.  These ladies are loaded for bear and barbarians.  The incredible Werner Klocke sculpted all three, and though I did not buy all three at the same time, they all seem to match well.  They have been in a number of encounters with the likes of those n’er-do-wells that inhabit most fantasy milieu.  Like the Half-Orc Lurg who has been both hero and villain in games. 

For the next page or so I want to talk about those minis that make Reaper different.  To start out I want to show off a mini that I have written about before; The Aging Paladin!  Called Jada Twinsuns in the catalog I painted her up as an older, successful Paladin coming to the end of her career.  When I finished her I could not help but think that she looks like someone just a bit past their prime and I have projected a certain amount of cynicism into her.  She was just a delight to paint.

Then there are the Z-Apocalypse survivors.  I have yet to name any of these folks but I should get around to getting them cards for The Walking Dead as characters not part of the Comic Cannon. With the shotguns they seem to be more to my thoughts on what the survivors would carry.  The chainsaw, well, okay, over the top, but it came on the mini already.  Finally the lady with the submachine gun.  I thought she looked like Rosita from TWD with a more military look.  With the army duffle, I thought that she would make for a good grunt and the bag would carry loot.  

Reaper does a number of minis for other companies and they do a good job with those IPs.  I don’t have many from current lines but I do have a couple from the old Silver Sentinels, Sentinel himself and his arch nemesis, Kreuzritter. 

I have not talked about the materials the Reaper uses to cast minis.  Most of the ones I have talked about are a pewter alloy, with the exception of Sophie, who is ‘Bones Black’.  The material used in the Bones, Bones Black and Bones USA is a type of thermoplastic that is fairly easy to mold and takes paint without priming.  The original Bones has some issues in holding the details and warpage but the other two Bones are even nicer.  They all are inexpensive and durable.  The biggest plus is the effect of using this material is that you make large, multi part, models far less expensive!  So here are some larger minis. 

Fillyjonk ( I have yet to rename her ) is a Bones USA mini.  This one was a joy to paint also.  Nice detail, lovable face and heavily armed. THen there is Asanis, also Bones USA, who I see as a Force user but not trained as a Jedi.  The Bones USA is a bit more rigid than the Bones Black and far more than the original Bones.  Though Reaper says all the Bones series will take paint easily I like to use a primer on them.  The Bones USA is a gray colour and I used a lighter gray primer on them.  

I really could ramble on and on about why I like Reaper so much, but I’ll stop here with some final comments. There are noble elves, mighty dwarfs and humans of all shapes and sizes along with other demi humans like halflings, gnomes and so on. Add in moderns, WWII and the beasties, you’re spoiled for choice.  You can find a mini of just about any type using the ‘figure finder’ option that is a great filter to use on such a diverse site.  Customer service is excellent and they offer free shipping for orders over $50!  Don’t want to get $50 worth of stuff?  What is wrong with you?  Okay, $40 will get you some free minis. How many?  Well, funny you should ask, okay, there is a monthly promotional mini, then there is a list of five others you can choose one from.  Then there are the surprises you will find in the box.  I usually find that there are a couple bottles of paint in there.  Free minis and paint samples.  Nice.

So, go to the website, take a look about and see what they have. I haven’t even touched on the paints and paint sets.  The games, the dice or other items and nothing at all about the airbrush system.  Oi, talk about spoiled for choice.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Reaper Minis or that Little Mini Company from Texas.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; The Hill Fights of 1967 or War at the end of the Highway.

When I sat down I wanted to write about wargaming in Vietnam and I wanted to pick a single battle or campaign to talk about and show how, and where, you could find rules and miniatures.  As I started with the singular battles of 1967 in and around Khe Sanh to start with.  Researching the Hill Fights or the First Battle Khe Sanh.  It is without a doubt THE battle that I have used for years to exemplify the classic modern infantry battle.  I have tried to cover the battle overall along with some commentary to put it into a level of perspective.  I hope I have done justice to the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers who fought in the battles.

Here in the 21st century, as Vietnam fades in the national memory, historians tend to talk about the War in Vietnam from the events around Tet ‘68 and later.  If they do make mention of the war between ’64 and ’67 it is more as a prelude to Tet and the Siege of Khe Sanh or as part of commentary about the political events of South Vietnam.  In a thumbnail sketch, the Marines landed in Da Nang in 1964 and pursued the first real operation against the VC in ‘Operation Starlight’ in ’65.  The Army and Marine Corps had a number of other Ops that took place throughout the area of South Vietnam before Tet ’68. Certainly throughout 1967 the buildup of US, and Allied, forces would put a half million men on the ground and looking for a fight.  They would find it.  

In 1966 the five northern provinces of the Republic of Vietnam were ‘owned’ by the Marine Corps and would be for the next four years. The 1st and 3rd Marine Division were the main players along the DMZ.   III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) was the higher HQ in that area, and there was a Marine battalion afloat off the coast with the Naval forces in the area.  Route 1 was the major North/South and  Route 9 was the main east-west road in the area.  The Combat Base Khe Sanh sat at the end of that road and though termed a ‘Highway’ it was largely unpaved most of its length and not much more than a cart path as it ended at the Laotian border just six miles east of the growing Fire Base at Khe Sanh.  The Fire Base area was dominated by three hill masses to the northwest that were described by their elevations; Hill 881 North and South and Hill 861.  This was rugged terrain, rocky hills, riddled with caves and covered with heavy jungle vegetation.  The area would be chilly in the winter when the monsoon was on and damned hot during the summer dry season.  The units in the area were, quite honestly, at the far end of the world.  Their mission was to watch the DMZ and stop infiltration across it and from the Laotian border.

The Marines that would fight in those hills had a number of advantages, not the least of which was the abilities of their small unit leadership.  They had artillery, fixed wing and rotary wing air support and armored elements like the M48 tank and the Ontos.  (The Ontos was a small semi-armoured vehicle armed with six 106mm recoilless rifles and was quite handy against snipers as well as troops in the open.  It was one of those things the Army didn’t find a use for but the Marines did.)  All of that firepower had to be controlled and coordinated.  That is where the Company Grade officers and enlisted leaders came in as many had learned the hard skills of leading troops under fire.  The disadvantages for the Marines were that they were at the end of the supply line and that line was a narrow road that was easily shut down by the weather or enemy action.  Helicopters were an option to move men and supplies but they too were dependent on the weather and susceptible to enemy fire, especially when in the approach of a landing zone or on the ground.  The airfield at Khe Sahn was established that could handle C-130s on a good day but again you have a big target when on the ground.  The Marines were also just finishing their conversion from M-14 to M-16 rifles.  The lack of experience with and confidence in the new weapons can not be discounted.  Along with the new weapon there is the issue with the ammunition supply and it’s maintenance needs.  As a Marine in the late 70’s you had to keep that thing clean and having had to train with it in places like Thailand and the Philippines it was a contestant requirement.  Or, as more than one old hand would say, ‘it’s a Mickey Mouse piece of shit’.

By the close of 1966 there were two factions formed in the Military Assistance Command – Vietnam (MACV) (and National Command Authority)  on how to win the war.  Those who thought ‘hearts and minds’ were the way and most of the Marines and Army SOF fell into this group.  The Marines were sold on the idea of putting a squad of Infantry together with two ARVN squads and have them ‘garrison’ a village and help teach them to defend it.  Certainly, such Marine luminaries like Gen. Victor ‘Brute’ Krulak supported it. Those efforts were paying dividends by ’67.  The Green Berets teams with the tribes of the Central Highlands were seeing the same results with their work.  The other group thought that the use of ‘Big Battalions’ to fight and the attrition of the NVA/VC were the way to go.  They had the opinion that the Combined Action efforts of the Marines and Green Berets in the countryside would not win the conflict quickly enough.  That faction would look at the Hill Fights as the proof of concept.

Though the Marines were invested in the pacification program, the Marines and Soldiers in the area were willing to keep skirmishing with the Viet Cong, and more often the NVA, that were building up enclaves in western Quang Tri province particularly during the Tet of 1967 ceasefire.  This caused a grave concern to 3rd Marine Division Headquarters in Quang Tri town and it was passed to MACV Headquarters in Saigon.  The Commander of MACV, William Westmoreland, General, United States Army, wanted in his heart of hearts to bring the NVA and VC to battle in a conventional sense.  He felt the fastest way to dissuade the North Vietnamese from continuing the war would be to defeat them on the battlefield.  Intel reports had long shown that the NVA had infiltrated into the area and that they were building up to probably divisional strength.  All the indicators were there for the Marines, and the Green Berets at Lang Vei, to see long before Saigon started thinking about what to do.  Westmoreland saw the NVA operating in regimental sized units as a golden opportunity to bring them to battle.  He felt that here, on a battlefield that was away from population centers, the Americans could use all of their firepower and keep collateral damage to a minimum.    

 The Marines also saw importance in Khe Sahn as it held down the far end of their line watching the DMZ and Laotian border areas.  3rd Marines was given command of the area and scheduled a phased movement of elements of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines (3/3) into the Khe Sahn base.  (Note:  Regimental units were abbreviated by their type; 3rd Regiment of Marines was ‘3rd Marines’) By a quirk of fate, the buildup was scheduled to begin within a day of the start of the Hill Fights.  Also the arrival of Battery F of 11th Marines (note: the 10th, 11th, and 12th Marines were artillery Regiments) would give the Marines a 105mm artillery unit that could do ‘danger close’ (as we say) better than anyone else in-country.  There was also a section of the aforementioned Ontos added to the Marines firepower and elements of 1st Tank Battalion.   There were also Army Artillery batteries from Camp Carroll several miles to the east and Marine and Air Force fixed wing support.

The Hill Fights started on 24 April 1967 with a platoon sized patrol from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines (B/1/9) engaging what they thought was a VC battalion in a cave complex northwest of the base on the slopes of Hill 861.  It was the first large firefight of the year with the VC and being Marines, they responded violently knowing that the area was truly ‘Indian Country’.  This minor firefight would be different though, where before the VC would fight for a bit then disappear back into the jungle, this unit stayed to fight.  The VC were actually North Vietnamese Army regulars in Regimental strength.  With that the battle was on.  The Fights would bring all of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 3rd Marines and elements of the 9th Marines and 4th Marines in by the end of it.  What started as a firefight between patrols had evolved into a running battle that would, in my mind, be a spoiling attack on NVA and VC build up against the Marines at Khe Sahn as the communists wanted to ‘Dien Bien Phu’ the Americans.  Tactically, the Marines would again show that they were the masters of the battlefield through the use of their entire armory at the point of conflict while the NVA showed the American that they did have the stomach for a large-scale stand up fight.  Operationally, the Americans took a beating from a numerically superior force but did move units and assets around to bring the decimation of the VC in the area and destroyed a large amount of material that would not be available eight months later at Tet ‘68.  The Commander of III Marine Amphibious Force, Lt Gen. Lew Walt saw this fight for what it was.  He and the local commanders realized that this was meant to be an assault that would put the I Corps Area in a dire situation.  As it turned out, the siege that took place during Tet ’68 would have been a different story had the Hill Fights turned out to be a Communist victory. 

The Hill Fights would conclude, officially, on 10 May 1967.    881N, 881S and 861 would be in Marine hands at the cost of 155 killed and 425 wounded.  940 was the body count from the Marines for Communist dead and they have not disputed it.  It was frustrating for the Marines as they had to take a spot, move on and then come back and take it again and again.  There were moments that looked like Marine units would be overrun and wiped out only to be saved by air and artillery fires coordinated by the Marines on the ground.  It also showed that those Marines and their Navy Corpsmen were tough SOBs who lived up to the reputations of the Marines of yore with their willingness to fight hard and without quarter given, or asked for.  Few know of their sacrifice and their tenacity.  For this old Marine, it enters the realm of legendary and that special place of ‘Such as Regiments Hand Down’

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; The Hill Fights of 1967 or War at the end of the Highway.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Games Workshop; or a long and winding road.

Recently I wrote a blog about the wargaming miniatures that I had painted in 2021.  My mind turned to the miniatures I’ve collected over the years and I realized that I  want to go a little more in-depth about my favorite minis.  So we’re going to start with Games Workshop.  To be honest it would be more accurate to say miniatures from Citadel, Forge World (which are still extant), and Marauder, Chronicle and Iron Claw (which are not).  They all are, more or less, all GW minis so I will use that as a collective term.  They are, particularly the older ones, my favorites and are still the main ones I want to collect.  Certainly they are the vast majority of the collection because I also loved the games they produced.  With this I want to give an overview of, oh heck I just want to show off my minis…

Before we get started, GW has a love/hate thing going with their fans.  They have been, well, less than friendly with sections of their fan base, and this has been the main issue with us older gamers.  Most will tell you that is caused by the way that GW introduced Age of Sigmar and that was, in my opinion, a big F.U. to the fanbase of Warhammer Fantasy Battle.  Now, WFB was the original game created by GW and, well it was destroyed and replaced by the poorly done Age of Sigmar.  There is more, a lot more, but this is not that kind of blog. I don’t play the current edition of WH40K as my hobby time has become limited and I enjoy painting more.  I do have minis from 8th and 9th edition and you will see some here. Some of the things they’ve done I understand, some I don’t, but overall they are doing what they do to make money and pay the shareholders.    Spots the Space Marine will not be appearing in this blog…

There, the rant is done.

And now, a brief history lesson; Games Workshop, GW, was founded in 1975 and did a bit of business making stuff for other companies like TSR, ICE, and other early RPG companies.  In 1979 Citadel Miniatures was founded to make miniatures for those games and to support the first couple editions of what would become the first big game published by GW, Warhammer Fantasy Battles.  Throughout the Eighties the company would grow and start to influence the gaming community worldwide.  By 1991 with the growing popularity of Warhammer 40,000, GW was well on the long road to become THE game company in the world for Fantasy and Sci-Fi games.  Today they are the company that all the others compare themselves against and rightfully so.  GW has influenced other games on the tabletop as well RPGs and computer games.  Don’t believe me, well, Orcs, and Orks, are green because GW’s artists painted them green.

Considering the sheer number of minis that GW has sold over the last 35 odd years, I could not make commentary on all of them.  With my collection being over 1600 minis and ¾ of them are from GW, well, I couldn’t put all of them here either.  So, I will hit the wave tops, as they say.  The minis I am going to share should also show the evolution of the game industry, in general, from using lead to pewter and on to plastics and resin.  I will leave it to you to figure out the plastics from the lead. 

So the first minis from GW that I bought were Eldar for the initial iteration of WH40; Rogue Trader from 1987.   The scale, the fluff, and the mohawks (oh the punk mohawks!) made me want more.  Then I bought a pack of Space Marines and the rest is history.  Early on it was 40K almost exclusively but while on an unaccompanied tour to Okinawa I started to collect the fantasy stuff also.  I’d already had a few dwarf minis to simply paint and display but no real armies.  After that the hobby almost consumed all of my disposable income for at least a decade.  The internet was a boon for me to find new and second hand minis. I raised two large armies, Empire and Dwarf, and a few larger war bands of Elves, Orcs and Chaos. 

My oldest minis from GW are Bugman’s dwarf rangers, the first boxed set: RR1, circa 1984.  They are lead and cast with an integral solid base rather than the later ‘slotta base’.  Though I did mount them on 20mm square plastic bases (from GW of course) so they could rank up properly and ‘fit’ with the rest of my large dwarf army.  They, along with the banner man from the regiment, are now on the shelf and ready for a game of Oathmark.  They look great, for almost 40 year old minis that rattled around my bins for a few years, and I have a champion of the second iteration of the Dwarf Rangers as the unit commander.  Setting one beside one of the later Dwarfs you can see that ‘scale creep’ exists. 

My largest 40K army is probably the Dark Angles reinforced company at 189 minis and still growing.  It has been an ongoing project since, well, ‘93?  What started with the original DA squad box and my plan of just a small war band became almost 200 Marines and vehicles.  Some of the oldest and newest minis are in the army.  I enjoyed pushing it across the game table and still will take some out for skirmish gaming.  Like my dwarf models they run from lead to plastic with the lead ones being some of the first Marines cast, though my oldest Marine is an Imperial Fist, he is a single piece mold from 1986.

Throughout its life GW would also get the licensing for IPs like Elric, Judge Dredd and Lord of the Rings.  They also were contracted to create minis for games like D&D and Paranoia.  When GW lost the licensing for them, usually with the fantasy lines, the minis would get rolled, for the most part, into the main lines for Fantasy Battle.  I have an old lead Elric on the shelf and he is painted as a High Elf Adventurer as he was ‘High Elf Champion’ in the Late Summer 1989 Trade Catalog.  A number of my older dwarfs started out in either the old D&D or LotR sculpts.

Speaking of LotR, GW would gain and lose the license in the late 80s but get it back with the release of the movies in 2000. GW would make a series of games and support material, in conjunction with the movie releases, which is a quite elegant system and very playable.  It is more of a skirmish game at heart so you don’t need a huge amount of minis.  And those minis!  The older metal ones look like their movie counterparts.  They are smaller at a true 25mm scale than the more mainstream 28mm “Heroic” scale of GW.  If you set them side by side you’ll see what I am talking about. 

In the 2000s GW started to make most of their minis out of styrene plastic.  Yeah, they had a flirtation with resin but that is not to be mentioned.  Ever.  Finecast, oy, what a failcast…  Though to me something was lost with the proliferation of plastic kits, there were some good things about them.  Cost for one and the ability to convert and kitbash.  With the use of CAD technology there would be an ability to make minis of the same game scale regardless of the army or game.  I am one of those who do like having a greater consistency of scale within the game but they can look a bit, well, odd when set next to an older casting. 

I feel that I have only scratched the surface here and perhaps I’ll write more if the opportunity presents itself.  I have gone on far longer here than I should have.  I have yet to talk about the games themselves. So those too will be another blog.  For now I just want to say that GW has produced a ton of excellent minis that you see in many games that have nothing to do with the games that they were designed for.  So when you want to put together a crew for ‘Stargrave’ or a party of ne’er-do-wells for Descent or any other such thing, you probably can find a GW mini that would fit in well.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Games Workshop; or a long and winding road.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; My Favorite Miniatures or Full Shelves of DEALERS OF DEATH… sure…

Recently I asked for some input on what to write about here on the blog.  The best, okay, only, suggestion that I received was to write a blog about what mini companies I like and the quality of each one and make a comparison.  I have to caution you that this is not a scientific or unbiased commentary.   There are minis from many companies in my collection and this blog just scratches the surface as some are no longer in business so I left them out.  I also decided that, with the internet, you can buy just about any old mini out there in second hand places and clearance sites.  I am not as, shall we say, snobbish about manufacturers of minis as I was 20 years ago and I have become nostalgic for older minis, and not just Games Workshop’s.  The older stuff can be far cruder than modern sculpts and, being mostly lead, they do not stand up well against newer minis as far as quality of casting but they are going to be included in this.  My final criteria is that I am not going to talk about what is still in bins or boxes and therefore unpainted.  So, here we go.

Games Workshop.   Pros; quite good quality control and large amounts of stuff produced.  With the minis done over the last decade, scale is the same across the armies and games.  Most of the best old minis are still available in the internet second hand market.  Cons; Mainly for their own ‘mass battle’ games, AOS and WH40K and spin offs, so there is a lack of PCs and NPCs.  Most of their minis are plastic or resin.  Expensive.

GW has been the 300 pound gorilla in the room for decades.  There are few, if any, metal minis in their current catalog but if you don’t mind plastic there are still some box sets you should look at, if for bits if nothing else.  The quality of their sculpts is excellent and the fact that they are all the same scale goes a long way if you’re building an army or warband.  They have a number of ‘gateway’ for both of their big games.  Some are quite fun to play and easy to build into a proper army.  Kill Team and Warhammer Underworlds are two of them. 

I have to comment here on the LOTR game that GW has the license for, since 2001, and why you should look at them also.  Why a separate commentary?  They were designed to be a true 25mm scale and are clearly smaller than the current industry norm of 28mm-32mm and so are not easily used in AOS.   Most of the minis are excellent and look great painted up.  The metal more so than the plastics but again the plastics are the rank and file units.  I don’t like that they come with round bases but that is a prejudice I have.  Fantasy, and historicals, have square bases and Sci-fi and Moderns have round.  If you see a mini you like for your dungeon party, get it though it may look out of place.

Reaper Miniatures.  Pros; Large catalog of metal and PVC miniatures, game agnostic, multiple genres.  Some of the best female minis on the market.  Affordable.  EXCELLENT customer service.  Free stuff if you order more than $40 worth of stuff, free shipping with $50.  Cons; Scale is not consistent.  Some sculpts, even newer ones, are clunky and out of proportion.  The Bones line can be very soft on detail and prone (particularly the original Bones line) to warpage. 

This is a company based in the USA, Texas in fact, and though they do dabble in ‘armies’ most of the catalog is PCs and NPCs.  They have a large catalog (www.reapermini.com). They cover just about all genres from Fantasy (four lines) to Sci-Fi and all points in between.  While the majority are cast in white metal (pewter) there are extensive lines of plastic minis to look at;  ‘Bones’, ‘Bones Black’ and ‘Bones USA’ which are forms of thermoplastic and most are based on the metal sculptures.  They are interesting with the original Bones being cheap but can be soft on the detail.  Bones Black is cast in darker, gray, plastic and is less flexible.  Bones USA are the same dark gray but are a lot harder in material.  All are cheaper than buying metal NPCs and can be painted without priming. Though, I prime mine.  Scale can be an issue.

Barbarian King, Hellborn Rogue, High Elf

Mantic.  Pros; large catalog that mirrors GW to a large extent.  PCs and NPCs for fantasy and sci-fi games in metal and plastic.  They can be used in other companies’ games as they scale out well with most publishers.  Cons; Mantic minis have an aesthetic that can make their minis look odd when beside other company’s.  I don’t like their dwarf minis. 

Mantic was formed by former GW employees and some of their games have a certain vibe that can be traced back to GW.  Kings of War is a fun game that really will make you reminisce about 5th edition Warhammer Fantasy.  They also have a number of licensed games like The Walking Dead and Hellboy.  Those minis can be used in other games as well.  Scale can be an issue also.  Mantic is more than just a GW wanna be, as some of their critics charge.  Just looking at the site, www.manticgames.com will show you that. 

Dale, Carlos, Tyreese

Warlord games; Pros; Well cast minis from multiple eras that can be used in just about any game.  The Sainted Rick Priestly works there! Cons;  Some of the minis are very esoteric to the system they were designed for.

Warlord made a name for itself with historicals but even those can be used in other fantasy and Sci-Fi games.  Though the scale of the minis may be a little smaller that other manufacturers they are still well made and look great on the table top.  Multi-part plastics are the rank and file but they do make a large amount of metals.  If you’re looking to get wild heathens to have your party fight or populate your game look here as the box sets are packed.

Aella of Northumbria, WWII Marine, Athelstan, the 5th Doctor

Hasslefree;  Pros; Well sculpted and well cast minis that are very game agnostic but will fit in with just about any game system out there.  Armoured Sci-Fi Dwarfs.  Some of the BEST female minis out there.  A Jedi family!  Cons; can be a little slow with delivery.  That most minis are not ‘Heroic scale’ may put off some folks.  Difficult to get in the US. 

Where to start here?  I am a huge fan of this company.  Possibly, and in my mind actually, the best female minis on the market.  The casting is top notch with no real vices.  They are a mini painter’s dream!  There are so many good looking sculpts that you can probably find any PC you’d want.  Spend your money on Bones for NPCs but use the savings for this company’s Player Characters.  Now that I am done fan-boying, the down side; They can be a bit on the smaller end of the fantasy mini scale.  They have been difficult to find in the States but they have pretty good customer service and ordering from the UK is pretty smooth.    Still, they are one of my favorite mini companies.  Only the old GW fantasy scores higher with me.  There are some, uuh, risque minis on the site.  Definitely NSFW.  but if you’re offended by nudity, not just females either, you have been warned.  Hfminis.co.uk. Go take a look!

Sadie, Ekaterina, Dionne and Hayden

Wargames Foundry;  Pros; HUGE catalog.  OLD Citadel minis that the Foundry owns the license to.  Mostly historicals but a respectable line of fantasy minis.  Cons; Sculpts can be wonky.

Foundry is a company in the UK that was formed by one of the founders of Citadel Miniatures.  This is not the venue to give the whole story but they have been in business for years with a good track record.  Good customer service when ordering on their website and you can find them in the States pretty easily.  Just about every good sculptor worked for them back in the 80s and 90s.  I have some of their Vikings and other minis.  Take a look at the website and you will see that your Frostgrave warband could be put together with minis from them.  Www.wargamesfoundry.com.  Prepare to kill a couple hours browsing.

Father of Dwarfs, Valkyrie, Judge Dredd

Comparison.  Now this is a matter of taste.  Scale is a questionable thing as you can’t get an absolute ‘scale’ even in the same line of minis.  The only possible exception is GW’s CAD designed minis. Looking at the picture below you can see that the GW mini is stocker but they are all within a comparable norm. I would say that, were they not side by side, they could be used in the same game. Granted that the halberd in the hands of the GW mini would look odd in a game with the first Doctor from Warlord.

Games Workshop, Mantic, Reaper, Warlord, Hasslefree, Foundry

Some final comments;  So, if you ask me which ones are the best, well, I would go with GW’s from before 2000.  Though, you’ll have to look for them on the second hand markets and you’re gonna have to be willing to spend the time and money on them hunting them down and buying them.  Reaper and Hasslefree come in second and third but in truth it is a dead heat. The others are equally close.

I also have to point out that I have not touched on companies like Fantasy Flight (Star Wars Legion) ,  Monster Fight Club (Cyberpunk Red), or Knight Miniatures (Batman; the Miniatures Game)  as I only have a few of these minis and they are still fairly new to me and I’ve not really formed an opinion on them. One thing that writing this did do for me that I am definatly going to write some reviews of the mini companies I have stuff from.

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; My Favorite Miniatures or Full Shelves of DEALERS OF DEATH… sure…

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; 2021 What I painted this year or couldn’t I have painted a company of Marines?

So, another painting year has come and gone.  I enjoyed the blog I wrote last year so much that I thought I would try it again.  Considering that I finished 20 more minis than last year I thought I would share, and yes I do like showing my stuff off.  As with last year’s summary, I did not count the ones I painted for others as I felt that they didn’t count, nor did I count any scatter terrain.  There was also the leap at a new game system, Oathmark, and relearned an old game, BattleTech, and so will talk a little about them.  Also, some dives into the old minis bin rewarded me with stuff that I had put off painting for some reason but finally threw paint at.  Anyway, there were 186 minis added to the collection and that is what we are here to talk about.

Games Workshop.  I added 62 minis from GW.  Most of them are the oddiments for Warhammer Quest; rats, bats, spiders and Minotaurs, basically the ‘random encounters’ that can happen in the game.  For individual minis most were from one of the dives into the bin.  I found and painted up a Pit Fighter from the WHQ Warriors line that I think turned out well.  I also found that I have a number of the ‘heroes’ from WHQ in the bin so there’s something to look forward to.  I also have some old multi-part metal minis in there, one of the ones I enjoyed the most was a Priestess from the old Mordheim Amazons. She painted up quite nicely and has a Sun Gauntlet (read laser pistol) in her hand to frappe her opponents.  I also managed to get three Elves from WFB painted, one old wood elf spearman, a High Elf Noble from 2010 and a Mage.  Then I painted two old lead red dragons.  While digging through the old minis I found eight troopers and a banner man from the original Bugman’s Rangers.  So old that they have cast-on bases, circa 1984.  They painted up beautifully.  I added an old Champion from the second generation of Bugman’s to act as the unit’s captain.  They look great on the shelf and will be on the table.

For my 40K collection; there is a squad of 10 Dark Angels from the Heresy period in Mk III Armour, some more Marines from various Chapters in Terminator Armour for ‘Rise of the Orcs’.  I painted an ancient Grey Knight from ‘85 that kinda of irritated me for not being painted.   I finished the ‘Space Marine Heroes’ Dark Angels squad with a couple kit bashes that I started a couple years ago.  Painted 6 of the tactical marines from the Dark Millennium box while four still languishing on the paint table. 

Catalyst Games Lab.  BattleTech returned to my painting, and game table in a big way this year.  I painted up 27 of the big stompy BattleMechs from both of the main factions of the game.  The Clans, well one anyway and Inner Sphere Mercenaries, okay one company.  My grandson likes them and enjoys a good game with me. With the Beginner’s box and Starter box you get altogether 10 Mechs, all Inner Sphere, add the Clan Invasion box and there you have 5 more Mechs (OmniMechs) and two points (stands) of Elementals.  Add in some expansion boxes for both parties and you have a large force in no time.  They paint up quickly.  I painted them in the Wolf’s Dragoon colours for the Inner Sphere and Clan Wolf for the Clans.  They were also the main subjects of my experimenting with Contrast paints.  If you’ve not tried GW’s Contrast Paints, you should but practice with them, they are not all the same.

Mantic.  Last year Mantic had the largest number painted but this year it came in a close third.  I am almost complete with all the standard expansions and boosters for TWD.  Painting All the minis that came after the prison update was fun and didn’t take all that long.  There are still 12 on the shelf but those are for next year, but with the 25 I painted this year I am feeling pretty good! 

Gripping Beast.  21 Levy Spearmen.  One large unit for Oathmark or Lion/Dragon Rampant. Not really all that much to say.  I had a fully primed bag of the Spearmen for my Norman army that I never got around to finishing so I played around with some of GW’s Contrast Paint.  The are a bit sloppy but they are meant to be a large block of fodder for the enemy to get bogged down by.

Reaper Miniatures.  I am going to talk about Reaper in detail on another blog but the painting count for the year is 19.  Some were bought and painted to make a party for TWD, some were old minis from a superhero game long out of print (the dive into the old minis bin was really productive) and some others, fantasy and scifi stuff, was also ordered from the website.  One of the new things that Reaper introduced is Bones USA.  This line is cast in America (rather than China) from a thermoplastic that is rather rigid and takes paint beautifully.  I got two of them in an order just to see how nice they are and, as always, Reaper did not disappoint.  Also of note, I received an ‘Innkeeper Sophie’ as a free mini from an order ($40 or more will get you free stuff), it was from the original Bones line, though in a soft grey rather than the usual white.  I had to cut it off from the base as it was too small and put it on a custom base that I had a lot of fun making.    Finally I want to mention that if you are hesitant to buy a mini that looks ‘meh’ in the catalog, buy it anyway.  I have been looking at Rozmina the Half-Orc Pirate for years.  Finally bought one and she was worth every penny.  She painted herself.

Warlord Games. Where to start?  Okay, I was in a bookstore in Hilton Head and bought a copy of Wargames Illustrated and it came with a sprue of US Marines from WWII for their ‘Bolt Action’ game.  So, on a whim, I put one together and it looks the part.  Then on the website they had their annual ‘Mystery Box’ and I bought one!  I think I made a good buy with it.  I painted six Doctors along with K-9 from their Doctor Who game.  Some Endoskeletons and fighters from the Terminator game, they have since discontinued.  I painted a Friar Tuck from a Robin Hood game I’d never heard of.  All and all, 14 minis were painted.  I also have some oddments from Blood Red Skies and Cruel Seas if anyone were interested.

Hasslefree. I finally bit the bullet and ordered six minis from them.  I had a lot of trepidation about it after reading the online reviews of the customer service.  No one said the minis were bad, just a long wait for them and bad customer service.  I did not have that experience.  Yes, it took about three weeks to get them but given the current situations in the world I was okay with it.  With all that, they were well worth the wait!  I picked four from their fantasy line that I really wanted to paint up and two were from their modern line that caught my eye.  Hayden is a female dwarf trollslayer that I’d wanted since she appeared on the website, same goes for Lenore.  The two mages; Argia and Semira I wanted to have because they are each other’s nemesis and I liked the sculpts.  Of the two moderns I fell for Ekaterina when I saw her and couldn’t resist Maya (NOT Lana Kane).  All were easy to get painted up and on the shelf waiting for a turn at a game. 

Fantasy Flight Games.  Only one FFG mini got painted this year, Luke Skywalker.  I bought Star Wars: Legion and two ‘specialist’ expansions also.  I have 40 odd more in the game box.  

Others.  Now the really tough commentary.  In my aforementioned dive into the old mini bin I found three old metal Mechs and an old Knight with mace from Ral Partha.  They were fun and easy to paint.  I painted four old Heartbreaker minis; one fantasy Chaos Warrior and three from their old Mutant Chronicles line.  Two Bounty Hunters for the old West End Games ‘Star Wars Minature Battles’ from the early 90s that were cast by Grenadier.  Finally, from Knight Models, I painted the Dark Knight… Batman… on a horse….

New Games. I have mentioned Oathmark earlier.  I highly recommend it as a ‘rank and flank’ mass battle game.  It is scaleable to match your forces and like Dragon Rampant, will make for a quick game.  Star Wars: Legion is another game I jumped into.  Looks like a pretty straight forward skirmish.  I am thinking about trying a new game every year.  Something not related to games I already have, but will need to use minis I do have.  Tall order.

All in all, 2021 was not a bad year for minis.  186 is not a bad number to add to the collection at all.  Certainly was a good year in that way.  Got a lot to paint this year, perhaps a new army for Oathmark.  Maybe I will spring for the Ashe Barker game ‘Last Days, a Zombie Apocalypse’, looks tasty. 

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; 2021 What I painted this year or couldn’t I have painted a company of Marines?

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Frustrations of a Modern Gamer, Part 1

During the Covid plague, I had time for painting and modeling for the ‘modern’ skirmish games that I like to play.  On my painting table there were undead walkers, evil sociopaths with barbed wire wound bats, Space Marines, Goblins with spears and some with bows in the mix.  During that time I also started to make some pieces of ‘scatter terrain’ for some zombie games and, perhaps, a couple other games I have the rules for.  Fences and maybe a tent or two along with some loot piles.   Considering the number of 28mm (1/56 scale) games out there, I’m frustrated that there is so little affordable stuff available to build a nice tabletop setting to game in.  The expense of some of the premade terrain and buildings was a bit difficult to consider for someone who isn’t going to build a table and leaving up for a while.  So I got to thinking about it.  I was working from home and that I had time to consider ideas that had been in my head.  I then realized I’m not looking for the ‘realistic’ game layout; I’m looking for the playable and affordable.

It will sound like I am only talking about Modern Apocolypse games but this should be be extrapolated to any game really.  That game table is waiting and is not going to build itself….

As I sat in my home office and thought about it the idea it hit me: make my own stuff!  I have a fairly large amount (this is HIGHLY understated, lol) of 1/35 scale oddments in my bits box along with a bag of wood rounds from a failed experiment with enlarging bases. Add some gel super glue, a shot of primer and a bit of craft paint, some flock and static grass and BAM! I had some loot markers to replace the thick card pogs that I’d been using. I was on the trail of something now.  With a few boxes and bags from old tank kits and a few small bedrolls and ammo cans the looked pretty good and, though a bit out of scale. So what?  You have something the players will see as a goal that has a bit more tangibility than the 2D markers in the game box.  Use them in other skirmish games.  I have a few treasure boxes for fantasy games but there is no reason NOT to use them in other genres.

There are a number of YouTube videos that talk about small items like tents and fences to use as scatter terrain in games.  Popsicle sticks and other wooden items can be had for cheap will make nice fences, tent posts and what not.  I have put a couple ramshackle fences together and put them on the table and they look pretty good. (ALWAYS when making fences compare them to the minis you’re going to use with them, don’t ask why I made this a point to mention.)  Also I would suggest that when you see a place that is undergoing renovations you should grab any fine wire you can, as they make great power cords, ropes or barbed wire.  Trust me dumpster dive at a residential construction site will garner a huge amount of material.  So, where else can you find buildings or other things to put on your table?  Check out the Goodwill and other thrift stores.  You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find and will be supporting your community.

Possibly the costliest items you can have on the tabletop are buildings.  There are a number of places you can get plastic or wooden scale buildings that would fit the bill.  The price may vary from one company to another quite drastically as well as the quality of materials.  From the model train hobby, ‘O’ scale buildings are nice and usually plastic and easy to paint but can be quite expensive.  I like the chunky look of MDF laser cut buildings and they certainly can be adapted to whatever game you are playing but remember we are talking about setting up an inexpensive tabletop and MDF can be as expensive as plastic.  Also, with any premade building, you will need to store them somewhere.  Taking them apart and reassembling will soon cause the material to fray and then the building to fall apart.  You’ll have spent a lot of money on pile of scrap wood and/or plastic.  What is a frugal gamer to do?  Two words:  Lincoln Logs.  WHAT?  You heard me right; Lincoln Logs, or any generic building logs.  Are they the right scale?  No, they are not.  They do really hit all the things that make a good terrain piece though.  Adaptable to any game, easy assemble and tear down, AND storage is easy!  Seriously, I fell into the idea while considering a game scenario for the Walking Dead.  Need a few HUGE buildings or just a small cabin in the woods; it’s all in that box of logs.  And cheap!  Most of the scenarios in games have you fighting outside and around buildings so it is all about outlining the battlefield. Get generic ones on Amazon or EBay; did I mention the Goodwill or other thrift stores?

I was looking around the house for some other ideas and found a large piece of green felt to use as a play surface.  I have a black piece also.  Roads perhaps?  Something to consider if you have material laying around.  That old green scrub pad is a good start for the building of bushes and hedges.  Trees, oh don’t get me started!  You can cut the green felt into an oval or irregular pattern and put a card label on it as ‘light forest’ or some such.  Keep in mind we are talking about a game layout you can pick up and store easily.  But say you want shrubbery not just a green spot on the table?  Don’t have the green scrubby pads?  Well, ya know those old ‘magic erasers’ that you just throw away?  Try a quick soak in some watered down dark green craft paint and a quick highlight of a lighter green.  Then glue to an appropriate sized base.  Need some trees?  You can use the same material on a plastic or wire frame.

Old CDs that you can no longer use make a fantastic base for trees or scrubbery.  You can also paint them up for small ponds or use them with some small tents as a camp site.

My point is that, yes, you’re going to spend some money on minis but there are things to keep in mind when you have restrictions on space, time and disposable income.  A little thought will allow you to have a nice battleground.  The game’s the thing, not the amount of money spent.  If your survivors are in of log cabin or around a barn fighting walkers, well, that’s what you should be doing not worrying about if the table looks ‘real’.  Certainly the terrain in a given box set could suffice but you can replace some of the card or other terrain with a three dimension piece.

 

Confessions of a Lapsed Gamer; Frustrations of a Modern Gamer, Part 1