Thursday, May 22, 2014

Almost Wobbled On The Cobbles: Painting the Italieri Stone Bridge

I am happy to say that I am writing this on my Macbook, which I got back from the nice Apple Genius Bar folks yesterday.  I you read my last post here, you will recall that I was bracing for a $300 repair bill, but the good news is that only one part, an I/O Board, needed to be replaced, and so the total bill was $70 and it appears to work just fine.   Happy days.   My happiness level got a further boost when I was about to drive my Kia Soul to the garage to check out why the dreaded Check Engine Light (which should have the shape of a money sign ($) rather than a little engine) had come on on Tuesday.  After a day of sitting in the driveway, the light did not come on and the service guy told me it was probably just a bad seal with the gas cap.   Happy days indeed.

One of my painting projects while watching Game of Thrones with Mdme Padre over the last few weeks was to build and paint this Italieri kit, since I needed a stone bridge that would work for 20 and 28mm scales, and this looked like a sturdy and useful sort of kit for everything from Europe to the ACW (it does have an Antietam / Burnside bridge kind of vibe to it).   It also had the merit of being incredibly easy to put together.   Italieri has really thought out what gamers need in plastic kits.  Simply and strong as a rock when put together.   

But how to paint the blasted thing?   After an undercoat of flat back spray from the DIY store, I had to decide, should I just paint it a simple slate grey with some highlighting, or perhaps a brownish sandstone sort of look?   All the while this image from the box art kept staring at me, as if to say, come on, Mike, you know you want to paint it like this.   Cobblestones are fun, you can do it.   I almost got all wobbly and said no, but then I thought, I can do this on the couch with one eye on the TV, just choose half a dozen or so colours and do one colour at a time.  

Never being one to do something simply when it could be incredibly difficult, I decided I would not back down.  I would not be a cobble wobbler.

There were many, many times when I almost lost my nerve and thought that the bridge was looking like shite.   It was not terribly difficult to paint within the bricks and leave most of the black undercoat showing as outlines, but for this job I was using cheap craft acrylic paints (mostly Folk Art) and the paint didn’t always go on cleanly.  Also, with so much black showing, it just looked odd, but as I persevered and applied more and more colours, with the grey shades dominant and the darker colours as infrequent highlights, it started to come together.   Suddenly, I had a bridge that looked almost as good as the box art!  I’m pretty sure I missed half of GoT season one, something about winter coming, heads on spikes, dwarves with naked women, dragons with naked women, etc.  I’ll have to watch it again, I suppose.


 Now that the bridge is done I am debating whether to put some sort of wash on it.   I was thinking of Army Painter’s Soft Tone, but my concern is that since that product is basically a light brown colour, similar to GW’s sepia wash, I would lose the various shades of light fray, particularly along the top and bottom of the span, and the whole thing would look kind of gross.   I’m kind of thinking I might just spray the whole thing with Dullcote and move on, but I would welcome your suggestions as to what the finishing touches might be.


 The all important test of the bridge, using a river.  Hey, it works!


Why did the Ottiomans cross the bridge?  My newly finished Spahi command group test the bridge by riding across it.   That test was successful as well.  Hooray!


These figures bring my 2014 totals to:

28mm Mounted: 13

28mm Foot: 22

28mm Artillery: 1

20mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces:  1

15mm Vehicles: 4

15mm Foot: 26

15mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces: 3

6mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run:  520

Blessings to your brushes!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ottoman Spahi Command Group

Hello friends.
There has been a lot of painting at the Mad Padre's Painting Chapel but rather little blogging.  That trend was made worse on Thursday last when I spilled a large mug of tea on my desk, and a considerable amount flowed into the USB and audio ports on my MacBook Air, which is a new and rather nice piece of kit.  Alas, while I shook offending liquid out as best I could, the machine soon shut down and would not revive.
Rather panicked, I used my smart phone (feeling now that it was considerably smarter than me) and googled "Spilled Tea on my Macbook Air",  A page from Apple Support advising me to take the computer into my local Apple store.   Here's the funny bit.  To make an appointment at the service desk, called the Genius Bar, one can't do so by phone.  One must make the appointment on the internet.   What would one do if one's only access to the internet had been disabled by, say, oh I dunno, a giant mug of tea?  Fortunately I had acess to the interwebs, was at the store within an hour, and learned that the computer was probably salvageable, but that the cost of replacement parts would likely be $300, making it the most expensive cuppa I've ever had.
Oh well, to brighten my spirits, I present you with the latest installment of my OttoMania, a Spahi command group from The Assault Group, who make quite splendid figures indeed.
I had great fun painting these fellows, and bought some of the most garish paints I could find for the job, seeing as Spahi, as someone once said, rode to war as if dressed for a wedding.  The commander has that vital sign of office, a white stick with a big gold ball on the end, no doubt quite useful for clubbing subordinates to announce that the O-Group is over or to punctuate delivery of sub-par performance reviews.

I quite like the fellow with the drawn pistol, a pose you don't always see with cavalry.   He looks bound and determined to protect the chap with that ancient symbol of regimental honour, the red and gold thingy on a stick,  His blue tunic is the most ordinary colour of the bunch - I had some Vallejo Luftwaffe uniform blue open for another figure and thought it would do ok.  It's nicely offset by the shocking purple of his caparison, I think.

It's been a good few weeks for getting some projects done, and if I can negotiate more time on Mdme Padre's computer in the next few days, I'll put up some more work. 
These figures bring my 2014 totals to:
28mm Mounted: 13
28mm Foot: 22
28mm Artillery: 1
15mm Vehicles: 4
15mm Foot: 26
15mm Buildings: 3
6mm Buildings/Terrain Pieces: 2
Kilometres Run:  513
Blessings to your brushes!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review: A British Army Doctor's War as Retold by His Grandson


Just a quick plug of a book review I just put on my other blog (aka the God Blog) of a fantastic book about a British Army Medical Officer and his experiences (1914-1915).  Fans of the Great War, of the British Army, of the BEF, and of medical and social history will enjoy this book.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

With Plumy On The Fronter, Or, Curry in a Hurry and With the Guides to Fartibad

 I haven’t done much gaming lately.   Evenings have been spent working through Season 1 of Game of Thrones with Mdme Padre (sad to say, we’re both hooked) while working on some various flocking and basing projects.  Slowly getting my hobby energy back now that the winter term is over and all I have to do now is research.  

Last Saturday night however was an awesome evening of gaming and jolly japes.  My good friend James and the lovely Mrs. Manto decided to combine an imminent birthday with the J&M Miniatures annual staff party, which saw James, his business partner Martin, myself and several other ne’er do wells of the Hot Lead fraternity having a mess dinner of curry and delicious Indian food in the midst of the J&M stock room.   Good food, good company, wine and beer surrounded by shelves full of gaming stock and a war-game waiting in the basement … well, it was all a somewhat nerdy version of Valhalla, really.  

The occasion for our game is described by James as only he can tell it here.  The game was played using James’ terrific collection of 28mm NW Frontier figures and some of his home-made scenery.

Here is part of the domain of the nefarious bandit the Faqir of Fartibad - or is it Cirith Ungol in front of Mount Doom?   Scratch-built scenery by James.    This was one wing of the Faqir’s Pathans’ defensive works, that I was tasked to capture with a scratch Indian Army brigade.

While the Gordon Highlanders advance on the left, supporting some Gurkhas who are chasing over the rocks top left, my mounted Guides in the centre seize an opportunity and go after some Pathan riflemen as they try to move into some rough ground.   Half of their number were still in the open when the Guides hit them, and the outcome was quite satisfactory.

My Madras Pioneers advance in the centre, while on the right I threw all my Sikhs into a charge against another lot of beastly Pathans lurking in the rocks.  Both sides locked in an ongoing melee.

One company of the Madras Pioneers press forward against tribesmen on high ground, with much ineffectual sniping on both sides.


Pathan cavalry sorties on the British right flank and joined the melee against the Sikhs, who hold like rocks.  I threw my reserve of Madras Pioneers in and after a lengthy scrum the Pathans melted away.   On my left, the British sahibs were generally doing well, the Gurkhas and Blandingshires having driven the Faqir’s men out of their strongholds and were looting his stuff.  We settled down on our side for some chai.

Again, the story is told much more entertainingly here.  I just wanted to post these pictures to give you a sense of James’ collection.   We had a running discussion that night about what setting shows Colonial wargaming to its best advantage.   One could make a good case for the Sudan, with its riverboats, colourful Mahdists and Fuzzy-Wuzzy, Egyptians in cool fezzes and the variety of British uniforms. but it would be very hard to beat the NW Frontier for its legendary and epic nature, scenery (amazing if done well) and the rugged Pathans, stalwart Sikhs, elephants, colourful turbans and British pluck, with the odd chance of a dastardly Czarist agent or three thrown in.

We used Black Powder for this game.   It’s my second time playing BP, and both times I was totally reliant on someone else telling me what to do, but the game seemed to move along and the results generally made sense, so BP seems OK in my quite uneducated opinion.

Happy birthday, James!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review: Daily Life in Arthurian Britain


Deborah J. Shepherd, Daily Life in Arthurian Britain (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood/ ABC-CLIO, 2013, ISBN 978-0-313-33295-1).

 Here’s another title from the new books section of my university library.  I picked it up because I was once quite interested in Arhuriana and also because a number of my gaming and blogging friends are interested in Dark Ages Britain, particularly thanks to Too Fat Lardies’ Dux rules.  Also, I was procrastinating on getting those term papers finished.

It would probably be more honest if the title was called “Daily Life in Post Roman Britain” or “Daily Life in Fifth and Sixth Century Britain”, but I suppose it’s always a better marketing move to put King Arthur in the title if you can.   The book focuses on the geography, people, and social and military organization of Britain in its long and gradual transition from Roman to Anglo-Saxon dominance.

The author is a well-published archaeologist specializing in Dark Ages Britain and Finland.  Dr. Shepherd’s knowledge is considerable, but the book is pitched at the introductory level, intended for beginners to the period and high school and college students.  Wargamers will be especially interested in Chapter 7, “Keeping Order”, which describes the gradual replacement of Roman military organization by a native British one.   This chapter taught me that by the fourth century the Romans would have recruited their auxiliary troops from the northern native British population, who would have consolidated in fortified places and remained there after Roman administration gradually fell away.   These former Roman garrisons would have had a symbiotic relationship with the local farmers and gradually morphed into hereditary ruling families leading their war bands.  “The situation could scarcely have been better tailored by the Romans beforehand for the reconstruction of native British society” (199).

Wargamers probably have many more detailed and technical books to draw on for the military detail they need, but I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a better feel for post-Roman British society and culture.

Speaking of the Dark Ages, Mdme. Padre and I are almost finished watching Season 1 of the History Channel series The Vikings.   I know little about Viking culture, but it seems to be well researched and has the feel of history rather than fantasy.   We are quite enjoying it.  However, after watching Northumbrian soldiers getting butchered like sheep, Mdme Padre asked “Was it only the Vikings who knew how to fight?”.   It was a good question.  The actors playing the Vikings all look like extras from the 300 movie, only blonder, whereas the non-Vikings all looked pale, pudgy, and faintly ridiculous in their armour, and seemed to look at their weapons with befuddlement before being hacked down.    I suspect, if Anglo-Saxon poems like “The Battle of Maldon” are any guide, that they were tougher opponents than that.  Still, terrific fun, but not enough to make me want to go and buy Dark Ages figures.   I have enough periods, and Dark Ages battles simply don’t look that interesting to me.  De gustibus non disputandum set and all that.

Blessings to your brushes and die rolls!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

US Navy Versus Godzilla

 Heisenberg vs Godzilla
I confess that as a reward for my academic hardships this year, I am planning to take myself and Mdm. Padre to the new Godzilla movie.   We both have a fondness for vintage movies about giant beasties snacking on cities, and we are both fans of Bryan Cranston (who appears in Godzilla shouting a lot and with a full head of hair), so this should be a win win.
My eagerness to see this film was stoked today by learning, via the US Navy Times, that the movie was made with the cooperation and support of the US Navy.   Other science fiction films of late seem to have been US Mil sponsored, like the truly awful Battle Los Angeles (2011) was an extended recruiting commercial for the US Marine Corps, so I suppose the Navy felt that it needed equal time.   According to the Navy Times article, the US D0D took pains to make sure that their portrayal in this movie about a 600 foot monster is as accurate and possible, reflecting both Navy technology and Navy values.  Parts of the movie were shot on several USN ships, including the carriers Nimitz, Vinson and Reagan.  Perhaps this time the Navy will pick up the ball they evidently dropped with Battleship, a film one reviewer described as “breathtaking in its stupidity”.
The advantage of a flattering portrayal, a Navy spokesman said, is that Godzilla might encourage a new generation of recruits.   “Our hope is - the demographics for this audience are roughly 14-18 year old teenagers … they’re going to … say “You know, I never knew the Navy was such a sophisticated, professional organization; I really want to go explore it; they have some amazing UAV’s (unmanned aircraft) and technology and professionalism and honour and courage and valour; I never knew that, and maybe it’s something I want to do with my life."
Based on what I’ve already seen at a gaming convention this year, I predict that 2014 will be a big year for games and Kickstarters featuring giant monsters vs cities and humans.  I won’t get on that bandwagon, but I do regret that I no longer have my copy of that old SPI classic board game, The Creature that Ate Sheboygan.  They don’t make ‘em like that anymore … but they might start again.  

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