Saturday, November 17, 2012

Refurbishing Normans

Following up on the jolt of wargaming adrenalin that a convention always provides, I got home and pulled out troops to set up a Day of Battle game using the Imperial German and Papal Italian lists. The figures I have to do this are somewhat of a mismatch, but not horribly so. For the Germans I will be using primarily Germans and generic types from the Liegnitz; Mongols in Europe range by Old Glory. Standing in for Papal Italians will be Normans (also Old Glory). In the early to mid medieval period, I have Germans and Hungarians from the Liegnitz range, and Normans and Crusaders (1st and 3rd), so Normans and Crusaders have a tendency to stand for English, French, Italians, or anything else I need.

Normans Before
Every time I do pull out my Normans (and to a lesser extent the Germans too), I am struck by the same thing; these are some of the earliest miniatures I either painted myself or had painted for me, and they are not up to the standard (or style) that newer parts of my collection are. It's not that they are old and worn; they are in fine shape. It's just that they were painted in a much more drab style. The aren't as colorful as they would be if I were painting them now. While the more muted colors and the predominance of earth tones are probably more historically correct, they just don't look as good. Part of the fun of miniatures is that they look great on the tabletop, so I am willing to take a few liberties and paint them perhaps brighter than they might really have been. As they are now, most of the cloth areas, for example, are painted with darker shades and then have been washed with a brown wash for shading. The end result tends to be dark and dull.

With that in mind, before embarking on a game, I have opted to take time to selectively refurbish some of the figures. Specifically, as a first pass, the six stands of Norman knights and six stands of German knights that I need for the game I am setting up.

Normans After
I don't intend for this to become an exercise in repainting the figures completely, as they don't need that (nor do I feel like investing the time), but is more an exercise in highlighting and brightening. I am going to:

  • Repaint flesh brighter
  • Highlight the armor and metal parts with silver
  • Clean up straps and belts, etc, with more contrasting brown colors so that they pop a little more
  • Highlight all cloth areas, brightening where needed and repainting entirely in a few instances
  • Repairing any places where there are chips or other minor damage.

Here are a few samples of before-and-after Norman cavalry. They don't completely look like they would if I were painting them from scratch these days, but they are much closer. More importantly, they  do look much better on the tabletop than they did before. Some of the highlighting looks a little severe in close up pictures, but I am more concerned with what the figures look like en masse on the table than what they look like if you pick one up and study it, and I have learned that going a bit "cartoony" actually looks great at the distance they are normally viewed at.

I am happy with these and am almost done the six stands of Germans as well.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall In 2012 Convention recap

Nice looking beach landing game
November 2-4, 2012 was the annual Fall In convention in Lancaster PA, and I was especially looking forward to taking the day off on Friday and going up for the day Friday and Saturday. Since Historicon moved to Fredericksburg VA this past summer and I didn't attend, it has been since March that I have been to a show. And while I have done a good bit of painting this year, I have played almost no actual games. So going to the convention would be a good thing to get the juices flowing again. If nothing else, these conventions always spur a flurry of activity afterwards.

With all the disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy in NJ, NY and CT, attendance was definitely down. Tournament areas were not as full, some dealers normally in attendance were not, and there seemed to be many less games. Still a good show though with plenty to do, and no bad weather messing up the drive.

Highlights of the show for me:
Villers-Bocage (Fireball Forward game)
  • Spending some time chatting with Chris Parker, author of the Day of Battle rules, and a friend and great guy. I picked up his new Norman Conquests supplement, which looks really nice. Some good DOB conversation has me working on my Ottoman army after my return from the show, and thinking about events we might be able to do at Cold Wars in the spring. Very nice to see his brother David as well.
  • Watching, at length, Leo play in a Fireball Forward WW2 game of a German attack on the railway station in Villers-Bocage, defended by Brits. I have read through much of the rules for this and it seems like a fun, playable, WW2 game. Leo recommends it highly. After watching for a while, I know I would enjoy it.
Purchases were kept within reason, and included:
  • A bunch of Gale Force Nine pre-cut bases for more medievals and for my Seven Years War order that is currently in Sri Lanka getting painted. I prefer Litko's plywood bases (you can write on the light colored bottoms), but I wanted the instant gratification purchase and Litko doesn't come to shows any more (presumably because they have a suitably established client base). Cheap. Quick. Done.
  • Fireball Forward rules and the Panzer Lehr at St Lo scenario book. I am a sucker for rules, and this scenario book makes sense for me because I have Americans and Germans and have much of what I would need to play many of these scenarios.
  • Day of Battle supplement Norman Conquests as noted above.
  • Three bags of Old Glory medievals very cheap at the flea market. All Hundred Years War, and exactly what I was thinking about buying retail. Sometimes you get very lucky.
  • Extra Impetus 3 supplement for the Impetus rules.
It was a fun couple of days, and if nothing else, it has done the usual, which is to re-energize me and cause of burst of activity. I am assembling and prepping a few more bags of Ottomans, and am devouring all of my new rules and supplements. Next weekend I want to set up a Day of Battle game and actually push some figs around and roll some dice.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Well, Superstorm Sandy has come and gone, and we are ok. But there are a great many people hit much harder than us, and many of whom are still suffering through the aftermath on what is now day 5...

Monday 10/29 - Due to the impending weather, I worked out of my home office on Monday, and had a fairly productive day, at least until the mid afternoon. We had gotten the call from the school district on Sunday that everything was closed Monday and Tuesday, so the kids were more excited about the time off than anything. They had some questions about the storm, primarily because of all the TV coverage, but weren't very concerned. For them it was more of an adventure at this point than anything.

As the day wore on, a dreary and ominous sky gave way to increasing rains and increasing winds. By late afternoon, it had that "freight train in the yard" sound and the rain was hammering the house hard. At one point I noticed that the wind-blown rain driving into the front of the house was coming through a large window over our front door in the two story foyer. Water was running in small rivulets down the wall under the window, bubbling the paint and soaking the drywall. Once I noticed this, it was easy enough to take care of by getting out a ladder and placing some rolled up beach towels on the window sill, changing them once an hour, to prevent more damage to the walls.

We had a simple dinner of reheated leftovers, figuring that if we were going to lose power for a while, we might as well use up some of the food in the fridge while having a hot meal at the same time. After  dinner, we lost TV, internet and phone service, but the power stayed on. After checking a bunch of things, I figured out that the garage outlet that ran power to all of the Verizon FIOS services was on the same GFI circuit as the outside lights, and something had tripped that circuit and prevented it from being reset. Once I figured out what the problem was, a few extension cords solved that problem. You can't not have internet after all...

By bedtime, the wind was howling, but we got the kids showered and into bed with some difficulty. Grace especially was milking the "I'm scared I want to sleep in your bed" angle. Unsuccessfully. The lights flickered off and on throughout the night, but stayed on until we had turned in at around 11:30. The wind was hammering the house hard now, and at 11:55pm, the power went out. The wind noise made it impossible to sleep, and I could see exactly when the digital alarm clock went out. Despite the noise, I eventually fell asleep sometime after 2am (according to the last time I checked my cell phone).

Tuesday 10/30 - I first woke up sometime after 6am, and it was still raining hard, but the wind (which had peaked in the 11pm to 2am timeframe) had died down noticeably. It was chilly in the house, and with no particular reason to get up, we stayed in bed and dozed off and on until near 9am. That part at least was nice; I can't remember the last time I stayed in bed that late and wasn't sick. We got up, got the kids up, and had a cold breakfast. As we were figuring out what to do next, the power came back on at around 10:30am. Text messages and work emails were going around with people checking on each other. My boss in New York state and one of my team in north Jersey were both without power, but doing ok. As we watched TV updates, we were able to see how bad New Jersey and New York city had been hit. Much worse than us. It continued to rain throughout the day, but we were dry and safe. As emails went around, I learned that our Madison NJ headquarters was flooded and without power, and might be without for days.

With the whole area seemingly in limbo, we had a relaxing day around the house, watching the news of the rest of the area. We got the news that schools would be open Wednesday, but going in two hours late. The rain continued, I kept monitoring leaks, but other than that it was a fairly normal day. This will be a vacation day for me.

Wednesday 10/31 - The kids got to sleep in because of the delay, and the power went out again overnight (but came back). Minor inconveniences, but nothing compared to what others are going through. We still have some leak concerns, but the rain is winding down, and we have power, food, etc... An employee of mine in north Jersey was still without power and was being told it might be Monday before they had it back. Ugh. No heat, no power, gas stations running low on supplies, and hot meals hard to come by... Madison is still out. This will be a second vacation day for me.

Thursday 11/1 - School is back to regular schedule. I go into work at normal time, and it seems like a usual day. For all practical intents and purposes, Hurricane Sandy is over for us. My team member still has no power (she will get it back Saturday, but gas stations will be rationing and/or out of gas). It seems tremendously petty, but I start to wonder whether Fall In, the hobby convention scheduled for this weekend in Lancaster PA, will be affected. This is a very minor thing, but here in this neighborhood, we are back to worrying about minor things... in other words... completely back to normal.

By Friday, it's like nothing ever happened, and I take my scheduled vacation day and drive out to Fall In...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Aspiration vs Inspiration

I was reading (belatedly) through the huge 300th issue of Wargames Illustrated the other night when something in one of the articles got me to thinking. It was an article on model building that brought up the idea of aspiration versus inspiration, and how the focus of wargaming magazines has changed over the years.

Part of the author's point was that in the "olden days", much of what was shown was model building that few people had the time or talent to build, and that the focus was therefore aspirational, in the sense of "ooh, I wish I could do something like that!" Today he would contend that there is much more inspirational material out there, in the sense of "hey, I can follow those step by step how-to articles and now I can build that too."

This got me to thinking about what it is I am looking for in hobby magazines, websites, blogs, etc. And the short answer, for me, is that I am still looking for the aspirational most of the time. This isn't to say that I don't appreciate a good "how to" article, but I am more interested in the eye-candy; the large demo games, the beautifully painted armies of thousands of figures, the things that I wish I could achieve. But short of hitting the lottery or joining an active club that can accomplish something like this collectively, these things are never going to happen for me. Which doesn't mean that I don't like to flip through the pages of Wargames Illustrated, or White Dwarf, or Battlegames, and look at the pictures and think "maybe someday."

So...I aspire.