Thursday, October 31, 2013

Impetus Campaign - A Beginning

I purchased the Impetus rules not long after they became available in the US, mainly because I buy just about every rules set I can get my hands on for medievals, but also because it had gotten good press in various blogs and from friends and acquaintances. I have read the rules in fits and starts, several times over, since getting them, and while they looked promising, had never gotten around to actually playing them. Figuring that the only way I ever will is to throw some figures on the table and have a go at it, I have decided to concoct a solo hundred years war era campaign. I have no grandiose plans for this endeavor other than to finally play around with these rules and learn them, fighting a scenario when the mood strikes.

I decided to start very small, and over the last couple of nights have gotten in a few turns of a "baby steps" game.

Raymond of Saint Palais
Background - The campaign will follow the exploits of Lord Raymond of Saint Palais, a noble in the Orthez region of the Pyrenees-Atlantiques region of southwestern France, circa 1380. The region, south of the heart of Gascony, is a semi-autonomous region sandwiched in between the remaining English holdings to the west around Bayonne and north/northwest toward Bordeaux, Spanish Navarre over the Pyrenees to the south, the French Agenais region to the northeast, and the southern French Bearn and Languedoc region to the east around Toulouse. This will allow me to use a variety of troop types from the various army lists covering the French, English, Spanish and other miscellaneous Free Companies, mercenaries and "provincials." In other words, I can justify using any hundred years war figures I own (and other "generic medievals" too)... I will string together scenarios with a loose narrative to hopefully make things more interesting than fighting a series of one-off battles. I intend to develop some random muster tables, random scenario generator ideas, etc, as I go along. We'll see what happens...

To keep track of how Raymond is doing, I will start him out at a 5 on a scale of 1-10, or a "stance rating" of "doing ok so far". Good scenario results will raise his "stance" and bad results will lower it. I will figure out some way to use this to help me plot the course of events. Raymond's full force, which I don't expect to have on the table all at once for a while, will approximate 400 points to begin with, but events can affect this going forward. I have drafted a rough list of his army composition in total, and will use different pieces of it for different games.

Chevauchee, July 1380
William of Navarrenx
As the English holdings in the region have been driven further and further back, the French to the northeast have become increasingly troublesome, threatening the area with repeated raids. Several local Barons have banded together to give the French a taste of their own medicine, and have launched a raid northeast towards Agen. In addition to our own Raymond, the other two main forces are led by Bertrand of Dax and Thierry of Orthez. These three forces are advancing somewhat independently as they ravage the countryside, and may or may not be able to support each other at any given point in time. Raymond's army has two subordinate commanders; William of Navarrenx and Henry of Cheraute.

The Scenario
Raymond's forces have crossed the Adour river at Aire-sur-l'Adour and are headed generally northeast. As one of Raymond's contingents under William of Navarrenx approaches the village of Cazalet, it finds a small enemy force drawn up behind a stream to oppose it. William's goal is to brush aside this blocking force to rendezvous with Raymond beyond Cazalet.

William has 7 units with him at the moment [most troop profiles are from the English list]:
William's forces at start
  • His household unit of Men at Arms (impetuous) [Gascon MAA]
  • Heavy cavalry [English hobilar CM]
  • Heavy infantry billmen
  • Light infantry spearmen
  • Longbows
  • Mercenary crossbows
  • Skirmishers with short bows

The enemy, led by the local constable [most troop profiles are from the French list]:
  • Local Men at Arms (impetuous)
  • Heavy infantry
  • Two units of local levy/militia infantry
  • Crossbows [French T]
On this day, both leaders randomly came up rated "fair", and both command structures are "poor." This translates to a friendly force of 137 points vs an enemy force of 84 points. I selected the troops first then added the points up out of curiosity.

The defenders of Cazalet
Setup and special rules - The battle will be fought lengthwise down a 4' by 6' table. The enemy force will be behind a stream that is cosmetic only, but will have a small hill and a few hedges. The four friendly light and missile units begin on the board, the heavy infantry and two mounted units (and William) will arrive randomly. At then end of each turn, the friendly player will roll one die, and if the result is less than or equal to the turn number that is just ending, the next friendly unit will arrive the following turn. The heavy infantry arrives first, followed by the Men at Arms and William, with the heavy cavalry arriving last. William's goal is to exit the far board edge as quickly as possible while taking as few losses as possible (nice and vague...). The friendly player will be hampered by lack of an on-board commander for some part of the game while William gathers his spread out forces to engage the enemy (i'll use the 10U poor command range from the board edge until he arrives). That being said...this shouldn't be too difficult for the good guys while I familiarize myself with the basic rule mechanics... be Continued

Halloween 2013

A few pictures of Halloween 2013. With Julia as Eponine from Les Miserables (or a flasher, not sure which), and Grace as a zombie bride.
Carving pumpkins

Eponine and Zombie Bride

...and again
It will be sad when they are too old to do this anymore....

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October Hobby Update

I have been delinquent in posting recently, but I have been diligently putting some time in on finishing projects that had been started but then languished, taking up space in limbo without being able to be checked off and filed away.

Bocage - I had made some hedge/bocage terrain for 15mm WW2 use, and it worked well in the Fireball Forward! games that Leo and I played back in August 2013. I made around 15 linear feet or so of the stuff the first time around, but what became very quickly apparent is that even a modest sized table can eat up lots and lots of these. My write up on how I made the "hedge" pieces is back in March 2013, here. This time around, I made another batch of 22-23 feet, almost all pieces having a small tree or two embedded in them. I also made a variety of lengths, ranging from 12 or 15 inches down to little pieces that are only 3 inches long. This will give me more flexibility for terrain layouts, as well as for creating "breaches" in the bocage as needed during games (pull one long piece off and replace with two smaller pieces separated by a gap).

Roads - brown and gray
Roads - Making roads out of a non-flexible material is not the most preferable thing in the world, as it makes them, well, less flexible. But I have been in need of more roads, and as I was making hedges the first time around, it occurred to me that the same general process (carved balsa strip, glue, sand, spray paint, dry brush) could be used to make roads. I saw a game of Fireball Forward! at a convention last year that used a combination of roads like shown below to have both "urban" roads (improved roads in built up areas) and "rural" roads. It was very easy, with Grace's help, to make about 20 feet each of brown and gray road, a sampling of which is shown. I am pleased by the result. They are 1.5 inches wide, and look good for both 25mm figures of all periods as well as my 15mm WW2.

Saxons and Vikings
Dark Ages skirmish - I have modest sized armies of both Saxons and Vikings in 25mm that I never use. In preparing for the Fall In convention in November, I have signed up for a Saturday morning flea market table. I have too much stuff that I don't use often (or in some cases at all), and I would rather focus my energies on the things that I do play. My original intent was to sell all of both of these armies, but I decided to pull out 40-50 figures of each and make armies for Saga skirmish rules. While rebasing, I also took some time to touch up the painting on a few of the figures, as some of these are among the oldest figures I own. Whether or not these get played with or not remains to be seen, but I definitely stand a better shot of getting around to it than I did with conventional dark age armies. The remainder will be sold...and maybe these too someday.

Ottomans - I have also made some painting and basing progress on my Ottomans (although as usual the bases have not been scenicked yet. Over the course of the past few weeks I painted one little unit of 4 akinji light cavalry figures, completed a unit of Janissary archers in a green scheme, and painted three units of Ottoman armored infantry. All are Old Glory 25mm.
Ottoman akinji

Ottoman Janissaries (front and side)

Ottoman armored infantry

The Ottomans are going to be based on Impetus style bases rather than conventional basing as per the rest of my medieval armies. I am a little hesitant to do this, as this will be my only army based this way, but I do like the more random "diorama" look you can get doing it this way (as well as needing fewer figures because they don't need to be crammed in as tightly in such a rigidly structured way).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Lion King on Broadway

or... Julia's Big Day

Julia is a huge fan of musicals, and following her Christmas present of tickets to see Les Miserables on stage earlier this year, she has been plotting and planning and watching lots of YouTube video clips of other things she would like to see. Julia doesn't have a ton of different interests, but when she gets into something, she really gets into it (and therefore it makes it impossible for us not to support it)... One of her recent obsessions has been The Lion King. Unlike Les Miz, The Lion King isn't touring, so if we saw it, it would have to be on Broadway. For Julia's recent birthday, we decided to splurge, and we got her 4 tickets (to make it a full family event) to see her new favorite show. Her birthday was a month ago, but the Saturday matinee date that made sense was this weekend, so she has been anxiously awaiting the day for weeks.

We left home at around 9am and were in the city by a little after 11am, having made great time. We knew the general location of the Minskoff Theater on Times Square, and parked nearby. As it turns out, when we walked up out of the underground garage, the first thing we saw was the Minskoff marquee, with Lion King in big bright lights. Julia was thrilled.
Big smiles

Grace and the Diners, Drive ins and Dives car
Everyone was hungry, we had time to kill and needed lunch, so we were looking for a place to eat when Grace spotted Guy Fieri's American Kitchen and Bar. Grace and I love Food Network, and she knows Guy Fieri well from all the various things we have watched, so she insisted on eating there. Which was fine with us. It was just opening at 11:30 and we were among the first in the door. Grace ooh'ed and aah'ed enough that the manager who seated us gave her a pair of Guy Fieri wristbands and a free dessert for being a big fan of Guy's. It's always nice to feel pampered, even in a small way, but if you can make my kids happy then you have made Amp and I happy. Apparently this restaurant had only been open for about a month, and we liked it a lot. The food was delicious (I had a huge roast beef sandwich with very good dippy juice). Prices were New York City appalling, but that's to be expected in a name location right off Times Square. It only hurts if you think about it, and once more when you sign the check...

Happy girls
After a nice long relaxing lunch out of the chill, we made our way to the theater and waited in line for a short while before they let us in. We had seats in the balcony, 4 or 5 rows back, right in the middle. They were good seats, with a nice view of the stage.

The show started at around 2:10pm to a packed house with lots of kids. The opening scene, "Circle of Life", is terrific, with all sorts of life sized animal "puppets" making their way to the stage from all different parts of the theater. For this part, it would have been great to be down low near the stage as the animals all came up the aisles, but our seats still had a great view, and there were performers along the sides of the balcony as well. The first act lasted about 65 minutes, followed by a 15 minute intermission that was closer to 25 minutes, and a 55 minute second act. So it was not a long show, but very impressive nonetheless.

View from our balcony seats (pre-show)
Overall the show was terrific, very faithful to the movie and therefore very familiar, and with great music, dancing and visual effects. Julia was enthralled the whole way through, and it made me very happy to look over at her at various points throughout the show and see the huge smile on her face. Today was really one of those days where I felt like a good Daddy.

If I were to have any complaint at all, and it is a minor one, it would be that the singing was hard to hear at certain points. I am not sure if this is because of how the performers were miked, or the volume of the orchestra and percussion, or the sound mixing (or our balcony seats). Independently, Amparo had the same observation, so it wasn't just my imagination. Vocal quality was fine, volume was not so much so sometimes.

Julia had a wonderful day and was very appreciative of us doing this for her. She has said over and over "I never expected anything like this for my birthday." Which makes it even more special.

By shortly after 5:30pm, we were back in the car and heading toward Amp's sister's house in north Jersey to hang out with them overnight, returning home Sunday. An A+ weekend for sure...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rosewood Trio at St Peters Inn

Our intrepid Explorer
Today was a gorgeous Fall day, and the Rosewood Trio, including brother Dave on bass, were playing on the patio of the St Peters Inn in St Peters Village, near French Creek State Park. They have played a couple times at the bakery there, but we had not been able to make either of those events. With no major kids' events scheduled, we put this on the calendar as a nice way to spend the afternoon and see someplace new, as I had heard from a number of people that this was a nice place to take the family for a few hours. Now if we could just get the forecasted chance of showers to hold off...

As it turned out, Amp was very sick to her stomach over the weekend, so it ended up being me and the girls making the pilgrimage to see Uncle Dave. My first inclination was to skip it and stay home since we couldn't all go, but Amp wasn't dangerously ill (easy for me to say), and the kids needed to get out of the house on what turned out to be a beautiful day, so off we went.
A River Runs Through It...sort of

I'm very glad we did. There isn't a whole lot to St Peters Village, but it is a nice scenic spot, with a number of old buildings overlooking a boulder-strewn stream valley (which Grace loved playing around on). The weather was perfect, the music was great, and it was nice to hang out on the patio with brother Dave's Darling wife and a few other friends enjoying the day and having a few good snacks and beverages. I'm very sorry that Amp couldn't make it, which did put a bit of a damper on the day, but the girls and I had a good time and would have no hesitation going back if they play there again. Which I hope they do...
Chip, Sandy, Dave and that pesky porta-potty

"Here Comes the Sun"

A smile caught on camera

Backing vocalists (pass the wine...)

The St Peters Inn patio

Fair to say, a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ottoman Project - Ready to Paint

I have prepped and primed almost everything I have in the way of Ottomans (minus a couple bags of foot), as well as some additional 14th/15th century odds and ends for Ottoman opponents. The foot I haven't primed yet are not absolutely necessary for a small game, so I can deal with those later. Now that everything is laid out in one place, I am able to assess what I need more of, and can put an order together for Old Glory that can be picked up at Fall In in mid-November. I'm not completely sure what this order will be yet, but I could use some additional eastern looking command types, as well as a bag of janissary archers. Other purchases will probably be some not-really-necessary but fun to have things from OG's Vlad the Impaler range. Things like Dellis cavalry and some of the more exotic looking eastern types.
Ottomans at right, opponents to the left

Now all that remains for the moment is painting. Lots and lots of painting...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Grandmom's Desk

My grandmother on my mom's side was a wonderful lady; the quintessential Grandmom. We spent countless summer weekends at my grandparents' place on the Sassafras River while growing up, and I have many wonderful childhood memories there. She passed away in October of 1999, just five months short of her 100th birthday. When my aunt moved into a nursing home several years ago and Grandmom's house was sold, one piece of furniture that I wanted to keep was a secretary desk that had been in her front hallway.

When we got it, it was badly scratched up, with some water damage to the finish in several places. A couple of the drawer pulls were completely missing, and others were broken or damaged. We could also tell that the pulls had been replaced at some point in the past with cheap ones that didn't match the style of the piece. From faint outlines on the drawer fronts and some internet searching, it was obvious that the drawer pulls had originally been "swan pulls" mounted on a pair of small rosettes.

Having assessed everything, the project entailed the following:
  • Dismantle the entire piece.
  • Remove the complicated letter slot/ drawer insert inside the fold down part of the desk. We saved this, but it was pretty beat up and would have been impossible for us to sand and refinish (well, without making the project take forever...). The piece, while losing some of its authenticity, will be much more practical now, as the interior space is much larger than before.
  • Sand the entire piece down to bare mahogany.
  • Do some basic repair work on the ball and claw feet.
  • Replace the plywood backer with a new piece.
  • Do a little repair work on the drawers so they move easier.
  • Stain the entire piece (two coats).
  • Two coats of polyurethane.
  • Replace the drawer pulls with new genuine ones ordered online.
  • Reassemble and admire.

We began in late July, dismantling and sanding, and worked on it periodically over the next month or so. Amparo gets most of the credit for doing the tedious work, which involved hours of careful sanding. At that point it was hard to imagine the end result, or ever being done for that matter.

The staining and poly coats were not difficult, it was just a question of putting aside time to make some progress. We stained in batches during September and did most of the first poly coat. The drive to the finish line began last week in the evenings, and completed over the weekend.

I wish I had taken a good "before" picture, but I don't seem to have done so. The picture below is the earliest I can find. We have dismantled the piece and sanding is just beginning.
Sanding down to bare mahogany

The bare mahogany was lighter than I would have expected, but would get dark again the moment we began to stain.
Almost ready for staining

I am amazed at the end result. We did a good job (especially considering that this is really our first effort at this sort of thing).
The Finished Product

In addition to having a nice piece of furniture, it makes me smile to have a tangible memory of my grandparents' house sitting here in mine...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ottoman Progress

We've had a low key weekend with the Wife trying to shake off a cold and some serious congestion, so we didn't stray too far from home (other than Thing 2's first sleep over last night, which went well, at least by the criteria of not receiving the 2am "Daddy I wanna come home" phone call).

Since we did stay close to home, the two main projects were to get the desk refinishing project near completion, and to spend a few hours here and there prepping more figures for the Ottoman Project. I'll spare the pictures until there is something more glamorous to show for my efforts, but the tedious hours spent this weekend were well worth it. Prepping and priming figures isn't a whole lot of fun, but is obviously a necessary part of the process.

This weekend I accomplished the following (all are Old Glory 25mm figs):
  • Finished prepping 10 armored sipahi cavalry (1 bag)
  • Prepped 20 unarmored sipahis (2 bags)
  • Prepped 10 akinji light cavalry (1 bag)
  • Finished prepping 10 Wallachian cavalry (1 bag)
  • Prepped 30 French crossbows (1 bag)
  • Prepped 30 French heavy infantry spearmen (1 bag)
  • Prepped the remnants of an Ottoman high command bag
  • Prepped about 15 voynuk heavy infantry (about half a bag)
  • Prepped the last half bag (12 figs) of armored Ottoman infantry
  • Touched up the black priming on 10 German caparisoned knights and 10 Hungarian knights
After all these figures were assembled, I have begun to prime them. Unarmored figures (sipahis and akinji) will get a brown prime (which is a head start on painting the horses). Everyone else gets a black prime. Metallic armor looks better over a black prime, but for unarmored figures I have started to use a brown prime. I find that the brown gives similar shadowing in the recesses like black does, but is less harsh to paint for my tired old eyes...

I'll post a picture soon, either after I have made some painting progress or at least primed all the figures.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ottoman Project in 25mm

Several years ago I made some initial progress on an Ottoman medieval army in 25mm, circa the era of Nicopolis 1396. I painted a few units myself and had some painted in Sri Lanka for me. Then nothing much happened for quite some time. I need a painting project to focus on, and I am planning to get back to this.

The pictures below show where the project stands at this moment. I have completed 5 stands of Hungarian skirmish cavalry and 5 stands of akinji skirmish cavalry, along with 2 mounted leaders and a banner bearer. There is also one unit of armored infantry, one unit of janissary archers and two units of regular archers. In the partially painted category are another unit of janissary archers and another unit of armored infantry, along with one more mounted leader. Primed are 9 armored sipahi cavalry figures, with 9 more figures partially assembled. The three bags in front contain 10 more akinjis and 20 unarmored sipahi cavalry.

Step 1, I guess, will be to complete the two partially painted foot units. Step 2 will be to finish assembling and priming lots of cavalry. That way I can assembly line a good number of cavalry in hopefully a fairly manageable amount of time. A bunch of foot may get sent to Sri Lanka. One can dream...

In addition to what is pictured here there are more armored infantry, voynuk heavy infantry, archers and spearmen. There are also some Wallachian cavalry assembled and ready to paint as Allies and/or opponents. Plus Hungarian knights primed and ready. Now all I need to do is actually paint.