Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Another wonderful meal has been prepared and eaten. With family. Football was watched (including the beloved Eagles dismantling the hated Cowboys 33-10). Every pot, pan, plate and cup was used. The fridge was stuffed, then emptied, then stuffed again. The kitchen was trashed, and then cleaned. Kids were (eventually) happily put to bed, with Grace's final smiling words before sleep being "I...ate...three...pieces...of...pie...".

I don't think any of us that were here and fortunate enough to spend the day together forgot what the day is supposed to be all about. Being thankful for what we have, and enjoying it in the company of family. I am luckier than most, and far more blessed than I deserve, and for that I am very grateful.

Thanksgiving for me has also become a time to remember my father, since he died shortly before Thanksgiving in 2010. So pardon the indulgence as I raise a glass to him. Four years ago today we laid him to rest, but I do not forget. Black Friday, indeed. I still remain in awe of a time when a 17 year old would lie about his age to fight in a war a half a world away. Bravery, as they say, is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Sometimes just volunteering to show up is extraordinary.
Service in France and Germany, 1944-1946

To anybody out there, Happy American Thanksgiving, and a joyous holiday season yet to come...

Painting Table - Mounted Crossbows

There's a lot going on this weekend, not the least of which is pulling out the Christmas decorations, but if I have any time for hobby stuff this weekend I will have the very modest goal of finishing this unit of four mounted crossbowmen. There isn't much left to do but some detail work, highlighting and finishing of the horses, so this should be very manageable.
Mounted crossbows (Old Glory Hundred Years War)

There are six more on the table beyond the first four, and a number of medieval civilian types for dressing up the little towns that often hug the sides of the gaming table. If I do get past the first four mounted crossbowmen, I will probably return to the Ottoman sipahis that I was working on before getting sidetracked. Or not. Hard to say.

I've also spent a few spare moments tweaking the table slightly from the solo game I played last weekend. I'll try to post a few pictures tomorrow. A variant of my solo game will be used for an upcoming game to introduce one of our D&D players to historical miniatures gaming.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Impetus - Germans vs Italians, The End

Part 3, The End
Turn 10 - On the Italian right, a timely charge by arriving knights from the last command succeed in routing German knights while the remainder of the command hurries to deploy.
Turn 10 - Italians charging up the hill

In the center, both sides have taken a beating, and the long-engaged German sergeants and Italian light cavalry are rolling one die apiece to try to break the stalemate (to no avail). On the Italian left, two units of heavy cavalry charge up the hill into the German infantry, but both become bogged down in ongoing melees. More and more German foot troops deploy and move up the hill.
Turn 10 - End of turn

Turn 11 - On the Italian right, knights engage each other in a swirling melee while the last of the German knights hurry to support them. The Germans have now been split so that all of their remaining infantry are clustered around the hill near town, and their cavalry is all gathered in the plain below.
Turn 11 - Italian knights bogged down on the hill
In the center, the German sergeants finally rout the valiant light cavalry, but are now by themselves in that part of the battlefield, surrounded on three sides by enemy and hanging on by a thread. There aren't many Germans left on the plain.
Turn 11 - Germans faltering in the center
On the hill, the Italian cavalry launches repeated charges at the German crossbows and infantry, and makes little headway. The impetuous Italian cavalry has outpaced their infantry supports, and are taking some losses in the attempt to drive the German foot off the hill.

Turn 12 - On the Italian right, the German horse pulls back, forming some semblance of a line. In the center, the German sergeants rout from the combined shooting of two Italian bow units.
Turn 12 - End of turn
On the hill, the Italian cavalry destroy a crossbow unit on the crest, but take losses in the process, and both units move to the rear to regroup. German infantry forms a solid line on the hill as the Italians recoil.

Turn 13 (The End) - No units are engaged in the turn, and both sides take the opportunity to reform their lines.
Turn 13 - The End

Wrap up - At the end of turn 13, it was apparent that the battle had reached a logical end point. On the open level ground, the Germans only had three somewhat battered knight units opposing the bulk of two Italian commands. The Italians facing them had taken some losses as well, but had sufficient combined arms numbers to make a renewed attack by the Germans suicidal. At the other end of the field, the Italian knights were fairly well spent by their unsupported assaults on the hill, which was now lined with a solid wall of fresh German foot and crossbowmen. The logical conclusion is that the German cavalry would cover the withdrawal of the infantry back through the town, leaving the field to Italians. The Italians would be able to claim a decent victory, losing three of their own units while routing six German units (including all four units of the German vanguard), but with a number of battered units of their own.

Summary and Conclusions - As noted before, I like Impetus as a rule set. It is a little simplistic in places, and a little too rigid for my tastes in others, but makes for a fast playing and fun game. It gives a good feel for this period, which is something of an accomplishment in that the rules are designed to be able to play anything from ancients through the Renaissance (basically everything before true gunpowder periods).

As for this particular game, I enjoyed playing it solo, and have a good idea of how I will create a scenario somewhat similar to this for when we are able to get the guys together for a real game.

It also continues the urge to paint. I wish I had some of those 12th century infantry primed and ready...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Impetus - Germans vs Italians, Part 2

Part 2 - The Fighting Starts
Turn 5 - Some desultory shooting occurs, to no effect. Both sides jockey for position in the center while rushing up reinforcements. German knights head for the open ground supporting the center, while the new foot troops head for the hill. The Italian command all heads down the road behind their lines in the direction of the hill (on their left flank).
Turn 5 - Jockeying for position

Turn 6 - The Italian scutiferi light cavalry shoot at the sergeants to their front, disordering them. In their turn, the German sergeants both charge. The first unit engages the archers, beat them and force them back, but have insufficient pursuit movement to catch them as they retreat (this would almost certainly have finished them off). The other unit of sergeants charges the light cavalry, who evade. The second commands continue to march.
Turn 6 - German sergeants charge

Turn 7 - The Italian light cavalry continue to harass the sergeants, shooting at them and causing Disorder and one loss. A unit of Italian feudal infantry wheels and charges into the side of the unit of sergeants that was driving back the archers. Both take one loss, disorder, and remain engaged. In the German turn, these units fight again, with each taking one loss but with the Germans winning. The Italian foot retreat 1 inch, are pursued and caught. In the next round of fighting, no damage is caused and they remain engaged yet again. This foot unit was performing heroically (and it would get even better...).
Turn 7 - Melees ongoing in the center

Turn 8 - The Italian first command won the initiative and had a solid turn. The light cavalry shot at the sergeants to their front, caused a loss (double Disorder), and then charged them, inflicting another double Disorder loss, and remaining engaged with them (yes, I did this wrong by the rules - the light cavalry would have retreated from an engaged melee with heavy cavalry...oh well). I chalk this up to extreme bravery since they had been fighting so well.
During turn 8 - Sergeants fighting Italian foot

The engaged unit of Italian foot continue to fight the German sergeants, and miraculously hold them off (bad dice all around). 

In the German activation, a newly arrived unit of German knights charges the other Italian feudal foot unit and routs it in one combat. The German knights pursue only 1 inch, but are now behind the other engaged Italian foot unit. It looks like that heroic unit's days are numbered. Both engaged units of sergeants fight their opponents again, and both take a loss from double Disorder (remaining engaged) while the Italians both avoid damage. The improbable continues, and both German sergeant units are wearing away faster than their weaker opponents...
Turn 8 - Lines forming in the center

Over by the hill, the Italian knights move up to threaten the German crossbows and foot holding the high ground, and look to be in position to charge next turn. Crossbow fire Disorders the lead Italian knight unit.

The last command for each side arrives on the table and march forward.

Turn 9 - The German first command activates, thinking that things must get better. They don't. The Italian foot rout the first sergeant unit, and the light cavalry fights the other to a draw. Again.

The German second command activates next, and the unit of knights that had just ridden down the one Italian foot wheels and charges the one that just destroyed the sergeants. While this charge appears to be a Rear charge, it technically isn't. Still, the Germans will roll ten dice while the Italian foot rolls one die.
Turn 9 - German knights charge from behind

The charmed life of the brave foot unit continues, as neither side scores any damage (a point of damage is caused by each 6 and each pair of 5's). In ten dice, the Germans could only manage a single 5... They remain engaged.
Rolling 10 dice vs 1 die - no hits scored!!

The Italian second command activates, and the knights charge up the hill, defeating, pursuing and routing the German crossbow unit. Foot units are moving up in support.

The Italian first command activates in the center, meaning more melees for the engaged units. The light cavalry takes a loss but remains engaged. The heroic foot roll one die versus the 6 dice of the knight unit, cause 1 loss on them, and send them retreating!
Turn 9 - Italians holding on in the center

Meanwhile, more troops move up...
Turn 9 - Moving to the sound of battle

Next - The Fighting Escalates

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Impetus - Germans vs Italians, Opening Moves

Our planned-for Impetus game Sunday evening fell apart, but I had the figures out and table prepared, so I spent some time pushing figures around solo. Since it was just me, I decided to have the armies come onto the table on roads from opposite corners. Meeting engagements of this sort would probably have been less common than in most other periods, but it allowed me to jump right in with no set up. Each army had three commands. The smaller of each three would begin barely on the table, and the others would arrive on turns 4 and 8. Easing into things would also help me get reacquainted with the rules. German and generic figures are using the early Imperial German list, and Normans (and Crusaders) are using the early Communal Italian list.

Most of my first brief playing session on Sunday night would be just a lot of moving, as troops entered the field. This was fine, as I had a football game on in the background and needed a rules refresher.

Turn 1 - Early turns would see much use of the road March rules. I pushed both sides hard and there were a lot of movement related Disorders. Germans are entering through the town at top left and the Italians are entering across the stream at lower right.
After turn 1

Turn 2 - Italian Scutiferi light cavalry and skirmish archers are first to arrive in the center of the battlefield. Their foot struggle to keep up. The Germans have longer to go; through town and either around or over the big hill outside of town. Two units of German sergeants will swing around, while a unit each of crossbows and foot head for the hilltop.
Turn 2 - Italian lights advance in center
Turn 2 - Germans debouching from town

Turn 3 - The Italian lights wait nervously in the center while the Germans close in on them. The foot on both sides lag behind. It's a good thing the Italian foot doesn't have as far to go, as their one unit of light cavalry will be no match for two units of German heavy cavalry.
Turn 3 - Italian foot deploys
Turn 3 - Germans advance on the center

Turn 4 - By the end of turn 4, things were about to heat up. German heavy cavalry sergeants were in position to charge the Italians in the center, but infantry support was coming up to support the light cavalry and missile troops. German foot were moving onto the hill on the sergeants' flank, and the second commands for both sides were moving onto the table. At this point, only a few long range missile shots had been taken, and no casualties inflicted.
Turn 4 - Contesting the middle (from German side)
Turn 4 - Second German command marching on

Next...Some Action

Paint Table - Sunday November 23, 2014

This short update will be it for the weekend's hobby progress, as I have a game to prepare for and play this evening. Who knew you could actually play games with these little guys...

I decided to keep my nicer Flag Dude flags for my Hundred Years War stuff, which uses them almost exclusively, and stick to plain paper flags printed off the internet for these figures. Here are the new German stands again with flags.
German knights with banners

Back in the late spring I also painted a bunch of WW2 US infantry and antitank guns with crews. I based these yesterday while doing the other miscellaneous things, so they are now complete. Finally. Some really fun games of Fireball Forward! was the spark to paint these (and I have American paratroops and German infantry ready to paint).
WW2 Americans in 15mm

Painting 15mm is certainly very different from painting the larger scales, but a simple process of undercoat, wash, drybrush and detail was pretty easy and came out well. Given that I almost never paint 15mm, I am very happy with these, and they are a terrific upgrade from the not-so-great purchased WW2 Americans I have been using.
WW2 American infantry close up

Now off to set up that game. And watch the Eagles play the Titans. And food shop. And cook dinner...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Paint Table Saturday - November 22, 2014

I surprised myself today by investing my little bit of hobby time in finishing the bases I have painted over the last couple of weeks instead of painting something new. Thankless work, but somebody has to do it. Plus, we are playing an Impetus game tomorrow evening and I want to use some of these figures, so, out of necessity...

First up are some rebased skirmish archers (Old Glory Eastern European peasant archer figures).
Generic skirmish archers

Then some of the same figures rebased as regular missile troops (Impetus basing).
Generic archers

Next, some Breton light cavalry (OG Breton sergeants) rebased two per stand.
Norman/Breton light cavalry

And a couple of Norman leader/banner bearer figures.
Norman leader and banner

Then the Ottoman sipahi sample stand that I put together as a taste of things to come. 15 more figures (5 more stands) are near completion, but I wanted to see what one completely finished stand looked like. I like it.
Ottoman armored Sipahis

Finally, the ubiquitous German knights (from the Mongols in Europe range). I hand painted the lance pennons to match the heraldry painted on the figures. A first for me, but I think it looks good.
German knights

And more knights.
More German knights

And lastly, all the new knights on parade. There are two stands that need to have Flag Dude banners added, but that is the final step, and will be done tomorrow.
Lots of German knights

Not a bad day's work.

Farewell to Jessica's Biscuit

I went to my favorite cookbook website this morning to do a little Christmas-related potential present browsing. Or, I should say, I tried to...

I have used, the website for Jessica's Biscuit, an online specialty store selling only cookbooks for years. They always had great customer service and a dazzling array of cookbooks at great prices, and their website was easy to browse, categorizing and tagging books by all sorts of criteria to make it easy to browse. But it seems like they are out of business. Gone without a trace. A brief story by a food blogger is here, but the gist of it is that after many years in business and with a dedicated and loyal customer base, the guy who ran it simply closed the doors to open a craft brewery instead. No warning. No farewell. Nothing on the website (because there no longer is a website; it's gone as well). Just gone.

As noted in the article, there is nothing wrong with moving on in life and doing something different. Once a business decides that it is done, that business has no obligations to its customers. But a simple "Thanks to our customers and good bye" on the website would have been nice.

I'm sad to see it go. It was the best cookbook resource on the web.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Julia's Bedroom Remodel

A cold weather house project to be done this Fall and Winter is to re-do Julia's bedroom. Surprisingly, she has decided that she wants a pink room. So pink it will be.

The Plan: The wall behind her headboard will be an accent wall of a dark pink. The other three walls will be a slightly pinkish off-white. Pink is fine, but we don't want a cotton candy explosion. I will put up crown molding and do the painting. We will take down the valance over top of her existing curtains (already gone), and we will take down and replace the old curtains with new ones that Amp will be sewing (after the costume work for the Fall musical is done). Then we'll rearrange and hang some artwork and that will be that. Oh, and the piece of furniture to the right of her bed (the one that we built ourselves) still needs to be painted and glazed.

At start - The valance is gone but the curtains can't come down until we have new ones to replace them.
Valance down. Old pale yellow walls.

Then crown molding goes up in pieces. The 11 and 12 foot walls are too long for a single stock 10 foot piece, so I'll be splicing each wall carefully in the middle. They make 16 foot lengths, but it isn't worth renting a truck or paying to have them delivered for one room's worth of material.
Musical souvenirs. Crown goes up.

The moldings are up. As usual, the walls and ceiling are not perfectly even and level, so there will be some spackling and sanding and caulking to be done. When that is finished and the paint is on, you'll never be able to tell. I hope. At least that's the way it's worked out in some other rooms...
Crown molding up. Lots of finish work to do.

Next was the tedious step of patching nail holes, spackling gaps, sanding, etc. That is where we are now; prep work for painting maybe two-thirds done. One day soon, "painting table saturday" will be this instead of miniatures.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Painting Table - November 20, 2014

Last weekend and some evening painting this week has gone well. As planned, I was able to re-base some archers and Breton light cavalry, but (as usual) I have the flocking and finishing work left to do.

I prepped a bag of mounted crossbowmen, but can't get to painting them yet as I cannot realistically prime the figures in the house, and it has been below freezing and windy most if not all of this week, so I can't get outside to spray them, even in the garage.
Mounted crossbows

That means that next up are some already primed Ottomans (of which there are several trays full of figs ready to go).
18 sipahis on deck

Over the weekend, after the above chores were completed and in and around planning and running a D&D session, I put some work in on a block of 18 Ottoman armored sipahi cavalry. By Monday night I had painted and washed/shaded the horses, and done the basic armor treatment.
Monday - basic horses and armor

By the end of tonight (Thursday), I had done the basic painting on all 18 figures. All that remains is to clean up some details (horse equipment, straps, shield details, etc), do some shading and highlighting, and give them a final once-over to make sure they look OK.
Thursday - Detail work remains 

One stand is more or less done, which leaves 5 stands of 3 each left to go. Plus the two leaders and one extra sipahi in the background. I have a bunch of beautiful "Flag Dude" Ottoman flags waiting, and three of these stands will have a flag bearer once the figures have been seal coated.
One stand more or less done, minus flag

This weekend I really should force myself to flock and finish the bases that are hanging in limbo. But I say that most weeks... There is also talk of a medieval game this Sunday, so I am getting a table together just in case that works out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Painting Table Preview - November 15, 2014

The Fall In convention induced flurry of painting activity has continued this week, and I've probably painted more figures over the last 2 weeks than in any similar period ever.

In addition to completing the refurbishing and additions to the 18 German knights shown a few posts back (and begun back in May), I have painted 5 medieval townspeople, refurbished about 10 stands of Norman cavalry, and most significantly, painted 56 Norman heavy infantry from scratch. These guys have been sitting in a box prepped and primed for a few years. Given that they are mostly covered in chainmail armor, I figured they would be easy to work my way through, and they were.
Norman heavy infantry on Impetus bases

Goals for this weekend, or the near future at least, are to finish basing and flocking all of the above, re-base some generic medieval archers onto Impetus style bases, prep and prime a unit of mounted crossbows and a unit of German sergeants for when the mood strikes, and flock the bases of a bunch of WW2 US infantry painted back in the spring. In recognition of my lack of focus, I like to have a bunch of different figure types and periods primed and ready to paint so that when I feel like picking up a brush I have a variety of things to choose from. Perhaps caving in to this known flaw of mine is why I have a hard time getting a period ever "finished", but it works for me (although my Ottoman project might not agree).

All this painting has made me want to get a game together, so there is a possibility of either a medieval Impetus game or another D&D session later this weekend. Hopefully something works out. If not, I may play a little Impetus by myself.
Throwing a game table together

Lastly, a completely unrelated (obviously) picture of my favorite tree. This is a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) that we planted at the back of our property in 1998. It started at about 6 feet tall, and is now 25-30 feet tall at the top of its spike. It is a seasonal conifer with very cool feathery leaves that it drops for the winter.
Dawn Redwood

Given a lot more time (long after I am gone), this could be the tallest tree in town. By a lot. Although it is the smallest of the redwoods, it still tops out at over two hundred feet with a 6 foot diameter base. I'm not quite sure what we would do with that much tree in the backyard, but I won't be the one to have to worry about it...

Monday, November 10, 2014

First State National Monument

Sometimes the good guys win.

Near home, my favorite place for a short hike is the Woodlawn Tract, a beautiful 1,100 acre wooded area along the Brandywine River with a few scattered horse farms. Is is bordered on the south by Brandywine Creek State Park, and stretches a little ways into Pennsylvania near Chadds Ford.
Wood lots and farmland

My understanding is that while the Woodlawn Trust (the owners of the property) would seem to be a conservation/wildlife preservation entity, it isn't; it is a real estate holding trust.
Grace hiking the National Monument (who knew?)

The big "uh oh!" came a few years back when a proposal was put forth for a developer to buy a chunk of the Woodlawn Tract and put in 300+ new houses. This of course immediately raised a public outcry, a very visible and active "Save the Valley" campaign, and all the related furor and distress.

Then things got quiet. I figured that things had devolved into a legal battle and/or negotiations over what could and couldn't be done; something likely to take years.
First State Natl Monument and BCSP

Just recently, by accident, I found out why the furor died down (and I can't believe I didn't know this sooner!!). A good encapsulation of the story can be found here, which I will summarize. The short version is that what used to be the Woodlawn Tract is now a national park service unit as part of the First State National Monument.

Apparently, as early as 2011, the Woodlawn Tract, deemed to be in jeopardy, was added to a bill in Congress that would link it to several other historic sites within the state, and be put under the protection of the National Park Service. That bill failed to pass.

A $20 million dollar donation to The Conservation Fund allowed the Woodlawn Tract to be purchased with the intent to include it in a park once it became available for donation at the end of 2012. A new bill was introduced, stalled again, and was in danger of failing (and The Conservation Fund was going to lose rights to the land apparently). With the clock ticking, President Obama (with urging from Delaware's Vice President Biden I'm sure...) signed the bill into law under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013, and created the First State National Monument, including the donation of the 1,100 Woodlawn acres to the government, where they reside under the protection of the National Park Service.

It doesn't protect everything in the area, but it does protect woods, fields, farms, and dozens of miles of hiking trails in the path of suburban sprawl.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Painting Table for Two

Much to my delight, over the past few evenings, I have had company at the Painting Table. Grace, my 5th grader, has decided that she wants to paint some figures of her own.

She spent a little time painting with me last Spring, and painted a mounted medieval knight (in an eye-popping combination of purples, pinks and light blues). This time around, she has declared that she wants to make a little army of three mounted figures, one of whom will be the leader, and four foot soldiers. She wants to paint them to look like mine (i.e. realistic).
Painting Table for Two

I have no idea how long this will last, but I am thrilled while it does. She is interested in learning different basic techniques, and is a good student. We have been through blocking in basic colors, washing for shading, dry brushing for highlighting, and then picking out detail. We have talked a little bit about color theory, painting over a black or brown prime versus a white prime, which colors tend to cover well (blues and greens and browns) and which colors cover less well (reds and yellows) due to the pigmentation, etc...
Painter's Apprentice

It's been a blast. I treasure these moments when it's cool for her to hang out with Daddy. On top of that, she's a pretty good painter for someone working on her second figure ever (a 25mm Old Glory 3rd Crusades mounted knight). I will post a picture when she is done. I tried to post a close up of the work in progress, but she wouldn't let me - "it doesn't look good enough yet." Good for her.