Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Latest Painting Projects: Last of the Mohicans & Footsore Minis "Skraelings"

Conquest Miniatures "Last of the Mohicans" pack: Hawkeye, Chingachgook, Uncas
Contrary to what it may look like from reading this blog, I have actually been painting in the last couple months. The problem is what I am painting is deadline-driven. I need it for a project. Soon. Most of those projects have been for convention games, such as getting stuff ready for Cold Wars -- or more recently -- Cincycon (next weekend!).

The first of these convention-related subjects are the six characters from Conquest Miniatures' "Last of the Mohicans" pack. A couple of the games I was running at Cold Wars last month were scenarios from the movie. So, I pretty much needed to have the figs done in time! I purchased the set months ago, but never got around to painting it until deadline pressure loomed...not like that is common for miniatures wargamers or anything!

In the above image, you can see my take on Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Uncas. I tried my best to make them look like the actors from the 1992 film starring Daniel Day-Lewis. It certainly looks like Conquest Miniatures had them in mind when they sculpted them. I used successive layers of watered down acrylic washes to do Hawkeye's shirt. I think it looks better in person than in this photo. I also like how Uncas turned out. His faded green shirt and decorative beading on his straps and belts makes for a good look.
Conquest Miniatures "Last of the Mohicans" pack: Magua, Alica, Cora
Next up is Magua and the ladies, Col. Munro's daughters Alice and Cora. Conquest chose to sculpt the ladies in their tea dresses rather than what they wore for most of the movie. That is unfortunate because I think there is a lot more detail and possibilities with the ladies' "campaign wear." I don't particularly like Alice's face. I think I can only partially blame it on the sculpt, though. Cora's looks better, I think. I also did washes to come up with the tan and light brown for the ladies' skirts. They came out okay, but a little too much collected in the folds. So, they're not perfect.

I like how Magua came out much better. The sculpt appears to be from when he was at the Huron village negotiating with the chief on what to do with his captives. I like the contrast of the antique gold shirt and the blues and reds of the blanket. I couldn't resist decorating up his apparel with fancy borders and beadwork. Even though he did not have on warpaint in that movie scene, chances are he will see action on the tabletop during battle. So, I gave him my take on the movie warpaint scheme. All in all, I'm happy with how the Mohicans characters came out. They'll definitely add some splash to the tabletop when I use them in scenarios.
Footsore Miniatures "Skraeling Warriors" with scratch-built gun stock war clubs
My most recent batch of figures comes not from Conquest Miniatures -- for a change. I love Conquest's line so much I rarely paint anything else. However, they do not make a pack armed solely with hand weapons -- no bows or muskets. I need those types of figures for one of my scenarios I run in "Ohio Frontier Aflame." So, when I saw that Footsore Miniatures' Skraeling line had a pack armed with separate spears, I bought a couple at Cold Wars. Since the spear is not in as common usage in my period as it is in the Viking period (which is what this line is produced ostensibly for), I decided to do some of my own weapon modification.

First off, I wanted to make at least a couple figures armed with what are sometimes called Indian "gun stock clubs." There is debate about whether they actually used discarded musket stocks, but nevertheless, the shape is similar. Early on, animal horn points were inserted on the club. This was later replaced by metal points. I decided to make my early ones with deer horn points. Where did I get the shape? Well, I'd been saving the lead sprues that some of the 28mm spear points I owned came attached to. These provide jagged-like points on a curved shape. By trimming off all but two of the points, it made a passable club. The difficult part was drilling out the end so I could attach a needle to it through the warriors fist. I figured this would be a more secure hold than simply gluing the end of the weapon onto the fist itself. Plus, the end of the needle gives a rounded end to the handle. I like how they turned out, and would have done more if they weren't such a pain!

I like the Footsore Skraeling miniatures themselves. I'm not exactly crazy about every single figure having an animal tail dangling from their clothing, though. I made the best of it, though. I'm sure they researched it well and it must have been spoken about in Viking sagas or other sources.
Footsore Miniatures "Skraeling Warriors" with scratch-built root ball war clubs
The rest of the weapons I modeled were forms of the root ball club. This was much easier to do. I simply epoxied a small rounded bead onto a paperclip. Once it was dry, I bent it into the proper shape. I added more epoxy to give it more of a transition from the handle to the root ball. I kind of messed up the middle figure above when adding epoxy, and went overboard. However, some root ball clubs were more compact and less streamlined, so it doesn't look horrible. I think these ended up looking the most accurate of the all the weapons I modified for these figures
More Footsore Miniatures "Skraeling Warriors" with scratch-built root ball war clubs
I really like how the figures painted up. They are mostly all bare-chested, which gave me more scope for applying tattoos and warpaint. Although I know some Indians wore large amounts of warpaint covering much of their chest, shoulders, and face, I tend not to paint them that way. I am not sure they look as "realistic" as more subdued amounts of warpaint. Strange, I know. Maybe on the next batch of these that I do, I'll try one of the all-black or all-blue paint warpaint jobs.

I did a mix of leather tones and common colors for their loin cloths and leggings. I decorated them to make some bright and colorful and others more subdued. Once again, I referred to my picture book of Robert Griffing's paintings of Indians. Time and again, it has proven an excellent, well-researched source of Indian apparel, patterns, tattoos, and warpaint.

I hope you like them!

Monday, April 27, 2015

2nd Battle of El Teb: For Queen and Planet AAR

British players, Allen and Keith, deploy their troops to attack the Mahdist hilltop entrenchments guarding El Teb
Steve had stepped forward to run a couple games of our Victorian Sci-Fi rules, For Queen and Planet, at the upcoming Cincycon this next weekend. He wanted some practice GMing it, so we set up the battle for a Sunday evening's gaming. We are hitting up a lot of conventions running our game company's two rules sets this year. Fortunately, everyone is pitching in running or attending conventions, so it hasn't been too much of a workload.
Close up of the hillside Ansar entrenchments, with the sneakily disguised water tower-cum-Martian walker
The 2nd Battle of El Teb features the Ansar and Beja forces for the Mahdi dug in on a hillside overlooking a town. As Ansar commander, I had two units of rifles, one of warband, and an artillery piece. My fellow commander Mike S had the more wild and wooly Beja, who had two warband and only one rifle to go with their artillery. Our secret weapon was the Martian walker disguised as a water tower in the town. Although Joel, Allen, and Keith knew about the surprise, the players in the convention game will not necessarily know it!
A common sight in this game, "Artillery Malfunction" counter on my Ansar artillery battery
We were basically in a static defense, and the British had to attack and take the town. I kept my warband unit on the reverse slope of the hill to charge the enemy if they got too close. The battle opened amidst a raging sandstorm -- or so we theorized, because the artillery on both sides kept malfunctioning. In the For Queen and Planet rules, artillery rolling a "11-12" (Colonial) or "10-12" (Native) on 2d6 malfunctions. A further roll at the end of the turn determines if it is fixed or out of the game. Virtually every piece on the board malfunctioned at one point, with both native pieces going out of order on our third turn of firing.

At first, our gunnery kept the British from getting too close, but once our artillery was out of action, they came double-timing forward. My Ansar rifle fire was ineffective for most of the game, though their return fire drove us out of our rifle pits several times. Each time, though, we were able to shepherd the Ansar back into the trenches and to keep firing. Fortunately for me, the Martian walker decided to step forward into action. His death ray tore holes in the British lines and sent them recoiling backwards in horror. Soon, all of Keith's and Allen's forces opposed to my end of the line were keeping their distance.
The Martian walker rears up and begins blasting away at the British, tearing huge chunks in their battleline
Meanwhile, in the Beja sector, Joel drove his camel corps and highlanders forward aggressively. The Beja warband, never one to back down from a fight, charged forward howling and screaming. They drove first the camel corps, then the highlanders back. Joel brought his other British unit forward, though, and flanked the overextended warband. The Beja rifle tried to protect their brethren with rifle fire, but it proved ineffective. First one, then the other of the Beja warband units were cut to pieces by fierce British counter-attacks.
Mike's Beja warband charges out and drives off the Egyptian camel corps

The British close in on Mike's Beja warband, cut down to one stand, with no help from the ineffective shooting of the tribal riflemen
From its elevated position, the Martian walker saw this and lumbered over to help this sector of the battlefield. Without its covering fire, my Ansar were soon threatened by a British advance. When their shooting drove my rifles from the trenches again, I sprung my warband's charge. Naturally, we fell a few inches short on closing with the enemy. And just as naturally, the British "Ace" card showed up immediately after that, which allowed them to pour an extra turn's fire into my exposed warband. Keith chose that moment to roll a typically "Keith-esque" roll which he tends to do more often than not when we are gaming in his basement. He rolled a "snake-eyes" -- a "2" on 2d6 -- the best he could do. It shattered my warband and sent them reeling backwards.

With the Beja crumbling, and my Ansar broken, our only effective unit was the walker. We failed our next army morale roll and the Mahdi's forces gave ground, surrendering El Teb to the determined British advance. Through most of the game, both sides were neck and neck in losses. So, it was another close, gripping game of Victorian Sci-Fi flavored Colonials. Hopefully, the players in Cincycon have a similarly good time (I just hope they roll better than me...!).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Beaver Wars playtest, Turn 4

My prediction for tribes on the warpath during Turn 4 followed as surely as the rumble of thunder chases the arcs of lightning across the sky. Five tribes danced around their campfires and -- with a yell -- struck tomahawk home into the war post. Warriors of the Ohio tribes sweated and fasted, then applied black and red warpaint to their faces as they ventured forth into the woodlands of the Ohio Valley.

For the first time since the campaign began, we would have more battles to fight out than we could game in one evening. The turn began peaceably enough. The Potawatomi, chose not to strike back against the Ojibwe who had seized one of the main towns last turn. Instead, they chose to Trap & Hunt, hoping their rivals thirst for new lands was abated.

Next, the Wyandot stirred from their reverie and struck out against the Illinois, who had been creeping ever eastwards for years. They invaded, hoping to seize their town on the Wabash River.

The Seneca continued their march westwards across the Ohio Valley and invaded the remaining Illinois town on the White River. They chose to ignore the Miami, who they had went to war with last turn, hoping their blow against them had cowed their rival.

The Ojibwe were the next to stir from their winter reverie and they proved they were thirsty still. The Potawatomi once again felt the northern tribes' wrath as a large warparty moved upon another of their towns.

Perhaps responding to a treaty laid out upon a belt of wampum, the Ottawa roused themselves to defend the Potawatomi. They launched a fleet of canoes across Lake Erie to attack a Ojibwe town on the water's shore.

Last to throw off their warm buffalo robes and gather together their tribal warparties were the Miami. They heard about the Seneca attack on the Illinois and deemed it a good time to retake the town they had lost to the Iroquois last turn.

Five battles, but with only six of us present, we could game out just three that evening. We could have done a marathon session and staged a round two. However, the players did not seem interested. Once again, the curse of Chief Leatherlips spat upon Ohio on the evening of a Beaver Wars session. A spring rainstorm drenched the trees outside and clattered upon the roof, driving those inside the lodge to huddle around the smoke of the campfire. I gave the players who had two battles (Seneca and Ojibwe) the choice of which battles to game out. Both chose to defend their towns first, and resolve their invasions later. I played the part of the Illinois again, defending against the Wyandot attack.

Two of this turn's battles took place inside Indian villages
Allen and my battle took place within the confines of the Illinois village in the immediate aftermath of the Wyandot attack. A furious Illinois counterattack was driving into the village, catching the Wyandot dispersed as they looted the bark lodges and hunted down hiding villagers. The Wyandot moved first, probing towards my forces and circling around the edges of a large longhouse in the center of the table. We charged the invaders, hoping to close quickly and minimize their advantage in firearms. Our gambit was a success as the battle was mostly one with tomahawk and war club. There were a few warriors slain by musket and bow, but most fell in melee. Allen struck first killing one of my warriors, but we slew two of them on the next turn. We went back and forth for a few turns, until a couple crucial, back-to-back Illinois "turnovers" (failing with two or more activation rolls on the same warrior) allowed the Wyandot to press their advantage. Once again, my leader proved relatively useless -- never killing an enemy with his musket or in melee. In addition, he was the cause of at least two of my failed activations. Appropriately enough, when our numbers fell below half and we checked morale, the leader was the only one to flee off table! Seeing their leader desert them led to another round of morale checks, and the end of the game as the Illinois counterattack melted away, and they surrendered control of the town.

Ojibwe scouts brought news of the approach of the Ottawa canoes. This gave them time to marshal a force and meet them in the forests before the invaders could reach the town. The meeting engagement quickly went the Ojibwe's way. The report from the players was that the Ottawa player (Tom) was having a horrible evening with his dice. Five Ottawa warriors fell at the loss of two Ojibwe. This broke the will of the invaders and they streamed back to their war canoes. The Ottawa celebrated, scalped the fallen, and carried their weapons back to their town, shouting their war cries.
Ottawa warriors disembark from their war canoes to attack an Ojibwe town
 Hoping that most of the experienced Seneca warriors would be in the warparty attacking the Illinois, the Miami struck back at the town they'd lost last turn. Many of the same Seneca warriors who'd fought in that battle were still in the town, though, and they hurriedly collected to oppose the Miami invasion. The battle swirled amidst the bark longhouses and wigwams of the former Illinois town. The Seneca triumphed again over their Miami foes, losing one warrior while the Miami lost four. The Miami leader also fled the battle, causing his troops to lose heart and flee for the entrance way of the palisaded village, leaving four of their slain warriors behind.

Seneca warriors gather to defend their newly-conquered town
The "table talk" as players were announcing their tribe's actions for this turn featured a rousing oration by the Ottawa player. He tried to fire the other players into attacking the two leaders of the campaign, so far -- the Seneca and Ojibwe. The Wyandot ignored them. The Miami player listened, though. Their elders debated long around the council fire before accepting the belt of Ottawa wampum. However, with both of the campaign leaders successfully defending their villages, it remains to be seen if they will be equally victorious in their invasions of the Potawatomi and Illinois towns. If only one succeeds, that tribe will be the clear leader after four turns. If both are, it will likely continue to be a tight struggle. How long before the leaders turn on each other, though?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Beaver Wars - Scores after 3 turns of play

I thought I would publish the scores in the Beaver Wars campaign as we have finished 3 turns. The campaign is intended to last 12 turns, so we are one quarter of the way through. It is a very tight race for the lead, with three tribes separated by one point. The Ojibwe, Seneca, and Miami are ahead of the other three tribes by a significant margin. However, if you examine the numbers in each of the four categories in which they earn points, it will be easy to make up ground. For example, the Ottawa and Potawatomi will jump at least 3 points once they trade in a bundle of beaver pelts.

Victories in battle is also another category with a razor-thin margin. Four tribes have one victory each in battle. Obviously, the scores in this category will likely space themselves out as we proceed through the 12-turn campaign. Fighting successful battles rewards a tribe in at least three ways. If the battle was a successful invasion, that increases the number of towns under a tribe's control. Naturally, it also raises the total of battles the tribe has won. Perhaps more importantly, it is the way a tribe's warriors earn experience points (XP). Simply by surviving a battle, and not running off-table, earns a leader, warrior, or Indian youth one XP. So, a tribe that has most of its braves survive a victory will rack up the points quickly. This has the effect of modeling in margin of victory in an abstract by simple way. The best way for a tribe to amplify its victory even more is to come home bearing enemy scalps. Each figure earns 1 XP per scalp it collects in battle. This rule not only reflects the Indian outlook on war, it also encourages the player's troops to act like Indians and take risks to secure the scalps of enemies they've slain.
Open up! We bring beaver pelts for trade...never mind our warpaint...!
The big rewards for fighting successful battles is to encourage the players to go to war with their opponents. The campaign is meant to reflect the vicious warfare that occurred in the Ohio Valley between tribes seeking to secure its rich hunting and trapping grounds. The beaver was dying out in the East -- too many Indians and whites were trapping them to satiate the demand for pelts in Europe (used to make hats, which were all the fashion rage, at this point in history). Furs were the currency of Indian tribes to obtain European goods they were coming to depend upon, more each year. They needed firearms, gunpowder, metal tools, and many were beginning to switch to imported European cloth. Whichever tribe gained control of the Ohio Territory would be better-armed, richer, and thus, more powerful.

The emphasis on battles to earn campaign points should reflects this. A campaign of peaceful Trap & Hunt turns would not be that exciting. I expect my players are learning this now, and we will continue to see multiple battles per turn, from this point on. We meet again on this coming Sunday, so we will see if my prediction runs true! The campaign rules will be published upon completion of the playtest as a supplement to our Song of Drums and Tomahawks miniatures rules.
Many scalps will adorn the lodges of the tribes of the Ohio Valley as the campaign progresses