Monday, August 29, 2022

Road trip and gaming weekend in Michigan

Saturday afternoon at Jim's Clubhouse - hypothetical defense of a station in the Anglo-Zulu War
If you had the budget, what's your dream for the ultimate gaming clubhouse? How about your own building for you to keep all of your miniatures, terrain, unpainted stuff, rule books, etc.? Make it within walking distance of a pub, couple restaurants, and in a quaint, downtown area. Sound perfect? Well, that's what my friend Jim W has done!

    Jim's painting desk with his comfy, leather lawyer's chair and rack of paints at his fingertips
Jim's gaming clubhouse came about when the local law firm in the village (population approximately 3,000) had its last attorney retire. They were looking to sell their one-story law offices downtown and gave Jim (an old acquaintance) a sweetheart deal. Jim even got to keep all the furniture! So, Jim moved in and kept as much of cabinets, shelves, tables, and of course padded leather chairs as he could. He uses the attorney's comfy office chair for painting. The filing system for blueprints, large deeds, etc., now houses miniatures. The taller shelves hold 28mm figures, medium height ones 20mm, and shortest ones 15mm scale miniatures. Of course, Jim -- who admits to being a bit OCD -- labels each shelf with the appropriate label. Terrain and buildings line the shelves on the walls, with everything close at hand and not packed away in some crate or box.

    The Game Room - note the shelves all around with terrain, buildings, and necessities close at hand
Jim described the clubhouse to us at Drums at the Rapids and we all agreed that we should pick a summer weekend and have a bunch of us drive up north to visit. We agreed to stay for the weekend and game Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Life got in the way for just about everyone else, though, and I ended up being the only out-of-towner joining Jim and his regular gaming partners Ted and Gene for the games. I'd rented a room at the local B&B, and in a great case of serendipity, the weekend we chose also ended up being the village's Beerfest! So, after the Saturday game, Jim and I met his wife and her friends at the beerfest for brews, food, and I am not kidding -- a Kiss cover band!

    The law office left Jim these various-sized drawers pull out and hold Jim's miniatures collection
Most of my friends know that I have a plug-in Electric Vehicle, so this ended up being my longest road trip with it. I searched on the Plugshare app and found a high-speed charger at a dealership in Sylvania, OH -- 20 minutes from Jim's village. I drove north, found the high speed charger and plugged in, and then retired for a leisurely lunch. My 2017 Chevy Bolt's range got a boost last year when the manufacturer rolled out a recall and installed a brand new battery. My range went from 250 miles to close to 300. Of the 20 "battery bars" which designate remaining charge, I had used 12 of them on the drive up. I charged it back up to just over 90% to be on the safe side, and continued on to the B&B.

    Jim is VERY all the drawers are labeled with period and scale!
I met Jim and Ted at the clubhouse and he gave me the grand tour. Honestly, I don't think any miniature gamer would be disappointed with Jim's setup. I know I'd be more than happy with something like that. After the tour, we sat down and Jim ran the three of us through his "Prisoner Exchange Gone Wrong" scenario. I controlled the gang from out of town, appropriately enough. Jim played the locals, while Ted (ex-Corrections Officer) was the cops. We were using Fistful of Lead Core Rules, which is the same set I am using for my Post-Apocalyptic games. One innovation Jim had done with the rules was to take his deck of cards he was using for it and write on the "special" cards what they do. For example, 2's allow a player to roll two dice and take the higher roll for any rolls they are called upon to do that turn. He wrote it in ink and this proved to be a good reminder and one less thing you need to check the Quick Reference Sheet for!

    Jim has plenty of shelf space for all the miniatures rules he likes to buy
The game was a blast, as I imagined it might be. Jim sprang an ambush on my out-of-towners, but we quickly shot back. In a space of one turn, my group gunned down three of his characters and wounded another. After that, Ted, who had been trying to treat both gangs equally, decided his local cops would favor the local bad guys in their shootout with the strangers. Things started to go bad for my guys after that, and my rolls cooled off a bit, too. We did free our prisoner and he, my leader, and another gang member ran back to the car, jumped in, and drove off. This was about the same time as Ted's "back up" was arriving. He rolled randomly for the two police cars and BOTH came in on the road my guys were trying to escape on. One in four chance...really??


    The room for storing unpainted lead, terrain, and buildings is slightly less neat...!
Still, he had to make a roll to put two and two together and realize the car driving off was involved in the shootout and not locals fleeing for safety. He failed both those and my gang was able to rescue its prisoner, thus "winning." As it turned out, all three of us completed the victory conditions Jim had set. So, we all won...ha, ha! We didn't all get a trophy, though. I lost one more gang member than Jim. Considering he was set up in ambush position, and Ted concentrated at least 2/3's of his attacks on me, I considered it a victory!

    Jim shuffles the deck in preparation for another turn in his "Prisoner Swap Gone Bad" game
We sat around and shot the breeze for awhile, before I retired for the night to my B&B. Breakfast there the next morning was fantastic, and the owner of H.D. Ellis Inn entertained the guests with stories from the past of not only the house, but the village's founding, too. It was very interesting to learn about Blisffield's history and anecdotes about the early residents. At the agreed upon time, I headed back to Jim's clubhouse. Though it was within walking distance, I drove since Jim had parking right out front of his clubhouse. Plus, it was supposed to rain today, and I didn't fancy getting soaked walking back.

    Jim's thugs and my out-of-town gangsters meet at the fountain to swap some prisoners
We chatted for awhile while Ted was setting up Saturday's game - a hypothetical clash between Colonial British and Zulus using Fistful of Lead: Bigger Battles. I had downloaded the rules earlier, but had yet to play them (or even read them, I confess). I was really curious how a skirmish set scaled up to bigger battles since that is something First Command Wargames is working on doing with our French & Indian War rules, Song of Drums and Tomahawks. In the end, I really liked the way the same basic mechanics translated to a game which saw us controlling almost 10 times the number of troops. In particular, I liked how the "Shock" mechanic functioned as a morale effect. Units need to rally when under the stress of combat or they become ineffective. 

    Ted's police cars drove right by my escaping out of towners in the yellow sedan

Ted's scenario was very much in the vein of Rorke's Drift. Jim and I were defending a station against overwhelming numbers of Zulus. Ted had set the game up with essentially two phases - an initial attack and a follow up. For awhile, I didn't think we were going to repulse the initial attack. However, we did. Ted also let our Surgeon make rolls to bring some walking wounded back into the fight. The Zulus then received all of their reinforcements that had not shown up and rolled for their initial entry points. The results looked grim, with a massive force coming at us from one direction. This meant, they would be able to screen each other. By the time we had caused enough casualties on the front unit, the ones in back would be essentially able to charge us. 

    British force prepares to defend the station against the oncoming Zulu first wave
I honestly thought there was no way we would survive the onslaught. We even received two small troops of cavalry as reinforcements, but there was little they could do with only melee weapons vs. massive impis of Zulus. Somehow, we ended still being alive when the final turn was reached. Ted ruled that was when the relief column trundled onto the table and the remaining Zulus scattered. Our surviving Brits were less than a skeleton of the our initial ranks. Still, we somehow "won" the game. That meant two hard-fought battles where I lost more than half of my troops. 

    Supporting fire from the Gatling gun and rooftop riflemen were crucial to turning back the first wave
I had a fun time in both games, though. It was fun to get a chance to game with Jim, Ted, and Gene in a friendly "gaming night" setting instead of at a convention. We took a break for lunch, talked politics, the war in Ukraine, future painting projects, and more. Ted and Gene took off not too long after we'd finished. Jim and I closed up his place and headed out into the first sprinkles of rain to check out the brewfest. Unfortunately, the rain kept up all night long, which somewhat detracted from the experiences. However, we had a good time enjoying some beers, talking with his wife and her friend, and even watching the Kiss cover band for awhile.

    After lunch, the 2nd Zulu wave arrived and things began to look grim for the defenders
It was a great, relaxed gaming road trip, and I had a blast. I ducked out early the next morning from the B&B so I could get home before noon. I had a lot to do as school was starting that very next day. So, I guess that meant I was productive with my summer, squeezing out one last trip on the very weekend before school restarted! It was great to see Jim's clubhouse, and I definitely envy him his setup. I think every gamer upon seeing it would be equally jealous!

    This was all Jim and I had left of our original force at the bitter end of the game!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

More Altars for Saga Objectives

    More altars and idols for Saga objective markers (and maybe also Pulp temple scenery?)
This last week before school starts up has seen a flurry of projects finish on my painting desk. Here is a second batch of altars and idols for objective markers for Saga. I think I needed only 10 more, but once I got started creating them, I kept finding more things in my unpainted boxes and drawers that would work. Some of these items have probably been in a box for more than a decade, just waiting for that right project to be used with. And once again, the plaster bricks that Tim and Zeke had given me years ago were crucial to being able to create these.

For example, in the first photo, that bull's head was lead and I don't even remember where it came from. I would not be surprised if it has been lurking in my unpainted lead drawer for 20 years! However, it makes a perfect pagan idol when set atop some Hirst Arts fieldstone "bricks." The two matching temple dogs are brass pieces that I picked up in one of my trips to Southeast Asia. They're very detailed - note the Buddha on the back of the dogs - look like statues you might see in a medieval Hindu temple. The stone column base is Hirst Arts fieldstone again, along with two plaster bricks picked up from a bag of scenery items at a gaming store.

    More brass pieces that I picked up in my travels plopped atop stone altars

And as long as I am showing off what I'd picked up in Southeast Asia, I may as well talk about these three next. Once again, they were bought while visiting a temple somewhere in my travels - Myanmar? Thailand? Vietnam? Not sure. The middle one is the monkey god Hanuman. You see statues and paintings of him in many temples. On the right is a brass figurine of Ganesh, the elepant-headed god beloved by Hindus. Both he and Hanuman sit atop Hirst Arts brick columns like the temple dogs. The other Ganesh to the left sits atop a plastic piece from the Pegasus Hobbies Gothic Cathedral box. I did not use any of the interior pieces when I built St. Jennifer's with the kit. I saved the pieces, knowing they'd come in handy one day. I believe it is a baptismal font, but the circular base of the Ganesh fit so perfectly into the font basin that I made it into a pedestal for the statue.

    Two altars from the Pegasus Hobbies Gothic Cathedral & Reaper Bones Cthulhu column

The two altars on either side of the column also were interior pieces intended for the cathedral. I added a Hirst Arts stone pedestal and a fancy bead to the back so it wasn't so plain. Since I was basing them up on 1.5" wooden circles, I didn't want a large blank area on the back. The pieces will be towards the center of the table in the Wrath of the gods scenario, so will be seen all around. The column is a Reaper Bones Cthulhu eldritch, carved column. The base it came with was the perfect size, too. So, the only thing I had to do with it was the same thing I did with all of them. Spray paint with acrylic black paint. Seal it with a 50/50 mix of black paint and water. Then dry brush it to shades of gray.

    The final three altars or idols were Reaper Bones models and an unused 28mm Greek hoplite

The two end altars or idols here are also straight out of the box. They are from the Reaper Bones "Harrowgate" pack, and are actually the second pack of these that I painted up. The one in the center is a 28mm Greek Hoplite as a statue, placed atop more Hirst Arts stones. I realized after I had taken the picture that I had made him into a "lefty." I put the shield on the wrong arm! Not sure why, but it looks fine as a Greek statue, I think.

So, with this batch, I am done with the objective markers. Time to move on to the next project! Stay tuned for what that will be...!

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Mongol Horde Ready to Ravage the Saga Scene!

    More than 40 horsemen comprise my Saga army from 28mm Curteys Miniatures
My Mongol horde for Saga is done! I say "horde" because it felt like I was painting up a horde of figures. Lots of people joke about hating to paint cavalry, but there is no denying it takes longer to paint up a mounted 28mm miniature than it does for most foot figures. Looking back at my blog posts on this army, it not only felt like it was taking a long time, it DID! I began painting this army more than a year ago. The first blog entry for the Mongols I found was dated July 28, 2021. Wow!

    My Mongol warlord, Kettle Drummer, and half of the light cavalry horse archers
Now, I admit I worked on other things in the meantime, from terrain for the Advance the Colors Saga tournament (last year and this year's), to post-Apocalyptic figures, to demons for Reign in Hell rules. So, it was not literally 13 months of uninterrupted painting of this army. In fact, with my busy teaching schedule, there were long stretches of time when I did no painting whatsoever. On the other hand, I am not really done painting all the figures I want for this army. I plan to paint up one more batch of mounted, armored cavalry to give me some choice and variety in army composition. So, technically, I'm not really done...

Six armored cavalry and the rest of the light cavalry of my Mongol Ordu (where we get 'horde' from)
Nevertheless, I have 6 points worth of Mongols that I can begin playing with. The last two things I painted were the warlord's stand and the Kettle Drummer's stand. The Kettle Drummer is a 1/2-point "hero" stand that gives a free activation to all units within one Long distance of him and is indispensable to a Mongol general. As I plan on fielding my army, I am also taking 1.5 points of mounted hearthguard (armored cavalry) and 4 points of mounted warriors (horse archers). So, that's a total of more than 40 horsemen that I painted up for this army.

    Three different angles of the warlord's stand (with small pile of severed heads)
I like to paint up the warlord stand last when I do a new army. I think I will be more skilled at color combinations and looks for the army by that point, so I want to maximize on what I learned painting the rest of the army. I decided to mix things up from what my 28mm Curteys Miniatures cast for the army general. I mounted him on one of the armored horses rather than the unarmored one that came in his pack. I gave what was supposed to be his horse to the standard bearer. This included a very cool add-on - a pet leopard perched on the rump of the horse. This isn't fantasy, it is from an account written by Marco Polo from his visit to the emperor's court!

In addition to the spotted leopard riding shotgun with the standard bearer, I added in a stack of four severed heads to the base. I went through my unpainted (and unlikely to use) 28mm figures and found figures that would be easy to sever, and leave a nice, flat bottom to be glued in place. With the horse tail banner, leopard, and heads, I think the warlord stand turned out very nice. Especially considering the time I took painting the individual scales on the horse armor!

    My Mongol Kettle Drummer mounted on a camel and accompanied by a Shaman on foot
When I ordered my 28mm Curteys Miniatures from 1st Corps in the UK, I ordered quite a few extra packs. The main reason I chose Curteys was the huge variety of poses that they had in their Mongol line. One of those was a Mongol Shaman banging a large drum that I added onto the Mongol Kettle drummer's base. Perhaps the coolest part is that the towering kettle drummer figure is mounted on a camel. It's the only camel mount in the army - the rest are all on horses. The camel and the rider are also cast as a single piece. With all the other packs, the riders are separate from the horses. The kettle drummer actually painted up fairly quickly, at least compared to the horse archers, who are festooned with all kinds of equipment, bottles, bow cases, quivers, etc. With him wearing mail, there wasn't a lot to decorate on him - just his sleeves. So, I made up for it with the foot shaman, and gave him a patterned robe and decorated border and headband.

I really enjoyed painting up this army. The figures are a bit smaller in size than other 28mm mounted, but I am okay with that. Not only are all the figures in my army from the same manufacturer, cutting down on odd-looking size differences, I mounted them on taller bases so that they don't look too much smaller than opponents on the battlefield. I also used oval bases that were probably a bit narrower than most probably would have. This was purely for game purposes. I wanted the bases of the back rank figures to be able to project up in between the front rank for measuring range in Saga. The composite bow in the game shoots only 6", so the more I could scrunch them up, the easier it will be to move and fire my horse archers on the tabletop. I put lead sinkers as weights on the base to keep them from being top-heavy or (hopefully) from toppling over.

    Eight 28mm ravens as fatigue markers for my Mongol army - I like scenic markers on the tabletop!
The final touch was an addition at Historicon last month. I found a pack of 8 ravens from Bad Squiddo Games. I figured these would be perfect fatigue markers for Saga! I can use them for other armies, of course, but these will be the ones I put in the Mongol figure box. They were quick and simple to paint up, as nearly all of a raven except the legs are black. I based them on squares of magnetic material, flocked them, and now my horde is complete. It took my way longer than I would have guessed last summer when I started painting my Mongols, but I am very happy with how they turned out. Whew - finally done!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Romans Defend Idols Against Crusade

    My Roman legionaries moment of glory - 5 Warrior infantry repel the charge of 8 mounted knights
We had 9 players at our August monthly Saga game day at Guardtower East. Jenny graciously bowed out as the extra person, which allowed my Republican Romans to take the field at second time. This time, we were matched against the black-robed crusaders of Lee P's Milites Christi. I encouraged players to try out one of the scenarios we will be using in the upcoming Advance the Colors Saga Tournament (Oct. 8). Two groups of players chose Wrath of the Gods, a scenario designed by Joe M of the Northern Tempest Saga Podcast. I apologize if this is a nuts and bolts analysis of Saga game mechanics - so, if you're not interested in Saga, you may want to skim this report!

    'Wrath of the Gods' scenario involves players trying to seize control of 3 pagan idols on the board
In this scenario, players are attempting to control one of three objective markers in the center third of the board. If they have a unit within Very Short (2") distance and there are no enemy within Short (4") of them, they may force the opponent to remove 1 figure per objective marker controlled. These count as losses and the game is scored with Massacre Points. I had recently created a bunch of appropriate objective markers for the pagan idols that the scenario encourages you to use. My favorite were the tree idols made using the Enchanted Tree Stumps from Bad Squiddo Games.

    Two tables played 'Wrath of the Gods' - Lee and I in front and Bob B and Mike S in the back
The first marker goes dead center of the board, and each player places another. Both Lee and I placed our markers as close to our side (just past 12" Long distance) of our board edge, and moved up to the markers with our first turn movement. I had a quandary on how to take the battle to Lee, though. I knew he had one unit of Warrior crossbowmen and a mercenary unit of Turcopoles. So, once again, my Republican Romans were up against a warband with significant shooting capability. I view that as the chief weakness of the battle board, though after Game 2 with them, I think there are some other vulnerabilities. I decided to make a strong push in the center with 3-4 infantry units. My Velites were my only shooting unit, and I was worried about a long range charge against them by Lee's 8-man, Hospitaller knights. So, I moved them forward then into the heavy cover of the ruins in my center half of the board.

    View from the Roman side at the end of our Turn 1, making a general advance towards the objectives
I deployed my big 8-man unit of Roman legionaries on the far right to contest Lee's control of the objective marker closest to him. It was a waste of time and resources, though. After moving them up on the first turn, I never moved them the rest of the way to get within Short of his Hospitaller foot sergeants that had seized the objective. Otherwise, it was a steady advance by my Roman legion. Lee responded with a similar advance, but also proved that his shooting was going to be something I would have to worry about. In one shot with his crossbowmen, he killed three figures of a six-man unit (one Saga dice down already!). His Turcopoles also shot down another legionary from the unit which had moved up to contest the center objective. In my five, supposedly 50% chance saving rolls, l had made only one roll. Sigh. I sometimes wonder why my Romans even wear armor??

    Each of us seized our closest objective on Turn 1 - here my legionaries defend one pagan idol
I did have a slight edge in this scenario as the Milites Christi are not allowed to take any Levy troops in their list. So, when I forced him to lose figures with the Wrath of the Gods, he was losing Warriors while I would be losing Levy (until he eliminated that unit on turn 3!). On my Turn 2, I brought my Levy out of the rocky area, tempting his knights to charge. Meanwhile, I advanced to control the center pagan idol, and would hold it for a couple turns. I left my board loaded up with defensive abilities for his counter-thrust, which I had a good feeling was coming on his half of the turn.

    I kept pushing forward with my legionaries, reaching the center page tree idol and controlling it, too
Luckily for me, this time his shooting did little damage. He planned to make up for that, though, with the charge of his knights -- two full points of mounted hearthguard against one unit of 5 Warriors. Slam dunk, right? However, this was the strength of the Romans (supposedly). I had played Exhortation at the start of his half of the turn, giving all my units within Long distance of my Roman Consul warlord two bonus dice (either attack or defense) in melee. I also had queued up three melee abilities on my board. I closed ranks, but still would roll 9 attack dice and receive 6 bonus dice. This combat would prove to be my high water mark for die rolling for the whole game, though! The five Roman legionaries shrugged off more than a dozen hits from his knights. Lee had played a number of dice on his Orison battle board ability, too, allowing him to shrug off our hits, as well. Neither side suffered casualties, so his knight recoiled.

    The 'one that got away'...15 shots against Armor 4 mounted knights result in only 2 casualties!
On my next turn, I decided to go after those knights with shooting. Mounted hearthguard are 4 vs. shooting, but armor 5 in melee.  So, I moved up my Levy and took two javelin throws with them. In addition, another 6-man unit of legionaries tossed their pila (3 more shots) and charged in. I rolled 15 shots at a 50% chance to hit (7.5 hits, right?). We killed just two knights with the shooting instead of the four we should have, and two more in melee. His unit of 8 was down to 4, but my 6-man unit failed every single save and was eliminated. My streaky/bad die rolling with the Romans was continuing and would keep it up all game.

    Lee's one that didn't 'get away' - his Hospitaller knights prepare to charge and wipe out my Velites
With the eliminated legionary unit, the Velites received a second fatigue. Of course, on his next turn, his knights charged and totally destroyed that Levy unit. Despite inflicting 1-2 casualties on Lee through Wrath of the Gods every turn, I began to feel that my army was  coming out on the wrong end of the casualty exchange. His shooting was wearing my legionary units down, and more importantly, I was not capitalizing on my attacks where I had the advantage. With the missed flubbed shooting turn and my charge that killed only two figures, I felt I was losing. However, during his half of the turn, I counted up the casualties. To my surprise, we stayed surprisingly close all game. 

    Romans are stubborn, and keep up the pressure. My Triarii (right) cutting down his crossbowmen
I sent my legionaries in against his knight unit, which had been whittled down to 2 figures. I played "Pilum," and an extra dice in combat bonus. This time, our javelins finally struck home and both knights fell! On the next turn, I brought my Triarii hearth guard forward and charged into his crossbow unit. We ended up killing all but two. Things were finally getting better, it seemed. At this stage, I might even be ahead, I felt. 

    Hospitallers don't give up either - his Turcopoles mercenaries ride down a battered legionary unit
Lee still had his warlord and mercenary Turcopoles, and they both charged home next turn to redress the odds. My dice deserted me again and his warlord not only completely destroyed the Triarii, the Turcopoles also wiped out the remnants of the legionary unit next to the center objective. This set up my turn 6, though, and I felt I knew a way to seal the win. His warlord was Exhausted, meaning one more casualty would eliminate him. I set up my remaining Saga dice and prepared to see my legions through to victory.

    Another vicious, hard-fought battle was Mike's Jomsvikings clash with Dan N's Poles
However, it was not to be. Lee received an urgent text from his wife and had to pack up and leave right away to take care of a family matter. We didn't have time to count up points. So, sadly, this hard-fought game had to be called with no winner and no loser. I think I could have pulled out a victory by eliminating both his warlord and the remaining two crossbowmen. However, the dice had not been kind to my Romans this game, except for a couple of instances where our saves were good. So, my final strike could have fallen flat. Equally, Lee could have turned the tables in his half of the 6th turn. We'll never know, though. 

    Poles and Jomsvikings batter each other in this brutal, 23-23 tie in Clash of Warlords
After the game, I reflected again on the Republican Roman battle board and warband. We covered this faction in depth on the most recent Saga Ohio podcast. Three other Republican Roman players and myself analyzed the board in a great conversation. As I expressed in that podcast, I don't know if the Romans have a "Plan B" if getting to grips in melee is not successful. In the beginning, I thought loading up on defense dice and letting the enemy wear itself out in fruitless attacks would be a winning strategy. After two games, I'm not so sure. 

    Earlier in their match, the Jomsvikings on left close with the Polish battleline
Perhaps another big vulnerability is whether an army that relying on mostly Warrior infantry can roll enough "Common" Saga dice to be able to move and maneuver its army? Some of the better abilities on the board also require Rare dice. In both my games, I have failed to roll Rare dice on most of my turns. In fact, I think I rolled a Rare on only two of six turns against Bob's Age of Invasions Romans. I know I rolled them on only one of my five turns against Lee. So, that's three of eleven rolls with no equivalent "6" on a Saga dice for an army that generates seven dice when fresh. Crucially, if the Republican Roman player rolls no Rares and instead mostly Uncommons instead of Commons (as I did at least a couple of turns in each game), they are severely handicapped. So, at this stage, I think the jury is out on the effectiveness of this army. 

    Joe D (L) teaches his friend Bob how to play Saga in a Viking vs. Viking battle
Perhaps even more key, I am simply not having a lot of fun with this army. Loading up defensive abilities to blunt an enemy's attacks is not the most exciting part of a game of Saga. Their ability to launch offensive melees is also not overwhelming. Since most of their battle board abilities are Melee oriented, and if they really aren't that great in melee, uhmmm...what can they do?? I think I will give the army one more try, though. If third time is not a charm and I am not having a lot of fun with these guys, it is likely they will go on the shelf except for Age of Hannibal type events.

    Bob B's Byzantine army takes control of the center objective in his 'Wrath of the Gods' match
Elsewhere, my game with Lee was definitely NOT the only close game. In our four games that day, three games were ties (counting mine as a tie). Here are the results from our game day:

  • Dan N's Poles tied against Mike H's Jomsvikings in Clash of Warlords, 23-23.
  • Lee P's Milites Christi tied against Mike D's Republican Romans in Wrath of the Gods (unknown score).
  • Bob B's Byzantines defeated Mike S's Milites Christi in Wrath of the Gods, 56-8.
  • Joe D's Vikings tied Bob's Vikings in Clash of Warlords, 29-30.

    Byzantine and Knightly cavalry struggle for control of one of the objectives on the flanks
Both boards that played Wrath of the Gods said they enjoyed it, so looks like we have a fun scenario lined up in October for the Advance the Colors tournament. I hope folks can make it out for this event! 

    Vikings vs. Vikings in a Clash of Warlords, somewhere in Scandinavia

Monday, August 1, 2022

Idols, Altars, & Sacred Spaces, oh my!

    Primitive Idols as Objective Markers for Saga - I love how these Bad Squiddo ones turned out!
Now that Historicon is over, it's time to set my sights on what I need to prepare for my next convention: Advance the Colors 2022 at the Clark County Fairgrounds, Oct. 7-8, 2022. I will be running a Saga tournament there for the second year in a row. Last year, we had 16 players and this year I am hoping to increase that to 24. 

    Plaster or resin stones with spare 28mm figures and you have a Pagan or Christian Idol/Altar
One of the challenging parts about running a Saga tournament is organizers are expected to provide the battlefields and terrain. In this case, it means I should be ready to have a dozen tables of relatively matching terrain for each round. I'm probably a bit anal retentive on making it fair, so I want each board to be as identical to the next one as possible. The terrain will be preset, and each round it will be changed out to provide the players a new tactical puzzle. So, if I need a large hill in the center of round two's board, for example, that means I need 12 large hills! Last year, I prepared for eight matching pieces of terrain of all the different Saga types -- fields, bogs, ruins, rocky ground, etc. So, I need to up those numbers some, obviously.

    These resin 'Toothy Skulls' have been in my unpainted resin bin for they'll see use!
I took care of the hills at Historicon, purchasing a dozen very affordable hills from Pastimes on the Square's booth in the Exhibit Hall. I will count out to make sure I have enough styrene pieces pieces to plop trees on for Woods, but I think I am okay there, too. That means I need to pony up some more of the other four types -- yikes! I guess I'd better get busy on that!!

    A couple of wooden Buddhas & a resin snake atop plaster bricks make good looking idols
One of the scenarios that I am running in this year's Saga tournament is called "Wrath of the Gods." It was developed by Joe M of the Northern Tempest Saga Podcast. It features three objective markers which are meant to represent idols, altars, or something similar. Prior to coming back from Historicon, I had plenty of "loot" type of objective markers, but only about a half dozen that could be considered idols. I dug through the closet where I store my various unpainted resin and terrain odds and ends. I found quite a few that I could use as idols. What's more, I found plaster stone tiles that were the exact dimensions required for an objective marker that Tim P had given me a few years ago. Adding in the plaster bricks I had left over from my friend Dave Z's generosity years ago, and I could do quite a few with zero new purchases!

    Bad Squiddo Games' Enchanted (or Angry?) Tree Stumps as they appear on the package illustration
So, I sat down and started Tacky Gluing pieces things together. Resin skulls were attached to plaster stones, and appropriate looking idol heads were glued to the 40mm square stone tiles. I also went through my 28mm unpainted lead looking for things I could use as statues. These would be placed atop platforms made from the resin stones. Before I knew it, I had 14 altar-like objective markers assembled. Another six were created using a purchase from Historicon -- the Bad Squiddo Games "Enchanted Tree Stumps" package I had bought at the Badger Games. I used green stuff to bond the incredibly cool looking resin stumps to the top of a large Acheson Creations tree stump. Once placed atop the larger stump, the leering faces of the "Angry Tree Stumps" looked like a seated tree god or spirit. Or maybe they were a primitive wooden  idol lost and forgotten in a forest? I was incredibly happy with how they turned out. Yes, if I tell you that I used green stuff to bond the two together, and then carved to look like bark, you will be able to find the "seams", so to speak. But they look like they belonged on top of the stumps. Very sacred grove looking, I thought!

    I used green stuff to attach the tree stumps to a larger tree stump and they look like seated idols!
Once they were all constructed and put together, I spray painted the whole lot with Krylon acrylic matte black. Then I did my usual thing that I do for terrain, and went over the entire surface with a 50/50 mix of acrylic black paint and water. Painting these was SO easy and quick. For the stone ones, I started with a dark gray dry brush, then followed up with a light gray one. That was it - a coat of clear acrylic matte and they were done! 

    I had only five large tree stumps, so this one sits alone on the ground (flocking still wet with glue!)
For the Enchanted Tree Stumps, I began with a Howard Hues Camo Brown dry brush. I followed that up with a light khaki colored dry brush highlighting. Then it was time to get creative. The picture that accompanied the pack of stumps showed them painted up with the faces in various colors. I tried to make it look like paint had been daubed across the wood, sticking to the highlights but not sinking into the crevices. The eyes I painted a bright light green. The mouths or maws were done in a darker red brown. I used a number of different colors for the faces, including Terra Cotta, faded blue, darker green, lighter green, and reddish brown. 

    Another of the resin cobras and a Norse and Celtic looking figure atop stone altars
I was very happy with how the faces turned out. I looked at the pieces, though, and decided the colors of the faces looked a little chalky, and needed a good dark wash. I did a black wash over the entire piece and was even happier with the results. I had only five of the large Acheson tree stumps to be the seated bodies of the tree spirits, though, so one had to be attached to a circular base and flocked. I have a feeling these models will appear in non-Saga games -- perhaps as warnings to trespassers that they are entering a sacred grove protected by a savage tribe!

    Two more resin skulls I've had sitting unpainted and an African looking statue
From start to finish, this entire batch of 20 objective markers took only about four days of a couple hours work each day. This brings me to a total of 26 markers. I'll need 36, as each board has three of these. So, before October I have 10 more to do. I've got the formula down, so I imagine they'll go fast. 

So, what's next for me? Two things are fighting the idols for space on my painting desk right now. One is the last two stands of my 28mm Mongol army for Saga - the warlord and the kettle drummer. Each stand will have two figures on it and are primed on my desk as I type this. The other thing is a Sarissa Precision trailer home. More on this hopefully soon. It has been sprayed black so is almost ready for the brush! Stay tuned for more updates as I use these last two weeks of summer to squeeze in as much work on projects as I can!