Thursday, August 31, 2023

Thracian Javelinmen - 2nd Batch Finished

    My latest batch of 28mm Thracian javelinmen showing off their colorful, geometric-design cloaks
I've had these guys finished for almost two weeks, but just haven't found time to take pictures of them and post them up till this evening. I am close to finishing this Saga Ancients army, with only two batches left to do before they're complete. I plan on having them done in time to loan them out to someone for the Advance the Colors 2023 Saga "Age of Ancients" tournament on Friday night, Oct. 13. So, if you want first crack at commanding this fun, tactically interesting army, send me a message!

    Each of the packs of 8 Crusader Miniatures javelinmen come with 4 different poses
This batch of eight 28mm Crusader javelinmen turned out very nicely, I think. Of course, I'm pretty happy with how the whole warband is looking! Hopefully, this will be another eye-pleasing army on the tabletop. I think it will definitely be up there with my Moors, Picts, and Mongols! Maybe once these are done, I'll have folks vote on which one looks the nicest...ha, ha!

    Because I am inept at using decals, all of my Thracians feature hand-painted shields
As always, I replaced the lead spears that come with the miniatures with North Star Miniatures brass wire spears from Brigade Games. Another thing I try to do when attaching the spears is to make sure each has two points of contact with the figure or base. If you epoxy or superglue a wire spear into a hand with only the palm being the point of contact, it seems you are just asking for them to get knocked off while moving them around during a game. So, I make sure the front of the spear contacts the shield or something similar. If you look closely in these pictures, you should see the second point of contact. When doing this, I tend to lose very few (if any) spears during my games. Of course, dropping them...that's another story!

    I really like how both the flowered green cloak and the blue on blue shield came out on these two figs
Like with the other batches of Thracians, I tend to select lighter colored tunics to offset the more colorful cloaks. I'll use pastel, faded colors for these -- light greens, blues, tans, grays, pinks, etc. Since the Greeks of the time remarked on their colorful cloaks, I feel justified historically in using a brighter palette for those. I do mix in duller colors on cloaks to represent those that have faded over time. I'm assuming they wouldn't buy or make a brand new cloak every time they went to war.

    As always, the fine detail work is a mix of brushwork and using colored micron pens
For the Thracians' fox-skin hoods, I use a range from dark red-brown through ordinary browns to faded leathers. I figure that, like the cloaks, some members of the warband have newer hoods while others have old ones that have been through rain and sun to bleach their color. I do the same with their boots, using a mix of colors. I tend to plan out my tunic and cloak color -- writing what I will use down on the cardboard base I attach them to for painting. However, the rest of the clothes are improvised. I will set out the three colors I will use for the hoods, for example. And then I will look at each closely and decide which figure goes with which color at this stage, lining them up next to the paint bottles.

I like how the "Eye Shields" turn out, but I don't want to overuse the design  
Thracians were known for their reddish hair, but I assume there was a mix of other colors, too. So, I mix in browns and blonds, as well. I switched the bright blue I was using for their eyes on this batch and liked it much more. I'm not sure if that is something you can really notice in the photos, though. Eyes are kind of hit or miss for me, too. I'm very happy with how some figures' eyes come out, and other times I'm disappointed. I don't know whether to blame my close up vision fading a bit, my hand's steadiness, or the sculpting of the figure. The latter IS important to having good eyes come out on a figure. If the eye is detailed enough and accessible enough, I can usually do a decent job on them without ending up with "googly eyes"...ha, ha!

  I'm very happy with how this batch of Crusader Miniatures -- actually the entire army -- is turning out
So, what's next? Well, I am taking a one-batch break from Thracians. I am painting up three warlord stands. Two of them will be prizes for the Advance the Colors Saga tournaments. For those who didn't know, we are running one tourney on Friday and another on Saturday, too. So, if you're a big Saga buff and live within driving distance of Springfield, OH, you really should consider attending. We had 24 players in our 2022 tournament, and turnout looks like it is going to be great again, this year. I have players driving in from as far away as Canada and South Carolina already. So, come join the Saga fun!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Coal Miners & 'Detectives' shoot it out at the Battle of Matewan, 1920

    Miners and passengers waiting for the 5pm train out of Matewan, WV, wait for action to unfold
Summer was waning, and I decided to plan one last gaming weekend out of town. Four of us headed north from Ohio to Michigan to meet up with Jim W and his gaming crew at his Blissfield, MI, Clubhouse. Last summer, I went up to see and game in Jim's building he had purchased to house all his gaming stuff (and host his weekly or so get-togethers with his crew in Southeast Michigan). I imagine there are quite a few miniature gamers out there who have a pipe dream of having their own building for their private gaming clubhouse. Jim has done it, and it is a cozy place for a game.

    Locals eye the armed miners warily, wondering if gunfire is about to break out in their WV town
We drove up Friday after work and met Jim, Ted, and their wives for some tasty Mexican food. Saturday morning, we reconvened at Jim's Clubhouse -- or "Toy Box" -- as he sometimes calls it. On tap was his second playtest of the Battle of Matewan, 1920. This "massacre" -- as it sometimes is called -- was a gunfight between coal miners in the area trying to unionize and the detective agency thugs hired to put them down. Jim had visited Matewan this year, walked the streets, toured the museum, and even chatted with the director about his game to their enthusiastic response. He's been painting up figures for the scenario, as well as constructing period buildings, for a good part of 2023.

    Jim's Matewan tabletop is very eye-catching, and has been modeled to look like the town he visited
Jim was using Fistful of Lead Core Rules, which are the same set I use for my post-apocalyptic games. Most of the Ohio crew (Jenny, Mike S, Jason S) were playing the miners. I joined Jim's friends Ted and Gene to play the Baldwin-Felts thugs. I like to tease Ted about his bad luck (mainly because it is nice to know someone is as inept at rolling dice as me). So, perhaps putting both of us on the same team wasn't my brightest idea of the day! Jim explained the scenario to us, we divvied up our troops, and dealt out the cards for our first turn.

Baldwin-Felts Detective thugs round the corner on Railroad Street to see armed miners gathering
Much to my chagrin, we deployed in a double-deep line, out in the open, at the end of the street. Many of the miners were in cover on the streets or well-positioned in windows or on rooftops with a bead on us. Well, the rifle-armed ones would have us in their sites! Those miners armed with shotguns and pistols would need to close the range -- just as our guys would. In that vein, I decided to bolt right across the railroad tracks for cover. One by one, I sent my guys over the railroad tracks and ducking behind one of Jim's many fine die cast, period automobiles. The last to move was my rifleman, who would be in range of any nearby miners. He took a potshot at one of Jenny's miners who was running along the station platform and gunned him down! Jenny was okay with that, though, as she had been steadily picking off poor Ted's men and would continue to do so against him and Gene all game!

    The first of my agents darts across the tracks to the cover of an automobile
Jason's miner who had been taking cover on the other side of the car fired once at my guy, missed, and then retreated to cover at the corner of the building. On the second turn, I had much higher cards. I moved my shotgun armed detective to point-blank range of Jason's miner and blasted him, knocking him out of action. Two shots, two enemy out of action! No one could accuse me of having "Ted dice" today!! I continued to move all four of my figures around the back of the train station, chasing off the couple of miners who had been lurking back there. If I remember correctly, we gunned down another miner before my shooting luck began to cool. The miners didn't run away, but backed steadily into cover and awaited the incoming reinforcements.


    Jason's pistol-armed miner backs up to the corner of the train station as more thugs head his way
One feature of the game that was slowly making itself felt was Jim's rule for Miner Reinforcements. When Jenny, Mike, or Jason lost a figure out of action, they were immediately given another miner to bring in anywhere on the board edge on the next turn. When we lost a figure, no such luck! We had already taken a number of casualties on Railroad Street to the hot dice of Jenny, Mike, and Jason. Gene and Ted were shortly down to two figures, and then a single figure each. Fortunately, I had taken no losses, yet. Meanwhile, the miners were staying at their starting numbers. Their numbers were beginning to tell.

    It is to no avail as...BOOM! A shotgun blast rings out and my boys have killed their second miner
However, Ted had a great shot on our target for the mission -- Sid Hatfield, Matewan's police chief. He fell wounded just outside the entrance of the train station. I decided it was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. My shotgun-armed detective dashed through the train station and pounced on Hatfield, defeating the wounded police chief in melee and taking him in custody. We pulled him into the train station. I told Ted and Gene we should concentrate all our resources here to hold on for the 4-5 more turns we need to before the 5pm train arrived and we could hop on board with our prisoner and skedaddle out of town.

    We begin to swarm around the back of the station -- avoiding the killing fields on Railroad Street
It was a forlorn hope, though. Man by man, our detectives were shot down by the miners' superior numbers. It felt a little like that situation from Black Hawk Down when the rangers realize they've riled up the whole city and are facing off against overwhelming numbers. My shotgun armed detective was killed, so I moved up Lee Felts, one of our leaders, to take over control of the police chief. Steadily, our detectives fell, one by one, though. My leader, Lee Felts, went down, too, and we lost control of the police chief. Before long, my rifleman who was trying to hold off the swarms of miners outside, was the sole survivor. 
    My detectives move around the back of the train station, searching for the police chief to arrest

My rifleman was doing well, though. However, the movie changed from Black Hawk Down to Dawn of the Dead. As each miner he killed fell, another one popped up in its place. Though my rifleman had been hugging the cover of a car nearly the entire game, the miners able to show up wherever they wanted. He was outflanked repeatedly. Finally, hearing the sound of gunfire inside the train station cease, and seeing miners closing in on all sides, the rifleman through down his rifle and held up his hands.

    Our high water mark of the game! My detective defeats Chief Hatfield in melee & cuffs him!
My crew of four detectives had put up a heck of a fight. We had defied the odds more than once -- especially in driving back the miners in melee inside the train station. Jason's rolls with his 12-sided die were more apt for a 4-sided one. I don't believe he ever rolled above a "4", and quite a few came up with "1's!" Throughout the game, my forces knocked half a dozen or more of the enemy out of action. That was way more than I'd lost. So, I felt Lee Felts' boys held up our end of the battle. Ted and Gene? Sigh. Well, they had "Ted luck"...ha, ha! Still, we had a blast playing the game. It moved fast, looked great on the tabletop, and had very interesting twists and turns in the action.

    The tide is turning, though, as more miner reinforcements arrive and one of my thugs goes down
Thanks to "Captain Jim" for hosting a game for us. It was great to see the Southeast Michigan crew, and I look forward to seeing them at Advance the Colors 2023 in Springfield, Oct. 13-14. Jim will be running the Battle of Matewan (tweaked after our playtest) there. So, if you want to get into this historical wargame set not too many hours (or years) away, I encourage you to attend and play. His games are always a blast!

    It's 'Alamo time' inside the station as Lee Felts tries to hold onto the cuffed & wounded police chief

    On the other side of the street, bodies of detectives (tan crosses) litter the sidewalks

    My rifleman did a solid job holding down the flank before surrendering to overwhelming numbers

Monday, August 7, 2023

First Star Wars Skirmish Using Galactic Heroes

    Keith dug out his old Wizards of the Coast Star Wars Miniatures for a game of Galactic Heroes
We have been using the Wiley Games rules for a number of different miniatures games. After watching Rogue One the other night, and reading some really cool threads on the Lead Adventure Forum, I was itching to give it a try. The only problem was I have zero Star Wars miniatures, and only a handful of Sci-Fi ones.

    My four Rebel troopers deployed on the edge of the ruined spaceport overlooking our goal
No problem, though. Keith has Star Wars figures. Keith has everything! So, all it took was a casual mention of how, "Gee, I really think we should give it a try..." and Keith volunteered to run a game of Galactic Heroes (Wiley Games' Sci-Fi skirmish using their Fistful of Lead engine) for us. Success! It HAD been awhile since he ran a game, so doubtless he was ready to give it a go. Plus, he said he has dozens and dozens of the prepainted plastic figures produced by Wizards of the Coast back in 2004. Keith was obviously the right man for the job, and he emailed out that he'd be running a game for us on our normal Sunday evening gaming session.

    We had six players -- two Rebels, two Imperials, and two "Mercenary Scum" spaced across the table
Mike S also has dozens of the figures, too, and brought his along, as well. However, there was no need for his reinforcements, as it turned out. Hmm...if BOTH of them have way more than they need, maybe I should see if either would be willing to part with a few? I could jazz 'em up a little and...well, I did say that I don't have any Star Wars figures, didn't I??

    Mercenary Scum player Joel sent his Gomorrans to investigate the ship, getting a jump on the others
There were six players on the evening of the game, and Keith divided us up into three factions: Rebel Alliance, Imperials, and Neutral Mercenary Scum (somebody said...not sure if it was Keith or another player disparaging the mix of droids, aliens, and leaders who had "Force" powers. Keith gave each of us a mission. I was a Rebel player, and me and Mike W were to get to the starship that had set down in the center of town and see what useful technology we could scavenge from it. The two Mercenary Scum players, Allen and Joel S, had a similar goal. The Imperials -- Mike S and Jenny -- were to patrol the ruined town looking for ne'er do wells, criminals and rebels. 

    We were having none of that, and drew a bead on the pig men, firing off blasters to no avail
Keith had us toss down a bunch of cardstock ruins to simulate a war-torn spaceport somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. Keith DOES own miniatures for every period ever imagined. However, his terrain is definitely in the "quick and simple" category. Still, this was a playtest, he reminded us. I'm sure he has more fancy terrain squirreled away somewhere in his basement that will see the light of a "G Class" star someday! I know I have a handful of buildings from Miniature Building Authority in their Middle Eastern line which would certainly fit the desert planet theme of many Star Wars films. Now...does that mean I will be painting them up soon...? Well, er...I mean -- Keith has everything! Well, we'll see...

    Thankfully, Joel's Assassin Droid & Trash Can Droid were blasting away at Stormtroopers instead
My Rebel Alliance troopers (Leader, Specialist, and two blaster pistol-armed troops) set up in the ruins on the corner of the board. Our goal would be to have our Specialist with his blaster rifle provide covering fire while the two troopers dashed forward in stages towards the spaceship. The leader would cover them and be in the middle to rally any troopers who needed it. My fellow rebel, Mike W, was W-A-Y on the other edge of the board and would never make it to the spaceship. He did get in a firefight with some Stormtroopers, though, like a good rebel! The other Stormtrooper player, Mike S, was directly across the table from me, but we were using a likely too large table, so he struggled to get a shot off at my guys. Plus, Allen, the evil Mercenary Scum kept him VERY distracted.

    Meanwhile, Allen's Mercenaries were giving the other Stormtroopers more than they could handle
Speaking of which, Allen's brother Joel was immediately to my left. Joel had a force of three Gomorran grunts (remember those pigmen from the Star Wars universe?), an assassin droid, a walking trash can (the walking square box of a droid) that we finally decided had a blaster mounted to his trash can lid top, and a leader who had the Force. He was a very creepy alien looking dude who came from a planet plagued by extremely bad luck. Joel's rolls were AWFUL!

    The Gomorrans reach the spaceship and begin to investigate it with their thick, piggy fingers
Anyway, as I crept forward towards the spaceship, Joel sent his grunts (perfect name for pig-faced aliens) towards the ship, beating me there. Luckily, the assassin droid and the trash can focused on shooting Jenny's Stormtroopers instead of us. I admit that I started hostilities between Joel and I when my laser rifle-armed specialist took a potshot at a pig man. Joel's leader then used the Force to attack my specialist, who shrugged off his attack. On my next turn, he ran to the window, drew a bead on the alien-mercenary-scum-leader and blasted him, knocking him to the ground, wounded. 

    The Force was NOT with Joel's leader, as my specialist & his blaster rifle took him out of action
This started a one-sided fight between the two. Joel's leader popped back up, used the Force to push my guy out into the open (and away from the window, so he had no shot). Not content with keeping me at a distance, the creepy spindly alien leaped out of the window and engaged my specialist in melee. Joel's leader was a combat specialist (roll two dice, take the higher in melee), and my specialist was a long-range guy. Joel proceeded to roll a "1" and "2" for his combat rolls. My stalwart rebel trooper knocked him down and gave him a second wound for good measure. On my turn, he shouldered the blaster rifle and finished him off. In none of those rolls, did Joel ever roll above a "3," I believe!

Rebel trooper cleverly uses the final action to sprint to the ship and 1st move next turn to reach it

He got his revenge, though. As I was being clever, I used the last move of the turn to sprint one of my ordinary troopers across the wide open ground towards the spaceship. I used my first move on the following turn to dart him into the cover of the spaceship, right underneath the landing ramp. One of Joel's Gomorrans fiddled with some controls and released the ramp. Keith let him roll an attack with the surprise descent of the ramp and it wounded and knocked down my out-of-breath rebel trooper! As you can imagine, much hilarity erupted around the table at my expense!

    Allen's tiny alien laughs as the Gomorrans release the landing ramp on my out-of-breath trooper
Allen, who had been focusing on Mike S's Stormtroopers, decided to sneak up a diminutive alien up and try to kick my trooper while he was down. The Force was obviously with me that night (and not with those supposedly having Force powers!). My trooper defeated the tiny alien -- sorry, I forget which race he represented -- and leaped to his feet. On his turn, he snagged a communications jammer from the spacecraft and bolted away as fast as his rebel feet could carry him.

  Droid trooper uses the newly-discovered 'Ready' action to wait for someone to run into the open
Allen made up for this turn of bad luck by taking his frustrations out on a different Mike (Stelzer, playing the Stormtroopers). His Force-wielding leader dashed out into melee with a squad of Stormtroopers. Just like in the movies, he light-sabered hapless trooper after trooper, leaving a trail of crispy white plastic armor in his wake. Between the shooting kills Allen had inflicted earlier on Mike, and this melee mayhem, the squad of imperials was left with one figure. He promptly fled the scene, doubtless calling in backup!

    Allen's leader wades through Stormtroopers with his light saber like they were...well, Stormtroopers!
Seeing as how my rebels had taken out 3-4 enemy, including a leader, and had snagged some tech from the spaceship, we decided to leave the scene of our crimes against the Empire, as well. It had been a successful outing, with no losses. We rationalized the communications jammer was exactly what we had been looking for. How else would we ensure the Imperials we ambushed couldn't call for backup?

Cue the Star Wars music, and hopefully there will be a sequel soon...!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Painting Ancient Thracians Continues - On to the Javelinmen!

    My next batch of Thracians -- eight 28mm warriors with javelins from Crusader Miniatures
The painting of my next Saga army -- the Ancient Thracians, a Balkan people that raided the Greeks and others in the area -- started up again after Historicon. I am on to the last troop type -- the warriors armed with javelins. This will be the most numerous part of the army, as I plan on fielding three units of nine figures each (in my current warband configuration). This is the first batch of eight.

    A look at the freehand patterned cloaks and shield designs that force me to keep my batch size low!
Why am I not painting the javelin-armed contingent in three batches of nine? First, I think I may paint up some extra figures in case I want to change the configuration. The biggest reason, though, is that the Crusader Miniatures (which I purchased from Badger Games) infantry come in packs of eight. Plus, with the decorative cloak patterns, they are a LOT of work. I've found in my years of painting miniatures that if my batch size is too large, I lose motivation and stop painting. By keeping the batch size small, I see progress which inspires me to keep going.

    A look at the front and back of two of the figures in this batch of eight Thracian javelinmen
One reason I enjoy painting metal miniatures more than using plastic kits -- which seem to be more popular these days -- is the "Assembly" step goes very quickly. All I had to do for these is epoxy on their small crescent shaped shields and the javelin in their throwing hand. I know many (most?) gamers use superglue, but I stick with two-part, 5 minute epoxy. I find it holds best and I rarely have shields or weapons pop off during a game. Typically, I use poster tack to either hold the weapon or miniature in place while the epoxy dries. Sometimes, I will shave off some of the metal to give a flatter surface to join in the shield and forearm, for example.

    The detail work on the shields and cloaks is done with a mix of freehand brushwork & micron pens
I brush prime my miniatures white, and then do the flesh. I use a craft paint flesh and then do a Terra Cotta colored wash over the flesh to give it a more ruddy look. Next, I do the tunics. I chose mostly pale colors for this batch. Since the cloaks are not decorated other than a contrasting hemline color, I didn't want them to distract from the brighter, fancier cloaks. Ancient sources describe them as patterned in "geometric designs," and looking at examples that survive from Greek vases or frescoes on tombs, you have a lot of leeway in what to paint. I typically sketch out a design with notes designating colors on the cardboard base that I glue my figures to before priming and painting.

    I really like how these two cloaks came out, especially the blue one!
After the tunics and cloaks, I proceeded to the hooded headdress and the boots. All four clothing pieces receive a highlighting dry brush in a lighter color. Even the leather belts are done in two tones -- a lighter brown base and leather highlight. That's one of the main differences between painting 28mm and 15mm miniatures, I feel. Virtually every bit of detail on the figure gets a base coat and a highlight. It is still not done at that point, though! I go over all my figures with either a brown or black wash. Most figures get both -- the skin, white, yellow, and tan tones on the figure get a brown wash, while the darker colors like reds, greens, blues, and darker browns, get a black wash.

    One batch down, and 2-3 more to go on these javelinmen and my Thracian army will be complete!
Once the clothing is all done, I do the shields last. For any figure batches which I used a micron pen on, I tend to do a first clear coat BEFORE the wash. I've had the ink run because of my wash otherwise. With a spray of Testors Dullcoate, the ink seems to be pretty dry or sealed in so doesn't run. Last step is the flocking, and another Dullcoate or two, and these guys are ready to hurl their javelins at the enemy on the tabletop!