Wednesday 27 April 2011

WIP (cont'd)

Just a short note to prove I haven't dropped off the face of the planet. Spent the weekend researching Norman castles (Castle Rising and Castle Acre) for future wargaming purposes, am now busy finishing off the ECW stuff - yesterday I finished off 40 pike and shot and a dozen firelocks bar the dip, assembled and undercoated 24 cavalry, and painted 24 horses....

Today, the rest has to be ready to dip by about 5pm, so any other blogging activity is going to have to wait :D

Thursday 21 April 2011


Ran out, in rapid succession, of Humbrol French Blue and EMA Plastic Weld over the past couple of sessions. The former easily fixed by a trip to Hobbycraft, the latter... some will be turning up on Saturday courtesy of Jacksons Models on eBay...

Note that I've tidied some more of the desk, and acquired another couple of feet of space where the figure stash was. Still needs a better tidy, but it's a start. And dear oh Lord, but that window blind needs replacing.

In the meantime, I've assembled and undercoated the firelocks, and assembled all 24 horses for the cavalry with the last of the Plastic Weld - all except for the saddle holsters, which are waiting on some more Plastic Weld, as the Humbrol stuff takes too long to set for such things.

...and, as you can see, I've run out of bottle tops.

Note also the new brush holder, and the bits drawers, currently full of spare Roman bits of various sorts, and in need of labelling.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Work area and work in progress

I could use a bit more space still, mind...
Finally got some desk space cleared in my office - we have an old (1860s) house with some connected outbuildings down the side of the garden, one of which is my office (the other's a music room) - so now I can officially not upset the Domestic Authorities by taking over her kitchen table. I just upset her by not being in, instead.

I have another desk to the left of that one, which I can use as well once its tidy. Needful purchases soon include a decent daylight lamp and magnifier, since the only light in there at present are a bunch of fluorescents. Missing from the photo is the cheap and cheerful brush holder I picked up from HobbyCraft this afternoon.

The paints are sitting on a monitor stand, under which are a couple of Really Useful Boxes holding a bunch of small (ex LOTR partwork) paint pots. The two bigger boxes to the right hold 20mm x 20mm (plus multiples) and 25mm x 50mm (plus multiples) bases, after an orgy of de-spruing a whole load.

The BBC bottle cap mountain is reduced a bit...
To the left is the figure stash (I've given up trying to hide it from 'er indoors) as well as a box of plastic bottle caps for use as painting holders - I scavenge these (saving them from being thrown away!) from work at a rate of about half a dozen a day.

Current work in progress is the Warlord Pike and Shot Battalia, being painted as ECW Royalists. I'm doing these the lazy man's Army Painter way - spray undercoat (actually Humbrol French Blue for this batch, since I don't have a local stockist with the non-boring Army Painter colours in), then flesh, belts, boots, hardware, hair and hat, dip, base and varnish. This is actually another race against time, as I have until Royal Wedding Day to paint as much as I can - which basically means all painting needs to be done in a week from tomorrow.
Also note my favourite liquid poly cement...

Useful note for anyone else assembling the infantry:
  1. The correct left arm for each right arm + musket combination is the one nearest it on the sprue
  2. Your sanity will be preserved much longer if you attach the left arm at roughly the right angle first!
Note the already-undercoated figures PVA'd to bottle tops ready for detail work. I've undercoated a full unit of infantry (40 pike and shot) and should have the firelock group undercoated by the end of tonight.

For spray undercoat, I Blu-Tak things to what's affectionately referred to as the 2"x1" of many colours... currently it's blue :D

The next sprue ready to paint...
Someday, I should clear out the clutter under the table!

Anyway, so that's my painting setup. Hope you like it.

Coming soon - next instalment of the horse colour saga, and the last two weeks' battle reports.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Why I won't be buying "Kampfgruppe Normandy"

ZeroTwentyThree has just drawn (via a blog post) my attention to Kampfgruppe Normandy. All I can say is, I'm afraid, "How &*()(*&^%$%^&*(ing much?"

Flames of War is pricy enough - Battlefront seem to have the WW2 captive miniature-collecting audience well and truly sewn up: I'll save my thoughts on the game itself for another day, other than to note I'm not a fan.

If I were to invest seriously in WW2 gaming, I'd either go 6mm with the excellent Blitzkrieg Commander, or find one of the many good sets of skirmish rules and shell out for some of the nice Bolt Action 28mms from Warlord. It's bad enough paying £30 (and being restricted to buying it from Warhammer Historical) for WAB: the only reason I'm similarly tempted by Black Powder and Hail Caesar! is, I'm completely unashamed to say, the sheer volume of figure and scenery porn in both volumes - they're as good as coffee table books. Either way, I'll pay forty eight quid for KN about when hell freezes over.

Monday 11 April 2011

Followers and the like

A big hi to my scattering of new followers - I won't pick them all out individually, but will note that this blog is now linked from (and supporting) Wargaming Tradecraft - there's a bit of a GW bias in the articles, but the more generic ones on painting and the like make excellent reading. And it's another source of good blogs to read! (As if I didn't have enough!)

Saturday 9 April 2011

A horse of a different colour part 3 - duns and roans

Time to deal with the genetics and colours of a couple of common horse colour variations. First up, duns.

Dun is what's known as a colour dilution gene - the D gene. 
  • D is dominant, and if present in a horse which is bay, black or chestnut lighten the base colour of the coat. Unlike the G/g grey gene this isn't 'going grey' - the horse's coat is lighter from birth, and it doesn't matter whether the horse has a DD or Dd pair.
  • d means you get the standard bay/chestnut/black colour as per normal.
The other key aspect of a dun horse is what are known as 'primitive markings'. These are, in order of most to least common/visible:
  • The 'eel stripe' - a black stripe along the centre of the back.
  • Leg stripes - often faint horizontal striping on the back of the (fore)legs
  • Shoulder stripes - much rarer
In addition, the face of a dun is often darker than the rest of its coat.

The three basic coat colours interact with DD or Dd as follows:
  • Bay (AA or Aa, EE or Ee) produces a bay dun or 'classic' dun with a light brown coat and darker main and tail, and primitive markings. 
  • Black (aa, EE or Ee) produces a "blue dun" or "grullo", with a grey coat and darker markings, points and often face.
  • Chestnut (aa, ee) produces a "red dun", with darker red points, markings and face.
A dun with the G (gray) gene will exhibit normal greying behaviour with age.

Roan, on the other hand, is not the product of a colour dilution gene, but it does produce an effect which can look similar at a distance. 
  • Rn (guess what, it's dominant) manifests itself as an even mix of white hairs and those of the original coat colour on the body, which (unlike a grey) does NOT lighten with age (and again, because it's a dominant trait, it doesn't matter whether your horse has an Rn/Rn or Rn/rn pair). Note that the head, mane, tail and lower legs remain dark.
  • rn means you get the standard bay/chestnut/black colour as per normal.
In a similar way to a dun, the three base horse colours produce named variants:
  • Bay + roan produces a bay roan 
  • Chestnut + roan produces a red roan, although the paler variants can be called a 'strawberry roan'
  • Black + roan produces a blue roan.
The key difference at the kind of scale we're likely to be painting figures at is that a dun has the 'dun face', the often darker colouring about the face, and the primitive markings, whereas the roan's head, mane, tail and lower legs remain dark. Another difference is that if a roan's coat is damaged (by, for example, a cut or a brand), it tends to grow back in the base colour without the white hairs.

So, that's duns and roans. Next, what are variously called 'paint' or 'coloured' horses.

Thursday 7 April 2011

A horse of a different colour part 2 - specifically, white.

I'm going to cover two things in this post: first up, white markings.

Many horses with a dark base coat colour (i.e. the ones we were talking about in the previous post) have white markings on the face, as well as one or more white 'socks'.

Facial markings range widely from almost none to the whole face - they're actually areas with different colour skin and hair pignment - note, for example, that when the white extends all the way to the nose, the underlying skin colour is pink, not dark.

Leg markings can extend as far as the knee, or as little as just above the hoof. Note that the hoof colour on a leg with white markings is going to be a shade ranging from flesh to pale khaki, not dark.

[Both images in the public domain, via Wikipedia's article on horse markings]

Ok. So that's white markings. What about white horses?

To begin with, a lot of the white horses you see aren't white. They're actually greys - even the famous Lipizaners (of "White Horses" fame, if you had the same schoolboy crush I did!) are grey, not white. Grey is produced by the grey gene, G or g.
  • G means the horse's coat will tend to go grey/white with age, much like a human's hair.
  • g means it won't.
Again, simples! Grey horses start out one of the principal colours as determined by their A/E genes, and as they age, they go greyer, until, eventually, they can end up white. The skin colour, however, remains dark (except under markings that were white at birth), so you can often tell whether a white horse is genetically a grey by looking at the shading round mouth and eyes, which will be dark. That is, if its mane and tail don't give it away by greying at a different rate to the coat, which can happen. 

A 'bloody shouldered' grey
Picture by Kumana @ Wild Equines
The grey colour goes through a stage of being a mix of dark and light hairs, leading to some interesting colours:
  • Various shades of grey
  • Dappled, where the intermixing of dark and light isn't uniform
  • 'Flea-bitten', where a red/brown base colour starts to re-emerge after the horse has become white, leading to a horse with a white coat with speckles of red throughout.
A rather spectacular variant of flea-bitten is known as 'bloody-shouldered', where the red is highly visible, usually on the shoulders.

There are a number of other genes that produce 'white' horses. One of the most common is the 'Dominant White' gene, W and w:
  • W is dominant, and produces a genuinely white from birth horse irrespective of the A and E genes - this can be distinguished by the skin around the mouth etc being pinkish, not dark. 
  • w doesn't - normal coat colouration genes take precedence.
Pure white horses are Ww, because the WW combination is fatal - an embryo with WW is reabsorbed and never goes to term.

There are other genes which can produce the appearance of white, but I'll cover those in a later article.

Next, duns and roans.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

A horse of a different colour...

A brief diversion, brought on by a discussion over the weekend and at the club on Monday on the subject of painting cavalry.There is slightly more to the subject than slapping on some brown paint and hoping. My wife's a veterinary surgeon, and she would probably disown me for incorrectly painted horses!

A long time ago (somewhere about 1997) I used to play on one of the variants of an online MUD game that allowed players to code various things. This particular one was heavy on roleplaying as opposed to killing monsters, and one of the staff had coded up some rideable horses. These latter I showed to Anne, my wife, who was somewhat unimpressed at the way the code picked colours, so I set about learning more about horse coat colours and fixing the code.

So. Herewith part 1 of a course on horse colours. The easy bit. But first...

Basic genetics. It's all pretty simple, really. Most of the genes we're going to look at work much the same way, so let's consider a gene. In essence, it's a genetic switch between two characteristics, which we'll label as upper and lower case letters, say G and g. For a given gene, you have two copies - each of your parents gives you one chosen at random from the two they possess, so you potentially can either be GG, Gg (in one of two ways) or gg. [Yes, yes, spare me the gee-gee jokes!]

The important thing is that, in most of the cases we are considering, G is dominant - it swamps g - which means that if you have GG OR Gg, you will display the G characteristic, and ONLY if you have gg will you display the g characteristic.

With me so far? Good. So, how does this apply to horses?

There are TWO really important genes in horse colours. E or e, and A or a. Let's start with E.

  • E means the horse can produce black pigment in its coat - it has the potential to be a black horse.
  • e means it can't, it produces red/brown - it's a chestnut or sorrel.
Simples! So in the absence of any other genes, EE and Ee horses have some black in their coats, ee are chestnut. (And note that an EE horse can never produce a chestnut foal, because it must ALWAYS give a copy of E to its offspring, which will dominate whatever the other parent gives.) So, given random distribution of E and e, ONLY 25% of horses should be chestnut/sorrel.

And the rest? Well, that's where the other important gene comes in - A or a (it's called the Agouti gene).
Picture by extreme_eventer04
  • A means any black pigment in the horse's coat is restricted to its 'points' - ears, mane, tail, legs etc. i.e. if the horse has an it's a bay - red/brown body, black mane and tail. Recent research suggests that a horse with AA or Aa and EE is statistically likely to be a darker bay than one with Ee.
  • a means any black pigment will be everywhere: so IF the horse has an E it will be black
Again, A is dominant. So 75% of the remaining horses in our random selection will be bay (AA or two ways of getting Aa). The rest will be black.

So: ignoring the more complex colours and other genetic fun (I really went to town on the MUD code!), assuming a random gene pool, out of 16 horses, 4 will be chestnut, three will be black and the rest will be bays. 

(Aside: when I next paint some cavalry I'll add pictures of painted examples of each colour to these posts.)

Next time? White, both as markings and as grey/white horses.

Battle Report - 4 Apr 2011

Hrm. A practice game for the WAB Roman Civil War campaign - my EIR against Carl (with help from Rob)'s ninja (undercoated in black, but that's it so far) Romans. In fact two practice games, because I made a couple of stupid mistakes in the first one that resulted in it being ... erm... somewhat short.

So, in a slightly different format from usual.

Lessons learned from battle number 1 (the ignominious defeat):
  • 16" is further than you think. It's only 1 1/3 times the frontage of 12 cavalry in line abreast
  • Do not park your general directly behind those light cavalry that just got charged. He will be next in line when they rout.
  • Your dice still suck.
Lessons learned from battle number 2 (the close-fought victory)
  • Read the rules before you start. Parthian shot is only available to cavalry in skirmish order.
  • 8" is also further than you think: it's twice the frontage of a block of 6x3 legionaries.
  • You probably don't need a general AND a senior officer in a 1500 point army. Paint some more Auxiliaries.
  • Your dice really do still suck. [I think I managed a total of ONE hit from the 3 two-attack characters in combat over about 6 rounds.]
As Rob said, though - any battle you learn from isn't a complete disaster. And this is why we have practice games.

Monday 4 April 2011

Renewing old memories

Many years ago, the library in North Ferriby (where I lived with my parents) had a really rather good collection of wargaming books, including most of the Don Featherstone's and Charles Grant's (as well as Battle by Kenneth Macksey, but that's a story for another time). I must have borrowed everything they had several times. Contrast, if you will, with Peterborough Library today, which has, count it, precisely one solitary wargames book. And it's not even very good.

While discussing campaigns with fellow club members, some of the ideas from Don Featherstone's War Game Campaigns came up in conversation, as well as being reminded by some of the Pig Wars games about the scenarios in Skirmish Wargaming. Gav from the club has the former, which he's promised I can borrow sometime, but I succumbed to the lure of the latter on Amazon...

It's definitely of its time. If the past decade has been the era of buckets of dice and command rolls, Featherstone's books are definitely of the 'look it up on a combat results table' era, much like some of the other rules I grew up reading. Basically its a set of core rules, plus variations for each period. Each period comes with a scenario which is introduced by a pretty reasonable two or three page short story that sets up the battle to come.

You know what's really really scary?

I have not picked up that book in thirty years until last week. And I could remember every bloody piece of dialogue from every one of those short pieces.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Painting and purchasing...

 Managed to paint up a dozen Wargames Factory Germanic cavalry as barbarian allies to my Romans this weekend - with thanks to the lovely Rika, whose eye and hand for fine detail are markedly better than mine, hence these guys actually have harness on their horses. I also got a dozen auxillary infantry assembled and undercoated.

It's been a bit windy this weekend, so getting undercoat and varnish on things (which I normally do out in the garden) has involved a bit of 'getting one's own back'. I switched to the spare carport, but that suffers from being an enclosed area...

I've also acquired (from Total Wargamer at a ridiculous discount) a Warlord Pike and Shotte box set (80 infantry, 24 cavalry, and 10 firelocks) which should arriving early this coming week. Purely, you understand, to sneak some more historical periods into the club, by painting them up as ECW Royalist (probably: I may go against my principles and go Roundhead, depending on what my potential opponents have). Going to go the lazy way on those - burgundy or navy blue spray undercoat, detail on belts, boots, flesh and weapons, dip, base, varnish. Provided I'm thorough enough on the undercoat, they should be relatively quick to paint.

Saturday 2 April 2011

Battle Report - 28 Mar 2011

Still no photos for this, but it was kind of fun.

A three-cornered game of Pig Wars: the basic scenario (thanks Carl) was that a raiding party (Carl) was returning home from raiding a Welsh village (AndyH) and passing by a Saxon village (your humble scribe) as it did.

I set up my RoSaxons in the village, 15 foot including 5 archers manning the palisade, and 5 cavalry waiting to charge out the gate. We had a brief and fun scuffle at the gate between my and Carl's cavalry, resulting in casualties on both sides, before Andy's Welshmen came and distracted Carl's troops, in search of their missing sheep (hehe) and loot.

About that point I lost my standard bearer, which necessitated a morale check - result, fall back for my archers, and everything else was fine. Next round I started mixing it with Andy's troops as well, and a combination of Carl's cavalry and foot killed my leader. Another morale check, and everything got a fall back result.

So, next round I attempted to rally what was left of my force (by now about 7 or 8 figures), and drew a heart (Pig Wars uses cards, remember) - all troops rally. Fab. Just time to get stuck into the two guys of Carl's that were herding Andy's sheep, and for Andy to lose his standard bearer and get an 'everyone fall back' result on the morale check  Next round? I took out Carl's last cavalry, Carl killed Andy's leader: another morale check, and I think Andy drew a 2 or a 3. And all his troops rout.

Which, much to my surprise, pretty much left my guys in charge of the battlefield and the captured sheep and gold. I suspect there will need to be a rematch so Andy can get his sheep back :D

Friday 1 April 2011

Battle Report - 21 Mar 2011

I seem to be a week behind - I'll try and catch up, but I have no photos for the Pig Wars game on the 28th yet (hint, hint, DP!).

So - the 21st was a warmup/practice game for the club's upcoming WAB2 Roman Civil War campaign - 10 or so players, a mix of various LRR/EIR armies, Liburian, Dacian, Macedonian. This one was Grahame and I against AndyB and Phil, EIR vs a mix of Macedonias (Phil) and Dacians (AndyB).

I took the left flank, Grahame the right, correctly guessing that I was going to have the dirty job - holding up Phil's two phalanxes (phalanges?) and that really irritating cavalry wedge, while Grahame, at least in theory, cleaned up the Dacians.

In theory....

The wedge hit the skirmish line (archers), which was sort of in the plan. Leaving the auxiliary cavalry just inside revealed charge range when they ran away wasn't, since I'd slightly misjudged just how far the damn things move. And, of course, 10 of them charging get attacks, and I only get to fight back with what's left of 7 (those in contact plus half the wedge)... [hrm, note to self, the "Alexander The Great supplement says 'that many extra surviving defenders' - I should check whether that means before or after casualties!]

The cavalry did actually survive the first round, but not the second. Surprisingly, the archers rallied, which meant they got to hold the wedge up again.

Meanwhile, my two cohorts of legionaries got stuck into the phalanxes: the first round of both combats went to a musician roll-off, and I lost both, meaning Phil had momentum.

Round two was more clear cut - one cohort broke and fled, the second collected a third unit of infantry in the flank...

It survived that round, too. But not the third. Mostly because the third involved them collecting that damn cavalry wedge in the rear! Not that it wasn't inevitable - it was pretty much behind them when it broke the auxiliary cavalry, and those things are very manoeuvrable.

At that point, everything I had on the board was routing, and not coming back, so.. well, that was pretty much it. As you can see, the wedge and the phalanxes headed off to do more damage...

Given Phil's Macedonians will be putting in an appearance in the campaign, I really need a plan for dealing with both the wedge, and the phalanxes. The latter always get initiative in the first round, which is tiresome, and the wedge is just ... unpleasant. However. I think I have an idea... :D
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