Monday, December 29, 2008

A Christmas Miscellany.

Well known Ruritanian officer Kapitan Judas Monck Von Gruntfuttock, pictured here in the uniform he wore when facing the Viennese threat in the dark days of the 1740s. Austrian readers will no doubt have great difficulty identifying the facings and such, as their ancestors only ever saw him from the rear.

This handsome fellow is part of a very nice gift I received from my mother in law, the product of one of the two moulds she got for me at a toy soldier museum in Germany. The other chap is a grenadier in a firing pose. I've already considered the possibilities that headswaps present, but considering I only play Little Wars in 54mm and it would be a crime to fire a nerf dart at such an imaculately accoutred gentleman, I think his will be weak piping days of peace for the time being at least.

Our rather magnificent Christmas tree.

Christmas Day at work had been rough (who goes sight seeing on Christmas Day? Italians, it seems) and I was glad to get out. I collected Mrs. Kinch, headed up to my folks, brought Mrs. Kinch and the Pater & Mater to Mrs. Kinch's grandparents where four generations of that (now my family, I suppose) family chatted, ate, exhanged presents and had a great time. Pater & Mater enjoyed the brief flirtation with chaos and then beat a retreat to Christchurch where they settled down for a quiet and relaxing Christmas. We headed back to my maternal inlaws abode in Kingstown, where I took a nap in the afternoon (I had been up until 2 am Christmas Eve finishing presents for Mrs. Kinch's grandfather and great uncle, I only regret I did not have time to photograph the finished product) and rose to paint my officer.

Magnificent food was eaten and boardgames played and Mrs. Kinch (who hadn't yet recovered sadly, though she's fine now) and I retreated early to bed like the fun loving and happening young couple that we are, one Wii, many books and several excellent bottles of port the richer.

The rest of Christmas was spent in work for the most part, barring St. Stephen's day, though I've a few days off coming up now.

I've been thinking about where my wargaming is going at the moment and I think it's time for some state of the nation type thoughts so that I have a definate plan for where I'm going. My major goals are at present.

1. To paint less and play more or more precisely Umpire more, as off it's the role I most enjoy.
2. To get Little Wars off the ground.
3. To keep the Halberdiers a going concern at about one game a month.
4. To have sufficent painted figures to play Napoleonic and Ruritanian wargames.

With number four in mind I think my major issue at present is the lack of cavalry. Most scenarios require a few squadrons and at present I can muster 8 Light Dragoons and 17 Dragoons. Considering the amount of time that cavalry demands, I beginning to think that perhaps a painting service might not be a bad investment of my limited wargaming budget. The question of course remains whether figures that I haven't painted myself will actually ever be really mine.

I don't suppose there's any way to find out for sure without comissioning a regiment. I've heard good things of Fernando Enterprises in Sri Lanka, I might order some troops from my birthday.

French artillery from Zvesda, magnificent figures with a great deal of detail. The chaps on the left need to be flocked and varnished, while the others are mid way through the spray and pray process.
Click for a larger image.

These chaps are a few of the crew of some French guns that I've been experimenting with. I really like the elaborate uniforms of the Napoleonic period, but less so the time required to paint them. As a result I've tried spraying the figure with a base coat, perhaps with a wash to follow and then just picked out what detail I thought was necessary. The end result isn't too bad and looks well from a distance. What it lacks in precision it makes up in speed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I am the Second Lobster.

I'm towards the back.

Karen: So what's this big news?
Daisy: We've been given our parts in the nativity play
and I'm the lobster.

Karen: The lobster?

Daisy: Yeah.
Karen: In the nativity play?

Daisy: Yeah. First Lobster.
Karen: There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?
Daisy: Duh.

Love Actually (Richard Curtis, 2003)

General Gordon is looking a little bit more colourful, though not yet complete. I suspect that he will be one of those figures that looks half finished until you apply the final detail and then voila, he is complete. It's been an education painting both Gordon and the Three Men of Gascony. It's such a stretch beyond my usual painting style that I've had to rethink several times.

What I have learned.

Do not attempt to paint paler lips or palms on African figures, it just looks silly. This is a case I think where stylising certain portions of your paintwork lends verisimilitude to the end product.

Washes of colour rather than a standard highlight work better for larger figures, particularly if they're realistically proportioned. My first attempts at the Three Men of Gascony looked cartoonish and absurd.

Put not your trust in model shop owners, for they shall prove false and betray thy trust. And so it shall be that thou shalt be left without a resin backdrop for thy figures. There shall be a great darkness and lamentable carry on all together until thou thinkest of something.

Lend not thine ear to the blandishments of shop owner and their manifold falsehoods of "I'll have it on Saturday on my mother's life".

Mrs. Kinch was just getting better when she picked up a nasty vomiting bug from her Granny. I can console myself that it's training for the eventual arrival of little Kinches. There shall be some burning of the midnight oil on the Gascons and Gordon, I suspect, if we're to be done in time.

I've been thinking that I should pick up some French heavy cavalry for my Napoleonic forces, mainly so that I could play some of the Brigadiers teasers that demand heavies. The options in plastic are good, but not vast, though the Strelets Cuirassiers look very nice, particularly the great coated ones. Of course its madness to contemplate any painting for myself until the amazing Little Wars painting Death March is over, but a chap can dream.

I wish someone made dismounted and horse-holding French and British dragoons. I have some Strelets Foot Dragoons painted up to fill the gap, but I only have Irregular Miniatures riderless horses and they look like ponies next to the Italeri horses. They would be just the thing for Napoleonic skirmishing.

Also, I received my first wargaming gift of this Christmas, a copy of Brother Against Brother. It seems quite a fast paced and sensible system, not I'm ashamed to say what I've come to associate with rule-sets from the United States*. But, it shall be another shot in the locker for my blackpowder skirmishing needs. Seeing it play in anger of course will have to wait until after Christmas.

*Crossfire and the Command & Colours system being honourable exceptions.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dinosaurs for the Confederacy

A Tyrannosaurus Rex declares himself for Statehood and the right to own people.

There is apparently a theme part in the United States where fibre glass dinosaurs take a hand in the American Civil War. You can find out more here.

What a fascinating modern age in which we live, eh?

- For Jean Louis, who I know will appreciate this as few men can.

Three men of Gascony

1870 French Infantry in 1/32 scale. Damn their fiddly little eyes.*

Mrs. Kinch is ghastly, ghastly ill at present, so my evening was spent feeding, watering and mopping her brow. On the otherhand she did spend quite a deal of that time asleep. I wasn't really in the mood for writing, though I've plenty of it to do. I persevered with the making of gifts, one for Mrs. Kinch's grandfather and the other for her great uncle.

The fruits of my labours were a few coats of paint on Gordon of Khartoum with much time spent checking colours from the Hope Joy painting and the assembly the three gallic gentlemen pictured above. Though I enjoy painting, I am a wargamer rather than a modeller, and these three gentlemen, handsome though they are, cured me of any tendency to look longingly at the galaxy of figures available as 1/32 kits. They were fiddly, required a great deal of gluing and shaving and fitting of parts. Never was "measure three times, cut once" more true then when assembling such a kit, though I suppose in the modellers commonplace book it should be rendered as "Fit three times, swear, shave with stanley blade, fit again, hold with blu-tac, regard critically, shake head, fit again, regard again, shake head, shave with stanley blade, sigh, fit again, glue."

Saturday I think I'll purchase a shop front of something similar for them to stand infront of.

*Frequent visitors will be aware of the eight Light Dragoons I painted recently. They consisted of two parts, one man, one horse. The gentlemen pictured above came to a cool 72 parts and I left some of the more fiddly bits out. I tell you, I nearly lost my reason.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mustering a troop of the Sixth Light Dragoons.

Eight Light Dragoons on the painting table.

Though my brief reserve service was with the infantry and the majority of the Generals that I admire were masters of that arm, I love the cavalry. Perhaps it was inheriting my father's old copy of "The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard" or perhaps it was the riding lessons where as the sole boy in a class of girls, I struggled manfully with a beast by the name of Major and spent afternoons after school being repeatedly thrown and trodden on. ("Heels down, Conrad. Heels down. Don't saw at his mouth, how would you like it".) I think it is a testament to Major's irascibility that even in my riding school, a place where Captain Nolan's creed of kindness to horses was gospel, Major was considered a bully and horse apart and I the only pupil required to carry a whip.

I never have the luck or the nerve to command cavalry properly on the tabletop (something my friend Fitz possesses in abundance), but my heart is with them all the same. I am more Cardigan than Uxbridge.

Allan Mallinson's horse stories have always fascinated me. Well written, completely grounded in time and place, they evoke a past of sabres, duty quietly done and barracks with the smell of horse urine sharp in the crisp morning air. That the novelist is a retired soldier and former ordinand of the Anglican church shouldn't have surprised me as he writes so well of both those worlds. His hero, Mathew Hervey, now Lt. Col of the Sixth Light Dragoons has become one of those boon companions, whose occasional visits pass all too quickly, but who never fails to lift the spirits. They are a small but select group of friends; Brigadier Gerard, Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson, Jim Hawkins, Captain Aubrey & Dr Maturin, Porthos, Aramis, Athos & D'Artangan and Bertram Alberforce Wooster.

So when I decided that I must have some cavalry for my Napoleonic forces, British Light Dragoons it had to be. You can see the fruits of my labour above and demanding fellows they are too. I'm a speed merchant at the best of times, but there is just so damn much to paint on a cavalryman that they take an age.

Still, I finished, barring flocking and varnishing, eight last night, with another sixteen or so based, undercoated and the horse colours blocked in. With officers and other such harmless persons, I should be able to muster about half a troop of the Sixth Light Dragoons before too long.

The uniform of the Sixth is the post 1812 Light Dragoons uniform and from what I can gather from the books, it follows this pattern.

Coats: Dark blue.
Turnbacks: Buff (which seems to be a sort of off yellow)
Lace: Silver (white from what I can gather)
Trousers: Bluey-grey with a stripe in the facing colour.
Plume: White with a red bit at the bottom.

Anything I was unsure off, horse furniture, plumes, etc, I cobbled together from the illustrations of John Pimlott's excellant little book British Light Cavalry. I'm not hugely concerned about accuracy as they are a fictional regiment and I have no one to please but myself. Normally I paint my troops as generically as possible so that they can serve a variety of masters, but in this case, painting up a particular regiment was very satisfying and something I might try again. I have across painted up particular figures for the Halberdiers, though I think I might enjoy sprucing up some of my French infantry with regiment titles and the like.

Hussars of Conflans next perhaps?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Human nature.

The new Memoir '44 Mediterranean expansion and sixteen Memoir '44 dice.

I am a man of many prejudices. I have rather set ideas of what is done and what is not done.

I've always found that accepting those prejudices and being aware of them is a better way of getting through life then trying to deny that you've any prejudices at all. Some of these are small prejudices, a desire not to play "the bad guys" in war games, an unreasoning hatred for the music of Chris DeBurgh and the sudden wave of nausea that hits me every time I see "Neighbours".

One of those prejudices is that there is a fraternity of wargamers and that one gamer does not steal from another, regardless of temptation or provocation. The theft of my Memoir '44 dice struck at that fondly held prejudice and coincidently made it impossible to play the game. I play agreat deal of Memoir '44 and the lack of it rankled, though Donogh very kindly got me some blank dice so that I could make replacements.

Imagine my surprise when I received a package in work on Thursday morning containing sixteen Memoir '44 dice, the equivelant of two sets worth. I'd just bought a copy of the Mediterranean expansion from my local dealer and was reconciling myself to finally making up those replacement dice when the package arrived.

I originally thought that the dice might have been returned by the thief in a fit of conscience, but on closer examination the return of sixteen dice (I'd lost one already so only fifteen were stolen) and the London post mark made it seem unlikely.

There was no note or explanation, though certain characteristics of the way the address was written would lead me to believe that the sender was a reader of this blog.

I did consider trying to trace the packet, but that would be a shabby way to repay a thoroughly admirable and unselfish gesture. All I can say is thank you.

Thank you very much.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Picture Post: Little Wars at Dominicon

General Tyger moves up to bring his guns into action.

General Von Fatzington taking the first of many wildly inaccurate shots at that gun crew. Eventually he grew so exasperated by heckling from the groundlings that he eventually turned his gun on me.

General Senan leads a dashing cavalry charge to silence the enemy guns.

Close, but no cigar. Maybe next time Von Fatzington.

Judging the bounce on a projectile is key to carrying out proper grazing fire. Contrary to what this picture might lead you to believe, General Von Fatzington is a master of the art.

So near and yet so far for General Tyger.

Oh yes my lad. Your uppance will come...

Despite the unpromising looking trajectory, General Tyger's shot managed to bounce and graze through the line leaving havoc in its wake.

But not today it seems...

Ever hopeful General Fatzington draws a bead on some other likely lads.

Friday, December 5, 2008

General Gordon, the Hero of Khartoum

Perry Miniatures Pack SU1 Gordon at Khartoum.

"ALAS! now o'er the civilised world there hangs a gloom
For brave General Gordon, that was killed in Khartoum,
He was a Christian hero, and a soldier of the Cross,
And to England his death will be a very great loss."

So wrote William Topaz McGonagall, reputedly the worst poet in the English language, in his poem "General Gordon, the Hero of Khartoum". I've always rather liked Gordon probably because of Charlton Heston's protrayal of him in "Khartoum" (1966). It is probably a misplaced affection, but nonetheless genuine for all that.

Gordon of Khartoum by George William Joy

So when I discovered that the Perrys made a piece after the famous painting by George William Joy, it was only a matter of time before I crumbled. I recently discovered that Mrs. Kinch's grandfather, a man of whom, I am inordinately fond has a copy of the George William Joy in his hall. I hope the Perry diorama will make a fitting Christmas present.

Tomorrow marks the end of a very long week at work, during which I will have put in about seventy two hours at work. The onset of daffiness has only been seen off by the very pleasent company of and food provided by Mrs. Kinch and the recreation of putting General Gordon together.

I will have put in seventy two hours over the last week, which is one hour less than the hours put in by a simple patrolman in the Boston policeforce prior to 1919. I've just finished "A City in Terror: Calvin Coolidge and the 1919 Boston Police Strike" by Francis Russell and while the idea of any police force going on strike appalls me, it is hard not to have sympathy for the strikers.

Roll on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas is coming...

The old painting chair, a haven of tranquility in a world gone mad.

...and it's time for lots and lots of overtime. Working in a Cathedral, one would think that Easter would be my busiest time of the year, but you'd be wrong. While the overtime is very welcome, particularly at this time of year and I'm very grateful to have a job at all in the current economic climate, it can be a bit dis-spiriting not to see Mrs. Kinch of an evening.

That said, I had the day off yesterday and had a fine time of it. A great deal of the day was spent in the old painting chair by the fire, listening to a series of lectures on Greco-Roman civilization.

Since watching 300 with Ms. Royale, I've decided that perhaps Ancient history is not so boring after all. I mean phalanxes and all that kind of stuff are pretty dull, but war rhinos and strange mutants with blades for arms are an entirely different story.

The Guards of the Bishopric of Gormanstein, a fine body of men who will give many years service.

Most of my painting of late has been geared towards a large Little Wars game that will be running at Leprecon XXX in Febuary next year. The urgency of this has been given a bit of a kick in the pants as my co-conspirator and I have realised that to fill the space that we have available we'll need somewhere in the region of 700 1/32 scale figures. The cost of this was enough to give us pause, the painting thereof doubly so.

That said, faint heart never won fair lady and we have decided to press on.

Of course, the large game required two new imagi-nations, thus the Bishopric of Gormanstein and the Grand Duchy of Little Siskington were born.

General Senan of the Newbridge Royal Artillery having a dashed unlucky day while trying to shell some Sisktonian cavalry.

One of the problems of Little Wars is that a large space is need to play in. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to play some games at Dominicon, NUI Maynooth's games convention a few weeks ago and I'll be putting some pictures of those games up in the near future.

And in the corner, one of my house-mates, Ms. Toosie Royale, milliner to the stars preparing a headdress for an upcoming Burlesque show. Mrs. Kinch (not pictured) being upstairs rehearsing her songs for the same show.
(As Ms. Royale is an unmarried lady,
a chaperone was of course present and is simply out of shot in this picture.)