Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anglo-Dane Warriors Ready for Battle...

When Gripping Beast announced their plastic warriors kit for SAGA I was pretty excited.  In addition to their excellent Viking and Saxon plastics I knew this would be a nice compliment to their line. 
These particular eight men will serve as warriors for my Anglo-Danish warband.  I had to restrain myself on the shields as I love to paint designs but I wanted to keep their designs simple such as to distinguish them from the more elite hearthguard.

Also, this was my first attempt at NMM(non metallic metals) and, as you can see, I have a lot to learn.  My results were mixed but I definitely need to work on the technique!
Thanks for viewing...

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Will Miniature Wargaming Go the Way of the Model Railroad?...

Not so long ago I posted some pictures of wargaming that I have my students do in the Military History high school elective course that I teach.  A comment offered by a visitor caught my attention and has been rolling around in my head ever since:

"It's great that you are keeping the hobby alive by introducing it to the younger generation. Let's not let it go the way of model railroading!"

Though I appreciated the kind words, it was a real eye opener to me and really hit home.  My father and brother-in-law are both model railroaders(in their 80's and 50's respectively).  My brother who is many years older than I, and my dad, used to build remote control airplanes and "U-control" planes that they flew in well-attended competitions(when I was in diapers).  When I think of those two hobbies, I see pasttimes that once had throngs of followers, especially young people, which are now, by and large, the domain of old men(I say with all due respect).  I know there's a youngster here and there with an HO railroad, or a boy building a remote control airplane somewhere, but these examples are far and few between.

When I think about the miniature wargaming scene I see an aging demographic.  Especially when it comes to historical wargaming, most enthusiasts are, by and large, middle aged(like me).  When I look at fantasy/sci fi wargaming, I do see some younger people involved, but only with a couple of major game systems(cough, GW, cough).  Even most of them, teenagers and 20-somethings, are "passing through", with their hobby careers proving shortlived.  For many years I have advised a miniature gaming club at my high school.  I have seen a couple of generations of students come to enjoy miniature wargames such as WWII skirmishing, Warmachine and Warhammer 40K.  We have a steady involvement of students who are truly interested and engaged in the games.  It has been one of the great joys of my life to share the hobby with them.  That being said, having spoken with most of my ex-club members beyond their time at high school, none of them have engaged the minaiture gaming hobby on their own.  I am glad that they had four years of high school where I gladly supplied the minis and terrain, but none of them have taken it up beyond their time with me. 

Why is this happening?  What are the implications?  Well, first off, I'd love to put my head in the sand and pretend that this is a local phenomenon.  However, I have read enough on the internet to suggest that that is not only a national trend, but a global one.  Of course one of the culprits is videogaming.  When one can have an advanced simulation of battles, historical or fantasy, without touching glue or a paintbrush, convenience can win out.  I know it's not that simple, however.  I love videogames myself.  In the last week I've done a fair amount of Borderlands 2 on my XBOX360 and Bioshock: Infinite on my PC.  It's too easy to say "it's either or" when it comes to videogames vs. miniature games.  I suppose another possibility is that the 30+ crowd will continue to gain new members into the hobby as people enter that age group.  The problem with that theory is thatmany of us(I am 43) started miniature wargaming in their teens or 20's...that's when we got in.  

The implications are a little frightening to us "grognards".  If there aren't legions of new gamers down the line, many producers and retailers of miniature gaming supplies will go the way of the dinosaur.  There may be a couple left standing(please Lord, not Games Workshop), but we'll see a dramatic decline in options as gamers.  Historical gaming will be hit first(I am convinced this will be fairly soon).  We're in a golden age of variety for games of every kind right now, but market demographics will change everything.  We can point to all the new game systems, shiny plastic options and legions of gaming blogs on the web and say "everything is fine".  However, I believe we are at critical mass and there won't be enough new, long term gamers to sustain this.  I still believe a lot of gamers, like my past students, are "just passing through" this hobby.

Is it all doom and gloom? NO!  One thing that gives me solace are two "newer" trends in particular: online retailers and Kickstarter.  Brick and mortar hobby stores are losing their war.  There will always be a few successful shops but by and large, they're fading.  The online retailer of miniature wargaming supplies will have longevity.  They will be able to glean enough business from a wide market to always have enough business to function...making it worth it to them to carry the gaming supplies that we want.  These will likely decline in number as well over time, but there will always be a niche and a they'll be there.  Kickstarter campaigns, I believe, will be the real savior.  Again, if the future is a smaller market of fewer gamers, their collective financing of specialized projects will mean there will likely be "new stuff" for us gamers to get our hands on into the forseeable future.  You already see major game companies using kickstarter to find the capital for expansions of their product line(see Mantic Games), I believe we'll see more and more of this as we go forward.  I also wonder if digital printing will play a big role for the average gamer(but if I believed all future tech, as promised, would be widely available, I'd have my hovercar and household robot by now just like The Jetsons promised me!). 

Finally, I must mention that I love playing wargames with my oldest two sons(15 and 9).  I will do my part to continue to share the joy of the miniature gaming hobby with them.    I have a 5 year old who will be joining in pretty soon!  I will do my part to encourage them to take up the hobby for the long term.  I envision a world where they can sit around a wargaming table with children of their own...I believe it will happen. 

I could be way off on some of my assumptions but this is what I see happening.  As a guy that plays both fantasy games(Warmachine/Infinity) and historical games(Battlegroup Kursk/SAGA), I see the trends in both genres.  I believe there are some great tools out there that will keep miniature gaming alive, but, as with all things, it willl be a very different experience in the future.  I do believe that metal/plastic miniatures on styrofoam and MDF terrain can co-exist with cell phones and Gooogle glass.  We'll see what the future holds. 

I truly welcome all insights and thoughts on this issue in the form of comments.  Do you wonder the same things?  Do you see a different future for miniature gaming?  What do YOU think? 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Viking Warlord...4 pt Warband complete!

O.K., a four point SAGA warband is small but it should be perfect for teaching the rules to the gaming club.  I finally finished up my Gripping Beast plastic Viking warlord to complete my small warband.  I have blisters of Viking berserkers and archers to grow the group in the near future....but at least what I have can be thrown down for a small game.  On this model I made heavy of Reaper Model Color triads on this particular figure(for the hair, flesh, white tunic and green cape).  
To spice him up a little but I added a custom strap to his shield and added some arrows to his base(made from sewing pins and green stuff). 
And here he is with a unit of hearthguard as escorts...
I am now nine figures away from having my 4 pts Anglo-Dane warband done...having painted a total of 33 figures in about five weeks(not bad all things considered).  Now if I can just remain disciplined enough to complete this project before my Infinity rulebook arrives and I get excited about the next game system....

Saturday, April 27, 2013

More Anglo-Dane Hearthguard Painted...

In my trek towards completing two SAGA warbands to roll out to my club I made another stride today...finishing up four more Hearthguard figures.
Three of the figures are from the Gripping Beast plastic thegns box set and one(second figure from the right) is from a GB metal Anglo-Danish command blister pack.  I probably won't start out playing with the war banners rule as I get the basic rules down but I wanted the pageantry of some standard bearers on the field(thus the two shown above). 
For the banner-bearer I intended to make a custom flag, but after I painted the figure and his shield I couldn't pass on using one of the two designs that came in the Thegn box becayse the colors were a great fit for the shield.  For the longer poles(middle two figures) I used pikes made by GB that I cut down to size. 

Here are a few singleton shots...
And a close-up of the Dragon standard...
While I wait for the new Gripping Beast "Dark Ages Warriors" set to arrive in the mail, who will serve as my Anglo-Dane warriors to round out my units, I am working on the two warlords(one Viking, one Dane). 
Since I am on the topic of "Danes", time for a rant...
Though the phrase "Anglo-Dane" is historically accepted, and a somewhat apt descriptor for the civilization in Eastern England in the late Dark Ages, I can't help but lament the lack of "Saxon" in the nomenclature.  There's likely more Saxon than either Danish or Angle blood in the "Anglo-Danes" but "Saxon" just doesn't make the hyphenated cut...COME ON!  I suppose if we called them Saxon-Anglo-Danes that would give us an acronym of "SAD". However, we should really save S.A.D. to stand for "SAGA Addiction Disorder".  O.K. rant completed...

Thanks for viewing,

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Anglo-Danish Huscarls

Just completed these Anglo-Dane Huscarls for my SAGA games which means I have one half of my small warband ready and by mid May I will have enough Vikings and Anglo-Danes to hit the table with. 
I tried to tie the unit together with whites, reds and yellows while remaining a bit random by using different hues of those three core colors and putting some other colors into the mix. 
I  probably left the Dane axe a little long(the four in the blister pack need to be clipped down...they are about 9 scale feet in length)...but  I took the creative liberty of modeling a longer axe just for visual appeal.  The figures of from Gripping Beast and are metal.  I am not new to metal by any means, but these are my first ones for SAGA after doing a bunch of GB plastic figures.  The only letdown was in the faces as the plastic sculpts better have more defined facial features. 
I have really been struggling with my painting lately.  My main issue is that when I ever I see someone else's figures I like their painting style much more than my own.  I have waffled forever between the photo-realistc blending tecnhiques of American and Eastern European pro painters and what I call the of broad strokes and super highlights(see Kevin Dallimore's stuff at Wargames Foundry).  I usually end up somewhere in between, with a mix of the two styles as I waffle on approach...and I am often, appropriately, displeased with the final result.  I think I am finally leaning towards the "British" style...there is something refreshing about the "impressionist" approach that many Brits take to painting wargames figures.  This batch of figures is still an "in between" style, but I am resolved to change with my next group of figures.
Still too much on deck to be painted...more Anglo-Danes, specifically more hearthguard and slingers.  I also have Viking archers to do as well as more warriors.  Additionally, I preordered the Gripping Beast plastic Dark Ages warriors set...not sure when we'll see those arrive over here in the United States but hopefully pretty soon.

Wish I could attend Salute in England...that looks like a blast!

Thanks for viewing,

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Military History Class Wargaming...

One of the great pleasures of being the instructor of my Military History elective course at the high school where I teach is that I get to bring my wargaming hobby into the classroom.  Once to twice every unit my students assume the role of "general" as they replay key battles in history...
Persians(Red) and Greeks(Blue) square off at Marathon...
It is fun to run five to six simulations of the battle at the same time and to see how the different groups of students choose to play the scenarios uniquely.  I use my homebrewed rules system called "BattleSim"(Battle Simulation) which is fairly accomodating of variety of unit types and eras.
French(Blue) square off against Russians(Green) and AustriansWhite) at Austerlitz. 

Today, for example, as we are in our Napoleonic Wars unit, my students simulated The Battle of Austerlitz(my favorite battle in history!).  We had six groups recreating the battle with four victories for the Coalition and two for the French.  I like testing the students' knowledge of the battle by throwing historical elements into the scenario. For example, in the Austerlitz BattleSim(shown above), the French players receive Davout's reinforcements from the southeast later into the game. 

These weekly wargames compliment the regular class instruction and serve to aslo act as a "gateway" for my students into wargaming.  Many students from class join my Military History Club where every year we have a campaign based on some era where students custom build their is a lot of fun.  we have done campaigns for Ancient Europe, the Napoleonic Wars, the American Revolution(this year's campaign) and Modern Warfare(2042). 

Here are the battles we simulate during the class:
-Battle of Britain
-Operation Cobra

Anwyays, back to painting minis because my students need to be able to see that ther's more to wargaming than just cardboard counters and maps(although I like oldschool wargaming too, mind you!).

Thanks for viewing,

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Custom Fatigue Token for SAGA

I have seen some pretty nice custom fatigue tokens for SAGA(thankfully the only needed accessory for the game save a measuring stick).  I love the idea of using extra shields for these but I wanted to dress it up with some extra kit.  I was thinking that I'd throw some other things on there that warriors might abandon to "lighten their load". 
The shield is an extra from Gripping Beast(plastics) while the helmet is from a Wargames Factory Viking Bondi head(I just clipped/cut away the head in the helmet!).  The small bag(does it hold coin or rations?) and the cloak are made from Lumina air drying polymer clay.  I put the bits on an extra Renedra base I have and textured it.

Here you can see what the token looks like while used in a game....
I have some other bits I plan to use or make to put on other such markers such as horns and broken shields.  I am open to suggestions as to what else I would accessorize them logically!  Feel free to comment...
Thanks for viewing,

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Anglo-Dane Hearthguard Table Ready

In my quest to complete two warbands for SAGA, I have begun painting my Anglo-Danes.  I hope to have the core of both(Viking and Anglo-Danes) done before the end of the school year to roll out to my club. 

The four below are from Gripping Beast's plastic "Saxon Thegns" set...
I have decided to make the Warband base lip colors vary for each faction to match the color of their SAGA dice.  Of course, some factions share dice, so I'll have to be creative down the line.  The main reason I am doing this because the kit is so similar for Dark Ages warriors for many of the factions, I wanted a quick way for new players to tell "who is who". 
I didn't like how the "magic wash" was blunting the hues of my Vikings figures so for these guys I am only apply the wash to target areas where I want some shadings(mainly metal and wood surfaces as well as the shields). Here are some individual pics...
Next up  on my painting table are some Huscarls for the Anglo-Danes as well as my Viking warlord. I purchased an Anglo-Danish command pack from Architects of War which, with four figures for under $10, is a nice deal.

Thanks for viewing everyone.
Comments are always welcome and appreciated....

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Viking Warband(-1): Spring Break Painting!

My goal during this Spring Break vacation(today is the last day) was to paint a 4 Point Viking Warband for SAGA in 8 days...but I was a Warlord short!  That being said, for about a week's worth of effort, I did get 20 figures painted which is a nice start. 

First, here are the last four Viking Hearthguard(Gripping Beast Plastics) I did to complete my (warlord-less) warband...
Here is a close up of one of the men...
I used green stuff to give these guys appropriately longer locks this time around...
Here are another four Hearthguard I did the other day...
So that brings up my force to 20 strong...
On Left: 3 Viking Hearthguard Units(3 x 4 men), On Right: 1 Viking Warrior Unit(8 men)

Painting the shields is definitely the most challenging, but most rewarding, part of the process. 

So what's next?  The following:
-prime and paint Viking warlord
-begin assembling and painting Anglo-Danish Hearthguard(bought the Saxon GP plastics)
-begin assembling and painting Anglo-Danish slinger levy unit
-awaiting Viking Berserkers and Anglo-Danish Huscarls in the mail
-continue to knock off some more Dark Ages terrain

I am also helping my 15 and 9 year olds with their painting...they are painting up some Super Dungeon Explore minis.  Once I have two small SAGA warbands ready, I'll put them to work helping me try out the rules!

Well, that's it for now...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Basing With Lumina Air Drying Clay

Now that I've been modeling miniatures on various types of bases across multiple game systems over the last few years I've finally found a basic basing solution that I am really happpy with.  I've used all of the following with success over time:
1.Vallejo Pumice and Stucco
2.Spackle(filler for those in the U.K.)
3.Green Stuff
6.Wet Modeling Clay
However, the last few months I have been using Lumina Air Drying Clay which, to me, has become the ideal basing material. 
I chose to base my Saga miniatures on Privateer Press 30mm slotted bases rather than the Renedra ones because I wanted a lip around the mini's base that I could paint a slightly different color for each faction so on the gaming table one could quickly tell "who is who".  Of course, as with most bases, this brings about a situation where one has to add material to the base to disguise the original plastic base of the mini(the block beneath his feet).  Also, as the PP bases are slotted, that has to be covered as well. Please keep in mind, this technique will work with any bases you place your minis on...not just round or slotted ones.  Lastly, yes you can do this type of basing detail before priming and painting...I just prefer to do it at the end. 
Start by pinching on a very small(and I mean small) bit of clay and working it into a small snake with your fingers...this will do most of the work in sculpting up the base.
Lay the clay around original base of the mini where it meets your new base(my 30mm one in this case) and use your fingers to smooth it out creating a gradual rise from the new base to the miniature's block.  If your figures are a little too clumsy or there are some tight spots, use the flat of an x-acto knife blade to flatten out the clay.
Uh snake didn't cover all of the slot....what do I do?  Easy, just roll a little ball of clay to place on that part of the base and...
boom! problem!(sounds like an infomerical, sorry). Now here is one of the real advantages of this particular clay(Lumina).  In under 10 minutes it is dry enough for me to base my grit(sand/kitty litter) over; with putties and filler I have to wait a lot longer!
After I paint a little Mod Podge(watered down PVA essentially) on the base I dip him in my basing material.  In just a matter of minutes(from no clay to fully textured) my figures look like this...
Now I just have to paint up the base texture(for a tutorial head to this post) and the base lips and these four guys can join the rest of their unit...
Let me conclude with all the reasons I love this air drying clay for basing and why it is my new norm for finishing a figure.
1. It is very easy to work with.  Unlike two party putty(Green Stuff/Milliput) it is not the least bit tackey so you needn't worry about keeping fingers or sculpting tools wet.
2. It is entirely sculptable.  You can carve bricks, patterns, etc. into the clay with such ease!  You can do this while it sets or after it dries. 
3.  It is inexpensive.  The block of clay I purchased off Amazon for $10 will last me for hundreds of figures.  I used about 1/50th of the block for the four figures shown in the example. 
4. The stuff dries like hard IS NOT going to flake or chip.  It feels like the original plastic of the mini once it dries.
5. It paints well.  The Lumina clay, once primed will take hold paint as well as any other plastic.

I assume there are other air drying polymer clays out there that will work as well as the Lumina...if you know of some feel free to post them in the comments section.  Here are some other non-Saga figures I have based with the same material...
Soviet 20mm Plastic Soldier Company Minis

15mm Elves modded for BattleLore boardgame with Lumina Clay bases(the
hole to hold the banner was easily made with the clay as well!).

Well that's it for now...I hope you found this tutorial helpful.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Vikings Warrior Unit Completed...

My quest to complete a warband before Spring Break ends continues...
I finished four more Wargames Factory Viking Bondi figures to complete a unit of warriors for Saga.

Wargames Factory Viking Bondi...Father Comstock is on the right!(Bioshock Infinite reference).
Before purchasing these guys most reviews I read(and watched) suggested that they were fairly lowe on assessment with which I must concurr.  That being said, I did the best I could to paint them up.  I am still glad I made the purchase because the pricepoint is very fair and the extreme variety of possible poses is great.  Furthermore, they will allow me to quickly roll out an inexpensive force(coupled with the Gripping Beast plastic Vikings) that I could later upgrade with nicer sculpts if I so desire.   I have decided to use the Gripping Beast shields with these warriors and the Wargames Factory ones with the Gripping Beast Hearthguard. The Wargames Factory ones are actually more detailed and I like them better for the better equipped warriors...whereas the simpler ones in the GB plastic set seem better suited to these warriors.  

"Turn around, I heard something!"...nah, master just wants to show our paintjob from behind!
With the above four figures I now have a unit of warriors(8 strong) to add to my warband.  I should mention that in an effort to speed paint the figures I used my "magic wash" of Pledge/Water/Brown Ink/Black Ink to bring out the details.  Here is the group shot of the full unit..

"By the might of Thor, charge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Thanks for viewing and happpy wargaming everybody!