Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Retrospective


I had a tough time getting started in 2009, but I finished strong. What with taking care of my young son, making time for other family in town, my volunteer work, and my music, it's always easy to find reasons not to paint. I probably did that too much at the beginning of the year. By the late summer I was striking a better balance between my hobby and everything else.

Counting mounted men as two figures, I finished 1,874 figures this year. For comparison's sake, last year I painted 2,167 figures, and that was after losing two months to hand surgery and losing a lot of production when my son was first born.

I'm definitely settling into a few periods: classical antiquity, the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the American Civil War. For the first time, I painted NO World War II figures.

1:1200 Figures for Me (1 Ship)
1:1200 Napoleonic British, 1 frigate

When Warhammer released Trafalgar, the fellows and I decided we would build some fleets. A little experience with the fiddly ships and a little experience with the cheesy rules was enough for us. This project is likely to remain unfinished until we find some rules we like better.

15mm Figures for Me (261 foot, 12 horse)
15mm Napoleonic Austrians, 152 infantry
15mm Napoleonic British, 24 infantrymen
15mm ACW Union: 85 infantrymen, 12 cavalrymen

For the first time, I really wasn't motivated to paint too many 15mm figures this year. Usually this is my gaming scale of choice, but I shifted to mostly 28mm figures in 2009.

I expect that I'll be painting a bunch more 15mm ACW in early 2010. Austin, Don, and I are going to give Regimental Fire and Fury a whirl, and we've decided that the infantry need to have shallower bases to give the game the right look. I have 250 infantrymen on order and will probably start them in January. If we enjoy the rules enough, I'll probably get cranking on some cavalry, artillery, and generals to match the new basing scheme.

I had hoped to complete my 15mm Napoleonic Austrian army in time for the bicentennial of Wagram, but I made very little headway. I hope to get this stalled project started again, but honestly, I just have other priorities right now. Still, I'm about 80% finished, and I should probably put my nose to the grindstone for a couple of months and finish that army.

15mm Figures for Commissions (356 foot, 105 horse, 6 elephants, 2 artillery pieces)
15mm Romans, 104 infantrymen
15mm Turks, 40 infantrymen, 30 cavalry
15mm Macedonians, 124 infantrymen, 2 charioteers, 47 cavalrymen, 2 artillery pieces
15mm Carthaginians, 68 infantry, 28 cavalry, 6 elephants with 18 crew

Much of the first half of the year was taken up with commission work. My idea was to make my hobby fund itself. I would take enough commission work each month to pay for that month's purchases, and after I finished painting for others, I would paint for myself. I charged $3.50 per foot figure and $6.50 per mounted figure, so I did earn just over $2,000 by painting. Much of the money went to my new terrain setup, but most of it ended up just paying the bills.

Unfortunately, my theory was sounder than my practice. I had trouble motivating myself to keep painting, and my production slowed to a crawl for a while. I finally decided in June to stop taking new commissions and focus on painting for myself.

28mm Figures for Me (823 foot, 56 horse, 7 guns)
28mm Greeks, 28 hoplites
28mm Macedonians, 112 infantrymen, 30 cavalrymen
28mm Gauls, 38 infantrymen, 14 cavalrymen
28mm Carthaginians, 18 infantrymen, 1 cavalryman
28mm Marian Romans, 82 infantrymen
28mm Napoleonic French, 36 infantrymen
28mm Napoleonic Austrians, 11 infantrymen
28mm AWI Americans, 221 infantrymen, 1 gun, 4 crew, 6 horsemen
28mm AWI British, 8 infantrymen
28mm ACW Confederates, 240 infantrymen, 6 guns, 20 gunners
28mm ACW Union, 5 mounted generals

I started and finished two 28mm armies this year, Macedonians for Warhammer Ancient Battles and AWI Continentals for British Grenadier! No doubt I'll continue to add to these armies, but it was nice to have a couple of small, manageable projects that I could finish within a few months.

After ignoring my pile of unpainted 28mm ACW lead for most of the year, I was able to really crank out the figures in the second half. All of my Confederate infantry are finished now. I still have 40 Union skirmishers to finish, as well as all my Union gunners, most of the guns for both sides, mounted and dismounted cavalry, and Confederate generals. I have a feeling 2010 will see me finish up these armies, finally finishing the project three years after I started it.

I've continued work on my WAB and FoG armies, and while these projects will likely never end (at least not until I die or find other rules), I do plan to finish enough FoG bases to play a proper 28mm game with the rules in 2010.

28mm Figures for Commissions (36 foot, 18 horse)
28mm El Cid Spanish, 8 infantrymen
28mm Medieval English, 18 cavalrymen
28mm Napoleonic Bavarians, 16 infantrymen
28mm Napoleonic French, 12 infantrymen

Only the medieval English were a paying job. The other figures were all samples from HäT Industries. I was glad to paint the figures for them, but these will probably never see my gaming table (except just possibly for the Bavarians).

1/35 Models for Me
Tamiya King Tiger, built and painted
Tamiya Panzer IIIL, built
Dragon Panther D, built and partly painted
Tamiya SU-122, mostly built

With the help of Austin, Don, and Scott R., who are all much better at this than I am, I revisited a hobby that I had given up after high school, building scale armor models. I learned to use an airbrush, experimented with washes until I got them right (or as right as I'm likely to get them), bought reference materials galore, and actually entered my King Tiger in a show, where I received a bronze ribbon. Now that I have a spray booth, I'll be able to paint year round, not just when it's warm enough in my garage. The best thing is that building models doesn't cut into my miniatures time, because I can build on the kitchen counter while my son plays.

Once again, our little gaming group was able to keep to a fairly regular schedule. Jon, Austin, and I meet once each month for a painting night and once each month for a game. Don and Scott R. are becoming frequent gaming partners as well, making the 2.5 hour drive about every other month.

After our experience at the local gaming convention in 2008, an experience that none of us particularly relished, we decided to hold our own "convention," three days of gaming over a long weekend in October. We played four games in those three days and had a great time.

In 2009 we played:
10mm ACW with Jon's adaptation of Republique
15mm ACW Fire and Fury
28mm ancients with WAB
28mm ECW with Ironsides
15mm Napoleonics with Republique and Age of Eagles
28mm Napoleonics with Jon's adaptation of Ironsides, Piquet: Field of Battle, and Rank and File
15mm World War II with Battlefront: WWII and 1943
1:1200 Napoleonic naval battles with Trafalgar
15mm AWI with British Grenadier! and Jon's adaptation of Ironsides

December Painting Totals

Even with Christmas sucking a lot of time away from me, December was a very productive month. Here's what I finished:

15mm Napoleonic British, 24 infantrymen
15mm ACW Union, 85 infantrymen
28mm Ancient Spanish, 18 infantrymen
28mm Ancient Gauls, 32 infantrymen
28mm AWI Continentals, 9 infantrymen, 1 general
28mm ACW Confederates, 60 infantrymen

Every figure except the AWI and the last 20 Confederates have been on the blog. That's 667 SPPs for the month, and . . . I'm retiring the SPPs. It was a good idea that got a little silly.

I wanted a way to distinguish between painting, say, one basic 15mm ACW Union figure and one super detailed 28mm ancient Gaul figure. This month I cranked out 85 15mm ACW Union figures in three days without any problem, while I sweated over 32 28mm Gauls for 10 days. I guess if they're all on the blog, there's no real reason to weight my production. You can see for yourself what standard they're painted to.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Even More 28mm Confederates!

Another two days, another 20 rebs. I finally got the butternut color I wanted for the coats, and by mixing some tan with grey, I was able to get a butternut-like color for the trousers.

Just 20 figures to go, and I can start basing my rebel infantry!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More 28mm Confederates

The latest off the painting bench are some Sash and Saber 28mm Confederate infantry. These 20 figures bring my total to 120, leaving 40 figures to paint before I can base the whole lot.

My other figures were painted almost entirely in gray jackets, so I decided to do these last 60 men almost entirely in butternut. These figures' jackets ended up a little grayer than I would have liked.

So here are the 120 figures, waiting for basing . . .

And here are the remaining 40 figures. Their hats and hair are already done.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Regimental Fire and Fury Union Brigade

While Austin, Don, and I put our order together, I dug around in my 15mm ACW spares box and found enough marching Union figures to put together a good sized brigade.

Each stand in Regimental Fire and Fury (RFnF) represents 40 men, so we have here two regiments of 320 men each and two regiments of 240 men each. That's a pretty typical brigade for mid war.

Almost all of the figures are Old Glory. There are a few Frontier figures mixed in, like the regimental color bearer and the officer above.

The Old Glory figures are full of motion. If anything, they're a little over-animated.

The bayonets are definitely oversized, and sometimes the break off, as with the figure behind the regimental colors. His bayonet didn't even survive basing. I imagine many of these men will lose their bayonets during game play.

Old Glory figures have always been super cheap, though. I got these for about $.12 apiece a while back. By printing my own flags, I was able to make the entire brigade for $10.08.

Sometime in the next few days, we'll be ordering Battle Honors marching figures for the bulk of our forces. We'll be able to use the cavalry, artillery, and generals that we already have finished for basic old Fire and Fury.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More Gauls

It took a week and a half, but I managed to finish another piece of my Field of Glory Carthaginian army, a unit of 32 Gauls.

I don't really know how to feel about Gauls, or Celts, or whatever you want to call them. Painting them well requires painstaking work, picking out check patterns and stripes, and even though I use shield transfers, the spines and edges of the shields require highlights as well. I vary my colors as much as I can, while still trying to keep the colors very bright.

After putting in all this work, I get some of the most colorful troops you'll find on any ancient battlefield. These guys always look great. And then they always die in droves. I'm left wondering why I spent so much time painting every colorful detail.

The figures are Old Glory, from the "Caesar in Gaul" range. The spears are from North Star, and the shield transfers are from Little Big Men.

These are heavy infantry in the Field of Glory rules, and they should have bases 20mm deep. I've never been able to comfortably fit Gauls on anything less than 25mm depth. These bases and 30mm deep, and I'm toying with putting all of my FoG heavy foot on these deep bases. I like the look.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fire and Fury Regimental

Fire and Fury has long been my favorite wargame. It was the first set of rules I ever played, way back in 1997. I bought my first metal miniatures for the game. My 15mm ACW armies are still some of my favorites. Every time I play Fire and Fury, I'm amazed anew at how smoothly the system plays and how well it balances tactics and luck. Sound strategy is generally rewarded, but the rules allow for the flukey events that define Civil War combat for me. Even the best plan can fall apart if the brigades don't roll well, and even the most suicidal attack has a slim chance of success.

When I was looking for a good set of tactical World War II rules, I tried quite a few sets before settling on Fire and Fury's Battlefront: WWII, which I thought gave the best feel for the period and most rewarded period tactics.

So it is with keen anticipation that I've been following the development of Fire and Fury: America's Wars, the regimental adaptation of the classic rules. It looks as though the rules will be released early in 2010.

Austin, Don, and Scott R. have played through a scenario using the free downloadable copy of the rules, and they liked them. They did have an aesthetic concern about the game, though. In these rules, regiments can be deployed in a single or double line, but double line is the default. So each base represents one rank of men. With our large Fire and Fury bases (1"x7/8"), a double line doesn't look like a line of battle, but like a supported line.

Austin suggested that we rebase some of our men with very little depth to make the regiment look better when deployed in two ranks. He settled on 25mm frontage by 15mm depth. I ordered the appropriate Litko bases last week, they arrived yesterday, and I started rebasing.

The figures you see below are the result. Each stand represents 40 men in the rules, so these are 280 man Confederate regiments.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

15mm AB Napoleonic British Infantry

These figures have actually been in the painting queue for over a year. With no major project to work on, I'm able to flit around from work to work, and this week I landed on these AB Brits.

This unit is painted as the 5th Foot in the 1806-1812 uniform. The figures I used are AB-B03 (officer), AB-B04 (drummer), AB-B10 (infantry centre company order arms), AB-B11 (infantry flank company order arms), and AB-B12 (ensign standing bare pole).

Bases are from Litko and flags are from GMB. I don't think I've seen the 15mm GMB flags anywhere else on the web. I don't even think I've read a review of them.

They come six to a sheet for the same price (£3.30 with shipping) as the 28mm flag sheets. At today's exchange rates, that's $5.38 for six flags, or about $.90 per flag. That's expensive, but I spent $17 on figures for this unit and don't mind spending an extra $1.79 on flags.

The flags are printed on the same good quality paper as GMB's 28mm flags, which presents a small problem. The paper is a little too thick to comfortably bend at these small dimensions. I had a tough time getting the waves in the flag and still keeping the edges even. If you look closely at the regimental colors above, you can see where I had to paint the edges of the flag to keep a wide strip of white showing.

Still, I'll be using these flags almost exclusively with my 15mm miniatures. They set the unit off very well.

Last time I compared some figures I painted just now with some that I painted four years ago. Today I'm comparing these 15mm AB Brits with the 15mm Old Glory Brits I painted two years ago.

It's not really a fair comparison, since I was painting these OG figures for speed and the AB figures for quality. I painted 40 OG figures in four hours and 24 AB figures in eight hours. Still, it always amazes me just how different paint jobs can be, even from the same painter.

Friday, December 4, 2009

FoG Spansh Scutari

After a long spell of horse and musket figures, I took some partially painted scutari off my painting bench and finished them up. The figures are Old Glory, with command from the Carthaginian spearmen pack. Spears are from North Star, and bases are from Litko.

Field of Glory classifies these troops as medium foot. I'm not too sure about that, as they fought as line-of-battle infantry. Each 60mm x 30mm base gets three figures, and the figures definitely fit comfortably on the bases.

I had the shields all painted in various muted colors, and as I was preparing to attach them to the figures, I changed my mind. For ancients figures to look good, the shields really need to pop, and the muted shields looked too drab. I reprimed them and started from scratch, and I'm very hapy with how the new designs turned out.

I painted a unit of 10 scutari when I made up my WAB Carthaginian army four years ago. If you want to see what a difference four years of painting practice can make, take a look at my older figures.

I mean, they're not bad, but the figures I finished this week are just much better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Finished AWI American Army

My part of the great Saratoga project is done. This was a group project between me, Austin, and Jon, with the three of us each choosing a different army for the First Freeman's Farm scenario from the British Grenadier! main rulebook. We set a tentative goal of finishing by Christmas. I took the largest army, the Continentals, which numbers 178 foot figures, 5 mounted figures, and one gun. Austin took the British, which numbers 165 foot figures, 4 mounted figures, and 6 guns. Jon built the Brunswickers, which consists of 73 foot figures, 1 mounted figure, and 2 guns.

Jon finished his troops a month ago. You can see his figures on his website. Austin is plugging along on his British, but it looks like he won't make our Christmas goal.

This was a fun project for me, and I went all out on figures, bases, and flags.

The Perry Miniatures AWI range has the reputation of being among the very best miniatures available, and the quality of the figures was a big reason we chose this period. We put together one of the biggest miniatures orders I've ever made, at least in terms of cost. Alan Perry was able to give us a big discount on shipping, which helped our bank accounts and made the project easier for my wife to approve.

I really enjoyed the Perry figures. At first I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of detail on the figures and the range of colors I needed to portray barely uniformed Continentals. As I worked my way through the army, I found that I was able to increase my painting pace. I never gave up painting all the detail, though, and the result is the best looking army in my collection. Perry Miniatures produces enough variety in Continental uniforms that I was able to field suitably scroungy looking units, with some men in full uniform, some in partial uniform, some in civilian coats, and some in shirtsleeves. There's a good mix of headgear, and I painted the waistcoats, breeches, gaiters, trousers, hats, haversacks, and coats in a wide variety of colors.

I broke from the rulebook a bit by going with 30mmx40mm Litko bases. Most of the General de Brigade series calls for 15mm frontage per 28mm figure. The British Grenadier! rules call for a slightly wider base to represent the loose order that line troops adopted during the American Revolution. I just like the look of shoulder-to-shoulder troops, and we figured that as long as all three of us based our figures the same, we wouldn't run into any problems. These smaller bases will also allow us to take better advantage of the limited gaming space that Austin and I have.

While Jon and Austin opted for the cheaper flags from Flags for the Lads, I splurged again and went with the beautiful flags from GMB Designs. I wish I could give you a link, but Grahame Black, GMB's owner, doesn't have a website. It's worth emailing him and asking for his flags list, though. At £3 for two flags, plus 10% shipping, the GMB flags are pricey. Still, they're heads and shoulders above anything else I've seen. I even picked up a few of his new 15mm flags (six to a sheet for the same £3 price) for future use.

GMB has enough varied designs in their AWI range that I was able to depart from the usual stars and stripes on a number of units. The 2nd New Hampshire got the actual flag they carried at the battle, and Dearborn's battalion got the alternate 2NH flag. The Connecticut militia carry a liberty tree flag. Many of the regiments have the flags with the Union in the canton, and there are two designs of stars and stripes.

Here it is: Arnold's command at Freeman's Farm. On the left is Learned's Brigade, with the 2nd Massachusetts (16 figures), 8th Massachusetts (16 figures), 9th Massachusetts (16 figures), and 1st Canadian (16 figures). Morgan's brigade is in the center, consisting of the Rifle Battalion (16 figures) and Dearborn's Light Infantry Battalion (12 figures). Poor's Brigade is on the right, marching into position. His brigade contains the 1st New Hampshire (16 figures), 2nd New Hampshire (16 figures), 2nd New York (18 figures), the Connecticut Militia (18 figures), and a single grasshopper gun with four crew. Benedict Arnold's divisional command stand can be seen between Morgan's and Poor's brigades, next to Poor's gun.

So what comes next? While it's always tempting to declare a period "complete," I'll probably be adding to this force so we can fight some more battles. Freeman's Farm is a small to medium sized scenario under these rules, and I'll need more figures to fight other scenarios. So I'll be expanding this army at some time. I've always wanted to fight Bunker Hill in 28mm, and my next AWI project will probably see me fielding both sides for that fight. Some of these figures may make an appearance, but I may start from scratch just to keep growing my American force. I know Austin is itching to fight Guilford Courthouse, which will require me to add more skirmishers, artillery and even some cavalry to my army.

When it comes time to dip into the AWI again, I may try some figures from other ranges. The Perry figures are beautiful, but they are expensive. I may try some Old Glory figures from their two AWI ranges. The price is right, and the figures look pretty good. I won't be able to get quite the same look, but I do like variety.

But all that is for later. Over the next few months, look for me to finish my 28mm ACW project and delve into some SYW French. I'll probably also continue adding to my 15mm Napoleonic Austrian army and return to my ancients armies. I'm working on some Spanish Scutari for Field of Glory right now.

November Painting Totals

28mm AWI Americans, 106 foot, 1 mounted
28mm Napoleonic Bavarians, 16 foot

That's not a bad month, but not a brilliant one.

So far this year I've painted:
28mm Foot: 710
28mm Mounted: 73
28mm Guns: 2
15mm Foot: 564
15mm Mounted: 105
15mm Elephants: 6
15mm Guns: 2