Thursday, 30 January 2014

And the winners are...

Well, it's time to draw some winners from this week's giveaway.Thanks all for your interest in the giveaway, I made the draw using the most useful ''. Without further ado:

The winner of The Forgotten Front is....

...Ray! Of all bloody people! ;-) Congratulations Ray, of the endless luck.

For Waterloo Recollections...

...Dave Docherty! Congratulations.

For A Model Victory...

...StuartS! Congralations - I'll bring your prize to WW next time I make it along.

If Ray and DaveD could drop me an email with your addresses through kontactr on the right, I'll look to get your prizes into the post early next week.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Photography and The Challenge

I'm not a good photographer, in fact I'd say I'm a distinctly average one. But a new camera that's too clever for my own good and Curt's request for smaller images on Challenge submissions had me looking to improve my setup. This is what I came up with:

First, location. This is in the loft, below a velux window. The brightest spot in the house, neither direct sunlight nor too shady. I tried shooting outside, but couldn't get enough light to the underside of the minis so had to retake the photos inside.

The backdrop is made of a cardboard box. The plain blue card gives a less harsh background than white but would be better if it was blue/white transition. Someday I might try other colours, black seems quite popular. The white paper is an attempt to make the most of the limited light from one daylight bulb and the natural light above. Well, it might work!

I'd like to get more daylight lamps, this angle poise is my only one so it have it as close to the camera lens as I can. Two or three in some kind of light box setup would be great, though would take up quite a bit if space if I left it set up permanently. The daylight bulb is quite harsh, particularly as I often photograph the slightly shiny minis before the final coat of Dullcote. So I've a makeshift diffuser from a piece of baking paper blue-tac'd over the bulb - that's what you can see on the right.

The camera gets great images, but I struggle with depth of field. I'm shooting with a high F number and get best results from the tripod. The backdrop sits on a box file to shoot from a more suitable level. I usually set a 2 second delay too, to minimise any shake from me pressing the button, a tip I picked up somewhere. But the setup makes it a bit fiddly to reach the camera, let alone the subject!

That's my setup, but I'd be interested in seeing how other painters take their shots, particularly any good tips I might be able to use.

As for the challenge itself, we've trundled past the one month point. I think I'm roughly on target to make my points, while I was looking bare I've just logged a theme round and normal entry. I think I'll be relying on relatively quick theme round entries to make my target, unfortunately. Sadly, those 50 point blocks are just too tempting for a painter of my rate and it does give me an excuse to dig through the lead pile for something different.

The side challenge with MichaelA and Greg isn't looking great - that might be a loser particularly as I'm going to detour into 15mm WWII once a delayed Wayland Games order arrives. But I'm pleased what the side challenge has kept me focused this far with a good few units added to the Sudan project. But I'm afraid I'm feeling the grind now so intend to spend a couple of evenings prepping, terraining or on the PS3 before attacking the next batch with gusto.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

100 Followers: A Fine Excuse to Pay it Forwards

I recently had the great pleasure of seeing my follower count edge over the 100 mark, which calls for a celebration. I did manage to catch me hitting both 100 and a page view milestone:

Oh go on then, I think we can celebrate with a long-overdue giveaway...

I've decided to gather up a few books that I've acquired and pass them on within our fine community. As is tradition with these things, the following rules apply:
-You must be a follower of this blog
-One entry will be awarded for comments below. Please note/rank the books you would prefer to make it easier for me to distribute the prizes
-A bonus entry may be awarded to any that make a meaningful comment on a historic post of mine. There is a 'link within' widget at the bottom of my posts, or you can browse the archive to your hearts content. A maximum one bonus entry each is on offer and I reserve the right to discount any comments that aren't interesting/witty/relevant etc.
-As this is marking my current followers, no bonus entries for pimping I'm afraid (though you're welcome to tell people if you so choose!)
-The giveaway will run until 2359 on Sunday 26 January.

No doubt you all want to know what's on offer:

First up, 'The Forgotten Front 1914-18' by Ross Anderson. A detailed look at British, Allied and German campaigns in East Africa. I won this in a giveaway by Dave at One Man and his Brushes and rather enjoyed reading it over Christmas.

Next, 'Waterloo Recollections' edited by Frederick Llewellyn. A section of reports, letters and accounts of Waterloo. While it doesn't offer the modern historical style overview and meticulous research, it is an interesting read of accounts from people that were there. I was kindly given this by my first Secret Santa, who remains unidentified.

Finally, 'A Model Victory' by Malcolm Balen. A slightly different take on Waterloo, looking at how history is decided by the victors with its focus on the battle and subsequent story of the Waterloo Model that was finally finished by William Siborne in 1938.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sharp Practice AAR: Clash at San Salvador

Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of heading to Wyvern Wargamers to put on a game of Sharpe Practice for Stuart and Bob. My Napoleonics haven't been out for a while (since October 2012, apparently!) so it was great to get them on the table, plan a game and play on the larger tables that they have available.

I pulled together a three-way scenario, with Stuart as a French, Bob using my Brits and me taking a weaker force of Spanish guerrilleros. Set in northwestern Spain 1809, a French force was pursuing the British hard, both forces having exhausted their supplies from the hard marches. The French push on to the town of San Salvador with the aim of seizing it by force and pushing the British back once again. The Brits rise from their bivouacs and resolve to give those damn frogs a bloody nose. Meanwhile, a band of local guerilleros descend to protect the town and dissuade either force from pillaging this fertile area further, hoping to bag a few French along the way.

Stuart had an entirely infantry force and a slight advantage in numbers from the start. Arriving in numbers starting with skirmishers, they promptly start identifying and peppering the British in the town square.

In San Salvador, the 95th Rifles take cover and trade shots. The British deployed in the town and with plenty of cover, remained fairly static.

With initial rounds inconclusive, with both sides led well enough to remove shock in short order, Stuart makes a flanking move in force with a formed line, leading me with no option but to withdraw with my harassing Spanish. This and him wiping out another unit on the opposite flank out paid to my plans of being a thorn in his side as he engaged the British.

As the French line slowly rumbles into position to threaten San Salvador and bring some real weight to the French fire, British reinforcements arrive at the battle line. Light Dragoons - this could well get messy for one side, depending on the draw of the cards.

Everywhere else is a sideshow, with units trading shots for minimal effect and the guerilleros content with holding their ground. Probably the most important draw of the cards - if French Lt Gagon comes out first, the line gets a second volley to soften the impact of the charge. If the Lights come out first, they get a relatively fresh charge in. 

It's the British. The Light Dragoons crash through the swirling smoke on the unloaded French line. Despite the numbers of infantry, they are hurled back in disarray. Not a slaughter, yet, but the blooded British cavalry continue the pursuit (and merrily off the table...!).

Bit quiet around here chaps... 

We played out a few more turns of skirmishing, but in reality, that crashing cavalry charge secured a British victory.

Closing thoughts

I think a fun game was had by all, thanks to Stuart and Bob for indulging me and apologies for any glaring errors in scenario design or gameplay. In reality, I'd set both forces too hard a task - the French scored by taking the town but were initially faced with too stiff resistance to do so by force. I should also have made it clearer that I was an independent player with my own objectives rather than allied to the British. While I didn't actually do much damage to the French at all, my presence might have dissuaded Stuart from making a more aggressive assault.

The British scored from making French units lose their bottle or flee. But I'd forgotten how few kills are achieved from shooting in a Sharp Practice, especially when in cover, as well as the difficulties breaking formations and well-led units. Only the cavalry succeeded and even than, if they hadn't been so close to the edge of the board the French may well have been able to recover as neither unit was too badly mauled.

Both could supplement their scores by foraging the supplies in the area during lulls in the fighting, marked by the red and blue flags. My Spanish scored by denying the French and British access to these spoils and stopping them foraging, scoring for any left at the end. I'd added this secondary objective to encourage the forces to spread out and discourage an outright 'rush to the centre' that I've previously seen in Sharp Practice games. In the end each force grabbed an even number of supplies, leaving half for me. But the British scraped a victory through that daring cavalry charge forcing the French line to flee the table.

Cavalry are hard to balance in a scenario. A couple of volleys on them and they soon become ineffective. A lucky break and relatively unhindered charge and as seen here, they can hurl back two units. While that is a good trade but, it still leaves them quite badly mauled and not up for much more. This time, they were fortunate the French hadn't advanced far, as they ploughed right off the table and out of harms way. This feels like the right result, but makes finding a balance in force compositions a challenge. But all in all, the scenario could do with being refined a tad.

Gharak and I had dabbled with various mechanics of Sharp Practice, but perhaps our most rewarding tweak was changing the 'wound' tables and this game reminded me why. In future, I'd reinstate that rule and have the wound table at close range by 1-2 Miss, 3-4 Shock, 5-6 Kill. This gives real bonus to leaving cover to close on the enemy and unleash a volley for greater effect, particularly with a Sharp Practice card in hand!

On a positive note, the rules I'd given the guerilleros worked well. They deployed in small, fragile units of 6 men, making them easy to break or destroy. But to reflect their loose formation. knowledge of the land and ragged fire, I allowed them a free bonus move of 1D6 at the start of each activation, at a cost of losing half of their base shooting dice (6 men firing with 3 dice, plus modifiers). This special rule made then more mobile than the other forces, but less able to bring heavy fire to bear.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge: December 2013

With all of my free time being spent either at the painting desk or attacking the extensive list of household jobs and DIY, I doubt I'll get chance to post up each Challenge entry as they are submitted, so have settled on a monthly summary. This should also ensure I get chance to post up terrain, AARs and general rambles over the course of the challenge. I seem to have settled into around an entry each fortnight which is convenient as it will loosely follow the theme rounds. 

Upon picking up my brushes, the first painted mini was actually my entry into first theme round, 'non-combatant'. Finished in the first Sunday, a single miniature of a Napoleonic Cantiniere from Westfalia miniatures. Unfamiliar with French Hussar regiments serving in the Peninsula, I painted her Hussar jacket as the Spanish Maria Luisa Hussars. I liked the cheerful colours, offset by the yellow scarf and particularly with the rest of the colours I settled on being various browns. I really enjoyed painting this miniature and hope to buy more from Kawe at Westfalia. 

The theme round entries were all superb this time around and I can see I'm going to have to really up my game to have even an outside chance of coming top in any of them. I have now got something lined up for each round too! (mmm, points...)

After that, I ploughed into the Sudan project that forms the majority of my challenge box.  I started out with nine miniatures including one mounted, but the days rolled on an I had a deadline before I had to visit family for Christmas. Realising that I wouldn't get them done, I trimmed the batch to six. The rest will follow, hopefully in January. These are Perry plastic Mahdists, many of which have seen a scalpel, as I've around 50 complete now, so I've started adding variety. The flag is from Flag Dude and will permanently live on a command stand. The ones in units will get smaller banners, once I put an order in with Flag Dude. 

Next up, their opposition, some British infantry, specifically the Royal Marine Light Infantry. The RMLI were one of the first units to disembark at Suakin in 1885 following the Mahdist revolt. With a strength of 464 men and 14 officers, they fought at El Teb and Tamai. Their helmets, pouches and belts were lightened with white pipe-clay, which makes them quite distinctive from the other regiments in grey serge uniforms.

I thought I'd left the white cross-belts behind with Napoleonics, but it seems I'm a glutton for punishment. These took an age to do, particularly on the kneeling figures. But I'm pleased with the final outcome. 

The bugler and sergeant were finished back in May, but I'm very pleased the unit is now usable on the tabletop as I've had to use my mounted infantry as stand-ins to date.

Finally, a dalliance in the 'what-if': a British Hales rocket team. I'm not actually sure whether the British used rockets in Sudan, though I've seen a few references to Egyptian forces doing so. But I couldn't resist adding one to my force: I find the British perseverance with the rocket as a weapon of war quite charming and Hales rockets remained in service until well after the Mahdist revolt was brought to heel. 

This is a very fine Empress miniatures sculpt from their Anglo-Zulu war range, I just trimmed off the braiding on the cuffs. There are a few other differences in the uniforms, between 1879 and 1885, but if I'm honest, I could hardly tell so I didn't think it was worth the work to correct it as it could have all ended badly. The bombardier's uniform is pure conjecture. The rocket trough itself is quite delicate and I did accidentally crush it and to repair it I had to prop it up with a small rock!

After submitting the last of these last week, I've had a fairly dry week of painting. I have completed my 'villain' theme round entry and have bizarrely done quite a bit of prep work. This is because I've thrown down the gauntlet to Mr Awdry and Greg and am getting a bit panicky that I'm going to be steamrollered. Also, as I paint upstairs, the wife wasn't seeing much of me in our free time, so I've taken to spending an hour or so each night pottering downstairs, often doing smaller bits that I can set up on the coffee table. That includes prep and small terrain bits so far.