Saturday, 30 April 2016

A New Distraction!

It's all been a bit quiet from me here since the end of AHPC VI. Reason for that is I stumbled on an active Netrunner community locally, and decided to take up the many opportunity for some gaming with cards. A new interest that came out of nowhere! 

Android: Netrunner is an asymmetric Cyberpunk Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games. One player plays a Mega-Corporation looking to advance their agendas while protecting their secrets and servers. Their opponent plays a plucky 'Runner' looking to hack servers and steal secrets, for reasons including profit and anarchism. It's huge fun to play from both perspectives, with the asymmetric design offering hidden information, bluffing and clever plays galore. 

This past month, I've been enjoying throwing myself into learning the game, which has a well-developed 'meta-game'. The theme and depth/complexity seems to draw an older crowd compared to its competitors, and the local players have been invariably friendly, welcoming, inclusive and generous with their time in showing new players like me the ropes. And I appreciate FFGs LCG format - no blind packs and artificial rarity of cards nonsense! 

I'm fortunate that there's two regular local meets a week, and a group of players that play over lunch at work. Those opportunities mean I've played something like 50 games over the past month - a bit embarrassing compared to how infrequently I tend to actually get minis onto the table. It's not entirely fair to compare with wargaming of course, with A:NR being a 20-40 minute game and hugely more transportable! 

A:NR is a great game, definitely recommended by me. But where does that leave wargaming? Well no change, really: I've been at it for ~20 years and it's always been a hobby that's waxed and waned with competing hobbies and pressures on time. Post-AHPC, I've been surveying my terrain collection and have been fixing and rebasing various little-used pieces to bring them up to scratch. I'll continue with that, until my enthusiasm gets fired up to paint some minis. My  fresh copy of the new version of Lardy rule set Sharp Practice is a likely candidate for that! 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Sixth AHPC - March 2016 and Final Tally

The dust has settled after the manic last week's of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. Votes have been cast and prizes awarded, as things should be. The Challengers are able to shuffle back into the sunlight for another nine months. 

My first entry in March was my Curtgeld for the challenge, for which I drew on our shared interest in the Spanish Civil War: that's what I've been painting for most of the past year, and Curt's own collection has been a great inspiration. So here's my rendition of Eric Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, from his time serving in the Spanish Civil War.

He's from Artizan Designs' Thrilling Tales range, they've managed a very good likeness.

In December 1936, Blair, a democratic socialist and staunch anti-fascist, set out for Spain to fight for the Republicans. Entering Catalonia from France, he encountered the conflicting factions supporting the government in Barcalona, and joined The Worker's Party of Marxist Unification - POUM. Sent to the quiet Aragon Front, he initially saw little action, only deprivations visited on the loyalists from lack of supplies. Having recnently married, his wife Eileen O'Shaughnessy visited him there.
He traveled to Madrid, intending to join the Communist party's International Brigades. There he was appalled at the factionalism dogging the Republican cause and denunciations of POUM from the Communist press, and resolved to return to Catalonia instead. Back at the front, he was wounded in the neck by a sniper and ruled medically unfit to serve longer. Blair being 6'2" was probably a factor, you can identify him in the photo below standing a head taller than his comrades. By June, POUM had been outlawed as a "fascist" organisation that hindered the Republican cause, and as its members were arrested and put on trial, Blair fled to France and then back to England. 
So why a "gambler, daredevil or risk-taker"? Well, I thought as a published author, setting aside his burgeoning career to participate in an unpopular foreign conflict for his beliefs was quite a colossal gamble. And actively seeking combat to fight for what he believed in was undoubtedly risky - he travelled specifically to fight, not as a writer, though he later wrote classics about the conflict. 

I painted him as best I could to fit in with Curt's existing SCW collection, choosing appropriate colours as best I could and using more subtle skin tone to my usual. The base is left bare for Curt to match. I couldn't resist giving him a patch showing his allegiance to POUM, a white hammer and sickle on red. 

For the challenge theme round, 'Gamblers Daredevils or Risk-takers', I entered a diorama of a downed Spanish Civil War Republican fighter, whose pilot managed to nursed his beloved "Mosca" into a crash-landing.

The Republican pilots of the SCW were doubtless daredevils, gamblers and risk-takers. Outnumbered, they started the war with obsolete planes and were quickly up against the German Condor Legion and Italian Legionary Air Force supplied by the Rebel's allies. The Rebels superior air power, innovative and controversial use of it contributed to many of their successes, and to Republican defeats.

The plane is a Polikarpov I-16 Type 10 fighter, nicknamed the "Mosca" (Fly) by the Republicans and "Ratta" by the Rebels. More than 250 I-16s were supplied but the Soviets to the Republican Air Force. This is a 1:48 scale kit from Czech company Eduard. I was originally looking to build a reconnaisance or light bomber, intending to do a larger plane but under-scale in 1:76. But the SCW is less well served by kits compared to WWII, so I went for this larger I-16 in quick-build 'weekend edition'. It's got a pleasingly Soviet functional look, it's snub nose making it look a bit like an oil-drum with wings. I was really chuffed to snag one for a mere £9 with delivery too! Unfortunately, the decals weren't usable, but I painted on the main markings. 

I built the kit as is, as Google-fu'd pictures of crashed I-16s seemed to be impressively whole - they must be pretty sturdy! So I just knocked some bullet holes in and had fun doing some mangled landing gear and a shrub that had been clipped as debris:

The embryo for this idea was originally to be my Curtgeld - A thought to do a SCW pilot as 'daredevil' for Curt. I ditched that idea quickly when I remembered that Curt had already put on that scenario! -

The pilot miniature is from the SCW edition of Painting War magazine.

A really neat miniature, though much skinnier and more finely detailed than the main 28mm SCW ranges. Mine also had weird casting issue of horizontal lines all the way down the front, it looked almost like 3D printed minis do. I got most of them off eventually.


Lastly the theme entry was a gamble for myself - I only got the pilot the weekend before the deadline and ordered the I-16 the following. Very fortunate it arrived by Thursday to build and paint, and that I could find enough time to get it and the pilot done (Curt's impromptus extension bailed me out there)! 

Next came a SCW Schneider m1908 70mm mountain gun, submitted on the final day to provide some heavy firepower for my Nationalists. A squat little thing in a fine Empress kit. 

Each Spanish infantry battalion had one of these, and unlike many support weapons there were actually enough for the Peninsular army to receive their allocation.  They were typical detached and brigaded together into batteries. I couldn't find that much about them online, nor many pictures of either real ones nor painted miniatures. The camo is conjectural but a saw a B&W photo of one in a camo scheme and the green/khaki colours seemed most likely to me. It received a heavy dose of chipping and more weathering pigments than the photos suggest. 

This was a real bugbear on my painting desk. I blitzed through the crew while on holiday at the start of this month. But the gun took me ages, working at it on and off. The hassle of basing it up after painting, not my favoured method. But I'm pleased with the result. 

I then cast about for something to quickly work up for the finale. I received these Pulp Miniatures 'cowled cultists' for Christmas. As my Secret Santa got me 'evil hooded' cultists as well, I settled on doing these in a colour scheme of grey robes, and will save the classic purple for the hooded cult. I feel like these need a decal of some kind to break up their robes, and will keep an eye out for something suitable. 

I imagine that and the other half of the group will form a 'not-necessarily-evil' cult, that may work to aims that aren't so blatantly nefarious as global domination, annihilation or the attempted summoning of elder beings. Perhaps they like knitting or something. 

And here's everything assembled into a Challenge group shot, with my 'winter tools'. A small host compared to most Challengers but I'm satisfied that I crept past my target, and am delighted that the Challenge served to get a whole bunch more of the Spanish Civil War project finished.

My tally made it to: 
15 SCW infantry
1 SCW cavalryman
1 SCW crewed artillery piece
1 SCW Polikarpov I-16 (crashed)
3 Napoleonic guerrillas
4 Pulp cultists
7 GW Plaguebearers
...and 1 Curtgeld

All in 28mm - there's nothing like consistency!  

With that, I'll just repeat again my massive, heartfelt 'thank you' first to Curt, who is generous enough with his time to organise and shepherd us through the challenge over the winter months. It's a great pleasure to be able to participate once again, this time my fifth challenge. Also to Curt's excellent bunch of minions, whose amusing commentary and enthusiasm was appreciated by all and really gave this challenge some new facets. And to Resident Statistician Miles, because what isn't improved by a resident statistician. And finally to my fellow challengers, whose outstanding work keeps my enthusiasm and creativity up across the whole year. Here's to AHPC VII!