Sunday, August 19, 2012

And the Winner Is....

I had about 30 entries for my Harald Hardrada giveaway - many thanks to everyone who entered. I wish I had one for everyone.

I wrote everyone's name on a little slip of paper and chucked them in my bowler hat. Then, witnessed by a colleague at work, I drew out...

Congratulations Fran the Angry Lurker! Looks like Harald is off to invade Ireland. Send me your email in the comments and I'll organise to post him off to you. Or if you'd rather not do that I think Ray has my email address.

That was fun, and I think I'll run another comp sometime soon. Meanwhile, and as consolation for those who missed out, find yourself a copy of this book a friend just showed me:

Ray and Fran's 20 Questions

I didn't have much time to give my answers much thought, but I really liked the questions posed by 'Don't Roll a One' Ray and Angry Lurker Fran. So here are my responses. 1. Favourite Wargaming period and why?

I go through cycles. This year has definitely belonged to the ‘dark ages’, partly because I’ve always loved the literature and history of the period, and partly because of how much I’ve enjoyed Saga. Napoleonic remains my Holy Grail because of the tactical challenges of using different arms in cooperation.

2. Next period, money no object?

If money, space AND time was no object, then Napoleonics, playing a massive game of Quatre Bras with 28mm figures.

3. Favourite 5 films?

As me tomorrow and you’ll get a different list, but today? In no particular order, M, Blade Runner, The Seventh Seal, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Last of the Mohicans.

4. Favourite 5 TV series?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spaced, The Wire (especially season 4), Friday Night Lights, The Walking Dead, Band of Brothers (damn, that’s six)

5. Favourite book and author? So many… but I will go with Patrick O’Brian for his Aubrey/Maturin novels, with the standout book being Desolation Island.

6. Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!!

Yes, well I certainly wouldn’t be counting myself…. Think I'll go with Alexander.

7. Favourite Wargames rules?

SAGA. I’ve played more fun games of Saga in the last year and used it to introduce more people to the hobby than any game in the last ten years.

8. Favourite Sport and team?

The Dillon Panthers. Clear eyes, full hearts: Can’t lose!

9. If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?

Rome, c. AD 350 to see if my thesis was right.

10. Last meal on Death Row?

Slow roasted shoulder of lamb with roasted root vegetables, washed down with a really great pinot noir. And a cyanide pill, just to piss them off.

11. Fantasy relationship and why?

Since the key word here is ‘relationship’, I really have to say the Duchess. The fantasy part is just having the time to actually enjoy being with each other, and being able to finish a sentence without someone under the age of six screaming at one of us. A different question might elicit answers along the lines of Monica Belluci.

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?

Probably an amalgam of the two blokes from Mythbusters. I’ve been told I look and sound like a non-American fusion of the two.

13. Favourite Comic Superhero? Stupendous Man (from Calvin and Hobbes)

14. Favourite Military quote? ‘They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist – ‘ General Sedgwick, being proven wrong at the Battle of Spotsylvania.

15. Historical destination to visit? Dura Europos.

16. Biggest Wargaming regret? Not trying harder to find like-minded gamers when I had the time to play more games. And basing hundreds of Napoleonic figures for a rule system that nobody uses because it’s rubbish.

17. Favourite Fantasy job? Pretty much the one I’m doing, but without writing reports and having more time to do my own research.

18. Favourite Song Top 5? Again, ask me tomorrow for a different list. Today: Isis (Dylan), I Was Wrong/You Were Right (Badly Drawn Boy), Sukie in the Graveyard (Belle and Sebastian), Ceremony (New Order), Casimir Pulaski Day (Sufjan Stevens)

19. Favourite Wargaming Moment? Winning a Saga tournament at The Hall of Heroes.

20. The miserable Git question, what upsets you?
People being unkind to children and animals
The increasing lack of courtesy people show each other in public
The relentless stupidity of the media
Those awful stories that always crop up when you log out of hotmail, that demonstrates that somebody has the job of flicking through the world’s media to find the most upsetting stories about the grotesque things people do to each other to be presented as titillating entertainment.
Wargamers who go on about metal figures having ‘heft’. Doesn’t upset me – I just wish they wouldn’t.

Friday, August 17, 2012

This Week in the Duchy

Busy times at the moment as the academic year for our seniors approaches the business end, and the joys of marking, report writing and such loom large. This week saw the end of our 4 week Saga tournament in the school wargames club. The Tournament was a great success, the boys competing well and learning both the joys of victory and the bitterness of defeat. Nine boys took part, with armies ranging from Bretons (the tournament winner) to some beautifully painted Skraelings via Scots, Jomsvikings, Vikings and Normans. Yesterday Ian from War and Peace Games joined us for the final and donated some very generous prizes. I took him out to dinner after and had a great chat - he is a brilliant bloke.

I have been reading the increasing hype around Bolt Action with some interest, to the point that I bought a box of Warlord British Infantry and put them together during the week. I must say I am very impressed with the figures. They take a while to put together, which I actually enjoy, but the end results look great, with realistic anatomy and weapons modelled to scale instead of the great lumpen arquebuses carried by many of their metal comrades. I was particularly impressed with the engineering of the arms and the way the hands gripped weapons. Beautiful stuff.

As you can see in the photo, I am also the proud owner of a copy of Bolt Action. A big box of these arrived for Ian at War and Peace yesterday, and he brought one down for me. I therefore may be one of the first people in the world to own a copy, which I am sure makes me the envy of men and the object of desire for women. Based on an initial flick through, the rules look great - very clearly written, beautifully produced, and based around mechanics that I personally like a lot. I'm hoping that Bolt Action might be a good additional core game for the school club. The plan is to have three or so different games that might appeal to different boys and reflect different historical periods. So at the moment it looks like these might be Saga, Canvas Eagles (which I'm introducing next week) and maybe Bolt Action, with Basic Impetus up our sleeve as well.

Right, the Duchess is home so I had better go and help tidy up the house. Don't forget the Harald Hardrada competition, and also have a look at a very generous giveaway happening over at The Blog With No Name.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harald Hardrada Giveaway!

Lots of bloggers out there seem to be running giveaways of one sort or another, so I thought I might share the love as well. My blog is just over 4 years old, it have 180 followers and my birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, but most importantly I thought it is just a good opportunity to say thanks to all of you who visit my humble blog and take the time to post comments, make suggestions, share some banter and such. I was particularly touched by the very kind comments many of you made after my father's death. There are lots of good people out there.

So, by way of saying thanks, I am going to give away this painted figure of Harald Hardrada.

The rules are simple really. You just need to be a follower on my blog and post a comment saying that you would like to go into the draw. Feel free to share the news, but you don't need to if you can't be arsed.

Entries close next Monday, 20 August, at midday Sydney time. After that I will randomly draw the winner and arrange to post you the figure.

Good luck!

Monday, August 13, 2012

More Dark Ages 'Civilians'

Just a quick update with a few figures I finished up last night. Foundry was having a postage-free sale a while back, so I robbed a bank so I could afford to buy a couple of packs of Viking 'civilians'. These are from one of the packs, apart from the lady with the fuller figure on the right, who is from Gripping Beast. I particularly like the little vignette of the boys legging it after breaking the woman's jar. No supper for them, I suspect. Looking on is the grizzled old veteran Foundry calls 'Lucky Leif', who has seen better days.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Painting Dark Ages Figures the Dux Homunculorum Way

I am at best a workman-like painter, but over the years I've developed a couple of different approaches to painting that I'm happy with. A quick glance around the blogosphere will find loads that put mine to shame. Heck, even I can do better! However, I have managed to find the balance I'm happy with between getting figures painted reasonably quickly and being generally pleased with the result.

This is a brief tutorial just running through the steps I use when painting 28mm dark ages figures. I'm mainly writing it in response to a request for some tips, but it may be useful to others getting started. Apologies in advance that the photos aren't great.

So, what we are painting today is a unit of 8 Flemish mercenaries for Saga, made up of metal figures from Gripping Beast. As they are a unit of professional mercenaries, I've decided that they are going to have a fairly uniform appearance, using the same colours on their shields. The shield designs are going to be very simple - for a guide on how to go about doing complex Celtic designs, see here.

First steps are to glue the figures together, stick them to their base with PVA and spray them with white undercoat. I prefer a white undercoat to black on 28mm figures. With 1/72 figures I undercoat in dark grey.
I then start by painting the faces and hands. The general principle, which sounds a little dodgy, is to 'dress' the figure with paint, starting with the flesh and then moving from the inside out, as it were. So after the skin I paint the leggings and shoes, then usually the tunics. However, on figures like these Flemish I do the mail shirts before the tunics under them, usually painting the mail with gunmetal mixed with black, with a couple of drops of water added. There is time for highlighting later, but mail is not very shiny. For block painting areas like tunics and mail shirts I often use a small flat brush.
Now a word on colours. I mainly use Vallejo paints, with some Games Workshop, Derivan Minis and whatever other acrylics I've picked up along the way. When painting tunics and shields for ancients and dark ages figures, I always tone down bright colours by adding a little buff, medium flesh tone, light brown etc to take away the brightness of most yellows, reds and blues. Many paint colours are way to bright to represent the sorts of natural dyes that were used. In working out what colours to use, check out the great article on Model Dads Blog that shows the sorts of colours achieved by early medieval dyes. And while you are there, check out their article about basic colour theory, which will help you work out what colours look good with each other and why. But remember - tone the colours down, even adding a little grey, buff or brown if you are using white.
With all that in mind, I paint in the tunics, helmets, shields and so on. Flat brushes, by the way, are particularly great for painting the back of shields when they are moulded on to the figure.
Next I paint in all the details - belts, leather edging to the mail shirts, weapons etc.
The figures are now carefully painted, but they need shading, and also need some protective coating to help them stand up to the rigours of being flung across the room in frustration when they inevitably lose me a battle. There are many approaches to shading, and mine is very simplistic. I consider thant now I've painted my basic colours I need to add a deep shadow and a light highlight, so that the final product has three layers of shade. I add the deep shade and the protective coating first by using an equivalent of the 'dip' method. However, I don't use the Army Painter dips but an acrylic furniture polish you can read about here. I also don't dip the figure, but carefully brush it on so that it doesn't darken the figure too much or pool goopily in crannies like bent elbows etc. Essentially you can achieve a similar effect by using a wash, but this method also adds a glossy protective coating to the figure. This is also a good time to add some sand in random patches to the base and stick some magnetic sheet to the figure's bases so they won't rattle around in the tool box I carry them in.
The glossiness looks vile, so leave the figures for 24 hours then give them a spray with matt varnish. I've started using Tamiya Flat Clear for this, which is a recent development. I was generally brushing Vallejo matt varnish on, and still use it to touch up any bits I missed, but the spray is quick and so far gives good results. Be aware though that spray varnish can be temperamental, particularly when it's humid. That's better, but now they look a bit dull and flat.
Now I add the lighter shades, focusing particularly on the hands and faces, mail shirts or tunics, blades of weapons and large areas like the shields. Basically, if I've painted a tunic in a dulled down violet red, for example, I'll add more buff to the same colour to make lighter tone and use it to highlight areas like elbows, the highpoints of creases etc. You can see on these figures that I've added a lighter shade of blue to the designs on helmets and shields and so on. Painters better than me would probably build up several lighter shades and also do the belts etc, but I find my approach gives the figures enough 'ping' to stand out on the table, at least to my eyes.
Finally, drybrush some light grey, brown and or buff over the sand texture you added to the bases, add some flock, tufts and maybe flowers, and they're done.
So there we are, and I hope somebody finds this useful. The most important thing with painting is just to find the balance you're happy with between getting lead on the table and taking some pride in what you've made. In other words - enjoy it!