Friday 30 September 2011

M5A1 Stuart Platoon

Here's my latest FoW project, an M5A1 Stuart Platoon. The M5 twin Cadillac engine Stuart Light Tank was an ideal recon and infantry tank. It was fast and the engine was relatively quiet compared to the earlier radial engines in the M3 version. It also had an automatic gear shift making it easy to drive and very agile. However its thin armour and high profile made it vulnerable to enemy tanks and AT guns.

Incidentally there's an excellent series of pictures of a restoration project on a M5A1 Stuart on the Fighting Iron website.

Technical data:
Weight: 33500 lb.
Length: 15 ft.11 in.
Width: 7 ft. 6 in.
Height: 8 ft. 5 in.
Ground Clearance: 16.5 in.
Maximum speed: 36 mph
Turning radius: 21 ft.
Maximum grade: 60 %
Crew: 4 (Commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)

1 x 37 mm Gun, M6
1 x Hull .30 MG
1 x .30 MG
1 x AA .50 MG

FoW Stats:
Front 4;  Side 2;  Top 1;  ROF 2;  Anti-tank 7;  Firepower 4+

I couldn't resist comparing the dinky Stuart against the behemoth that is the King Tiger. It makes quite a picture, with the barrel of the Tiger equal in length to the whole of the Stuart! I know the Stuart was never designed with tank vs tank combat in mind (it was primarily an infantry support tank) but just the thought of accidentally running into a King Tiger while driving a Stuart makes my blood run cold.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

44th East Essex Regiment of Foot

At the weekend I took a trip to Wat Tyler Country Park in Basildon to see the 44th East Essex Regiment of Foot re-enactment group. Although the event was a relatively small scale affair (compared to big multi-period events like Odyssey) it was all the more interesting as a result. The regimental surgeon talked to the many visitors about the rather rudimentary medicine on offer to soldiers and showed off an impressive collection of period tools. There was also a fascinating review of the changing uniforms of the regiment over the 150 year period of its history, from the Jacobite Rebellion right up to Waterloo.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Lehr Panzer Company

This is my Panzer Lehr Tank Company. The picture includes a couple of Opel Mautiler Trucks and a platoon of Stug's that don't necessarily fit in my Army List but I had the models so painted them up anyway.

HQ Platoon
2 Panther A   375 Points
Combat Platoons
5 Panther A Platoon   940 Points
5 Panzer IV H Platoon   475 Points
5 Panzer IV H Platoon   475 Points
Supporting Platoons
Heavy AA Gun Platoon (2x8.8cm Flak 36+Extra Crew)   225 Points
Gerpanzerte Panzergrenadiers (HQ+3 Squads)   335 Points
Total 2825

I'm not sure where to go with this unit next, aside from providing some artillery capability. I may just opt to start building another Lehr army to compliment this force - such as a Panzer-grenadier Company - but I haven't made my mind up yet. Before I go rushing off and buying models I need to be absolutely sure what I want to build and pre plan the army list before I start. This Lehr force has come together based on what I wanted to paint rather than according to any pre-conceived plan, which probably isn't the best way to build an army!

2nd Armoured Tank Company

This is my US 2nd Armoured Tank Company which I have been painting for my brother-in-law to use against me. The picture shows all the units I have painted at present including the rifle platoon I featured yesterday.

The following army list for this force includes a Stuart Platoon which is still a work-in-progress and therefore not included in the picture. This list represents the units available to select from, not a rules legal army (you can only select 1 supporting platoon for each combat platoon fielded for example).

HQ Platoon
M4A1 Sherman (2 M4A1 Shermans) 180 points
Combat Platoons
M4A1 Sherman Platoon (5 M4A1 Shermans) 450 points
M4A1 (76mm) Sherman Platoon (5 M4A1 (76mm) Sherman's) 550 points
Weapon Platoons
M5A1 Stuart Platoon (5 M5A1 Stuarts) 310 Points
Supporting Platoons
Armoured Rifle Platoon (HQ+Lt Machine Gun+60mm Mortar+2 Rifle) 310 Points
Tank Destroyer Platoon (HQ+1 Tank Destroyer Squad) 175 Points
Rifle Platoon (HQ + 3 Squads) 155 Points

Total 2130 Points

I now need to add another Sherman Platoon, Field Artillery and definitely some air support in the form of a flight of P-47 Thunderbolts. This should give my Brother-in-law plenty of options to choose from when selecting a force to battle my Panzer Lehr Tank Company (Pictures of which will be posted this afternoon).

Monday 26 September 2011

FoW US Rifle Platoon

I have finally completed a US Rifle Platoon for my Flames of War US 2nd Armoured Division. I would have finished these earlier but I was agonising over which type of wash to apply to them. After several product tests and experimentation I opted for the Games Workshop Devlan Mud and am really pleased with the results.

As mentioned previously I feel like I'm only now - after nearly two years - starting to get to grips with painting 15mm figures. By that I mean I have settled on a routine and ironed out the techniques that I need for painting in a scale which is 'new' to me. I've been painting miniatures since I was about 13 (nearly 30 years ago!!) and during most of that time I have almost exclusively painted 28-32mm figures, so scaling down to 15mm has meant I have had to re-learn my art. I'm not about to enter my figures in any painting competitions but I'm happy I can now field a reasonably painted army for gaming with.

I'm also half way or more through painting some M5A1 Stuarts, again for 2nd Armoured. These will bring my US forces up to about 2400 points, a good solid core on which to build a larger force from which I can select when putting together armies for games. Tomorrow I'll post some updated pictures of all my current US & German forces.

Talking of which my Brother-in-law and I are scheming and planning to get one or other of our houses free of partners and children for a day so we can play with our "toys" in peace. Last time we scheduled a game my house was bedlam, and not a suitable environment for either of us to learn the rules.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Pearl Harbour eHoax

I was recently sent a set of pictures by a friend that purported to have been taken during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on Sunday December 7th 1941 by a Sailor on the USS Quapaw. The pictures were allegedly taken using a Brownie camera only recently discovered in a foot locker and then developed. Note I use the words 'Purported' and 'Allegedly' in this introduction. I'm a sceptical bloke at the best of times but I was sure something was amis as soon as I scanned through the pictures, some of which are included below.

For a start the picture quality is amazing considering this film was supposed to have remained undeveloped for 68 years. I would have expected to see some damage or blemishes to the emulsion but these pictures are perfect. Secondly the scenes depicted were clearly taken from a wide range of locations. If this were a sailor on a military vessel I doubt if he would have had time to take a tour of the harbour to shoot some pictures! And thirdly the USS Quapaw - the vessel the sailor allegedly served on - wasn't lunched until May 1943!

Sorry folks but this email is an elaborate hoax. The pictures however are real, taken from various open licence sources on the internet such as as the U.S. Naval Historical Center. They represent an amazing visual record of arguably one of the most pivotal events of the 20th century. Why anyone would feel the need to preface these pictures with a fictional story of a lost camera when the real history is so much more interesting is beyond me. What amazes me more however is the fact that this eHoax first did the rounds back in 2008 and its still circulating three years later. It took me just a little bit of scepticism and less than 30 seconds worth of Google search to find the truth.

Friday 23 September 2011

Warp Speed, or not

I don't often bring up science stuff on this blog but several articles today have got my juices flowing and I thought it worthy of a mention. News services are abuzz with the story that physicists at CERN have found an anomaly in their data regarding neutrino experiments which suggest those particles travel faster than light. I expect anyone with even a passing interest in science will know that this, if proved correct, could turn physics on its head. The speed of light has been a constant and integral part of Einsteinian relativity for most of the century and is core to our understanding of how the universe works. This data rips that constant up, puts on a jetpack and warps off to Vega for a dirty weekend!

Now before everyone starts planning which star to visit first I should point out that despite the sensationalist media reporting this is not proof of faster than light travel. Indeed even the scientists that found this data have called it 'crazy' and have published it in order for it to be properly scrutinised by peer review. This is how real science is performed and unlike conspiracy theorists and woo-woo purveyors the world over they want to find the truth, even if they are wrong. That's the difference between pseudo-science and real science folks.

Anyway I digress... while I (and the scientific community) remain healthily sceptical, I'm still excited by this data. After all who wouldn't be just a little bit excited about the possibility  - albeit remote and likely to be disproved - of faster than light travel. Deep down, we would all like to be able to do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs!

Wargames Illustrated 228

I received my copy of Wargames Illustrated (issue 228) a few days ago and now that I've had a chance to scan through it I thought I'd give some of the highlights a quick mention.

This month the theme is Vikings and there are a couple of interesting articles to wet our appetite. In particular the article Oh Lord, Deliver us from the Fury of the Northmen! Rick Priestly plays Darren Harding of Gripping Beast at a game of SAGA, their new Dark Age skirmish game. It looks pretty good.

Another article that caught my attention was Ghost Planes of the Sahara. The film Flight of the Phoenix was based in part on stories of real life crashed aircraft in this vast desert. Unfortunately most of the examples described in this article ended with the loss of the crews. In some cases the aircraft remained missing for decades only to be rediscovered by oil drilling companies exploring the region in the 60's. This article uses the film and these historical accounts to build a series of scenarios for games based on the Flames of War rules. Aside from being an interesting subject ably demonstrated the flexibility of a rules system when a little imagination is thrown in the mix.

There are also some more pictures of this years Salute show back in April. I wasn't able to attend for the first time in years and consequently I take a great interest in pictures of this event. These pictures are part of an article by South London Warlords president Phil Portway about the show and the plans for next year. But what's that I see lurking in the picture at the bottom of page 114? Only my Brother-in-laws face staring back at me! [Third from the right with short ginger hair, wearing a grey sweater]. I've been reading the WI for years and always check out show pictures to see if I've been snapped. Hell, I've been known to throw myself in front of cameras in the hope of making it into their hallowed pages, and here he is just strolling around and BAM! he gets his picture in MY magazine..... Oh the injustice!

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Battle of Hammaf : Egyptian vs Hittites

Posties Rejects got together on Sunday for an ancients battle featuring the Egyptian verses the Hittites. We fought the fictional Battle of Hammaf using a set of house rules devised by our referee and undisputed Godfather of War, Stuart (aka 'Postie'). The battle was fought in 15mm using a variety of figures from different manufacturers and all painted to a very high standard making this a visually enjoyable game. I tried to make some notes as we went along as well as taking plenty of pictures. From these I have recreated the action as follows. Before the game started the seven players had to randomly pick which units they would be playing. The Armies were divided into divisions with three on the Egyptian side and four fighting for the Hittites.

Egyptians - Excellent and numerous archers with Light Chariot mounted archers in support.
1st Division - Centre - Pharaoh Ramesses II (Lee)
2nd Division - Left flank (Fran)
3rd Division - Right flank (Richard)

Hittites - High quality infantry with heavy chariots in support but little ranged capability
1st Division - Centre - King (John)
2nd Division - Left flank (Smithy)
3rd Division - Right flank (Dave)
4th Division - Far Left flank (Surjit)

Turn One: The Hittite General won initiative and elected to move first. Facing an Egyptian army fielding lots of archers the Hittites best option was to close into melee as soon as possible. Meanwhile the Egyptians held their ground and began to unleash a withering hail of arrows on the Hittites with the intention of weakening them before hand to hand fighting could commence. The Hittite King commanding the 1st Division in the centre unwisely put his chariots forward to shield his infantry units from archery fire and failed to push forward his skirmishers. This latter force needed to get very close to use their javelins and consequently started the game out of range while simultaneously being whittled away by archery fire.

Turn Two: The Egyptian 1st and 2nd Divisions on the centre and left of the line hold their position and maintain their missile fire on the approaching Hittites. Meanwhile the Egyptian 3rd Division moves further to the right, occupying a small hill behind the main line and pushing their chariots onto the extreme right flank of the army. This small force of chariots are positioning themselves ready to face off against a similar chariot unit from the Hittite 2nd Division.

Meanwhile the Hittite 4th Division commanded by Surjit is still way off to the right of the Egyptian line, at least three our four more turns of movement away from making contact. They remain a growing threat throughout the game but it is never clear if they will arrive in time to have a decisive outcome on the battle.

Turn Three: Hittite casualties continue to mount as they bring more and more units close to charge range. In particular the chariots in the centre, shielding the infantry, are wiped out by archery fire. Only the close proximity of the army standard and the king stops panic from spreading to nearby units.

However the Egyptians win the initiative and elect to move first giving them time to dress their lines and bring reserve units to the front. Faced with the prospect of moving second the Hittite generals hold back their charge until next turn. Meanwhile advance troops of the Hittite 2nd Division enter a small town which commands the end of the battlefield. Troop discipline however is poor (or the Hittite Kings bribes are not large enough) and the troops begin to loot the town effectively removing them from the battle for one turn.

Turn Four: On the Egyptian right flank the chariots of the 3rd Division clash with the Hittite 2nd Division chariots. However the wily Hittite divisional commander has also moved a unit of spearmen into the flank of the Egyptian chariots and the result looks inevitable. Despite rolling almost twice as a many dice for damage as the Egyptian commander the result is a draw and all the units involved become disordered and retreat a quarter move.

Unfortunately for the Hittites they fail to recover in the moral phase and remain disordered into the next turn. The disordered units cannot move in the following turn but more importantly halve their damage dice in melee. This gives the advantage to the Egyptian chariots who pass their moral test and prepare to charge again in turn five.

Turn Five: At last the Hittites are able to close the gap and charge into melee. On the Hittite right flank units of the 3rd Division fail to contact with the Egyptian units but in the centre the Chariots of the 1st Division thunder towards the chariots of the Egyptian 2nd. The Egyptians counter-charge and by far the bloodiest melee ensues with both players rolling fists full of dice (I lost count how many). The results are indecisive and the combat devolves into the games first ongoing melee eventually resulting in the rout of the surviving Egyptian chariots.

Elsewhere however the Hittites are loosing the initiative. the battering ram of armoured infantry in the centre of the Hittite line held back by archery fire and disorganised by their own troops fleeing and inter-penetrating in a bid to escape the field. On the Hittite left flank the developing battle for the village ebbs and flows but the Egyptian 3rd Division commander holds his line. Meanwhile the advance elements of the Hittite 4th Division finally reach the town and try to get into the battle. The rest of their column however is strung out and looks increasingly unable to get into the battle fast enough.

Turn Six: Now the Egyptians unleash their own charges into the Hittite ranks, hoping they have done enough missile damage to give then the advantage. The Hittite kings own Bodyguard are the target as they remain disordered after being weakened by archery fire and unsettled by fleeing comrades. As the Egyptian chariots charge in they unleash a volley of arrows inflicting yet more casualties before smashing into the ranks of infantry. Despite the advantage the chariots are forced back and regroup for a second charge next turn.

Meanwhile the ranks have opened up allowing Ramesses II's own Chariot guards to charge through their former lines into a Hittite Chariot squadron that was threatening the Egyptian 3rd Division on their left flank. On the right of the 3rd's position the village is starting to fill up with Hittite Infantry but it is clear now that none of their 4th Division chariots will make it into the battle (it being nearly dinner time!). It is agreed to play out one more turn but by this stage the outcome of the battle seems clear to all the players.

Turn Seven: The final turn of the battle saw lots of melee and a general mixing up of the until now neat lines of the opposing armies. A lot of damage was inflicted on both sides but by this stage the Hittite centre was looking decidedly thin. Meanwhile Egyptian reinforcements (Heavy Chariots with javelin runners attached) that arrived during the 5th turn are starting to get into the battle. With the Egyptian line pretty much unmoved throughout the game their reinforcements have been able to get into play quickly while similar Hittite reinforcements are still racing to get to the front line. Similarly the bulk of the Hittite 4th Division remains strung out beyond the village and effectively isolated from the battle.

Analysis: The relative strengths and weaknesses of the two forces were clear from the start of the battle and pretty much dictated the two sides strategies. Having said that it was definitely in the Egyptians hands to loose the battle. For much of the game we had to hold our nerve, stick to the original plan and keep our line intact. The Hittites knew they were going to have a rough time getting into contact but they could have used their skirmishers better to shield their much more formidable infantry from archery fire.

As this was a house set of rules we took this as an opportunity to play-test them, not just have a game. several good suggestions were made about resolving melee's and the effects on archery units that have taken casualties themselves. Under the rules we played close order archery units get +2 damage dice for massed archery fire (skirmish archers don't get that bonus), but it was generally agreed that a weakened unit should loose that bonus.

The Egyptian leader Ramesses II goes on to depict himself charging into battle at the head of his chariots. This image is carved into and painted on every monument he builds - and he builds a lot during his 66 year reign. It helps solidify his reputation as Egypt's greatest ruler. However the reality is that Ramesses the Great actually spent most of this fictional battle with his chariot parked in the shade of a palm tree. Far from being a glorious and epic charge sweeping all before it, this victory was instead a brutal and bloody battle of attrition.

As always, history is written by the victor.

Egyptians - 33 Points
Hittites - 5 Points

Monday 19 September 2011

Quickstain Alternatives

Following on from last weeks post about washes and inks here are the results of my testing of various alternatives to Army Painter Quickshade. I should however quantify my findings in that I am comparing them against a product I have never used. So the findings detailed below are really just a list of alternative ways to quickly shade or wash your miniatures. I'm sure there are dozens of other products available and many and varied ways to achieve the effect I have been seeking and if you have any suggestions please let me know in the comments below. I also think the overall effect of the products tested would vary from one scale to another. I've been painting miniatures for nearly 30 years but shifting down from predominantly 28mm to 15mm figures has meant I have head to re-learn many skills. Experiments like this (and the discussions that follow) are all part of that process.

I tested four popular materials for quick-shading or washing miniatures. The first was a 50/50 mix of Wood stain mixed with distilled water. The second was Games Workshop Devlan Mud wash. The third was Winsor and Newton Peat Brown ink and the last was Vallejo Smokey Ink. I started this test by mounting four identical battlefront 15mm infantry figures on a piece of wood for easy of handling. Then each was given a basic paint scheme sticking to the principle of minimizing the number of steps from bare metal to finished figure. The prepped figures looked very rough and basic but hopefully the washes would bring the color schemes together and hide any poor painting!

Wood-stain - This was an old tin of oil based rosewood wood stain that I found in a store cupboard. I'd read that this could be used as a wash and wanted to give it a try, but not on a completed platoon of figures! The liquid is very thick and viscous, is very dark in tone but has a fine almost imperceptible 'grain' to the pigment. I decided to dilute this and after several tests settled on a 50/50 blend with distilled water. This required a shake before use but otherwise didn't seem to separate and cause problems with the finished application. Applied by brush it looks a lot like Quickshade and its quite alarming to see the miniature disappear under the first pass of the brush. However excess liquid can be easily removed with another brush or the corner of a tissue.

Cleaning the brushes is a chore, requiring a little bit of White Spirit or brush cleaner to remove all the fluid. Another thing I found was that the drying time is significantly longer than the other products with the model remaining sticky for a long time after application. By far the biggest disadvantage is the glossy shine this product put on the model (similar I understand to Quickshade). Several coats of Matt varnish were needed to bring the gloss finish down (not shown). Having said that, the shading is deep and bold with solid shadows and subtle shading of larger areas. Not bad for a product found in the back of a cupboard. Overall I give this a 2 out of 5.

Games Workshop Devlan Mud Wash - I bought this product for £2.30 for a 12ml bottle. Its another thick and viscous liquid although not as thick as the Wood-stain. Again it looked very dark in the tub but this time is used it neat, as suggested by the store manager. Again liberally brushed on the initial effect looks like the model is being swamped however like the previous test excess liquid is easily removed with a brush or tissue. This product flows well and feels like its doing what its supposed to do, quickly settling in the recesses and creases of the figure. When it dried it didn't leave a high gloss finished but still required a Matt varnish to complete the model. Overall I give this product a 4 out of 5.

Winsor and Newton Peat Brown Ink - This cost me just 50 pence online.. and £4.35 in postage! This is a much less viscous liquid and was just what I expected for a product sold as a drawing ink. I decided not to dilute the ink after a quick test, as I wanted stronger shading. On a 28mm model or larger I'd imagine the bold shading would not work well but on a 15mm model it looked like it would be OK. Application was quick with very little excess being deposited on the miniature. It quickly settled into the recesses and even when dried the ink did not bleed into the raised areas and therefore did not darken the whole model excessively. It did leave a slight shine to the surface which required a Matt varnish to eliminate.

Overall I think this product gave the deepest and sharpest shading with the least discoloration to the base colors. The deep pigment is very fine grained which meant that even tiny details such as the rifle bolt were crisply outlined by the ink. Overall I give this a 3 out of 5.

Vallejo Smokey Ink - I already had this product and it cost the princely sum of £1.60 for a 17ml bottle. I had high hopes for this product as on the whole I like the Vallejo range (I use the model color paints exclusively). The fluid was actually thicker than the Winsor ink and significantly deeper in tone. After a brief test I decided this would need to be diluted 50/50 with Distilled Water just as I had with the wood-stain. Application once again seemed to swamp the figure but unlike the other products it remained on all the surfaces of the figure not just the recesses. The result was that although it gave deep shaded areas the overall model had a brown/orange tint to it when dry. However this did result in better skin tones than the other tests. Overall I give it a rather disappointing 3 out of 5.

This last picture shows all four test models side by side. Overall I liked the crispness of the Winsor and Newton ink but did think the finished model looked a bit too bright and 'cartoony'. The GW Wash probably game the most naturalistic look but didn't give the deep shadows that ink can achieve. Having said that I think I will use the Devlan Mud on my next infantry platoon (a US Rifle Platoon) which is already base-coated and just waiting for a wash and varnish.

L to R: Vallejo Ink; Winsor and Newton Ink; Games Workshop Wash; and the Wood stain

Having completed this less than scientific test I'd like to throw this subject out to you the readers and ask the all important question: What do you think? Which of these do you prefer and why? I'd be especially interested in any feedback you can give comparing these results verses Quickshade or indeed any other product.

Thursday 15 September 2011

I'm a Geek and I'm proud

This week is Speak Out with your Geek Out week. It's an online initiative to share our collective enthusiasm and love of our geeky hobbies. It's a chance for us to say we are proud of of our interests and that far from being anti-social or negative our hobby interests are a positive thing.

I've written several times [Here, here and here] about my conscious decision not to hide my hobby interests from friends and colleges. Far from thinking of my hobbies as a stigma I have been able to turn them into an asset and something to be proud of. I have a keen interest in history, science, politics and art and have developed skills in photography, computing, painting and writing; all directly related to my so called 'geeky' hobbies.

As Gaming writer Jess Hartley wrote on her blog...
"...This is about sharing with the world that geekery is awesome, that it transcends the common definition, and that we are not ashamed of who and what we are. Every person who participates is amplifying that message and adding their own unique voice to it."
However for me this campaign has highlighted another very relevant and topical subject; that of internet bullying. Most gamers, painters or hobby enthusiasts will have either accessed or contributed to an online forum or Blog at one time or another and will recognise the sense of 'community' that one feels taking part. But we will also all recognise the 'troll' who's main enjoyment seems to come from ridiculing or insulting other commentators in an apparent quest to start a 'flame war'. Sadly this isn't restricted to the geek-o-sphere and as a recent BBC News article shows it can have distressing consequences.

Even amongst the non-troll gaming community its not uncommon for one sub-group or another to be ridiculed by another group. This is a shameful self inflicted wound in my humble opinion, as if we don't have enough stigma to overturn without fighting amongst ourselves as well. I think we - the nebulous and varied 'gaming community' - should take on board the words of Monica Valentinelli  (Author, Game Designer and Founder of Speak Out):
"I feel this is our chance to prove that - once and for all - to each other,  that we can inspire and uplift. That tolerance is possible, provided we remember to be tolerant of other people. That our emotions are what bind us together and labels are what keep us apart."
Regardless if you're a roleplayer, a wargamer, a computer gamer, a trekkie, a larper, sci-fi buff, a comic book fan, a reenactor, or anything in between, then its time to stand up and be counted. I don't care if you can speak Klingon or can recite the first edition DnD rules by heart. It doesn't matter if you own a Jeep, collect star wars figures or have every set of Magic the Gathering cards. So-what if you paint miniatures, write a hobby Blog and battle across a tabletop with toy soldiers. It doesn't matter whether you're a geek, a nerd or a dork. You're cool, you're hobbies are awesome and I guarantee that you are a more interesting and rounded individual than you would be without them.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

An Experiment with Dip

Over the last week or so I have been experimenting with Wood-stain as an alternative to Quickshade as a fast shading medium on miniatures. I've never used the Army Painter Quickshade before so I'm really unsure whether to give it a go or not. At nearly £20 a tin I wan't to make the right choice before parting with my cash. The problem is made harder by the fact that there are three shades to choose from; a wrong choice could prove very costly. So while I decide I have been experimenting with some wood stain as an alternative.

I had a half used tin of rosewood stain (a dark shade) in my shed and decided to play around with it to see if it could be used as a shading medium. This is where the original concept came from, before Army Painter developed the idea with their Quickshade range. Although the stain I was using is oil-based it seems to mix OK with water up to about 50% dilution. Beyond that the mix separates very quickly.

I base coated two 15mm infantry figures as my test subjects and applied the wood-stain to each. The first figure got undiluted stain on it and the second had a 50/50 mix with water. The undiluted shade gave excellent detailing and definition but made the resulting figure look very dark indeed. In fact it was so dark it was hard to tell any difference in colour between the Brown Violet (887) helmet, the Khaki (988) shirt and US Field Drab (873) trousers. The 50% mix gave better results but still resulted in a dark figure even after dry-brushing strong highlights on the model prior to shading.

So will I be using the woodstain or splashing out on the expensive Quickshade product? To be honest I'm still not sure. I'm painting the figures in base coats with the intention of using a shading medium of one kind or another, I just can't make up my mind which to use. I'm hunting round the internet for ideas and advice specific to 15mm miniatures but so far I have found relatively little. Any suggestions folks?

Saturday 10 September 2011

Big Picture : Old Boardgames

This weeks Big Picture is of two games dug out of a cupboard and pressed into service for a weekends entertainment. The Dagenham Dungeon Delvers met on Friday for our 4e DnD game. Unfortunately trouble on the trains meant our GM couldn't get to the venue which put a major spanner in the works. So the remaining Delvers played an impromptu game of Talisman. Its been a long time since any of us have played this game but we enjoyed it (and Tweeted the action).

On Saturday I also dug out an old copy of Dungeonquest and challenged the kids to a game. As usual I lost, but less said about that the better!

Not a bad weekends entertainment from games still going strong 25 years or more since I bought them.

Friday 9 September 2011

The DDD's Twerible Twittering

First off let me apologise for the title of this post. I'm the first to moan when someone starts using that unforgivable abuse of the English language that is Twitterspeak. For those that don't know this is the process where you take the first two letters of the microblogging service Twitter and merge them - painfully and often with the aid of a large hammer - to the front of your chosen word. However in this instance I just couldn't help myself and I apologise unreservedly.

The Dagenham Dungeon Delvers are gathering tonight for our semi-regular 4e DnD game night. The campaign is progressing slowly but steadily towards a climax and all our characters are geared up for the inevitable battle to come. But this week we are joined by one of our wayward players, Andrew, who rarely gets to games because of his job - and the fact that he lives in Lincoln, 150 miles away (poor excuse, but we'll let it pass). Andrew is something of an agent provocateur and his presence is almost guaranteed to result in trouble for our characters. With action, conflict and witty banter almost certainly a feature of tonight's game we thought it a good opportunity to report our game live to the twitterverse (there I go again).

Myself @BigLee and fellow Blogger, Derek @djkettlety, will be posting live tweets throughout the evening. I'm not sure if this will become a regular thing (we sort of do it already but not in an organised or coordinated way) but we thought we would give it a try and see if it proved popular.

If you're interested in following the action we will be posting with the hash-tags #DDD and #BLMA from 7pm until about 11pm.

I'll resist the temptation to say "Thank You" in twitterspeak, because that would just be wrong on so many levels. Instead let me say we look forward to you joining us and we hope you enjoy our strange mix of humour and mayhem that make up our game nights.

D-Day Relics at Lepe

Remains of a Beach Hardening Mat
While I was away on company business at Fawley near Southampton I was able to get over to Lepe Country Park. This stretch of Hampshire coastline faces the Isle of White across the Solent and was one of many D-Day embarkation sites across the south of England. I visited the site a few months ago but didn't get down on the beach to see the slipways and other relics because the weather was awful. Although it was cold and windy this time the lack of horizontal rain made taking decent pictures a more realistic prospect.

The remains at Lepe are very interesting because they represent a snapshot of a particular moment in history. The whole purpose of the remains found here was to enable the building and launching of caissons for the Mulberry Harbours and for the loading and embarkation of men, tanks and other vehicles into landing craft and supply ships. Shoreline structures like these can be found all along the south coast of England although these ones at Lepe are particularly well preserved.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Overlord from Osprey

I've had a couple of days off work to coincide with the last few days of the kids summer holidays. Yesterday was our final opportunity to get the remaining items the children needed for their return to school so we went shopping in Lakeside Thurrock. Normally any trip here is undertaken reluctantly as I usually find the whole experience to be monotonous and generally soul destroying. Model Zone is usually the only shop I enjoy going into with any prospect of exiting with a bag of Loot ('loot' means "Goodies", not "stuff I grabbed while rioting"). On his occasion I restocked my supplies of Clump Foliage and static grass and bought a new pair of clippers to replace an old and blunt set. However this trip I also picked up one other item that made the whole shopping trip worthwhile.

My star purchase of the day was an excellent book from Osprey Publishing on the D-Day operation. Overlord: The D-Day Landings by Ken Ford and Steven J. Zaloga. It seems to be an amalgamation of several earlier osprey books (from the Campaign Series - volumes 1, 100, 104, 105 and 112) into a single volume, and all for just £12.99. I think that constitutes a bargain in anyone's language. This was first published as a hardcover book in 2009 but a new paperback version was updated and released in April this year. Like the original Campaign series it looks at the background to the invasion, the major players in the campaign, the opposing armies, the equipment used and how well both performed in battle. There is also the usual excellent post battle analysis and review.

This volume is divided into four sections: Omaha Beach; Utah Beach and the US Airborne Landings; Sword Beach and the British Airborne Landings; and Gold and Juno Beaches. As with all Osprey works this book includes an excellent collection of period photographs, unit tables, maps, charts and detailed artwork. I bought this in Waterstones and at first I was considering some of the individual Osprey titles when I came across this book.

Needless to say I consider this an absolute bargain and on first inspection it looks very comprehensive. Most of the history books I have read tend to work in chronological order and move from one part of the landings to another. While this is great for getting an overall feeling of the whole action it does make understanding the individual battles for each beach harder to analyse. I'm really looking forward to reading it and getting a beach by beach look at the action.

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Osprey (April 2011)
Language: English
Authors: Ken Ford and Steven J. Zaloga
RRP: £12.99 ($24.95)

Sunday 4 September 2011

Big Picture: Mythos Explorers!

I've been going through a load of old pictures recently and, where necessary, scanning them onto my computer. There was a time when I used a camera with something called 'film' in it. I'm not sure how I managed to cope in the days before Mega-pixels and SD cards. Back in 1992 when I took this photo I brought 15 rolls of film with me to Egypt- enough to shoot a mere 540 pictures. These days I carry enough memory capacity to comfortably shoot a four or five thousand pictures.

With a little bit of computer manipulation I've aged the picture to make us look like a couple of plucky European explorers from the 1920's! All I need is a pith helmet.