Monday 25 November 2013

Desert Roads Revisted

For some time now I have been experimenting with different materials to make a set of desert roads and trackways. Many of the pre-made options available online are only suitable for 15mm or larger scales and the few micro scale terrain options I have seen are either quite expensive or poor quality. So Building my own roads has always been an option for me, I just needed to find a technique that 'worked'.

I have previously posted details of two trial sets of roads I made. Although they looked good at the time I have since found that the roads have begun to curl up at the edges. No matter what I did I couldn't get the road sections to lay flat. Also because they were made from relatively lightweight materials (sandpaper or emery paper) they were easily disturbed on the games surface. A new idea was needed. Something heavier than sandpaper that would lay nice and flat on the table but still remain flexible. 

Jump back a couple of weeks and I was in Hobbycraft with my youngest daughter, looking for some craft materials for her. She decided she wanted to get some foam sheets which could be cut and glued into 3d models and picture's. Of course when I saw the foam the terrain building part of my brain kicked-in immediately and so we both went home with an assortment of coloured foam sheets in A4 and A3 size. At this stage I didn't have a clear plan of how to use it, but I just knew it would come in handy. 

I have spent the last few weeks experimenting with this foam understanding its properties and potential uses. The breakthrough for me came when I realised that I could glue pretty much anything to this material providing I used a good quality PVA/Wood glue. So I tried gluing some of the roads I made earlier onto the foam and found that this gave each road section more weight, allowing it to lay flat while still retaining enough flexibility to drape over hills or down slopes. The foam is about 1.5mm thick and comes in a wide range of colours including Black (suitable for Metalled roads), cream/ivory (for desert settings) and brown (for muddy European style roads). The Foam can be painted with acrylics - although it is understandably quite porous - so that edges can be blended in to match the games surface. I have also found that this material can be covered in flock grass or sand providing you use a good quantity of  glue to fix it with.

With the 'experiments' completed I set about making a whole new set of Desert Trackway using some excellent Aluminium Oxide 'sandpaper' that I discovered in my local branch of Wilkinson. As before I cut strips 1¼” wide (the length of a small FOW base) in 18" sections which I them glued to the surface of the foam sheet. When the sheet was covered in strips I made sure to remove any excess glue then covered the whole thing with another foam sheet and placed several heavy books on top. This ensured that the sandpaper bonded nice and flat onto the foam. I left these overnight to dry and then simply cut the roads out using a pair of sharp scissors. Lastly I dry brushed the edges with a sandy coloured paint to add a little bit of definition to the finished road. And here is the result:

The foam makes these roads only about 1.5mm thick.
I now have over 25 foot of desert track which is ample for any games table

I also have a set of asphalt roads (made from black Emery Paper) which I will mount the same way but on black foam instead. I'm really happy with how these have turned out and I'm looking forward to using them in my next North Africa game. 

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Finkin Time

Eye-Eye Captain
I'm going to be out of action tomorrow and Friday as far as painting is concerned. I have a couple of troublesome cysts in my left lower eyelid that need to be removed, and while the procedure is minor the after effect's mean I'll have blurred vision (from the eye drops they use) and will have to wear an eye patch for 24 hours. While I would ordinarily relish the chance to look like a Pirate the downside is that my depth perception will be reduced to zero, meaning I will have to take a couple of days off from painting.

The annoying thing is I also can't drive, meaning I'll be off work, which would ordinarily be a great opportunity for me to get some painting done! So instead of putting paint to metal I guess I'll just have to get some serious 'finkin' done instead. Oh my, this is gonna hurt...

First off I need to work out my painting strategy for the Analogue Challenge. I already have a rough idea what I want to do but I really need to dig out all the models, clean them up, assemble in some cases and prime them ready for the Dec 15th start date (yes, this is allowed). This is actually a really good opportunity for me to remind myself exactly what is in my Lead Mountain. Over the years I have tried to reduce the number of models laying around by either giving them away or occasionally selling them. Some old citadels went to my daughters for them to paint (I see it as an investment) but there are still several boxes lurking in the cupboard under the stairs and its high time I found out what was in them!

The second job I need to do is work out what I need to buy. A large part of the Challenge for me is about painting those models that are languishing in storage boxes, but I also want to paint some new stuff for my 6mm North Africa Project and that means buying yet more minis'. I have a vague but as yet unformed idea about painting some Italian Infantry but I don't really know at this stage what I need to buy. My depth perception may make painting difficult but it won't stop me looking at the relevant army lists and building up a shopping list.

If I still have time on my hands I could probably spend a bit of time tidying up my painting desk but I'll probably just take a leaf out of Mike Whitaker's book and listen to some pod casts. I don't get nearly enough time to do this normally so it'll be good to just sit down and geek out for a while.

Monday 18 November 2013

I'm in the Painting Challenge

Well that's it, I've done it now! After several years of dithering I have finally taken the plunge and signed up for the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. Like most wargamers I suffer from incurable Shineybloodyitus and I have my own personal lead Mountain hidden in a cupboard under the stairs like a guilty secret. The Lead Mountain isn't as huge as it used to be because I have had several 'purges' over the years where I have either sold or given away excess models rather than see them neglected, but there is still a sizable collection remaining. 

I have set myself a very modest target of 250 points (minuscule compared to the gargantuan 4500pts that James is aiming for!) which I hope to achieve by painting some wildly different models across several different scales. My 'to-do list' may change as the Challenge progresses but for now here is how I see myself achieving my target.  

6mm Projects
The bulk of my painting for the Challenge will be a continuation of my 6mm North Africa Project. I already had a vague idea that I would like to build and paint up another Italian Company to go with the Compagnia Carri (Tank) Company I already have. I don't have any clear plans yet, and a lot depends on the availability of figures and vehicles in 6mm, but I think that a target of about 100points is achievable. 

I recently also bought some vehicles to bolster my British forces but in the end I decided I didn't need them for my up-coming game and so these haven't been painted yet. If I can get them done they will add another 10 points to my tally. I also have several of the 6mm Resin buildings by Levin Miniatures that need to be completed. There isn't an official score for painting buildings but I'm hoping I may garner a few points for any I complete. 

[Challenge scoring regime - 6mm foot figure = 0.5 point / 6mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 1 pts / 6mm vehicle = 2 points]

15mm Projects
Just before I started my 6mm North Africa project I bought a box of British Cromwell Tanks and although they may never reach the games table I would really like to get these painted. These should make a comfortable 30 points. I also have a couple of multi-part Tiger Tanks that are begging to be completed for a further 10 points. 

[Challenge scoring regime - 15mm foot figure = 2 pts / 15mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 4 pts / 15mm vehicle = 6 pts]

28mm Projects
When I was at Blog-Con last week I was so inspired by the Blazing Dice game that I immediately picked up a couple of blister packs of Wild West gunmen. I also bought a couple of 2000AD character figures (Dredd of course and Rouge Trooper) just to paint for fun. So assuming these all get painted I should get about 60 points for these.  I also have quite a few special models (things like old Salute giveaway figures) that could be painted if I make a proper effort. 

[Challenge scoring regime - 28mm foot figure = 5 pts / 28mm mounted figure, artillery piece or crew served weapon = 10 pts / 28mm vehicle = 15 pts]

Rather worryingly all this only adds up to about 230 points and that seems like a massive challenge to a slow painter like me. But I guess its not called a 'Challenge' for nothing and the whole reason I have signed up this year is to push myself. So I guess all that is left for me to do now is to start prepping some figures, hit the Internet and place some orders for figures and scale the north face of my lead mountain in search of some models to inspire my paint brush. 

Friday 15 November 2013

Poor Service from across the Pond

I'm not generally in the habit of moaning about retailers but sometimes I do wonder how certain companies stay in business. I'm also not in the habit of 'naming and shaming' but in this case I'll make an exception because this is a cautionary tale and it's retelling may be of some value to fellow gamers and potential customers of C-in-C.

Let me start by saying that I love C-in-C's miniatures and on the whole I have had a very positive experience purchasing their products through their UK distributor, Wargames Emporium. But on this occasion I wanted a product from their accessories range which I suspected might not be held in stock here in the UK. So I contacted Wargames Emporium to check their stock and they emailed me straight back confirming they didn't have it and would have to wait for their next restock order. Rather than wait I decided I'd try purchasing the items I wanted direct from the manufacturer, reasoning that although it might prove more expensive to pay shipping from the US, I would probably get my order delivered quicker. Oh how wrong I was! Here's the short version of the story (the long version ran to 8 paragraphs before I edited down!)....

I ordered my items on the C-in-C website on the 17th September. I knew shipping would be expensive, but I wanted these models quickly and was prepared to cough up the money to get them (yes, a bad case of shineyitus). I received an order confirmation by email and expected a further email confirming the shipping costs and advising a dispatch date. So I waited, and I waited.... 28 days later my patience crumbled and I emailed asking for an ETA on dispatch. They replied saying the order would be worked on over the weekend and delivery would be 7-10 days thereafter. However two weeks later and I still hadn't received confirmation that my order had been dispatched, so I decided to email them again. 

This time I got a rather strange reply stating that my order was below the minimum for any discount on shipping and did I want to proceed with my order? I was slightly alarmed at this message because a) it still hadn't been sent and b) it sounded a lot like they didn't want to fulfil my order because it was so small. I immediately replied back confirming my intention to proceed with my order and asking for confirmation of the shipping costs. I heared nothing back and after five more days days of silence I emailed again, repeating the same message that I wanted to continue with my order and asking how they wanted me to pay for the shipping costs. I did eventually get a response and last Friday - seven and a half weeks after placing my order - I received an email saying my goods had at last been dispatched. 

I understand that it may not be economical for a company like this to fulfil small orders but if that is the case the minimum order value ought to be clearly shown on the website. Similarly if delivery is going to be outside the stated ETA then it would seem to me to be simple courtesy to communicate with the customer to keep them informed. CinC state 7-14 days for dispatch with delivery 7-10 days thereafter so orders should be at most 24 days... I'm still waiting for my order to arrive and its now 59 days and counting.

One mitigating factor to bare in mind (to be fair) is that the company had to relocate to new premises in June and they have been quite open about the fact that this has impacted on delivery times. However they also posted an update on their website early in September stating that production was up and running and the backlog was shrinking. So either there is a backlog or there isn't, but either way a little communication with their customers would go a long long way.

So, is this an example of bad customer service or am I just being a grumpy and impatient Englishman stamping my foot in petulant frustration? 

Monday 11 November 2013

Blog-Con : Part the Second

As promised here are a few more pictures from Sundays Blog-Con held at the Wargames Foundry in Nottingham.

More painted Foundry mini's in the display cabinets around the shop/gaming area.
I love this Sherlock model...I may have to buy one of these!
There were also several nice vehicles in the cabinets including this Russian T34
The second game of the day was "A Very British Civil War" and made full use of the excellent terrain tables available in the Foundry gaming area. 
Panzerkaput, our very able Umpire for the game explains the rules
My Peelers were the only group without an SMG but they did have nice uniforms
Ray and Loki trade insults before the game gets underway...I think a private war is about to break out!
The game area in Foundry has several excellent terrain tables with plenty of space for lots of 'big-boned' wargamers. 
The game gets underway. The objective, collect as many crates of 'provisions' as possible. In the foreground a band of Socialists swep down the hill towards my Peelers. 
My Peelers line up along a convinient hedge expecting a frontal attack. 
Hang on a minute...where are those reds going?
Outflanked! Those sneeky socialists have my peelers at a disdvantage.
Fortunately I win a higher initiative next turn and have time to jump over the hedge before they charge downhill. 
In for a Rubel and all that...the Reds charge downhill towards the Peelers but take a beating from defensive fire and bayonets! 
Meanwhile on the other side of the village Ray and Loki seem to have forgotten the objective of the game as they tear into each other. Loki commandeers a van, smashes through a hedge and ploughs through Rays troops.
Having burst amongst Rays troops Loki then throws a Molotov Cocktain into the scattered soliders, incinerating three of them! Ray was not a happy chappy! Everyone else laughed heartily. 
Meanwhile James troops are picking up boxes unhindered and Frans Irish Republicans are similarly playing to win! How unsporting!!
The Irish crest the hill and see the Peelers have won against the Reds, but they are now weakened and ready for a Republican coup de grâce in the rear.
Meanwhile back on the other side of the Town someone (Loki of course) has annoyed the Morris-Men....bad move. These guys may have awful stealth skills but in melee they were bloody leathal! 
The game was now drawing to a close and when the bodies had been removed it was clear that James was the clear winner...probably because he was playing the game rather than just fighting the nearest opponent! 

This pretty much wrapped up Blog-Con for this year and I think everyone that was there on Sunday seemed to have an absolutely great time. Inevitably I succombed to a bout of 'shineyitus' before the day was over and ended up going home with several packs of Wild West Gunmen and some Judge Dred models. It was a long day for me (with a 300 mile round trip in the car) but a really enjoyable one and something I look forward to next year. 

Blog-Con : Part the First

I'm back home and almost recovered from my trip 'up-north' to Nottingham for the first ever Blog-Con. Unfortunately I couldn't do the Saturday but there was no way I was going to miss out on the fun so I drove up Sunday Morning and back home in the evening. It was a long day, but worth every second. I've decided to split this into two posts because as usual I have far too many pictures to share in just one post (what, me?!)

I arrived before the doors opened and met James as he arrived, so I got inside before the day 'officially' started. Wargames Foundry have a great games space in the midst of their stock/shop/factory.
As well as a few pre-game chin-wag's there was also time to look at all the 'Shiney' on offer. I could already feel my resolve crumbling at this point.
As well as the games tables and the shop there are also several cabinets displaying excellently painted examples of models including this lovely WWI tank.
...and these Dwarves.
And of course some Napoleonic.
Ray, clutching a list from Postie, started his shopping early.
Fran seemed to have greater willpower than the rest of us, or maybe he was just hungover from the night before?
Blog-Con was a great opportunity to see some familiar faces. Many of the people I chatted with I know via their blogs but have never met in person. 
The first game of the day was a Wild West shoot-em-up called Blazing Dice by Dave Docherty.
This game had five players with each controlling either an individual character or a group. Each had their own agenda and objectives but all combined for a great game with lost of laughs and even more bullets!
The game gets underway. James was in charge of the local Lawman and his Deputy. I had 'The Man with No Name' and his prisoner (worth $25000 if I get him safely out of town on the train). Ray had three Pinkerton Agents determined to take my prisoner and the bounty for themselves. Loki had my prisoners three Brothers set on rescuing him. 
Lokis Gunmen opened the Stockade gates and started a stampede through the town!
Which rapidly got 'out of hand' ! 
Meanwhile Billy The Kid has a shootout with the Sheriff and his Deputy. 
Meanwhile I have been quietly moving my prisoner across town and have him secured on the train. I think I'm going to win this without firing a shot...
Suddenly there are Pinkerton's and the prisoners Brothers on either end of the train, I'm trapped! Fortunately they were too interested in fighting each other and I was able to pick my targets for maximum effect.
With the train now pulling out of town and all my enemies on the carriage either dead or unconscious I am declared the winner. Now all I have to do  is decide what to spend that $25,000 on!
Me with a copy of the rules and my victorious Cowboy.
I'll post some more pictures of the other game I played later this morning. All in all not a bad start to my trip to Blog-con, especially as my 'dice curse' seemed to have been banished for a change...

Wednesday 6 November 2013

FOW for 6mm Part 4 : Command

Part of an ongoing series of posts on adapting the Flames of War rules for 6mm Wargaming

Command Distance is one of the few areas of the rules that have given me serious pause for thought when considering how to convert the FOW rules to 6mm wargaming. The 'official' command distances given in the rulebook always seemd very tight to me when I played with 15mm models. However when I used the same distances with 6mm models the distances look very exagerated.

'Trained' Infantry and Armour have different command distances

Experience  Tank Teams  Others
Conscript 4" 2"
Trained 6" 4"
Veteran 8" 6"

Maintaining existing command distances (4" for Conscripts, 6" for Trained and 8" for Veterans) does have the effect of allowing the stretching out teams within a platoon. This looks better with armour (no Panzer Parking lots!) but could potentially thin infantry platoons out considerably. However when I playetested this I felt that in practice most players would probably keep their platoon teams tighter together. Stretching a unit out may allow a defender to 'hold' more ground but a well placed enemy assualt against a platoon deployed like this would mean the defender would have a hard time holding that ground.

One alternative that I have experimented with is halving the command distances given in the rulebook. This has the effect of tighten up the units and bring them back towards something resembling the dispersal in a 15mm game. The main problem with halving command distances like this is that it would force units to bunch up, and with the 'footprint' of Artillery and Smoke Bombardment templates remaining unchanged, this could massively increase platoon vulnerability to such attacks.

In the end I decided not to reduce command distances because I concluded it would adversely impact upon dispersal and would make infantry much more vulnerable to bombardments and assaults and would therefore unbalance the game. As always I'm open to suggestions as this 'conversion' of the rules is very much a work in progress.