Friday, 10 February 2012

Breaking the Silence

Well... I started with the best of intentions and quickly failed to follow through like so many broken New Years Resolutions. What can I say? Life found a way. To take up almost all my hobby time.

The biggest factor is that soon there will be a Mrs. Banchou Badger and as such much has been made of wedding preparations and working full time as well has meant that the blog has been neglected in favour of actual hobby time.

So now that I am facing unemployment again it looks like I will finally have some hobby time!

So firstly, a bit of catch up on what I have been up to the last little while and some previews of upcoming posts.

Well the biggest (or smallest thing) to happen hobbywise these last few months is that I have had a massive purge of my unused GW armies and reinvested the ebay winnings (a fair bit of money actually!) in a brand new scale. Now I know that I have been harping on about 1/72 scale for a while but my new love is 15/18mm miniatures.

It all began with Ground Zero Games excellent UNSC infantry and some sci-fi vehicles and before I knew it I had three sci-fi forces and four fantasy armies.

GZG 15mm UNSC Infantry
The scale has proven to be a joy to work in. It takes some shopping around to find decently sculpted and cast up minis, but the hunt can be rewarding in and of itself and yield some bargains. I initially had a really hard time deciding between the UNSC minis from GZG or Critical Mass' ARC Fleet minis. In the end I went with my wallet and got the slightly cheaper GZG minis. I have to say they are lovely and the ease of ordering, fast postage and excellent customer service has brought me back to GZG a couple of times now. In short, check them out.

The minis were cast up really nicely with minimal flash. As such assembling a platoon took next to no time. The painting was mainly drybrushing and ink washes  using citadel paints with some extra time spent painting the visors.

Now the intention was originally to use this force for Ambush Alley's excellent Tomorrow's War. However my group of gamers were reluctant to take up a new game that seemed complex and above all, had no points system. My group tend to be in the GW mould (not a bad thing as long as its not Fine Cast)  and as such prefer to play pick up games where two sides are more or less the same.

Now I have been waiting for a point system from Ambush Alley for some time and although there is an unofficial one I am unable to download the file as their forum seems reluctant to let me register. Seeing as my group were not all that keen on the system in the first place I decided to tackle the problem as only the Badger would. I wrote a new set of rules from the ground up.

The game is not as detailed as Tomorrow's War by a long shot, but it is designed to be more accessible with rules weighing in at some 20 odd pages total including campaign rules. I will talk more about Force Commander once playtests have been carried out.

As mentioned earlier I also threw myself into doing multiple fantasy forces. I couldn't really help myself. I felt the urge to play mass fantasy games but were hindered by three significant factors: 1)GW Prices 2)The current edition of Warhammer is not to my taste 3) I only have a 4'x4' table at home. So the move to 15mm seemed sensible. Four armies later it seems less sensible but I am pretty happy with how the first two armies turned out.

Eureka Elves. Close ups coming soon!
Firstly I had to get some Eureka elves. I got these from Fighting 15s and once again, was very impressed with the speed of their order processing and delivery. Top marks. The elves are amazing sculpts, but at 18mm are a bit big compared to most historical castings out there. My big complaint with them is that the spears and sword blades are very, very fragile as are some of the horses legs. They do however paint up all so prettily.

For my second army I could not resist the lure of the Greenskins from Blood Dawn by Magister Militum. The order process was way slower than GZG or Fighting 15s, however they do supply some of the best fantasy 15mm castings I have encountered. The orcs have been a joy to paint with regiments being done in a fraction of the time as the elves and I have to say, they look great on the table together.

Magister Militum Orcs. The Boar rider have been finished
since this shot was taken.
Once again these figures are being used for a home-brew rule set that I have cobbled together whilst we wait for Ganesha Games to publish A Song of Armies and Hordes.  Now unlike Force Commander the fantasy rules are base on the excellent Simplicity in Practice games by Neil Thomas (I once referenced one of his books in an archaeology essay). The basic rules were brilliant for medieval and ancient warfare and so required only a few tweaks to the core rules and some special rules to be pretty playable. But of course, as is the flavour of the moment I decided to add some Command and Control rules that made things a little less predictable and a whole lot more interesting.

Unlike Force Commander the fantasy game (referred to as Warmonger) has had a play test. My opponent was someone who had never wargamed in 15mm before and was sceptical. He had played Warhammer before but had always been more into 40k. By the end he gave me some good feedback but also went away with the web addresses of a couple of 15mm manufacturers. I heard that he ordered himself a medieval human army from Corvus Beli last night. All in all, Success!

Apart from 15mm I have not been painting much apart from some Vikings. But more on that later on when I talk more about historical skirmish games in general and Saga in particular, a new favourite of mine.

The next post will be soon (pinky swear it!) and will focus on more 15mm stuff as well as a ideas for scenery.

Until Next Time
-Banchou Badger

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Song of Blades Campaign, Act 1

Greetings one and all. The last week has seen frenzied activity on the hobby front. In the last week my latest warband for A Song of Blades and Heroes has been finished as well as a spew of new scenery. as mentioned last time, it all has a bit of a Asian feel to it.

Today saw the first three games in our Song of Blades and Heroes campaign, taking place in the fictional Shinda Province. I wrote some fluff for the setting and the motivation of my force and emailed it to the players in the group.

The write up went a little something like this (any likeness to the Legend of the Five Rings setting are entirely meant to be a complement to the setting. Also no points for spotting the Kurusawa references) :

"The Senji Empire long abandoned their mainland provinces due to the rise of the Oni Clans from beyond the Warden Wall. The noble samurai of the Senji Imperial Army fell back abandoning village after village. Eventually they withdrew across the ocean to their island homelands. 

Senji Spearmen of the Akematsu Clan
Five centuries have passed. The Senji Empire is going through a time of testing. A season of fire and death. Clans have risen against the rule of the young Empress, yet untested in war or at court. Bandits roam the countryside preying on any who are too weak to defend themselves. Word at court is that the Shogun is plotting to take control of the Senji Empire himself. 

And amidst all of this the monks, shugenja and priests have all warned of dire portents. There is something stirring within the spirit haunted and ruin strewn bamboo forests of the abandoned Shinda province. Something sinister lurks, growing stronger in the darkness. Something from forgotten aeons when the stars were different. Something has awoken, and the Oni have heard its call. 

Akematsu Ichiro, Senji Kensai,
warband leader
The visions show a Hidden Fortress, in a chamber with a Throne of Blood stands an artefact that could mean the salvation or damnation of the Senji Empire. Maybe even the world. 

Warbands from various Gaijin nations have already descended upon the Shinda province. The Imperial Council and the Empress are too busy dealing with threats at home to send an army. They have sent a young samurai, the youngest Kensai to herald from the Himura clan school, yet untested by war and death. His name is Akamatsu Ichiro, and the fate of the Senji Empire is in his hands."

The response was good and all of the participants wrote up fluff for their warbands and their reasons for being in the Shinda Province. 

The warbands participating thus far are: a band of lost Norse demon-slaying Vikings and a cult of jungle gnomes who worship a giant turtle god (who get the prize for most original warband I have ever seen in anything, ever). 

Sanuske Hanso rallies the ashigaru spearmen
to come to his lord's aid.
After organising our warbands we decided on each player playing two games each, ensuring that they face both the other warbands in the campaign. We were all new to the system, but got a good grasp of the rules with only minimal checking in the book. 

Without further ado, a summary of the first campaign turn. 

Game 1: Akematsu Clan vs. Ulfgar's Raiders: 
The first game saw the warriors of the Senji Empire tackle the foreign menace of Ulfgar's Vikings. The game began with a mad dash to the bridge, the only crossing point over the stream bisecting the field of battle. Akematsu himself managed to cross the bridge, only to be promptly taken out of action by Ulfgar, who proved to be a superior fighter despite the young Kensai's expertise with the blade. 

The fighting over the bridge was fierce, and my lone surviving samurai, Ssanuske Hanso was left to hold the bridge until my archers could get their act together and rid me of the barbarians, who had begun to ford the stream in order to get at my less able fighters. 

It was after Ulfgar himself had matched blades with Hanso and half my warband lay strewn across the riverbanks that the kami smiled on the men of Senji. A lowly ashigaru archer took aim, and loosed an arrow that flew true, striking one of the foreign invaders in the throat. His death was so horrid, his death rattle so disturbing, that the enemy who had bunched up in order to cross the bridge, broke and fled the field. 

The day was saved, and post battle was still horrible with my exploration of the nearby jungle led to the men of Senji being ambushed by lizardfolk, two walking wounded and one dead ashigaru. Ulfgar's men fared little better with one of Ulfgar's champions falling into a pit trap and Ulfgar himself suffering permanent wounds.

One of Ulfgar's horsemen tries to ride down
the were-turtle. 
Game 2: Ulfgar's Raiders vs. The Cult of the Crimson Turtle:   

The second game saw Ulfgar's battered men stumbling upon the Cult of the Crimson Turtle, made up of fanatical gnomes and... poisonous war turtles. The battle proved once again bloody, with Ulfgar nearly destroying the cult single handedly. Soon all that remained was the Crimson Wizard and four turtles performing history's slowest flanking manoeuvre.

It was as Ulfgar was about to trike down the cult's wizard that the most bizarre and amazing thing I have ever seen on the field of battle. As the wizard's lifeless corpse hit the ground it rose again and took on a horrid form. Unknown to the rest of us, the wizard was a were creature. And the wizard's animal form was... a turtle. A giant, Gamera-like turtle. Who proceeded to beat the life out of what remained of Ulfgar's men.

Even with earning the underdog bonus for loosing two games, Ulfgar received another crippling wound that may see his warband bowing out early from the campaign.

Game 3: Akematsu Clan vs. The Cult of the Crimson Turtle:
Being a man down and having witnessed the destructive potential of the wizard/were-turtle I was wary of facing the Cult. Unlike the previous pitched battle scenarios we played the Place of Power scenario. And lacking a wizard I was doubly worried about letting the wizard claim the magical statue in the middle of the table.

A tense melee breaks out with the Cults leaders. 
The opening moves went well with group actions getting my ashigaru archers to cover the approach to the place of power and Akematsu and the wounded Hanso ready to counter charge if need be.

Due to some poor activations the Crimson Wizard ended up making a rush for the sinister altar on his own. This was a crucial moment, as if I failed to drop the wizard, he would be on top of the place of power with his next move, and then all hell would break loose as his magic potential would be increased.

The ashigaru took aim and fired as a group. The first arrow dropped the wizard, and as the were-turtle rose in his stead it was promptly knocked off its feet by a second arrow, before a third arrow killed the monster before it could casue any more damage.

The ashigaru archers drop the were-turtle
with a deadly volley of arrows. 
despite loosing the were-turtle the Cult was still proving dangerous, with swift gnome troops outflanking my lines and the heavier gnome infantry occupying my better fighters. The game was still in the balance.

The fighting became bitter as the Cult made extensive use of the Poison ability to damage the quality of my fighters, making them less reactive and a liability, as I was risking turn overs if I failed too many activations with them. Akematsu Kensai dispatched the Cults leaders and proceeded to stomp on the Cult's turtles whilst on the other side of the shrine the archers became embroiled in a vicious fight with the leaping gnomes who were slowly poisoning their way through their ranks.

The archers fight to save their poisoned

In the end, with the gnomes eventually dead, the warband now consisting of turtles routed, leaving the field and the dark shrine in the hands of the men of Senji, who proceeded to cleanse it, and in so doing earning me another lizardman ambush. I managed to avoid any casualties so was in a good position for the next campaign turn. The Cult was left with only three living members (including one turtle) and so was in a bad position to carry on. 

With only one campaign turn played and two warbands looking at how to carry on, it proved just how bloody Song of Blades can be.

The biggest decision facing the Akematsu clan is what to spend our 30 gold coins on and how to spend our Campaign Points.

All in all the first turn has been a lot of fun, and it is a true testament to the brilliant nature of the mechanics that three newbies can pick up the rules and run a campaign in no time and have a brilliant time. The themes and narrative of the warbands have really made the campaign, and the were-turtle is a moment that will never leave me.

 The next campaign turn should happen in the next couple of weeks. I will keep you all updated on the warbands and scenery being made as well as a write up about how I went about making the scenery use for the campaign.

Next months hobby budget will go on more material to make some oriental buildings and ruins to help flesh out the Shinda Province as well as perhaps a custom written scenario. Oh and lots more samurai figures to paint.

Until next time,

-Banchou Badger

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Return

So, so, so sorry about the long period of silence. I am not dead, nor have I gone rogue and joined the struggle for freedom in Libya. I have been very busy having gained a new job a couple of times. Which means more money to spend on toys, but less time to paint. As such things have been a bit quiet.

Dark Eldar warrior. Test scheme
It has been a busy period of hobbying none the less. There was Salute in April (doubly sweet as it was the first one I did not have to work at!) and I think I have played more games of 40k in the last few months than I have in the last few years.

I got tired of the fact that out of the people in my regular gang of fellow gamers we all seemed to have Blood Angels, Chaos and Eldar. In light of this I embarked on a new project (yet again!) as such I have started a Dark Eldar army.

I fell in love with the new warriors and raider models, so assembled a couple of Raider squads in short order. I was really sold on the fluff for the Grotuesques and Wracks so decided to include these deadly troops. Until I saw the models that is. As such I have converted models from a now defunct manufacturer to fill the role (more on this in the next post!) The army as usual is accompanied by a number of conversions and scratch builds, including a Voidraven and the archon's raider (dubbed the Pimp Raider by the gamers).

The Pimp Riader, in all its yet to be
painted glory
I have had a couple of games with the army and so far, despite having to learn that Dark Eldar are definitely, without a doubt, not Orks, I am generally happy with how I have performed. The army is interesting and characterful with plenty of interesting units and more than enough to keep me converting and busy. All in all, an enjoyable army to collect. I may be biased as its my first GW army I am collecting since leaving their employ.

Apart from 40k I have been participating in a number of skirmish games. As many of you know, I am a huge skirmish games fan and was pleasantly surprised by the worst titled game of all time, Operation Squad World War II. Awful title, great little game. The initiative system and games mechanics makes for a dynamic, fluid game with plenty of intense action. At the moment I only have two games under my belt, but stay tuned for more thoughts and views on this great little skirmish game.

Things go from bad to worse for Sir Tristan
And finally... (well almost) me and my friend the Fungineer had a couple of games of Song Of Blades. Sir Tristan and his band of men took on the horrendous force of as yet unnamed ogres. We had two games in just under an hour and foud the system smooth, dynamic and highly narrative in how it unfolded (his irongut was so terrifying that as soon as he killed someone, all nearby enemies fled for their lives!). Sir Tristan remained true to his code and refused to flee the field unlike his men, who seemed to flee as soon as the ogres came into view.

The scenarios were enjoyable and and uniquely challenging . The campaign was a bit of an introduction for the Fungineer, but after the first two games he had a good grasp of the game, a testament as to just how player friendly the system is, and was hugely excited about designing warbands and getting involved in a longer campaign.

I am currently planning to get a couple of more players interested in order to run a prolonged campaign of Song of Blades. However, Sir Tristan may not be making an appearance. As usual, the mysteries of the Orient are calling to me, and as such, I have gone on a bit of an ebay binge and collected all the models I considered cool to bring a bit of Legend of the Five Rings to our forthcoming campaign. I have scoured ebay and nabbed models from Reaper, the now discontinued Clan Wars, Okko and the Perry twins.
Models from Reaper, Valiant and Okko
This has also spawned a wider project, and what started as getting six or so cool samurai models, has become me waiting for something in the region of 40 models. I am also making plans to create themed scenery, including lots of bamboo forests (there is always, ALWAYS, a showdown in a bamboo forest) and feudal Japanese buildings. More news as and when I can be bothered to continue the project.

Until next time (hopefully not too long)

-Banchou Badger

Sunday, 27 February 2011

A Musical Interlude

I am taking a brief break from painting Napoleonics, mainly because soon I will be cross eyed from painting all the white belts and straps, and soon all of my vision will be tinted red. I was planning to make this another Wargaming on a Budget post but it has become more of a compilation of my various thoughts on Ganesha Games' unique little game, Song of Blades and Heroes.

Sir Tristan, out to earn his spurs. 
Why did I choose Song of Blades? To be perfectly honest the first thing that caught my attention was the title. The rather poetic title, Song of Blades and Heroes, reminded me of the heroic tales of my boyhood. I have long professed my love of skirmish level games, but always thought that games such as Mordheim was always too limited in scope.

Men-At-arms engage a rampaging troll
I decided to take a chance and bought a pdf copy from Wargames Vault and began reading. I was extremely impressed with it on the whole. Although I was used to glossy finishes as found in GWs products, this little black and white little indy title had a nostalgic charm about it, and the art work reminded me of old style rpg rulebooks like the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. 

The System itself was radical to my mind. A wargame that functions with only two stats... Range sticks in three sizes rather than measuring tape? It all sounded crazy. After reading the rules for a second time cover to cover I realised more and more that these rules were the rules I always wanted to write. It had all the elements that my ideal skirmish game would have. This is a game not tied to setting or miniature line, where the players are free to create their own setting, factions and troops, with simple, quick mechanics and a simple yet involving campaign system.

Sir Tristan leads his Men-At-Arms through
ancient ruins
I soon ended up buying all of the expansion books that were not setting specific. And my creative juices were in overflow. My only problem seemed to be focusing one one idea for a warband.

I managed to capture the thrill of a new system, of a new game, without having to shell out on new models. I found myself scouring old cases and bits boxes rescuing old miniatures that had not seen use in years or projects that were never finished. I ended up digging out old models from Rackham, Reaper and even old Games Workshop  models.

For my first warband, I decided to go 'old school'. One of my earliest ever miniature armies was a Britonian Army for Warhammer 5th edition. I opted for Bretonians back then because I always had a fascination with medieval knights (my earliest memory is seeing Ivanhoe as a child). So I dug out a bunch of the old men-at-arms from the days when Bretonia was full of heroic, chivalrous knights (as opposed to snobbish peasant abusers that they are now) and began rebasing them.

Classic Bretonian Men-At-Arms, rebased and repainted 
As I was working on the army list, a simple narrative began to form itself. It was liberating to build a force not constrained by someone else's setting or army list. Here I was free to build my own narrative. So the rather cliched knight errant Sir Tristan and his band of retainers were born.

For the leader, Sir Tristan, I decided on a Confrontation Paladin of Alahel with a head swap. The warband was shaping up, with a leader and some archers and men-at-arms. I decided to fill the roster with slightly more unique models. I added a Reaper Dwarf fihter of some description, and thus Sir Tristan's old drill master and sometime bodyguard Baradan Stonefist was born. Creating the warband has been a joy. So much so that I am now working on four additional warbands, all based on rescued old models. I have even began planning multiple versions of Sir Tristan depending on how he progresses in future campaigns.

Baradan Stonefist
I managed to get 9 models painted in a couple of afternoons. Considering these were all painted in Non Metallic Metals (NMM) I was rather pleased with myself. It was a nice change of pace to work on someting that wasn't painted as part of a batch of 30 odd.

With Sir Tristan and his retinue complete, work has already begun on a band of orc raiders (including the troll picture above) as well as more scenery and some treasure/loot counters. Most of the scenery will be GW with the occasional treasure chest looted from Hero Quest.

In other news, I am looking into the possibility of self publishing some miniature rules online (through Wargames Vault for examplle) however this is still a long way off, as none of my rules are in the play test stages yet.

Until next time I leave you with some images of Sir Tristan and his warriors.

-Banchou Badger

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Recent Activeties

Sorry about the delay boys, girls and badgers. Real life has just been keeping me busy at the moment with all sorts of things, so although I have been busy hobby wise I have not had time to photograph and post things.

So what's new you may ask? Well a couple of things. A Fistful of Sixes is progressing slowly as I am trying to make the thing flow a lot more. Both in mechanics and in the language used (want to avoid ending up like the Flames of War rulebook if possible). I am also digging out and reworking a set of starship rules which I called Shoulder of Orion and revisiting the setting I first wrote for an aborted rpg campaign from seven or so years ago.

Central Solar Union Icarus class light fighter
Model is made of 40k components such as plasma pistols
Shoulder of Orion was an attempt to make a spaceship combat game based on a fighter squadron rather than a fleet and to have individual pilots earn experience and skills. The game was inspired by series like Battlestar Galactica and novels such as the Star Wars Rogue Squadron series. I was also inspired by computer games such as Colony Wars and more recently Galaxy on Fire on the iPhone. The system needs a reworking to streamline gameplay and the campaign system needs finishing, but hopefully once I get more fighters built it will be ready for some playtests.

Well the painting table is starting to look like a battlefield. Quite literally...

The Duke of Wellington issues orders 
Scots Grays advance through French artillery fire
Last year I began a project that fell through because I was taking too long to paint things. I have since gone back to it and managed to figure out a way to paint a group of 8 British Line Infantry in under 4 hours. So in the last week I have dug out and dusted out my Victrix and Perry Miniatures British Napoleonic miniatures as well as acquiring a French army on the cheap. The intention is to create two armies for Warlord Games excellent Black Powder rules. The British are coming along well with a unit of cavalry and two units of infantry painted. The French need some work. The danger's alas of second hand bargains are a series of broken bayonettes and missing backpacks, despite this a unit of Old Guard Grenadiers are painted.

I have to admit before last year I never had an interest in gaming the period, but my research of uniforms and campaigns has really inspired me. I committed to doing the Waterloo campaign early on as I thought painting gray trousers would be easier than painting white trousers. However I have to say I kind of wished I did the Peninsular War instead, as it has more scope (and officers in bicorns look great!).

33rd West Riding Regiment advance with the colours
I have only played one game of Black Powder. And for an extremely quirky game with some odd ideas, its an extremely entertaining system to play. Its easy to pick up and play and extremely quick flowing. I was incredibly impressed with it and to be honest have been looking forwards to the next opportunity to play.

In other news, this month sees me pick up yet another system! (On the cheap mind you!) After lots of wheeler dealing and swaps, I managed to amass myself an army for Flames of War. Since there were three of us starting at the same time, all getting started with a basic company plus one or two support options, we decided to do the armies Tale of Four (well three) Gamers style. As such I am starting a British Paratroopers force based on John Frost's defence of Arnheim bridge as depicted in A Bridge Too Far. My two friends have started U.S. Infantry and German Panzergrenadiers. More on them next time when I will share my initial impressions on Flames of War and show you how I am progressing with painting 15mm for the first time.

Until Next Tim,

-Banchou Badger

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Wargaming on a Budget: Planing and Discipline

Sorry about the delay folks, real life has been getting in the way for the last couple of days and so I have had very little time to write.

Ok so lets get on with it shall we?

In the last post I touched briefly on planning your army in order to make sure you stayed within budget. Well today's post is all about planning and then  making sure you are disciplined enough to stay your course. For all of us true hobbyists, this is the most challenging thing for us to master. We are slaves to our impulses and 'shiny stuff' syndrome. I am a victim of this more often than not, and have ended up with entire game systems I have only ever played once or twice (damn you Helldorado, Operation Overlord, and a handful of others). I have also fallen victim to buying models just because 'they look cool', only for them to then not be used in my main force (like most of my Infinity models). Nothing is worse than your army or project constantly spiralling out of control as you constantly revise your army or buy models on impulse.

My trusty codex and an old army list
In recent years I started to make sure all of my armies were properly planned out before I started dropping cash on it. It may take longer to get your project off the ground, but at least you will have a clear idea of where you are going. So get your pen, paper, rules and army books. Get a cup of tea and sit down for a good old think.

There is really no excuse for not planning your list these days. There are countless excell spreadsheet army builders, electronic products like Army Builder by Lone Wolf Studios and things like iBodger and website based army builders such as Infinity Pool or . Whatever system you play, there is an army builder out there for it.

Planning your army has the obvious benefit of letting you budget for your army. Knowing how many models and of what type is a massive advantage. I was recently talking to a friend online who was planning a new army (and new game system to boot). Using his list and an online hobby store we could calculate to the penny just how much his army was going to cost him.

Seeing how ridiculously expensive your army is going to be will also give you some measure on how to save money and cut corners. You will have a rough idea of what models can be used from your previous projects and what may have to be converted in order to save on cash.

There are numerous ways to do all of this naturally. I tend to plan an army in its entirety, having studied the army books and rules carefully in order to make sure I have a list I think can be workable. Others (and I have done this in the past) would probably prefer to plan their army in stages or chunks. For 40k and other GW games this is easily done, armies can be conveniently planned in 500 odd point chunks and each stage of the army can be planned based on game performance and the tactical needs of your force.

However you decide to plan, the most important thing is that you stick to your plans and that you get all the painting done. This is where most hobbyists fall short, in getting all your purchases painted. I will talk more about speed painting at a later date, so stay tuned.

My reward, starting to paint my Daiymo command stand
I tended to 'reward ' myself by allowing myself to paint a character/centre piece model after I had finished a couple of rank and file units. Keeping yourself motivated is important, and making sure you get a unit finished at a time is a huge boost to your morale levels, as it gives a sense of seeing your army coming together.

For my ongoing Sengoku project I managed to finish a unit of 16 Ashigaru last week. as a reward for myself, I started painting one of the Daiymo's samurai retainers. Although only 1/72 scale, the model is nicely detailed and a real joy to paint. I have half a dozen or so of these models, and hopefully that will be enough to keep me motivated for the rest of the project.

Setting yourself a budget may be the easiest way of trying to stick to your plans. So if you change your mind about a unit, just make sure that the replacement unit comes in at the same price or lower. Its difficult to do I know, but when you have limited funds, you have to bite the bullet and compromise.

Unlike conversions and model making, this is the aspect I struggle with the most. I brainstorm ideas and that will lead to me buying tons of models. I will let you know how I progress with my two main projects at the minute, both the Samurai army and the Pulp Skirmish game.

Until Next Time,
-Banchou Badger

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Wargaming on a Budget: Those who can... Convert!

So last time I talked a bit about changing your scale, and this time I am going to talk about possibly my favourite aspect of the hobby: Conversions. Well I will be talking a bit about scratch building and scavenging too.

First of all converting is not for everyone. Its one of those things some people just seem to be able to do. Maybe I honed my skills with all the lego I played with as a kid, but I love looting bits from different kits and mashing them together for something new. Later, as I became involved in the hobby, I started doing some basic sculpting as well, and recently, started doing some scratch building.

Conversions can be an expensive undertaking, but if you are like me, then you should already have a nice fat bitz box to raid for parts and inspiration. Its surprising what you can come up with, even if its just the odd character, that's still a good six quid you've saved.

I will talk more about this in a future post but the key to making this all work out to you having saved some cash is planning. You need to have a clear idea of what models (and how many) you need to complete your army, and roughly what resources you have available.
Mordor Orcs, including converted banner bearer

Conversions can be as simple as doing a weapon or head swap. For my Mordor Army for War of the Ring I found that the average box of Orcs did not contain enough archers or Orcs with great weapons for my needs. Luckily I had a load of spare archers from other races, and simple started swapping some arms. Not only did this give me the archers I needed, it gave me more poses than the two that were provided in the box. I also converted Orc banner bearers as well as task masters and trackers, all so I wouldn't have to shell out for the metal blisters. This may seem really frugal, but even with the healthy Games Workshop discount at the time, I just could not afford the metals.

Converted Queen Beruthiel .
Made from a Barrow Wight, Arwen, and Green Stuff. 
These were largely minor conversions, but when you have 72 Orcs as one formation, you don't have time to spend hours on each model (I painted said 72 Orcs plus some characters and monsters in about 5 days. Speed painting post will come in the next few weeks).

Converted Ranger of the North. Head, chest and hair have
all been sculpted from Green Stuff. 
Next, sculpting. Green Stuff is fairly expensive if bought in the shops, but if you head online you can pick up large amounts for the price of a GW blister pack, so search around you will be suprised by the bargains you can find. I mostly find myself doing this for troop types that have no official model yet, or models that are so horrible I just have to make my own. My Queen Beruthiel, for my Easterling Allies was created from spares I had kicking around and some green stuff.

At times, I just can't justify buying a blister/box simply for a single model I need from the bunch. I needed a Ranger of the North to complete my 500 point Gondor force for a campaign I was taking part in. I really didn't feel like spending £8 on getting three of them, when only one would be used. I rooted around my trusty bitz box and found a Numenorean archer, and after beheading him started sculpted a new head. The model ended up being extremely characterful, and remains one of my favourite conversions to this day.

So how about something larger? Something perhaps not Lord of the Rings related? Something that saves me more than £8? How about this then?

Converted Imperial Guard Medusa
This is my converted Medusa for my budget Death Korps army. The project is on hold for the minute as Wargames Factory, maker of my cheap alternative infantry are currently undergoing some... changes. And as I need at least one more box of their Shock Troopers I am currently putting the project on hold.

Detail view of the turret and commander. 

The Medusa came about because I found an old Hellhound I had built years ago, minus the turret. I was wracking my brains as to what to do with the chassis of it and a Leeman Russ tank I had kicking about also with no turret (bloody turret gnomes stealing my turrets!). I decided rather than order pricey Forge World conversion kits, I would try scratch building. The Medusa was my first attempt at something like this, and proved to be both challenging and fun. The crew compartment was made from bits of base/movement tray provided with my plastic Napoleonic troops from Perry Miniatures and Warlord Games. It took some cutting and filling but I finally got the basic shape built. I then made the gun from spare bits from a Storm Blade (I got the bits from a friend) but it could easily be made out of bits of plastic or brass tubing and some plastic rod. Final detailing was made with plastic card and green stuff.

Finished and ready for a lick of paint
This saved me in the region of £30 (The full kit is some £51) and ensured that the spare bit off Hellhound found a good home. I applied the same techniques to making my command tank, a Leeman Russ Vanquisher  crewed by Knight Commander Pask. This conversion was more of a proverbial pain in the behind to pull off as the Leeman Russ turret shape stupidly fiddly to pull off. I managed it by using the actual turret from another Russ to use as a template (even tracing around it) and this just about worked out. I ended up covering the damned thing in armour plates, scrolls and stowage in the end so the unsightly bits are... well out of sight. Also the more astute amongst you will notice that the barrel of the Vanquisher cannon is made from a piece  of Battlefield Accessory. Another £15 or so saved.

Knight Commander Pask in his trusty Leeman Russ
The entire idea of this project was to build an Imperial Guard on the cheap and still be able to field cool minis that were way out of my budget.  Even the standard infantry were a fraction of the cost of the GW equivalent. A word of warning however if you intend to use alternative models, if they are not produced by GW they will not be allowed in a GW store. Since I don't intend to play in a GW that often anyway, this was no problem for me. 

All in all I managed to get away with spending something in the region of £40 on new models, reusing or converting spare bits I had lying around. I realise that converting, sculpting and scratch building is not for everyone, and it is rather time consuming (as is nearly every aspect of our hobby), but it can be an enjoyable endeavour in and of itself, and so it should not be over looked. I really recommend trying it out, as even just converting some characters etc can go a long way to save you cash. If you do need advice and help on the matter, I suggest heading into your local GW or checking online for ideas and inspirations. If there is enough demand for it I will post some pointers on the matter in the future. 
Converted Tech-Priest

In other news, my pulp rules, A Fist Full of Sixes, is practically writing itself, having been massively inspired (or ripped off) from White Wolf's old Story Teller System, and a copious amount of alcohol (yeah fell asleep writing them after much beer). I am trying to at least type up all of my drunken hand written notes by the end of next week and hopefully do some play testing the week after. Will let you all know how it all comes along. 

Until next time,

-Banchou Badger