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