Monday, June 23, 2014

Interlude, With Airplanes

Today, I want to take a break from El Principade de le Comadreja, and take a little walk back to last summer, when I embarked upon a new hobby path. Or picked back up a very old one, depending on your point of view.

By June of last year, I realized I needed a break from wargaming miniatures. I hadn't painted anything in a while, but I was always organizing, sorting, and making grand plans for the remainder of my collection. I would alternately pull out and pack away again my various 15mm, 28mm, and prepainted collections trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Nothing ever really got done, and I realized I just needed a break from the whole model soldier thing. All of a sudden, I had some spare time and no idea what I wanted to do with it.

As it turned out, I wanted to build model airplanes. I had an old P-40 Warhawk and a P-70 Nighthawk, both in 1/48 scale, still in their boxes awaiting some attention. So I decided that 1/48 WWII aircraft would be my new hobby. At least for a while. As a child, I had built airplanes in a variety of scales, usually haphazardly and with minimal interior detailing or painting. So, starting in October of last year until very recently, I puttered with my airplane kits, slowly assembling them before moving on to the next. I think I had better airplane assembly skills back when I was a teenager, because all of these kits gave me trouble in one way or another. But I am more patient now, and fully painted every sub-assembly before it was attached to the next step. So, even while the assembly of these kits leave a lot to be desired, the overall effect is better than what I was creating back when plastic models was all that I did.

Enough commentary, on to the pictures!

P-40 Warhawk

The P-40 was a bit of a workhorse for the USAAF, this one is painted for North Africa and ios loaded for some ground attack missions as well as air superiority. The kit was an old AMT one, but it went together smoothly and was probably the perfect plane to get me back into the groove of building plastic airplanes.

P-70 Nighthawk

The Nighthawk was a variation of the A-26, modified to be a nightfighter and reconaissance craft. The baomb bay was replaced with bigger guns and a huge ammo hopper, and various fun things like radar was added. I think it is remakably big for a two-seater. It was an old AMT kit, and gave me very few problems except for the landing gear, which was a nightmare. I think I re-did the struts five or so times, and finally just dripped superglue over them and held them in place until the plane sat level.

J2M3 Raiden

An cousin of the A6 series Zero, this interceptor was fraught with design problems from the intial prototypes to the final producion models. However, I have built so mmany Zeros over the course of my life that I wanted a different kind of Japanese plane. I really wanted a Betty bomber, but in 1/48 scale they are prohibitively large. Besides, this was under $15 which is a fine price for a weekend project. This was a Ta,iya kit. Tamiya had always been the benchmark for quality when I was younger, and this one did not diappoint.

J7W1 Shinden

And when it comes to different kinds of Japanese planes, I have to say that this has got to be the craziest looking plane I have seen from WWII. It was designed with the pusher-prop so that it could be replaced with a jet engine when the technology became available. Even by my modern standards, this looks like it comes from outer space. It did not enter production quickly enough to see service before the end of the war. The kit was Hasegawa, and was perhaps a little beyond my basic assembly skills. I muddled through and am happy with the result.

He 162 Volksjager

The last gasp of Nazi airpower, this jet fighter was designed to be built of plywood and intended to be flown by Hitler Youth Corps pilots trained in to fly in gliders. They saw one engagement with experienced pilots at the stick before the end of the war. I think they look a lot like what a goblin would be like if one were an airplane. A goblin plane, if you will. The kit was from DML, with photo-etched brass parts. I had never worked with photoetched brass before, and I do not want to do so again. The whole thing was a damn pain in the ass to put together, and in my opinion less due to my lack of skill than this was just a poor-fitting kit. My next project will be either Revell/Monogram, or Tamiya. Those are where I need to be in terms of fit,  complexity, and skill.

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Minatures Have Arrived!


My little box of soldiers arrived in the mail. I bought a single box of plastic War of the Spanish Succession Infantry, manufactured by Wargames Factory. This gives me 24 models in marching pose, and 12 of optional configurations. But before I can very excitably start assembling these guys, I really REALLY need to know which forces I am building, and how they will be organized.

To start with, I wanted to figure out exactly what I was doing with the troops of El Principado de la Comadreja. Since they are nominally from the Spanish Netherlands, and heavily influenced by the Holy Roman Empire, I decided to use the Prussian soldier listing from the core Songs of Drums and Shakos rules. To make it really easy, and to keep my “everyman” feel for the force, I decided on basic line infantry and a NCO. With a target size of about 300 points, that neatly gave me a group of 10, with 9 soldiers and an NCO all equipped with muskets and the NCO additionally with a sword. Literally, I was up in the middle of the night working on these things, I was that excited to be working on them. It has been FOREVER since I have started a whole new project like this, and by the time I got my miniatures in hand, it was time to get started. I got a little happy with the multi-part soldiers, using four of them to make the NCO and three troopers, the other six were all the marching poses. I used a variety of Tricorn heads for them, exactly the look I had envisioned. These were EXACTLY what I wanted and damn, I am happy with them. I can’t remember the last time I was this pleased with what $20 had brought me.

I had forgotten to decide something important before assembling my models; namely, how I was going to base them. It wasn’t until after they were finished that I decided I wanted to trim the integral bases off, and pin them to 25mm round plastic bases. So I went ahead and prepared the bases, while those were drying up I removed the bases from the feet of the figures. I lost a few swords and a head or two while doing this, but nothing that could not be re-attached easily. A quick coat of white gesso to prime them, and the first group of soldiers for El Principado de la Comadreja were ready for painting.

My favourite color combination is black and yellow... originally I just thought it was pleasingling wasp-like, but I later learned that those colors are associated with suicide in Freudian psychology; now, it is my absolute favorite! So a nice black uniform, with yellow stockings, cuffs, and scarf sounds just the trick. And the waistcoat and trousers in dark grey, just to break it up a little. And as a final touch, white powdered hair and/or wogs far ahead of their time, just to make a nice contrast to all the black. And then, as I started to do the detail work, I slowly remembered what an absolute pain in the ass it is to paint yellow...

My immediate follow-up was my second assembly project, which I had been really looking forward to. I was going to build El Conejo Malo himself, the Lacepunk Punkrabbitt. I have gotten pretty good over the years at removing the feet, bunny tail, and head from a variety of Ral Partha’s Leaper and Thumper models, and then re-attaching them, Frankenstein-style, to plastic models. This time was no different, but I really wanted him to have a tricorn like the rest of my models. Fortunately, the WSS Infantry set come with plenty of extra heads, so it was no problem to remove the head from one and drop it onto the bunny head of my new conversion piece.

Except… except it looked too big. I don’t have a picture of it, but it definitely didn’t look right. So, I decided on a tiny tricorn, more like what a lady would wear in the city, but easily available from some leftover Essex 15mm WSS Dutch I had bought a lifetime ago and never finished. So I clipped the little hat off a dragoon, tried it on for size, and it looked perfect on his head. A little putty work for hair and I have a new tabletop avatar!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

El Conejo Malo!

One of the things I always like to do when I start a new period is to create my own personal avatar, a Punkrabbitt miniature appropriate to the setting.

I have done Pirate Punkrabbitt:

I have done  Space Pirate Punkrabbitt:

 And I have done  Post-Apocalyptic Punkrabbitt:

So I really must, MUST create one to go with my Imagi-Nation project. And while “Age of Reason Punkrabbitt” or “Lacepunk Punkrabbitt” (with apologies to John the OFM) doesn’t have quite the same catchy ring to it as the others, I certainly plan to create this model. Probably as the first thing I do once I get my box o’ plastic miniatures.

On second thought, I do like the sound of “Lacepunk Punkrabbitt.” But I digress.

As I mentioned in my last posting, I realized I need to learn something about 18th century warfare. As it turns out, this is a surprisingly difficult subject to research on the internet (especially if, like me, one does not have a good frame of reference of even how to start researching something like that.) I came across one (yes, just one) dedicated research site about the Seven Years’ War, which was later than I was really looking for, but provided some good insight. Check it out at Kronoskaf  Largely my information about European warfare circa 1725 came, again, from The Miniatures page. I went through literally YEARS worth of postings to come up with some concrete ideas on how to organize my little groups of soldiers. Of particular interest, despite what I had presumed from the Song of Drums and Shakos rules, is that small skirmish groups of soldiers would most likely be all of the same basic type. Thus, a group of 3 line infantry, 2 Grenadiers, 4 Hussars, and a Dragoon would be HIGHLY unlikely. Thus, when I get around to actual troop organization, I think my “special” troops will be grouped along national lines; the French may be all Grenadiers, British might be Dragoons, and the average Line Infantry will be reserved for El Principado de la Comadreja, as they are my Everyman, my protagonists. As time goes on, I may include a new group for various nations here and there. We will have to see.

Yes, this one was short. But you got to see cool self-referential miniatures of mine, so I think it’s a fair trade.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Consideration Of Rules...

So I really wanted to start my 18th century tricorn project, I had some good ideas that granted needed some serious fleshing out but I really wanted to get this thing going.

The biggest obstacle, for me, was actually deciding which rules to use, because rules define the forces, and the forces are which models I needed to buying. I like skirmish gaming, really with not more than ten or twenty models per side on the table, and occasionally five or under. The idea of those massive army battles, with regiments and battalions and the 8’ long table, while very attractive, also seem like an impossibly long time to prepare for, what with purchasing and painting the hundreds of models and creating enough scenery and finding the time to actually stage such a battle… no, it must be skirmishes for me, no doubt about it. And, of course, since I have already been a skirmish player for years, I had quite a few ideas about what might work.

My go-to rules set is Vor: The Maelstrom. Simple, with alternating activation, and some easy to use custom force rules that can be tweaked to do literally anything. I have used these rules for just about everything from modern to far future science fiction at one point or another. I know them inside and out, and are at the top of my list of Best Rules Ever. But after some serious thought, I realized they lack a certain feel for the black powder era, and I moved on.

I asked on The Miniatures Page about what might be some good skirmish rules for the tricorn era, and I got two good recommendations. The first was a game called Donnybrook, which I had never heard of. As it turns out, it hadn’t quite been released yet. After it was released, I read some reviews, and it didn’t seem to be quite what I was looking for. This was also true of the second recommendation, Sharpe Practice. Both looked like good games, and maybe I will get to try them some day. But not this time.

The third recommendation was Song of Drums and Shakos from Ganesha Games, which is really for Napoleonic wargaming but easily handles black powder warfare at a skirmish level from about 1700 to 1865. And, in the event that I wanted to add more fantastical elements to my games, the root game rules, Song of Blades and Heroes, is fully compatible; there would be no problem finding rules for Ottoman war elephants, if I so chose. Best of all, I already both owned both sets of rules as well as several expansions for them. And I have no idea why I didn’t think of these rules first off.

So, I finally had my rules, and it was time to start working on my initial forces. First off, I wanted to figure out what to field for El Principado de la Comadreja. And to do that, I would actually have to do a little research on the principles of warfare in 1725.