Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scratch made terrain

Last week, I was reading Iowa Grognard's blog on making a farm field with something called Durham's Water Putty. Whenever I've needed to build up terrain in my Field of Glory camps, I used GW Green Stuff and Milliput.  These are both serviceable but expensive options.  I was ready to try something new so over the weekend, I bought three 10" by 8" hardboards and a 4 lb can of Durham's Water Putty.  Here's a shot of the project, minus the fork and butter knife from the pantry I used for shaping the putty.  Don't tell my wife!

First, I shaped the hardboard with a jigsaw and a palm sander.  Then I mixed up a batch of Water Putty.  The recipe calls for a ratio of 3 parts dry mix to 1 part water but that was too soupy for my purposes.  I found a 4 to 1 ratio perfect for this project.  I experimented with bringing sand and grit in to the pieces.  For the farm field, I mixed sand in while mixing up the water and dry mix.  As I learned, you don't want to do that.  The rocks and grit made it difficult to shape the terrain and I ended up picking out many of the rocks so I could get a fork through it.  Plus, it mostly just gets swallowed into the putty.  For the second piece, I pressed sand and small rocks directly into the putty while it was setting up.  In the third, I waited until the putty dried and added the sand and grit after painting the base coat I used a fork to make the furrows in  the farm field and a butter knife for putting swirls into the other two pieces of terrain-just like frosting a cake!
Spoiler alert...the middle one turns out best!

I let the putty cure overnight.  Then I painted all three with Ceramcoat Burnt Umber and sprinkled some Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast flocking onto the wet paint.  When the basecoat dried, I put a coat of diluted Elmer's Glue over the top to lock up the flocking.  I dry brushed with Vallejo Leather Brown and then a touch of Ceramcoate Cafe con Leche over that for highlights.  For the last step, I painted a ribbon of Elmer's Glue around the edges and sprinkled Woodlan Scenics Blended Turf over that.

I'm usually my own worst critic but this time, I'm very pleased with the results.  One of best thing about this project is that the last two pieces can double as many different types of terrain in Field of Glory.


Pros on making your own terrain:
  • Low cost, especially if you have some or most of the project supplies already on hand.
  • Versatility.  A single piece can double as many of the terrain types necessary.
  • Pride.  It's nice when you can make something yourself and it turns out well. Nice and surprising. 
  • Time.  While fairly quick, the project does take some time to get done.
  • Durability.  Commercial terrain generally comes in plastic or latex that doesn't break or wear out.   
I plan on making gullies, marshes and impassible terrain in the future.  Despite my new found confidence in making my own terrain, I'm still in the market to buy commercial terrain.  I need more hills and makes excellent hills that match my battle mat perfectly. 

When I finish painting up a new army, I'm eager to get them on a tabletop as soon as possible.  Oddly, I feel the same way about this terrain.  I can't wait to get these pieces into play at our next meetup in August. Now if I could just learn how to make a decent set of dice. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

It takes 2 buildings to make a village

Over the next year, I plan to upgrade my terrain in Field of Glory.  I have a few nice pieces but I also have  too many felt pieces.  With the time and effort as I've put into painting four armies in the last year, its time to step up the other part of the visual presentation.  Money is an issue so I'll try my hand at making terrain with hardboard and wood putty.  Over the weekend, I couldn't pass up this 15mm building by JR Miniatures for $6.  With a Mediterranean feel, its perfect for the armies I run and a match for another building I've already painted. 
Primed white and ready to go.
Brown wash to give it age and character.  
White drybrush, some highlights and done!  I now have the start of a village.
Very affordable and very easy to get this into tabletop condition.  Now I need to order some hardboard from DickBlick, buy wood putty from the hardware store and then make the terrain for the buildings to to sit in.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My enemy, my dice...

This could equally well be titled "my enemy, myself."  Here's a synopsis of what didn't work today in my Field of Glory match.  I was running Early Carthaginians for the first time.  I've run Late Carthage but recently, I painted up the Sacred Band and also heavy chariots.  I felt pretty good about my list with Numidian Allies but I made mistakes in deployment that came back to haunt me.  I was facing a Principate Roman army built around 2 Superior Legions of 8 bases plus a 3rd rank of archers.  These guys are tough as nails and I'm not sure what I was thinking, going straight at them like I did.
Hope springs eternal on turn 1. 
 Numidian Ally brought Ellies and 2 Numidian Ligh Horse. 
The board was like a pool table with almost no terrain of any kind.  Deployment was somewhat boring as well, with forces shoulder to shoulder on one half of the board.  This tight deployment favored my Roman opponent, who only had 12 units to my 15.  My first mistake was that I failed to execute a outflanking march once I saw how close to the table's edge my opponent planted his camp.  Also, I deployed my archer armed heavy chariots too far off on my right flank. And the Sacred Band should have been in the center and not out on the flank.
Scutarii watch in awe as the drilled Romans execute a parade march.
In the early game, my opponent refused to face my 2 Numidian Light Horse and my Heavy Chariots anchoring my right flank.  He pulled off repeated Complex Movement Tests and double moved out on my right flank, dragging my chariots with them.  My chariots never came to grips with his Cavalry or anything else for that matter.  At 4" a turn, I couldn't keep pace and he skillfully kept me worrying about my flank.  I should have had a Numidian Light Horse out on my far right flank supporting the Chariots.  Another mistake. 

The boys in gold are also called The Conceited Band behind their backs. 
On my left, things started well.  The camp was covered only by Roman light artillery so I sent my Balearic Slingers at them.  My Sacred Band faced down the Catafractarii who had to pass a CMT to not charge.  Feeling lucky, my opponent sent them in the very next turn and the Armored Superior Offensive Spear made short work of the armored horse!  Unfortunately, the ballistas ripped up my Slingers and I had to call off my attempt to sack his camp.

The original Bloody Angle.
In the center, I managed to draw the Roman medium archers up into charge distance of my African Spear and I went in. With a double plus bonus, the African Spear should have made short work of of the medium archers.  No such luck.  We were locked up for 3 or 4 turns and my opponent kept throwing 10s and 11s on his morale checks.  Oh fortuna, why hast thou abandoned me so early in the game?
Elephants wondering why they haven't been stuck in.
While we slugged it out with the medium archers, his legion went in and quickly cut my African Spear to bits.  In short order two battlegroups were fragmented.  I had some bad luck with my light horse as well.  I had charged my Numidians into his Light Horse archers.   Even though I was up and had a general, you can see in the end my boys routed through the Spanish Scutarii, disrupting the Spaniards in the process.  Ouch. 
Oh the shame.  What will we tell our mothers?

Cue final credits.
While it was a poor start for my Early Carthaginian army, I'm not going to change this list until I've had a couple more battles to get a better feel for it.  A good portion of our club runs Romans and I'm still trying to crack the code on how to match up with them.  This is a primer of how NOT to do it.  I should have:
  • delayed the center and tried to pick off enough other units to get his army to break.   
  • put the Sacred Band in the center where they could have matched and stalled the Legions.
  • got my elephants and chariots into battle. 
  • bought a new box of dice.  
The Law of Large Numbers did not kick in for me today.  At one point, a spectator  started laughing out loud as I pitched handfuls of 1s and 2s over and over again.  Someone suggested I take my dice home, pull every 10th die and smash it in front of the others.  Dice-e-mate them.

Most importantly though, my opponent played a tight game with few mistakes and I can't say the same. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Light Horse-Queen of the ancient battlefield?

I've been playing Field of Glory for almost a year and I find there is much to learn from every game.  I replay the match in my head as I drive home and in the days that follow.   I think about what worked and what failed.  I won’t be writing about my failures just yet due to the risk of inducing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  I’d like to share something that works for me from game to game.  I’ve come to the conclusion that point for point, Light Horse is the best investment in the game.  And I’ve got a Carthaginian army list with 3 units of Numidian Light Horse to prove it! 

Saddles? Numidians don't need no stinking saddles!
Is the enemy jamming you with Light Foot?  Wheel your Light Horse over and charge them off the field!  If your opponent makes the mistake of standing in the face of a Light Horse charge, you’ll shortly be up 2 attrition points!  Is your opponent launching Pachyderms in your direction? Send a unit of Javelin armed Light Horse over and send them packing.  Want to sack your opponent’s camp but don’t know how?  Send a unit of Light Horse on a flank march!  With a double move of 14", Light Horse can stymie your opponent's second move.  I’ve used Light Horse to tie up an elite Legion in one game and the Sacred Band in another.  Denying your opponent the opportunity to stick in their best battle group with 28 points of Light Horse is an investment you can't pass up. Light Horse may not actually be the queen of the battlefield but they are the ultimate skirmishers.  
Akinjis bringing the spring colors.

In a crisis, you can create your very own “Charge of the Light Brigade.”  In a recent multiplayer match, 6 bases of Teutonic Knights were closing in on the rear of my allies’ Knights who were stuck in melee.  With no other help available, I charged my Akinjis Lights into the Teuton flank in hopes of delaying them just long enough for my ally to extricate himself from his delicate situation.  My Lights lasted through impact and melee phase.  The Knights conformed by turning bases and then expanded to crush the Lights.  Fists full of dice were thrown and yet, against all odds, the Lights held for two more turns!  Mission accomplished!

As we ride out into the sunset, I’ll share the lyrics to ancient Numidian Cavalry song that Woody Guthrie found and adapted for his classic, “I Ride an Old Paint.”

“I ride a Light Horse, I lead a fast pack, I’m going to the rear, I’ve a camp to sack,
We feed on the Light Foot, we water in the draw, our tails are matted, our opponents are raw,

Old man Giso, he had two sons, one joined the Lights and the other went wrong, 
his boy he died on the plains of Cannae, but still he keeps singing all of the day.

Ride around Light Horse, ride around real fast, hold the enemy by the nose and kick them in the..."