Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Sultan steps up

I finally got my Later Ottoman Turks on the tabletop against Al's Later Serbian army today.  Al's girlfriend Genna was co-running the Serbs and they made a great team! I couldn't help but notice more people approached us about our game than usual.  Coincidence?  I don't think so!

The Serbian army was knight heavy with cavalry, loads of lancer armed light horse and a single foot unit of medium archers.  My army was built around Janissary with a good deal of foot troops in support. I knew that if I didn't play this carefully, Al would roll me right off the table. My first break came when I won initiative and was able to select Hilly as my terrain choice.  I put down 2 brush and 3 steep hills to give my foot troops somewhere to hide from Al's knights. 
My Serbian Ally knights getting ready to go against...Serbs. 

Al put his knights down in the center.  I knew I'd get overpowered there so I deployed heavily on the flanks and left a screening force in the center.  In the early game, all the action was on the flanks while the knight block contemplated its options.   I pushed my Janissary up to secure the brush on the left flank and the steep hill on the right.  I was hoping that the difficult terrain would make it impossible for Al and Genna to send  knights in against them.  I hoped to pour archer fire down into the center of the board or in the alternate, support my left and right flanking maneuvers.

One of the great things about this Ottoman army is that everything except the Serbian Knights and the camp shoots.  For the first half of the game, I couldn't hit anything.  I did make good progress pushing both the left and right flanks out.  I realized if I ventured too far out, the Serbian knight block would crush me.  That's why I was content to stand pat on my left flank with a defensive line built in the brush.
On my right, I pushed forward into his Al's Light Horse. With my knights in tow, it was slow going.  Even worse, lance armed Serbian Lights chewed through a battlegroup of Akinjis in a single turn and then sacked my camp. Ouch!  4 quick points to my opponent!
Al saw an opportunity and pitched into my left flank in the brush.  His lance armed Serbian Lights went into my Janissary Handgunners and a block of knights went into the Janissary medium foot (in blue). The poor terrain and some good dicing on my part resulted in a flurry of disrupted markers for the Serbians.  While I could not hit a thing in the first half of the game, my archery fire was accurate in the second half.
The game was decided in a place I'll call the "Bloody Angle." The Serbs had me in a pinch, literally and figuratively.  If the Serbian Lights broke my handgunners, they'd sweep in on the flank of my Jannisary.  If the Serbian Knights broke the janissary, they'd sweep the handgunners. This melee ground on out over 3 or 4 turns. 
At a crucial point, my Janissary wavered and went disrupted. I then lost badly in melee and had to make a morale check with a death roll.  I needed a good roll with higher being better.  
Yes!  At turns end, the Jannisary rallied back from disruption.  The knights were neutralized and the Lights broke. On the far right flank, I'd pushed through the light cavalry screen and was a turn away from sacking the camp. Game called with my very first win with the Turks! 
This fast-paced game was a complete change of pace from running my Gallic or Carthaginian heavy foot armies.  It was interesting enough that a couple of people pulled up chairs and watched the second half.  It was also by far the best game I've played and of course it didn't hurt that I made some good rolls.  I'm really looking forward to throwing my Turks against Scott's Mongol horde and eventually, my in-progress Hungarian army as well. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mid-Republican Romans


Old Glory figures on Litko bases for Field of Glory (FoG). Finished with a GW Purity Seal.  I've built this to comply with the MRR ratio requirements between the Velites, Hastati, Principes and Triarii.  It's painted and organized so it can be played as a Late Republican Roman army of 5 Legionaries - 8 bases each.

Hastati and Principes: 32 bases, 128 figures
Triarii: 8 bases, 32 figures
Italian Allies: 12 bases, 48 figures
Velites: 16 bases , 32 figures
Cretan Archers:  6 bases , 12 figures 
Cavalry:  8 bases, 24 figures
Command Stands: 4 bases, 16 figures
1 Camp
If you're interested, we can buff this army out further with Spanish Scutarii, Gallic Medium foot or Numidian Light Horse. 

Freehanding shields, part 2

I got some good tips on TMP for shield work.  One of the tips was to rough out the motif and use the background color to paint over and clean up the image.  Some motifs were fairly simple and I was able to get them right in a single pass.

Now that I'm in my late 40s, I can't paint without reading glasses and an enormous amount of light. I work under a pair of 500 watt halogen work lights.  As a result, I'm painting in an environment not unlike the Gobi desert. The work light kicks off heat and a few times, shields were ruined because the over painting technique resulted in 3-D built up of paint. When this happened, I scraped the shield down and started over.

36 knights and shields later, here's a sampling of some of the better motifs.  Each is based on East European heraldry and most are Hungarian.

Goose in a Chalice is one of my favorites!
I can't help but think about the Impetus ruleset and their style of basing armies. By using fewer figures and larger, diorama style bases, I think I could field a better looking army in less time. A lot of detail will be buried when these figures are snugged shoulder to shoulder on a single small base.

Here in Minnesota, the sun has disappeared entirely beneath the gray skies of November. Maybe the relentless gray days are taking a toll on my attitude.  Tomorrow is another game at the Source.  A good game will renew my energy and interest in seeing this project to the finish line.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The rivers that divide us

The mighty Mississippi
The Twin Cities gets its nickname from the cities Minneapolis and St. Paul. They're divided by the Mississippi River, with Minneapolis on the west bank and St. Paul on the east. After moving here, I discovered that residents often sort themselves based on which side of the river they live on. I remember telling a coworker about an interesting place I'd visited over the weekend.  He sniffed disdainfully and said, "oh, that's on the east side. I never cross the river." It was a common refrain.

I attended a local  gaming event last week and I counted three groups running ancient to medieval miniatures. We had 9 people playing Field of Glory (FoG) in 15mm. A second club had 9 people playing FoG-Renaissance in 10mm. A third group was playing Impetus in 28mm over two tables.  There isn't a lot of crossover between our groups even though we all share a passion for history and miniature gaming. People seem to sort themselves based on ruleset, scale and club. Since I play one set of rule (FoG) in one scale (15mm) with one club on one side of the river (east), I'm guilty of it as well.

I've been thinking about crossing the river, so to speak. I've thought about gaming with the club that does Renaissance in 10mm. Since 10mm is outside the scale that I'm painting and playing, I hesitate to give this a go.  Lately I've been eyeing the Impetus rules.  The way they use fewer figures per base and make each base a diorama is very appealing to me.  I asked one of the Impetus guys if he'd host a demo game over the holidays so I can see what these rules are like. He told me the Impetus group fields 28mm exclusively and at this, I hesitated again.  I have 5 ancient and medieval armies in 15mm.  28mm is more expensive than 15mm and much more time-consuming to paint. After rules, scale is another river that divides us. 6mm, 10mm, 15mm, 28mm, fantasy, historical, science fiction, Hail Caesar, Impetus, FoG and's frankly amazing we can get two or more people to agree to game anything!

I decided to go ahead and get a game of Impetus in. At a minimum, I get to see a new set of rules in action and I might have the opportunity to mix it up with the Impetus guys from time to time. Its also possible that I might like the rules enough to cross over to 28mm for a change of pace.  So many rivers to cross, so little time.  See you on the bridge!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Serbian Hussars

Serbian Hussars served as light cavalry in Matthias Corvinus' Black Army of Hungary.  They were armed with lances and large wooden shields.  Corvinus is generally credited with reorganizing the Hussars from small irregular units into large trained formations. The number of Hussars available to Corvinus rose in 1459 when Serbia was absorbed by the Ottoman Empire and many Serbians fled to Hungary.  The Hussars took part in the Hungarian wars against the Ottoman Empire and were employed successfully against their counterparts in the Turkish, Bohemian and Polish armies.  These boys will serve as light shock troops in my Hungarian army.  Light horse generally skirmishes and evades but not the Serbian Hussar. Their role is to pursue, engage and break opposing light horse.

I had a couple of breakthroughs here. First, I've been experimenting with basing.  No radical departures here  but I did use more static grass and Stilfor tufts, including flowers. I also took the time to pick out the larger rocks and coat them with dark and light gray.  I'm very pleased with the results! 

Secondly, its no secret that I've struggled with miniature photography.  I took many pictures today and was disappointed with all of them so I went back to the internet and combed through the tutorials.  I learned how to manually adjust white balance by pointing my camera at a white sheet of paper and just like that, the quality of my photographs greatly improved!  These are all by natural lighting.
All figures are by Essex and I do love their horses as there is a great deal of variety and energy in them. The only downside is the limited poses for the Hussars but I don't think it detracts too much.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Freehanding 15mm shields

One of my favorite books of the last couple years is Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers: The Story of Success."  In it, Gladwell dispels the myth that people are born to greatness.  He demonstrates time after time that greatness is earned with practice-about 10,000 hours worth.  That's 20 hours a week for 10 years. Before you panic, 10,000 hours is what it takes to put you at the very top of your sport, hobby or passion. Think Bill Gates, the Beatles or Lebron James.  If you are willing to settle for merely "good," you can invest much less time.  For those of us time and interest challenged, a minimal investment of practice in your craft will vault you to the hallowed status of "just good enough."

"Just good enough" described my skill in painting horses a year ago.  Back then, I'd put off painting cavalry because I didn't enjoy painting the horses. Maybe it was the musculature, maybe it was the reins and tethers or maybe it was the horse at the stable that bit me.  Whatever it was, I struggled when I got to these figures.  If you're going to paint ancients, there's no way around the fact that you're going to paint horses over and over again. By the time I painted my Turkish army, I'd painted so many of horses that I'd forgotten I didn't like them. I'd reached the point where horses were no longer a mystery to me. I knew I'd  conquered my Equinophobia when the first figures I painted in my Hungarian army were 72 figures of cavalry.  

My current painting phobia is freehanding shields.  When I see a shield, my first reaction is to look for a shield transfer. Or slap a geometric shape down and call it good.  I might do a little drybrushing or a wash but I've never painted an object on a shield.  This is a problem in my Medieval Hungarian army because the Cliperati and Armati battlegroups have 64 shields and the 50+ knights each have a shield ...ugh!  

For this project, I made a rule that even if I wasn't happy with the results, I'd move on. There were 64 shields and I couldn't sweat over each one.   I turned to the Internet for inspiration and found excellent Hungarian heraldry sites here and  here.   I loved the picture below so I decided to give it a try. 
I stripped out the fancy bits and concentrated on the motif of an eagle's head rising out of a crown.  It took a while but I achieved passable results.  I  reminded myself that these shields will be bunched up in units of 32 and then viewed from 3 feet or more. The camera is quite unforgiving this close up but here it goes...

Geese figure prominently in Hungarian heraldry so I gave them a try. As it turns out, painting geese was the easiest of the many items I tried. It starts with the S and then you fatten out the bottom of the letter.  If only every item I painted could be shaped via the letters of the alphabet, my shields would be so much the better!