Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Right, that was a long lay off...

I've got bitten by the Irregular Wars bug again after having played a game, really enjoyed it and then not had the time to do anything else.  Myself and Mr Mersey have arranged a meet up in early September, just before my birthday in fact, which is always a good catalyst for me to get cracking on things! So, my Royal English are getting some longbows and a Saker to give them a bit more depth and punch whilst my Irish will be receiving a few bases of Bonnachts, a potential Lord with his Gallowglass, some Kern marksmen and a Priest to call down some fiery wrath on my heretic Englishmen.  All good stuff I think you'll agree.  I've also ordered some lovely little 7mm dice holders courtesy of the very lovely people at Minibits to tidy up the gaming board a wee bit.  I have been suffering something of a quandry regarding my English pike units after our first game of Irregular Wars.  I've basically got enough Essex pikemen to make up three bases but they're all armoured and there was no way of telling your Gentlemen Pike from the Militia Pike (buy the rules, it'll make sense then! :-))  Until I can find some very convincing Militia Pike I've decided to persevere with my Essex figures and just use a red dice to mark the Gentlemen and a green dice to mark the Militia.  I'll admit it's not the surest solution but I think it's workable until I can decide what the Militia chappies should actually look like.  Come to think of it, I don't think anyone actually sells a 15mm pack of "Hungry, worried looking pikemen who aren't sure what they're doing" but you never know...

Oh, and the Pendraken 10mm Late Romans are fantastic so I'll be making a start on them too...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Holidays, inactivity and illness...

There's not been an update on here for a while, mostly because the real world has kept intruding into my hobby time.  First of all there was a week's family holiday, then a trip to the Czech Republic with work and now a spate of aggressive rhinitis which the doctor's got me taking more anti-histamines than I can count and all of which is leaving me permanently sleepy.  Oh for good old honest man 'flu...

Anyway, inspired by Mr Hotspur's very nice efforts with some Pendraken miniatures I've decided to have a bash at putting together a few test bases which will hopefully get expanded out to a full army for Dux Bellorum written by good chum Dan Mersey.  In the past I've not given much love to 10mm figures as they'd taken me the same amount of time as 15mm figures to paint with the end result being nowhere near as eye catching but I'm willing to try and prove I was wrong.  Since I was one of the playtesters for Dux Bellorum and also have some figures I painted featured in the book my view of it is almost entirely biased but it's a game I genuinely enjoy and I've been looking for a way to create a few portable armies for it.  Hopefully this'll be the way forward.  I'll post some pictures once the figures have arrived and I've had a chance to change my fugg filled head for the painting one that I seem to have mislaid somewhere around my flat.

And there's still the small matter of those Judge Dredd figures I need to paint for Mr Mersey too but that's a whole other story...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Painted Greeks

Having taken delivery of these last week, my good chum Mr. Mersey very kindly took these flattering 'photos of the Xyston 15mm DBA army I painted for him:

I'm really pleased he likes them, they're quite nice figures to paint up as the detail's particularly crisp but the separate shields and spears are a pain to be quite frank.  Now I just need to make up my mind if I want a similar Spartan army for myself ;-)

Dan's own blog can be found here.

Now there's just the small matter of painting the Judge Dredd figures he's handed over as my next project!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Finished Greeks and first game of Irregular Wars

Right, I haven't updated anything here for a few days as I was finishing off a painting commission for Mr Mersey.  I've previously painted Athenian and Aitolian DBA armies for him and this time it was an army from Argos.  Sorry, I have no idea what they should be called and Argosian just sounds wrong to me! Anyway, they're a 15mm Xyston army and, I'm sorry to say, I wasn't able to take a single decent 'photo of them before handed them over.  Perhaps Dan will oblige with his far superior photography skills :-)

Anyway, we met up last night to hand so I could hand them over and also to try out a game of Irregular Wars.  For people not familiar with the rules, the author has his own blog here.

 It's basically a set of rules for gaming small scale actions on the fringes of Europe and the various European empires of the age.  With my primary interest in the renaissance being the Tudor armies and the various campaigns they took part in this would seem to be a perfect set of rules.  I've tried to game the war in Ireland in the past using Maximilian and it just didn't seem to capture the essence of it for me.  Maximilian seems much more set-up for gaming the big set piece battles of the era to me, the likes of Kinsale or the Dunes, rather than the hit and run ambushes in Ireland.  There's some really cool stuff in there that has really captured my imagination.  For example, the force generation is random and based around a dice roll which I was initially a bit reticent about (I had visions of generating loads of units I didn't have figures for) but it all works really nicely.  All of the action takes place on a 24" square board if you're using 15mm figures and, because of that, is eminently portable.  The figures themselves are divided into Companies which are the basic unit of the game and a company is a 3cm square base with a variable number of figures on it depending on what it's depicting, for example a pike base has six figures on it and a base of Demi Lancers will have just two figures on it.  The two armies I had painted figures for were the Royal English and Mere Irish, a classic match up for the period if ever there was one!

I'd read through the rules a few times before we played but that's never a substitute for playing them and I always get the jitters when I'm leading a game because Dan always does it so flawlessly.  I needn't have worried because the basics were picked up within a couple of turns and after that we coped with minimal referring to the print-out.  The mechanisms work in a very similar way to DBA in that there's a single dice roll plus modifiers for combat.  Another neat little mechanism is that units out of command range will make random moves, as Dan discovered when a company of Kern drifted over the extreme edge of the board, sat there doing a great deal of nothing and then only moved once the vast majority of the action was over!

To cut a long story short, my English got beaten by Dan's wily Irish.  My battle broke when a javelin hurled by a Kern found it's mark and took out my lord and caused a wave of panic throughout my remaining companies and they folded like a house of cards.

The game itself was immense fun and we didn't include ambushes or hidden units which would provide ever more flavour I reckon.  If you're even remotely interested in the period then six quid's a veritable bargain from Vexillia.  I'm rubbish at writing reviews and I think the author's blog gives a much better insight into how the game plays so I'd definitely recommend a visit if you want to know a bit more.  However, if you want a measure of how much I enjoyed it then I spent a good chunk of today working out how to represent various units when I should've been working.

I think there'll probably be a few more posts about Irregular Wars in the future...

Friday, 27 April 2012

Some light reading...

Sorry, no painting tonight.

I thought I'd take a bit of time to talk about my driving passion in gaming and history, namely that of the Tudor armies.  The Tudor period in Britain is a funny one, mostly because everyone thinks of bluff king Hal and his cheeky six wives, maybe the dissolution of the monasteries, and doesn't bother to dig any further but there's so much more to it than that.  It's certainly a backwater as far as military history's concerned but even more so from a gaming point of view.  So, in an attempt to address the first part of this particular equation I thought I'd try and recommend some books that might get some others interested in what I consider to be a fascinating period.

First off there's the ever faithful Osprey.  I'm pretty sure that anyone looking at this blog (please look at this blog!) will have at least a passing idea of what the average Osprey book contains so I won't go into that but they do have a range of books that cover this period pretty well.  For starters there's Henry VIII's Army which covers the early part of the period in some depth.  To be honest there was only really two battles of note that took place during his reign, Flodden and The Spurs which both took place in 1513.  The Spurs wasn't even really a battle to my mind.  I liken it to the full England side turning up expecting to play France, finding out that they're actually playing the french Under-16s, scraping a 1-0 victory and then lording it up and banging on about how the beat the world champions from 1998.  Anyway, an aside, but the book has some good background and some fantastic plates.  There's a campaign book dedicated to Flodden which is infinitely more interesting to my mind.  Tudor Knight covers the whole period but, as the name should tell you, concentrates very much on the nobility and their increasingly elaborate armour.  Then we get to three books that deal with subjects slightly more off the beaten track: Scottish Renaissance Armies, The Border Reivers and The Irish Wars.  They all do what they say on the tin and I think it's probably likely that the casual reader will most likely have encountered the Reivers before out of all of them.  On the subject of border conflicts between England and Scotland then I'd also have to recommend The Steel Bonnets by George MacDonald Fraser (of Flashman fame) too, it's a very good read and not at all dry.  There are also two books available on the Armada campaign, one giving details of the campaign itself and the other on the two armies involved.  Osprey also recently, well not that recently really now I think about it, published a book all about the mighty Galloglass which covers a broad period of time but will sit very nicely within the chosen period.  I can't comment on the content of this one yet because I literally ordered it about an hour ago! :-) If anyone's interested then I can post a review once it arrives.

Next I'd have to say that there's a couple of great books C.G. Cruickshank.  The first, Army Royal, deals with Henry VIII's somewhat misguided and mismanaged invasion of France in 1513 and is an incredibly thorough account.  The other, Elizabeth's Army, does what it says on the tin and is an equally thorough breakdown of the various militias and volunteers that served Elizabeth I both on the continent and at home.  Honestly, I was truly surprised when I saw how well traveled some Elizabethan soldiers were!

The Pike and Shot Society have some superb booklets available for sale and all at pretty reasonable prices too.  Of particular interest is The Tudor Art of War by Jonathan Davies which covers the whole Tudor period from Henry VII right through to the end of Elizabeth's reign.  If you're at all interested in the period then I'd have to say that you could do a lot worse than signing up with them.  My membership is currently lapsed (yes, naughty I know) but I intend to rectify that pretty soon.  The society newsletter, Arquebusier, is a mine of information and almost worth the price of admission on it's own.  They also have a pretty active Yahoo group too.  Caliver Books is also a good source of booklets on the period.  I have Elizabeth's Army & The Armada by John Tincey and The Bluecoats, Clothing the Elizabethan Soldier by David Evan, both of which contain a wealth of primary sources and analysis but I have no idea what current availability is like so if you're interested then it might be best to drop them a line.  Caliver has a whole section of their website dedicated to the Tudor period and that's always well worth a browse.

But, if I had to recommend a single book on the period then it'd be Armies of the Sixteenth Century by Ian Heath, the volume on England, Scotland, Ireland, the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands.  Not only do you get an exhaustive breakdown of the make and chosen tactics of each army but there's also annotated line illustrations taken from primary sources.  This book is a serious, serious goldmine.  Unfortunately it's currently out of print and copies seem to be going for obscene prices on Amazon, like 97 quid obscene, but if you see a copy at reasonable cost then I'd say snap it up (not least because you can probably flog it at a profit if it's of no use!).  Mr. Heath did an absolutely superb job on this and it's just a shame that it's not in colour.

Well, there we go.  It wasn't meant to be an exhaustive list and I'm primarily a gamer rather than a historian so what I consider "in depth" is really just dipping my toes in but I hope there might be something there to tempt others in.  Also, if anyone has any other reading recommendations then I'll be glad to hear them!

Hmmm, second post and no mention of ale yet, I might have to rectify that this weekend...

Monday, 23 April 2012

First post!

Okay, a new shiny blog! I have no idea what kind of thing I need to do here but I suspect I should try and justify the title a bit.  Here goes:

These are some Xyston 15mm Greeks I've been painting as a commission for a friend.  They're very lovely little chaps but the separate shields and spears can be a swine.  I've found the best way to get them sorted is to attach the spears but leave the shields off otherwise they obscure all sorts of detail.  When the paint's dry I scrape off a small amount on both the reverse of the shield and the arm it attaches to to give a strong bond.  Then everything gets a coat of gloss varnish and the face of the shield gets a decal.

Next up is a Croftyran Quar figure from Zombiesmith's very lovely Quar range:

The Quar don't seem to be too well known on this side of the Atlantic and I think that's a real shame because they're some of the most characterful figures around.  Have a look to find out a bit more about the range.  There's 15mm versions available too if anyone's cooked up a Future War Commander list...

And finally here's an old EM4 sci-fi figure that I'm trying to think of a use for:

This was one of the first figures I bought when I got into the hobby about five years ago.  The original paint job it got was truly, truly awful.  I decided to tart it up a bit with something new and I actually like it so much now that I'm desperate to find a set of rules to use it and it's compatriots with.  Any suggestions gratefully received :-)

The bad 'photos are a combination of a) various bulbs in my house all deciding to blow within a day or so of each other, b) a new(ish) camera that I'm still messing about with and, most importantly, c) my appalling photography skills.  Seriously, there's people out there who've never seen a camera before that can take better 'photos than me.

So, "Where's the ale come into all of this then?" I (possibly don't) hear you cry.  Well, for my sins I'm also a total beer geek too so you can expect random ramblings on all three subjects, possibly at the same time.

Right, now I need to come up with a much more exciting second post...