HOTT: Red vs. Blue part II

HOTT: Mechwarrior Red army.

 So, I was playing in Hordes of the Things matched pairs with my Red vs. Blue armies, and David Schlanger got another chance to see them once they were based up.  It just so happened that the flea market was open at that time… and that one of the vendors had a large stock of Mechwarrior figures available for sale.

Dave visited the flea market, and shortly came back to show off his purchase.  “Look, I got an entire army for only $17!  You should get some more foot bases, they’re only 4 for $1!”  And so it begins: Tag Team Enabling.

After my game was finished, I went to the flea market and ended up with an entire army, instead of only a few more bases.  During the next game, Dave came back to show off his second complete army.

At that point, we had to drag David Kuijt into the mix if we were going to keep up our momentum.  Unfortunately, it turned out we had already bought all 5 main factions.  The solution was obvious: I sold my new army to David.   Then, he and I both bought more figures for our own armies.

HOTT: Mechwarrior Blue army.

By the time the flea market was about to close, we had bought enough figures that the vendor started giving us mechs for free.

In the end, I now have over 48 points of both Red and Blue.  There are still a few more figures I’d like to pick up: an airboat for the Blue army, and a few more aerial or anti-aerial units for Red.  But I can find those from Internet sources without too much difficulty.

We’re keeping track of our HOTT troop classifications on a wiki page.  We’ll update it as we discuss possible changes.

A summary of basing conventions: All vehicles are mounted, and infantry are foot.  Tanks are knights; mechs can be behemoths, heroes, aerial heroes, or magicians as appropriate. Untracked vehicles are typically Riders, and ground based large guns are Shooters.  Foot is either Blade or Warband.

I’m already enjoying teaching HOTT to Ezra as well as a friend and his son.  For teaching a young player, I’ve limited element selection to only mounted elements to start with.  Behemoths, Knights, Riders, and Heroes provide sufficiently interesting troop interactions.  Since they’re all mounted, it’s a lot easier to remember all of the troop factors.  As Ezra improves his abilities, I’ll introduce more troop types.

I expect we’ll see some Mechwarrior HOTT events at a future HMGS convention.  In the mean time, I enjoy the opportunity to play more games with a new generation of opponents.

DBA Army II/39b: Ancient Spanish Celtiberians

On my family vacation in New Hampshire over Fourth of July week, I brought a painting project: DBA army II/39b, Ancient Spanish Celtiberians.  Thanks for trading me this army, Jeff!   I needed it for the Two Davids campaign theme at Historicon, for the Punic Wars theme.

Corvus Belli Celtiberians: 3Cv(gen), 2LH.

These are all Corvus Belli figures.  The pack I got from Jeff Franz came with only round shields.  I didn’t think this was appropriate, so I ordered a pack of oval Spanish shields. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive before I left town, so all of these figures were painted without shields while I was on vacation, and then the shields were added and painted after the fact.

Corvus Belli Celtiberians: 6x3Ax,
or Raiders in the campaign.

Corvus Belli Celtiberians: 4x2Ps, 1 camp follower.

The figures are painted with simple flat colors, followed by a wash of Army Painter Strong Tone over the entire army.  This is quick and effective, and when your army’s shields are its focal point, you don’t need much more anyway.

The shields were primed black and then their patterns were painted, preserving enough of the black primer to define lines between the shield segments.  Also simple, but effective.

Unfortunately, during the campaign, the army was utterly slaughtered 4 games in a row.  It was a fun army to play, but rolling 1’s doesn’t get you very far.

HOTT: Red vs. Blue, part I

HOTT Mechwarrior: Foot based as hordes, obsolete.

At Cold Wars 2012, I purchased enough prepainted Mechwarrior miniatures to build a matched pair of HOTT armies: Red vs. Blue.  I based them up for HOTT Matched Pairs at Historicon, using 25mm basing.

Initially, I based all foot as Hordes.  After discussion with the Davids, we’ve decided this isn’t the best troop categorization, so I rebased everything.  Here are images of a few of the bases before I ripped the figures up and started over.

HOTT Mechwarrior: Knights are now on square bases.

At HOTT Matched Pairs, I took this matched pair:

Red:

  • Tanks: 3xKnight (gen)
  • Mechs: 3xBehemoth
  • Helicopter: 1xFlyer
  • Foot: 2xShooter
Blue:
  • Mechs: 2xBehemoth (gen)
  • Tanks: 2xKnight
  • GEVs: 3xRider
  • Helicopters: 2xFlyer
  • Mech: 1xSpear
HOTT Mechwarrior: Knights are now on square bases.

In three games, we used these armies twice.  Both times, my opponent chose Red, and I ended up with Blue.

With these compositions, Red looks like it should be able to gain air superiority, due to its shooters and flyers outnumbering Blue’s flyers. In practice, this didn’t happen.  In both games, the Red general put their shooters together, and I was able to attack somewhere else with my Flyers. I was able to destroy the enemy Flyer and avoid their shooters.
I won both games, and also the third, taking first place in the HOTT matched pairs tournament.

DBA Army I/2a: Early Egyptians

Apparently it has been a while since I posted last. I finished my Early Egyptian army shortly after my previous post, but haven’t had a chance to get pictures up until now.

DBA Army I/2a: Early Egyptians.  Essex Miniatures.
Early Egyptian horde and Pharoah. Essex Miniatures.

As seen in my previous installment, the archers were all painted identically, and different ink washes were applied for comparison purposes.  Everything else was flat-painted with Army Painter strong tone dip applied.  This provides a passable look for the army without a lot of effort, which is just about right for my current level of painting inspiration (low).

Early Egyptian blades and raiders. Essex Miniatures.

Nobody makes an Early/Middle Kingdom Egyptian Pharoah on a litter in 15mm, as far as I can tell.  So I had to settle with the 4Bd option instead.  I used the Pharoah on Mule figure from Essex, but I had to use a deeper base to fit everything.

I used a different basing technique than I’ve used in the past for dry armies.  This time I painted the laser-cut masonite bases with sand colored paint, glued sandbox sand directly to the base, and left it unpainted.  It gives a “good enough” look without as much effort as painting and drybrushing the sand as I have with some other armies.

There isn’t much else interesting to say about this army, so I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Early Egyptian Archers. Essex Miniatures.

Early Egyptian psiloi. Essex Miniatures.

Ink Wash Comparison

Devlan Mud is Dead! Long Live Devlan Mud!

Games Workshop’s Devlan Mud wash has been a commonly used weapon in my painting arsenal since I got back into painting miniatures 3 years ago.  It works well straight out of the bottle, and produces reasonable results in areas where I’m not that interested in painting in highlights and shadows, but when I also don’t want to dip the whole figure.

Unfortuantely, Devlan Mud is no longer available, since Games Workshop recently completely revamped their paint line.  When I was at Legions for Stoogecon, I picked up 3 possible replacements to try out:

  • Games Workshop’s Agrax Earthshade wash, which seems to be their replacement for Devlan Mud
  • Army Painter Dark Tone Ink (not the Quickshade dip)
  • Reaper Master Series Paints Brown Wash

I meant to get Army Painter’s Strong Tone Ink for a better direct comparison with the Quickshade.  Oops! That will have to wait for now.

I was painting a DBA Early Egyptian army, so on one stick of archers, I painted all of the figures identically but applied different washes to each.  On another stick, I used Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade.  These figures are almost entirely flesh and white.  I liked this for comparison purposes because white is notoriously difficult to shade well, and it doesn’t disguise the color of the ink wash at all.

I also used these inks and washes that I had on hand for more comparison:

  • Didi’s Magic Ink, Brown
  • Games Workshop Gryphone Sepia wash
  • Games Workshop Ogryn Flesh wash
  • An old Reaper flesh ink with water added

Here is a comparison shot detailing the results.

Ink Wasy Comparison: Essex Early Egyptians. Army Painter Strong Quickshade on top, washes below.

And here are the results, left to right.

First, a comparison between Devlan Mud and Agrax Earthshade.  I think Devlan Mud is a bit less red/orange than Agrax Earthshade, but they’re both very neutral.  My Devlan Mud was old, and probably doesn’t work as well as it did when it was new, but the Agrax is doing a better job of staying in the cracks and not coloring the high spots and flat surfaces as much.  As seen on the red feathers, the overall tone of the Agrax-shaded figure is lighter than the Devlan-shaded figure.

Agrax Earthshade is also a much better direct replacement for the Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade dip.  Overall, if it were my only choice, I’d be happy to replace Devlan Mud with Agrax.

Unfortunately, some of Devlan Mud’s flaws are still apparent in Agrax Earthshade.  It still smells like a combination of distilled bong water and moldy coffee grounds.  It’s still really expensive and comes in tiny bottles that let the liquid evaporate too much.  I’ve also found that all of the GW washes behave badly if they either dry out, or if you add water or just about anything else to them to thin them out.  This shortens their effective shelf life even further.

The new bottles prevent your local store’s in-house painters from using the wash and then putting it back on the shelf, but I didn’t find the new “keep your lid open” feature any better than their previous attempt several bottle designs ago.

Army Painter’s Dark Tone Ink seems to work as well as their Quickshade does, but I bought the wrong color so I can’t effectively compare colors with the Agrax.

The Reaper Brown Wash seems closer to the old Reaper inks than to GW’s washes.  It looks more opaque in the bottle, and doesn’t stay in the cracks as well as the other modern Wash products do.

I’ve been using Didi’s Magic Ink for almost as long as the GW washes. It has two major benefits over the GW products: it comes in much larger, less expensive dropper bottles, and it smells nice.  Brown is a very good direct replacement for GW’s Gryphone Sepia, but it’s too light to replace Devlan/Agrax.  Didi’s ink is much thinner than the GW washes, more of the consistency of water.  It stays in the cracks well, but it is hard to get it to darken things as much as you might like to.

Games Workshop’s Gryphone Sepia and Ogryn Flesh wash are also no longer available in GW’s new paint line.  They work just like Devlan Mud and Agrax Earthshade, but they’re different colors.  I would be interested in testing their new replacement versions, but I haven’t had a chance to do this yet, and I might not since I don’t run out of these colors as quickly.

The old Reaper Flesh Ink is not a modern wash.  My bottle is probably about 10 years old, and may not be available anymore, I’m not sure.  It requires thinning with water and your favorite additives to flow properly and fill in the cracks.  Here, I applied it using only water to thin it out, and it worked fairly well.  However, at this point I wouldn’t bother using this product unless I was doing something like airbrushing.

Overall, Agrax Earthshade is the clear winner of this exercise, with one caveat.  If Army Painter Strong Tone Ink works as well as the Dark Tone, I would probably prefer it due to its superior dropper bottle and price point.

I hope this helps someone else in the market for a replacement for their precious supply of Devlan Mud.  In the future, I’ll try to do some more comparisons including Army Painter Strong Tone, as well as various black/almost-black washes.

DBA Army IV/59: Post-Mongol Samurai

I traded my Baueda Emishi army pack for a Post-Mongol Samurai army pack from Jeff Franz.  I didn’t think I’d ever get around to painting the Samurai, but then the Stooges planned a Horde Wars event at Cold Wars 2012.  Samurai were the only way I could get 4 elements of horde on one army, so I painted it quickly and brought it to the convention.

DBA IV/59: Post-Mongol Samurai; Essex Miniatures.

The figures are by Essex Miniatures.  The Essex Samurai range is quite odd, I’ve found.  They sell Ashigaru and horde/peasant figures that are only appropriate for the later (Post-Mongol) periods, but their mounted and foot Samurai seem to be using early Samurai armor and equipment.  I’m not that happy with the accuracy of the figures for this period, based on my limited knowledge.

The sculpting is also a bit of a mixed bag.  The armor has small details that are finely carved, which makes it difficult to paint effectively using either highlighting or ink washes.  Jeff traded these away because they were a pain in the butt to paint, and I see what he means.

4 Hordes. Washed with Army Painter strong tone dip.

I did a bit of a rush job on the painting, but the figures really didn’t inspire me very much.  The greatest inspiration I had was to get better Samurai figures to paint a second army with. Unfortunately this would force me to paint a third army for BBDBA, because what can you do with only 2 armies?

2x3Sp.  These are Light Spear in DBA 2.2+.

This army has three optional sections: 4x3Sp, 4x5Wb, or 4x7Hd.  15 figures for each of 4 stands?  Ugh!  That’s like 2 armies worth of figures right there.   Luckily, Jeff had already painted the warbands, so I was off the hook for those.  The only reason I was painting the army was to get the hordes, so I decided on a very basic color scheme and technique for these four elements.  I just flat painted them using a limited palette, and dipped them all using Army Painter strong tone.  It’s a very utilitarian look, with any variety and visual interest coming from the large number of guys rather than their paint job.

I painted the one mandatory 3Sp element, and one additional element that I primed along with it. I like the way the back flags look.  The Triforce symbol was used by the Late Hōjō Clan in the 15-16th century long before it was used by Nintendo in the Legend of Zelda series.

Cavalry and Cavalry general. Essex miniatures.

Although I like the way these flags look, I hate them!  What a nuisance.  They’re molded separately and need to be glued to the figures, with a tiny surface area for gluing and no room to add pins.  Two of the flags came off before I even had a chance to photograph the elements, and two more fell off during the first tournament I used the elements in.  Back flags are the one thing that would prevent me from getting a second PMS army, because an accurate later Samurai force would have far more flags than this army does.

6x4Bd, Essex Miniatures.

To paint the Samurai armor, I decided on another simple but somewhat effective technique.  I flat painted the armor, added a few contrasting stripes on the lacing, and then used a thin, black ink (Didi’s Magic Ink) to darken the armor between the raised lacing pattern.  Unfortunately, the carving is shallow enough that it didn’t work as well as I had hoped.  It looks better than flat colors without shading, and it’s far easier than painting highlights, but it didn’t turn out as well as I think it would with more deeply carved figures.  It’s good enough, but not great.

The cloth was all painted with brushed-on highlights.  I didn’t use any patterns on the cloth except on one figure, though I expect technically there should be more.

This is not one of my better painted armies, but at least it’s not in the “unpainted” pile anymore.  I still have 3x3Sp to paint, as well as a camp, but those will have to wait until I have another opportunity to play with the army again. Maybe next year at Cold Wars?

I really like the look of Samurai and their armies, but DBA just isn’t very nice to them.  It’s a difficult army use out of its historical period.

A Few Dwarfs

Here are a few Dwarfs that Martine painted.  It’s a fine job for an 8 year old just learning to paint.  They’re comparable quality to some I bought already painted at Legions.  It was a good lesson in dry brushing.  The fact that she got them done in one night is a bonus.

Eventually I’ll base them for Hordes of the Things.  Maybe she’ll want to paint the rest of the army as well.

GW Dwarfs painted by Martine

Endor Bunker

I needed a stronghold for my Battle of Endor matched pair of armies for Hordes of the Things, so I made the obvious choice: the bunker that the rebels assaulted and then defended from an Imperial counterattack.  With a bit of imagination it’s usable by both sides, and it’s pretty much the only thing attached to the surface of Endor that isn’t a tree.

Here’s a Work in Progress shot showing the basic construction.  The main building is cut on the band saw from white foam.  I cut three pieces at the right angles, and glued them back together.  The roof is two pieces of foam core, and it’s on a masonite base.

Next, I cut the door and vent-like shapes out of cardstock and glued them to the foam.  On the roof I added some details made of some washers and bases I had lying around.

I measured a toy playset to get the dimensions of this, which may have been a bit of a mistake.  The actual bunker had side walls that angled back into the hillside instead of a 90 degree angle.  So, this isn’t perfect, but it’s easier to transport.

Also of note: stacking heavy books on foam squishes it.  Who knew.  It’s a bit lopsided because of this, but the more obvious defects problems where the cardstock details buckled.

DBA III/78: Early Russians; German Knights

German knights for III/78: Early Russians; Essex Miniatures, 15mm

When I first painted my Early Russian DBA army, I didn’t finish the knight element.  This is a “3/6Kn” which represents German knights fighting for the Russians.  3Kn would be a bit earlier, and 6Kn a bit later.

I came so very close to basing a 6Kn element, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, when 2x3Kn elements are so much more useful.

For heraldry or shield designs, I looked in the Zurich Roll for some authentic German heraldic designs that caught my eye as looking at home in the East.  They are totally anachronistic for knights of this period; I’d hardly expect heraldry on kite shields.  And I have no evidence that these particular people were ever in Russia, let alone in the 12-13th century.

However, they look really good and fit with the rest of the Russian army, which are my main goals.

These are Essex figures from the III/78 army pack.

DBA Army IV/61: Italian Condotta

Here is my most recently completed DBA army: Italian Condotta, IV/61.

The army arrayed: DBA IV/61: Italian Condotta. Mirliton Figures.

The figures are Mirliton, 15mm. Most are from the DBA army box, but I supplemented this with extra packs for dismounted knights and gunners. The flags are also from Mirliton.

Condotta Knight general and four other knights.

25 stands for only one army, and I still don’t have the 3Bd and 4Ax stands done? Crazy talk.

JM and I decided the halberdiers provided by Mirliton weren’t appropriate for the Bd/Ax, so we bought sword-and-buckler men by Essex.  However, they arrived after most of the rest of my figures were painted, so I haven’t started them yet.

I’ve painted this army for the Two Davids campaign event at Cold Wars 2012: Condotta Chaos. I’ll be playing Verona in a series of battles stretching across Italy and beyond.  The red flag with white cross is Verona’s (among others), and the rest are Condotta banners.

Light Horse: mounted crossbows and light cavalry. 

The DBA army list has many options: 1x3Kn (Gen), 4x3Kn, 1x2LH, 2x8Cb or 2Ps, 2x4Sp or 4Pk, 1x4Cb or 4Ax or 3Bd or 2LH, 1x2Ps or Art.  In addition, the campaign allows all knights to dismount, requiring another 5x4Bd.   But there’s also a DBA-RRR event at Cold Wars, which I didn’t have a good army for, so I picked up 2x4Sh for that as well.

These are very nice figures, but they did require a bit more cleaning than I’m used to doing.  Some of the crossbowmen and hand gunners ended up with unsightly blemishes on their faces, but I’ll just blame the rats.

Pavisiers.

I chose red and white or red and yellow for militia forces, and green and yellow for Condotta troops (if they needed any color at all).  The army has color, but it doesn’t dominate over the neutral colored armor.  I much prefer the look of this period over earlier gaudy tabards and caparisons.

Before the campaign was announced, I knew nothing about the Condotta, and wasn’t very interested in the period. The first thing that triggered my interest was an opportunity to play with the new Pavisier rules the Davids came up with.  In DBA 2.2, these are treated identically to other bows, so it never seemed worth painting 6-8 figures when 3-4 would do.  But with different rules, I’d have to paint the larger element to try the rules, so why not now?

Condotta Artillery, manned by Curly, Larry, and Moe.

In playtesting play by e-mail games, I have enjoyed Pavisiers.  Their combat factors and combat results make them very different than other bows.  They’re more resilient in close combat, and actively want to close the ground when in a shoot out with ordinary bows.  They are also quite large and a bit cumbersome: they advance slowly if they’ve been forced to recoil in a previous combat.

Crossbowmen and gunners.

As usual, as I started to learn more about the Condotta in order to paint them, I became more interested in them. During the 14-16th centuries, Italy was in a very interesting military situation.  They disarmed the civilian population to reduce violence, and instead, every city-state hired its own mercenary army to supplement the local militias.  “Condotta” means “contract,” and refers to the complex binding contracts these mercenary forces engaged in when providing services.

Armies are expensive to hire and require a lot of food to maintain.  They also have a tendency to bother the local population.  All of the economic and social incentives at the time pushed Lords to keep their armies on campaign in enemy territory, so they ate the enemy’s food and fathered the enemy’s children.  This made for a long period of fighting between the Italian city states.

Psiloi: gunners and archers.

The colors aren’t based on any particular historical evidence, but choosing colors ahead of time was crucial to allowing me to finish the project at all.  Paints are all my standard selection: primarily Vallejo, with some GW for metals and Snakebite Leather, along with a few craft paints.

I’m glad I’ve finished with this army.  It was fun to paint, but the sense of  accomplishment that comes from completing a project definitely helps start the next one.  At this point, all the rest of my armies look small and easy, so I’m hoping to tackle Post-Mongol Samurai without butchering them too badly.

Italian Militia Pikes

Italian Militia Spears
Condotta Dismounted Knights (Blades)