Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ten Years of Dabbling in Warhammer

This summer will see the release of a new edition of Games Workshop’s fantasy battle miniature rules: Warhammer. For those keeping count, this will be the 8th edition. For my personal count it is my third edition in ten years.

I started wargaming with boardgames and Dungeons & Dragons back in the 1970s. In 1982 or 83 I played my first miniature wargame using historical miniatures. It was a hypothetical 1815 battle using 25mm figures and George Nafziger’s rule set, Pas de Charge. I have been hooked on miniatures ever since. But this article is not about Napoleonics or even historical miniatures in general. Rather I want to talk about my dabbling in Warhammer, also known as Warhammer Fantasy Battles or WHFB to discern it from its Warhammer 40,000 or 40K science fiction cousin.

Despite my D&D gaming, I was not involved with GW games in general or Warhammer in particular. I was aware of the Citadel Miniatures line but not about Warhammer. Around 1999 as I was preparing to move from San Antonio, Texas to Delaware, I discovered a new game store in the neighborhood I was about to leave. I stopped by to see if they had anything interesting and was surprised to find a shop complete with a couple gaming tables, some terrain for the tables, and lots of GW product.

And that’s where I did NOT get involved with Warhammer. Quite honestly, the figures and terrain put me off. This was during the editions of Warhammer (up through and including 5th edition) that involved garish, almost cartoon-like paint jobs on greatly exaggerated figures with impossibly large weapons. I would like to think I wasn’t snobbish about it; if someone wanted to play with that stuff, it was their choice. I just wasn’t interested myself. To give you an idea of what did interest me I will point out that I was collecting 15mm armies for De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) for the 2nd Punic War, 15mm armies for our club’s Seven Years War rules and 15mm Napoleonic armies for several different sets. I was just beginning to get into 28mm figures for the Seven Years War but had not yet done so for Napoleonics.

As I said, I was just about to move to the East Coast. Once there, I was sent to Montgomery, Alabama for a training course. Before going, I used the Internet to find a DBA player and arranged to meet him at a Montgomery game store. We got together, played several games, and browsed the store. One thing I always try to do while traveling is to find the Friendly Local Game Store and buy something. If I find a “something” which is substantial and connected to one of my current projects that’s a bonus. But if I can’t find anything for my personal mainstream, I will pick up something that looks interesting. This way I both broaden my gaming horizons while giving the shop some business.

This particular trip, I really could not find anything of real interest to me. However, the player I had met (sorry, but I have forgotten his name) pointed out to me a brand new GW game which supposedly was very much like DBA: Warmaster. I think the store had sold out of the Warmaster rules, but they did have a copy of the GW magazine White Dwarf which covered the release of the new game. So I bought US White Dwarf #243 for April, 2000 and took it back to my hotel room. Oh the little $4.99 plus tax pebble which would start an avalanche of thousands of dollars!

That issue of White Dwarf really surprised me. Somewhere between what I had seen at the store in Texas and the publishing of Warmaster, GW had transitioned away from the cartoony and garish to the dark and grim. In addition to articles describing Warmaster, some of its armies, and a large battle report, issue #243 included an interesting piece of 40K fiction called “Siren Song,” a spread on “Vengeance of the Vampire,” a large and gruesome display table from UK Games Day, and other articles. I distinctly remember reading all of the Warmaster content first, but then getting sucked into the other game systems as well.

I purchased the Warmaster rules and an Empire army soon after returning home to Delaware. I never found any local players, however, and I eventually sold off the game before moving back to Texas. As a side note, once I did move back to Texas I found that the local group there was engaged in a Warmaster campaign and I bought back into the system, but with Undead and later Lizardmen. But although interesting and very much a result of that first White Dwarf, I’m diverging from Warhammer itself.

As most gamers do, once I bought Warmaster I wanted to get more information about its universe. The book itself did not have a lot of “fluff” as some call it. I kept an eye on the next few issues of White Dwarf, and was rewarded when the October, 2000 issue (#249 in the US) introduced a new edition of Warhammer—and included a 26-page “Rough Guide to the Warhammer World.” I bought the magazine for the background, but soon found myself drawn to the description of the new edition of Warhammer. This did not sound anything like the game I remembered back in San Antonio! This sounded grim, sinister, yet fun and still with a wry sense of humor. I mean, really: orcs with Cockney accents?

Between October and that Christmas, I spent a lot of time on the internet or in the Dover, Delaware game store looking at and reading about Warhammer. Shortly after Christmas, I took the opportunity of a visit from my sister as an excuse to go shopping at the Franklin Mills mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time, there was a GW store in the mall. After one last look at the demonstration game they had set up, I bought the big boxed set and took it to my wife and asked her how she knew to give me just what I wanted for Christmas!

I devoured that box. I soon had all of the new Army Books for what I now learned was the 6th edition of Warhammer. I have always rather thought of it as my first edition. The Empire was what I collected; lots and lots of it. At some point I finally subscribed to White Dwarf and began to read the novels as well. I particularly enjoy the Gotrek and Felix series.

Along with my subscription to White Dwarf I slowly collected the Army Books, generally as they were released. I picked them up for various reasons: fluff, interest in potential adversaries and in the case of the Lizardmen book released in 2003, a decision to actually build a new army.

I originally bought the Lizardmen book for inspiration to paint a Warmaster army. The club Warmaster campaign was still running and interest in the game in general was quite high. We had many games, some of them huge, and I was looking for something different than my Undead army.

But having that Army Book was just too tempting. A few days later while browsing one of the local stores, I saw something green, scaly, and dusty on the bottom shelf: fifth edition Saurus plastics for only $12.50 for the whole box. And Skinks too! I had only enough cash to buy one or the other, but soon travelled back to another store with additional funds. The second store, by the way, was the same store that I found in 1999. New management made Central Command into “the” place for GW in San Antonio for several years, although sadly the store is no longer in business.

Of course other scaly purchases followed that first box of Saurus, and I continued to add White Dwarfs, supplements, and Army Books to my collection.

Looking back now, I consider the time frame of 2000 to 2005 to have been a high point for my enjoyment of Games Workshop. White Dwarf magazine was full of interesting articles, the company ran huge virtual campaigns, and innovative products like Warhammer Skirmish and The Generals Compendium kept the energy level high.

When the next (7th) edition of Warhammer was announced and released in September of 2006 it did not come in the same “big box” that had been used previously. The full sized rule book was released separately (which I bought) and the starter set included a reduced-size (both physically and content) version of the rules. I particularly enjoyed The Battle for Skull Pass set: it was a good value and very useful.

But GW and Warhammer changed at that time. Although I bought 7th Edition, Skull Pass, and a couple Army Books, my interest waned. The new Empire figures released for the 7th Edition harked back to the ones that didn’t impress me in 1999 and I don’t think I bought any of them. White Dwarf articles became less interesting, and generally GW output seemed less inspired. I continued to subscribe to the magazine, but stopped purchasing Warhammer material. An exception came in early 2009 when the revised Lizardmen Army Book and some cool new models were released.

So here it is the summer of 2010. The latest, 8th Edition of Warhammer is coming over the horizon—how will it do? More personally, how will it do for me? That question is what led to this article.

Yesterday I stopped into a local store and looked over their preview copy of the huge new 528 full-color pages of the new Warhammer. It is an impressive book. Sadly, I did not feel any surge of interest. In an ironic coincidence, the July issue of White Dwarf is completely devoted to a preview and celebration of 8th Edition—but I finally let my subscription lapse with the June issue. I went ahead and picked up a store copy of the new issue, but as of this moment I do not intend to resubscribe. Overall, though, the issue did what was intended: it has piqued my interest in Warhammer.

I am very interested in learning about the new introductory set to replace Skull Pass. The new set, Island of Blood, will probably have another mini-rulebook but is said to contain High Elves and Skaven—neither of which have interested me in the past.

Will I continue to be interested in Warhammer? I don’t know yet. I have only browsed the July issue of White Dwarf and I know I will be buying the new Ulrika and Gotrek & Felix books. Island of Blood is a definite possibility. What else is coming out? Anything new and exciting? I am waiting but I am not sure if Warhammer will interest me for another ten years. To be honest, I hope it does; those first five were a real blast!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ed's Update--1st Regiment of Perrys

Although this is a team project, I'll leave Ray to do the step-by-step descriptions. I'm happy just to get the figures assembled and painted!

That said, here is my first box of Perry infantry, tentatively identified as the 6th Connecticut, assembled and preparing to wade through the Primer River.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Project Begins

Blog 04 Kitchen Table
The box from Brookhurst was waitng for me in the carport when I got home from work. I have two boxes of cavalry and six boxes of infantry and I’m ready to start. The other projects have been cleared off the Citadel Workstation to make way for this one. The LotR figures are back in their boxes, the Perry plastic French battion has retired in a plastic box, and the Space Marines are on furlough. Piles of Plastic ACW frames have taken their place. Note that I have to work areas in my house. One is a permanent workbench I use for painting. It has the lights and space to spread out and leave things out and out of the way. The other is a Citadel Workstation that I use for figure prep. This I put on the kitchen table it has a lamp and the overhead light from the lighting fixture. Light here isn’t critical, but being able to move the whole thing out of the way if I need the table makes the Citadel Workstation very useful. Having a painting area and a prep area means that I can switch from one to the other when I get bored or fatigued.
I decided to do the cavalry first. Cavalry, to me, is always the “hump” in any project. Perhaps it’s the horses and trappings that make them seem so much work. Somehow I always felt like one cavalry model equaled about four times the work of an infantry model. So, I decide to attack what I thought would be the most difficult part of the project first.
As always, with plastic models of any sort, I took my time and studied the parts on the frames. It became obvious that, not only are the hats interchangeable, but the sides of the horses are as well.Blog 02 Clipping Parts
I separated the horse halves from the sprue (frame) using plastic nippers.  If you don’t have a pair of these, you must get some. They are basically flush cutters (one side of the jaw is beveled and the other straight so that the cut is flush)
Blog 03 Matching Horse Halves
In the picture you can see that I’ve laid out the left side of the horses (the side with the head attached) from the three identical frames in the same order. I then laid the right sides of the horses on top ensuring that the same right half from each sprue had a different left half. This makes each and every horse within a box unique. Even the horse halves which appear standing look good mated with a running opposite side; they simply appear to be pawing the ground. The way these horses go together is brilliant. Once mated, the sides were cleaned up and glued together using Testors Model cement. I really like this glue and the applicator in which it comes. It’s a fine steel tube and it comes with a couple of wires to clean it out if it should become clogged. So far, I’ve avoided a clog by clearing the tube (squeezing the bottle when upright and releasing, thus pushing out any glue in the tube then sucking air in to make sure) before screwing on the cap. It also helps to line up all of your parts before starting to use the glue so the cap is off the minimum amount of time possible.
While the horses cured overnight, I began on the cavalrymen figures. I clipped out all the men and cleaned the seams. The only truly visible seams are on the upper left arm and the right boot (for Blog 05 Craft Sticksthose that have a visible boot). Cleaning was a breeze with a round and a triangular jeweler’s file. If you choose to use files on plastic, be gentle! It’s much easier to make a several gentle swipes than it is to repair a gouge. The only flash is on a couple of the cavalry men between the boot and end of the saber’s scabbard. I use a small stiff brush to clean up the bits of plastic for filing as they tend build up a lot of static electricity and you don’t want them trapped under the primer. The cavalrymen then get a hole drilled underneath just slightly smaller than the diameter of a toothpick. Blog 07 Riders on Toothpicks The tip of a toothpick is cut off about halfway down the taper. The toothpick is shoved into the hole making a pretty tight friction fit. Now, each figure can be handled by the toothpick. Each one can be mounted on a piece of corrugated cardboard simply by inserting the toothpick into the cardboard edge on for priming and drying.
Once the horses are cured, they get mounted to jumbo craft sticks with rubber cement. I use rubber cement because it’s easy to remove once the painting and over coating is done. Blog 06 Horses Cemented to Sticks Yet, the bond is generally strong enough to withstand normal priming and painting. Occasionally I’ll bumps a figure and knock it loose but then I just rubber cement it right back on the stick (working on another stick until the cement dries).
Unfortunately that’s as far as I got before I had to catch a flight for a business trip. When I return, next week, I’ll pick up this journal where I left off and finish the assembly and priming of the cavalry models. Look for the update to the assembly and painting of the cavalry in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Perry Hard Plastic ACW

I recently paid a visit to Brookhurst Hobbies in Garden Grove, CA. Ed an I had been playing Memoir ‘44 the previous week and he had shown me his copy of Battle Cry. Which, naturally, had gotten me thinking about ACW.
Now I’ve always been biased against ACW games. I have no idea why. Just one of those things, I guess. We all have our likes and dislikes and sometimes they just defy explanation.
Anyhow, there I was in Brookhurst wandering the aisles daydreaming about making my own version of Battle Cry using painted miniatures when I espied the boxes of plastic Perry ACW cavalry and infantry.
I bought one box of each just to check them out with Battle Cry in mind. The cavalry box build up into a unit of 12 and the infantry box builds up into 2 units of 18. One thought led to another and before you know it, I was thinking that those unit sizes were very close to The Sword and the Flame units.
A few quick calls to Ed and a couple of emails later and we have hatched a plan to host an ACW even-up fight at a 2010 Millennium convention in Round Rock (Austin) Tx.
Here are some pictures of the Perry ACW plastics that have motivated us to start another convention project:
Cavalry Box Front
How could I resist a box with cover art like this?
Cavalry Box Back
The back of the box provides a rudimentary painting guide.
Cavalry Frame Front
The front of one of the three identical frames
Cavalry Frame Back
And the back of the same frame
Cavalry Frame Detail 01
A close up of one of the cavalrymen
Cavalry Frame Detail 02
A shot showing some of the detailed parts
Cavalry Frame Detail 03
One of the well sculpted horses
Cavalry Frame Detail 04
And here’s another

Infantry Box Front  Brookhurst price tag on the box says $24.99—a good price.
Infantry Box Back
Like the cavalry, the infantry box provides a painting guide
Infantry Frame Front
The front of one of the four identical frames
Infantry Frame Back
And, of course, the back view
Infantry Frame Detail 01
A good macro lens lets me show you the detailed sculpting
Infantry Frame Detail 02
The drum is two parts and clips over the knapsack
Infantry Frame Detail 03
Here you can see the front of the figure above
Infantry Frame Detail 04
And here you see the arms for the right figure above
I hope that these pictures have helped some of you decide whether you want these figures of not. I can only say that I’m so impressed with the quality, flexibility and low cost, that they have motivated me to move into an era that I otherwise would have left alone.
In the coming months, I will keep a running commentary on my progress on this project.

The Blue, the Gray, and the Ugly


There you are: two “seasoned” wargamers who cannot agree on a new project that can interest both. One is all for tricornes and big battalions, the other for Fuzzy-Wuzzies and pith helmets. What to do?

Of course there is an obvious solution: find a third period which neither player loathes, but offers the opportunity for research, painting good figures, and a fun game. In this case, the American Civil War.

It may have started during our Memoir ’44 binge. We pulled out the first published version of the “Command & Colours” system (on which Memoir ’44 is based), Battle Cry. Although we didn’t end up playing it, we did discuss modifying the rules for use with our current collections, or possibly using new figures to do so. In particular, the plastic figures from Perry Miniatures seemed to be a good idea.

Ray took the initiative on his next business trip to California, stopping by Brookhurst Hobbies and picking up one each of Perry plastic infantry and cavalry boxes for evaluation. Ray’s enthusiasm for the figures quickly infected Ed and the rest, to paraphrase an old saying, is “historical gaming.”

Where We Are Now

We have decided we want to put together a project which:

1. could be done in about a year,
2. is easily adaptable, or played as-is, in a convention setting,
3. involves enough figures to be interesting, but not overwhelming,
4. isn’t based on any particular historical event, but just an in-period bash, and
5. motivates us to paint nice figures and terrain.

The first thing we did was to buy several more sets of Perry plastics. Ray now has six boxes of infantry and two of cavalry, while Ed has two of each. For the moment, we are using each box of infantry as two units of eighteen figures, and each box of cavalry as one unit of twelve. Preliminary plans are for each of us to build 12 infantry regiments and 2 cavalry regiments evenly distributed between Union and Confederates. That way we can play a small game at either of our houses without the other having to lug their troops around and yet if we want to play a bigger, multi-player game we can use all our troops. It also prevents one of us from having to paint all blue or all gray and butternut.

We have not yet decided on the rules. We are tending toward a game where each unit represents a regiment on the table. Ray has ordered a copy of Larry Brom’s A Glint of Bayonets (a variant of The Sword and the Flame) while Ed has ordered a set of Guns at Gettysburg. Once we decide on rules, we will decide on artillery units and leader figures we need to add.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Paul's After Action Report

I second Ray’s comments above. Spectacular doesn’t do justice to describe what took place.

I too was particularly pleased the number of youngsters that took an active part in the game. It gives hope that historical miniatures will continue to have interest. And needless to say, we had some more ‘senior’ players alongside the young, forgetting the age difference and focused on beating the guys on the other side.

Brits and Spaniards, with a mix of a few foreign regiments, struggled to hold a ridge against a French/Allied (included Germans and Italians) army. At first things looked tenuous on the British right flank, see/sawing back and forth between cavalry, the French finally emerging victorious and over-running British guns. Fortunately, the French cavalry were too well spent to followup and roll up the British from that flank.
On the left flank, Spanish cavalry, with supporting artillery, defied history and scattered 3 French/Italian heavy cavalry regiments, leaving the 13th Cuirassiers staring across the table at Spanish dragoons and a Division of infantry.

Masses of French and German battalions struggled up a long ridge in the center. The focus of hours of excitement, the Brits and French broke, reformed, fired, melee’d and did it all over again and again. In left center, Spanish infantry were locked in musketry with Italians, neither side budging as ranks depleted.

The Spanish village at the British right/center was quickly occupied the French, but they saw no advantage to spreading the attack across the ridge line, bringing in all available infantry to smash the center. The Brits were quick to manoeuvre infantry to plug the holes.

After almost 8 hours of play and spectators continuing to join in to pick up where others left off, the continuity of the game continued to flow. Seemed that new players stepped right into the tactics.

Towards the end of the day, French and Brits were still locked in combat in the center, units on the British right flank in square to ward of any remaining pesky French/German light cavalry.

Some Hessians reinforced the Italians against the Spanish, with the 13th Cuirassiers finally deciding to wake up. At the end of the evening, it was obvious the Spanish were too weak and outmaneuvered, the Cuirassiers poised to punch a great hole on the side. In the center, neither the French nor the Brits were ready to concede.

A particular attractive anomaly to Wellington’s Rules is the concept of stragglers. The players that joined in seemed to favor the rule, with the opportunity to recover stragglers in later turns and return them to the ranks.

The 8 hours of play went quick. The only way to be bored was to be comatose. The spectacle alone of beautifully finished figures with flags/banners/eagles waving across the 24x6’ table couldn’t help but to impress.

My thanks to my two friends Ed and Ray for inviting me to help GM the event.

In the end, I carried my figures back home to Houston, unpacking and resetting my own personal table in my game room. The gratification of Millennium X and the common interest of gamers from across the country reinforced why I chose to devote 30 years to this hobby. Looking forward to Millennium XI

Ray's Report...with pictures!

Well the game has come and gone. I have to say that I was quite pleased with the way it came off. Wellington Rules! are simple enough for the large covention and neophytes, yet meaty enough to satisfy the experienced Napoleonics players. There was a lot of praise for the straggler rules and the orders systems.

As to the game itself, I have to thank Chip and rest of the covention staff for locating the game way up in front were everyone coming in or leaving had to to walk past. The number of comments to effect of "Oh ^%&%, look at that!" as people turned the corner and say the huge table with almost 2000 miniatures was very satisfying to both Ed, Paul and myself.

This game was so big that it's impossible to give an After Action Report other than to say that everyone seemed to have a good time, the rules worked well and the convention venue was perfect for our game. Now here's some pictures to give you an idea what went on.