Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Baking And Brushing

Today was a good day.   Most importantly, Madame Padre checked in with her endocrinologist and was told that for a Type 1 Diabetic of her, well, vintage (I’m a gentleman so I won’t say more than that), she is in terrific shape.   God is good indeed.

Some brushwork got done on those commandos today and I am on track to posting them on the Painting Challenge site tomorrow.  Many fiddly decals were applied today as well, and my eyes are a little crossed.  In between brushing and a little work on the thesis, I celebrated the baptism of Ludwig Van Beethoven (yesterday was his birthday, I was a day late, but his baptism still seems worth celebrating) with some loud classical music while I indulged a family tradition (an embryonic tradition - I think if I bake this one more time next Christmas it’s officially a tradition) and baked a batch of stollen.

For those of you wondering what Stollen is, check out this recipe thanks to his Excellency the Grand Duke of Stollen.  I made a test batch on Friday and it was mostly ok, though a little burnt, and so I turned down the heat a bit.

Here are some mouthwatering pictures to inspire you.

Working in the candied fruit and almonds while kneading the dough.   The candied fruit has a cup of rum in it! ! was sorely tempted to stop here and scoff it all, but it was well before noon, and that would have been unseemly.

The risen dough, full of fruit and rum and goodness, including four eggs, a cup of milk, a cup of sugar, and one and one half cups of butter.   Mmmmmm.

The dough was sufficient for six reasonably sized loaves.

Baked two at a time in our small oven over the course of the day, making the house smell quite delicious.

 

Madame Padre, being the disciplined diabetic that she is, allowed herself the smallest of pieces and pronounced it quite excellent.  

Several loaves are bespoke gifts, but there is lots in the fridge.   Feel feel to drop by for some, served with strong coffee or something more medicinal, as you wish.  My hat is off to the Grand Duke of Stollen, a most excellent recipe.

MP+

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cracking On With Commandos

It’s been a busy few days at the painting table, where I don’t feel like I’m making much progress, but am slowly seeing the fruits of my labours, as my first entry towards the Analogue Painting Challenge V nears completion.  Besides a section of ten Artizan British commandos for my Weird War Two project, which will be the entry, I also took out some half finished Warlord plastic commandos that I gave up on in frustration over a year ago, and am trying to get them up to a level where I’m not ashamed of putting them on the table.  

But there’s no pleasing some people.  Here’s the OC S Commando, the Laird O’Kinch, berating me for deficiencies.  “Come on, Padre, these chaps aren’t based, they need eyes and hair, and their commando patch decals.  What have you been playing at?  You need to do better, old man.  Crack on!  You can sleep when you’re dead.  I NEED these lads NOW!”  

A demanding fellow indeed.  Hopefully they’ll be ready by Thursday, which is my appointed day.  This  Challenge business may be a bridge too far for me.   I’m amazed at how many entrants are already racking up large totals.  This was my face when I realized I had missed the deadline for the first Bonus Round.

 

Oh well, it’s all supposed to be fun, innit? Hopefully they’ll be some time to work on the Commandos tomorrow, though that is a busy day,  as I am planning on making a batch of Dresdener Stollen (Rabbit Man and his lovely wife apparently liked the test batch I made last Friday), and there is always thesis work to be done to make me feel that I’ve earned the time at the painting table.  Speaking of tables, I have an ACW battle ready to go on my gaming table, to test drive the Longstreet rules, if I can ever get to it.

I did make a run to the post office today to pick up this intriguing parcel from Germany, from the fellow who drew my name in Chris Stoesen’s Santa Clause project.  I’ve already written to my benefactor to assure him that it will go under the old Tannenbaum and will not be opened until Christmas day.  Thank you for arranging this, Chris.

Another envelope came through the mail slot yesterday, from all around good chap and plastic model wizard Paul Foster in NZ, and I know what’s in it, but again, it’s going under the Christmas tree.  I’ll thank you properly after Christmas, Paul!

May you enjoy these days of preparation for what I pray will be a joyous Christmas for you and yours.  Until then, blessings to your brushes1

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Foundry ACW Union Dismounted Cavalry

Sorry, couldn’t think of a more imaginative title for this post.
While I have yet to get on the scoreboard of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge V, I did get finally get these fellows finished.  I bought a mess of these figures a few years ago and finished most of them, but I had nine left over and partly finished, but I made a hash of their faces and got discouraged, so they got packed away for the last move.   I’ve been in a finishing projects mood lately, so here they are, painted and based.  Pardon the crap basement lighting, I wasn’t in the mood to haul out my lightbox and set it up.



I like the young blond lad on the left, shouting something rude at Johnny Reb.



“Sarge, are we ‘uns going to get hung out to dry agin while the rest of the Army takes its sweet time to git up here?"



Basically the same pose X 9, but the little variations in the heads and the fact that a few have bandanas give them some variety.  You’ll note that I wasn’t brave enough to try and paint crossed sabres and numbers on their kepis. When I was in reenacting, there was a school of thought that veteran troops would lose all that nonsense as quickly as possible, which is certainly good counsel for this painter.  It was nerve-wracking enough just doing the collar piping and the sergeant’s chevrons!



These three stands give me a total of eight stands of dismounted cavalry, which gives me a respectable force for either a skirmish or a regimental level game.



“Boys, we’re going to hold this hill till the rest of the army comes up.”  “See, Sarge, whadid I tell ya?”  “Shaddup, Perkins."
Hey, that’s a nice looking table.  I should fight a battle on it!



Thanks for looking.  Now, on to my first Challenge entry.  
These figures bring my 2014 totals to:
28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 64, 28mm Artillery: 2; 28mm terrain pieces: 10 (counting that woods base from a recent post).
20mm Foot: 33, 20mm Artillery: 2, 20mm Vehicles: 2, 20mm Terrain Pieces: 2
15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3
6mm Foot:  120, 6mm vehicles: 4, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2
Kilometres Run: 1,063
Thesis Pages Written:  24

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday Boardgame: Leuthen by Victory Point Games

 

In my last post here, I said I was celebrating the anniversary of Frederick the Great’s victory over the Austrians at Leuthen.  I’ve had a chance to play it through once now, and it’s a terrific game, though I suspect it is far more entertaining as a two player game than when played solitaire, and I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Leuthen is a design from Victory Point Games, a company that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know in the last few years.  They have an eclectic range of games, made to very high graphic and material standards.   One of the things I like about VPG are their jigsaw cut hard mounted maps and their thick, laser-cut, beautifully printed counters, so just setting up and playing a VPG game is very satisfying visual and physical experience.  For Leuthen they recruited Frank Chadwick, a legendary game designer associated with one of my favourite old school companies, Games Designers Workshop who has won the Charles Roberts award three times.  I didn’t know until now that he is also a best-selling SF writer, with a  series of novels set in his Space 1889 universe.

The box art describes Leuthen as a game for ages 13 and up, with a complexity rating of 3 out of nine and a solitaire suitability of 5 out of 9 (which I think is generously high), and suggests that the game can be played in 40 minutes.  Certainly it could be explained and played to a conclusion in two hours, I think.

One of the design problems for a war-game of Leuthen is that Frederick’s Prussians were able to surprise a larger but strung out Austrian army and defeat it in detail.  Chadwick solves that problem with two sided counters, which hide a unit’s actual strength and identity until it comes into contact with an enemy unit.   Also in the mix is a large number of Dummy counters for the Prussians, and a few for the Austrians.  The Austrian player sets up first, his units all face down (you can see below that the yellow Austrian counters with the eagle and bayonets are not yet revealed).  The Prussian then sets up his force, also with his units face down. so the Austrian player doesn’t know where the actual weight of the attack is coming from.  The Prussian player moves first and has just six turns to win.  I don’t know a lot about the OOBs of the two armies, but my sense is that the game is set at the brigade level, so if a player years to recreate the exploits of the Potsdamer Grenadiers, he will likely be disappointed.

 I tried to make things interesting by setting up the Austrians somewhat randomly, putting the units on the map as required according to their three corps groupings, but mixing up the dummies within each corps and placing them randomly.  That didn’t work so well, as I ended up with two Austrian dummy counters holding the key town hex of Leuthen, so I quickly did some redistribution.   I put all the Prussian counters facing uo, using the dummy counters when I could to bump into the hidden Austrian counters and reveal them.

 My strategy was to throw most of the Prussian weight at Leuthen and try to break the Austrian centre.   That worked fairly well.  While they are fewer than the Austrians, the Prussian units tend to have slightly higher combat and morale ratings, and more organic artillery, so they are more combat capable and rout less easily than the Austrians do.  The game uses a fairly standard ZOC system, and units have to pay a movement point to change facing at a rate of one movement point per hex side.  Since most units have a movement allowance of two, that forces you to think hard about facing, and to try as much as you can to protect a unit’s vulnerable flanks and rear.  For a fairly simply game, it does a good job of simulating the linear style of 18th century warfare.

I liked the use of cards to add some variety and nuance to the game.  The Prussian player gets to hold a hand of three cards, and the Austrian gets a hand of two.  The effect is somewhat reminiscent of the Command and Colours system.  Here I used the “Mollendorf Finds A Way” card to allow the Prussian infantry to ignore the defensive terrain combat bonus of the Leuthen town hex, which allowed the Prussians to capture it.

This photo isn’t very clear, but it does point to a key part of the game mechanics that is very clever.  Units are not eliminated or step reduced in combat, but if they are forced to retreat, depending on how bad the combat odds are, and what’s rolled, there is a chance they rout,  They can be rallied from rout, but every time that happens, the unit’s parent corps loses a morale point and the unit itself takes a permanent shaken counter.  So in this picture, the Austrian unit has a -1 to its combat value (on the left of the counter) and a -1to its morale (the number in yellow in the centre).  Here it’s being attacked by two Prussian units which is not good.

Here’s an example of how morale works at the corps level.  As the Prussians break through, more and more of the Austrian units are getting Shaken.  Here the Forgach unit of Nadasdy’s corps is shaken and on the edge of the map, with no where left to retreat.  If it retreats again, it is eliminated.  Beside it is another unit belong to Nadasdy’s corps, also shaken.  The Prussian Moritz unit is attacking Forgach.

The Prussian attack is successful and the Forgach unit cannot retreat off the map without being eliminated.  Each retreat or elimination drops the corps’ morale by one point, and Nadasdy’s corps’ morale now hits zero, which means his corps us demoralized.  

Corps demoralization is especially bad news, since all shaken units in a demoralized corps are removed from play.  Thus, in the above example, the Austrian Spiznasz infantry unit, also of Nadasdy’s corps, was shaken, and so it is also removed as are any other shaken units in that corps.  Any of Nadasdy’s units where are still steady now get a Shaken marker.   And it gets worse.  When a corps is shaken, the morale level of every other corps in that army is reduced by one, and if that takes a corps’ morale to zero, it too is demoralized, so the demoralization of one corps can cause a cascade event which can cause an army to unravel.

That is essentially what happened in my game, since the demoralization of Nadasdy’s corps caused the demoralization of Colleredo’s corps, and since a side loses when the majority of its corps are demoralized, with two of the three Austrian corps now pooched, that was a Prussian victory.

One thing you won’t find in the game is any command and control or unit activation rules. Chadwick’s designer notes argue that his approach instead is to give units low movement allowances, so once they are committed to combat, they are essentially committed until one side or another breaks, and so morale becomes a key part of the game system.

There aren’t a lot of paper and counter games of SYW battles, and this one is definitely worth getting at for fans of the period.  I think you’ll like the look and feel of the game, and you’ll find the challenges of hidden deployment and the fairly horrific consequences of corps demoralization to be interesting challenges to overcome.   The challenge for the Prussian player is to mass his small but superior force to maul the Austrians, while the Austrian player will want to husband his forces and commit then where he sees a chance to gang up on Prussian units.  Committing to low-odds counterattacks is a strategy of disaster for the Austrian.

The game’s rulebook promises that it is #1 in a series called Drums and Muskets, so let us hope there are more games in this series.

Blessings to your die rolls!  MP+

Friday, December 5, 2014

Crossing the Start Line: Challenge Day 1

Here’s a rousing picture to show the start of the Fifth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, courtesy of Ralphus’ Wars Of Louis Quatorze blog, which reminds us that today is the anniversary of Frederick the Great’s victory over the Austrians at Leuthen, of which more below.

I see one fellow here has tripped over his paintbrush, but the rest of the Challenge participate are marching forward with the stalwart bearing of Grenadiers.

To give inspiration to my fellow Challengers, here is Klaus the Organ Grinder, who I met this evening at Kitchener’s Christkindl festival.  Sadly, the monkey is only a puppet, but he was wielded with great panache and the tunes were quite lively.  It was a worthwhile trip.  I stocked up on sausage and stollen for Christmas day and resisted the allure of the cheese pretzels and gluwhein.

 

Unfortunately there are still fellows lounging about on my paint desk, shirkers and stragglers from pre-Challenge projects that need to be chased off   They include this lot of Foundry 28mm Union ACW cavalrymen, who are about 95% done.   Hopefully I can get them finished and out of the way this weekend.

 

As I try to get the Yanks finished, I’ve made a start on my first batch of figures for the Challenge, a section of Artizan British WW2 commandoes, who are destined to play a part in my Weird War Two adventures.   This is my first time painting Artizan figures, and I am liking them.

 

I hope I’ll make some progress on them this weekend, especially tomorrow, while Mrs. Padre is committed to the Anglican Church Women’s Christmas Bazaar (I’ve promised a brief appearance, and I’ll buy you all shortbread cookies if you behave).  

However, to give me a break from painting, I did take down my unpunched copy of the Frank Chadwick designed game, Leuthen, by one of my favourite little wargames companies, Victory Point, and I’ll try and have a report on it done for the next Tuesday Boardgame feature.

 

 

In the meantime, blessings to your brushes!

MP+

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Not Quite Birnam Wood ...

but quite possibly done by a dunce Inane.  

Some of you bright sparks chimed in at the end of October when I showed off some trees that I had made using some twigs found in a garden bed.   Nice trees, some of you (I’m looking at you, Archduke P) said, but they need to be put together in twos or threes, or maybe as a bunch to convey the sense of a large wood that would be suitable either for my LOTR or my ACW figures.

So, through November, I mulled it over, and then cut out a piece of MDF and chopped five holes in it using the smallest circular drill but I have.

Then applied my usual SOP for basing - plastic wood mixed with model railroad ballast, painted dark umbra and successfully dry brushed with yellow ochre and whatever I have to hand that’s lighter (current favourite is a craft paint called maple tan).  Then flocking and whatever I have handy - some twigs to represent a fallen tree, foliage clumps and plants, a rock made from hydrocal and a mould found years ago in a model railroad store.

Like Birnam Wood in the Scottish play, the trees draw near ...

… and take up position in their new homes.  The advantage of this approach is that I can take the trees out, put everything in a plastic tote, and transport it for a game or for the inevitable next military move (still a few left to go in my career).

Legolas inspects the wood and decides it’s good to shoot out of.

Closeup of the breathtaking degree of detail.  I used to hang out with some model railroad guys I got to know through a parishioner and they were always inspiring.  I think they might approve.

Thanks for looking.  This is one project I can call finished before the Painting Challenge starts tomorrow.  A few others are close to being done.   Hopefully this wood will feature in an ACW game coming here soon.

Thanks for looking.  Cheers!

MP+

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Diplomacy Game: Peace Breaks Out, We Have Winners

Since late August, model soldiers have been mostly crowded off this blog by the online Diplomacy game, one of several Play-by-Blog projects that seem to be a minor trend in our community, which is an interesting development and a good thing, I feel.

I’m a little sad to say that our Diplomacy game is now over.   With four remaining at the table, and very much in the endgame, a player told me that he simply did not have time to continue with the project, and with Christmas coming and all manner of distractions ahead, including Curt Campbell’s Analogue Painting Challenge V which starts at the end of this week (God help me), this seems like a good time to finish.

So Now It Can Be Told.

Since this was a Blind Game, with only a few security breaches on my part, here are the players, most of whom are still (well, maybe, I don’t really know what Intelligence work went on behind the scenes) ignorant of one another’s identity, in order of final standing.

England, Score 12 and the Winner:  Mark Haughey (owner of the Sun of York blog).

Turkey, Score 11 and Runner Up, Tim Gow (owner of the Megablitz blog)

Italy, Score 7 and Third Place, Edwin King (owner of the Thoughts of a Depressive Diplomatist blog)

France, Score 4, Thomas Nissvik (owner of the Learning by Doing blog and one of my favourite Vikings)

Also Ran and Damned Honourably At That:

Germany, Pat G (owner of the Irregular Warband Fast blog and fellow Canadian)

Russia, Robert Audin (Owner of the Fiends in Waistcoats blog)

Austria (This player had to leave the game early and I will respect their privacy).

Thank you all for playing, it was terrific fun.   Your dispatches and posturing always came to me before I forwarded them, and made for interesting reading.  Some of you were quite new to Diplomacy, and others were old hands, but you all gave it a shot and bravo to you.  If you never played Diplomacy before and now can say you have, then I consider this to have been worthwhile.

At the outset of the game I promised two prizes.  I have two minis from Artizan which I think sort of capture the look of generic European generals from the turn of the century (provided they are French, Italian or Austrian).  They might do for turn of the century Pulp Gaming.

As the winner, Mark Haughey gets this one for the narrowest of wins over Turkey.  However, with Mark’s total stab of France in the Fall 1906 turn, I think he was in the best spot to get the 16 Supply Centres needed to win, whereas Turkey had a tougher shot at the magic number.  Mark, let me know if you’d like him painted and if so, give me some general guidance as far as uniform and hair colour, otherwise I’ll use my imagination).

 The second prize, for best role play, was much harder to decide on.   A number of players did this very well.   Tim Gow’s dispatches as Sultan And-al-Hamid II, which always ended with the delightful phrase “Blessings upon you and may your camels be ever fruitful”, always delighted me.  Tim and Mark both practised a very clever brand of diplomacy, always keeping their cards close to their chests and always lying with a straight face.  Remind me never to play poker with these guys.   Pat G never ever gave up,  Right to the end, with one SC and one Army, he was wheeling and dealing, and working the telegraph for all he was worth.   His Kaiser impersonation, particularly his exchanges with his “Uncle” in England, were always fun.

Well, there has to be a winner, and I choose Edwin King for several reasons.  First, his diplomacy was steady and effective, and along with his skillful playing gave the leading players a healthy sense of respect for Italy. My favourite message of the game was one where, early on, he told the bellicose Kaiser “Don’t rattle your sabre at me, Sir!” and then gave a long scolding lecture on how Germany needed friends, not more enemies.  Also, Edwin’s creations on the true role-playing side were epic.   I will not soon forget Count di Graspi, the general who became a crazed and mystical dictator, or the venal and corrupt Ernest Harriman (his name seemed to fluctuate a bit) who came to life in the pages of the Daily Dissembler.   This was true fluff, but it was well done, with great humour and creativity, and seems to me deserving of recognition.  So, Edwin, I gladly award you this prize, to help you remember the Lion of Trieste in his salad days.  Again, let me know if you want him painted or unpainted, and if painted, pray give some guidance as to uniform colours.

 I hope the players will chime in with their own thoughts and comments on their strategies,  that would be interesting.

I also wish to pay a special tribute to Ion Dowman (also known as Archduke Piccolo) for his insightful play by play commentary as General Erasmus Blatt.   It was always very entertaining and instructive.  Ion, how did you see the game ending if we’d played to the bitter end?  I’d be interested to know that.   Also, there is a little something on my painting bench for you, but it won’t make it’s way down under before Christmas, sadly.

Could I see myself doing this again?  Most likely yes, but not until after Easter of 2015 at the earliest, as I shall be quite busy between now and then.  If you are interested in getting on the list for another game, please let me know.

Cheers and blessings to you all!

Michael

 

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