A Wargaming Work Area

Sunday, November 10, 2013 0 comments
Like a lot of people over here in the States, I am lucky enough to have a decent-sized home that includes a large enough basement to accommodate my hobbies and interests, which are many. As an old advertising guy, I do have some regular freelance jobs and publishing work that I take on from time to time, and I need space to devote to these activities as well as a fairly large library that I've accumulated over the years.

Most of that work takes place in the upstairs office where I keep my better computer (still several years old) while my hobby-related web surfing and writing gets handled in the basement, where I use another PC to handle those tasks at a desk area where I can also do figure painting, research and other jobs that don't get too messy. [see the 1st photo]  One other nice thing about this space is that it allows me to multitask; if I am not listening to music or a podcast, I have our old projection TV on so I can catch a football game or some other show as I work.

Directly behind this space is my "workshop" room, where I have a modest workbench area that I use for larger-scale projects such as scenery, other items that require more room for assembly, or things that will require the use of spray-adhesive, hot-glue, spackle, flocking and other messy stuff...or the use of cutting or electric tools that just can't be accommodated at my desk. [see 2nd photo]  Though the room is big enough for most of these jobs and to hold my wargaming items, there's not a lot of extra room either - since the space is also used as a book storage overflow space and repository for Christmas decorations, as well as "the room where dad keeps all his stuff" - including all my 1:32 slot cars (Scalextric, etc.) and other models, old toys, computer equipment and other odds-and-ends.

This setup works out pretty well for just about all my hobby activities and scenery-making. [see photo 3] What I don't have is a dedicated wargames table; that would require me to take over the entire basement - and that is not about to happen any time soon. Besides, it's not as if I could leave games out for long-term play (we have a bad cat who loves to play with my stuff) - and I have portable tables that I can use with terrain boards or ground-cloths. There are other options, too: I've play-tested some rules on my workbench, and I've had some formal games with my friends upstairs in the dining it's not a problem.

I've always enjoyed seeing what type of solutions that other people come up with in terms of developing a "hobby space" -  especially when limited room is an issue. It amazes me how creative some folks are at meeting those challenges. If you want to share your space, please drop us a link in the comments.

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1/72 Irish Contingent 14-15th Century

Saturday, November 9, 2013 0 comments
One of the last groups I've been working on for the Medieval period is a group of Irishmen that I'll use for various engagements-- these are mostly foot soldiers, armed primarily with axes abut also with spears, glaves and other assorted pole-arms. You can see by the single base how I mount most of my foot; three in front with two in the second rank, offset between the others. The base is a pretty standard 60 x 40mm, since I mount most of my soldier on pennies, they fit perfectly on this size base, and the offset gives a thicker (though slightly less regular) appearance to the units. In a pinch, I could remove the individual  troops if needed, and the pennies offer some heft to the plastic figures. I still need to add some flags or pennants on some of these stands, though I haven't settled on any specific designs yet - if anyone has some suggestions for appropriate heraldry, please pass it on.

I cut the bases out of basswood--as I was taking the photos I noticed that the basing paint and "grass" is quite a bit darker that I thought it was--at least in comparison to the terrain boards, which I made some years ago. I'll explain a little more about how those were constructed in a future post.

I am still brushing up on my photography skills - I have cameras that are just fine for the job, but my available lighting needs help and I hope to supplement that as time goes on.  I will also be adding to this battle group very soon, as I recently acquired a package of Redbox Irishmen for the Wars of the Roses; they look very fine indeed, and should fill out this range quite nicely.  For now, I have put these in the box (to protect them from the cat) and returned to getting my work/hobby area better organized. More on that very soon.

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REVIEW: The Wargaming Compendium

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 0 comments
Having followed Henry Hyde's work and admired his dedication to the hobby for some years now, I've been looking forward to getting my hands on The Wargaming Compendium.  As everyone else has noted, it's big. Very big. But sheer size alone is not what makes this such a valuable addition to any wargamer's library. It is easily the most comprehensive book about the hobby ever produced, and takes such a thoughtful, fair-minded, friendly and fun  approach to wargaming that I feel it cannot help but attract more people to the hobby.  For this reason alone, I'd strongly urge all wargamers to contact their local library and suggest that they add this book to their collection...something that I'm sure would make Henry (as well as Pen & Sword) very happy.

Looking at the Compendium, I am so well reminded of the effect that Don Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers had upon me when I first found it on a library shelf many years ago—and how even those old black and white photographs stoked my imagination and interest. Henry's book really puts into perspective how far the hobby has come over the past forty to fifty years; I'm quite sure if I had seen this book when I was thirteen years old my head would have exploded!

Yes, I know some people out there are loath to approve of anything that is colorful, attractive and well-designed—preferring  the dodgy text, pasted-up layouts and fuzzy black-and-white halftones of days gone by. I get it. I have a stack of old MWANs in my basement that I still like to peruse from time to time. But as a part-time book designer and old ad guy myself, I think Henry has done a particularly fine job here—the design is attractive and tidy, the type is set at an easily-readable size, and the lack of distracting graphics allows the many color photos (which are very good) to take pride of place. For a book of this size and scope, these elements are subtle, but very important.
I have to admit I was rather pleased to open the introductory chapters and see photos and descriptions of well-known wargaming books from the past—many of which are on my own bookshelf.  I'm also sure that The Wargaming Compendium will have pride of place among these other books as the years go by. That said, it is difficult to compare this new book to others that have come before, since there has really been nothing quite like it before—nothing so comprehensive, well-rounded and  exhaustive in scope.  But how could there be? Having a half-century or more of hobby history to build upon is a great help, and I'm sure Henry would agree. He has taken advantage of the sum of all that cumulative knowledge to create a book that I'm sure will remain the hobby's great reference work for many years.

In scale and intent, if nothing else, The Compendium is really a different sort of book than those memorable works produced by  Charles Grant, Peter Young or even Featherstone.  They are all products of their place and time.        

Since it will take me some days, or even weeks, to finish reading it, I will refrain from an in-depth assessment of the rules that are included in the book—specifically for gladiatorial combat, a Wild West skirmish, and horse-and-musket era battle; I know Henry likes his rules Old-School and easy to use, and I look forward to trying them out, especially the horse-and-musket rule set.
In the end, I might suggest that much of the positive response to The Wargaming Compendium results from the fact that it really holds a mirror up to the hobby, and in doing so—it offers a very agreeable image. That is always a good thing.

You can add it to you bookshelf HERE.   
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Remembering a Great Acquisition...

Saturday, October 26, 2013 0 comments
As I have recently set about to organize my painting area and workbench--as well as my wargaming library, I had to stop a moment to reconsider some of the good luck I have enjoyed while trying to assemble a collection. One of the most memorable discoveries was this like-new copy of Bob Bard's 1957 classic, Making & Collecting Military Miniatures.

Of primary interest to me was Chapter 3, in which the author discusses historical wargaming with miniatures, and gives some general outlines on how to approach the hobby. While the book does include a lot of great information on painting and collecting, it's also notable from the point that 1957 was n important year in the hobby; Jack Scruby began publishing Wargames Digest and All About Wargames; SAE started producing 30mm painted figure sets; and Scruby Miniatures began producing 30mm figures.

As for this like-new copy, the real wonder is that I found it in an old second-hand bookstore (or maybe an antiques shop) in a full shipping carton of brand-new Bard books. It was as if they had just been dropped off from the publisher--all clean, bright and tight in their crisp white dust jackets. I'm sure this was at least 10 years ago or more, and I'm sure I posted about my find on whatever wargames board I might have been on at the time. I doubt that I paid much more than the $5.00 cover price.

So, here's to a classic, and also to keeping your eyes never know what you might find when you're wading thorough an old antiques or second hand store.
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Constructing a Medieval Bombard on the Cheap

Saturday, October 19, 2013 0 comments

While I have purchased a few of the Zvezda medieval artillery kits, and a few others, the relative high price and fiddly-ness of some of them had inspired me to try and create my own - and I am happy to say I have had some success. Very much inspired by Paul of Paul's Bods (my efforts fall far short of his craftsmanship, as does my photography) I feel they will work just fine on my wargames table.

I began at the local hobby store, where I found some very small wood thread spools and related bits and pieces, usually bagged, these can be purchased ata relatively cheap price and a couple bags will furnish a fairly substantial artillery park. I glued these together to make two different sizes of cannon, one "large" and the other "very large" and added bits of matchstick to create some type of supportive framework or cradle.

At the time, ha had no dedicated artillery crews, so I simply utilized some Airfix Robin Hood figures and an old Giant knight recast that I had available. One of the Airfix had his staff converted to a ram, the other had weapons removed and looks as if he may be directing fire, and the knight's lance was removed except for the left-hand extension, to which I added a small gob of something and painted it to look like fire.

The photos may not do full justice to the finished piece, and I have detailed them a little further, but I am quite happy with the results so far. I expect them to be quite useful against castle walls...
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How Others See Wargaming - And the Misinformed


Because I am not particularly attracted to fantasy wargaming or anything like Dungeons and Dragons, I was initially apt to disregard the title of this Man Cave post. But looking at the book in question and reading the excerpt that had been posted, I was interested in the perspective of the author, " Forbes Senior Editor and gaming and technology expert David Ewalt."

Now, it's easy to be put off by the ignorance of the Man Cave editor, who, in the introduction, characterizes HMGS' Historicon as a "D&D convention, just outside of Philadelphia" - a description which, if widely known, would probably have dozens of  HMGS members on his front lawn with flaming torches and pitchforks. As anyone knows, Historicon--as a serious historical wargaming convention; as a result, they just don't do the fantasy thing there--of which D&D is the penultimate example.

Of course, it's true that D&D originally sprang from Gary Gygax's Chainmail medieval wargaming rules back in the 70's. As a result, I do have to give some credit to Ewalt, who at least understands that to paint a complete picture of his subject, it is necessary to go back a bit further, to research the history and development that led to D&D:

"I knew that if I truly wanted to understand Dungeons & Dragons, I had to first understand the games that gave birth to it..."

The excerpt from the book that follows is brief, and his characterizations of the HMGS convention's locale and attendees are admittedly spot-on. I would be curious to at least read the rest of the chapter, though I doubt I would be interested in the whole book.

Check out the excerpt and let us know what you think.
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I've been interested in wargaming ever since I started playing with my Marx toy soldiers in the backyard in the mid-60's, and then again when I came across Don Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers at the local library in the early 70's. About 20 years ago I started painting some medieval knights for my son as a Christmas present, and became re-acquainted with the hobby...[more]