Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kolinsky Sable Brush Resupply!

After discovering that the Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sables were back in stock (see Kolinsky Relief), an order was fired off to Dick Blick to grab a few before someone changed their mind.  Ordered were a half dozen brushes with a mix of W&N Series 7 of sizes 00 and 0.  As long as my other W&N 7s have lasted, these brushes may represent a lifetime supply.
W&N offers two styles of the Series 7: Pointed Round and Miniature.  From the website photos, the Miniature style appeared to have a shorter and less full bristle.  Having never tried the Miniature before, I wondered if it might offer a figure painting brush for fine work?

When the package arrived, I laid out the two styles for comparison.  The Round Pointed is the top brush with the Miniature below.  As seen from the photo, the fibers on the miniature are shorter and less robust.  The Miniature might, indeed, make for a good detailing brush.  I will see soon!
On the painting desk are a myriad of figures.  In work are several Impetvs stands for the Reconquista project, 10mm Confederate infantry (boy!  it has been a very long time since this project has seen action on either the gaming table or the painting desk), First Afghan War British infantry, and ancient Celts.  Much activity with results trickling out soon.  Still awaiting a chance to give the Chadd's Ford battle a run-through. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How To Find BTD Sale Items

Black Tree Design (BTD) USA is having another one of their frequent sales.  This sale is to celebrate the American, post-Thanksgiving holiday tradition of a Black Friday sale.  BTD started early!

Often, the BTD sales offer a variable discount on a mix of SKUs.  For the bargain shopper, finding the SKU with the deepest discount (typically 50%) can be similar to a random search.  There is a better way!

First sign into BTD's Premium Membership.  It is free to join and only requires registration.
Next, select  "Advanced Search."
From this screen, choose your search criteria.  I picked "Historical", checked "as Main Category", "Additional Category", and "also search in subcategories."  Of course, you can refine your search to limit the results to only "Historical/Ancients/Trojans" but I picked the broadest historical category for this demo.  Finally, enter in the price range.  Since the 50% discount packs normally sell for $9.99, put in from 5.00 to 5.00 in the Price ($) criteria range fields. 
Voila!  The results!  All of the packs offered at 50% discount appear in the results screens.
Notice that results can be sorted by SKU or Product within this search.
Now, go out and do your part for the economy and 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A&A Numidian Light Horse

After a return to painting a few Punic Wars figures in 6mm, the 28mm Punic Wars project received a little attention.  While the 6mm project was light on light infantry, the 28mm project is light on light cavalry!  To take a step in resolving this imbalance, two Impetvs light cavalry stands muster from the painting desk. 
Recently, I placed my first order with Armorum & Aquila Miniatures (A&A) for a couple dozen cavalry.  Included with the Numidians, shown in this post, were Spanish and Gallic cavalry.  With Renegade Miniatures out on hiatus (I do hope they return), I needed to source compatible cavalry.  Since most of my cavalry are Renegade, I really was hoping to find figures that would not look too out of place alongside the behemoth Renegade cavalry.

While the A&A cavalry are marketed as 28mm, they look quite diminutive next to the Renegade horse.  Perhaps, that is no problem since I imagine the Numidian light cavalry would be small and fast.  The A&A are a very good match to the 1st Corps Germans and Gallic cavalry I have.  They also compare favorably to the Aventine mounted officers in the collection.  The figures are really well sculpted and are a welcome addition to the project.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

6mm Light Infantry for Punic Wars

The last time I had the 6mm ancients out for a game of Commands & Colors, I thought that the collection was a little "light" on light infantry.  Perhaps this discovery was made during a recent Pass In Review?  No matter the source of my revelation, motivation struck to field more light infantry.  That is exactly what I have to share this time.

It has been almost a year to the day since I last had 6mm figures on the painting desk.  I forgot how quickly the little guys can be fitted-out for duty.  Off the painting desk are 48 Baccus 6mm figures arrayed on six stands of eight.  The figures look to be Spanish and can readily fit into either alliance.    

There are more Baccus figures in The Lead Pile but not many.  I will have to dig through and see what remains.  I recall seeing more light infantry along with Roman and Carthaginian heavy infantry.  Adding more stands to the project pulls me in the direction of getting in a few more games of Commands & Colors soon.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Planning the Battle of Brandywine - Chadd's Ford

Work has begun on setting up a scenario for giving both Land of the Free and Fields of Honor a trial with 15mm AWI.  In the first game of Land of the Free, the British won a hard fought battle of Bunker Hill in 28mm.  For the 15mm game trials, the follow-up battle chosen is the Battle of Brandywine.  Why Brandywine?  Well, OB showed a variety of troop types and battalion sizes coupled with the opportunity to accommodate more than one scenario.  Terrain and situation is interesting as well.
Brinton's Ford and Brandywine Creek from the NE
To gain background on the battle and sort out the participants and troop dispositions, I have been reading McGuire's Volume I of the Philadelphia Campaign.  Prior to reading McGuire and having only a general idea of the battle flow, my initial plan was to restage Knyphausen's approach from Kennett Square to Chadd's Ford.  In this section of the battlefield, the Brandywine can only be crossed at the two fords: Chadd's or Brinton's.
Brandywine Creek looking north
Historically, Knyphausen's approach to Brandywine Creek from Kennett Square was only a feint.  Once along the banks of the Brandywine, Kynphausen waited for Howe's flanking attack to develop before launching his attacks across the fords.  As Washington drew off Sullivan and Greene from the fords to address the British flanking maneuver, Wayne was left to defend these crossings.  As Kynphausen saw Sullivan and Greene redeploying to the north to counter Howe, Knyphausen struck.

This exercise will explore the results of Knyphasuen attacking rebel positions on the east bank of the Brandywine straight away.  The scenario begins with the initial skirmishes between Maxwell and Knyphausen on the British approach to Chadd's Ford.  Departing from history, Knyphausen, instead of taking up positions on the west bank of the Brandywine and awaiting Howe's flank attack, will press on across the creek and escalate the probe into a multi-brigade engagement.  Maxwell's light infantry will deploy on the west bank of the Brandywine with Greene and Sullivan's divisions drawn up on the east bank in favorable ground.  Maxwell will act as a speed bump to Knyphausen's juggernaut.  Greene deploys covering Chadd's Ford while Sullivan defends Brinton's Ford to the north. 

As Maxwell is pushed back to the creek, Knyphausen presses on to engage the defenders lining the creek rather than awaiting Howe's flanking maneuver to strike home.  By having Knyphausen attack early, the British have a chance to catch the Americans in a pincer while Knyphausen drives on the colonials' line of communications.  As Howe advances from the north, the Americans may be trapped if Knyphausen can cut their retreat. 

Terrain for the battle only uses 6 feet by 6 feet of the game table.  Brandywine Creek runs generally in a north/south direction with Washington's colonials on the east bank and Knyphausen on the west bank of the creek.  Sullivan defends Brinton's Ford while Greene defends Chadd's Ford.
The Battle for Chadd's Ford
Orders of Battle for combatants are drawn from Greg Novak's fine work, The American War of Independence - A Guide to the Armies of the AWI.  With the size differentiation in Land of the Free and the large dispersion of units' manpower, some of the small units will be consolidated into larger units.  Another factor to consider is that LotF prescribes four levels of unit sizes of Tiny, Small, Medium, and Large.  Since most of the battalions (regiments) present on the OB are in the neighborhood of 300 men and the Basic Maneuver Unit (BMU) or LotF Element is the battalion for Brandywine, Brandywine will be fought at the battalion level.  LotF lists battalion level headcounts spanning from 300 men up to 1,000 men.  To me, that represents too much variation to fit into one size category.  With aggregating the very small units into larger units and the German regiments fielding units in excess of 500 men, my initial thought is to categorize BMU size as:
  • Small - Under 150
  • Medium - 150 - 350
  • Large - 350+
This aggregation and categorization also provides the benefit of reducing the number of Elements fielded slightly.  Unit reduction will be especially appreciated during solo play.  Still, a lot of elements for solo play but manageable, I think.  Who knows?  Maybe I will get some assistance?
These details provide both a starting place for scenario development and a useful exercise to occupy my mind while confined to a hotel this week.  Of course, the above is all preliminary and may change before troops are actually set out on the tabletop.

With Kevin cancelling the scheduled colonial game on the 22nd, perhaps, my AWI troops can see action this weekend?  If not this weekend then certainly time should be available over the long Thanksgiving holiday.

The stage is set.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

15mm Risorgimento: Austrian I.R. 27/4

Following on the footsteps of the Risorgimento figure comparison featuring the newly acquired Lancashire figures, an 18 figure Austrian battalion marches off from the painting desk.  This battalion represents one of the 4th battalions detached from the 6th Austrian Corps to Benedek's 8th Corps at San Martino.  

Since I am away from my resources and working from memory, the presence of these 4th battalions puzzles me.  In the field, an Austrian infantry regiment contained three line battalions and one grenadier battalion.  The fourth battalion acted as a depot and typically was not present on the battlefield.  If that was the case, were these few 4th battalions mustered up for the campaign?  If not, what were these 4th battalions?  Perhaps, I can investigate once I return to my library.

Figures are Freikorps 15s.   

While the Freikorps figures looked small in comparison to the other manufacturers, on the gaming table, these size differences are not noticeable.  Next time I get the collection into battle, I must make a point of capturing game shots with all manufacturers in the same battle scene.

With the arrival of the Lancashire figures, I am anxious to get the figures into the painting queue and onto the painting desk.  The arrival of new figures always motivates me to get a few under the brush quickly.  Does the arrival of new figures have the same effect on others?  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lancashire Games Miniatures

My eye has been on Lancashire Games since they produce a range of figures for the mid-19th Century European wars.  From the website photos of the miniatures, it is difficult to get a good grasp of the quality of the sculpts.  What better way to find out for myself than by placing a small, dip-your-toe-into-the-water test order?  Well, that is exactly what I did.

Concentrating on my 1859 project, I ordered enough figures to build two battalions each of Sardinians and Austrians.  The figures were ordered from the UK on 01NOV2014 and the order arrived on the left coast of the USA on 10NOV2014.  Fast!  Communication was good too.

Figures arrived in good shape with a few figures having bent bases; some almost doubled over onto the legs.  With such soft alloy, the bases were easily straightened without any breakage.  I like the soft alloy Lancashire uses and reminds of the good old days of malleable, lead figures.

Pulling a few figures out, I lined them up and made a quick comparison.  No Mirliton infantry remained unpainted for the comparison so a couple of artillerymen were substituted.  These Lancashire figures are on the chunky side of the spectrum especially with stockiness in the upper torso.  These rank and file lads have no neck!  With a slightly oversized head,  I guess neck compression is expected.  I would classify them as 17M on the Barrett Scale. Does anyone still use that metric?

Sculpting style on these figures is very similar to Mirliton infantry with the exception that Mirliton are slightly smaller.  Mirliton have no neck too.  Still, the Mirliton Austrian artilleryman fits in well with Lancashire.  As seen from the photo, size varies even within one manufacturer.  See the the two Mirliton artillerymen in the top row, for example.  The Old Glory figures fit in closely to Lancashire but a little smaller.  Perhaps,16M on Barrett.  Old Glory and Lancashire officers match very well together.  The Freikorps Austrian infantry is in a class by himself at a true 15mm in height.  On the gaming table the Barrett differences between Mirliton, Old Glory, and Freikorps disappear.  Almost certainly be the same when Lancashire battalions are added into the mix.   

First impressions are that I like what I see from Lancashire Games.  My only regrets are that I ordered Austrians wearing their greatcoat when I would have preferred kittel and I forgot to use my Society of Ancients' 10% member discount.  Next time!

Monday, November 17, 2014

SAW U.S. Dismounted Cavalry

Another batch of US troops for the SAW project muster out from the painting desk.  This release, 19 dismounted U.S. cavalry troopers hit the ground.  Fifteen of the figures will make up one unit while the four, singly based prone figures will be employed as prone markers.

At first, I was disappointed with four prone figures in the 30 figure pack.  None of the other American packs contained any prone figures.  After a few minutes of thought, the notion of using these as prone markers rather than figures integral to the formed unit surfaced. That solves the problem of how to employ these prone figures but creates another.  I will need prone figures for the other American units and the Spanish.  Lucky for me, the U.S. Infantry Skirmishing pack and both Spanish skirmishing packs contain prone figures.  I will need to send a special request for prone figures to Old Glory.  I he past Old Glory has been very good at accommodating special requests.  Once I ordered enough 10mm artillery limbers only to use up all of the surplus horse teams that are supplied in the limber packs.  

As with the other U.S. figures in Old Glory's Spanish-American War range, sculpting quality is excellent.  Only a few "Hey Steve" poses are present.  What an enjoyable period and range of figures to paint.  I really like how the Americans are turning out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kolinsky Sable Brush Relief

Brushes.  They are like old friends, are they not?
My companions
My favorite brushes are the Winsor & Newton Series 7 and Raphael Series 8404 Kolinsky sables.  My old friends in the photo have been in constant use for at least five years.  While the Raphael is beginning to lose its point and snap, the WN7 is still going strong and never fails to return to a fine point.

Those using Kolinsky sable brushes for painting probably have experienced frustration finding their favorite Kolinsky sable brushes over the last year or more.  I know I have.  Since last year, my favorite Kolinsky sable brushes, Winsor & Newton and Raphael, have been unavailable.  From my understanding of the situation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department was the culprit.  Kolinsky sable was placed on their "Do Not Import" list.
Fortunately, it looks like we have turned the corner on the whole affair.  A quick look through the latest Dick Blick flyer led to a browse on their website (Dick Blick Winsor & Newton).  Could it be?  The brushes are back in stock!
Even though I maintained a reserve of a couple of WN7 and Raphael8404 brushes, perhaps a small order is prudent just in case the Government changes its position?

Also included in the flyer were links (Brushes 101) to three pdfs containing a primer on brushes and brush selection.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Eureka! Another Gift!

Having only yesterday solved The Case of the Mystery Eureka Package (actually, Ian solved the puzzle. I was only a very interested bystander), a second Eureka gift arrives! 

This time, my benefactor of this incredibly generous act is known.  Many will recognize his avatar,
Of course, this is from Phil (aka "Mrs. DBA") of Toy Soldiers Studio. Phil produces DBA armies faster than I can track; all beautifully crafted too!  Remarkable painter and an even more remarkable bloke!  Unfortunate that we live at opposite sides of Washington State!

Repeating my sentiments from the Secret Santa gift exchange, Phil's generosity contributes to what makes the brotherhood of wargamers so special.

Phil, my deepest thanks and chapeau to you, Sir!  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Carthaginian Spear in 28mm

After a spate of Napoleonics crossing my painting desk, time to change it up a bit with a brief return to 28mm Ancients.  Actually, the painting desk is awash with figures in all sizes and periods without much rhyme or reason to this madness.  The decreasing hours of daylight reduce my outdoor time so the hobby is benefiting from a little extra painting time.
Off from the table is a 13 figure stand of heavy infantry for the 28mm Punic Wars project.  Based on a single 120mm x 60mm base, this will see action in Impetvs.  The manufacturer of these figures is unknown to me.  I received these along with a similar number of the same from Scott in a bare lead swap.  These figures were surplus to  a large painting commission he had undertaken and would not see his brush.  At the time, Scott probably identified the figures but I have since forgotten.  So, if anyone recognizes these figures, please speak out!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Eureka! Mystery Package - Solved!

Look what arrived into my mailbox this afternoon!
At first I thought hooray, figures in the mail!  After that initial euphoria, I began to wonder when did I place this order?  Recalling no such recent order with Eureka, I wondered if this was a long forgotten back order.  Did I accidentally hit "Buy" on a recent browse while placing items into my shopping cart?

Quite puzzling.

Then, thoughts turned to Secret Santa but it is much too early for that and the address did not carry the tell-tale moniker of Secret Santa.  If this is from my Secret Santa then, whoops, I opened it early.  If not that then I must have a mysterious benefactor.

Perhaps there will be a clue inside the package?  Nope.  Not even a packing slip or invoice.  What I did find were several handfuls of Eureka SYW Prussians.  Yippee!
Mystery box contents
Not only were these the Eureka figures I use for the majority of my project but my benefactor took considerable thought into the purchase.  You see, there were enough figures to build one musketeer battalion and two squadrons of dragoons in the exact proportions that I field!  Outstanding!

The details of picking specific contents for this package and sending it out represent a considerable act of thoughtfulness and generosity.  Acts such as this truly make this hobby what it is; a group of like-minded and generous comrades sharing a passion for toy soldiers.  My deepest thanks to my mysterious donor.
Hopefully, my benefactor steps forward.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One-Two Tuesday

Two small figure groupings head off the painting desk.  With such small numbers of figures, why not combine them into one posting?

Having dispatched a few French light mortars off the painting desk a few weeks back, I remembered that a few packs of Peter Pig heavy French mortars were in The Lead Pile.  To keep pace with the German escalation, heavy mortars were needed.  Built up were two stands of mortars with three crew each.  The Peter Pig WWII figures are always well sculpted with good detailing.  A little on the chunky side but some of that could very well be due to the greatcoat.  Excellent figures and useful additions to the project.
After the arrival of the first snowfall yesterday, thoughts turned to winter gaming on the arctic front and battling among the fjords and mountains of Norway.  With mortar team reinforcements, perhaps, the French will have more success?

The rummage through The Lead Pile also surfaced several packs of Minifigs' 15mm AWI figures picked up from eBay for a pittance.  With a renewed interest in the 15mm AWI collection spurred by recent work on Land of the Free, one pack of natives was withdrawn.  The project has seen no natives fielded, thus far, so high time to add at least one unit.

Compared to the Peter Pig French just finished, the Minifigs' natives are quite delicate little models.  The detailing is very good and despite the delicate detailing paint quickly.   While I will not be able to recreate Oriskany yet, this unit is a start for building a small native contingent.

The paint desk is full of an assortment of figures once again.  Next off the paint table will likely see an addition to the 28mm Punic War project.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Customer Service and Response Times

Today's seemingly random posting focuses on customer service and response times prompted by recent interactions with the four vendors shown above.  This exercise is bifurcated into two trials.  The first regarding gift card availability and the second regarding order lead times.

After my subtle pitch for gift card usage in the Secret Santa Ideas posting, I took a look around to see which vendors actually offered the option of gift card purchases.  While many of the distributors such as Eureka USABrigade GamesOld Glory 25s, etc., do, some my favorite vendors do not.  Since some manufacturers offer gift card options, I must not be the only customer desiring that capability.  In a clearly non-scientific survey, three vendors selected did not offer the option for purchasing a gift card.  The three manufacturers chosen for further scrutiny were Front Rank, Aventine, and Perry.  To each of these three, I sent an email asking if a method existed for purchasing and using gift cards.    

First response back was from Keith at Aventine Miniatures.  While gift card purchase and redemption was not available,  Keith said that he would create a crude form immediately and get IT working on it.  Well, within a day IT had added a Gift Card option with the ability to take PayPal.  One day turn-around?  Amazing!

Second reply was from Alan from Perry Miniatures.  No gift card capability at present but he would sort it out on the website soon.   

The last response was from Angela at Front Rank.  While gift card capability was not present on the website, I was given detailed and explicit instructions on how to go about a gift card purchase and/or redemption manually.  With instructions in-hand, buying and redeeming a Front Rank gift card will be a snap.

Frankly, I was surprised by how quickly my enquiry was addressed by each of the vendors. All offered quick response time and in both Front Rank and Aventine's case, immediate solutions. Good job, guys!

Next, consider order lead times.  For pre-cut bases, Litko Aerosytems make a terrific product.  Before the days of Litko, I cut balsa by hand to construct each base.  That was painstaking and sometimes hazardous work (I likely have a few finger scars for proof) and the results never delivered the precision I preferred.  While communication with the company has always been first rate, delivery times were more often than not, slow.  I have waited up to four weeks for an order to arrive.  I know, each order is cut on demand and if a long production queue exists, my order waits in queue.  With long lead times, my orders must be prepared and submitted far in advance to receive bases entering into my production line in order not to slow my hobby work.

Given the history outlined above, I could not wait for Litko's annual Black Friday sale to restock.  Imagine my surprise when an order placed on Nov 1 arrived on Nov 7!  Unbelievable!  Did my order arrive during inventory build-up to support Fall-In?  Did my order happen to fall into a slow period?  Whatever stars aligned to send out my order within one week, I thank you!

Before the Internet, was this level of vendor interaction and rapid response time and resolution possible?  Across multiple countries?  I think not!  In this age, customer service and response times are better than I ever thought possible.

Friday, November 7, 2014

French 2nd Legere in 28mm

Another 28mm Napoleonic battalion rolls off the assembly line.  This time, the 2nd Battalion of 2nd French Legere Regiment marches from the painting desk into cantonment.  French light battalions are sixteen figures strong with two detached skirmishers.  The skirmishers were out skirmishing and missed the photo op.  Figures are Front Rank.
The 2nd saw action throughout the Peninsular War with a war record showing participation in battles of Vimeiro, Rio-Seco, Corunna, Oporto, Busaco, Sabugal, Salamanca, and Vittoria.  There boys in blue from the 2nd Legere were busy lads and will be able to legitimately see action throughout my campaigning on the peninsula.  

Unlike the already fielded 1st battalion, I put the 2nd Battalion's elites in bearskin for the carabiniers and colpacks for the voltigeurs.  The yellow colpack bag looks good against the blue of the jacket and red with yellow crescent epaulettes.  Perhaps I should paint carabiniers in bearskin and voltigeurs in colpack for the 1st Battalion and swap them out?

 Final photo shows the two battalions of the 2nd Legere together on parade.
Enough Front Rank legere remain in The Lead Pile to field two more battalions but I will keep them in reserve for now.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cycling Around Lucca

The city of Lucca was an overnight stop during our May trip to Italy.  With its high Renaissance walls surrounding the ancient Roman city-center, Lucca would be a perfect decompression from the hustle-bustle of Rome and Florence to the tranquility of the Cinque Terre.  Lucca was also home to Puccini and ex-cycling fast-man, Mario Cipollini.

Stepping off the train platform, the height and massiveness of the old city walls were an impressive sight even from a distance.  
Upon closer inspection, Lucca's walls are strikingly massive!  Lucca is one of the few remaining towns with Renaissance era walls still intact. 

The wall circumvents the old city in roughly a two and a half mile loop.  A paved pathway exists on top of the ramparts and is the perfect place for a stroll or bicycling.  Lucca's ramparts have been transformed into a pleasing parkway lined with trees and grass.  Wanting to see as much of old Lucca as possible in the early afternoon, we rented two bikes and headed out onto the ramparts. 
Passeo on ramparts
Passeo on ramparts
Making a loop around the city, we got our bearings from our rampart vantage point.  Spotting the Duomo di San Martino, we headed down off the wall and into the heart of the old city, proper.  Beautiful Italian scenery at its best.
San Martino and gardens
San Martino
After a stop at the Duomo, we forged on in search of the Piazza San Michele and its namesake church.  San Michele was built over the ancient Roman forum and today is called San Michele ad Foro. 
San Michele
San Michele
With all of the peddling, getting lost, regaining our bearings, and dodging traffic, we found a place to stop for refreshment deep within the city center.
Somewhere, deep in Lucca
Grabbing a quick slice of pizza and still feeling hungry, we decided to try the local specialty snack; cecina.  Cecina (cheh-CHEE-nah) is a thin baked pizza or crepe made from garbanzo bean flour, olive oil, and salt.  Simple.  Although hesitant at first, we discovered that the cecina had a crusty,creamy deliciousness and would become a staple snack throughout the remainder of our trip!  Can easily made at home too.  We prefer adding add cheese to our homemade version.  
With energy restored, we set off again in search of the Roman amphitheatre.  The amphitheatre looks similar to the surrounding buildings but the curvature reveals the original outline of the structure. 
Roman Amphitheatre
Entering through one of the gates, 
Passage to Roman Amphitheatre
the amphitheatre opens up to an assortment of restaurants and tourist shops.
Roman Amphitheatre
Before heading back up onto the ramparts for more cycling and then back to the hotel, one last stop at the Giuseppi Garibaldi monument.
 Beautiful city and one to which I plan to return!