Friday, December 14, 2012

Alfred the Great - 1969 Film

Its very disappointing when one gets a chance to relive a cherished childhood memory, and it doesn't live up to one's recollections. That is the case for me with "Alfred the Great", a historical fiction film released back in 1969. I remember watching the film on TV with my father and grandfather, and being fascinated that the Viking Danes didn't have horns on their helmets, and that even though they were living in England, they practiced a religion very different from the one that I had been raised with. I was left with the memory in my mind, never getting a chance to view the movie again in the intervening decades, that the film was a portrayal of the Dark Ages more accurate than is usually committed to cellulose. Boy! Does it turn out that I was very mistaken.

After many years of searching, I finally got a chance to view a copy of this rare production, and now watching through adult eyes, and with a much greater knowledge of history and film-making, I was sorry to find out that "Alfred the Great" is probably rare for a multitude of reasons. The film only covers the early part of Alfred's reign, in a completely non-historic fashion; the portrayal of England's only monarch named "the Great" makes him out to be even more unlikable than the barbarians he struggles against; the battle scenes are completely laughable; and most of the dialogue is painful to listen too. The Danes chant like rabid soccer fans in almost every action, and are actually wearing UNIFORMS made of scale armor and black cloaks. There's not a shieldwall to be seen, and Alfred's "strategem" of a boar's head formation in the climatic battle is wildly inaccurate and ridiculous.

On the plus side, the actor's do a reasonable job with the thin material they had to work with, especially a young Michael York as the Danish warlord - he steals every scene that he appears in. (I just love the twinkle in his eyes when he says to Alfred's queen, "so, your God is a god of love? You should meet our love-god, Frey. Why, when maids see him, they can't help but to blush). Ian McKellan, of Gandalf fame, also makes his first film appearance, but I couldn't recognize him in his youthful appearance. The film deserves minor kudos for trying to portray the Dark Ages supposedly realistically as a grimy and violent world, but the complete lack of historical accuracy ruins this attempt. And, the worst sin of all, is that the film is just downright boring.

If you can't resist any movie with swords and barbarians in it, you might be interested anyway, but with all the movie's faults, I would otherwise suggest you just let this one stay in the vault it has been laying in.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wargames Factory Vikings Take 2

I made another try at a batch of Wargames Factory Viking Bondi. This time I limited my palette of colors for the clothing to more subdued colors, and I made my own shield transfers by printing out the nice patterns that can be obtained at the website for An Hour of Wolves & Shattered Shields. I then simply cut the printed shield designs out, glued them to the shields with a glue stick, and then touched up between the edge of the transfer and the shield rim with a bit of black paint. When painting the main body of the figures, I also took the effort to be a bit more deliberative with how I applied my washes. All in all, I think these are a major improvement over the previous attempt that I made on these figures.

Next up will be some Gripping Beast Hirdmen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dark Age Trash

Its been a bit of time since my last post, and the major reason for that is that I've gotten no gaming in at all. I was supposed to have a game with a friend to try out my Galatians, but that got cancelled right after setup due to a family crises that my opponent had to deal with. Then come early December a bunch of my local Ancient gaming friends are doing a two round, Field of Glory team tournament that I can't make because of a family conflict of my own. That leaves me with waiting for the printed book version of Field of Glory V2.0 to be released (the eBook that Slitherine is selling right now sounds like a horrible implementation), in order to reinvigorate some local enthusiasm for Ancients gaming.

So, since I'm pretty much sitting in a holding pattern, all I can post for now is some photos of some Dark Age trash units that I recently completed. These are 15mm Museum Miniatures figures, from their Viking and Norse-Irish lines, but I plan to use them as javelin-armed light infantry in almost any Dark Age or hairy barbarian army.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Splintered Light Chariots

I've got a 900 point Field of Glory game coming up, hopefully this weekend, and I wanted to experiment with a crazed Galatian army. If only for some tactical variety, and to use a unit type that I don't have experience with, I wanted to add in a four stand battlegroup of light chariots. I'm using the Scots-Irish chariots as manufactured by Splintered Light, but I wouldn't hesitate to use these as Gauls, Ancient British, or the Galatians I initially intend them for. Nice figures, certainly, and I'm also looking forward to their upcoming release of 15mm Vikings.

Here are my photos of the completed unit, including a closeup of a single stand:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stark Archers

Getting a bit more painting done lately. Heres a photo of a unit of the Stark archers that come with the core "Battles of Westeros" game, setup on the included mounted hex mat:

And a photo of all three units required for the first scenario:

They came out pretty good, I think. Not to the same quality as metal historical miniatures in 15mm, but more than acceptable. And the game will certainly look much more visually attractive with painted figures rather than with bare plastic ones.

Next up will be the Stark War Host of the North (halberdiers) units, including the Maege Mormont leader figure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Commands and Color Hex Table

For the last several years I've kept hearing gamers mention how good a game Commands and Colors Ancients is, but I've never gotten around to getting a copy of my own. Considering that I was a boardgamer for decades before ever taking up miniatures, that's a bit surprising to me at least. Maybe its that given the relative complexity of many of the miniature games that I like, Commands and Colors gave me the impression of being too light weight. Well, finally I've gotten hold of a copy of the core game, and I must say that I find it to be brilliantly designed. I can't wait to get some games under my belt, and even though I think that the block units are very attractive and elegant on their own, this game still just screams to be played using miniatures. I know that there is a hexless variant that can be used, but I thought that in order to keep it simple, why not just use a hex map larger than the one that comes with the game. Funds being tight, I didn't want to spend a fortune, but I was able to simply and quickly put together a hex table for just this purpose.

What I did was to get two 30" x 48" poster boards from Staples. I spray painted them black, and added a layer of Moss Green paint. I then drew up a hex grid using AutoCad, and plotted it out on large sheets of paper using the plotter at my office. I actually made the number of hexes larger than what is required for a Commands and Colors game in order to also be able to play Battles of Westeros on this table. The hexes were originally sized at 4" across the flats of the hexes, but since this didn't quite fit on the poster boards, I scaled them down slightly so that they are really 3 7/8" across. Then I aligned the plots on the boards and stuck a tack through at each point of intersection. The small holes were connected with pencil lines that were then draw over with a green Sharpie. The Commands and Colors edge border and section dividers were then drawn on with a black sharpie. Here are a couple of photos of the finished board:

Not bad, I think, for a very minimal amount of money spent.

Here are also some photos of how I plan to arrange units for gameplay. The first is an eight stand barbarian warrior unit. Since in the game, this is a four block unit, two bases will be removed each time the unit takes a hit.

Being based on 40mm x 15mm bases as per heavy foot, this is an easy fit. I've also tried doing the same with an eight stand unit of barbarians based on 40mm x 20mm bases for use as medium infantry.

This seems a little tight, and I might instead just use four bases per unit as shown below:

Here is a three stand unit of Gallic medium cavalry:

 And one of Numidian skirmishers:

Finally, a unit of Roman heavy infantry:

Seems to me, this is the way Commands and Colors Ancients is meant to be played.

Now, I have to work out how to put together a larger board for Epic-sized games.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wargames Factory Vikings

I'm still occasionally slipping in an unit of 28mm figures. I can't really afford the scale as my primarily gaming size, and I prefer the way 15mm armies look on the table for the unit-based, non-skirmish games that I like to play. But I have friends who would rather game in 28mm, and I have harbored a desire in the back of my brain that I would someday like to experiment with a Boran Norse-Irish army (with a Viking ally) for use when playing Warrior against local opponents. Since metal 28mm figures are way too expensive, I thought I would give the Wargames Factory plastics a try. The below photos are of figures that I painted from their Viking Bondi box, which gives you the ability to make a total of 32 Vikings for a cost (from the Warstore) of about $16.00.

The sculpts are pretty mediocre, in my opinion, with awkward poses that I found them fairly difficult to paint. When I first assembled them, I thought they looked surprisingly good, but once painted, I wasn't as happy with them. I think the sculpting is too shallow for the washing and "dip" techniques that I typically use. But, for 50 cents a figure, its tough to beat the price. For the next unit I do, I'll work a little harder on the washes, and maybe do a bit of highlighting afterwards. Probably, I will also use some shield transfers - well done shields certainly hide a multitude of sins on Ancient and Medieval era paint jobs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Battles of Westeros

A couple of days ago I received my copy of "Battles of Westeros" by Fantasy Flight Games, and I must say that I'm really looking forward to giving this game a try. It's similar to, but with significant differences from, games like Battlelore and Command and Colors as designed by Richard Borg. This one is basically a Medieval version, with a variety of command and control revisions, and also with enough setting specific elements that are meant to cater to fans of "The Song of Ice and Fire" series of books as authored by George Martin, and the HBO series, "A Game of Thrones". I'll post a more serious review once I get a chance to play, but for now, I can say that the rules appear to hit a sweet spot in between the fast play characteristics of a board game and the sometimes tedious but in-depth nature of a miniature wargame.

The playing pieces that are used to form the units of both House Lanister and House Stark are plastic miniatures that look to be fairly close to 15mm gaming figures. I was thinking of using a hexless modification with medieval era WRG based figures for this game (something I may still yet do), but the actual game components look nice enough that I'm instead planning to paint them up and otherwise play the game straight out of the box.

My first task will be to paint enough figures to fill out the ranks for the introductory scenario: "A Clash on the Kingsroad."  Below are some photos of the Stark figures, primed brown and dry-brushed white. These also show the figures in comparison with some 15mm ones.

Once I get each batch of Stark figures done, I'll post pictures here, and then it will be on to the Lanisters.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Norse-Irish Justin's

Had a game of Field of Glory again in Justin's gaming basement, and I brought 900 points of Norse-Irish to take on one of his Medieval German lists. I had a good time, and hopefully Field of Glory is going to survive the mess of the previously announced digital only version 2.0. Slitherine has now announced that there will be some form of a print release, but hopefully its done in a format that will also appeal to the general gaming public and not just the committed tournament crowd. some of the proposed changes appear that they significantly improve the game, and I'm very much looking forward to trying the new rules.

900 points was a very interesting point level for our game. The cheap Norse-Irish troops just about completely filled the table, and Justin was able to add a knight and lancer cavalry unit into his list. Although things started well for the bog wallowers, breaking a unit of mounted crossbow and a couple of spear armed infantry units, Justin allocated his knights and cavalry to a flank march with a field commander. Knowing these guys were going to enter the game at some point, I had to hold back my offensive spear Viking ally to counter them, and couldn't move them up to support the mass of heavy weapon wielding medium foot. Justin was finally able to charge his battle line of pike and spears into the center of my unprotected foot, and within a couple of turns broke through my center. Unfortunately for him, I had to call it a night because of an early day the next day, but he would have certainly gotten at least a narrow win. I don't think the Irish would have broken, because with 18 units, they probably wouldn't have lost nine before a reasonable time out. But the Irish would have sacked the German camp, and would have then dissolved back into their hills and marshes. Probably what would have been considered a historically successful result by the clans, and a fun night of Medieval gaming.

I'm still trying to come up with a way to satisfyingly play a barbarian foot army with FoG, and I think that in my next 900 point game, I may experiment with some Galatians.

Here are some photos of the game:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Skythian Centaurs

Real Life has been getting in the way big time this summer, and there's been virtually no time for any hobby activities at all. No gaming, and hardly any painting either. Now that summer is over, there's a little break in my schedule that should allow me to get back to painting, but until winter, weekends are going to be tough for gaming. What I need is a Friday night gaming club, since that's really the only convenient time I have to get out and roll the dice. Unfortunately, for most of my gaming friends, they seem to be in the opposite situation where they can game on the weekends, but Friday evenings are no good.

Anyway, I did finally manage to squeeze in enough time complete a unit of 18mm centaurs as manufactured by Eureka Miniatures. I really like these figures and almost anything else too in any period that Eureka makes in 15-18mm scale. I'm still not quite sure what I will do with them - seems that most local fantasy gamers want to exclusively play in 28mm scale, and the Ancient players who use 15mm usually do historical armies only. I may be devious sometime though, and slip these guys in as Skythian horse archer types - just like I did at an Ancients tournament recently with my Frost Giants acting as command stands in a Norse-Irish army.