Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pointcon Ancients

I spent last Saturday gaming at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York - a fabulous place to attend a gaming convention.  West Point was the site of Pointcon, a wargame convention hosted by Cadet's Wargame Committee.  The last time I attended Pointcon several years ago, it was held in Eisenhower Hall, which has a spectacular setting with giant windows overlooking the Hudson.  The convention has shifted to Thayer Hall in recent years, where the setting is not as breathtaking, and is broken up with the separate game events played in individual classrooms, but Pointcon is still a unique and enjoyable event.

It was a bit of an interesting experience getting through the security checkpoints at West Point.  At the second checkpoint on the way in, when asked by the guards where I was going, I responded by saying we were attending a wargame convention in Thayer Hall.  Maybe it was the mention of "wargames", or maybe I just flat out look suspicious, but at that point the guard said that he hadn't heard of any such event, and then ordered my friend and I to step out of our vehicle.  Things went fine though after that, when the guard, while searching our trunk saw that we were carrying toy soldiers in, and he must have decided that we were too nerdy to be viable threats before waving us on.

Once driving the rest of the way in, we were greeted by the sight of several fatigue-clad cadets, wearing full backpacks running on the sidewalks - quite a different sight I'm sure that most college campuses greet morning visitors with!  Then it was parking on the roof of Thayer Hall, and a quick run down the stairs, arriving just about barely in time for the Field of Glory Ancients tournament.  In adjacent and nearby rooms there was also taking place a small Warrior tournament, an Advanced Squad Leader tournament, a large World War II game, and several other participation games that I didn't have time to check out more closely.  Unfortunately, the West Point bookstore was closed, but there wasn't really time to peruse there anyway because it was time for the games to start.

My first game was against a Dominate Roman army - the classic swarm one with superior shooters, tons of armored auxilia, and almost no light foot.  I've tried playing this army myself (with limited success) so I was pretty familiar with how it works. Basically, I knew that if I could get my Almughavars into contact with the auxilia, I would probably win that fight, so I used the light horse skirmishing to protect my right flank while attacking aggressively on my left.

Catalans and Dominates Face Off

Once the Almughavars made contact, things went bad pretty fast for the Dominates, and although their army didn't break, it was a wide margin win for the Catalans.

Almughavars move onto the Auxilia

My second game was against Early Achaemenid Persians, well-played by the eventual winner of the day's tournament.  I got caught a bit flat footed when I mistook some heavy cavalry for light horse on my left flank, and although I did extricate myself from that situation, it tied things up long enough that the Almughavars didn't get into contact soon enough - they were trying to hit undrilled armored hoplites while they were attempting to maneuver, but didn't arrive until that hoplites had gotten themselves prepared for the attack.

Early Achaemenid Persians in the distance

Although, I mainly only had time to photograph my own games, during the second round, I had to lean over an adjacent table to take the photo to the right showing a wall of Tibetan cataphracts - definitely an army that I didn't expect to show for an open format tournament.  Someone else brought Aztecs, but unfortunately, while caught up in my own game, neglected to get photos of that colorful army.

Tibetans versus Early Swiss

To the right, my Almughavars begin their advance on the Immortals, supported by the armored hoplites.  Once I got closer and failed my "don't charge" tests, contacting the hoplites and the Immortals, it went downhill very fast for the Catalans, and the Persians came away with a wide margin winning draw.

Almughavars face the armored hoplites

My third game was against Later Ottomans - a light horse, shooty cavalry army that was frustrating for the Catalans to face, mainly because it was difficult to contact any of their battlegroups.  Seeing this, I should have practiced the principle of concentration of force, throwing all my army at one wing of cavalry in order to force them off the table.  Instead, I made the typical mistake of scattering my army trying to chase individual groups of cavalry off.

Catalans facing Later Ottomans

To the right, is a photo showing an example of how I foolishly spread my force out.  So, although I lost none of my Almughavars or armored cavalry to the Ottomans, all my light cavalry was defeated and my camp was sacked, while I was only able to catch and fragment a single light foot unit.  Once again, my army didn't break, but it was another wide margin winning draw for my opponent.

Scattered against the Ottomans

All-in-all, it was a great day of wargaming.  West Point is a sensational place to have an Ancients tournament.  And the tournament was definitely a success - thirteen players, all with different armies, no rules arguments, and tons of laughs.  It was especially enjoyable when the break between the second and third rounds took place and we all headed out to the main center of the campus where the cadets were celebrating with a Spring Festival.  These young men and women are fine examples of the type of people we have to defend our country, and I was very impressed with their demeanor, behavior, and friendliness to visitors to what is their home.  As far as the Catalans go, I very much enjoyed playing them, especially with the list I used that was more Almughavar heavy than the one that I recently used at Havoc.  A really fun, in-you-face army that is a huge blast to attack with.  I think with a bit more practice, they can be quite the winners, and I may not yet be done with these guys.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Albanian Light Horse - Basing on the Adriatic

I just finished up the last units required for my Catalan Company army - two, four stand battlegroups of Albanian light horse.  At Havoc, I proxied Bedouin light horse for these, but now that the proper units are completed, I'll be showing up at Pointcon with every figure represented correctly with no substitutions.  These are 15mm Mirliton Stradiots - once again, really nice figures that I'm sure that my basic wargaming-standard painting skills don't do complete justice too.  

I used my normal painting technique on these, but I wanted to try something a little different for the basing.  Lately I have been using standard wood filler spread on the bases, then drybrushed with brown shades of paint, and finally with a bit of flocking applied at the end.  Here I used Renaissance Ink's Flocking Gel on two of the bases, and on the rest I used a 50 percent mixture of Golden's Coarse Pumice Gel with Liquidtex's Stucco Texture Gel.  In both cases I mixed in some of the American Sand paint before applying to the bases.

After the gels dried I drybrused first with Liquidtex Burnt Siena followed by Liquidtex Red Oxide.  I thought the bases looked a little bright at this point, so I then hit everything with a very dilute wash of Americana Cocoa before applying the flocking.

After finishing, I can't tell which bases I used the Renaissance Ink product on, and which I used the standard art supply products on.  Seen close up, I  did find the surfaces a little coarse and artificial looking - not quite as nice in my opinion as the results I was getting with the ordinary wood filler.  I do think either of these systems are easier to apply then the wood filler though, so I'm going to try again with the next unit I complete - but I'm going to use the Stucco Gel with no pumice mixed in, and I'll lightly sprinkle on a bit of sand before the gel dries.  I think that might get me the results I'm trying for.