Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bigger Fish to Fry...

For those of you checking in here on my little folly, I wanted to give you a heads up that it will be quiet here for about a week or so while I travel for work and, more importantly, work on a significant non-hobby project.

This weekend I'll spend three days with a writing coach, finishing a final draft of my masters' thesis.  This thing has been like a millstone around my neck and I'm looking forward to getting it unstuck.

Thus my creative energy will be pointed in that direction for a bit.  But I look to have a bit of hobby time the weekend after next.  By then,  maybe those Teutonic foot knights will be available by then so that I can finish off my Stark men at arms. 

I received my Perry Agincourt metals that I'll use for my second group of Lannister men-at-arms and will build out six armored figures on foot from the Perry plastic WotR sets to represent elite household knights.

With that, and some base texturing, I will have no further excuses for not showing some painted miniatures around here. 

"Get them to the tabletop..."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Commanders - Rob & Jamie

After some vacillation (with intermittent dithering) I decided to use select Darksword Miniatures GRRM Masterworks figures for my nobles leading each force - despite the fact that they're 30mm and stand a head taller than the Perrys and Fireforge I'm using.  These are just blocked on 40mm bases as I experiment with adding a banner bearer or musician in the background.

Here's my rationale for this decision:
  • They're fantastic sculpts by the great Tom Meier - one of the finest sculptors ever. Check out his beautiful work at his own site Thunderbolt Mountain.
  • They have the blessing of GRRM, which is a helpful visual indicator. For example Rob is in mostly chainmail, small bascinet with camail, surcoat and fur cloak.  That gives me plenty of visual themes to build on through the Stark forces.  Jaime, by contrast, is in ful plate harness reflecting the relative wealth of Lannister and justifying my choice of mid-15th century miniatures for the wealthier houses.
  • They're on their own 40mm bases and as such, their scale won't stand out as much.
  • They're heroes in their own right, and can be "larger than life"
  • If the scale difference really annoys me after it's all put together. I can replace them.
So, there you have it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Interlude: Inspiration & Recognition

While I'm working on the less interesting aspects of my project - texturing bases, filling cracks, waiting for more models to arrive/be released - I wanted to honor some other hobbyists who have inspired or motivated me along this path.

In my first post I called out:

Franktactica whose work made me think "I want to do THAT!"  I realize I may not attain his level of artistry, but I'll have fun realizing my own vision for something similar. He also provided links to SAGA like dice boards for both Stark and Lannister

Homage to Westeros - I don't know his name but his project affirmed my notion to use the cool Dux Britanniarum rules for large skirmish style game play. This fellow has decided to sculpt all of his figures instead of kitbashing.  Amazing.

Michael at Dalauppror does inspiring work and was kind enough to share his thinking about how to translate Dux Brit - which is a Dark Ages game - into a medieval setting.  He, in turn, pointed me to two other of key influences:

First is Maxamillian Walker at his blog Scyld and Seax, which many of you follow, as well as Jim Hale at his blog Arlequin's Wars.   Through their work translating Dux Brit into the 15th century, both of these gents further fueled my confidence in making my own gaming translation work.  As a bonus, Jim has some genuinely thoughtful and funny posts on his blog.  One of my favorite blog posts of all time is this one on Household Men and Fee'd Men in the Wars of the Roses. This is the period I plan on starting next year after I complete this Westeros project later this year.

One final mention of inspiration-through-blogging is another talented German fellow at the blog Finiatures.  Making Westeros look good.

I conclude this honor roll with a shout out to my gaming buddy Jay White of Jay's Wargaming Madness. His enthusiasm and his OCD-like commitment to hosting good looking gaming experiences motivates me to make this project a success.  Besides, It's not a hardship hanging out in his garage that's been converted into a wood-paneled gaming pub with fully stocked bar.  Go check out his scratch built Ft. William Henry for Muskets and Tomahawks.  There's no stopping him once he's got a vision...

All for now, more miniatures in the near future.

Monday, February 18, 2013

See their warrior pennants streaming...

An important part of bringing Westeros to the table top is the potential for pageantry - and that means banners!  I'm a decent enough painter, but I have almost ZERO free-hand skills.  I was leaning to having a painting service paint banners and shields for me.  (I paid a service in the Ukraine for this once for 24 GW Lothern Sea Guard shields with sea serpents and the next year they released the new versions with embossed shields. D'oh!)

And then it dawned on me! I have an old and dear friend who happens to be a talented graphic artist.  He loves a good project and he's clever as hell.  (As an aside, we used to reenact 15th century archers together, so he gets this stuff.)

Pretty sweet for first drafts!
The plan is to get these finalized and then make a banner sheet for each.  After that, we'll move on to the other major houses - Baratheon, Tyrell, Baratheon, and maybe Tully.

If he's still game, we'll try creating one banner sheet of three major banner men for each of the major houses. e.g. Stark = Umber, Karstark, Bolton (or maybe Mormont or Glover).

And, if he's not run out of steam after that, we'll take a swing at DIY shield transfers.  I'm pretty excited by his work thus far.  Right now he's perusing various flag shapes I sent him to give these a bit more character.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Well, after much waiting (transatlantic shipping, customs, and whatnot), my Claymore Castings arrived yesterday!!

And I discovered that, in my eagerness to order these, I accidentally ordered TWO sets of 20!!  D'oh!

Either I'll use them or maybe someone following here would like to trade for some other medieval models of one kind or another..

At any rate, with these three units of six levy-equivalents, my Stark "Dux Westerosum" forces need only one more unit of six men-at-arms to be complete.

Stark Liveried Pike - aka "Levy" in Dux Brit

As you can see, I've already made 3 head swaps using Gripping Beast hirdman heads.  I did this for two reasons: one, because there were too many kettle helms for my taste and, two, I wanted some visual ties to the other units.  Just need a bit of putty around the neck seam, but they came off rather well.

I'll confess I paused as I held the nippers poised to decapitate my $3 model that just traveled weeks from England.  But hey, gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. Besides, I have another 16 models I didn't realize I ordered.

I'm moving on to texturing the bases and greenstuffing obvious joints and seams as I wait for Fireforge to release their Teutonic foot knights with the cloaks and bodies I need to finish the second unit of warriors/men-at-arms.

I'm happy with the momentum and my mantra is "Get them to the table."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Winter is Coming...

If the Lannister forces are mostly straight up Perry models, the Starks are where the real kitbashing takes off. The bulk of my Stark forces - Scots pikemen from Claymore Castings are currently somewhere between old Blighty and California.  In the meantime, here are the beginnings of my Stark forces...

Stark Archers aka "Skirmishers" in Dux Britanniarum
 These are comprised of Fireforge Foot Sergeants, Perry WotR arms and bits, and mostly Gripping Beast Hirdman heads.  I'm generally happy with the effect that they look more primitive than the Lannister "high medieval" aesthetic.  As with Lannister, I will build out eight more of these to use as "levy" in the SAGA translation to Westeros in my first post.

Carrying that forward to the men-at-arms we have:

Stark Men-at-Arms aka "warriors" in DB and SAGA

These are built from Fireforge or Gripping Beast bodies (there's one Perry WotR that's an early prototype), Gripping Beast or Fireforge heads, and mostly Fireforge Templar Knight axe arms plus a couple from Gripping Beast.  Shield shape will be a unifying element across each force with Stark getting these flat topped kite shields. However I may give the pikemen simple round shields. When my Tuetonic foot knights arrive I will likely pop the heads of most of these - and the as yet unbuilt second unit - to add cloaks with bits of fur and wolf pelt to make them more robust and more "northern".  Here are a few close ups of individual models...

Clearly there's more clean up and crack filling to be done.  My purpose was to assemble enough of them to see how they'd look as a group. I'll confess that I'm not feeling like "Voila!" but with the furred cloaks, I believe they'll create the desired impression without looking like they're lifted directly from real history.

On that score, this next batch has more of a challenge. For elite household knights afoot I may use these:

These are Black Tree Designs early HYW period.  In my schema, if the Lannisters, Tyrells and the Baratheons are the wealthiest houses represented by mostly WotR-era dress and armor - roughly 1460's. Stark, Greyjoy and Martel are at the other end of the spectrum towards Crecy/Poitiers in their equipment and look.  The other houses will be somewhere between Otterburn (1380's)and Agincourt (1415).  For Stark, there are not a lot of early HYW models out there besides BTD and Old Glory.  I rule out Foundry because my sense is that they're shorter and thicker than the lines I'm currently using. (I'm open to being persuaded otherwise by any commenter.)  To push their sillouette off of their real historical period I'm giving them kite shields and...

 I remembered I had these old GW Empire Knights of the White Wolf cloaks that I was hoarding to scratch build Mordor Black Guard of Barad-Dur.  I think a few will serve here.  I like these models insofar that their camailed bascinet has the same look as the Darksword miniature approved by GRRM hisself:

DISCLAIMER: I did not paint this model!!!!!
While I'm not a slave to them, these sculpts from Darksword are a useful visual reference for some of my design choices.  

And finally, for now, the first of the four elite cavalry...

Rikard Karstark

Simply a Viking head plopped on a Templar body.  He will either serve as one of the two sub-commanders (i.e. "nobles" in Dux Brit) with Greatjon Umber as the other. Or, he will lead the unit of four shock cavalry that could replace the six elite foot altogether.

I'm not yet completely sold on these conversions, but my sense is that I can see them all coming together once they are based and painted properly.  

The next installment will focus on the two lord commanders...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interlude - Boardgaming Westeros!

Greetings!  Tomorrow I'll be posting pictures of my House Stark conversions.  In the meantime, I wanted to promote a couple of games I enjoy because of the great thematic flavor of GRRM's Westeros they provide.  The first is:

A Game of Thrones

Rated 8.04 out of 10 on Board Game Geek!
Fantastic Production Values

This game has thoughtful mechanics (concealed order tokens that are revealed simultaneously) and plenty of shiv-yer-buddy dynamics as everyone gangs up to pull down the leading player.  I'll be playing this Saturday night as a matter of fact.  If you've played this, what's been your experience? Are you playing the second edition?  If not, it's a significant refinment of the fisrt, incorporating its expansions!

The other game is a natural compliment to A Game of Thrones above:

Battles of Westeros

Battles of Westeros is a tactical wargame that's a big improvement on the silly Battle Lore basic mechanic of dividing the battlefield into 3 unbreachable zones (bowling lanes).  This version allows movement and command influence across the entire battlefield.  It also has some nice abilities for units and commanders that gives each army it's own flavor and the game plenty of variation/replayability.  I will acknowledge that set up can be a bit fiddly sorting all the miniatures, activation banners, cards, terrain counters, etc.  I think a better storage system will help here. Specifically, magnetizing the bases and grouping them in their natural units on a bit of tin flashing.  Then it's just plop, plop, plop on to the game board. 

It's really a nice, portable pick up game, when time and space do not allow for a full-blown tabletop battle. 

The soft plastic miniatures (~20mm) are not bad with a bit of hot water and straightening of lances etc.  Some hard cores even paint them.

What I think is particularly cool is that some clever fellow - Frank Stark - from Downunder devised rules for combining these two great games!  It's a 3 player game, with each player controlling two houses each in a de facto alliance.  Battles in A Game of Thrones strategy game get played out using Battles of Westeros skirmish rules.   Sure it adds to the time playing the strategy game, but it then becomes more of a map-based campaign.

For those of you who own both games or are just curious about clever variants, go check it out at Board Game Geek forums.

That may be a bit much to take on if you're not in a steady game group, but I heartily recommend either of these boardgames on their own.  

Happy Valentines - Richard III Style!

The best Valentine's wishes EVER!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

So it begins...with Lannister!

Hear Me Roar!   Particularly when I crazy glue all these fiddly bits to myself and not the model I'm trying to assemble.  But that's a blog post for another day...

Okay, time to put up or shut up. I told you (all five of you) that I'm going to do this thing.  So, I've thrown together some models to give me a rough sense of how things will look together - both models from different lines and parts of models across lines.

First up are my Lannister forces that are 75% assembled.  Again, I intend to use Dux Britanniarum (DB) - and occasionally SAGA - so my force composition will be:

1 Lord
2 Nobles
1 Unit of 6 "Elite" foot (or 4 Shock Cavalry) - i.e. Household Knights
2 Units of 6 "Warriors" - i.e. Men-at-Arms
3 Units of 6 "Levy" - i.e. Liveried Retainers
1 Unit of 4 "Skirmishers" - Archers or Crossbows

(SAGA, as you probably know, uses 4 elite, 8 warrior, and 12 levy, for which I'll build extra levy)

So, let's start off with the forces of Lannister, for which I'll use mostly Perry plastic WotR. My design logic is that the Houses of Lannister, Tyrell and Baratheon are the wealthiest and therefore equate to mid-15th century styles with some minor modifications and mix-ins to reduce the immediate association with WotR.

Lannisters with High-Falutin' Crossbows - aka "Skirmishers" in DB

Lannister Liveried Retainers - aka "Levy" in DB
I'm already considering swapping out pikes for bills and halberds and leaving Stark with primitive (and distinctive) pikes. I welcome your opinions in the comments.

Lannister  Men-at-Arms - aka "Warriors" in DB
I love these Perry pavisiers from the Agincourt range.  I have not decided on my second group of "warrior" equivalent troops.  My options are:
  1. Get another six of these but in a different pose (standing)
  2. Use my plastic Perry WotR bodies in full harness, with kettle helms, pavises and spear arms or sword arms from my Fireforge kits.
  3. Claymore Casting Ottoburn knights on foot
 Again, I welcome your ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments section. 

Lannister Elite Horse - aka Shock Cavalry in DB
Here I gave them cloaks and small heater shields from the Fireforge Mounted Serjeants to break up the obvious WotR sillouette.  Given the full harness they have on, the shields are intended to look almost decorative, retained primarily to carry the sigils of named Lannister bannermen from the books.  At the very least, red cloaks will look flash.

I will also create an alternative "elite" unit of 6 foot knights and I'm probably going to go with Perry metal Agincourt foot command/French high command, picking out the figures that are wearing jupons that can be adorned with bannermen sigils.  I may even swap some heads to align with these heavy cavalry pictured here. But if anyone has better suggestions, I'm open to clever ideas. 

Next up...STARK conversions!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Plans, Dreams, Schemes...

In this post, I share with you my plans - both baked and still squishy - along with the attendant variables and tangents.  Let's see if I can keep this on track, shall we?

Core Idea: Create 3 forces - Stark, Lannister & Greyjoy - in 28mm mixing and matching miniatures and parts of miniatures across such reputable and generally comparable lines as Perry, Claymore, Fireforge, and Black Tree. 

Game Systems: Initially, my plan is to use Dux Britanniarum with Stark and Lannisters following Romano-Brit and Greyjoy conforming to Saxon force composition, career tree and cards.  Having Stark AND Lannister allow me to introduce two gaming buddies - Jay and John - to the DB rules as I play parallel campaigns against each as the Greyjoy raiders. (Greyjoy's Rebellion)

Four classes of troops in DB will translate to: Household Knights (elites), Men-at-Arms (warriors), Bannermen Livery (levy) and skirmishers.  Initially, we will play un-modified DB with only cosmetic changes to the nomenclature until we're conversant with the original rules enough to know what we want to modify.

Additionally, I will build enough levy-level troops to also try a few games of a translation of Studio Tomahawk's Saga to the Westeros setting from Tabletopdeutschland with dice boards for Stark and Lannister.

Painting:  This is a dilemma for me.  I'm a respectably good painter but I'm slow, don't have scads of free time and I don't do free-hand (shields and banners).  I am seriously considering painting only test models and farming them out to a painting service.  I give up the personal pride in exchange for having them finished in our lifetimes.

On a related note, I have a friend who is a graphic artist working up some paper banners for these three factions and their primary bannermen - Karstark, Glover, Umber, Piper, Clegane, etc.  If that goes well, we'll move on to complimentary art that can be translated into DIY water transfers for shields. 

Achieving this will be plenty of project for this year. But some thoughts for what lies beyond are:

  • Scale up to massed battles in 28mm using Hail Caesar and maybe, maybe Impetus which my group has not explored.  
  • Pursue massed battles using "Grand Scale" - i.e. 10mm or 15mm with Warmaster Ancients/Medieval translations on the Specialist Arms board. There are two versions; one by Wellspring and another by Happymcclap.  Both have great ideas.  I've wanted to game in a more command and control scale for some time and doing it with this project appeals to me.  We'll see.

Coming soon: Photos of Stark men-at-arms conversions...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is my blog. There are many like it, but this one is mine...

Welcome to my new blog, in which I chart progress with my sundry projects while aggregating the work and ideas of others who seek to create gaming experiences in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" milieu.

I welcome ideas, perspectives and comments from other experienced gamers and hobbyists with similar interests.

The best way to start out is to pay my respects to the hobbyists whose work and ideas inspired me to go down this path.

First and foremost is Franktactica at the "Figuren und Geschichten" blog in Germany.  His conversions, paint, terrain, photography are all amazingly top notch and inspirational - no matter what the period.  Hochachtung, Frank!!!!!!!!!

Amazing work! See more at his blog linked above.
Next in line is this fellow at "A Homage to Westeros" who had the same idea to use TFL's Dux Britanniarum rules to create a gaming campaign in Westeros.  He's taken his conversions in a new direction that I'm not so keen on but I love his creativity and his kindred spirit.

His original vision

My third muse on this quixotic journey is Michael at "Dalauppror" who has translated Dux Britanniarum to 15th c. Sweden in his "Dux Suecia" variant.  Again, wonderfully painted models, beautiful gaming table and terrain, nice photography photo shopping out reality - and all in his non-native language.  And he's prolific. Much to admire at his blog.  

There are other influences, in other periods and scales that I'll add soon.  In the meantime, one more image from Tomasz Jedruszek, my favorite artist for GRRM's works:

See, Greyjoy need not look like copy/paste Vikings!