Sunday, May 8, 2016

Unleash the Kraken! (That never gets old...)

Greyjoy Elite Household Warriors

Asha with banner on left, Victarion on the right
Well, I've finally started moving things forward with this Westerosi project. Sometimes it's Dux Westerosum and sometimes it's Lion-Stag-Direwolf-Dragon Rampant. Here is the first unit - plus important leaders - of my Greyjoy core retinue.  I will expand with a few units from other Ironborn houses over time - after I have 24 points painted.  Shown here are six foot men-at-arms led by Victarion and Asha Greyjoy.

This retinue is built around an imagined longship crew of 48 men and leaders.

2 x 6 elite household warriors (foot men-at-arms in Lion Rampant)

2 x 12 sworn warriors (fierce foot in Lion Rampant)

2 x 6 scouts (bidowers in Lion Rampant)

They operate in two war parties of 24 - 6 elite/12 warriors/6 scouts.

Ultimately, this retinue will also work as a proxy for Saxons in Dux Brianniarum. i.e. 2 elite units of 6 and 3 units of 6 warriors.  My Lannister and Stark forces will also have enough models to proxy for Romano-Brits.
Victarion and his banner-bearer off their command sabot
Asha and command sabot

Three of six household warriors of House Greyjoy

Remaining 3 of 6. Figure in center will double as his lord's champion in DB - on a 30mm sabot

Six of 12 Ironborn Warriors (Fierce Foot) primed and ready for the brush

Six Scouts (Bidowers) waiting to mount the paint pots of transformation (West Wind Saxons with Pict heads)

Next Steps...

I'm working in groups of six to avoid burnout, alternating model types.  Six warriors, six scouts, six elites (still being assembled/primed) and then another six warriors, and six scouts.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Behind these, I have STARKS.  :-/

Banner Bearer Test Model

Foot Serjeant Test Model

Until next time...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lannister Retinue - Shipping out!

Discretion is the better part of valor...

Well, as I have more money than time and more hobby ambition than sense of reality, I've decided to expedite this project after almost 2 years of languishing following its promising launch. That tale of woe is memorialized below in some of the earliest posts, but now it's "Excelsior" - onwards and upwards...

To achieve that, I am swallowing my pride to pay someone else to paint my models. My good friend Jay (Jay's Wargaming Madness) has done this for years, despite being a very talented painter in his own right. The problem is, when I started to do this a year ago, the painter he recommended (Steve Dake) was booked solid for the rest of the year thanks to...that's right - Jay (and my other friends from that circle).  Couldn't get a model in edgewise.  Well, everything in it's own time.  Now that I have my window, off go my Lannisters (while I paint the Greyjoys)

I will explain the design logic of my Westeros project in its own post soon (aka Direwolf, Stag, Lion and Dragon Rampant), but for now, the Lannister aesthetic is late 15th cent. Europe/WotR with visual unity through predominantly sallet style helmets and heater shields.

24 points of Lannister goodness (or badness)

House Lannister Retinue

This will be the core household retinue of what might become a larger force as I add diverse other bannermen houses as units in their own livery - Clegane, Brax, Crakehall, Marbrand and Lorch

6 pts - Knights of Casterly Rock
4 pts - Mounted Crossbowmen
4 pts - Foot Serjeants 
6 pts - Foot Crossbowmen with pavise
4 pts - Tribesmen from the Vale (fierce foot)


Perry plastic WotR MAA with Fireforge capes and heater shields
Perry WotR mounted crossbows no modifications


Perry Agincourt Heavy Infantry
(Pavises to be replaced with heater shields)
Black Tree Designs Ancient Germans
Appropriately shaggy and primitive! 
Bog standard Perry WotR crossbows with pavise
I'm very anxious to see how these come back. My good buddy had his Perry plastic HYW painted by Steve (the one's on his blog now) and they look great up close.  We're agreed if both of us enjoy this exchange, a Tully retinue is takes the same trip to Michigan in a couple months while I work on House Stark.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Back to the Gaming! Dux Gondorum - AAR / Batrep

Last weekend, my buddy Nick and I wanted to try out a game of Dux Britanniarum as we're both fans of TFL rules sets. I had played DB once, a few years ago when I first bought the rules and Nick had recently acquired them.

As Nick's Dark Ages collection are still bare metal and unassembled, we agreed to use my (mostly) painted LotR models for this game, with no rules modifications to represent Middle Earth. Mordor orcs proxied for Saxons and Gondorian soldiers for Romano-Brits.

The scenario we chose was Raid on Border Watchtower in which the Morgul Orcs seek to ambush a Gondorian patrol in Ithilien with the aim of abducting Lord Faramir as a hostage. It was an opportunity to trot out my newly painted Hudson & Allen Scenics medieval tower.

The Forces


Gondor is lead by Boromir as the "Lord" or senior noble with Faramir and cousin Imrahil as his subordinate noble leaders. Between them they lead:

  • 2 groups of 6 warriors - The Gondorian regulars garrisoned at this fort.
  • 3 groups of 6 levy - Brought to Ithilien from Gondor's southern fiefdoms by Imrahil for some badly needed blooding in combat.
  • 1 group of 6 elite companions - Citadel Guard brought from Minas Tirith by Boromir as his personal retinue as he inspects the garrisons along the frontier with Minas Morgul.
  • 1 group of 4 scouts -  Ithilien Rangers

For this scenario, one leader (Faramir) is returning to the border watchtower from scouting/harrassment raid with the two units of warriors while Boromir, Imrahil and the other men occupy the tower defenses.

Morgul Vale

The ambushing forces are led by Gothmog, Lieutenant of Morgul, with sturdy trusted orc captains as his subordinate leaders. For Gothmog, I use the GW Mouth of Sauron model as I personally envision him to be either a named Nazgul or a Black Numenorean, but never an orc. And certainly not an orc with Elephant Man's disease. Like the Saxons forces in Dux, this raiding party is comprised of
  • 2 groups 6 elite warriors - Mordor Uruks
  • 3 groups of 6 regular warriors - Mordor Orcs
  • 1 group of scouts - Snaga archers
For this scenario, they come on randomly - random table edge and random number of groups. They are trying to cut off and overwhelm Faramir's party before they can reach or link up with the garrison around the watch tower at the other long end of the table.

The Game

Here, I won't seek to give a turn by turn accounting but rather sketch out the general flow of battle with a few disappoining iPhone pictures to supplement. (Should have checked the battery on the digital camera the night before.)

Pre-game battlefield looking West

Per the scenario, we roll for where our forces enter the game. Faramir's patrol started on the Northeastern table edge (bottom right in the picture above with the rest of his forces deploying around the watchtower. The watchtower player gets 3 movement rolls for the returning patrol, but Faramir's patrol must have been dawdling as Nick rolled low all three times. They started 9" from the table edge.

In contrast, Gothmog was lucky - too lucky - rolling to arrive on the table edge just North of Faramir - almost on top of him.  We both agreed this wouldn't make for a very interesting learning game, so I rerolled.  Gothmog's forces would arrive from the South - immediately to the left of the copse of trees on the left side of the photo above, bisecting the field. Random roll determined 3 groups of troops of any quality would arrive with any number of leaders. So, Gothmog brought both of his elites along with a group of warriors and one of his orc captains.

So began the footrace...

Dux Brit uses a card-based activation system, keyed to the leaders and any missile troops which cannot join formations with hand to hand troops, thus acting independently.

The forces of darkness had the initiative and fanged it North - with the orc captain taking a group of elite Uruks west of the forest on the left and Gothmog combining his group of Uruks with a group of orc warriors to lead them forward into the hills a little east of the other group of orcs.  Depending on Faramir's initiative, they planned to combine and block his route back to the watchtower or, get in front and behind him and surround him.

Looking east, Gothmog and Uruks top, orc warrios middle, another group of Uruks with orc captain, bottom.

From the watchtower, Boromir spied the threat to Faramir before Faramir himself and began to mobilize his Rangers and levy to move out of the tower perimeter.

Rangers move from base of the tower. Boromir and his retinue still inside.
Imrahil's levies arrayed around the base of the tower hill.

Looking east, Faramir's patrol of two groups of warriors, ambling along, clueless that they are being tracked...
After getting all three groups of levy into one formation, Imrahil leads them out of the tower perimeter's southern gate to intercept threaten the arriving orcs in the rear if they choose to ignore them on their way to nab Faramir

Fiefdom levy off to see the elephant for the first time...
Imrahil's banner precedes him out of the gate...

Faramir's patrol moseying along (Drat! Who left that tape measure in the one decent photo?!)

Viewed from the east, Gothmog's formation in the foreground,
about to link up with the other group in the hills to the north
Gothmog now has tough mob of two elite Uruks and one group of warriors to swamp Faramir's
two groups of warriors. Ithilien Rangers try to put some shock on the orcs before the assault launches.
On the southern flank (center, bottom) Imrahil forms his levies into a three group shieldwall, while Gothmog's second orc captain debates whether rush north to support his master or chase off these green farm boys from the south.
With the next round of game cards, Gothmog's good fortune (or cunning) holds and he keeps the initiative and pulls out all the stops "Seizing the Day" (allowing multiple Fate cards to augment the attack) by launching an "Aggressive Charge" (+1 to all combat rolls) while "Strong Arming" axes and darts on the way in to close combat (additional attacks). The "suit" cards - boars for Saxons/orcs - add additional dice.  OUCH!
The Eye of Sauron is with Gothmog this day...
Over on the other flank, the impetuous orc warriors rush headlong at "easy pickings" of levy without any Fate cards to augment their attack - only to dish out very little damage in return for a mauling.  They recoil almost off the battlefield badly shaken.

This orc captain learned a brutal lesson about attacking a shieldwall without the help of Fate.
However, this was just an amusing but instructive sideshow to the main event...

Gothmog's heavy formation closed in, dispersing the Ithilien Rangers caught in the open, then proceeded to dish out so many kills and and so much shock that both groups of Gondor veterans broke and ran taking Faramir with them.
Just the beginning of "shock and awe" - that's just the shock from "Strong Arm" missiles on the charge in.
They hoped they still might make it to the tower by putting a dense thicket of hedges between themselves and their pursuers, while Boromir brought up the elite Citadel Guard...

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide
But, alas, Gothmog had more Fate in store ordering his orc captain to take one group of elite Uruks to circle the other side of the thicket using an extra movement card from his Fate hand.  And, because the remnants of both groups were broken, they were all captured. Mission accomplished!


This game reminded me of why I love this rule set and how much I'd love to play a full campaign. There's enough randomness to create an interesting "fog of war" experience, while the Fate cards give you degrees of control within the randomness. Particularly as you can refresh your Fate hand each time you draw a noble's card, particularly in the early game when they are only using one of their initiative to move the formations they're leading. 

I'm motivated to get these two sets of models completely painted and keep playing these scenarios, perhaps in the form of a campaign set on the Ithilien frontier. It would be fun to get some custom cards made up with the White Tree and the Red Eye or Pale Tower to represent the suites. 

I'm also motivated to figure out the photography and lighting situation. This was rushed as I decided at the last minute to make the game blog-fodder.

Most of all, thanks to my buddy Nick for a fun game and for strongly advocating for Dux over Lion Rampant this time.  I like LR/DR very much and will be using it for my Westeros gaming, but it sure was fun to get reacquainted with Dux Britanniarum.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Competition...

First of, let's be clear - that reads "EROICA" not "EROTICA".  "Eroica" Italian for "heroic" and is a reference to the old Italian bicycle road races - "Strade Bianche" of the 20's and 30's.

For those who are curious... L'Eroica - Inspiration

The Eroica Grognard

This fellow is in his 70's and blew past me on a climb - on a 2-speed antique of  a bike you can see here. To be fair, he was a road racer in his youth, has never stopped riding and seems to be the human equivalent of beef jerky. Whereas I am a middle aged, corporate employee with a slight weight problem. (I'm working on it!)

Why is this here - on a hobby blog?

Well, vintage cycling is also a hobby, albeit not the focus of this blog.  However, I share it to show what competes with my hobby time - besides my kids and adult responsibilities. I see it as a counter-balance to a beloved but, let's be brutally honest, distinctly sedentary hobby. I am training to ride - with my CoC gaming buddy Nick - at the California version of Eroica down state amid wineries and the lovely California coast.  Eroica California

Here's our cycling group at the start of the day last April. I'm the stout chap in the red cap. Compadre Nick is second from the right.

And here are me and Nick at the end of the ride. Smiling that I can finally get off that saddle, sit in the shade and drink a beer.

Today I got on my 1973 Motobecane for the first time in...half a year?  Despite that, I rode 28 miles.
Consequently, I was just a little too pooped to haul out my gaming board, terrain and models for a photo shoot this afternoon. Maybe one night this week after work.

This will be a balance I navigate over the next few months.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled gaming content...

Friday, February 5, 2016

Rising from the ashes

For everything, there is a season...

It's been over 2 years since I lost my hobby mojo.

My old friend's passing started a series of life events...hip replacement surgery, finishing a masters' thesis, training for a vintage cycling race, a separation.

Most of it good, life moving forward stuff.  No complaints. But the creative juices were travelling down other sluices.

And yet, over the last half year I've been slowly getting back into gaming and back to my two main projects:

   1 - Wargaming in Westeros - kitbashing all the wonderful 25mm medieval plastics available.

   2 - Wargaming in Middle Earth - War of the Ring with house rules to refine the v1.0 from GW

But part of my momentum stems from my cycling and reenacting buddy Nick Addison roping me into his own reentry into table top wargaming via Chain of Command.

And part of the momentum comes with the advent of Lion Rampant, and now Dragon Rampant - i.e. adaptable rules that allow for building retinue sized forces that can be combined into large armies using massed battle rules such as Hail Caesar, Medieval Warfare, Impetus or Sword & Spear.

What's to come...

   > Work I've done with my back log of terrain projects to create an attractive table top. A good
       start with plenty left to do.

   > Plans for my multiple Westerosi retinues - Stark, Lannister, Greyjoy, Tully and Arryn (with
      Tyrell, Martell and Baratheon not far behind)

   > Battle reports using Lion/Dragon Rampant and my painted LotR forces until the Westerosi
      retinues come on line.

   >  Plans for my multi-player Battle of the Pelennor Fields project

   >  Irregular reports on games outside these core projects - mostly Chain of Command and,
        hopefully some Dux Britanniarum.

   > Related boardgame forays into War of the Ring, Battle of the Five Armies and Battles of

   >  Showcasing kindred spirits with similar, inspiring projects to build community across our
        little corner of this diverse hobby.  "There are many like it but this one is mine..."

Believe me, after all I've been through, I'm not entirely confident that I won't wander off again. (You did see the name of this blog, right? Truth in advertising.) But I'm having fun with it and feeling the muse upon me.

I welcome your comments, feedback and encouragement.



Postscript though: perhaps this image is more apropos than a phoenix...

Friday, August 23, 2013

In Memoriam - Farewell to an Old Friend

Tim and me in our glory days. Here as Landsknechts at the original Renaissance Faire in the mid '80's.

My sincere apologies for being away without an explanation for so long.  First I was waiting for those damned Fireforge Templar and Teutonic foot knights to be released (stuck on some container ship) and then work got hella busy, but by late May, early June, it was clear that one of my best friends, Tim Finkas, was in rapid decline after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer.  Between that, finishing my masters thesis and the demands of being in a new job, I just lost all - and I mean ALL - my hobby mojo. A month ago, Tim moved to an inpatient hospice facility and peacefully transitioned to whatever comes after this life.

My pal Tim was an immensely talented guy with an incredible imagination.  He was a graphic artist by profession but had incredible talents when it came to making and fashioning things.  More than that, he was always so generous in sharing with me, and others, his ample wardrobe and accoutrements as we time-traveled through various periods - usually with another dear and talented friend who left us last October.  Moreover, Tim was the guy who designed the Westeros banners that you see on this blog.  If for no other reason, I will bring this project to fruition for the sake of Tim and his generous contributions to it in his waning days.

Here is a small tribute to the glory of his creative talents and our friendship over 30 years.

Self-styled "Faire Gods" full of themselves and above it all.
(I think we paid that poor, weedy fellow $30 to schlep us around half a day)

Best buds, in our goofin' around attire (a-historical)
Sir Walter Raleigh and hanger on (me)
Me, Tim and Kevin Brown (also gone on)
A dutifully pie-eyed groomsman at Tim's wedding
Drinking "coow woow's" (oldest cocktail in the Americas) at a 4th of July party (loooong ago)
"A Rake's Progress" dinner in Kevin Brown's "inn" Tim hand made that coat and bi-corn, which I chided him as being so over-large it required its own postal code.
Our medieval archers group enjoying a (Yule?) dinner in Kevin's inn. Tim with his mighty 3-handled "tig".
Visiting a big SCA event in Pennsylvania. God was it oppressively humid to be wearing that wool!
The drunk and derelict palace guard at a Bastille Day party. (complete with guillotine)

Citoyen Brun (Kevin Brown) leads the revolutionary tribunal, bringing the filthy aristos to republican justice!              Palace guards (far left and right) have judiciously donned the cockade and have brought Louis Capet to stand as his mistress pleads for mercy.

40's Party at Kevin's for New Year's ('96?)
Il Capitano! Tim made or embellished almost everything you see on him here. A-mazing.
Ol pards back at it Zombiefest 2013 -Umbrella Corp (check out the serum gun Tim fashioned from a Nerf gun!)
I had not attended any kind of costume event in almost a decade when Tim was diagnosed with cancer and then our friend Kevin passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in his mid-50's.  It shook me up and I decided to make the most of the time we have and flew out to Pittsburgh a couple times last year, one of them in October to attend this crazy event, which Tim LOVED to plan for. Going to a costume event with him was like being upgraded to first class.

While I was out there, we also explored the ample French and Indian War sites - Bushy Run, Ft. Necessity (pathetic), and the awesomely recreated Ft. Ligonier!

Tim interrogates the ancient but well-fed Pennsylvanians "So are you a woman portraying a man? Or a woman portraying an old woman trying to pass as a man?" Oh dear...

During our long drives through the Pennsylvania hill country, I asked him if he felt well enough to come out to San Francisco for the annual Dickens Christmas Fair, which he and his wife attended many times in years past. (Although this was one venue I had somehow never visited.)  He wasn't sure in October what his health would be like in December. So, I suggested we plan something anyway, and if it worked out - great! And if he needed to pass, it would still be fun to plan - like in the old days.  Consequently, Tim revived his idea of a Victorian submarine crew modeled off of Jules Verne's Nemo and Nautilus.  Tim's version was "The Hatefish".  He designed uniforms and insignia as well as finding sources for all the stuff.  His friends rallied in a "big push" effort last year in which we all went on one last, grand adventure with him.

Capitaine "Z" and the crew of the HATEFISH. I think Tim felt the love.

Capitaine "Z" and First Officer on their last adventure in Dickens' London
I did visit him one more time, when it was clear that he was fading.  I won't post those pictures here, as I prefer to remember him in his glory.  I enjoyed many hilarious and creative shenanigans with him, a small portion of which you see here. He truly enriched my life and I wanted to share some of what that meant here in my own, small creative endeavor, in which he had a hand.

But life goes on and I'm happily planning a memorial celebration with his wife and brother-in-law to be held in Los Angeles with the old gang from way back. My thesis is in its final review with my adviser, and work is finally settling out.  So my Westeros project is calling me back - with the support and friendly encouragement of my insanely prodigious (and talented in his own right) Jay White of the aptly named

All of my Stark and Lannister are now assembled.  Tomorrow I will finish the last 6 models for the Greyjoys.  With that, I will need to texture the bases and then - in humble recognition of my time limitations - send most of them off to painting services.  But more on that and pictures soon.  Thanks for reading.