Thursday, June 20, 2024

Curious observations about the history of Hobby Paint for Miniatures


 A curious thing about paints...

In the 1970s there was Humbrol (UK), Testor's (US) and Pactra (US).  All enamel originally, although both Testor's and Pactra (and now Humbrol) would later come out with Acrylic lines.

Then in the early 1980s there was Heritage (US), Polly-S (US), and later Armory (US) and Ral Partha (US).

In the background, and used by many hobby painters, there were Craft paints such as DecoArt (US) and all the brands owned by Plaid (Folk Art, Apple Barrel, etc.) (US).

In the 90s, along came Citadel Paints (UK).  A spin off line called Coat d'Arms (UK).  Then the successor company to Heritage, Reaper had paints (US).  Privateer Press had the P3 line (UK).  All three, by the way, designed by Mike McVey.

  • Starting in 1965, and still strong today, is Vallejo (First in US then moved to Spain).  
  • Also in Spain there is Green Stuff World, AK Interactive, and Ammo by Mig.
  • Army Painter (including Warpaints, Fanatic, etc.) is designed and made in Denmark.  
  • Lifecolor is made in Italy.
  • Iron Wind is still making the Ral Partha paints in a very limited fashion (you can get packaged sets from either Iron Wind or from BV Traders, who come to ODMS conventions).  Made in US.
  • WizKids has a premium line of D&D paints - they are repackaged Vallejo.
  • Wizards of the Coast has a premium line of D&D paints - they are repackaged Army Painter.
  • MicroMark has their line of brush and airbrush paints - made in the US, but designed for them by Vallejo.  They also have a line called MicroLux - which includes the model railroad colors of the now-gone PolyScale (the acrylic models paints by Floquil/Polly-S).  The colors of MicroLux match the old PollyScale/Floquil train paints, but they are water soluble acrylics.  I use their brush on primer (avail in black, white, grey), works very well, and about half the price of Vallejo brush on primer.
  • Monument Hobbies has their new line of Pro-Acryl paints.  They are from the US.
  • Scale75 is another USA company, and they have a number of different acrylic lines - different lines for miniatures, crafts, and scale models.  Very nice, and made in the USA.

There are a number of small companies - 1``````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````                                                            

I don't know any of these that are made in USA, but most seem to be Acrylic.

The curious thing is this - back in the 1970s, most paints used for figures were oil based enamels, and made in either the USA or UK.  Vallejo was just starting out.

Today, other than a small handful, most hobby and scale model paints are made in other places than the USA (Spain is emminent, with Vallejo, AK Interactive, Green Stuff World, and Ammo by Mig).  I did not mention all the myriad scale model colors coming out of Japan for the scale model industry - Tamiya is the oldest, and arguably the best, but there are many, many good brands (Mr Color, by Mr Hobby, is an example).

The small handful of US manufacturers includes: MicroMark, Monument Hobbies, Reaper, and Scale75 (and whatever Iron Wind is still doing with the Partha Paints).

So the places where paint is made has exploded, but also the switch has been made to almost all companies being focused on water soluble (or lacquer soluble, in the case of Tamiya) Acrylic paints.  

There are many airbrush-centric or airbrush-only paint lines, and most of those are solvent based in one form or another.  But the main brush lines (and many airbrush lines) of paint are all acrylic.  There are specialist lines of oil paints, inks and washes that are not acrylic based (one of my favorites is Abteilung 502), but those are usually adjunct lines of paints.

Very different from how things started out in the 1970s.  I'm sure I'm missing some brands or products here, please add to this conversation, also - which of these are your favorites?

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Boardgaming in 2023 (first half)

 I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a several monthly boardgame gatherings this year, so far.  However, as far as playing at home goes - we have several new cats (only 1 year old) that are EXTREMELY curious of anything that we try to do on a table top.  That has prohibited a lot of board game play at home.

The boardgame monthly events I am referring to are:

Once a month I lead a boardgame group that meets at a local coffee shop.  We meet on the second Saturday of the month.

Once a month I help lead a boardgame group that meets at a local library.  We meet on the fourth Sunday of the month.

Anita and I try to have at least one weekend away together per month (some months we can't fit it in), and on those times we always take boardgames with us.

There is a local, weekly group that meets every Tuesday night at a game shop.  They play mostly Catan, but are open to other games (especially if I teach them!).

Finally, my weekly Wargame club night sometimes will settle for a boardgame instead of a miniatures wargame.

From all of that, I've been lucky enough to have played quite a few titles, although most of them are lightweight, I have played Clone Wars (the Pandemic version) and also Heat! several times each.  Great games.

Here is my list of played games (from Board Game Geek).

Heat: Pedal to the Metal 4
No Thanks! 4
Spots 4
6 nimmt! 3
Carcassonne 2
Castle Panic 2
7 Wonders: Architects 1
Alhambra: Roll & Write 1
Alhambra: The Dice Game 1
Amun-Re 1
ArchRavels 1
Cards Against Humanity 1
Casting Shadows 1
Copenhagen: Roll & Write 1
CVlizations 1
Downforce 1
Kodachi 1
Long Shot: The Dice Game 1
Plague & Pestilence 1
Sequence 1
So Clover! 1
Star Wars: The Clone Wars 1
Station Master 1
Ticket to Ride 1
Trekking Through History 1
Tsuro 1
USPS: The Great American Mail Race 1
Zombie Dice 1

Friday, November 11, 2022

Using Heptarchy Map (Diplomacy Variant) for a SAGA Campaign

 Over the years, I have used Diplomacy maps (especially variant maps) for a number of different wargaming purposes.  Many years ago, I ran a very fun 9 player campaign using Hordes of the Things for tactical battles, and the Diplomacy variant map, Bretwalda for the campaign map.  That map, and the Diplomacy rules for it were written by Geoff Bache.  Geoff also write another British Isles Dark Ages variant, named Heptarchy IV which features 7 kingdoms.  Those kingdoms are listed here:

  • Anglia
  • Cornubia
  • Ireland
  • Mercia
  • Northumbria
  • Scotland
  • Wales

Each of these starts the campaign with 3 military units (which may be armies or fleets), except for Mercia which starts with 4 units (but has the advantage of having the most neighboring kingdoms).

Here is a simple framework set of rules for a campaign. You may want to add more to this.

  1. Each kingdom writes orders for their units each turn. There are two map move turns in a year (Spring and Fall) and one supply turn (Winter). 

  2. During Spring and Fall, a Map unit can have one of several orders -  Move, Stand, Support, Convoy, Convert.

  3. If you give a unit a Move order, you list the Unit, and it's starting space, and the adjacent space you want to move to. Armies can move from one Land space to an adjacent Land space. Fleets can move from one Sea or Coast space to an adjacent Sea or Coast space    

  4. If you give a unit a Stand order, you give the unit, and it's province, and it stays there this turn.

  5. If you are next to a space that another unit (yours or an ally) is either Standing in, or next to a space that the other unit is Moving into, then you can give a Support order. You list your unit, the province it is in, and the space (and unit) you are supporting.

  6. A fleet can be given a Convoy order - it stays in the space it is in. If that space is next to a friendly Army unit that has a Stand order, then the Fleet can move that Army unit to another coastal area that the Fleet unit is adjacent to. Example - if there is a Scottish Fleet in the North Channel, and a Scottish Army in Stanraer, then the Scottish Fleet can be given a Convoy order, to move the Scottish Army from Stanraer to Belfast. Note, the Scottish army at Stanraer cannot be given any order other than Stand. If you issue a Convoy order to move an army unit belonging to another player, then the other player must Authorize the move.

  7. Convert - you may give a unit a Convert order, if it is in a coastal province that has a city. An Army unit may Convert to a Fleet, and a Fleet may convert to an Army.

  8. All orders are written simultaneously, and turned into the Judge, but the judge interprets the order, one nation at a time, in the order printed on the Northeast corner of the map. If a unit is given a Move, or Convoy order into a province with another player's Unit, then the moving or convoying unit must either retreat back to where they came from, or there is a battle.

  9. Battles are always fought with 6 point Saga armies. That is true for both Fleet and Army units fighting on land. For each unit that has a Support order into a space where you are fighting, you may add 2 points to your Saga army total.

  10. Rules for naval conflict must be devised, but just an opposed dice roll is good enough.

  11. A unit that fights a battle and loses must retreat to an adjacent space to where the battle was fought (note, if the battle is fought, then the loser can choose any adjacent space to retreat to - this is different than if the unit retreats immediately before the battle).

  12. Spring orders are followed by Spring adjudication and battles.
    Fall orders are followed by Fall adjudication and battles.

  13. Winter is no move. Instead, count all the cities that you still control (if you controlled it last Winter, then you still control it, unless there is an Enemy unit there). At that point, make a note of the total cities you control. You should have that many Map units. If you need to add new Map units, they can only start at Home cities. If you need to destroy excess Map units, they can be destroyed anywhere.

     If you try this, please let me know the results.


Sunday, January 31, 2021

NT Rules: Ancient Army Lists V - Crusades

 Let me first start out by saying that the title for this series - the Ancient Army Lists (for Niel Thomas' rules from Wargaming: An Introduction) is a bit of misnomer for this particular entrance in the series.  By this point in his timeline, Thomas has moved on from the ancient world, into the firm middle of the Medieval world.  The armies covered here are those involved in the middle and later Crusading period.

As a reminder, the earlier articles in the series are:

 As I pointed out in some of the earlier articles, there are many additional lists for each of those periods covered in the longer, and more complete, treatment on the topic in Thomas' book dedicated to this period - Ancient and Medieval Wargaming.  Those rules have a little more to them, and a little more nuance, than the rules in the Introduction book.  Having said that, in many cases the army lists will transport to the earlier book.  What is different, is the grouping of the periods.  In his more advanced book, Thomas, for instance, groups what are here list periods I, II, and III into one chapter, entitled the Classical Period.  The army lists covered here from the Introductory book are present, with additions of other armies from the period such as Parthians and Numidians.

What is interesting, however, is that the army lists from the Introductory book jump from the Imperial Rome period, all they way up to a thousand years later, into the Later Crusades.  Absent are Late Antiquity, the Early Medieval period (or Dark Ages), and of course the Viking Age, if you choose to interject such between Early and High medieval periods.  There are some fascinating armies and wargaming possibilities covered in that millennium between Second century AD and Twelfth century AD.

However, space in the Introduction book is limited, and perhaps a better choice of Medieval representation could not be made than to cover the Crusades - an iconic chapter of medieval warfare that is always popular.  Thomas skips a general introduction to this period (covering 1180AD - 1290AD), rather he chooses to get right into the first army list - the Later Crusader army.  This is representing the Western Europeans armies on crusade in the Levant, during the events generally thought of the Third through Sixth crusades.  This covers the battles of the Crusader states (Kingdom of Jerusalem, Principality of Antioch, etc.) as well as the battles between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.  It continues to cover the armies of the west, up until the events of 1289 (Tripoli) and 1291 (Acre).

 Here is a list of the units in the Later Crusader army:

Knights Templar (Heavy Cavalry, Extra-Heavy Armor, Fanatical) 0-1 unit
Knights Hospitaller (Heavy Cavalry, Extra-Heavy Armor, Fanatical) 0-1 unit
Other Knights (Heavy Cavalry, Extra Heavy Armor, Elite) 0-1 unit
Turcopoles (Light Cavalry, Light Armor, Bow) 1-3 units
Infantry (Mixed) 2-6 units

The Infantry is Mixed, and here that means that each 4 stand unit has 2 stands of Heavy Infantry (with Heavy Armor), and 2 stands of Heavy Archers (with Medium Armor and Crossbows).

This army has two special rules associated with it:

  1. Fanatic units never have to check morale, but they may never withdraw from combat.
  2. Mixed units will always have the Heavy Infantry targeted first, until only Archers remain.

The Later Crusader army is for the player that likes to charge his enemy, and stomp him into the dust.  Not that this will always work, but it is hard to envision the army being successful any other way.

The army list that is presented as an opposition to the Later Crusaders, is the Saracen Army, which can represent the different armies of the region who were opposed to the Crusaders and their establishment of states and principalities (Saladin's Ayyubid Egyptian army, or the Fatimids, Khwarismians, or even the Mameluks).  This army is an interesting foil to the Later Crusader army.

The Saracen player can choose his army from these units:

Guard Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Medium Armor, Bow, Elite) 1-2 units
Heavy Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Medium Armor, Bow) 1-2 units
Turcomans (Light Cavalry, Light Armor, Bow) 1-2 units
Infantry (Heavy Archers, Light Armor, Bow) 2-4 units

The general ruleset does not allow Heavy Cavalry to be armed with bow, however that and some other concerns are covered by special rules for this army:

  1. Saracen Heavy Cavalry may be equipped with Bow
  2. Saracen Heavy Cavalry may move before they fire
  3. Saracen Heavy Cavalry are allowed to make a 180 degree turn (about face) any number of times during movement
  4. Saracen Heavy Archers move as Warband, however they fight and shoot as Heavy Archers

This army allows for, and may demand, considerable more finesse than the Later Crusaders army.  Every unit is armed with a bow, which helps, however with the exception of a pair-up between Turcopoles and Turcomans, the Later Crusader has better armor, and often, better morale.

A really interesting battle would be between a Fatimid army (this list) and a Sunni foe, such as the Ayyubid army (also this list). 

Finally, this section also introduces a third army.  The Mongols, which are according to the author fought just about everyone (including the forces represented by the Saracen list given here), except for the later Crusaders.  More about that below...

 The Mongol player has this army list to choose from:

Guard Calvary (Heavy Cavalry, Bow, Heavy Armor, Elite) 0-1 unit
Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Bow, Light Armor, Elite) 1-3 units
Horse Archers (Light Cavalry, Bow, Light Armor, Elite) 4-7 units

This is an all mounted force, unlike the Saracens which include infantry archers.  It will make for an interesting foe to fight the Saracens, and others.  The army, as presented in the book has a few special rules associated with it:

  1. Mongol Heavy Cavalry may be equipped with bow
  2. Mongol Heavy Cavalry may move before they fire
  3. Mongol Heavy Cavalry may make an about face (180 degrees) any number of times during their move, without penalty

 These of course are almost identical to the Saracen list of special rules, which is what makes them an especially worthy foe for the Saracens. The addition of the foot archers for the Saracens might make all the difference in the world, if the terrain is friendly.  However, if the terrain is mostly open, with little space for the Saracen infantry to have a rough spot (woods, rubble, etc) to anchor against, then they may be overrun by the Mongols.  It would be a good fight.

One other way to fight the Mongols would be against a Northern Crusades army.  This is something, here, of my own inventing, but owes a lot to similar army lists in other games.  I would rework the Later Crusaders army list into a Northern Crusades army list as this:

Teutonic Knights (Heavy Cavalry, Extra-Heavy Armor, Fanatical) 1-2 units
German Knights (Heavy Cavalry, Extra Heavy Armor, Elite) 0-1 unit
Lithuanian Cavalry (Light Cavalry, Bow, Light Armor) 0-2 units
Sergeants (Heavy Cavalry, Heavy Armor) 1-3 units
Foot Sergeants (Mixed) 2-4 units

The Foot Sergeant units are Mixed, and here that means that each 4 stand unit has 2 stands of Heavy Infantry (with Heavy Armor), and 2 stands of Heavy Archers (with Medium Armor and Crossbows).

This army has two special rules associated with it:

  1. Fanatic units never have to check morale, but they may never withdraw from combat.
  2. Mixed units will always have the Heavy Infantry targeted first, until only Archers remain.

 This last army list could be a challenge to the Mongols.  It would still have a hard time in the battle, as the Teutonic Order did have a hard time vs the Mongols in history.  With the Fanatic Order knights, and the Elite other knights, this is an interesting mix of morale grades, but it would be very interesting (and fun) to field.  Maybe a playtest should come up soon...

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

NT Rules: Ancient Army Lists IV - Imperial Rome

 The fourth period that Neil Thomas covers for his Ancient Warfare rules in Wargaming: An Introduction is focused on the Imperial Roman period, or as it is titled in the book, "Imperium Romanum: 25 BC to AD 130".  This covers the Roman army, following the Marian reforms (which took place during the Republic Period), and beginning in 25 BC with the rise of Augustus as the first Caesar of the Imperium.

This period is focused on the wars between the Romans and their more northern Barbarians, the Germans and the Gauls.  The period starts, as stated, with Augustus, so after Julius Caesar\"s famous campaign in Gaul, however the army list looks very much like it could be used to represent Julius\" famous exploits.

The book presents two army lists for this period, one representing the Romans, and one representing a norther Gallo-German Barbarian army.  

The author presents the fact that at the scale of the rules, the differences between the two armies (Gauls, and Germans) are negligible.  Other rule sets, such as the classic WRG army lists, present differences in troop types, morale, training, weapons, and even fighting density (the Germans generally being in denser formations for most of the represented tribes).  Those rules (the WRG rules), however, have a much more tactical focus, than these, in terms of classifying the troops.  Here, Thomas has taken the approach similar to Phil Sabin in his works (such as Lost Battles) whereby ancient infantry is simply divided up into heavy infantry and light infantry (based on the fact that heavy infantry is expected to stand in the battle line).  One further distinction made, at least here, is with Warband, which are somewhat lesser heavy infantry, but also with the ability to fight well in rough terrain.

 The Roman army here is represented by the following units:

  • Legionaries (heavy infantry, heavy armor, Elite) 3-6 units
  • Auxiliary Infantry (warband, medium armor) 1-3 units 
  • Auxiliary Archers (light infantry, bow, light armor) 0-1 unit
  • Artillery 0-1 unit 
  • Auxiliary Cavalry (heavy cavalry, medium armor, Elite) 1-2 units

The Roman player is then presented with fielding a battle line of Legion units, with a few support choices.  The Elite cavalry is nice, possibly representing mercenary or foederati tribal cavalry, but with better equipment (hence the medium armor).  But, it is not present in sufficient numbers to deliver a winning battle, only a supporting role.  This leaves the Roman player in the enviable position of playing an archetypical Roman battle plan - a steady onslaught of well equipped, well trained infantry. 

The Barbarian army is composed of the following units and availability:

  • Warriors (warband, light armor ) 3-6 units

  • Skirmishes (light infantry, javelin, light armor, levy) 1-2 units

  • Archers (light infantry, bow, light armor, levy) 0-1 unit

  • Chief’s Bodyguard (warband, light armor, Elite) 0-1 unit

  • Cavalry (heavy cavalry, light armor, Elite) 1-3 units

The Barbarian player is faced with the fact that his army is outclassed, as in real life. He must rely on a ruse de guerre or clever use of rough terrain, in order to balance the odds.

Several options exist for a more balanced game. First, the Barbarian player may be given either a few additional units, or additional rough terrain.  Second, the Barbarian warband units can be made larger (6 stands), this is what the Tactica rules do.  Third, battles could be fought as part of a campaign, or series of games, with the Romans having a more difficult time of recovering losses between battles.  I had an article in Yaah! magazine featuring such a campaign for Commands and Colors, it would work with these rules, as well.

There are many other possible army lists available for this time period, some of which are in Thomas’ longer book on Ancient and Medieval Wargaming, but here these are the only two.  Satisfying games could be fought with Roman v. Roman, as a civil war or rebellious province scenario. Equally, a war between two Barbarian tribes might be fun.

For fun, and to recreate a British Barbarian army, replace the Cavalry and Chief’s Bodyguard units with Light Chariots (make one of them Elite). That should give a satisfying Boudicca’s revolt feel.

Spanish Armada paper ships

I got some nice Christmas loot from very fine people who were nice enough to gift me.  I used part of it to order some books, and one of them is the Spanish Armada book by Peter Dennis.  This is a period I am interested in, but will probably never build models for, so using paper ships works fine for me. The book also has a nice bit of introductory history, some paper modeling tips, and a set of wargaming rules.

The ships can be put together with simple rectangular backgrounds, if you want to build them fast, or you can trim the white away, and have nicer looking models (the picture below was pasted to the Facebook Paperboys group, by Peter Dennis himself, showing the models trimmed nicely).

If I get to these in 2021, and do a game, I will post pictures. Also a review of the rules is coming.  There are a bunch of books in the Paper Soldiers Series, including many on land campaigns, and at least one more naval book - on Trafalgar.  It might be on my list, after all I still have some Christmas loot.


Update (2022) - WOFUN now manufactures these ships available as lovely plastic standee models, that look very durable and you don't have to cut them out.  These are on my to-be-purchased list.

Here is a link to the appropriate catalog section of Raven Banner games, describing these Spanish Armada products from WOFUN.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

19th Century Imaginations during the pandemic

One thing I have been working on, during the pandemic, has been the gathering of a large collection of 15mm figures related to the Russian forces of the Russo-Turkish war of 1878-79.

This includes Russian units, and also Bulgarian and Romanian.  Eventually, I would like to also do a similar sized force representing the Turkish forces, but in the meantime I am playing around with some Imaginations ideas for gaming.  That leaves with considering different fictional match ups.

in the past, my 19th century imaginary foes were the Margravate of Furstenberg, and the Cantons of Rumpwhistle. In 28mm, I would use ACW union troops for Furstenberg and Confederates for Rumpwhistle. I also introduced a third, relatively neutral nation based on Danish forces - the Kingdom of Elsinore.  Sadly, I sold off those 28mm figures, but I retain the fictional navies that I built.

Now that I am switching gears to 15mm, I can resurrect the army of Furstenberg, based on my Mexican-American war U.S. troops.  Rumpwhistle is out of luck in this conflict, except as a naval power (I can use my Spanish American war Spanish forces as Rumpwhistle colonial troops).  The new nation will likely be the over extended Romani-Bombastia Empire (Romani for short).

In the west, Romani has hegemony over several client states (notably Vulgaria, and Bromania).  Both are home to ethnic Romani peoples, and border Furstenberg and several smaller Balkanized states.  Howeve, in the vast eastern hinterlands of Romani, there are border skirmishes the Chow Empire of the Jade Dragon in the north, and the dangerous mountain regions of Boruckistan in the south.  The Romani Emperors have long sought after control of seaports on the Chow Sea, but those are also contested by naval and colonial forces from Furstenberg, Rumpwhistle and other nations.

This will give me plenty of scope for all sorts of fictional conflicts, using figures I already have, as well as naval actions.  The trick will be devising rules and games that will reward solo play, and in a small battle space.

Pictures of troops and notional maps will follow.  I hope to post a battle report soon.