Wednesday 11 January 2023

….And Now For Something Completely Different….

Definitely a no-brainer in terms of my ongoing interest in Sci Fi stuff as I have coveted a copy of this since its was first announced!

I mentioned last year that I was keen to get some games in this year whilst readying further projects. By far and away the largest of my planned projects is the Samurai in one form or another. It whatever shape I finally settle on for this - I am exploring a number of options - it will definitely be a slow burner so I have a couple of contingency plans in place for some smaller ‘quick win’ style undertakings.

I want to paint some figures and for me this is quite a big deal. You could be forgiven for thinking that starting off painting something so potentially tricky as 28mm Samurai may be a step too far for someone that has not painted a single figure for over fifteen years - and you would be right! I need to do something to cut my teeth on so simpler stuff would be the way to hone my technique (which is still firmly rooted in Humbrol enamels circa 1972). I have a few ideas to dabble in and none of these involve water!

Circulating in the Foreground

Xenos Rampant/Stargrave/Galactic Heroes (From the ‘Fistful of Lead’ stable - I enjoy Sci Fi skirmishes and it is a genre I have had a lot of fun with in the past. There are a myriad of figures available in all manner of mediums and scales although for me 28mm works best. I have a pile of figures for the old board game Impact that feature human and dinosaur/reptilian infantry and support weapons that are ready painted. The figures are made of a rubbery resin material - not unlike that used for the old Axis and Allies: War at Sea 1:1800th scale WW2 ships - and would certainly need a better paint job so I may attempt to refurbish these. It will cost next to nothing and will give me some valuable practise. 

Battle Suit Alpha/Gamma Wolves - An extension of my fondness for Sci Fi extends to the use of ‘Mechs  as there is a lot of fun fighting with large stompy fighting machines! I have a selection of yet-to-be-assembled plastic ‘mechs from the game Heavy Gear Blitz - roughly a dozen or so - that could easily be put together to use with the above rules although I would need to think about some scenery for them to fight over (the same applies to the 28mm figures).

Anything Starship related - This is probably the last on the list of Sci Fi ideas to mess about with. The main reason is that for the most part it is a little close to naval gaming and I am trying to ease off of that for a while! Having said that I do have a couple of ideas to play around with - one rather novel in my opinion - but this is unlikely to be anytime soon. 

RCW and Russo Polish War - Hmm, this is an interesting one. Both of these would be ideal Portable Wargame material but in truth I do not feel that at present I have sufficient knowledge of either to run with it in a meaningful way. I have sufficient material to read up on and given the scale and complexity of both it would be worth spending some time on research as in both cases operations were far from straightforward in terms of execution and the forces used. Having said that the board game Strike of the Eagle is crying out for some TLC and as this was going to form the basis for anything figure related I may well stick my toe in the water in some figure related fashion.

The Default Option

It never ceases to amaze me how certain periods of military history can become so ingrained in a wargamers DNA that they can be left for long periods of time and then revisited without breaking into a sweat. They are almost like a pair of comfy slippers in that immersing oneself in them again little or no effort - neither does moving on from them because they are always there. In my case this tends to be Napoleonics - actually the 18th century and Napoleonic period if I am being accurate - or WW1 or WW2. 

At the present time I am more likely to be looking at matters horse and musket related but more from the direction of playing out scenarios than looking at specific campaigns. My blocks armies allow a degree of anonymity in terms of the forces being depicted - this is the classic ‘army red vs army blue’ Kriegspiel style approach - so just playing out some games using them without tying them to any specific campaign may be just the ticket to satisfy my immediate need to get in some games without all the research preamble one would usually undertake. I have a substantial number of scenarios to try out of varying sizes so it would simply be a case of picking what I fancy and setting it. The rules of choice would be the Portable Wargame in one form or another and I would look to use the pre printed and laminated map sheets I have from Axis and Allies: The Miniatures Game. These I have used on many occasions and they are a quick and easy way to set a game up - which is just what I want at present.

Small, Large Scale Ideas

Over recent years there has been what appears to be a huge upsurge in gaming using very small scale figures - I am thinking of 3mm and 2mm. There are some quite fantastic models  available in these diminutive scales - from individual figures to blocks of troops. ‘Lee over on his blog has produced some quite exquisite looking Romans for a DBA project he has on the go and the level of detail he has achieved is unbelievable. This is a great scale for having units that look like, well, units. Serried ranks of foot and horse really work for rules in the DBA or Portable Wargame stables as one may only have a dozen or less units BUT they look solid and visually ‘right’ in the way that a calling a dozen figures a battalion does not. 

3mm Barbarian style infantry suitable for Celtic types

From the hand of brush master ‘Lee - how outrageously good does that look?

I have used both of these pictures without Lee’s permission but I doubt if he will mind! Thanks in advance Lee!

I have often flirted with these smaller scale types and indeed, have a selection of blocks from the Peter Pig ACW Hammerin’ Iron range but as yet have done little with them. Flags may be an issue but I am sure something could be done.

Aside from commercially available figures there is always the old standby of making one’s own kit and if I learned anything from the ACW ship building it is that anything is possible with a little imagination. One of the numerous FaceBook groups I belong to - Super Cheap Wargaming - has a gentleman by the name of Will Coster amongst its members. Well, Will has been busy scratch building units for the 30 Years War using Balsa wood and card and they look simply lovely. He followed up his original post with some information about how he made them and needless to say it has gotten me thinking - not for the 30 Years War though! He very kindly gave his permission for me to use some of his pictures so here we are. 

Under construction - the ‘pikes’ are 10mm cubes available from the famous South American River

The finished article - they look really effective and the trick is definitely to keep to the impressionistic approach.

I have bags of material that could be used in this fashion to produce armies from all manner of historical periods. I think I know now why I kept that industrial sized bag of matchsticks….


Scott said...

Hi David,

I have also considered using 2mm/3mm figures for Strength & Honour Ancient rules. I still can't handle the thought of painting hundreds of 10mm or 15mm figures I used to paint in the past for a wargame period.

I've also considered making figures out of velcro, card board or other materials. I love to run miniature wargames at game conventions. I don't think most people would want to a play a game like that, especially in the States (I live in metro Detroit Michigan).

I'm hoping later this year to get back into painting figures. I haven't painted a figure in a few years.

Good luck with your future wargame projects.


Steve J. said...

Well plenty of ideas and projects to keep your not so idle hands busy old chap! I'm tempted by Xenos Rampant for some pseudo Victorian SciFi to go with my 19thC figures. However plenty of other projects on the go so this will have to wait, famous last words!

WWII is always my comfy slippers period as it's something I've gamed and loved from being a kid. All those movies, The World at War tv series and of course Airfix and Matchbox kits are to blame;)!

I must admit I love those balsa armies and that has given me some ideas to make Red & Blue forces based up as per these, but with a kreigspiel block look to them. Something to ponder either for Portable Wargames or with my normal rules of choice. Oh dear another project beckons...

David Crook said...

Hi Scott,

To be honest I could never “handle the thought of painting hundreds of (insert scale as applicable….) figures” for many, many years and I have complete admiration for those that do! In many ways this was the driver behind my block armies as they are able to furnish forces for a whole variety of periods as the mood takes me. Funnily enough using them with 3D terrain is quite aesthetically pleasing and as long as the all important background to the game being fought is sound they work extremely well.

There have been some truly lovely looking 2/3mm armies appearing and the whole Strength and Honour system is a cracking set of rules to utilise the advantages of these smaller scales.

The ingenuity of gamers to produce armies from all manner of materials never ceases to amaze me and those pieces from Will are really inspiring. I would be happy producing home made armies using odds and ends and indeed, it is something I may look into more closely.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Steve J,

You know me - the world’s leading authority on STARTING a project - rather less so when it comes to finishing them! I am certainly keen to give the whole ‘homemade army’ thing a go as I enjoy repurposing odds and ends and scratch building. Having said that the block armies are always there although I have mentioned previously that I want to take them to the next level.

VSF is great fun and something I have a hankering to look at again - I rather like the idea of scratch building land ironclads….

All the best,


Independentwargamesgroup said...

For the first time ever David I bought a Sci Fi wargame book ie Xenos Rampant. I want to get my grandson interested and felt something like this might do. I havent a clue what the various descriptions of units are but I know the rules wll bcent and fun.I just need to build two sides.

Donnie McGibbon said...

Like the idea of 2/3mm wargaming, I have some 3mm French sitting in the queue, that will eventually see some paint!! The plan is to do enough for a decent enough game on a small board, we shall see!! Looking forward to seeing how your plans come to fruition as the years goes by.

David Crook said...

Hello there independentwargamesgroup,

The great thing about Xenos Ramapant is that one could readily use historical figures and just put a Sci Fi spin on them - VSF would be a good example. Take some Zulu War British and, for example, some ancient or Dark Age types and you have an instant ‘Lost World hidden civilisation’ style set up. If going purely Sci Fi then there are some readily available cheapish options you could use. I mentioned the game “Impact” for one - I picked up a couple of copies of this at boot sales for a quid or so each which has given me two forces that are prepared and ready to use. Having said that I shall be repainting them as they are a little garish for my taste….

I am sure you will enjoy it as all the Rampant series are good fun.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Donnie,

Ahh! The painting queue pile of shame eh? :-)

We have all been there and I have greatly reduced my own painting queue by the simple expedient of getting rid of a whole pile of stuff!

I really like the potential offered by 2/3mm figures although for me my block armies are a perfectly viable alternative - probably even more so once I have undertaken the planned ‘pimping’ programme to take them to the next level.

Best of luck to you with all your endeavours as well - knowing me as I do the plans set out in January may well be very different by the time December arrives!

All the best,


Paul O'G said...

Xenos was a no-brainer for me also mate - thinking it might be time to revive some older 15mm SF projects!

David Crook said...

G’Day Paul,

As soon as it was announced I thought ‘right, that is on the to get list!’

There is a load of 15mm stuff available but I will be sticking to 28mm for this - at least at the moment anyhow!

All the best old chap,


david in suffolk said...

Hi David, with the Samurai I might suggest doing the simplest paint job you can get away with (probably loads of gunmetal/silver/black for the armour, for a start) but printing up loads and loads of flags and banners, they seemed to have masses of them and it should be an easy way to make the armies very colourful..
Good luck with whatever option you choose, anyway, I look forward to reading about progress!

David Crook said...

Hello there David,

For the armies I am tending towards a similar approach as you suggested - this will be with the figures from the Shogun board game supplemented by some 20mm plastics. The Warlord 28mm plastics are a different story completely and they will certainly need a more detailed approach.

Before I start work on either though, I want to get my figure painting eye in so a gentle refurbishment of some Sci Fi figures would be a great place to start.

All the best,


Aly Morrison said...

It’s good to see that your butterfly is fine and healthy David…
All your opinions look interesting…

All the best. Aly

David Crook said...

Hello there Aly,

On the subject of Butterflies we have actually had some in the garden - I took a picture of one on January the 3rd for crying out loud - which is rather unusual for the time of year.

I expect it was keeping my butterfly company and encouraging it along….(not that it needed any mind you!).

All the best,


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

2mm and 3mm has just blown my mind

David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

There are some truly outstanding 2/3mm models about and the potential for this scale is huge! The sad thing for me is that when Irregular Miniatures launched their 2mm range years ago I was all over it in a big way but never really did much with it - perhaps it was a little too radical at the time. Anyways, I got rid of the whole shebang - do I regret this? Absolutely!

I have a modest selection of 3mm blocks from Peter Pig from their Hammerin’ Iron ACW naval range and have some thoughts about using the them alongside the ships - something else to ponder!

All the best,