Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Three New Citadel Brushes

I always enjoy going down to the store and purchasing new brushes - it is something shiny and new and it also means I have been doing enough actual painting with the old brushes to wear them out and send them packing.

I have tried many different brushes from a variety of brand names - and I have found the brushes from Citadel to be fairly excellent. They last for a decent amount of time, their bristles are made of Kolinsky sable (except for the drybrush, which has some nylon in it) and they hold the water and paint well. I especially like their detail brushes that allow me to do some nice work in the tight areas. I have found that the Citadel brushes do tend to "fork" which is a problem that leads to occasional frustration but this can be fixed with some work.

Today I picked up three new Citadel brushes - the Fine Detail Brush, the Standard Brush (gotta love that name) and the Small Drybrush. Easily ninety-five percent of my all my painting is done with just these three brushes. They may not the best brushes out there, but I haven't been able to find a suitable replacement yet.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

More Tartan Painting: an Improvement

I put some work in on painting another tartan today and I like the way it turned out quite a lot actually. I gave a lighter colored tartan a try and it looks fantastic at a bit of a distance on the table. Things get exciting when you can see some progress being made.

In Which I Discover that Painting Tartans is Really, Really Hard

I had my first go at painting tartans on my Royalist Scots - I am not completely happy with how they turned out, but I am also not completely disappointed either. I think they look rather good on the table and I'm sure I can improve as I get more practice. It is certainly a trial of patience to get them right.

Not all of the models in the regiment will be wearing tartans, but there will be enough of them on the bases to give it a good feel I think.

Friday, June 22, 2012

James Todd, Laird of Dunbar

We typically play wargames at a level that is abstracted from the individual soldiers and leadership (with the exception of some of the larger-than-life characters of history such as Napoleon, Cromwell or Hannibal); however, it is the stories, struggles and histories of the regular man during these conflicts that can lend some character, context and depth to the games we play. Plus, we can learn a lot about history from the bottom-up.

A descendant of James Todd
As an example, James Todd, born in Scotland in 1639,  is a distant relative to my wife's family and has a very interesting story. James Todd was the Laird of Dunbar and he, unlike my own Macpherson heritage, found himself fighting on the side of the Covenanters during the English Civil War. James Todd fought in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679, and like so many other Covenanter soldiers that day, was captured, forced marched to Edinburgh and held as prisoner in an open pen deep into the harsh winter. It is here that the story takes a dramatic turn. The Royalists contracted with a merchant named Patterson to transport 250 of these rebel prisoners to the West Indies where they were to be sold as slaves. James Todd was aboard this ship, The Crown, when it sank in a storm just off the Orkney Islands. James Todd could not escape the ship as he had been locked in a hold at the time.

I was completely unaware of the practice of shipping prisoners of the English Civil War to the New World as slaves, and I'm glad I learned about this practice during my reading and research.

John Todd, the son of James, fled from the persecutions of Claverhouse, in Scotland, to find refuge in the north of Ireland. Two of his grandsons, Andrew and Robert Todd, came with their families to America in 1737.

I've included a photo in this post that I found of a 
descendant of James Todd, Laird of Dunbar. I do not know when or where this photo was taken (probably in Edinburgh), but it is fantastic because it shows the style of dress and accessories of the time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ECW Royalist Scottish Muskets: WIP No.2

I've made some nice progress over the past couple of days, painting several Scottish Royalist musketeers for my Badenoch regiment. These are from the Eureka 17th century Scots models and I am very pleased with them. I am working towards a uniform color palette, but all models will not be painted in the exact same manner - there will be subtle differences and shades that I am hoping will give the regiment some depth and character.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Macpherson Royalist Regiment: WIP No.1

A beautifully lazy Sunday has me working on my ECW project and listening to Sigur Rós. All of the models for this regiment are cleaned, mounted on temporary plastic bases and base-coated in black (I use Games Workshop's Chaos Black spray).

I have begun applying paint to a couple test models to start playing with color palettes. Lots of shades of grays, tans, browns and yellows with splashes of blues and reds. I am using both Games Workshop and Vallejo paints. Of course, these are highlanders and so some tartans are going to be required eventually - but honestly, painting those is a scary prospect.

With each new project, I tell myself that I will paint in a more assembly-line manner, maybe 4 models at a time, to speed up the process and become a more efficient painter. However, there is something about the way my brain is wired that really pushes me towards painting each figure individually, painstakingly one at a time, giving each of them a unique touch, before moving to the next. That is a great and satisfying approach until you have a pile of lead to work through. I'm certainly in no rush, I enjoy the process nearly as much as the result, but I do want to get some models on the gaming table!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Maps of War

Every so often, one stumbles unexpectedly across a real treasure. This happened to me recently as my son and I were browsing through a small local bookstore. We weren't there searching for anything specific, but we both enjoy books and thought we would glance around and kill some time with no intention of purchasing anything. That all changed when I noticed a gigantic book buried beneath a pile of pulp-fiction and recipe books. What I pulled out from underneath those forgettable books  was a real surprise and joy to the historian, wargamer and cartographer inside me: Maps of War by Ashley & Miles Baynton-Williams. This isn't an old book, nor it is a rare book - but it is glorious and I walked home with it under my arm for under 10 bucks.

The book itself is massive, measuring 14" x 17" when closed, which allows for amazing detail in the maps - not to mention it looks splendid on the coffee table. From the inside sleeve:
From the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh between England and Scotland in 1547 - the earliest map printed in the British Isles - to the Boer War at the end of the 19th century; from plans for the advance of the British fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar to Napoleon's retreat from Moscow; and from the entrenchments of Bunker Hill to the plains of Waterloo, Maps of War presents an extraordinary range of battles on land and sea, painstakingly depicted by the cartographers of the time.
While the maps are beautiful and valuable on their own, I'm sure I will find some great use for these in some wargaming campaigns I have yet to dream up! Here are a few  pages:

Cover page

Battle of Waterloo

Naval campaigns in the Seven Years War

The Battle of Minden

Plan of Preston during the first Jacobite Rising

The Battle of Prestonpans

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Work Begins, Eureka Models Arrive

And so, after too much waiting and frustrations with the postal service, my models from Eureka Miniatures USA have finally arrived. I very big thank you again to Robert at Eureka, who tried to help track down the lost package and then went ahead and shipped me a full replacement order without charging me even though I offered to make a second payment (it wasn't Eureka's fault my mailman delivered the package to the wrong door). That is superb customer service and I would recommend Eureka to anybody.

I have spent much of today going through the models, trimming and filing where needed, washing them and then mounting them to temporary bases for painting (I use caps saved from drink bottles). The sculpts themselves look fabulous and I am very anxious to get to work applying some paint.

The models were all packaged very well from Eureka and were sorted nicely into small bags. After speaking to Robert at Eureka on the telephone, I know he hand picks each miniature to ensure that a customer gets as many of the different poses as possible. That was a nice touch and very appreciated. I did notice that the Eureka models seem to be made of a very soft metal compared to others I have worked with... I may need to be a bit careful handling them as much of my time today was spent making bendy things back into straight things. Overall I am very impressed with the detail of the Eureka models, which I decided to buy after seeing many great examples of them at Project Auldearn 1645.

The Eureka miniatures bagged and sorted

Trimming and filing

Miniatures mounted to temporary painting bases

The Size of Things
I am having issue with the relative sizes of two things: the size of the pikes included by Eureka with their pikemen models and the size of the miniatures relative to other models from different manufacturers. The first issue is something that Eureka can perhaps look at fixing, the second is a problem with the current hobby as a whole that we shouldn't have to deal with honestly.

The pikes that were shipped with my Eureka pikemen are far too short and I would also say too thick a diameter for the scale. Pikes of the English Civil War era were generally about sixteen feet, which would translate to approximately 80mm-90mm in length for these figures. As you can see in the photo below, the Eureka pikes are much shorter than that, measuring about 52mm in length. I could perhaps use them as short-pikes, but again, I feel the diameter is wrong. For comparison, the photo also shows a Northstar pike trimmed to 85mm. This is what I plan on using for my ECW armies as I think that will look much better on the game table and be a little more historically accurate.

Pike comparison. Northstar cut to 85mm (left) and the Eureka pike (right).
The second sizing issue I have has nothing to do with Eureka themselves but rather the differences in the absolute size of the models from the various manufacturers of miniatures. I ordered an ensign model from Warlord Games to carry the flag of my highland regiment, only to discover that there is no way the model will fit in with my new Eureka models. Both models are sold as "28mm" but the Warlord figure is much taller and the overall scale is much greater (look at the size of the head and feet) than the Eureka figure. It is extremely frustrating as a hobbyist to not have access to all of the wonderful ranges that are out there due to the size variations - I want to mix-and-match. Enough of this nonsense - it is time for standardization!

Eureka model on the left, Warlord model on the right. Not cool.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ECW Flag: Macpherson of Cluny Badenoch Forces

I love the spectacle of the flags carried by the various English Civil War forces. The many different colors, designs, slogans and iconography makes for a splendid battlefield and gaming table. In addition, the flags of the time had significant meaning to the regiments and were protected at all costs.

This is my first attempt at creating a flag to be used with my first ECW regiment - the Badenoch forces under Montrose that were led by Ewen Macpherson of Cluny. These forces were present at the Battle of Tippermuir and the Battle of Aberdeen.

There is no historical record of the banners that may have been proudly carried for Macpherson and his forces (at least that I have been able to locate), and so I have taken some liberty in designing a flag for wargaming that may be suitable. The flag is based on the Macpherson of Cluny coat of arms. The file was created using Adobe Photoshop at a suitable resolution for printing (300 ppi) and when printed each flag measures approximately 40mm x 40mm.

Please, if you like this flag, feel free to download the large version and use it in your own ECW royalist highland levies.

Macpherson of Cluny ECW flag. Click for printable version.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

English Civil War Rules

I love rule books. I love studying them, I love carrying them around town in my bag and I love looking at the charts and photographs in them while I drink my coffee. Knowing that I was embarking on an English Civil War (ECW) project, I immediately began researching all of the various rule-sets (and there are lots of them) available for this historical time period.

What do I want in a rule-set? 
  1. It must be historically accurate. I understand that we are playing games, but the rules needs to reflect (not replicate) the historical context of the era and translate that into enjoyable game play somehow.
  2. It cannot rely too heavily on complicated charts and tables. I don't mind a reference sheet and the need to look something up from time to time, but when I am playing a game my attention should be on the game table and not the inside of a book.
  3. The games must be able to be played in a reasonable evening. I enjoy games that can be played in three hours or less with the occasional longer game when I am feeling sassy.
After browsing messaging boards, reading blogs and asking some questions I have whittled the rule choice down to two candidates: Pike & Shotte, by Warlord Games and For Parliament, King or Glory, by David Marks.

Two ECW Rules Finalists
Pike & Shotte is a very slick, nicely designed hard-cover rule book that is gorgeous. The diagram and charts are easy to follow and the photographs of the models are exquisite. I have only begun reading through these rules, but it is a pleasurable experience. I will withhold judgement of the rules themselves for another post.

The beauty of For Parliament, King or Glory is that these rules are free. I always marvel at the dedication, commitment and generosity of individuals in this hobby like David Marks who produce rule-sets for the public without asking for anything in return. A big thank-you and applause for Mr. Marks. I have printed the rules and placed them in a suitable binder for reading. At first glance I am very impressed with the layout and some of the rule mechanics and I am certainly looking forward to digging into these further.

I will provide some deeper analysis and comparisons of these two systems in a future post after I have had sufficient time to read and study them both.

In other news, the Scots I had recruited for my first regiment under Montrose have fled back to the highlands and are considered lost. With the kindly assistance of Robert Walter at Eureka Miniatures, a new batch of recruits are on their way!