Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Catch-Up

I've spent the last week in the picturesque Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, staying with the in-laws and eating pork, bacon and ham.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas break, and that it made you at least as happy as this little chap (the young Dux, aka 'Assault', to differentiate him from his twin sister 'Battery').

The down side about being away from the Man Cave is of course that I haven't been painting anything, and already feel twitchy and irritable as a result. This is exacerbated this year by seeing my ranking in Curt's Painting Challenge steadily slipping from 6th to 13th at the time of writing, although it has been great to see the wonderful and diverse contributions going up on Curt's blog. We're heading back tonight, so I'll be back with a vengeance.

Meanwhile, here's a recap of what I painted for the comp and haven't yet put up on my blog.

Miss Lily and the Girls,

Some German Heavy Metal,

and some more citizens for Hurricane.

Best wishes to you all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Painting Challenge, a Week and a Bit In

Thanks to Paul for the festive message! Sorry it's a bit small.

I'm really enjoying taking part in Curt's painting challenge, and this week has seen a feverish production schedule to try to keep pace with Paul's output. At the time of writing I'm in 9th place overall with 156 points, just maintaining a narrow lead over Paul. I'll be away for a week or so after Christmas, so unfortunately production is going to grind to a temporary halt.

Here's the painting desk after a week....

...and this was my entry to the 'Non-Combatants' Bonus Round.

As usual, I've been listening to Meeples and Miniatures to enhance the painting nerdiness, and was chuffed to hear Neil give Paul and me a shout out for our Meeples Bingo game in the latest episode. Thanks Neil! I've also discovered 'Welcome to Nightvale', a hilarious free podcast that purports to be the local radio news from a town in which every conspiracy theory is true. So if mysterious hooded figures at the local dog park, which is emphatically not for dog owners, circling black helicopters or glow clouds raining dead animals are your thing, give it a listen. just tell nobody that you hear about it from me.

Very happy Christmas to you all, and thanks for visiting my humble blog and taking the time to comment, or even just creepily lurking. I really appreciate it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I See Your Steampunk Marines, and Raise You....

Intimidated by Paul's terrific steampunk Royal Marines, I got busy with my brushes and sent off my first entry to Curt this evening.

Have at you, sir!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Let the Games Begin!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the first brush stroke of the painting challenge!

And in other news, like a flash of lightning Ray correctly identified that my inspiration for the names in my town is the great Dylan song 'Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts' from Blood on the Tracks. Well done Ray! He has modestly chosen to have a building named 'Bullock & Star Hardware Store', after Seth Bullock's store in Deadwood, rather than naming something after himself. And there was me expecting something like 'Colonel Ray's Sandbag Supplies'...

Best wishes to everyone in the Challenge! And to Curt, good luck with all the work ahead of you.

Your Name Here!

Well, the painting challenge has been underway for nearly three hours, but I'm just about to put some paint on some lead. I'm not as ready as I had planned to be - still lots of prepping to do and I need to pick up some new paint and brushes. I note that Paul is having a bit of a gloat about that on his blog. Nevertheless, I will be starting with some figures to populate my Western town.

It is of course largely making my town that has slowed down my prep for the challenge, but fortunately I've now assembled all the buildings and the basic set is complete. I love the 4-Ground buildings, but I will be happy to take a break from putting any together for a while! Being a masochist I decided to paint my own signs, mainly because I had a definite theme in mind.

Which brings me to a little competition of sorts. Have a look at the first two signs I have completed.

Your challenge: tell me in an email what inspired my choice of business names, and therefore what name should appear on the next sign. There are two possible correct answers to this.

The prize: you get to have your name appear on one of my buildings. Ever wanted to run a shady business in a Wild West town? Now's your chance. I'll even allow those of you who run businesses to use this as a form of advertising if you win, although I reserve the right to work out with you a name that will fit the Wild West context.

If this sounds fun and you can answer my questions, send me an email at alan_dearn(at)

And remember, if a frog had wings it wouldn't bump its ass so much. You know what I'm saying?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Putting Nerd Skills to Good Use

Less than a day now until the Painting Challenge begins. I've been pushing hard to get my Wild West terrain finished so that I can his the ground running with the Challenge, but even more important things have intervened with the Mini Duchess turning seven this weekend.

Today I had the pleasant task of making a cake for her party tomorrow, and I think it's fair to say that my modelling skills came in handy.

She wanted a cake featuring Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars. Ahsoka is one hero of hers I'm very pleased to encourage. When she's playing Ahsoka she is likely to be running around the house clobbering her brother with a lightsaber, which is a huge improvement on her Disney Princess games, which involve her walking slowly around simpering and asking people to marry her.

With some great help from big sister Erica, I tried to make a scene of Ahsoka and friends next to her crashed starfighter on an unfamiliar planet. I'm pretty pleased with the basic look of her ship. Basically I started with a rectangular cake and carved it into delta shape. Then I covered it with melted white chocolate and used a brush to try to paint on coloured icing thinned with lemon juice. This was a bit disappointing, as I really wanted much bolder colours, so I briefly considered reaching for the Vallejo paints until I remembered we're meant to eat the thing. But overall, I reckon it turned out OK, and I'm looking forward o seeing her reaction.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Project Kursk 27: First Company-Level Game

As I may have mentioned before, I think Battle Group Kursk is one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling games I've ever played, and certainly my standout WWII game. Well, that feeling was reinforced still further today when I got together with Conan the Librarian and Laurentius the Year 12 Club Warlord for a holiday game. We were able to devote a good 5 or so hours to the game, on a 6X6 table. We played 1000 points, which was a large Company-Level Game. Conan and I took a Soviet Rifle Division force, Laurentius a Panzer Division battlegroup, and we played the defence line scenario.

I tried something different for this game, the largest I've yet played with the rules. My battlegroup was made up of the following:

NKVD Officer
2 Infantry platoons (one in foxholes)
1 Maxim MG in reinforced cover
1 AT Rifle in Reinforced cover
1 Dug-in KV1
1 Platoon of KV1Es
2 Platoons of T34s
2 Zis 3 batteries (one with loaders)
1 Off-table battery of 152mm howitzers
1 Battery of 82mm mortars
1 Sniper
5 Pre-registered aiming points

This gave a force with a Battle Rating of 53 + D6 for the NKVD officer, with three officers. So essentially, I thought I'd try playing with the traditional Soviet strength in artillery, and see what happened. In response, Laurentius went for a vehicle-heavy Panzer force with a Battle Rating of 60, including two platoons in half-tracks, a Platoon each of Pz IIIs, IVs, Tigers and StuGs and no artillery support.

In our initial deployment, Conan and I deliberately sited our strongest defenses (the dug-in infantry and KV1) to encourage funnelling the attackers into some obvious lines of attack, then sited our pre-registered target points where we expected the Germans would mass for their attacks. It was important we got this right, as our force included no artillery observers, so we weren't going to be able to change our fire plan.

Generally we got our tactics pretty right. We started hammering the Germans with artillery from turn 1, which didn't destroy much apart from a couple of spectacular hits on halftracks full of infantry and a PzIII, but it did cause a steady attrition on the German battle rating, as Laurentius had to keep taking battle counters to unpin units.

Pinning a steady stream of German units, combined with Laurentius' propensity for excessive caution, meant that the German attack took a while to get started, and when it did it developed in two main thrusts down the flanks on very narrow fronts, as the Germans tried to avoid all the incoming hate. The biggest threat was on our left flank, but by the time the Germans were pushing through the woods there our tanks which were in reserve started arriving, and we were able to smash the attack at the cost of three T34s. The highlight was causing a Tiger crew to pail out of its tank after first pinning it with area fire, then hitting it with a couple of shells that couldn't possibly penetrate its armour. Indeed, the game confirmed a suspicion that has been steadily growing in me, which is this: Tigers are rubbish. Laurentius' big cats contributed little to his effort, despite being big and scary, and habitually failed their morale tests.

When we called the game at 4pm, Laurentius' Battle Rating was down to 16, but the Soviets still had 33, so a clear victory. All of us had a great day, and were really impressed by the way that scaling up the game means that different ways of playing it become possible, as one would expect in a real engagement. With 1000 points, it becomes possible to decide to emphasise artillery, or tanks, but still highlights the need to maintain a well-balanced force. In short, BGK continues to impress with its ability to produce a really fun and engaging game that rewards realistic force composition and tactics.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dead Man's Hand

Oh good! Something else shiny to spend money on!

Lots happening in the Duchy at the moment. I've been prepping loads of figures ready for the Painting Challenge, but also busily building some terrain for Dead Man's Hand. Yep, a new game.

Dead Man's Hand started catching on with the club at school in the last few weeks of term, and predictably I ran amok with the credit card and bought loads of the thoroughly brilliant 4-Ground buildings. Don't tell the Duchess. I really like the idea of making a town that all the action will take place in, particularly once campaign rules come out at the start of next year with the Legend of Dead Man's Hand expansion.

So, after a trip to Bunnings I prepared a 90cmx90cm board, screwing on battens on each edge to stop the board warping and help it weigh a ton. A nice thing about the 4-Ground buildings (love 'em!) is that they have a limited number of standardised bases, so by gluing bases and boardwalks in place I can store the buildings separately and move them around a bit for some variety.

With the bases glued down I used Das to cover the screws, and add a bit of texture to the board, then painted the lot with Dulux Cookie Dough. I adopted an unsophisticated but effective approach to texture by chucking a few handfuls of sand into the paint, and having a tin of dirt on hand to dip my brush in as I was painting.

Next I gave the whole thing a wash with very diluted raw umber, and since the last photo I've sprayed it over with some light sand to bring the colours together.

I've still got a couple of buildings to put together, but when Comrade Antonius visited yesterday we put on the soundtrack to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, got out some unpainted figures, and had a game of Dead Man's Hand. If you haven't played it yet, it's a doozy. Very simple, very fun and with loads of character. It has certainly had me doing some serious 'research' by watching a host of Westerns. Yee Haw!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I played my first game of Meeples and Miniatures Bingo this evening while preparing a pile of Foundry figures for the upcoming painting challenge (and cutting my fecking thumb).

I was listening to Episode 117, and claimed a Tactical Victory 19:11 into the episode. Since the whole episode was about Ex Illis that gave me an easy Wildcard box, so I was able to claim the entire right hand column with the Wildcard replacing one of the boxes. Neil wasn't actually talking all that much in the episode as he was interviewing. so I reckon I did pretty well. So who can claim a Tactical Victory in any episode in less time?

My thumb seems to have stopped bleeding now, so back to the prepping and seeing if I can score a full Strategic Victory...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Meeples and Miniatures Bingo

Back in July last year I sang the praises of the Meeples and Miniatures podcast, and included some ideas for a drinking game to be played while listening.

Captain Man Cave had the idea of revamping this as a bingo game, so we came up with a joint effort for your nerdy enjoyment. This might be a nice little distraction for those of you preparing to chain yourselves to the painting desk for Curt's painting challenge.

1. Best played when painting but play anywhere!
2. Any M&M episode will do.
3. Some phrases or events appear on the Bingo grid more than once, but you can only cross off a box once each time you hear it.
4. Using a brush loaded with paint to cross off the grid allows you to cross off one extra bonus box of your choice on the main grid each game.
5. Claim a Tactical Victory by finishing a complete line in any direction.
6. Full Strategic Victory is won by completing the whole grid.
7. Wildcard! events can replace any other box on the grid.
8. Be careful not to knock over your water jar when leaping up to yell 'BINGO!!'

Please feel free to share it around! Tell us how you get on with different episodes. Are there any where you can't score at least a tactical victory?

Whether you play the game or not, Meeples is a great podcast to listen to while painting, and I would like to thank Neil for the huge amount of work he puts into producing it. Indeed, it is my go-to podcast.

Moving rapidly on....

Friday, November 22, 2013

This Week in the Duchy

Phew! It is nearly the end of the school year, and as always the insane busyness ramps up a few notches. It has been a big week, partly caused by trying to cram in as much gaming time with Cap'n Paul before he relocates to Canberra in a couple of weeks. At the moment it is all smiles and bonhomie, but we are also starting to gear up for ruthless competition in Curt's Painting Challenge. Paul has kindly offered to make a trophy for our side wager in Curt's challenge, so stay tuned. So far he is doing a good job of intimidating me by explaining at length how he has drawn up spread sheets to track his figure painting progress. Roll on December 15.

Last night Paul and I went on an adventure to visit Ian of War and Peace Games fame. Not only did Ian cook up a fantastic bolognaise for us, but we got to explore his warehouse where he keeps his stock. Nerdvana. I'm sure the puddles of drool are still there, and Paul had to be physically restrained from throwing himself bodily at all the Bolt Action goodness, while I only just managed to ignore the siren call of the wall of SAGA lead. Fortunately I spent a lot of money a couple of weeks back on some terrain, otherwise I would have run seriously amok. I was seduced by one shiny thing though, the brand new Fall of the Reich supplement to Battle Group Kursk. There they were in a big lovely heap, smelling of new book. I'm only flesh and blood.

Paul sharing my excitement about Battlegroup: Fall of the Reich

Battle Group Kursk was the main reason for our visit in the first place. We had been planning to pay Ian a visit for a while, and since he had never played BGK, and Paul had only had one quick game, the plan was for me to run through a game with them.

I put together a couple of 500 point battle groups, with Ian and Paul paying the Germans. I decided to keep it simple, so didn't include any indirect fire. Instead, we basically played a tank-heavy meeting encounter, with my company of T-34s and an SU-122 against four Pz IV Hs and a Tiger, supported by a platoon of infantry each and a few other bits and bobs.

The game was great fun. Each side gradually got their units on to the table, with the Germans getting into some good ambush positions while I built up enough of a mass of Soviet armour to launch them across the board. When I finally unleashed them they scared Ian and Paul a lot, as they suddenly had to contend with T-34s rapidly closing to point blank range. The game see sawed a bit, with Paul rolling more 1s than is mathematically possible, then pulling out two double 6s in a row, the swine. Meanwhile, Ian had uncanny luck drawing battle counters as I pinned or knocked out his units, managing to draw a series of the 'special event' chits that left one of my T-34s immobilised and another blown up by a mine. Then, in a single turn Paul managed to brew up 4 of my tanks, and it was all over apart from the gloating. Ooooh I love BGK. Such a fun game.

Yeah, yeah

My only modelling project this week was completing a set of trophies for school, which appear at the top of this post. In order to cement the History Department's reputation for eccentricity, every year we run the 'Golden Gobbet' competition, a gobbet being an unfamiliar historical source that the boys have to try to analyse and relate to their existing knowledge. I get the trophies made up and adorn each with a different armoured vehicle each year, since the competition is held with the boys doing a unit on the Eastern Font in WWII. This year I painted up some 20mm StuGs as trophies, which the Headmaster presented in Assembly today. I even got him to correctly describe them as self-propelled guns rather than tanks. What a lucky Dux I am to have a job where I can do stuff like that!

Monday, November 18, 2013

I'm so in!

It's time to bite the bullet and enter Curt's painting competition I've set myself the goal of 500 points, which after a fairly unproductive year should get me back on track with reducing the lead pile. Although let's face it, I'll just buy more figures specially for the painting comp. Don't tell the Duchess.

To make it more interesting, and at the risk of turning out like Ray and Fran, I've challenged Man Cave Paul to a duel. He's down for 500 points as well, but let's see who can paint the most. We've decided to put a wager on it, but haven't decided on the stakes.

We're open to suggestions.....

Sunday, November 17, 2013

SAGA - Pagan Rus vs. Byzantines

Had a terrific game of SAGA at the school club last week, pitting my Pagan Rus against some hapless Byzantines. The Byzantines were defending village in the 'Homeland' scenario. I decided not to muck about and used a unit of 12 hearth guard with a war banner to steamroll across the table. It was one of those games that just sticks in your memory as being great fun.

The Duchess has been monopolising the computer doing less important things like studying for an exam, so I don't have time to write up a proper AAR. But just to record a fun game, here are some pics:

String defeat in the face, the Byzantines attempt to deploy miniscule German armour, but to no avail...

Monday, November 11, 2013

First Game of Bolt Action

Last Wednesday night I was lucky enough to have Man Cave Paul and Ian from War and Peace Games come over to the Duchy for a game of Bolt Action. Paul and I had never played before, so Ian was kind enough to talk us through a demo game using my Brits and his Germans on Ian's lovely terrain.

Before getting started we had a great dinner of roast beast, courtesy of the Duchess, along with a great bottle of French white wine Paul brought along. This was a bottle with a history, being sent over to his ship (HMAS Newcastle) by the captain of FS Somme, a French tanker, during a Replenishment at Sea off Somalia.

'Arrr. If only it be rum.'

Paul wrote up an AAR of our game, in which he was kind enough not to gloat at the drubbing he inflicted on my Brits. Take it away Paul:

Late War Brits attacked a small German held village, somewhere in Western Europe...

Alan's Brits had:

Entering from the left:
1st LT
2 10 man Inf Squads with Bren Gun
1 FO
1 6pdr AT gun
1 light mortar

Entering from the right:
1 vet para Squad with Bren
1 vet PIAT
1 medic
1 Centaur (proxied by my Churchill

Paul's Germans had
3 x 5 man squads, each with MG42, MP40, AR and 2 Riflemen
1 x 3 man tripod mounted MG42 team

1 sniper team
2 special figs the Brits wanted - 1 to kill, 1 to capture

I was in a line deployment, starting hidden
Left - MMG team and 1 squad in buildings

Centre - 1 squad and 1 special fig, sniper in church tower (compulsory spot!)
Right - 1 Squad in Building
Pz III in light woods next to building

Alan's pre game bombardment was effective so I started with a bunch of pins on squads. On the right the Brit Paras got bogged down across the road from the building the Jerries occupied and they got hosed by that squad and the PZIII's MGs turn after turn until there was only 3 men left with 6 pins on them. In return the Centaur blasted the building and killed the squad, which was then heroically defended solely by the German Officer - give that man an Iron Cross!

On the Left the German MMG team was suffering from the pins and the British inf sections moved up nicely using cover. As soon as they broke cover to rush the building the Germans on that flank passed all their tests and in a withering crossfire whittled the lead section down to 3 men in a single turn. The second Brit supporting section then wiped out the German MMG team before they could relocate. The German squad then focused on the Brit 6pdr, which was taking ineffective long range shots over the whole length of the table at the Pz IIIs flank, and wiped it out.

The German sniper in the church tower didn't get any spectacular successes, but removed a few figs and added a lot of pins. This rattled the Brits so their FO brought down a barrage onto the building. Lots of pins, no KIA.

As we ran out of time, the Centaur tried to rush forward but was caught by the Pz III which took an effective flanking shot, set the British tank on fire and its crew bailed out. The British infantry on the left were poised to try and rush the Church with their last Squad (minus 2 figs, incl the Bren), while the Germans still had 2 full 5 man teams, the sniper and a Pz III. Brits conceded at that point.

Brits Lost- Piat, Mortar, 6 pdr, Centaur (and lots of Inf but no full squads). Germans Lost- MMG team and 1 Infantry Squad.

A fun game indeed. Alan and I both found the Bolt Action system easy to pick up, and quick to play. A few abstractions were curious but reult in fast play and I loved the alternate activation system which has both players involved in the games the whole time.

Thanks Paul, I'll take it from here. Like Paul said, we had a great time. Bolt Action seems like a fun game to play with mates. I think I'm likely to engage more with Chain of Command (which I can't wait to play), but the great thing is that painting up a little force allows you to play both!

Typically, my Brits were hammered as it was their first outing, and I felt particularly bad about the lovely squad of Paras Tamsin painted for me, who charged into position behind a hedge and spent the rest of the game getting systematically shot up by every German in sight. Sorry Tamsin!

Thanks heaps to Paul for a great game, and particularly to Ian for being such a good teacher. Buy stuff from him - he 's an excellent bloke.

Dux actual out.