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!