Sunday, March 23, 2008

Some more eye candy from ChimaeraCon

These pics were taken by Lloyd von Zolms-Braunfels, who led the right flank of the Homburg-Imperial Army.

Here's a pic of the Imperial right flank. The Serbelloni cuirassiers (Old Glory figs) are closest to the camera, with the Ferdinand cuirassiers (Crusader miniatures, painted by Old Army Painting Service) behind. These were Lloyd's brigade. In the distance, the Imperial reserve made up of IR Salm-Salm and IR Neipperg have changed to column and are marching to the Imperial right flank.

This one shows the Ferdinand cuirassiers just before their ill-advised charge against the Fedoran Leibregiment. They were shot from the saddles, almost to a man. I think 4 figures survived the volley, and amazingly passed their morale check. Only to be destroyed the next turn.

Finally, here's a pic of the Fedoran-Germanians. In the foreground, Germanian (Prussian) Dragoon Regiment Schorlemer (Old Glory figures) just before the Serbelloni cuirassiers charged. In the background, the Fedoran (Brunswick) Karabiniers are about to change into column formation to move behind the dragoons, while the Leibregiment takes post near the town of Balcones. Leib and Karabiniers are RSM95 figures painted by Fernando Enterprises Miniature Painting Service.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The ground we fight on…

I have been asked how I made the ground sheet used in my latest battle report. The answer is that I stole ideas from other gamers!

Back in the days of The Courier magazine, there was an article by a gamer who made 6mm Franco-Prussian maps that were just gorgeous. I actually saw them at Cold Wars and they were even better in person. He used T-shirt material, dyed and airbrushed, stretched over Styrofoam--or expanded polystyrene if you prefer.

Now, for Big Battalions I needed a big map, which was portable, relatively small, and relatively cheap to make.

I grabbed one of my wife’s 40% discount coupons and trotted off to Jo-Ann Fabrics. I bought a piece of 100% cotton muslin, in a single piece that was 96 inches wide and 11 yards long. Cost was about $20 with the discount. I also picked up four bottles of green Rit Dye.

After washing the muslin to get rid of sizing, I poured very hot water into a 20 gallon rubber container, and mixed in the Rit with a wooden stick. Note the directions for Rit say to do it in your washing machine, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. Then I slowly layered in the fabric.

Two things here:
1. I used rubber gauntlets up to my elbows. Rit will dye ANYTHING it touches. You have been warned.
2. Do this outside, in the grass or somewhere that you don’t mind sloshing the dye on. Rit will dye ANYTHING it touches. You have been warned again.

I left the fabric in the container for 4 days, occasionally stirring it, unfolding the fabric, and mixing again. The washing machine would have been faster, but I did not want to risk staining it green (or having my wife kill me for doing so). After 4 days, I poured out the dye, and let the cloth dry for a week.

Then I bought a variety of cheap green spray paints, plus brown and blue. I laid out the cloth in my garage and taped out the patterns.

Two more lessons:
1. Put newspaper under the cloth, as the spray paint WILL bleed through since you have to apply a lot.
2. Use three times wider tape or paper than you think is necessary to prevent overspray. I thought 2-3 inches wide would be enough but as you can see in the final product there was more overspray than looks good.

I worked from a map for our Napoleonic battle at the Millennium Convention 2007. For the green fields, I just randomly picked areas to give that look you see from an airplane.

So, voila! One 7 foot by 33 foot reusable green ground cloth. You can even fold up unused portions underneath without a problem.

For hills, I place 3 inch Styrofoam underneath and use T- or U-pins to mold the cloth over the hill. For towns, I put my buildings down on gray felt, cut to the shape of the building, so that if necessary the buildings can be removed but the location is still there.

You could even do smaller pieces and then piece them together just like most gamers do with their 2-foot or 4-foot terrain boards.

Here is one last photo of the final product.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

ChimaeraCon 2008--San Antonio, Texas, USA

ChimaeraCon 2008 is over, as far as “The Big Battalions” are concerned. And it was a complete success! Unless you are a Fedoran, that is.

C-Con has a larger portion of the Crossroads Mall Convention than last year, providing plenty of space for all of the various events. Sadly, turnout looked to be down. My guess is that Spring Break started this weekend and lots of people left town.

I showed up plenty early to see the sights and visit with the club members. My game wasn’t scheduled until 1400 but in another unfortunate turn for C-Con, the games scheduled for my table were cancelled due to the Game Master being injured. I took advantage, however, and set up my game early--by 1100.

My idea was that I could take my time and visit with passers-by. I also hoped to recruit some players since there was not a single person pre-registered for the game. Soon, the table looked like this:

My plan worked wonderfully. Maybe too wonderfully.

The scenario was indeed CS Grant’s “Table Top Teaser 3: Advance Guard.” I planned on 4 players initially, but had units for all of the possible reinforcements. Each side had 5 infantry battalions, 4 cavalry regiments, a jager or grenadier detachment, and a couple battalion guns. Infantry had 48 figures each, and cavalry had 24.

A number of club members stopped by, and a surprising number of non-historical gamers did also. I attribute that to the sheer “Wow!” factor of big battalions of “28mm” figures. One of the con’s guests, actor Marc Singer of “BEASTMASTER” and “V” stopped and asked a few questions.

At least nine people decided to play. My first reaction was “Uh oh!”

So I threw out the scenario and just threw all my troops on the table. There were two small brigades of cavalry on each end, with two infantry brigades in the center.

None of the players had played BAR before. Two, Lloyd of the Zolms-Braunfels blog and Rusty of the local club, had copies of the rules. Rusty even brought his Austrian battalions and a couple guns…but there was no room on the table!

At 1400 I gave an overview of the rules. That took 20 minutes, and the one thing I learned later was that I did not give enough information about the methods to change facing and formation as given in the “Drill Manual.”

The game began at 1425 after a brief planning session by the players.

Things went quickly due to the small size of the board. The sheer size of the movement rates and firing ranges is daunting, even on a table 6.5 feet by 10 feet.

Both ends of the field had traffic jams, due partly to terrain, partly to set-up, and partly to not explaining as mentioned above. But the players worked it out soon enough, and the game quickly started with Fedoran and Germanian hussars tangling with Imperial dragoons. You can sense the scale of losses by the amount of bare magnet visible on the movement trays!

In the center, the infantry engaged in some horrific firefights. Most of the units held their fire and caused around 15 casualties per volley…and that is AFTER the saving rolls!

We had a few questions come up, but the rules answered most of them with a little digging. The cavalry scrums ended up in Imperial victory on both ends, with about one squadron surviving out of four. These two squadrons were preparing to intervene in the center when the Fedorans withdrew.

In this photo, Germanian IR 9, which was the Fedoran reserve, is moving up to fill the hole left by the rout of a Fedoran battalion. In the middle distance you can see the melee which ended in the destruction of the Imperial Esterhazy battalion, and in the far distance you can see a fresh Imperial battalion preparing to drive the Leib regiment away from Balcones.

The Imperials held both victory objectives (Balcones town and the Olmosbach bridge), and also inflicted more casualties.

Overall, the players seemed pleased and I may have recruited a few new BAR players. One, Sherrill, is soon moving to Illinois and I have already aimed him at Herr Alte Fritz and company!

Some more eye candy, and then it’s off to bed. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How NOT to prepare for a game convention

Monday it rained here in San Antonio; the first substantial rain in months.

If you live in the desert, you know that after an extended period without rain, things are VERY slick when it finally does rain.

And so, despite this knowledge, when I attempted to descend the tile staircase at work after lunch on Monday, my feet took a different route to the bottom than I had intended: over my head.

After landing on my back right ribs and before bouncing the last 8 or 9 steps, I lacerated my right elbow. The doctor took one look at the road rash on my ribs, poked once or twice to see how high I jumped, and pronounced "at least 3 broken ribs."

Fortunately, the X-rays showed no fractures at all (although apparently rib fractures frequently don't show up). So after 3 days on pain pills, I have returned to the gaming prep, albeit having lost all of the "cushion" I had built up over the weekend.

So, while everything is drying tonight, I will return to "better living through chemistry" and hope to finish it all tomorrow night. The game WILL go on, but some of the troops may not be quite as "finished" as I had planned.

Cheers, (ouch...darn elbow!)


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Quick question for local readers

Is anyone besides Lloyd von Solms-Braunfels planning on attending my BAR game at ChimaeraCon on 15 March?

Just curious if I need to rebase more troops quickly!

Ed v. H-F