Southern Front 2016

October 9, 2016

Some of my friends and I headed to Southern Front 2016 this past weekend.  It is a small convention held annually in Raleigh, NC.  Originally, it was billed as a historical miniatures convention.  Currently, the participants number only about 100.  Several folks stayed home as they lived in states that were severely affected by Hurricane  Matthew.   The games were fun and, as usual, were presented with wonderfully painted miniatures and attractive terrain.  Matthew decided to change course and affected more of NC than anticipated.  The Raleigh area lost power at about 2:30 on Saturday but power to the Hotel was restored around 8:00pm that night.  Several games were canceled as it was tough to see in the hall.  Others persevered and continued to play by flashlights, provided by the hotel staff.  Despite the unfortunate complications it was a fun, relaxed even and I believe everyone had a great time.  I hope to see participation increase in the coming years.  Here are some highlights of games at the con including a few I participated in.

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This table was scheduled to be used for about 5 games. I participated in Jimmy’s GASLIGHT game on Venus.

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Squad Leader as a miniatures game. We managed to take the field against the Germans! A Stug III burns in the background as a German Platoon withdraws.

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Yep! Won it out right! But at a pretty hefty cost. A German minefield claims two of my Shermans. My friend Andrew’s M-10 burns in the background, a casualty from being hit by a Jagpanther.

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A battle on Venus! The Bogart Shamen summon their dinosaur minions to defeat the Sino European forces before they can get the diplomats off this crazy planet. Bloody battle but a fun scenario. In the end we did the save modifiers for shooting completely backwards. When the GASLIGHT rules say -10, that means you reduce the die roll by 10, thus making it much easier to save against missile attack! We were modifying the target number!

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And then the power went out. Hurricane Matthew was supposed to hug the Carolina coats and head out to sea. Shockingly, the weather folks got this one wrong. Power went out around 2:30pm on Saturday and did not return until about 8:00pm that evening. This is a shot of a Stalingrad game using Chain of Command.

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The hardcore gamers continue to the end. A shot of Ed Mohrman’s ACW game using “Before I was a Marshal” rules by the late Larry Brom. Adapted for ACW of course.

 


Sahara 1943/1995

October 4, 2016

Recently, I watched the 1943 movie Sahara staring Humphrey Bogart.  It is a remarkable movie for a number of reasons.  As the movie was made in 1943, the equipment used was all state of the art.  The Allied vehicles were all authentic.  At various times in the movie, there was a M-3 Stuart/Honey, several M-3 Lee tanks, one of which was Lulu-Belle and a M-2 White Scout Car.  As the war was at its height, there was no German equipment to be had.  The White was presumably supposed to be an SDKFZ-250 half-track.

The movies that came about after the war in the early 60s had a curious negative tone toward our Allies, especially the British.  Thankfully, the tone of this movie is more of a cooperative one.  There are a managerie of characters from all arms, mostly explained away because they were at an aid station for various reasons.  They were fighting in the battle of Gazala and a general retreat had been ordered.  So why an American?  Well, the Allies were planning on invading Morocco and the Americans needed some experience fighting in the desert.  Our hero was part of a tank company sent to North Africa to fight along side of the British and gain some practical experience against the Germans.

There are a few stereotypical characters as well.  There is an Italian who is both a little round and has no real stomach for a fight.  He is, however, a pretty good mechanic.  There is a Frenchman who was driven out of France when the Nazis came and executed most of the people in his village because they were suspected resistance fighters.  He is also a bit round and has a love of good wine and good food.  Also not a terribly good fighter but he is willing to kill a German at first chance.  Finally, there is a Sudanese tracker who is a good fighter and is well respected.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this is that the movie was filmed well before the civil rights movement.  The character is both believable and well done.  Not a second banana by any stretch.

A remake of this movie was made in 1995 staring, oddly enough, James Belushi.  This was an Australian made movie.  I saw it on IMDB and thought Id give it a trying.  With lowered expectations, I watched it and was pleasantly surprised.  The cast of characters was quite good.  Most of the story was the same from the older classic.  The opening scene is still the same.  There are a few classic tanks, including a Matilda.  There is no German halftrack but there is a LRDG patrol that finds the gang.  They have a vintage Chevy and a Jeep.  The characters were similar to that of the classic movie but somehow were more endearing.  Luigi the Italian was less of a caricature than previously.  he was still a whiz bang mechanic and still just wanted to get home so he could live out his life with his wife and child.  Frenchy was portrayed a bit mean and even a little sinister.  When he switches out to the famous scene where he talks about what he would do if he were back at his vineyard, he was really likable, much like the classic Frenchy.  But then he remembers that it is not there anymore and he begins to brood again.    It was after this scene that you really see the lads bond.

The attacks were very similar though Waco never goes for help.  He stays to fight and pays the price like the rest of the men except two.  The big difference is that in the old movie, Lulu Belle never moves during the fight.  In the new version it goes on a bit of a joy ride hitting the German attackers hard.  Note that at this stage in the war, German infantry had no effective means of dealing with an M-3.  This is a recon battalion so even if they had a 37mm gun, it would have been ineffective against the 2″ sloped plate of the Lee.  Perhaps not as cool looking as the tank assault on the tree line in the movie “Fury” but a pretty good scene none-the-less.

Finally, there is Joe Gunn.  We all probably know about Bogart and his role.  He does do a fabulous job.  He is quite capable and brave but it not the “Mary Sue” that other action heroes are.  In fact, he is kind of flawed and can even be mean at times in his own right.  As played by James Belushi?  Surprisingly good.  My objection to him is not with the acting but rather with the look.  Belushi just didn’t look “military.”  he did not have a tanker’s uniform which almost certainly would have been a khaki coveralls like the one Bogart wore.  His hair was too long and the hair style a bit too modern.  But his acting was quite good.

You can’t go wrong watching either movie.  They tell the same story.  The acting is quite good in both though the style in the classic movie is a bit dated.  The sign of the times I suppose.  Get them both.  Watch them side by side.  Well worth the 3+ hours you will spend.

 


Vikings Season IV

September 8, 2016

I am a big fan of the show Vikings.  I get the skewed time line and why the writers chose to do it.  They’ve compressed the Sagas and arranged them in a way that works logically without obliterating their essence.  Just started season 4 and the first two episodes have made me wonder if the writers have gotten lazy.

Season 3 dealt with the great raid on Paris.  Now, Paris at the time (845AD) was a town on an island in the middle of the Seine.  There were no walls.  Just a river to act as a moat to keep the would-be raiders out.  In real life this worked in favor of the Norsemen and after a brief battle up river, they occupied Paris for a time until Charles the Bald paid them off with an enormous sum of loot.  There would be a repeat of this raid in 850s (or there about).  Now, the last raid occurred in 885 when 3 Norse leaders including a guy named Rollo (Yes.  That Rollo.) tried to sack Paris a third time and wasted their armies against the Parisian walls.  The Vikings left and it was only Rollo and his men left behind.  At some point he settled in Normandy and eventually agreed to play nice with the Franks becoming the Count of Rouen. Whatever the case, the writers chose to wrap all the events over the course of 60 or so years into one action.   Fine.  It’s TV.  I get it.  So you are wondering why I am telling you about Season 3?  Well read on.

In Season 4, we see that Rollo has in fact chosen to be left behind.  he does get married to Princess Giesla (not the historical Judith) but still fine.  He does not, however settle in Normandy.  Now, his men, who also chose to stay behind with him, start getting bored.  They want to talk with the newly minted Frankish noble, Rollo as to what the heck is going on!?  Rollo agrees to meet with them but brings along a horde of crossbowmen who, along with another Frankish noble, mow the entire camp down.  Wait.  What?  I guess it becomes expedient to drive the story along.

I am not optimistic about how the season is going.  It is starting to feel like Vikings is trying to be Game of Thrones Lite.  There is some freaky bondage scenes (Count Odo and the random noble woman) and some of the fights seem to be set to simply eliminate a plot obstacle.  I am still cautiously hopeful that the next few episodes will right this sinking ship.  I said cautiously.


Goodbye, Yahoo

July 25, 2016

Today, with the announcement that Yahoo has been bought by Verizon, I have taken the liberty of taking down my yahoo groups.  There are two reasons really.

  1. I am not a fan of Verizon.  They have given me such intentionally poor customer service in the past that I just assume never use one of their products again, even if it is free.
  2. The group has been quiet for a while.  I originally set it up to host my files.  WordPress has been allowing multiple file types for several years now, thus eliminating the need to host a file on another service.
  3. I have been getting hit by spam.  I suspect it originated from Yahoo and now I am on some spammer’s list.  All of this occurred because Yahoo simply could not provide adequate maintenance of their products.

So there you have it.  If you want to stay in touch, come on by my blog and say “hi!”  I’ll still be posting.  Hopefully, I’ll have more to say as the summer draws to a close.


An Unexpected Party

November 21, 2015

Last Saturday was Jack’s wargame birthday party.  There were 7 kids ages, ages 7-9 at the party.  The craft went well and the kids enjoyed the figure painting.  The challenge came because several were a bit unruly at first so it was difficult to explain the game, as simple as the rules were.  The object of the game was to kill monsters, each other and gain treasure for fighting and searching.  It was a simplified version of Jack’s Rules of war.  The warriors were basic hitting on a 3 or less.  The archers hit on a 2 or less but if they missed, the enemy did not get to fight back until their turn.  The hero hit on a 4 or less and also could take 2 hits before being “defeated.”  I did not use the word “kill” because I did not want them to get the impression that I glorify war and that this was a simple strategy game.  Some pictures below of the action as it unfolded.

There was miniature painting.

There was miniature painting.

 

And the results. Not too shabby!

And the results. Not too shabby!

 

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The table before the carnage began.  The castle is another card model by Toshach Miniatures.  It was originally scaled to 10mm but the image was high res and I increased the size to 1/72 scale.

 

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Me explaining how to fight. Strangely enough, it started around the hobbit hill. And here I thought Hobbits were peaceful! Card model by Fat Dragon Games.

 

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There, of course, was cake!

 

And more fighting. Jack (right) stands with 2 of his friends. The girl won with 3 coins.

And more fighting. Jack (right) stands with 2 of his friends. The girl (name withheld) won with 3 coins.

Several of the kids really enjoyed the game and several others could take it or leave it.  Good times were had by all!  I’d call it a successful day!

 


How tall is Beorn?

September 28, 2015

How tall is Beorn from the Hobbit? The book does not explicitly say but we can figure out the rough height of the bear-man in human form.

Step 1: A point of reference. Beorn wore a tunic that hung to the top of his knee.  “As for Bilbo he could easily have trotted through his legs without ducking his head to miss the fringe of the man’s brown tunic.” (From Queer Lodgings) So we know that Bilbo was knee high to Beorn.

Step 2: How tall is Bilbo? We assume Bilbo is of average height. A hobbit, according to the book The Hobbit is “about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves.“ (From An Unexpected Party) This is a somewhat sticky point because in the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien changes things up and makes the average Hobbit about 3 feet 6 inches. For our purposes, it’s better not to mix and match. So we shall stick with the size from The Hobbit. Now, a medieval man is about 5 feet 8 inches tall or 68 inches. A WWII man, fortunately, is also about 5 feet 8 inches tall. So we don’t actually have to know what “man” Tolkien was referring to. We can safely assume Bilbo is about 34 inches tall. So the distance from the ground to the top of Beorn’s knee is also 34 inches..

Step 3: Compare to a real world person. The distance to the top of my knee is 24 inches. We an figure out the multiplier to increase my height to figure out how tall Beorn is, assuming he has my height proportions. 34 / 22 = 1.416666667. My height is 72 inches. 72 X 1.416666667 = 102 inches. That works out to 8.5 feet. I’d conjecture that Beorn is somewhere between 8 and 9 feet tall….in human form.

Step 4: (Optional) If you are looking for a miniature, you simply need to apply the multiplier above to the size of your “man” size in mm. For instance, my figures are about 24mm tall. So 24 X 1.416666667 = 34mm. Fudging that, most modern 28mm figures could fit the bill as they are usually 31mm+ tall.

As for Beorn in bear form, he was described as follows: “He came alone, and in bear’s shape; and he seemed to have grown almost to giant-size in his wrath. The roar of his voice was like drums and guns; and he tossed wolves and goblins from his path like straws and feathers.” Any werebear that is at least twice the height of your man sized miniatures should do. Mine is the Dwarf Werebear from Dungeons and Dragons miniatures but since I’ve done my research, I am kind of sorry I did not get something a bit bigger.

Left to right: Boromir, Foundr Viking (Beorn in human form maybe?), Bilbo, Beorn in Bear form

Left to right: Boromir, Foundry Viking (Beorn in human form maybe?), Bilbo, Beorn in Bear form.

My Beorn holds an ax which is not really an accurate description but it is a great looking miniature and will work nicely with the rest of my figures.  I’ll be looking at some of Reaper’s offerings for Beorn in human form as their figures are on the large size.  The one I found in my collection is a bit undersized.


Slayer of Brushes? No More!

March 20, 2015

pinksoapI am one of those unfortunate souls who does not know how to keep a paint brush in a healthy shape.  Someone on TMP recommended a certain kind of brush soap and swore it would extend the life of a paint brush for quite a long time.  I don’t remember the brand but could not find it at my local craft store anyway.  What I did find was Pink Soap.  There are no directions but I assumed that it was a simple application to the index finger.  You then can work it gently in to the bristles with your index finger and thumb.  Then rinse the brush and store properly until the next time.   I have to say the results are quite impressive.  I’ve had 4 paint sessions with my latest set of brushes and there is no sign of wear what so ever.  Normally, I would have destroyed at least one brush by the 4th session.  The bristles have maintained their color without a trace of pigment.  I’d highly recommend brush soap to anyone who paints, anything (miniatures, pictures, ceramics whatever).  A little bit goes a long way.