Friday 16 April 2010

A trial game

Sometimes one needs to have a game to assess what what work is still needed on a project. When Martyn T. visited last week I put on a Spanish Civil War Game which was really an exercises in identifying the gaps, nevertheless we managed to spend a very pleasant sunny evening playing through a fictitious scenario from Autumn 1936. The Army of Africa is sweeping upwards ever nearer to Madrid, taking one town after another in a premature blitzkrieg.
Here at Ciudad del Juguete two companies of Civil Guard and a handful of the local agricultural labourers are prepared to defend the town anticipating that relief will be arriving from the regional capital.

A regt of Moorish cavalry and an infantry Tabor are the first to arrive supported by an armoured car. The cavalry moved around to the further side of the town while the infantry moved into place for a direct assault.
The supporting unit of motorised Foreign Legion advanced down the road but came under fire from militia who ambushed them from the cover of olive groves. The two leading vehicles were damaged and blocked the road to all further use.

On the far side of the board the Republican column threw a very useful die and began to deploy almost from the start of the game. Advance units of Assault police and an armoured lorry swung straight into the town while buses filled with Anarchists set off down the bypass to take on the moors.

The Assaultos motorcycle combinations are Russian WW2 with a different paint job. The bus is a plastic kit from a railway shop. The Bull came around the neck of a bottle of Torres red wine.
The final picture shows the scene at the end of the afternoon. In the foreground the infantry is about to break through the last resistance on the barricades. The armoured car has been unable to find a way through the defences and has neglected its allocated task of providing fire power to the cavalry who can be seen entering the town on the far side. However it is too little too late. To stand any chance the Nationalists should have been in the town before the column arrived.
Martin had some luck in getting the column so soon and in knocking out two vehicles, however his clever use of ambushes and resistance in depth were the main reasons for a clear cut victory on his part.

And what did I learn. Masses more basing needed especially for the vehicles. I must make divisions in the storage boxes so that each unit can be lifted out easily without having to check every base and I don't like the coloured line around the base it doesn't help that much and is ugly. I have painted far more basic infantry than I need but support weapons are erratic mainly because I have not based them and I need a whole batch full of transport. Apart from that it's looking pretty good.
The rules were a big chunk of Contemptible Little Armies with some homemade bits nailed on. They worked well on the whole but Artillery needs some work and I need to read up on how a spotter works before wireless communication.
The terrain was simple and deliberately toy like (and I do know that hedges are rare in Southern Spain) but it gave a table that was easy to fight over and still had a little character. With Martin's cheerful cooperation we were able to make a lot of progress and still have an enjoyable game.

Monday 12 April 2010

A sleepy day in Ciudad del Juguete

coming soon to a Blog near you.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Gallic - c'est tout

I have had to bring painting to a halt this week and prepare to play a game or two. Martin T is visiting for two days and bringing with him some of his lovely medieval German collection. That will be one game and I am putting out some of the Army of Africa together with mixed bunch of militia, Anarchists and security forces. Autumn 1936 and two columns fight for the possession of a regional capital in dusty Estramadura.

So, conclusions on what I have done so far?

I think it is unarguably true that if you get far enough away from the figures then the simple one looks better than the detailed and shaded style. It follows that there is no such thing as best painting only that that you prefer. That choice may be based on factors such as skill, enjoyment, cost, available time or even whether you prefer to be in the same room as your figures when playing.

For myself I think I am still compromising too much with these figures. On the next regt. that I paint I shall only paint the bayonets in silver. The muskets do not stand out at a distance and can be left unpainted in black. The logic of this style seems to be leading to a basically unpainted figure with a few splashes of flat bright colour, whether I could ever be happy with that I remain unsure.

Ultimately the only worthwhile test will be when I use these figures in a game.

Friday 2 April 2010

Gallic: comments

Thank you for the interest in this subject.

Jim makes the excellent suggestion that one can get an idea of the effect by standing well away from the screen. I have experimented and this does work although I found I needed to be about 15 feet away in the next room. In order to prevent you having to stand at the bottom of the garden I have posted a smaller image of the figures. This seems to work from about 6-8 feet away.

I should emphasise that this is an experiment I do not envisage using it on my collection of 30m Willie and Stadden figures. However I am optimistic that it might help me put two plastic 20mm nomad horse armies on the table instead of having them on their original sprues for the next 20 years. I am enjoying doing it and I am learning something though I am not sure what yet.

Charles, vin rouge nights are all to few at present so any excuse is welcome. I suppose that afternoons spent lounging in a crowded bar eating rillettes and crusty bread with red wine that could strip chrome are a thing of the past. Where could you get enough cigarette smoke from these days? Failing the authentic ingredients a couple of slices of mothers pride and a bag of hot pork scratchings should give that proper Tabac feel. But where does one get a simple vin de table these days? Everyone has upgraded so much that the old fashioned red plonk is virtually unobtainable, if anyone has any good ideas I would love to know.

Ross makes the point that there is no standard distance to view a figure from. I suppose if one was painting two armies the one likely to be on the far side of the table is not worth investing so much time in. You will note that I am trying these ideas out on the cheapest figures that I can find and on an army I want quickly. My initial thoughts are that it will work best on a simpler uniform late 19c or Marlburian I am unconvinced on how much could be left off say Napoleonics. However it does raise the prospect of having armies that one might not otherwise get round to. Two hat plastic armies might be affordable in every sense of the word.

I will not bore everyone by going into great detail over the painting on black, I am making the same discoveries that everyone else did years ago. I used black because I wanted to base the figures first and I reasoned if I could not reach all the figure with paint it would not matter with black undercoat. I found difficulty in seeing the detail on the figure and judging where the brush point was. I also had trouble covering black with red and needed three coats. I now understand why Games workshop paints are so popular. Mr Asquith suggested dry brushing with white before starting painting and I am trying this on the next lot. I fear that I may have been a bit more heavy handed than he advised, ah well.

And finally, DC. I am completely in awe of your painting style. It is absolute perfection I should be distraught if I influenced you to change a brush stroke. I rank your work alongside Giles Allison, John Ray and Phil Olley as the very highest standard of figure painting.

Thursday 1 April 2010

A bit Gallic part 2 (pure and applied)

Hinchliffe artillery painted C1976 by Barry Warner, who painted many regiments of Russians for Peter Gilder's holiday center.

About seven years ago I hosted a large Napoleonic game at my house. Of the 3-4,000 figures in use I painted all but a handful myself. All of my figures were carefully shaded, dry brushed and washed in ink and pretty well what I would regard as the best I could do. But I was short of Russians and I dipped into an army I had acquired twenty years or so ago. All were Hinchliffe figures, many of them early period castings and all were competently painted in Humbrol straight from the pot without shading, lining or any other fancy frills.

To my surprise and dismay when the game was underway it was agreed that the antique Hinchliffe figures were the best looking on the table.
A corps of Russians with some annoying Hinchliffe jager in the centre.

I have reflected on this ever since and the conclusion is inescapable figures that look superb from 18" away do not keep the magic once on the table. Certainly if you are the one that has painted them then memory will supply the missing details to the eye and you will see the subtle beauty, but sadly to others they will be appearing dark and lifeless. Why this is I do not know but I suspect it has something to do with the eye being unable to register the colours and blurring them into a darker whole. I notice at shows that some people attempt to get over this by painting their armies in increasingly bright colours. And good luck to them, it certainly gives some eye catching results. But it never seemed to me to be a complete solution and so I pondered quietly on.

I began to make a little more sense of it when I read an article on the Japanese tradition that by eliminating unnecessary things, more necessary things come to the foreground.

Which brings us neatly to our last post on French artists. You will remember that the things which stood out to the critics of the impressionist movement were that the colours were flat blocks of unshaded colour and that the figures seemed to be unfinished by the standards of the time. However by eliminating all unnecessary detail and shading of colours and conveying only that information that the eye could take in as an impression they were able to create paintings full of light, life and energy.

So what would that look like as a wargames unit? I am not sure but I have had a first stab at applying the principles. Now here we hit the first snag, I cannot show you what the figures look like from five foot away in a good light. I can only show you a scan of them close up. I will try some photos under sunlight if we ever have some but in the meantime..

The figure on the left has what I would regard as the absolute minimum detail to convey the 'feeling' of the uniform. However when put on a table four feet away the red on the jacket has long disappeared and the face is distorted by the presence of a beard. The belt across the sash disappears but has the effect of making the sash itself look darker and duller. The figure on the right conveys just as much 'zoooviness' and looks much more vibrant and distinguishable. And yes the figure on the right does look unfinished to me too. I really want to at least put a beard on but I keep reminding myself its supposed to look like its not finished.
I tried to use a bright palette of colours: Maganese blue Coat, Cadium red trousers, GW vomit brown flesh.
I used yellow ochre for the pack and two shades of sky blue for sash and fez tassel. I wonder whether the figure would be cleaner if I kept to only one shade for both areas. The base is a home mixed green of Chrome oxide (Goblin Green) and flesh to give a neutral background.