Tag Archives: The Sharp End of the Brush

Scuffle at the Great Stone Head

Rob Dean

Chris Palmer came by yesterday for a session of Song of Blades and Heroes. The forces were composed primarily of Reaper Bones miniatures, although I did have a couple of Reaper metal figures in my warband.

I set up a basic terrain layout, with a two-contour hill topped by a couple of ancient statues. While we didn’t have a narrative in mind, it appeared after the fact that my team of adventurers must have showed up looking for treasure, and found the place infested by undead and magical creatures. My 300pt warband consisted of a leader, a magician, two elite archers, a barbarian, and two basic warriors.

For the first game, Chris’s band consisted of a spectre, a ghost, a fire elemental, and four skeleton warriors (including two archers). The ghosts and element are among Chris’s more recently painted figures, and he wanted to give them a try.

The great stone head, by the way, is an antique piece of plaster scenery from the 1980s, from a long defunct company called “Otherworld Artifacts”, not to be confused with the current Otherworld Miniatures.

Chris and I are still learning the tactics for Song of Blades and Heroes. The first game started with a little back-and-forth struggle, and I thought that I was about to lose when I rolled three ones in an activation to attempt to get one of my rangers to stand up and avoid being slain by the spectre. However, Chris’s luck was running even worse than mine, overall, and the ranger both survived the situation and eventually slew the spectre. Some close-in sword work dispatched the skeletons, and it was time to reset for a second game.

I figured that I was doing well with the human adventurer, so I re-used that list, and Chris replaced the undead with a band of savage orcs lead by a warlord. The situation the second time around went downhill quickly when I inflicted a gruesome death on the lead orc, which caused a morale check which sent three figures, including the warlord, fleeing off the table. The next casualty caused another morale check, and that left no orcs or goblins on the table. We decided that it was time to call it a day.

Chris commented that he should probably shape his painting queue with an eye toward tactical utility. I suspect that increasing familiarity with the rules will change our ideas of utility, as well…

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January Thoughts

Rob Dean

As we celebrate (?) the month dedicated to two-faced Janus, god of doorways and beginnings, it seems appropriate to consider accomplishments and goals.

According to my painting log, I finished 7 40mm NQSYW foot figures last year (not counting the paint and basing touchups on figures bought painted), 99 assorted 25/28mm figures, mostly Reaper fantasy Bones, 10 1/72 scale horsemen (counting two chariots as four cavalry), and 3 1/72 scale foot (not counting some Persian samples who remain unbased).

As years go, that wasn’t bad. Numbers like that again this year would barely make a dent in my overall painting backlog, but would allow me to deploy a couple of small skirmish games on new subjects, and perhaps get enough Persians and Greeks done to work up some inspiration.

So the usual January questions are:

1) What do I want to paint?
2) What do I want to play?

I have been thinking about the first question somewhat independently of the second. I would like to move my 40mm Prince August project, the Not Quite Seven Years War, along. I have a plan laid out which shows its maximum projected size at about twice what I have now, but there is no great urgency about that, with the number of other participating painters. Nevertheless, I’d like to finish up another regiment for my own army, and paint a sample unit for my proposed adversary army.

I’d like to continue the fantasy update, probably through the mechanism of painting up a few warbands for Song of Blades and Heroes, plus some things intended to be immediately useful in role-playing games. I am also lumping in some small scale science fiction and post-apocalyptic skirmish games with this. If I can concentrate on that goal, painting the few dozen figures that I would need to stage those skirmishes seems practical. I am not sure that I have an ultimate goal for this project yet. By the end of the year, Reaper should have enough figures available for me to consider working toward having a game based on units of a dozen or so figures as maneuver elements. Defining a target will be a matter for additional thought.

The third thing I’d like to work on is my “Herodotus project” (actually including Thucydides and Xenophon), which will involve armies of 1/72 scale figures based on double depth WRG standard bases (i.e. Armati-style, or for Simon MacDowell’s Comitatus). I have most of the plastic which will be wanted for this already laid by. Some clever basing will be the only issue, since I am imagining that some smaller actions, from the Anabasis, for example, will be better depicted with individual figures than with elements. The work I did last week on some more detailed 1/72 scale fantasy figures gives me some confidence that I can handle painting the Persians. I just need to get started, and develop a sustainable style as I go. On the plus side, the proposed armies already have countries set aside for them on Norman’s Myboria map. On the negative side, I don’t really expect to see this on the table before 2015, which is somewhat demotivating.

The second question, what to play, is related. I keep track of what games I play, and have, as a result, a pretty good idea (barring transcription errors) of when each project was most recently on the table. Anything that hasn’t been out in five years is going to get a fresh look, with a keep/sell decision which will reflect its completion status.

We have about 80% of the planning done for a test campaign for the NQSYW, so I want that to be high on the playing priority list.

Norman’s Myboria campaign, if it were to get started this year, would also be a priority. Based on some of Ross’s recent posts, I am wondering whether I could experiment with campaign mechanisms with a solo campaign using my 6mm ancient and fantasy troops, who don’t really see enough play.

We tend to play quite a bit of Hordes of the Things. My recent experience with Sng of Blades and Heroes suggests that it occupies a similar niche, but for skirmish rather than mass battle, and I want to give it a good workoit over the next few months.

Now, as reality hits, I’m sure all of that will change….

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2013/2014 Transition

Rob Dean

While I have not had the opportunity to put a miniatures game on the table in a few weeks, we did play the Dungeons&Dragons game over the holidays, for which we painted new character figures.. I was pleased to be able to gather my three original players, plus three second generation players, who were tasked with “animating” some of the original henchmen. We played for almost five hours, which is about all I can manage these days. It was fun to dust off the old characters, who hadn’t been out, we figured, since sometime in the mid 1990s. I was also pleasantly surprised to find how quickly the 1st edition AD&D rules came back to me (and the rest of the guys) once we got into the game.

A recent Kickstarter for a travel gaming module caught my attention, particularly because of the looming D&D game. I have a couple of “game in a box” set ups, and I am looking forward to adding a traveling rpg set up. With this module gridded in half-inch squares, I thought that it would work well with the 1/72 scale adventurers from Caesar.

I’ve painted a few of these figures previously, and based them for Hordes of the Things, in support of Norman’s Myboria project. These are going to go on 1/2” square bases with magnet bottoms. It occurred to me that I could probably find room in the box for enough of these figures to form a couple of warbands for Song of Blades and Heroes. In any case, there are about a dozen poses in the Caesar box, so I washed a set, and added a half dozen Elves for good measure.


The figure below is another Kickstarter acquisition from last year. As long as we’re working on Song of Blades and Heroes, and post-apocalyptic figures seem to be appearing in my mailbox, I thought that I might do some warbands for the Song post-apocalyptic variant, Mutants and Deathray Guns. She’s figure number three, so there is some work left to do.

Today, I also finished rebasing all of my previously painted Airfix Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham figures for use with Myboria. This process has been languishing for a couple of months, so I’m glad to have that finished and behind me. Now I need to cut and glue the magnet lining into some storage boxes for these troops.


I have a Song of Blades and Heroes session with the Reaper 28s schedule for Saturday, so I shall hope to have a battle report, or at least a few pictures, up shortly after that.

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Last figures for 2013?

Rob Dean


We’ll see if I finish anything else today. These two are intended to address a gap in my Song of Blades and Heroes human warband identified last game: I had no ranged weapons.

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Encounter at Neu Pediev, some delayed pictures

Rob Dean

Some weeks ago we ran a Not Quite Seven Years War game with Ross Macfarlane remoted in…since my battle report continues to be delayed, I thought I’d just go ahead and post a few pictures.

Battle reports are here and here.


Putting the table next to the window in the morning makes photography a little interesting…


Here the Coalition army, Schoeffen-Buschhagen and Wachovia, enter at the left, while the Northern Alliance force enters from the right.


The battle opened with a clash of dragoons, S-B versus Schluesselbrett, in the center of the field.


The Alliance attempted to outflank to their left, but ran into additional Coalition cavalry, which they eventually defeated after an extended series of charges and melees.


One of those melees…


On the Alliance right, their infantry stood off a desperate charge by the Szathmari Hussars.


But eventually Alliance troops moved to occupy the town.


Remnants of the Prince’s Dragoon Guards duel with the remaining Schluesselbrett dragoons, breaking them. It was, however, too late for the Coalition, and they executed an orderly withdrawal to await better circumstances.

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Pre-D&D painting

Rob Dean


In anticipation of a holiday revival game, the kids helped me paint a few Bones for characters we’ll be using. I finished the Bathalian on the left while we were at at, but the other three, left to right, were done by me, Norman, and William, respectively, all start to finish since last night.

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Painting Bee

Rob Dean

My sons proposed that we devote a day this Thanksgiving weekend to a painting bee, with the slowest painter to buy the pizza tonight. For purposes of comparisons, we all worked on 1/72 scale plastics.

I chose to add some Spanish cavalry to my Punic Wars project, completing 7 in our allotted five hours. Norman was working on Bronze Age infantry, and William on some Almoravid infantry, but I’ll leave full coverage to Norman’s blog…

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Song of Bones and Heroes

Rob Dean

I had an opportunity today to have Chris Palmer over for some gaming. We have both been painting Reaper Bones since the first Kickstarter was delivered. In the interest of providing some inspiration, we decided we would have a go at Song of Blades and Heroes. As games go, it has several advantages. It’s intended for small groups of figures, amenable to including all manner of figures, and fairly simple in mechanics.

This was only the second time I’ve actually played these rules. Norman and I did a test run of these over a year ago.

In anticipation of the game, I finished the bases of the paper model building groups I was working on the other week. As expected, warping of the inn base is an issue. I’m going to need to google around and see if anyone has posted solutions for keeping large pieces of foam core board flat…

Working on the scenery and some social requirements left me short on time to review the rules. That meant that the first game was a little slow as we worked through rules lookups. The second game was better, and I’m sure I’d have the key provisions memorized by the third or fourth game.

As an aid to learning, we kept the scenarios down to simple encounter battles. The first game involved a band of 4 very expensive elves against a band of nine ordinary orcs supported by a hill troll.


I thought things were off to a good start when Chris send an elf sneaker around to attempt to eliminate my troll. Any plan can look good with die rolls like the 1 vs. 6 shown above.

However, I read a recent review of the game which pointed out some issues when one side has an all-elite band because of the activation die roll mechanic. Chris’s elves all had a quality of 2, which meant they seldom failed at activation, where my standard orcs frequently failed, passing the initiative back to Chris. This is where some additional experience with the rules would have helped; adding a figure with the “leader” special ability would have helped my orcs considerably.


In any case, Chris’s elven hero was invincible, and gradually hacked his way through most of my orcs. After being reduced below half strength, a morale roll caused my wounded troll and one other orc to flee, so the other two decided to call it a day.

We reset the board and tried again with two different warbands. Mine was non-compliant (too many points in special figures), but we decided to go with it anyway. I had six mixed humans supported by an iron golem, and Chris had a medusa supported by a half dozen skeletons. I only got one picture from the second game, being distracted by the need to finish quickly.


I almost thought it was going to finish too quickly, as Chris’s first volley took out two of my figures. However, his skeletons were more fragile in melee than he expected. So, despite dropping my wizard with another arrow, my fighters and golem made short work of his skeletons. Bereft of her minions, the medusa apparently remembered an appointment elsewhere.

These were fun little games, and I look forward to an opportunity to read the rules more closely, and try another session soon.

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Not done until the paperwork is finished…

Rob Dean

I had a quiet weekend mostly to myself last weekend, followed by a hectic week at work playing a mid-sized LARP. (Or, as my management might prefer to think about it, engaged in a contingency response field exercise…) In any case, it was frazzling, so I’m now glad to have some time to catch up.

I posted a picture early last week of paper construction. With an eye toward a near term fantasy skirmish game, I wanted to use some Dave Graffam PDFs to create a walled inn compound.

I built the first building, a variant of the Grey Hare Inn, a few months ago. Many of the Graffam models are multi-layer files, so you can print them out in many variations. I went for an all stone one. It turns out that the stone color in this building is not the same as the gray stone in some of the others; I elected just to ignore that as resulting from differences in weathering or construction date.

The second building I added was the Coach House, again printed as an all stone variant from a multi-layer file. With this one, I also had choices to make about where I wanted the doors to be, so I had to begin thinking about what the layout of the whole compound would be.


Fitting them together gave me an idea of how the whole structure would fit together. I also had a Garden Shed I’d constructed, which I planned to place somewhere along the inside of the perimeter wall.


At that point, construction became a relatively simple process of building enough wall sections and a gate, to form the perimeter.

With all of that in hand, and with some subassembly construction done, it was time to fit all the pieces onto a foamcore base. Measure twice, glue once! I had to pull one assembly up after it was pretty well attached to reposition it, a mistake I would prefer not to make again.

I am still working on the base, so that’s as complete a picture as I have at the moment. My intention is to use plain sand for most of the interior, with ground foam grass near the walls and in a few lower traffic areas.

With the inn compound drying, I turned my attention to the next project. I think that I’d like to have several blocks of town buildings that can be repositioned with respect to each other. I have not entirely decided how to use them on the table, so that’s likely to be the topic of a future post.

For the purpose of this test, I decided to arrange some buildings around a central courtyard. Five buildings turned out to be enough to get the look I wanted.


Before building the second block, some additional planning might be helpful in making it useful on the table. I eyeballed the court rather than measuring it, so it could have been sized to fit more than one of the 6cm square bases I use for massed 25mm fantasy and for 40mm Renaissance. The Graffam models tend to be tall with small footprints, and I wanted a jumbled roof look, so I tried to mix two and three story buildings, with one low building and one four story building for contrast.


I tiled the courtyard in a Graffam cobblestone print.


With some attention to the base sizes, I think this system could be used for 40mm games, where the buildings are under scale, as well as for 25-28mm games. I expect to have more to say about this after a field trial.

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Fresh Hordes

Rob Dean

The paper models stayed on the shelf this weekend, and the paintbrushes remained in the holder. Both of my sons were home in conjunction with having friends over for dinner, and William was busy with homework.

Nevertheless, Norman and I found time for a Hordes of the Things session on Sunday morning. We fought three games, all with different army match-ups.

Game 1 pitted his mostly rider-based fantasy Mongols against a ragtag band of my miscellaneous fantasy stands. I managed to summon a dragon, which took out a rider and a hero before fleeing after a wound. I remain dubious about the use of dragons in HotT….Still, I won that fight.


The second game pitted the same raggle-taggle fantasy army
against Norman’s fantasy Byzantines. Once more, I managed to get my dragon into play early.

I even managed a flanking maneuver, causing his general to turn to face, subject to destruction if forced to recoil. The first game wore out my luck for the day, though, and my dragon was sent fleeing from some doubtless minor wound. With that, Norman rolled up the remainder of my resistance in short order.


After a brief break, we went for a tie-breaker, pitting his
Antediluvian army against a force
of my recently rebased Carthaginians. We ended up with a clash of phalanxes, which was
broken when his hero worked his way around to the back of my line and blocked the retreat of my commander’s phalanx.

All in all, a pleasant gaming interlude, my 29th for the year…

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