Friday, November 28, 2008

Female Avatar

This is an old Grenadier sculpt by Julie Guthrie (I think). It is actually the first Ultima-inspired model I started painting. I began about a year ago, put it away, and brought it out again yesterday to finish it.

I picked this model because it has a surcoat to paint the ankh design. Without that, what would distinguish it as being the Avatar? I painted the silver serpent on the shield—another symbol from the Ultima PC game series. The shield color is silver, with the snake in a mix of silver and blue. I used Citadel acrylics, and varnished with Windsor & Newton Matt acrylic varnish.

I like the pose, but have decided to offer it up for sale. The model is a true 25mm, which does not mix well with my taller, hefty 28mm characters. Let me know if you're interested. It's available for $5, with $2.00 for shipping US First Class mail. I can ship to Europe too. I can take Paypal or a check. I plan on painting some villager models to sell on eBay, so this model may appear there in a few weeks time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terrain Cloth

What does the mule have in his pack? A new wargame mat. Over the weekend I went to the hobby center (the big kind with everything from models to fake flowers to cloth). I had intended to buy the most inexpensive cloth to cover my table for wargames. Then I saw the fabric pictured above. It's similar to velvet in that it has a slight fuzzy texture—like grass! So, on an impulse I bought 3 yards of it. I immediately had buyers remorse. The material has a number of negative. a) At $8.50/yard it's relatively expensive. b) It's not a natural fiber, so it can look a bit shiny, especially in the folds. c) The synthetic fibers + the dry climate of Colorado = static shocks! I feel guilty at the price, but I am happy with the cloth. Maybe if I brush on a wash of paint it will cut down on the shine and the electric shocks! 

What other expensive goodies is that mule carrying? A new can of GamesWorkshop spray primer. I have been avoiding the stuff for years. Maybe 3 years ago I had one incident where the spray paint mixed with the humid atmosphere and created a gritty texture on my models. Since then I have been using brush-on primer, Humbrol's matt black enamel. I have been very happy with that, but I need to prime a terrain piece I just finished modeling. Yesterday I popped in my local hobby shop (the wargame kind), and grabbed a can of primer. $16.5o with tax! Has it been so long that I forgot the price, or has it gone up since I lost bought a can?

These were rather pricey purchases for my small hobby budget, but maybe I should rationalize the expense. This summer I found a huge blue sheet of builder's insulation in a dumpster at a construction site. It's maybe 3 x 8 feet for free! This foam retails at $20 something, so if I average all three together the total cost doesn't look so bad!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Painted 1/72 Imperial Roman Auxiliary Cavalry

For a couple years now I have had a box of Hat Industrie's #8066 Imperial Roman Auxiliary Cavalry. I finally painted them in preparation for my Song of Blades and Heroes scenario. The photo above includes one of each pose. This is a great little set. The detail is quite high, especially in the helmets. The shields fit so snugly on their hands' that you don't need to use glue! The standard can be trimmed down to be a spear, but everyone else carries a sword. While painting the horseman in scale armor (to the right of the standard bearer) I noticed that he had a sword in his sheath. Obviously, this model was meant to carry a spear. The sprue does not come with any spears, but one could easily use wire or a trimmed piece of paperclip. I ended up keeping a sword in hand, while trimming the hilt away from the 2nd sword on his belt.

My only criticism of this set is the saddle. The back is one solid piece, rather than the individual horns typical of Celtic and Roman saddles. Their saddles had four projections, which cradled the thighs of the rider. I was annoyed at the models' inaccuracy, but after reading the review on PSR I learned this was probably due to limitations of the mold. In any case, the problem is easy to fix. I just carved out a piece to form individual horns.

The tear-drop standard featured in this set is from the funerary monument of Quintus Carminius Ingenuus, 1st century AD.

The Cavalryman, by Peter Connolly.
The Roman Cavalry, by Karen Dixon.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Roman vs. Dacians, first battle

I finished painting my Roman auxiliary cavalrymen, so tonight I played a solo game of Song of Blades and Heroes. It has been a while since my last game, and I am still learning. So, I decided to line up the troops and slug it out. I used the forces detailed in my previous post.

I learned that if you are playing with a leader, it's important to keep him protected. I had two ranks of troops—warriors in the front and the archers and leader in the back. Yet, halfway through my game the only man in front of the Dacian leader was killed, leaving the leader open to attack. The cavalry man rushed forward, knocked him down in one turn, and finished him off in the next turn. The panicked Dacians ran for it, getting slashed as they fled. They still out numbered the Romans, but were scatered and leaderless. They were too spread out to gang up on the cavalrymen, and their leaderless dice rolls could not activate them as easily as before. With their longer movement the Roman cavalry were able to reach the individual enemies, pairing up to reduce the lone Dacian's combat score. 

I'm going to play another game with these same forces. Next time I'll try to keep the Dacian leader out of harms way, but within the maximum distance for him to command the other men. As the Roman forces have only 6 men, that leader does not have the luxury of hiding behind the lines. He'll have some protection by placing a model on either side, so only his front is exposed. I'll add a forest area and obstacles, so the Dacians have some cover. And the next battle report will be in depth, with pictures.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

HeroQuest dungeon furniture

My parents are in the process of moving. While cleaning their basement my mom found my old board game, HeroQuest. The last time I played it was about 14 yeas ago! It was a 28mm miniature-based game produced by Games Workshop with Milton Bradley. Amazingly, all the pieces were still in the box! My daughter loves "spooky" things like goblins and monsters, so she is interested in playing. To add interest to the board, the game incorporates furniture. The two of us made some beds. My three are pictured above. She has yet to paint hers.

Each bed is 1 inch long and .75 in. wide. I made them from two layers of 1/4 in. foam board (the kind with paper on each side), scrap wood, and paper. To make the blankets I soaked card stock paper in water, then draped it over the foam board. It dries to that shape. The pillows are also little pieces of foam board. It seems these beds are too nice to appear in a dank dungeon. It looks like some monster carefully made his bed before starting a busy day of eating adventurers. I'll have to try making rougher, unkept beds.

The Song of Blades and Heroes Yahoo Group offers fan-made character stats for HeroQuest, allowing you to play the game resolving combat with the SBH rules. Indeed, HeroQuest's dungeon board, furniture and doors would be nice terrain to play the SBH supplement, Song of Gold and Dungeons.

Mega Miniatures sold a wide range of some very charming 28mm Medieval/fantasy furniture. They are out of production now, but you can sometimes find them on eBay.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Painted Hat 1/72 Dacians

This week I finished painting eleven 1/72 plastic models from Hat Industrie's #8069 Dacians. I have photographed each of the eight unique poses. The standard bearer and spearmen in the above photo carry an oval shield as depicted on Trajan's Column. These models are holding their shields with a vertical hand-grip. This is an inaccurate, yet minor detail. Apart from one example from Doncaster, England, all the archaeological examples of Iron Age Celtic, German, and Roman shields have horizontal hand-grips.

Most of the models wear caps which appear on the reliefs of Trajan's Column (Rome) and the Tropaeum Traiani (Adamclisi, Romania). Both Roman monuments were built to celebrate Trajan's victory over the Dacians and their allies. The plaids and stripes common to Celtic clothing were probably also worn by the neighboring Dacians. However, I painted the tunics and trousers in solid colors. This is to set them apart from my Celtic models and to save time painting! I did paint a blue plaid design on the cloak of one spearman. That particular pose could work equally well as a Celt or German, although in terms of production quality it's a rather flat sculpt.

The set offers two archer poses. These are versatile models, as they could also be used as any number of Iron Age to Dark Age European archers. Very specific to the Dacian army are two men wielding the two-handed falx (falx is the Latin for any scythe-like blade). These would be the Bastarnae allies. The cutting edge was on the inside of the curve, so the fellow in the blue trousers is not holding his weapon correctly.

Here is a photo showing my spearmen's shield blazons. I used Trajan's Column as a reference. The ovals and cross design held by my standard bearer appears on the base and several times on the column. The remaining designs appear to be rather generic Roman motifs. Indeed, many of the Dacian shields on the column are nearly identical to the shield blazons held by the Roman auxiliaries. So, these may not be authentic Dacian designs, but they are the only evidence we have.

Lacking in this set is an armored commander. Esci's old barbarian set offers one pose in a Phrygian style helmet. Hat's Thracian set has two helmeted poses which could be shoe-horned into my Dacian army. A Hat or Italeri Celtic commander model might also be substitutes, but there really isn't an appropriate Dacian noble available in 1/72. A musician would also be nice, but again I will have to make do with a celtic model. In general, Dacians are not too common as wargaming miniatures. Old Glory Miniatures and the Foundry offer 28mm metal Dacians, but it's the better-known Celts and Germans that dominate the selection of barbarian models. Strelets will be releasing their own 1/72 Dacian sets, but for now Hat is the only manufacturer producing 1/72 Dacians. And what a nice set it is!

Peter Connolly wrote two excellent well-illustrated books on the subject of Rome's conflict with Dacia: The Legionary and The Cavalryman.

The Emperor Trajan wrote an account of his campaigns against the Dacians. Sadly, this has not survived. Cassius Dio also wrote of the Dacian Wars in his Roman History, passages 68, 6.1 to 68, 15. This may be read online on

A lively debate about who fought with the falx on the Roman Army Talk forum.