Wednesday, 26 June 2013

How Time Flies When You Are Not Having Fun.

Gosh, it's almost the end of June!

The projects continue, albeit slowly.

I have finished off a few more Assyrians, but after painting nearly 200 I have got a tad bored with them and wanted to start something new.

So I moved onto organising my Thebans. There are going to be four large Phalanxes, three with 32 figures and one with 24. There will be a unit of 12 Heavy cavalry and another of 12 Light cavalry, and perhaps three small units of skirmishers, armed with javelins, bows and slings. It's been a very cheap army, with a total outlay of around £30 for almost 200 infantry and 24 cavalry. Bargain hunting on eBay kept the price down. The figures are by HaT and are amongst some of their nicest ones.

I also have started collecting the Ancient Indian army but as yet that is in its infancy, with just a couple of boxes so far tossed into the big plastic bin under the work table.

Other expenditure has been on paints. I mostly use Coat D'Arms, which I like for their smoothness and the fact that they come in large bottles and are much cheaper than GW or Valejo. I do buy the odd GW, but it's rare.

Sadly I missed this years Phalanx show in St Helens (again!)  I had forgotten the date, and it was one of those rare weekends when I had actually decided to have a social life and go meet some friends for a shopping trip in North Wales. But on the way there I suddenly realised that it must surely be the show that Saturday. I stopped in a lay-by and checked my Note, and found I was right.


Torn between going to the show or carrying on to Llandudno on an undies-shopping spree, I finally chose the latter. And so the M&S lingerie department got my money that weekend, instead of the show retailers. Sorry boys. Better luck next time!

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Plastic Bug & Other Stories

I really do seem to have caught the 20mm plastic bug big time now.

I can think of so many Ancient armies that I want to do. I have one (the Assyrians) almost completed, a large Theban force in priming stage, a New Kingdom Egyptian army washed and sorted ready for priming, and am starting a line of purchases to make up an Ancient Indian army, complete with elephants and chariots. I bought the excellent Lucky Toys King Porus set, which has clearly been mastered and moulded for them by Caesar Miniatures. The rest of the force will be HaT figures. Granted the Lucky Toys figures don't really match the HaT ones, but as the King Porus set mostly just concentrates on the command figures, most of the poses in it will be useful. The Commander's elephant, the chariot, plus a few of the infantry figures, will all make great unit leaders, standard bearers and musicians.

The future might well see a Caesar Hittite force, plus a good sized HaT Parthian cavalry army (if I can get over my dislike of painting horses). Part of me feels seized by the desire to do a Strelets Anglo-Saxon force and a matching Norman one. It's perverse, but there it is..

I've also been looking through the Bolt Action rules. I think they will give a fun game with a few tweaks (and by ignoring the GW-inspired silliness of Commissars and Medics and other "characters"), and as I intend to stick to 20mm figures and models the cost will be kept very low, as the force sizes are quite small. I will use HaT AFVs and guns, and the 1/72 Valiant figures, as I have found a cheap source for the latter.

I'd still like to do a Steam-Punk force (or rather forces). But that will have to wait a year or so. I have enough to be going on with for now...

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Renewing My Vows

Well, I made a vow not to start another project until I had finished the one I was doing.

Was that realistic? Nope.

Because I had forgotten that, as wargamers,  we NEVER finish a project, do we? Seriously?

So I have amended that vow, and now I will not start a new project, until I have completed the one I am working on to the extent that I have a playable army. That is much more realistic. I have already reached that stage with the Assyrians, and the rest of the bits I have still to complete, including the chariots, are simply reinforcements.

And there are so many other armies I want to tackle. I have a large part of the New Kingdom Egyptians purchased, washed and sorted. I picked up three boxes of HaT Theban army sets very cheap, and they are very nice clean figures. I have washed and primed the first unit. I will start on this army before the Egyptians.

I am also tempted by a Late Roman force, and a Parthian cavalry army (even though I hate painting horses!).

Over the last week or so I managed to find the time to finish off a small group of cavalry and the first chariot.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Project Progresses

The Assyrians are coming along slowly. That's because I am now working once again, and only have a few hours at the weekend to crack on with painting.

However, I am finishing some units. The Auxiliary units are complete, save for a unit of a dozen Archers.

The Assyrians still have a long way to go, but I finished one unit of Archers and a unit of Slingers, and a good start has been made on the second Heavy Infantry unit. The third Heavy Infantry unit, some reinforcements for the unit of Archers, and another full unit of Slingers, have now been primed.

Whilst I have made a start on the Heavy Chariots and the Cavalry, they remain on the back burner as I hate painting animals! I know it's easy once one gets back into the swing of it, but I have always hated painting them. As far as numbers are concerned, I have decided to get another box of Heavy Chariots, and I also have another box of 12 Assyrian Cavalry lying around somewhere, which I shall probably paint up later as Royal Bodyguard. And that will do for the Assyrian project.

On other fronts, I made a start on the New Kingdom Egyptian project and purchased some cheap Caesar Egyptian Infantry on eBay a while back. I am thinking twice about this source of figures for future purchases though, as the P&P charges of some sellers has gone through the roof. When you are being asked to cough up £9.50 for a single box of plastic figures, it's not even a bad joke. I won't pay those kind of prices. I am going to look at mail order shops like Hannants in future.

I also found a mint copy of Bolt Action, the WW2 skirmish rules, for almost half price. They are essentially 40K WW2. Very gamey, very lightweight. Having said that, the rule mechanisms themselves are okay and one can easily disregard the sillier stuff, especially the scenarios, which are dire. If I ever do end up gaming WW2 then I will certainly use 20mm instead of 28mm, and these rules might do the trick for the fast, small scale tactical games I want.

I have aborted at least 3 WW2 projects over the last five years, and I am not sure why. It's a period that attracted me to wargames all those years ago, so why is it I find it so hard to get back into it? I still love reading Charles Grant's Battle!, but just can't seem to get the enthusiasm. Maybe it's the boring colour schemes...?

Thursday, 28 March 2013


I have decided to scale down my Assyrians a bit more.

The original points cost of my planned WAB Assyrian army was well over 3500, which is HUGE. But I was using the older v1.0 rules, and the newer ones have some changes, notably in Rank Bonus, that mean large units are perhaps not as useful as they once were. WAB v1.0 had a maximum Rank Bonus of +3 in resolving Close Combat. That meant it was good tactics to have large units with four or more ranks, so that more losses could be absorbed and the Rank Bonus would still not drop for a couple of rounds of Close Combat.

WAB v2.0 drops that maximum Rank Bonus down to +2. Basically that means 20 figure units, arranged in four ranks, are now in real terms just as effective as 25+ figure units arranged in five or more ranks. Few combats will go on long enough for the extra figures to make any difference at all. So I decided I might as well spare myself some of the painting. I also put aside one unit of 12 cavalry, a unit of 12 armoured Slingers and a unit of 12 armoured Archers. That drops the points down to a more realistic level. Cavalry especially are horrendously expensive.

I will paint those back-burner figures up at a later date, but right now I want to concentrate on getting a balanced army fielded as fast as possible,

So now the Assyrian army proper (minus its auxiliaries and/or allies) is as follows.

1 x General/King in Heavy Chariot
1 x Standard Bearer.
1 x Royal Guard unit (20 figures)
1 x Heavy Chariot unit (3 chariots)
1 x Cavalry unit (12 figures)
2 x Armoured Infantry units (20 figures each)
1 x Armoured Slingers unit (12 figures)
1 x Armoured Archers unit (12 figures)

The Auxiliaries / Allies are less affected by the v2.0 changes, as they were going to be small units anyway, albeit with a lot of Archers. They remain the same size.

1 x Infantry unit (20 figures)
2 x Infantry units (18 figures)
2 x Archers unit (10 figures each)
1 x Tribal Skirmishers (Archers) unit (12 figures)

Monday, 25 March 2013

Assyrian Royal Guard

Today I completed my first unit of true Assyrians, and of course it had to be the elite Royal Guard.

This is a 20-strong unit, based up for WAB. Tough cookies, too.

I went for rich colours. I like the drama of them. Although I just did a simple block-paint style on all my 20mm wargame figures now, these did take a while to paint as there are so many colours involved per figure.

The first two Caesar chariots are coming along nicely. Both had warps in some of the panels, and as the plastic is thick and strong, and has memory, these cannot just be bent straight. The method I use is to place them in a saucepan and pour about an inch of boiling water on top of them. Leave them 10 seconds then fish them out one at a time with a spoon. The plastic is now so soft that it can easily be straightened. Hold it straight and then dip it into a mug of cold water. Hold it for 20 seconds and job done. I fixed the very warped panels on both of the chariots this way, and they stayed fixed. Sadly Caesar figure sets are a bit bad for bent panels and spears etc. I suspect it's down to how they are handled after ejection from the mould. But the boiling water/cold water method works 100% for me, and although is adds a bit of work, it's not a major chore.

Still got the basing to do, but I tend to leave that until the whole army is finished. It's going to be a simple base colour of flock, probably of tan stone or some such shade.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Assyrian Chariots

The Caesar Assyrian chariots are very nice pieces of kit.

They are very well designed and engineered, and clip together without glue. I will use some though, for added strength. They look and are much more solid than the flimsy and brittle HaT ones. They also snap together in seconds. I clipped the parts off the sprue and had a quick test run, and there are no problems at all. I only bothered to trim the excess sprue from the chariot hull in order to ensure the pins fitted, but I will finish the rest later and make a start on it. Unlike the HaT plastic, this stuff is easy to cut with a sharp blade, and does not tear.

I mentioned in my last post that the set does not include a driver. I was going by reports from the excellent Plastic Solider Review site. However, I think they are incorrect. One of the figures is clearly, to me at least, in a characteristic pose for a chariot driver. All one needs to do is remove the pin on his arm, and I wonder if that was the intention. It would also not be hard to convert the figure holding a sword to a driver, at a pinch. I'm actually at a loss as to why he would be using that weapon on a chariot anyway.

So lesson learned. If building a chariot-based army again, I will think long and hard before using HaT chariot models. I dare say not all the HaT chariots are as badly engineered as their Assyrian one, but I'll make sure to check them out first.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Finally Coming Together!

Well, except for the damn Assyrian Chariots, that is.

Attempting to paint a few details onto the almost finished one, I fumbled it whilst turning it in my fingers to paint the other side panel. In an instant the yoke bent and snapped in half, followed by one of the wheel axles, and then as my fingers finally managed to get a grip again the hull bent, and then sprang apart. I had a major hissy fit!

I threw the thing in the bin, followed by the other two - part-completed - ones from the same box. The two remaining unopened boxes are up on eBay, for someone who has a gentler touch than I do. I kept the figures, horses and a few of the accessories to use elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong. They are nice little models. They would work well in hard plastic, although a few parts would be very fragile, perhaps too much so for a wargames table. But something is badly wrong with that cream coloured soft plastic. Bend a component and it breaks in half. Useless. Maybe it was just that box, but I was loath to open the others to prove the point.

So the chariot parts from one box ended in the bin. Instead I have bought two boxes of the Caesar ones. They are engineered a bit more solidly than the HaT offering. The yoke, beam and chariot floor come as one part instead of three. The parts look more substantial too. That should make it much stronger straight away. The sides are pinned in place, which should make a very strong joint once glued. I prefer the HaT figures to the Caesar ones, especially as the former do not include a driver! As I have three sets of HaT Chariot crew, I will use those and modify another figure to provide the driver for the fourth chariot.

 I have downsized the army somewhat. WAB does not really require huge units or large forces. Units of twenty to twenty four seems ideal for infantry and ten to fifteen works well for cavalry. I had made further purchases of a box of Assyrian Allies and another of Chariots. That brought the latter up to a total of nine, which was perhaps a bit OTT. Getting shot of them and a few other surplus to requirements kits on eBay freed up enough cash to buy the two boxes of Caesar chariots. HaT come three to a box, but Caesar boxes hold only two. As the minimum number of chariots in a unit is three, that leaves one for the General/King. I think a single unit of three will do for now. I may, when funds allow, buy another box but I certainly will not be going back up to nine.

I also got rid of a box of cavalry. Two units of twelve seemed sufficient. Even with the reductions the points total is close to 3000, which would give a long game indeed.

Friday, 8 March 2013

WAB Armies Of Antiquity Assyrian Empire


It might be approaching senility, or it might simply be that it has been so long since I played using the Warhammer rules that I had forgotten some important aspects of them.

I rather unfairly suggested that there was not much advantage to using the mixed 50/50 formations of Spear and Bow. I said that it only gave one in Close Combat, but of course I am wrong. I had forgotten that it would also give an advantage from missile fire.

In fact all things considered, it's a pretty useful formation that, for a 25% reduction in missile capability, offers at least a 5+ Armour Save from attacks, and a massive 4+ Armour Save if the Spearmen are equipped with large shields. Compare that to a mere 6+ Armour Save if the Bowmen were alone, and it is a significant benefit. So I was wrong.

However, that does not alter the fact that the Chariot Wars list forces the Assyrian player to field units in that formation, which is something I disagree with strongly. Now I had a vague memory that the early WAB Armies of Antiquity book, from a while back, featured an army list for the Assyrians. I was able to pick up a copy on eBay for less than a fiver the other week. When it arrived I quickly ripped off the paper and flicked through it. Bingo! An Assyrian Empire list. And Lo! The unit compositions are much more flexible that the later Chariot Wars one.

I quote.

"Half the unit may (my emphasis) have swords, light armour, and bows. The other half may have swords, light armour, thrusting spears and shields."

Yes, may. Not will. Which means, however one reads it, that the unit can consist solely of Spearmen if one so wishes. Obviously the person who put this list together is a bit less, shall we say, controlling than the one who did the Chariot Wars list. This list also clears up the issue of second rank missile fire, stating clearly that it is at full strength. That's something that Chariot Wars leaves unclear. The AoA list also allows independent units of Bowmen or Slingers. The only two Assyrian formations that have to field 50/50 ratios of Bow and Spear are the Cavalry (where it is both historically accurate and unproblematic) and the units of Siege Troops.

This may all seem a bit too legalistic for some, but at the moment I am trying to work out unit numbers, troop types, and weaponry, and one has to have a good idea of what one is aiming for, in order to sort out the figures into units for painting and basing.

I am still not totally happy with the Assyrian list in AoA, and will probably include the Assyrian Auxiliary troops that are found in Chariot Wars but not in AoA. There is plenty of historical evidence for these troops. I will use common sense and count them as normal Infantry rather than Light, only allowing the Bowmen to skirmish if they start the battle as a separate Light Infantry or Skirmisher unit. The Spears will remain as normal Infantry at all times, as will any Bows who start the battle formed in such a unit.

So it is finally coming together!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

WAB Chariot Wars 2

Moving on from my moan the other day about the WAB unit compositions for the Assyrian army being impossible to work out when using the HaT boxed sets (the same also applies to the Caesar ones, by the way), I then went on to try out the special rules to see how they worked. What I found really surprised me,. and led me to wonder if the Assyrian Army's rules had actually been play-tested at all.

Now I know all rule writers try and inject a bit of historical flavour into each army included in their Army Lists. They use special rules, and then introduce the odd tweak here and there to try and give a particular army the "feel" of the original. This is very hard to do with Ancients, as often the evidence is so poor and contradictory that one has little to work with. In light of this, if one does decide to give an Ancient army a bit of flavour, then it's vital to play-test the rules to make sure they actually work in a game.

Now one vital thing has to be remembered about the Assyrian army in WAB Chariot Wars. It cannot field a unit of Bows. None. Nil,. Nada. Zilch. It is verboten. Neither can it field a unit of Spearmen, or Slingers. No. Every unit has to consist of equal numbers of a second type of figure. Bowmen have to be mixed 50/50 with Spearmen, or Slingers. Slingers can only be fielded in a 50/50 mix with Bowmen, and Spearmen have to be mixed 50/50 with Bowmen. And that applies to the standard Assyrian Infantry, and the Auxiliary Infantry, and the Cavalry.

So how does that work in the game? Well, it doesn't.

Now most people I know use a fairly standard size for their Infantry units in WAB. It's a compromise between front rank fighting power, how much frontage the unit takes up on the battlefield, ease of manoeuvre  and keeping a decent number of ranks in order to get a good Close Combat Bonus (+1 for each extra rank at start of Close Combat, up to total of +3 for normal Infantry). Some folk use a 20 strong unit with a 5 man front rank. I tend to use a 24 strong unit, with 6 men in the front rank.

Now I want to demonstrate how the unit compositions insisted on by WAB Chariot Wars leave the Assyrian army at a huge disadvantage.

Here is a unit of Assyrian Auxiliaries in my usual 24 man formation . The front rank is Spearmen, the second Bowmen, the third Spearmen and the fourth again Bows. It fulfils all the WAB unit composition rules for the Assyrian army, but it's at a real disadvantage on the table top. Why? Because its fire-power is reduced by 25%. Using the special rules in Chariot Wars, the second rank of Bows can fire over the front rank at, I am assuming, full effect. But then the Massed Archery rules come into effect for any Bows behind that, and their fire-power is divided by two. So in this formation, the 12 Bowmen only have 9 shots. OK, so that's not a massive reduction  but why force players to take it at all? What's the trade-off?

There are two options that one can use to maximise one's fire-power and use the Bowmen to their full advantage (and by that I mean to make them the equal of other Bowmen in other armies). One can take the 24 strong unit and make it 12 wide, with the whole of the second row being Bows. They can then fire at full effect. But that results in a huge frontage and a unit that is hard to manoeuvre, as well as being dreadfully fragile in Close Combat (only a +1 Rank Bonus)

The third option is to just stick to tiny 12 man units of 6 Spear and 6 Bow. That way at least one can have a reasonable frontage and some ease of manoeuvre  The fire-power (6) is only slightly down from the 24 strong unit (9), but its chances of surviving Close Combat are almost nil.

So a lot of disadvantages arise from being forced to have mixed units and being banned from fielding Bow, Spear or Sling-only units. But surely there must be some benefits to those compulsory mixed formations?

Well, no. I really can't think of any at all. Okay, so the Bowmen get some degree of protection in Close Combat by having a row of Spears in front, but so what? The Archery rules don't offer any advantage to taking one's archers so far into harm's way that they will find such protection useful, and any sensible commander would ensure they keep their vulnerable missile troops well away from the major punch-ups in the first place. So in practice there is little or no advantage at all in using such mixed formations, and the fact that the rules FORCE one to adopt them is a nonsense.

Now I am sure that the writers did some research. And yes, there is some evidence out there that the Assyrians sometimes fought with their Bowmen protected by Spearmen in close proximity. But it is stretching the evidence far further than it is safe to do so, if one extrapolates from it that the Assyrian units ALWAYS formed and fought that way.

I would suggest that the best way to handle it is to make the Mixed Unit composition rules optional  If one chooses to field the types as separate units, then they stay that way for the duration of the game. If one chooses to field them as mixed units - in whatever proportion, it doesn't have to be 50/50 - then they also stay that way for the duration of the game. This solves the ratio problem caused by the figure types in the plastic boxed sets, and it also leaves the choice of how to field one's units to their best advantage down to the commander, which is as it should be.

ps. And no, those are not yet finished. Although painted and varnished, they await the arrival of some new 2mm thin laser-cut bases.

Monday, 4 March 2013

WAB Chariot Wars

I had decided a while back to base my Assyrians for Warhammer Ancient Battles. I like the rules, which give a fun game, and I still had an early edition lying around somewhere. Once I found the box it was in, I was also reminded that I used to have a copy of Chariot Wars. Rummaging further, I unearthed it and set about working out the unit compositions.

Immediately I hit on a snag. The WAB lists for the Assyrian Heavy Infantry insists on units of equal numbers of Spear and Bow. Now this is a real problem if using the HaT Assyrian Infantry sets, as only eight of the figures are bowmen. That means that a large number of the spearmen in the box need to be cast aside as surplus to requirements. The situation is even worse when it comes to the unit composition for Heavy Slingers. The HaT set includes eight of these, but as the unit composition stipulates that such a unit fields equal numbers of bowmen, it means that all the spearmen in a box become redundant. Once one has used the eight slingers and eight bowmen to make up a small unit of Heavy Slingers, there are no bowmen left to form a Heavy Infantry unit. And it doesn't matter how many boxes you buy, as proportionately there will always be large numbers of spearmen that cannot be fielded.

The WAB entries on the Assytian Auxiliaries are strange too. Again we have the requirement that they be half Spear and half Bow. This also causes problems with the HaT Assyrian Allies set, even though 16 of those are bow-armed. But it gets sillier. WAB classes the whole unit as Light Infantry. That means they can fight as a formed unit or as skirmishers, even though the spearmen are not designed to do so, equipped as they are with thrusting spears and large shields. Okay, so the bowmen can safely be classed as Light Infantry able to fire in ranks or fight as skirmishers, but the spearmen are equipped, and historically acted, as Medium Infantry. Trying to insist that these two types make up the same unit flies in the face of common sense.

This soon started to give me a headache, so eventually I fell back on my old philosophy of If It Does Not Work Or Causes Too Much Hassle, Then Feck It.

So I will use WAB rules and statistics for the Assyrians, but the unit compositions will be ignored. I will field the units as I see fit..

If I decide I want a mixed unit of Heavy Infantry with a second rank of bowmen, I will do so. If I want bowmen as a separate unit, then I shall field them as one.

The same goes for the Auxiliaries; the bowmen can skirmish or fight as formed infantry either on their own or mixed with spearmen,and the spearmen will fight simply as formed. The heavy slingers will be either on their own, or in a mixed unit behind a rank of spearmen or bowmen, as I decide.

And Ya Boo Sucks to those who don't like it!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Ongoing Saga

There's been a bit of a break in my work since the end of January.

I had to pop into hospital at the end of the month for major surgery, and at the moment I am one month into the recovery stage, with another two months to go. I had hoped that this would leave me plenty of time to get on with my Bearded Meanies, but that's not been the case.

Because I cannot sit down. More than a few minutes normally seated at my desk is agony. Most of the time I am propped up in bed, and that means that although I can paint a bit, anything more than rough base coating is not on the cards. Without support for my forearms and wrists, I find I cannot paint with any accuracy.

But I do what I can.

When I found the concentration levels and strength to start on the project again, I took my project box from the shelf to get back into the swing of it.  But on opening the box which I had carefully placed my part-finished Assyrians in, I was perturbed to find that several of the cavalrymen's spears had broken. Also broken was the yoke of the part-painted chariot.

How? I had not dropped them and there had been nothing heavy in the box, only a dozen or two part-painted HaT figures. I managed to save the chariot yoke with a blob of glue, but what the hell is it with this HaT plastic? It manages to combine, against all logic, being soft with being very, very brittle. Now the Assyrian Infantry and Allies are a very soft grey plastic which is bendy but still strong. However, the Chariots and Cavalry are a cream plastic which is slightly firmer than the grey stuff (although still softer than most other figure makes out there), but which snaps far too easily.

Ok, it's annoying. :Luckily I had some spare spears from the Infantry that I can use to replace the damaged cavalry ones. The chariot yoke should hold, once it is in place over the four horses. But by gosh, it is going to be a very fragile little model.

Which brings me onto another issue. I now have three boxes of Assyrian chariots, one of which I am part way through making. But frankly I am sick of them. Oh, they are nice little models, but thanks to the rubbish plastic they are right pigs to build, and I predict a lifetime of fixing the little sods once they are used in anger on the tabletop. The body of the first one was not too bad, but the second has been a nightmare to glue, and I've chucked it across the room a number of times in frustration at trying to get the bending panels to stay together long enough for the glue to harden. Four times I have had to strip it back down because one side or other has warped under gentle finger pressure and the butt-joint betwixt the sides and the floor has opened. HaT use hard plastic for their modern guns and wagons, so why can't they do the same for these bloody chariots? It's not rocket science! I like HaT stuff as a rule, but....

So I might just finish off the three I have stared, and sell the other two complete boxes on eBay. Irregular Miniatures do some 20mm Assyrian chariots in metal, and they look okay. Although they are three times the price of each HaT one, I feel sure they will be easier to make and paint, and will be a lot sturdier.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

HaT Assyrian Chariots

The Assyrian Army is proceeding apace.

I expect that pace to pick up now that I have finished the Allies and can concentrate on the regular Assyrian troops, which have a greater degree of uniformity when it comes to colours. Every single one of the 44 Allies has a different colour scheme, and that did tend to slow things up a lot.

I have made a start on a box of cavalry. Again, these are soft and bendy plastic, which I think has more drawbacks than positive features. But the figures seem to take the Humbrol cement well, and are easy to paint up too. No flash or seams to speak of, and overall a very good standard.

Sadly, the same could not be said of the first box of Assyrian Infantry I opened. Almost every one had a bad seam that needed careful trimming with a sharp scalpel. A few figures were malformed, as the two halves of the mould had obviously slid sideways before the injection run. The worst examples were the four men loading their slings, and they had a noticeable step from the base all the way to the top of the figure. Annoying.. HaT need to get a grip of their Quality Control. It's not the worst set I have seen (that award goes to a couple of packets of Revell WW1 Germans) and the figures are all usable. But it took close to half a day's work just to trim the seams and clean up the figures. The too-soft plastic doesn't not help, as when one comes to a curve or a step when trimming, the blade will either tear the plastic or slip off and leave a long strip of trimmed surplus that then needs to be cut off. Trying to scrape this off does not work, as the plastic just tears up. Thankfully other other two packets of Assyrian Infantry figures are much better, with just a couple of the bowmen having seams.

I also moved onto the chariots, and started to put together and paint the first one. Once again HaT have used a very soft plastic. Thankfully the mouldings are very clean, with no seams or flash, but there are still problems. The instructions on the back of the box showing how to fit the main beam to the chariot and the yoke are totally wrong. I ignored them and went by some photos I found on-line. That led to problem 2. The locating holes in the chariot floor for the main beam are too far back. If the two pins on the main beam are located in those holes, the triangular support for the main beam fouls the front of the chariot and it will not fit. I had to drill a hole nearer the front of the chariot and locate the second pin of the main beam into that, in order to achieve a proper fit. The plastic takes glue well, but it is so soft that tying to get the three sides of the chariot body together is a right pain, as any finger pressure just distorted the body and popped the sides out of their locating slots.

However, with much cursing it did finally go together and started to look okay. I am now in the process of painting it up, having given it its base coats. It's by no means a push-together model. It needs gluing, and even then will be very fragile on the gaming table, so I will not add the horses and crew until I can base the thing properly.

Friday, 4 January 2013

A Lucky Find

It's often a good idea to check some of the mainstream on-line book sellers every now and then, because one never knows what bargains one might find. Usually such book sellers are quite canny and have a jolly good idea of what books are going for, but sometimes....

And that's what I found last week, on Amazon of all places. One of my sisters had sent me an e-voucher for Xmas, and I eagerly went to Amazon to spend it. I did my routine searches for wargames books, and saw the usual sky-high prices for stuff that frankly amazed me.

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming for £114, anyone?

I laughed and perused further, eventually finding some Charles Grant books, again at prices beyond the dreams of my e-voucher...

And then....

I spotted something. I had to check it several times, just to make sure. There was no picture, but the title was clear.

Ancient Battles For Wargamers. Charles Grant. £8.00

Now the book was described as a paperback, which seemed odd. I didn't know it existed as anything other than a hardback. I have only ever seen one copy "in the flesh" before, and that was owned by my friend John Preece of Darkest North Wales. I have been after it for many, many years, but whenever it had appeared on eBay, the price has always gone way too high for my blood and purse.

So I took a chance and bought it, along with an ex-library copy of Introduction to Wargames (Neil Thomas) for £3.00.

Yesterday they both arrived, and LO, it was the hardback version of the Grant book, in excellent condition aside from a torn dust-jacket. I am over the moon!

The pages look yellow in the shot, but that's just the rubbish room lighting.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Assyrian Allies and Assyrian Ram

So far I have finished about half the unit of HaT Assyrian Allies, and completed one of the Orion Assyrian Rams.

The Ram was a pain. It had warped panels, unclear instructions and rather too many butt-joints for comfort and accuracy. However, the final model looks OK. I had to rig up some cotton thread to hang the ram from the internal beams, as the plastic "ropes" Orion include are a joke, being way too long and needing to be twisted at 80 degrees to hang the trunk of the Ram. They just snap as soon as twisted, even using hot water to soften the plastic first. Using thread sounds a better way around it. but in fact it's quite tricky and fiddly work.

I tacked the finished figures onto spare Warhammer 20 x 20mm bases to help keep them upright, and I shall varnish them shortly. I am going to use gloss varnish, as it brings out the nice bright colours, and I do want an old-fashioned  'sixties plastic army look for this force. The bases may be temporary, as I have not yet totally settled on using WAB rules.

Last night I started work on the first couple of spear-men from the HaT Assyrian Army box. They are a great match for the Allies, but sadly there seems to be more flash on them. This comes in the form of pronounced seams which need a VERY sharp blade to trim off, as the plastic is so soft. I have not checked the other boxes yet, but this first batch is going to need a lot more pre-paint cleaning up than the Allies did.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Bearded Meanies

I have finally started work on my 20mm WAB Assyrian army. I have got all the troops I initially planned to buy, although I might get another box of Assyrian Allies, as I think perhaps the army requires more skirmishers.

So far the project has cost me very little, thanks to the price of HaT ancients usually being heavily discounted on eBay. In total I have spent perhaps £60, which is not bad for an army that now numbers 176 infantry, 36 cavalry, 6 chariots, 2 rams and a siege tower.

Painting the little men is an enjoyable pastime. The Assyrians were a colourful bunch  and so far no two of my figures have the same design or colour scheme. The HaT figures are well detailed, but slightly chunkier than the Caesar ones. That makes them easier to paint. I am sticking to a plain, unshaded block colour style, with a little black line-ing. They look fine and in the large units I envisage will pass muster well on the battlefield. A tidy war-gaming standard is how I would describe it. In other words, it means I am happy with it and the rest of the world can sod off. ;-)

Today I put aside the paint brushes and decided to face the challenge of building one of the Orion Assyrian Rams. This is a kit with two siege engines in it, in white plastic. It's a bit tricky to build, as the mould is crude and the fit of parts not great. The instructions are also a bit unclear. But I struggled on and with a bit of carving and clipping, the first one is almost done and starting to look okay.

My New Year's Resolution is to stick with a single project until it is completed. I will finish these boxes before I buy more, and before I start on the other projects in my In Tray. 

That's the plan. Let's hope boredom does not set in and tempt me to pick up those GW High Elves...... 

Oh, and a Happy New Year to all..!!