20 April 2018

Was that a pin dropping?

Ol' Frederick II at the battle of Kolin in 1757.

Absolutely nothing happening hobby-wise since my last post at the start of the month.  Running up to the end of the semester now with final class meetings next week, final student projects, reviewing scholarship applications, and trying to write a conference presentation in there somewhere.  Sigh.  But I did learn about a new blog, or rather a recently resumed blog (started way back in 2008) that might be of interest to those of you with a particular interesting in sculpting and/or painting your figures.  Check out Making Miniatures, which has all kinds of interesting discussion on the topic.  Ok, back to the salt mines for yours truly.

-- Stokes

01 April 2018

Coming This Fall. . .

I've just placed my advance order for this forthcoming book via Amazon.

Please forgive me if this is old news, but I have only just stumbled across this particular book, and thought that it might be nice to share the news with anyone else who might have an interest in the subject.  If any of you have searched in vain for the out-of-print Instrument of War by Christopher Duffy, you'll have noticed that the book has appreciated since it first appeared.  To the tune of several hundred US dollars, and in a few cases, copies of said book exceed US$1000.  Um. . .  right.

While I consider the Grand Duchess and myself to be quite comfortable at this point in our lives, I cannot imagine dropping quite that much on a single used book.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Duffy has a new (revised?) edition on the Austrian Army of the Seven Years War period due out this fall.  If, like me, your pockets are not infinitely deep, this might be an interesting and useful addition to your library.  Instrument of War will become available on Amazon in Early November 2018, and you can place an advance order here.

-- Stokes

31 March 2018

Easter Greetings from The Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .

As of yet, I have not managed to a figure company that produces and Easter range of rabbits and chickens.  Maybe we could persuade Eureka to add some along side their teddy bears though?

For one, I have already overindulged in jellybeans and chocolate (Blagh!), and Easter is not until tomorrow.  In any case, if you observe, have a delightful Easter Sunday [Thank you, Nobby!] and holiday.

-- Stokes

25 March 2018

A (Very) Late Arrival to the Party. . .

Major Welch writing his memoirs?

Not very much happening here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen the last several weeks.  After Spring Vacation at the start of the month, it has been hard to get started again down here in Zum Stollenkeller for one reason or another.  But a much needed boost to my hobby spirits arrived Friday afternoon.  And only about five years late.  Yes, yes.  Extremely gauche of me I now realize.  Please don't cane me, Sir!  I was led astray.

Returning to the point at hand, a few weeks ago, you might imagine how surprised I was to see that a copy of John Ray's A Military Gentleman (2013) had popped up in my Ebay feed in very good condition and at a very inexpensive rate.  I still cannot quite fathom why someone in possession of such a book, and having gone to the retail expense of purchasing it when new, would wish to part with it, but mine is not to reason why.  I made an offer to the seller and procured the book for far less than the original asking price.  It took a while for the book to arrive, and for a while I feared that it was all some kind of ruse, but AMG finally turned up Friday.  No clue as to original owner, but copy #400 now has pride of place on the lower shelf of my beside table.

The set-up of the book is, in a word, wonderful.  The military biography of one Major John Welch is presented -- lavishly illustrated by hundreds of photographs of John Ray's fantabulous (there really is no other word) collection of period figures, flags, and terrain -- as Maj. Welch bounced first from the North American colonies, to Bremerhaven, the Balkans, to Central Europe, to Russia, and back to the Americas via Bremerhaven (once more) and London.  My particular favorite parts of the book are the late R.J. Marrion's illustrations which appear throughout, plus any number of rough pencil sketches and the galleries of additional photographs in the rear third of the book.  

It really was a case of dumb luck stumbling onto this particular copy at a more affordable price, and I will certainly hang onto it for the rest of my time on this earth.  And who knows?  It might be just the sort of thing that helps kindle a more serious interest in model soldiers for the Young Master, who lately is more interested in how engines and various other sorts of mechanical things work, to say nothing of rocket engines.  Still, you never know as Sir Michael Caine might say.

-- Stokes


It looks like the GD 0f S has picked up a couple of new followers during the last several weeks, so welcome, and I hope you might find something of interest here.

23 February 2018

Planning for the Weekend Ahead. . .

 Ok, maybe not quite this formalized, but you get the idea.

Having dug myself out from under the first stack of student papers and team projects at last, my mind can turn to a long overdue open weekend!  Our snow here in mid-Michigan is now gone, replaced by flooding from recent heavy rains and snowmelt (no more skiing for now sadly), so free time this weekend can be spent down here in Zum Stollenkeller.  What's on tap then?  Glad you asked.

1) Apply any final touch ups to all of those replacement infantry standards and standard bears.

2) Apply two, or possibly three, coats of acrylic gloss varnish to everything.

3) Cement the finished figures and flags into the spaces left for them back when I rebased everything in September of last year.


The Grand Duchess and I also have plans for dinner out Saturday evening, following the babysitter's arrival, at a place that is supposed to be quite nice.  Might that actually mean tablecloths and actual place settings in a quiet, non-cavernous setting with waitstaff who actually know what they are doing?  Oh, perchance to dream! So, dress pants and shoes, navy blazer, and necktie are in order given the rare occasion.  

A jazz concert, for which the Grand Duchess purchased tickets in late November, follows.  We have not been out alone for an evening by ourselves since, oh, maybe last summer for our June anniversary?  But I really cannot remember with any degree of certainty.  I generally have a good memory, but smaller details like when we were last out alone tend to get lost in the daily hubbub of family life. 

Fortunately, I have student learning team-led discussions beginning next week just ahead of Spring Break (something akin to the half-term break in the U.K. I believe), so there is no lesson planning or class preparations to take care of Sunday, which means I can finish whatever I don't get to this evening or Saturday afternoon/evening where hobby activities are concerned.  Watch for some photographs in the next several days.  I feel a small parade coming on.


Otherwise, there are a few cavalry standard and guidon bearers to add next to my existing cavalry regiments, and then, as I have mentioned here before, I can return to that mass of unpainted cavalry purchased in late 2016, to see if I can make an appreciable dent in it.  I wouldn't exactly say the lead pile here is huge, but it grew somewhat when said cavalry castings were added, and then in February 2017 I purchased a bunch of unpainted Minden Prussian and Austrian infantry castings from a friend in Belgium.  

Besides sorting these into batches of 60 or so privates, officers, ensigns, and musicians and putting everything carefully into plastic parts boxes with little compartments inside (60 or so figures being the size of my line  infantry units), I have, obviously, done nothing more with them.  A plan of some kind is necessary for getting all of this stuff painted in the next few years.  All of these figures won't paint themselves.  Sadly. 

Maybe the answer is to plan some sort of tabletop encounter?  A specific target to aim for in other words.  This seems to be the answer rather than waffle and wallow endlessly without getting much painted.  Sadly, that has been the case for a litany of reasons, let's call it "real life," during the last three years.  The problem is that real life has never let up in all of that time.  Grumble, grumble, grumble. . .  

But it's high time to get off this seemingly endless boulevard of interrupted wargaming dreams and take a more direct route to hobby nirvana.  And if not hobby nirvana, then at least reducing the number of unpainted figures in the drawer to my left.  


One final thing.  I have managed to track down issues #13-24 of Miniature Wargames, at very reasonable rates, from sellers here in the U.S. and in the U.K.  These are winging their collective way to me from their respective points of origin as we speak.  

Why on Earth whould I do that?  Well, and I am speaking very generally here and from a reader's point of view, it seems that the first dozen, or maybe two, of any wargaming magazine are the most focused, most interesting, key issues.  Battlegames was largely great throughout its run being consistently interesting (most issues) with lovely photography throughoutMiniature Wargames with BG, during Henry's tenure as editor, breathed life once again for a short while after years at sea.  

The current rendition of the magazine is hit and miss in my view.  Given the editor's strong fantasy focus over the years, I have always felt like he was not quite the right fit as editor of a magazine ostensibly about historical miniatures wargaming.  Just my two pennoth.  MW ain't Dragon Magazine, The White Dwarf, or whatever the current Games Workshop or Citadel monthly advertorial might be.  I lack the facts, of course, not being part of those conversations at the corporate level once MW was again purchased a couple of years back, but I do have my suspicions as to why this particular decision was made.  Take that as you might, but no hate mail, please. 

But back to wargaming magazines.  Most of the first three years of so of Wargames Illustrated weren't bad under Duncan MacFarlane's leadership, but the magazine lost something under subsequent editors as we moved ever further into the Grunge and Goth inflected 1990sThe first dozen issues of Practical Wargamer that I have procured are quite good, but much (though not all) of the photography therein is poor, harking back to what you might see in the late 1970s and very early 1980s.  Small, black and white, in other words, and not always in sharp focus.  The articles themselves were top-notch.  Stuart Asquith nailed it with every issue in my view, whatever the particular focus of, or variations between, the different articles within might have been.  And I say that as a confirmed 18th and 19th century, horse and musket man.  Sounds like a song by The Kinks, doesn't it? Or maybe Iron Maiden.

Again making very general observations as someone unfamiliar with the (hobby) magazine publishing industry, just a reader mind you, my thoughts are this.  The overall focus, tone, and quality of a hobby magazine are affected by and changes gradually (or abruptly) due to periodic shifts in editorial personnel, publisher demands and dictates placed on an editor, the quality of article contributions, ever more space devoted to advertisements, in some cases articles that read more like extended advertisements for a particular rule set or line of figures, etc.  How is that for an overly long, almost academic German-style sentence?  Sadly, I was unable to think of a string of verbs to tack onto the tail end, which might change the meaning of everything that came before though.  That's a grammar nerd's joke.  Sorry!

The point is, all of these factors, and presumably others too, take a toll on whatever a publication was at the outset when it first appeared on the shelves of our local news stand, hobby store, or in the mailbox, many years ago until it becomes something it never was way back when.  The past is a different country, or something like that.  A realization that might be old news to you, but sometimes it takes yours truly a while to formulate a coherent thought.  Decades even.  You know.  Slow normal and all of that.  Or as my maternal grandparents used to say, with a chuckle and a wink, about as sharp as a mashed potato sandwich. 

But once again, I digress.  Back to the subject at hand!  Although now well over 30 years old, the very early issues of Miniature Wargames nevertheless continue to hold up well, in my view, and as such have been my hobby magazine touchstone for an equally long time.  It was never quite the same after Duncan MacFarlane left to start Wargames Illustrated in 1987 though.  I'm eager to see how the second dozen issues of Miniature Wargames compare to the first twelve once they arrive.

Ok, enough blog blather.  Time to touch up some flags!

-- Stokes

20 February 2018

The 1750s, 60s, and So Much More!

Prussian infantry at the Battle of Kolin.

Are you tired?  Rundown?  Feel like you've lost your wargaming mojo?  

Well, there is an easy cure for what ails you.  Broaden your gaming outlook, historic, and hobby knowledge by dropping by the Fife & Drum Discussion Forum 

While the core interest has to do with the warfare of the mid-18th century as well as the delectable Minden, Fife& Drum, and Crann Tara ranges of miniatures, the forum has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception a year ago to cover much more besides the wars and soldiers of Maria Theresa and ol' Frederick II.  

In fact, the Fife & Drum Discussion Forum has become a veritable community of the current wargaming illuminati and cognoscenti from around the globe, who routinely share their thoughts on subjects as diverse as figure sculpting, scratch-building tabletop scenery, painting, basing, flags, uniforms, and tactical doctrine of different historic eras plus a host of other topics, many of which have to do with other periods, theaters, and armies besides those of the 1740s-1760s in Central Europe.  Drop by for a chat and a helping of hobby inspiration.  We'll leave the light on for ya.

-- Stokes

18 February 2018

Falling Standards?

The last two Hessian standards 'borrowed' into the Stollenaian Army.  They will take their place at the head of the very first line regiment (Revell 1/72 tall, thin plastic Prussians) completed way back in the late summer of 2006.  These Minden figures will stick out a little less sorely than the single, rather squat MiniFig first assigned to the regiment way back in '06.  The flags are also certainly more colorful than the original.

Well, despite the coffee catastrophe yesterday morning, and the trip out to replace the keyboard, I managed to have a fairly balanced day.  Balanced in terms of mostly hobby tinkering with rules and plowing through the remaining half dozen papers for one of my classes this semester yesterday afternoon.  Mercifully, the latter were pretty good to, in the case of two, excellent, so I was left with time for other things.  The Young Master even managed to prepare most of his science fair project on the Space Shuttle unsupervised.  Happy sigh.

All of that meant that I had about 90 minutes following The Young Master's evening routine, which lately also includes one or another of the Geronimo Stilton novels, the current favorite, for bedtime reading.  Once back down here in Zum Stollenkeller at about 8:35pm, I got to work on the flags picture above.  I had no orange handy, so flew by the seat of my pants and mixed my own using a GW/Citadel red, yellow, and then some white for highlighting plus a later blue and green for the central details around the Hessian lion.  

Not too bad if I might be permitted to say so.  As with the last pair of Hessian flags, I've painted over the areas of main color but will leave the detailed wreath and crown alone.  Simply too complicated for me to attempt, but by painting in the main colors and then adding a few highlight washes here and there, the style now matches my figure painting a bit better than if I had simply printed out the flags, attached them to the poles, and left them as is.  

Only a few minor touch-ups left to do, but I'm pleased with the 90 minutes' work overall.  I did mess up one blue corner ray on the flag at right, obliterating the smaller wreath and crown in a corner of the flag almost entirely, but is is just about made invisible by a furl near the flagpole, so I'm not going to mess with it any further.  C'est la guerre as they say!

The next step is to reexamine all of these replacement infantry standards and bearers for any final and necessary (??!!) touch-ups, and then slap two or three coats of Liquitex acrylic gloss over everything.  I can then attach the standard bearers themselves to those nifty replacement Litko bases onto which I stuck everything else last September to make the appearance of my armies a bit more consistent given the various figures used thus far and minor differences in size and sculpting style.  

From this point forward, however, anything that might be added to the existing combat forces will be either RSM95, Minden, Fife&Drum, Crann Tara, or Eureka, with, just maybe, another unit of Holger Eriksson dragoons at some point.  But that is putting the cart before the, ahem, horse.

Next up, I must add a few standard and guidon bearers to my existing cavalry regiments, and then I can return, in good conscience, to all of those unpainted cavalry castings purchased in the run up to and just after my half-century mark in the fall of 2016.  In the meantime, another dozen student papers this afternoon as well as some lesson planning for Monday morning's class.  Happy Sunday everyone!

-- Stokes

17 February 2018

Coffee and Keyboards: Ne'er the Twain Shall Meet. . .

Not my own image, but you immediately grasp the point of today's post.

So there I was.  Saturday morning about 11am.  Still in my pajamas and back down here in Zum Stollenkeller after breakfast upstairs at the dining room table with the Young Master.  I returned to my chair here at the computer, second large mug of fresh French press coffee in hand, meaning to return to typing into my ever evolving mid-18th century rules a revised version of Mark Clayton's morale rules from Miniature Wargames issue #7.

I was about two minutes back into this activity when I reached for said mug of coffee, without really looking at what I was doing, and, of course, it slipped from my grasp.  The contents spilled all over my keyboard, some papers nearby, a box of paperclips, and my non-functioning Swiss pocket watch that I've been meaning to take to the jeweler for repairs.  Needless to say, I turned the air momentarily blue with muttered curses, took the steps upstairs two at a time to retrieve a roll of paper towels from the kitchen, so I could return asap to start my own version of The Pepsi Syndrome clean-up.  

Miraculously, the two old issues of Miniature Wargames sitting to my right (#6 and #7) managed to escape the caffeinated carnage inflicted on so much of the rest of my desktop.  I don't know how.

At any rate, shortly after mopping up everything, my keyboard, into which I had just installed a fresh battery earlier this morning, stopped responding.  Nothing.  Nada.  No way.  Now how.  Of course, that meant an unplanned trip out to find a replacement was called for.  Sigh.  Back upstairs to shower quickly, dress, brush my teeth, and head out

However, there are those rare days when the stars line up, and things go more rapidly that you fear they might.  I was in and out of Best Buy in under ten minutes with a new Logitec wireless keyboard-mouse combo, for a very reasonable price.  I even managed on the way home to fill the car with gas at a good price, drop a pair of pants off at the dry-cleaners, and pick up a few items at the supermarket (remarkably quite for late on a Saturday morning).  In under an hour, I was home again and setting up the new keyboard-mouse combo.  As Peggy Lee once sang, "Yes it's a good day. . ."

Now, if only I can get through a short stack of five or six student papers, I might actually be able to return to the painting table for some actual work on infantry standards for the first time in a couple of weeks.   Still cold, but we had a thaw midweek, so the remaining snow is icy, crunchy, and not, according to the Grand Duchess, good for skiing.  So, we're staying in today to combine a bit of work with a bit of leisure while the Young Master works on a Space Shuttle science fair project for school.

-- Stokes


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