Sunday, December 30, 2018


Well, dear readers, it's time for the customary end-of-calendar year post. As the name of this blog suggests, this will not be a particularly systematic analysis, but more of a meander.  
I've never claimed to be a volume painter, and the modest tally of figures painted in calendar year 2018 will attest to this: 48 figures plus 3 cannon.  I would add, however, that this was the year of mounted units, conversions, specialty figures, and rather elaborate uniforms (that's my story and I'm sticking with it).  Thus, of the 48 figures, 36 of them were mounted, so one could count these as two figures each as opposed to one (2018 motto: we hates painting horses!).  This method of accounting would bring the total up to a slightly less embarrassing 81. The Hungarian Artillery conversion project in particular presented a major investment in time if not volume (but that's the nature of black powder artillery to some extent).  It's hard to translate equipment (cannon in this case) to figures, but I would be inclined to count the 3 crazy candy-striped Hungarian cannon to 6 mounted figures.  If one accepts this math (and since it's my blog, and my post, we will), and tallies a horse and rider as two figures,  this would raise the 2018 count to 103. I'll take it: what a relief to crack three digits! Not a bad bit of accounting considering I started at 48 (if you think this is bad, you should see the magic I work with my budget numbers at work!). 
In this self-referential passage, I will share a few reflections on blogging in this last year.  To begin with, I managed 42 posts (including this one) this year,  This is a bit behind my aim of posting once per week.  Still, as has been pointed out by others, the essential point of posting  (indeed blogging) is for the self.   Certainly sharing is an important aspect, but I think that one really has to want to post in order to sustain a blog, and that remained the case for me in 2018.  Despite the ugly circumstances going on in the world around us, I also strove to keep the blog content hobby-related, a place apart from all of that--in the far happier realm of toy soldiers and associated endeavors. For 2019, I have some interesting items in mind that I want to share, including several e books for antiquarians that I think will be of interest (one on the Hungarian revolt and one on the Koniggratz campaign).
I began 2018 with 41 followers and ended the year with 49.  Perhaps I'll crack 50 in 2019.  Having followers is certainly a nice validation, but my sense is that the readership is wider than the follower count.  I would be remiss if I didn't send a shout out to those bloggers who added my blog to their lists on their sites (especially in my blog's fledgling year).  Statistics indicate that other blogs are a major source of traffic to this site, and I believe those blogs are largely responsible for putting this blog on the map--now with 49 followers of its own. 
Speaking of blog lists, I expanded the number of recently updated blogs showing on my blog from five to ten.  I found myself going to other blogs as "landing zones" to check out their blog lists, which made me realize that I could expand my own list and be more of a resource in this way as well.  Speaking of resources, it may not have been very noticeable, but in the past year I've added to the resource areas of my blog, both the "Wargaming and Hobby Links" section (on the left hand side) and the "Other Useful and Interesting Links" section (on the right hand side).  If you've never noticed those, I would encourage you to poke around a bit.  I'll highlight a few of the 2018 additions:
In the "Other Useful and Interesting Links" section, the Obscure Battles blog (images above: clix pix for big pix) is an amazing resource, with not only historical information but also custom maps and panoramic photographs for many battles.  
The Stanford University French Revolution Digital Archive (image above taken from the opening page of the site) is a gold mine of information (one that I used in my Edward Gibbon and The French Revolution post).
And I've added a link to the essential Knotel uniform print collection
Looking at the "Wargaming and Hobby Links," I've added the Hyphenated Wars website, an excellent wargamer's resource on the continental wars of the 19th Century.
If you've ever been looking for an article on a specific topic in a wargaming magazine, then you'll want to visit the  Wargames Magazine Index project. 
Speaking of old school wargame magazines, I've added a link to a digital archive of the old Avalon Hill General.  
For those who indulge in computer wargames, there is the John Tiller Software site.  I intend to keep adding to these resources in 2019.
It's interesting to note that the Battle of Dybbol report holds its position as the most popular post, but Ed's Basic Basing , a relatively late addition (August), has climbed to a spot in the top five. So, there's something old and something new. Among the content pages, the Nine Years War page, with 1697 views, is by far the most visited, with the Dubious Designs games page coming next with 895. The Colonial Gaming, Chocolate Box Wars, and Baroque Battles pages are in the 700s, with the Smalle Warre page in the 400s and Ramillies 1815 in the 200s.  These metrics would reinforce two of my major aims for 2019: to complete my Chocolate Box Wars rules and to post my Baroque Battles rules.  In the case of Baroque Battles, that is an actual convention-tested system, and I have a draft of the rules in progress.  I just need to sit down and bang it out. In the case of Chocolate Box Wars, that's still in the late concept stage and will take a bit more effort.  I should be beginning playtests soon, however (fingers crossed!).  
Well, this post is quickly turning into a wall of text, so I'll wrap it up 'ere I wind up typing into 2019!  I still very much enjoyed blogging in 2018 as an end unto itself.  Having said this, I also must say that the encouragement and motivation gained from the blogging community (other bloggers and blog readers alike) has been an important source of enhancement for my hobby experience in 2018.  So, in closing, I would like to say, dear readers, Happy New Year and... 


Wednesday, December 26, 2018


 Gift from the Wife: Reindeers and Fast Attack Submarines!

Just a quick post here on Boxing Day, dear readers, to record an accidental (but welcome) visitation from the Wargaming Santa this Xmas.  Before proceeding to that bit, however, I should like to point out the above item, the likes of which I could not have imagined until I opened it on Xmas morning.   Both of us (the wife and I) are retired US Army, and we live near the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard  (a place where they work on nuclear submarines, better known among locals as the Kittery Naval Yard, since it's actually in Kittery, Maine).  Herself uses the services on the installation, to include the Navy Exchange and Commissary, where she ran across the above, which she scooped up and gifted to me (wonder why?).  I find it wacky enough to be service irrelevant (nautical reindeer? a non-sequitur to say the least), and thus proudly wore it on Xmas (and intend to do so in the future).  Now, to move along to the Accidental Toys for Xmas story.  

It seems that once upon a time, our hero (your humble correspondent) placed several orders for figures and whatnot in October/early November, expecting delivery of said items well before the end of December. Well, as of Dec 23rd, they had not yet materialized.  By then, I had resolved that I would not be seeing these items until after the holidays.  Imagine my glee, then, when I found both packages of wargaming goodness waiting there in the mailbox on Dec 24th---an Xmas Miracle!

Xmas toy goodness #1: Three Deluxe Starter Sets of Kriegspiel blocks along with three Kriegspiel Ruler sets.  In the above image, I've laid out the contents of a starter block set.  It contains two sets  (one red, one blue) of  six battalions, five batteries, four squadrons, and various break down blocks.  Despite having seen kriegspiel blocks in pictures, I was surprised to see how small the blocks were (I include a pencil in the above image for scale).  I happen to like this particular producer, Photon Cutter Studios, because their blocks come ready to go, as in no stickers to mess with!
I've long had multiple versions of the Kriegspiel rules on hand, along with several sets of maps, which I've been reading and thinking about for the last few years (one of those "side" interests we all seem to have cooking but not yet ready to serve).  With these block sets I have removed the hurdle between reading and doing.  I hope to dabble a bit more deeply into this kind of gaming in the upcoming year.
Xmas toy goodness #2: a long anticipated box of goodies from Northstar miniatures for my Chocolate Box Wars/Mid Century collection.  Arriving was another batch of Austrian 1866 gunners,which I will eventually convert (surprise) to expand my Hungarian artillery contingent (well, one does, doesn't one?).  Additionally, I picked up some of the newly released Northstar 1866 Prussian Hussars (Totenkopf, aka Leib Hussars).   Previously, I had relied on Foundry for my Prussian 1866 hussars.  As a matter of fact, I was just about to place another order from Foundry to represent the Leib Hussars when I stumbled upon these newly released Northstar figures.... 
 ...although I'm not a big fan of "glue arm on" figures, I am favorably impressed with these sculpts.  In size and detail, they are consistent with with the 1866 Prussian Uhlans and Austrian Hussars , among others,  in the superb Northstar line.  These also have the death's head sculpted onto the busby, a detail not on the Foundry hussars.  I had expected to get started on these hussars right after my Hungarian commanders.  The delay, however, wound up being a happy accident. In effect, it saved me from myself and brought about a small hiatus in hobby activity for the holidays, which worked out well. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Not much to report by way of hobby activity since my last, and I don't anticipate much between now and the Yule, so I'll take this moment to send out...

to regular and accidental readers of this blog.

Enjoy a 30 second musical interlude   ♬

May your holidays be merry and bright 
*meaning full of toys and the promise of playing with toys*
--time with family is nice, too-- 

Monday, December 10, 2018


Close up of the conversion inspired by Hungarian Gen Artur Georgei

In this post, dear readers, we "deliver the goods" on recent work-in-progress posts on 28mm mounted Hungarian/Honved commanders for the Hungarian Uprising, 1848-49.  For those just joining us, none of the figures in this post began life as you see them here. For more discussion on figure selection and modification, please follow the links in the commentary.  As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX in this post.

First up is the army command stand, which has a general based on Hungarian Lt Gen Artur Georgei (shown above left) and a Grenz Staff officer (above right)--images are from the indispensable Gyozo Somogyi, Honved Army 1848-49. The figures are a Perry ACW Confederate General and Dutch Belgian Napoleonic commander, respectively.
The confederate general sculpt has a nice row of prominent buttons on each lapel--I brought those out in yellow and painted a corresponding yellow braid line to each--all underpainted in black to bring out the structure. I also echoed the pattern on the vest, only with a central yellow seam.  I think the end result delivered a good impression of the jacket as depicted in the source.  Given that I already had Grenz units in pink and yellow facings, I picked sky blue distinctions for the staff officer--always liked the blue/brown combination.  To keep the large feather plume on his headgear from looking like a big, black, lump, I dry brushed it with dark grey and then highlighted it with a touch of light gray (which is an off white, basically).

Next up is the Hungarian General Staff Officer in slant cap, inspired by the above images (again from Somogyi). This conversion was made with a head swap: from a Steve Barber Honved dismounted officer onto a Foundry Maximilian Adventure Austrian Red Hussar torso. 
I decided on the more embellished yellow and red braiding shown in another illustration of Honved general staff officers. There was a fair amount of trial and error to get this braiding to look "red and yellow" as opposed to like a series of disembodied yellow spots interrupted by red and green (in places).  I finally used an impressionistic approach, sizing and spacing the red points so they look regular to the eye as opposed to always trying to spot them geometrically ("realistically?") on the features themselves, if that makes sense.  I went with the red trousers as opposed to the gray based on a period painting showing Hungarian staff officers in this snappy combination. Originally, I was going to use this fellow as a "secondary" figure on the army command stand.  Instead, I paired the two Perry figures on the army command given how well they went together and let this fellow stand on his own.   

When I started this project, I had originally intended to use a Spanish colonel from the Perry Carlist War line for the grenz staff officer However, I wound up switching from that figure to the Perry Dutch Belgian Napoleonic command figure. This left me with a spare, partially done command figure that I wasn't thinking much about.  Then I saw Iain's comment on the work in progress post expressing an interest in seeing what I would make of this figure. This brought about a heel-of-the-hand to head moment: Duh! Of course! Why not finish him?  So here, dear reader, we witness the answer to Iain's question-turned inspiration.  I have created a "generic" officer (no sash!) suitable for use with just about any mid century army... other words, he is the very image of a Chocolate Box major general (apologies to Msrs Gilbert and Sullivan).  Were it not for my WIP post and Iain's comment therein, he would have disappeared into my spares box(es) until stumbled across again (it has happened before). Thus, he is also the very image of the benefits of blogging.

Steve Barber Mounted Hungarian Officer: not yet in production

Although an actual mounted Hungarian command figure that I commissioned will eventually be available (above), I decided to take matters into my own hands and do a set  via conversion (birds in the bush vs birds in the hand and all of that).  And It's not like I won't also be getting the above figure once it comes out (try and stop me!).  Given how many conversion figures there are among my Hungarians, anyway, it seemed only appropriate that their high command should also be conversions: one-of-a kinds leading one-of-a kinds.

Saturday, December 1, 2018


An earlier "How To" post ( Ed M's Basic Basing ) generated some interest in my marker systems. In this post, dear readers, I will follow up to provide more information on those.  
By way of quick review, I have metallic strips on the back of most of my bases where I can put magnetic markers. As I mentioned in my earlier post on basing, I don't try to hide this function, but incorporate it into the style. I think that providing readily available game information boosts playability a great deal. These markers coupled with the reference sheets I produce combine to present most nearly all the game information players need, and puts the information right in front of players in the context of the situation on the table. This allows one to run games that might be a bit more involved than might otherwise be possible. To make all of my graphics, I use the universally available (and dead simple) MSPaint, which is bundled with most windows operating systems (although I hear it will be discontinued in the future).  So no need to learn or buy any special graphics program to replicate this madness.  Producing these markers is a significant project, I have to admit, but I consider it a valid one--no less so than the other projects we take up in this hobby, like painting figures or making terrain. However, once done, these markers are most handy and have become central to how I run games.
This is my most versatile system.  It consists of several sets of color coded markers and sets of white on black informational markers (numbers, letters, etc)...

...above, two sheets of markers (there are more).  Colored coded markers on the left and a set of numbers and unit information on the right.  These markers are 1/4" square. For anyone interested I've posted a complete set of markers that you can review and download
The unit information markers (above left) I print out and put on peel and stick magnetized sheets. These are thinner than the colored markers.  This works well because these markers aren't going to get handled during the game.  The colored markers (above right) I put on thicker magnetic strips (which can be got at most craft or DIY stores)--these get handled during the game, so being thicker helps with that.  The magnetic strips come in 1/2" widths, which is particularly handy since you can fit two rows of the 1/4" colored markers on them, which  lowers the number of cuts you need to do to create the markers once stuck onto the strips.  After sticking all of these to the magnet material, I then use a pair of scissors to cut them all out (lots and lots of little squares: a good project to do while watching or listening to a favorite sports game or podcast--it only has to be done once).
Storage and organization are important to help make these systems viable. I put my color coded magnetic markers in metal DVD cases (you can buy these by themselves) with a paper strip on the outside indicating the colors.
 For my unit information/numbers and letters, I use a clear, multi-compartment container.
An example of the markers in play.  In this case, the colored markers represent strength points and command relationships.  To the left, a three strength point, morale five light cavalry (5 L) and a to the right a four strength point, morale five infantry unit. They both have the same color markers (black), which indicates that they are in the same command. The artillery is a two strength point, morale five field gun (5 FLD)--the white crosses on green markers represent an army-level unit. You can see the thickness difference between the strength point markers and the unit information markers.
Here is an illustration of a complete system for a two battalion Polish Napoleonic Regiment. Each battalion has strength point markers in a unique color. Some strength point markers have "S" indicating, that it is a skirmish point.  The regimental command stand (the oval mounted figure) has a marker identifying each of its subordinate units.  The empty base at the back substitutes for a roster system.  It tracks the regiment's exhaustion level (the yellow and brown marker--once the  number of hits reaches that level, the command is exhausted).  In the upper left hand corner are markers representing the component units of the command.  When a unit in the command takes a hit, the strength point marker is moved from the unit stand to the tracking stand. When the total reaches the exhaustion level, the command is exhausted. 
The above system in a different game.  Here, pre game,  there are four Prussian brigades arrayed with their tracking stands beside them. In this case, each command is only one color.
The same Prussian brigade as it enters the table. You can see that the tracking stands have  been placed out of play on the edge of the table for reference.
Following from the same example, an illustration of how the markers help to differentiate the commands in action. You can also see that one of the stands in the yellow brigade has lost two strength points (those are back on the tracking stand).
For the tracking stands, I put a 3"x3" metal wargame base (spray painted green) on a 3"x3" wooden wargame  base.   I also made up a set of magnetic tracking markers (above right). 
When not used as tracking stands, these bases can also serve as sabots to allow me to use  my individually mounted figures on unit bases (the figures have magnetic bottoms). 

The color coded markers are also useful for other systems.  In the skirmish game above, the individual figures have markers indicating which unit they belong to.  As I said before, I get alot of mileage out of these markers. 

I have made specialized markers to support specific game systems. In the above case, it is our group's Napoleonic Rules, Napoleon's Rules of War.
You may need to click the above to enlarge for clarity. These labels were important aids to help facilitate play in the mega-game that I ran for the club.

 A French Division Marching In
In the above, you can see that there are two French divisions operating in the area (the black labels at the bottom and the blue in the middle ground). 
So the labels helped to present low level game information and they helped to visualize larger unit organizations on a crowded table. 

For my Baroque Battles system, I produced a set of magnetic labels to indicate the unit type and the morale grade. Instead of numbers, I went with dice symbols. The above is a morale five Tercio.
An example of the Baroque Battles labels in play. I will (eventually) be posting the rules and other files for this system on the content page. For now, here is the QRS (for the curious). 

Finally, in one of my earlier efforts, my Smalle Warre collection, I used wooden plugs as unit markers. 
Units consist of 10-12 individually based figures.  I put a plug on the back of each stand, with each unit being color coded. Each figure within the unit is numbered (hand painted: I now appreciate calligraphers and their craft!)--the command figure is left blank, with no number.  Numbering allows me to also use these figs for lower-level systems where individual figures might need to be tracked, such as my Loot the Baggage Train  game. 
And that, dear readers, is enough for now (I think you'll agree!) on my obsession with unit marker systems--just remember, you asked!
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