The Free City Sourcebook

Not a roleplaying book, although it sounds like it, and an RPG set in Danzig could be pretty cool, actually, now that I think about it, but the Free City Sourcebook is just-launched site collecting primary source material on that very odd interwar phenomenon, the Free City of Danzig.

Created by the various post-war treaties and governed by League of Nations mandate, the basic theory behind the Free City of Danzig (which is now the Polish city of Gdansk, and the site where the first shots of World War Two were fired) was that because neither Germany nor Poland would let the other rule this important port city on the Baltic, neither of them would. Like most compromises this pleased neither side at all and was constantly undercut by both the German and Polish governments (and by the general weakness of the League of Nations), but the basic theory had some sense behind it.

I haven’t looked at the Free City Sourcebook in massive detail, but there’s a good basic timeline and it looks like an increasing number of links to primary sources, some through things like Google News, some on other third party sites and a number hosted right on the Sourcebook’s own site. It’s always nice to find more people who don’t treat the Interwar Period as some oddball interruption to the two World Wars but as a proper, strange and fascinating historical period in it’s own right. I’ll be following the Sourcebook’s progress with great interest!

(hat tip to the always-fascinating Metafilter, which had a short article on the Free City Sourcebook a few days ago.)

The Workbench This Week, 8 April 2014

So I wound up missing Trumpeter Salute over in Vancouver not because work had shipped me out of town (which I was expecting, except the project is delayed) but more or less because I couldn’t get organized to get myself over there, didn’t have the energy to plan or prep a game to run there, and really, for no particularly good reason at all. The Vancouver gaming crew includes a lot of folks I count as good friends who I really only see at Trumpeter Salute, most years I run something and have a blast doing it, and Vancouver is usually a fun city to spend a few days in, but I just had no enthusiasm this year, even with friends in the city encouraging me to come. I’ve seen some photos and read some reports of what looks like another good year at TS, so here’s to next year and me being in a more conducive mental state around this time of year!

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Not apple juice… Amazons in Pine-Sol for paint stripping. Click for larger, as usual.

So what am I up to, if not Trumpeter? Finally buying Pine-Sol to strip the botched paint job off my Impact Miniatures Amazon BB team, mostly, and basing a few of the Statuesque lunatics I mentioned last post.

The Amazons suffered from a screwed-up primer job, and then I threw paint over that to get them onto the table before I left for the February work trip. Some combination of a really old, nearly empty spraycan and -5 C temps on the day I spray primered them left most of them with a sandpaper-like primer coat, pebbly where it should have been smooth. The Pine-Sol should take all of that off and let me reprime them with new paint in better weather!

The Amazons will stay in their bottle for 48hrs or so, then come out for a scrubbing with an old toothbrush, and hopefully I’ll be able to reprime them this coming weekend.

Blood Bowl Markers

Not having the time or energy right now for larger projects, I’ve been bashing away at a few sets of markers for Blood Bowl teams, both my own and those of some of the folks I game with.

For BB, you need a way to mark several things: the score, each team’s available re-rolls, and the turn, possibly twice as there’s two halves to each game. My BB tracking scenery has a magnetized scoreboard, so I’ll only need three markers – re-roll, First Half turns, Second Half turns – but some setups will also need a fourth marker for the score, so I’ll eventually do sets of four markers for each team.

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Various in-progress markers for Blood Bowl. See text for details, and click for larger.

For my Sarcos crocodile team (Lizardmen, in BB terms) I’ve hacked up a cheap plastic dinosaur skeleton I was given at Trumpeter Salute a couple years ago. Various leg bones cut free and propped up for most of the markers, and the dino skull on a wooden tripod lashed together, over on the left of the photo above. They’ll also serve for the “Swampling” team I mentioned last post – a proxy-Halfling team using Baby Crocs. All three are on spare 25mm slottabases.

For Corey’s Scotlings (Halflings in kilts waving cabers around!) I used a sprue bunch of Rendera’s plastic barrels on spare bases for quick, easy markers. Each marker has a different arrangement of barrels on 25mm bases.

The Milliput things on the right are Chaos obelisks for Sean’s new Chaos team – stone twisted into disturbing shapes by raw, chaotic magic, or similar. The leftmost one was the first, and actually started with me messing with leftover Milliput last week at the end of an evening. I started twisting it around gently after smoothing a lump over an older, hardened lump of putty, and the resulting shape was too cool not to keep playing with! The middle obelisk still needs more putty around the base to finish it, and the rightmost one is still just a few lumps of leftover putty mashed together and will need a good bit more work to finish. Again, these will go onto spare 25mm slottabases.

My Amazon team will eventually get a set of worn stone plinths, made of pink styrofoam and Milliput, but I confess I haven’t start those markers yet and don’t even have a really good motif in mind for them… might start looking at Mayan or other Central American designs for inspiration there, as the team is named the Jaguars and the Impact Miniatures Blitzers for the team have cat-skin heads and cloaks.

Lizards & Lunatics

Had two small orders come in last week. I have been saving money for an epic bike vacation to Europe in a few months (Vienna, Austria to Nantes, France over six weeks!) and not ordering much new stuff for wargaming the last few months, which is one of several reasons it’s been quiet around here. Nevertheless, some new stuff comes in every so often!

The first order was from Impact Miniatures, all Blood Bowl/fantasy football related stuff. A set of three block dice, two of their football markers, and eight more Baby Crocs – Skinks, basically, for their Sarcos Crocodile team, which I bought last year.

The footballs are neat. I haven’t confirmed with Impact, but I’m pretty sure they’re 3D-printed – they’re a slightly flexible resin-like stuff, with a large spike-adorned football and a ring/loop so you can hang the football of a figure’s arm or around their neck or shoulder when they’re carrying the ball. Imagine the sort of cheap charm ring you get in Christmas crackers, except in white resin and with a spiked football instead of a fake jewel. It’s a great idea for Blood Bowl or other fantasy football games and a much easier way to show which figure has the ball than the freestanding individual balls, which can be awkward to balance on some figure bases.

I already have eight Baby Crocs, so why double the local population? So I can proxy Baby Crocs as Halflings and field a BB team of Croclings, mostly! I’ve heard that Halflings are a challenging team to use and don’t expect them to win much, but what the heck, they’ll be entertaining. Corey also has a team of Impact’s Scotlings (Halfings in kilts with cabers) so a Scotling-vs-Crocling matchup should be entertaining.

I’ll also be using a few of the extra Baby Crocs as auxiliary figures for my existing Sarcos team. Cheer-crocs with greenstuff pompoms added to their hands, maybe an apothecary-croc with a barrel of go-juice to get injured players back on the pitch, that sort of thing – the fun, oddball sideline figures that round out a BB team.

Oh, and for the Treemen on the Croclings team, I’ll probably pick up a pair of these Reaper Bones Spirit of the Forest figures and convert them a bit as swamp-flavoured Treemen. Like the Impact Trollcast resin figures, the Reaper Bones plastic resin figures are a great thing, nice figures in easy-to-convert material for a very good price!

The other order is from Statuesque Miniatures in the UK, and as oddball as the Impact order was, this order was definitely crazier. Crazed, in fact, and lunatic, as it included six Frothing Loonies, a small girl, and a pulp hero & heroine! All part of a special introductory bundle deal Statuesque had put on back in the first week of March.

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Lunatics & Heroes. 28mm figures from Statuesque. Head sprues for the lunatics at the bottom, headless lunatic bodies, then (L to R at top) Lillie, Pulp Girl & Phantom Ace. Click for larger, as always.

The six loonies have three different bodies and a sprue of six heads. Because I got two packs of three figures each, I have two of each body and two full sprues of heads, so I have half a dozen spare lunatic heads now – fodder for converting other figures, perhaps! The bodies are in hospital robes (yes, they’re all partially open at the back, in proper hospital robe style…) and have shackles on their wrists. The heads look suitably lunatic, and most have obvious scars across their shaved heads where diabolical, insanity-causing surgery was undoubtedly been performed by mad doctors!

The small girl is Lillie Poots, who wanders the world curious and unafraid, her path lit by the large lantern she holds up in one hand.

The pulp hero is Phantom Ace, a large man in flying leathers, helmet and goggles, with a pair of automatic pistols, one in each hand. Pulp Girl, his crimefighting companion, is a slender teenage girl with some sort of mystical or weird-science apparatus on one wrist and hand.

All the Statuesque figures are very cleanly sculpted and beautifully cast, with hardly a mold line or casting vent mark to be seen. The adult figures are bulky 28mm, sized to go with Pulp Figures, Copplestone and other common pulp lines. The only downside to them is they’re all designed to fit on slottabases, which I strongly dislike – my Blood Bowl teams are the only figures I own that I mount on slottas. I’ll be snipping the mounting bars off all of these figures and putting them on pennies or other flat bases to match my existing pulp collection. That aside, they’re lovely figures and I’ll be keeping an eye on Statuesque in the future as they expand their pulp ranges – I believe they’re going to be adding asylum staff and other asylum denizens at some point.

… And We’re Back…

When you forget to renew the primary domain your entire web presence depends on, and then have to wait a weekend for the #%^#@% bank to sort your credit card out and pay for that renewal, it becomes kind of hard for people to actually view the website(s) that you have.

Anyway, things are sorted out and running again, and I’ve gotten a couple of small packages of interesting bits and pieces that I’ll write about later this week!

In the meantime, over on Lead Adventure, the always-spectacular Lead Painters League is running. Go check out all the shiny, awesome painting!

Retreat From Moscow

Back in late January, two of the gamers of our group put together a 28mm Napoleonic “Retreat from Moscow” game that was a blast – everyone had a small group of French officers and soldiers, all the main officers had personal side missions or special motivations they could do for extra VP, and the GM ran all the Russian forces.

Pretty much every Frenchman died by the end of the game, mostly run down by the pursuing Russian light horse, often after being distracted by their side mission or after attempting clever things like cutting through the forest instead of just following the road. Oh, and at least one was bashed over the head by an angry Russian peasant!

I contributed my nominally-Russian Civil War buildings to the game; the rest of the figures are from the collections of the two guys who ran it, and the base rules were GW’s out of print Legends of the Old West (LotOW) which are a good, flexible, sane set of blackpowder skirmish/light RPG rules that work well with small parties of figures.

The four photos I took are all up on Flickr; click on any of these photos to see the full-size version over there.

Retreat from Moscow I

Retreat from Moscow II

Retreat from Moscow III

Retreat from Moscow IV - The End

The Year of Missing Conventions…

Victoria’s GottaCon is running this weekend, and as I’ve just flown back into town from a work assignment elsewhere in the province, I’m missing the entire thing! I’d go for Sunday, but having been away for five weeks I’ve got too many errands to run and non-gaming real life to catch up on.

Worse, it looks like I’m going to be on a short turnaround and leaving town yet again for another work assignment later in March, so there’s a very good chance I’ll miss Vancouver’s excellent Trumpeter Salute convention this year, for the first time in four years. I was looking forward to doing either pulp gaming or Russian Civil War, too. There’s a great group of gamers and friends over in Vancouver, many of whom I only see at the Trumpeter show.

That aside, I am painting again, both Blood Bowl teams and other stuff. I even took paints and figures with me on my recent field assignment, and got some decent painting done in the hotel room a couple of evenings. There’s a great group of random thugs from Pulp Figures on my desk right now, and I’m going to be stripping the paint off my Amazon BB team and re-doing them from scratch because about half of them had the primer go on sort of rough. It was an old can and I was spraying on a colder than normal day; it’s the first time in years of spray priming I’ve had that sort of finish!

Blood Bowl Team Roster PDF

When I started this whole Blood Bowl thing back in December, part of the joke was “playing a GW game without giving GW a cent”. Parts of this are easy – the rules PDF is given away, lots of other companies make fantasy football players, and pitches and tracking sheets are easy enough to make. The one tricky bit turned out to be the team roster – it seems like all you can find online is blurry JPG images of other people’s roster sheets.

I finally got a copy clear enough to read, then it was easy to re-create as a spreadsheet in LibreOffice.

Here’s the PDF of that, if it’s useful for anyone else: BB Team Roster PDF. Permission, as always, granted to copy or print for personal use. Enjoy, and try not to roll Attacker Down on the Block dice too often!

Blood Bowl Tracking Sheet PDF

I’m in the middle of the five-week field assignment for work, so away from most of my usual gaming habits and my workbench. All is not lost, however, because the co-worker I’m on this thing with is also a miniature gamer and we decided to bring our Blood Bowl teams along and have an “Exiles Micro League” of two players and four teams while we’re away. It’s something to do other than watch terrible TV during evenings in the hotel suite!

I brought a new 30mm fabric BB pitch along, made with felt. This isn’t the dark brown one seen here previously, this one is tan felt and a significant improvement over my first attempt at a BB pitch. I’ll get photos of it at some point, probably after I get home at the end of February.

Along with the pitch and teams, I realized we needed a tracking sheet, as I haven’t brought along my tracking scenery due to lack of luggage space. I broke out the ever-reliable Inkscape and worked up a basic tracker – space for two sides to track phases for two halves, re-rolls and score, as well as the two scatter templates.

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Thumbnail of my Blood Bowl tracking sheet. Full PDF file below!

As we played we added a few things with pencil – quick reference notes, mostly, as well as a shared dugout space for players in Reserve, KO’d or Casualties. I’ve gone back into Inkscape to add those to the tracker sheet, and added some colour and graphic flourishes as well. Hopefully someone else finds this useful!

BB Tracker Sheet PDF – permission granted to copy or print for personal use. Included Public Domain graphics from the Open Clipart Library.

Third Anglo-Afghan War Resources

The Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919 is a short (May-August 1919) and often forgotten war, and an interesting product of both the aftermath of the Great War, Afghan domestic politics of the time, and ongoing issues along the North-West Frontier of India (as one might guess given this is the Third Anglo-Afghan War…). The Wikipedia article is a good basic rundown, but more specialized material is available online, often for free.

Khyber.org’s Army in India & Frontier Warfare 1914-1939 set me to looking for interwar Northwest Frontier & 1919 Third Afghan War material online, along the lines of my earlier Great War Resources article.

It turns out the Khyber.org article I first found is republished (with permission) from King-Emperor.com which has more good NWF/3AW stuff.

I was somewhat surprised (but pleased!) to find the British Army’s 1925 Manual of Operation on the North-West Frontier of India on the US Army’s CARL Digital Library website. It’s obviously post-3rd Anglo-Afghan, but the NW Frontier really didn’t change that much in the inter-war decades. (Indeed, you could argue it hadn’t changed much since the expansion of British India in the mid-19th C created the Frontier in it’s familiar form… you could probably even argue that it hasn’t changed much today, but I’m not a modern-era wargamer and I’ll stay focused on the WW1/Interwar Era, thanks…)

There’s also Mountain Warfare on the Sand Model via the Internet Archive. Date of publication unknown, mid-1930s is the best I can do given the references and other publications mentioned in this one. Designed as a series of tactical exercises for junior officers; the application to modern wargaming should be obvious! The other “Useful Publications” by the same publisher mentioned in the book don’t seem to have made it online, which is a pity. I might well be doing a more detailed post here about this book at some point later, actually. It’s a neat series of exercises that could be easily adapted to gaming.

“Passing it On: Short Talks on Tribal Fighting on the North-West Frontier of India” (1932) by Sir Andrew Skeen is mentioned on several websites and in contemporary publications, but it doesn’t seem to be online. At least one Amazon listing claims to have it available, but I have my doubts about that sort of dodgy-looking Amazon listing… Given that military operations in the NWF/Afghanistan area are back in the news this century, there is an edited and republished version of this book from 2011, with some new material. I might have to add this to my long-dormant Amazon wishlist!

“Operations in Waziristan 1919-1920″ is an official history by the British Indian Army’s General Staff; it’s available as PDF on both the US Army’s CARL site and or via the Internet Archive.

The full “Official History of the Third Afghan War” doesn’t appear to be online anywhere, but it is available for £18 from Naval & Military Press in the UK. I have several other NMP facsimile reprints, and they’re very good quality books. NMP also have Lessons in Imperial Rule, originally published 1908, which sounds fascinating.

Wargaming Resources

Lots of companies have suitable Great War British figures in the famous tropical-issue pith helmet – in 28mm, I really like Brigade Games, and have heard good things about Woodbine Design’s WW1 in the East range. Copplestone Castings’ Brits are nicely sculpted but very, very large and bulky figures.

Over on the Afghan side, for Afghan regulars in 28mm we’re currently out of luck, which is unfortunate. For tribal Afghans Empress has the best figures in their slowly-expanding Jazz Age Imperialism line – and they’ve talked about adding Afghan regulars to that line, I believe! Old Glory Miniatures has a line of Afghan/Pathan tribesmen amongst their varied ranges. I’ve not seen them in person but apparently there are many nice figures in the lineup; I’ve heard it described as OG’s best-sculpted group of figures. They’re technically for the late-19th C, but from 3rd AAW-era photos I’ve seen, tribal dress didn’t change much.

If you have any further links, please stick them in the comments below!