Monday, April 7, 2014

Covering your bases

Last year about this time I decided that I would get into Bolt Action.  I picked up the rules, dice, and some models.

I started work on my armies but didn't get much done in a year.  I got the chance to play a number of games with my friend's armies he has in 1/72nd (~20mm).  I do rather like the platoon level engagement and random activation, it's refreshingly different than "I go, you go" rules such as Flames of War.  The scale seemed perfectly fine and we made no adjustments to measuring.

You have to understand that I'm not an earlier adopter.  I suffered through two Android phones before finally buying a real smartphone when my wife and I updated to Verizon and 5s's.  Only progressing a little bit in a year is consistent with how fast I move on these things.  I have young kids and my wife works a gazillion hours per week so hobby time is constrained.

Various projects in Flames of War always seemed to take precedence over the Bolt Action project this last year and it's a shame.  I have built some nice terrain which you can see on older posts so its not all bad.

Time constraints have led me to concede that I am never going to have the latest game or figures and I am not even going to try.  I never did really.  With that in mind I decided that I should just stick to what I like to collect and paint.  I have lots of Flames of War stuff painted and years worth unpainted so I feel no need to exclusively paint and collect figures for it.  The shear number of infantry figures you need to paint for an Infantry company is staggering by my measure.  My Engineer Combat Company consisted of no less than 180 men plus vehicle crews.  I could easily have several armies or collections in a number of different game systems with that many.

At least 180 individual figures!
With that in mind I have made a major decision to ease off the Flames of War throttle and start some other projects.  I am not giving up on Flames of War just going to branch out.  When I want to work on Flames of War, it will be stuff I have or things I need to fill gaps.  I'll still be posting Flames of War stuff.

The reason I see this as a major decision is that to fill the gap I have decided that I will begin not one, two, or three new projects but 4 new projects.  They will all be in 15mm.  I also do want to do something in 28mm but I haven't figured out what that might be. I'm considering US Airborne in Normandy for a tournament Bolt Action army but that would be a long time from now (1+ years).

I am not going to reveal my projects now because I want to save them for blog posts.  With my Bolt Action armies, which I do intend to complete soon, I will have 5 projects that I am going to work on over the next couple years.  These five projects will scratch all the itches I have for 15mm and "cover all my bases."

Back to Bolt Action and keeping with the "Covering your Bases" theme, I decided that I would go with 15mm figures for a couple reasons.

First off, I never intended to get into the game to play competitively at tournaments.  If I intended to play in tournaments then 28mm would have been the sensible way to go.

Secondly I want to build two forces straight away.  My forces are intended to be house armies that match up reasonably well that I can play at home or visit friends without lugging much stuff.  There are some painting considerations as well because I have done very little in 28mm.

Third I wanted to keep the cost down.  My analysis concluded that I could keep the cost lower by going with 15mm.  Your calculation may be different but, for me there is no debate. 15mm will be cheaper.  I could spend more but I ask myself, "Why?".  If you are similarly inclined I would also check out the box sets from Wargames Factory.  Germans and Americans in 15mm for an insanely low price and decent models at that.

Whatever you think about my decision, it is right for me.  I recently read where someone said doing Bolt Action in 15mm was stupid.  I have to ask "If I am building some armies from the models I like and playing a fun set of rules how could that possibly be stupid?"   If you are building a 15mm Bolt Action army and expecting to play in tournaments that could be stupid.  Then again there may be communities I am unaware of that are doing tournaments in 15mm.

There are several factors that helped me determine I could keep the cost down by going with 15mm.

First, I chose Battlefront's infantry figures because I'm familiar with them and I would get some utility out them for continuing my collection of Flames of War armies.  I have a lot of figures already in 15mm that I doubt I will use anytime soon for Flames of War.  I have extra machine gun teams, mortars, snipers, and lots of basic infantrymen with various weapons.

Second, I am going to use vehicle models I already have for the most part for Flames of War.  I have a 105mm Sherman I almost never use for Flames of War that I am going to allocate to this project.

2D6 HE in your Face!
This keeps, not only real cost down but, opportunity cost as well because I do not need to buy or paint anything for vehicles.  I might pick up a couple odd German vehicles but again I'll get some utility out of them back with Flames of War.

Third, I don't have to collect much new terrain.  I have a beautiful set of Battlefront buildings that I patiently collected over a year and I want to use them.  I've made woods and roads and have a really nice town I can set up along with plenty of countryside terrain including Normandy bocage.  For many of you terrain is not a cost consideration because you game with someone else's terrain or have club terrain.  I need to have it at home or I'd rarely get in a game.  I don't have the space and don't want to start a 28mm terrain collection.

So I have settled on 15mm for Bolt Action and the figures need to be based individually for the most part.  Here's a hint about some of my other projects: they also should be based individually.

I never thought basing these figures would be so complicated.  I painted up a test figure a year ago that I based on a US penny.

I don't like how the basing turned out.  I think the penny is too large.  It's been a huge hangup for me getting this project rolling.  I started looking around for alternatives.  The UK guys apparently have a smaller penny, pence, fractional euro/funny money or whatever they call them that is smaller which seems more appropriate.  I tried to get my hands on some but it was too complicated.  I could buy some MDF bases but decided against it.  After agonizing over it for far too long it came down to a couple options.

Since Bolt Action basically requires individual basing the small Flames of War bases are out.  The penny is out as too large.

That leaves me washers.  Washers have strengths and weaknesses.  On the plus side they are available, cheap, can be magnetized, and come in a number of different sizes.  The major downside is that there is a hole right in the middle which makes attaching your figure troublesome.  I'm going with washers and I need to figure out what size.  I am also trying to make a decision that I can carry through my other 15mm projects.  In this case it all comes down to look and my terrain.

 I want my dudes to go in my nice Battlefront buildings.  If I use washers one figure can stand at each of the eight window/doors in the building and shoot out.  If I use pennies I can't fit as many.

A bit trifling but that is what it came down to along with it looking better in my opinion.  I did up some more test figures to see how it all looked.

On the left we have the original test figure, a US rifleman from 2nd Armored Division in Normandy with camouflage uniform on a US penny. Next is a US Rifleman wearing the all green M1943 uniform in the Autumn of 1944 on a US penny.  I experimented with uniform and basing for this guy.  The two on the right are the M1941 uniform as worn in the earlier African and European operations on a washer.  I have not decided on my basing yet so they are shown un-decorated.  From above you can better see the size differential.

There you have it, as silly as it may be. Here is how I proceeded.  First I selected the washer size I wanted, about 16mm or 5/8".  With this selection my ground scale, when it matters, will be 20mm = 5 feet.  If anyone wants to use pennies their figures will fit in 5 foot (20mm x 20mm) squares still.

I can also do something like this:

Another hint!
Next I paid homage to the Home Despot.

I bought some 7mm diameter by 1mm thick magnets from SuperMagnetMan.

Put the magnet in the hole and glue your figures down with a blob of thick superglue.  Everything sticks together.

I based all the team units on various sized washers with removable figures for casualties like this machine gun team.

So there you have it.  I've finished "covering all my bases" and am working on the painting now.  Stay tuned!