In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Friday, April 23, 2010

In the Irony Dept.

Frustrated in my attempts to start the lawn mower (broken priming bulb methinks...) I decided to wander about the yard and pick up the assorted rubbish that had blown in from my neighbours garbage over the winter. I'm getting a good arm load and just thinking I need a bag when I chance upon a seredipitous bag beside a rose bush. It's a nice bag too, in pretty good shape. Not even sure it had even been used before since the folds were so neat.

So I unfold it and stuff in my wrappers, Timmies cup, foil and soiled pie plate when I notice the bag is sporting the recycling symbol and the slogan:
Be the Difference. Support a Green Ontario.

Rather like the bumper sticker I saw a while back:
Support Ontario Farmers. Buy Local.
on the back of a VW Jetta! Unlike Toyota or Honda, VW doesn't have any plants in North America.

But then how many CAW workers sporting the
Out of Job Yet? Keep Buying Foreign!
bumper sticker shop at Wal-Mart where 97% of the crap they will buy is made in China?

These are all good thoughts and intentions, but the road to hell and all that. The Devil is in the details and the problems come in the application of these lofty sentiments.

Of course the Detroit Three are gleefully sending production to the Developing World (like my nice job went to Korea), so what does buying foreign or buying domestic really mean anymore? CAW workers (well those who still have jobs) making their $20-30 or more an hour can actually afford to spend a bit more and take politics into consideration. They can actually afford to Buy Canadian rather than buying the cheap stuff at Sprawl-mart, but (judging from the support for a local Wal-Mart that was voiced on the shopfloor when I worked in an autoplant) they don't for the most part. But when someone on Social Assistance or Minimum wage comes into the Buy Food to purchase their meager groceries, they have to go with what's cheap (which usually means China or South America), so I can't really fault them.

And a Jetta isn't a cheap car to buy or maintain, so what kind of message is that farmer sending?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Busman's Holiday

I tagged along with my Snugglebunny while she did some grocery shopping for work the other day. Her employer has a charge account with Zehr's so that's where she goes. After months of working at the Buy Food it was a shocker.

The Buy Food is an old fashioned, built in the early 70s, neighbourhood grocery store of the type you don't see any more. They've all been bull dozed or turned into Giant Tigers or convenience stores or something. So I walk into Zehr's and it's like a Medieval cathedral; the ceilings are lost in the vaulted heavens, you can't see either end of the store because of the curvature of the earth and need a bus to get from Dairy to the Deli (transfer at Children's Wear). Serried ranks of bottles and cans await my purchasing decision. They have 20 feet of toilet paper. TWENTY FEET!! I've got 4 feet each for toilet paper, paper towels and tissues. And really packages of TP only come so small nowadays so I think some product lines ought to be cut from the mix.

They probably do in a couple days what we sell in a month. But I think we do get a lot of people who like the human size of the Buy Food and find the other stores a bit too overwhelming. Now the yuppie fellow who came in looking for coconut milk and lemon grass for his Thai recipe had to be sent away dissapointed... the Old El Paso taco seasoning and Wong Wing frozen chicken balls are about as exotic as my Fail Street and No Daddy Lane customers want to get. Ragu pasta sauce being on sale for .97 cents, now that's excitement.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reinforcements for Herbie Canuck

It all started with Tau.
Yeah, Tau. Those ultrasleek space commies from Warhammer 40K. I had met the then President of Games Workshop Canada socially and commented that I thought the, then new, Tau were the most interesting thing GW had released in a while. So like a good drug pusher who uses free samples to get you hooked, the next time we met he gave me a few packs to start a Tau army.
"Hey cool," I think. Free stuff is always welcome. Besides friends played 40K so I thought maybe I could play with them. And I liked the sleek SF look to the army with the drones and grav tanks and sleek modern looking helmets. So much nicer than the spikey goth Mad Max refugee look of the rest of the 40K universe. Then I started planning an army and realized that they really needed their tanks and at least 3 to 5 tanks at that. Each unit of basic squaddies requires an expensive Infantry Fighting Vehicle model at about $50 to $60 a piece. Ouch.
That's a lot of money for a rule system I'm not particularly keen on just to play with my buddies. So I took what I had and traded it in at a local FLGS that carried GW and Flames of War (like every other FLGS). I got a $50 credit which I promptly used on a Battlefront "British Rifle Company" boxed set. This gave me two platoons and a nifty resin HQ bunker.
Here they are posed among my Italian ruins:

Here is the command bunker. I've added a trio of Peter Pig's "Tommies having a brew" to set the tone:

Of course I had to add some tanks. What's WW2 without tanks? Two troops of Shermans from Old Glory purchased using someone's Old Glory Army card which put them at a more economical $5 a model. Each troop has three Sherman Vs and a Sherman Vc Firefly. I want the army to be able to fight scenarios from the landings in Sicily in '43 to the end of the war in North West Europe so Fireflies were needed.

Radio antenna on the tanks and the FOO (you can see him follwing the rifle sections in the second picture) are made from the nylon bristles from a cheap Dollar store snow brush. That was pretty much where my army sat for a while; one understrength rifle company and two troops of tanks. Needless to say, they got their asses handed to them in the first few games.
I quickly set about adding some supporting elements. Since I play I Ain't Been Shot, Mum from Too Fat Lardies I wanted supporting elements appropriate to a rifle company. Units organic to a rifle battalion would be first; carrier platoon, mortar platoon and anti-tank platoon. Given the nature of the terrain in Italy a lot of the Brigade and Divisonal assets got stuck in the rear without room to deploy anyway, leaving the battle to the rifle companies adavancing behind an artillery barrage. IABSM puts the artillery suitably off table, so the artillery support is well represented by the FOO team already.
At Hotlead 2009 I was able to get a Battlefront 3" mortar platoon blister. That is one thing I like about the Battlefront packaging for their Flames of War miniatures; you buy a blister pack and it has everything you need for that platoon. It makes life easy instead of the Old Glory bags with 50 figures, then you need to buy a bag of Bren gunners (50 more!) then PIAT teams then command etc. etc. See the issue?
Here's Number 3 Platoon serving their 3" mortar tubes in an Italian farmyard while some staff wallahs pore over a map and in the background.

The staff group are from the Battlefront British artillery command pack, which I bought for the two Bren carriers and jeep. The wind screen on the jeep was missing, so I emailed BF and they promptly sent me a whole new blster, so for the price of two I now have 4 Bren carriers and two jeeps (ironically both missing windscreens). I used extra bits from some German field cars to make windscreens and gave the second staff vignette to the Mad Padre. The carriers I turned into a patrol from Number 4, Carrier, Platoon and added a .50 cal and Browning .30 cal. machine gun to two of the carriers to boost their firepower. From my readings carrier crews did that and some of them bristled with scrounged weapons that would make a Games Workshop sculptor weep. Of course I've forgotten to photograph them. Oops.
Edit: Here they are, late for the party! [Added 09/27/10]

During all this time I was off work and money for the project was tight. Fortunately a friend wanted help painting some German paratroopers and had lots of extras from his own 15mm Canadian army to trade. So those big bags from Old Glory came in handy.
Here are some 6 pounder antitank guns from Number 6 Platoon:

The guns are Battlefront and two of the crews are as well. Those crews are actually 8th Army figures in the African shorts. But a bit of filing and some paint and they look like they're wearing battledress trousers. For the other two guns I cobbled together crews from extra figures. The fellow loading the shell is actually holding a PIAT trimmed down and the fellow behind is actually holding a 2" mortar, but I've got enough 2" mortar crews for a Division! But with some trimming, some paint and hiding things in the flocking they all look pretty good from more than a foot away.
Next to be added was a Vickers machinegun platoon from the Divisional MG battalion. The Old Glory bags feature MG teams walking and firing. Brian and I split a bag so I got 4 teams firing and a bunch trudging up the line. Here they are marching past a burned out Sherman:

Here they are deployed in some shell craters ready to drive off the expected counterattack and support the next stage in the advance:

Lastly comes a patrol of Old Glory Dingo armoured scout cars from the Divisonal Armoured Recce Regiment. I got one in trade from Brian and two more Mike picked up for $5 at the Cold Wars 2010 flea market. They don't look like much but in WW2 one apparently did knock out a Panther with a lucky shot from it's Bren gun. They caught the Panther unawares as it was driving down a narrow twisting street and hit the exposed crew commander. In his surprise and panic the driver reversed into a wall and brought an entire house down on top of them putting the tank out of action.

Above it all flies a 1/100th scale Spitfire. I also have a 1/144th scale RN Hellcat with rockets and sporting Invasion stripes, but I thought the Spit was more suitable air support for Italy. The Spit was a pre-painted quick to asemble kit. The Hellcat was one of those prepainted jobs you can pick up at Walmart. I got both super cheap.

So far, so good. I've got about another company's worth of riflemen (more trade goods from Brian) and two more 3" mortar teams to paint. This will enable me to launch battalion attacks with two companies forward. Of course, I'd like to add more Shermans, carrier sections and some Humber armoured cars to support the Dingos. I can always use more Bren carriers and jeeps and I don't have any 15 cwt trucks. Then for NW Europe things like Wasps and Churchill engineering tanks start showing up.
But still it's a reasonably well balanced force now and since I got most of it in trade or second hand I think I may have spent about $50 total so far. That would've gotten me one tank in 40K. I think I'm ahead of the game.
Herbie was apparently the nick name for Canadian squaddies during WW2 after the popular cartoon published in the Canadian army magazine featuring the sad-sack Herbie in his baggy battledress, getting in trouble with MPs, staff officers and QM Sergeants.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Some Horse and Musket

I don't normally get to do much horse and musket era painting. Shame really. I started war gaming with HO scale Airfix plastic Napoleonics and loved it. And I have a largish Seven Year's War (SYW) 15mm Prussian army which is languishing in it's box. They get out to play about once a year and that inspires a brief period of sorting out some new figures to paint which then get set aside as other projects take precedence.

But a client has had me paint some figures for his SYW French army and I've rather enjoyed it. Here are some Grenadiers from a converged grenadier battalion. 24 figures. Each 4 figure company had different facings, waist coat and pant colours to keep track of.

Also a couple of small 6 or 7 figure Cuirassier regiments; namely Regiments Damas and Conde.

The client is going to base them himself on precut Litko bases and use his own flock to keep everything looking uniform within his army. I agree, nothing makes an army look less tied together than different basing and flocking styles for each unit.

I also did some generals:

And some cavalry trumpeters. In the French army the musicians wore the King's livery, hence the blue coats with red and white trim. In other countries the musicians were paid by the colonel.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Adventures at the Buy Food

It's amazing how busy one gets with the whole working for a living thing.

Life at the Buy Food isn't so bad. The shifts blow. It takes all week to get my sleep schedule back in order just to go back for a couple of weekend midnight shifts! Plus I'm never home for proper dinners.

But the work is OK. Boxes come in. I unload the skids and stock the shelves. Most of the time the customers are pretty nice too. If the pay was better I'd even be OK with staying but minimum wage is pretty minimal. I hate stocking cat food though. It all looks the same (picture of a cat) and the flavours are chicken, beef, tuna, liver, beef and liver, chicken and tuna, seafood surprise, mariner's catch (and the difference is...?), salmon, tuna and salmon, beef-chicken-liver with gravy, turkey, turkey and wombat, panda and dolphin, unicorn and pony, and then repeat but add 'grilled'. Get the idea? The little beasts would be happy with diced rat chunks anyway.

Dogs are simple. Chicken, beef and lamb. There you are. We got kibble too. I have noticed that food specially marketed for small dogs is very similar to cat food. Which, I think, speaks more to the owners than the dogs. Interesting pop-psych study in marketing I'm sure. Then agian, maybe it's already been done and that's why small dog food is the way it is.

I am constantly amazed at what people will eat though. I was stocking boxes of mashed potato flakes the other day. $2.49 a box. You could buy, like, 8 POUNDS of potatoes for that much! How hard is it to boil and mash some potatoes? Need some zip? add some garlic salt or herbs, or both. We also sell bags of 'Just Potatoes.' Yup. Bags of frozen potato cubes for those who are too lazy or inept to peel and cut up their own potatoes. I can understand the pre-cut turnips, because cutting turnips can at times require a Viking broadsword and a tree stump, but potatoes?

I also have a nightmare in which I come to work and everything is in either pizza, chocolate or coffee flavour. I know I'm not the most normal guy, but if I want a coffee I'll buy a coffee. I don't want coffee in my yogurt or icecream. Probably why I don't have a career in product developement I guess.

Most of my co-workers are good too. I'm getting a different view of my manager and department manager from the one my daughter (who works in the deli and bakery) has. The Boss is doing the best he can with a limited budget and demanding corporate bosses. Most of the kdis are OK, but wierd. But they're teenagers. They get easily distracted and still need to learn how to talk and work at the same time. But steer them n the right direction and they do fine.

The other thing that kept me away from blogging was Hotlead ( 2010. Another resoundingly successful weekend of more miniature war gaming fun than you can shake a pair of d6 at. A regular attendee donated a really large nicely handmade terrain piece which we raffled off for $2 a ticket. I over anticpated it's appeal and bought a couple of rolls of raffle tickets. I think we only sold about 600. But that and the cut we take from the Bring and Buy raised an even $2000 for charity.

Everything rolled along with minimal headaches and hassles this year. I didn't have to do too much to get the event schedule filled with 50 events ranging from ancient pike phalanxes to spacemarines. Which was good, since I was pretty distracted with school and then the frantic job search. No complaints. Everyone had fun and even my Snugglebunny who holds down the door for me thought the show went well and the gamer funk was lower this year. She thinks the new venue being a bit nicer has scared off our sketchier attendees. Or else everyone has matured and learned how to bathe...

I even played a game Saturday afternoon. Here's me explaining why our Soviet armoured spearhead is smoking:

Too bad I had to work. But this weekend being Easter, the Buy Food is closed today and Sunday so I get two days off (one of which I even get holiday pay for!) Plus all minimum wage earners in Ontario get a raise to $10.25. So life is looking up.