Wednesday 30 January 2013

A lucky gap between his teeth...

This is something of a departure from my normal posts, as, by choice, my non-wargaming life rarely intrudes on this blog.  However, this is just too good an opportunity to pass up, as it features my father Dennis Miller (below), my mother Shirley (in the background), my very late Uncle Roy and the most of the  Royal Marine School of Music, in Portsmouth.  The below Youtube link explains all...

There is also a link to the BBC South News article.  Here’s a very dramatic link to the British Pathe news article about the loss of HMS Barham, in 1941.  And some more info about the Royal Marine Band School, who gave him a tremendous reception...

I wasn't able to be there on the day, due to the snow, but it has been great to see the links, and I think my dad carried it all off, very well!  He looks very much like a visiting retired General...

He has often observed that, if he hadn’t been born with a gap between his front teeth, then he would have been the other boy bugler on duty, opposite Roy, on the other side of the Barham’s bridge, that day.  They say it is lucky to be born with such a gap; I should add that I was born with one, too!

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Pike Block

Just now, I am painting an awful lot of pikes, and so have developed a system to streamline painting them, built around my invention, the “pike block”.  The major advantage of using such a block it that it’s not necessary to handle the individual spears at each stage of the painting process, which saves a lot of time: it’s a pike production line!

My pike of choice is the Wargame Foundry 100mm.  I cut the pikes down to random lengths between 90mm and 99mm, because  I feel this makes the finished unit look more natural.  These spears don’t have a shaped head, but are a lot blunter than the attractive but lethal North Star pikes (which I do use a lot, on other projects).  The downside it that I need to paint a trompe l’oeil pike head on each, which, luckily, isn’t quite as hard as it sounds.

The “block” itself, above, is assembled from Jenga blocks, glued together and with a layer (or two) of magnetic basing stuck to it.  The magnetic basing holds the steel spears in place whilst I paint them.
  • First I wash and dry the pikes, and prime white
  • Next I paint one half of the pike in Games Workshop Tallarn Sand
  • I paint the final 8mm or so of the pike in Tallarn with a touch of black mixed in
  • Next I paint 7mm of the head in black, leaving a 1mm ring of the shaded Tallarn, visible, this now forms a shadow under the spear head
  • I then paint over the black (leaving as thin a strip of the black as possible to delineate the edge of the spearhead) with a dark metallic, such as GW Leadbelcher
  • Next I paint a slightly lighter strip in GW Ironbreaker, around the 3mm tip of the spear, to depict the blade, and another 2mm band next to the black band, to depict the socket
  • The remaining visible 2mm of Leadbelcher, becomes the waist of the spear
  • I put a tiny dob of GW Runefang Steel on the very tip of the spear
  • Finally, I turn the spear around and paint the other half of the shaft

The stages are depicted above.  The tips look a bit rough, but much less so when on the stand of figures, as below. 

The process sounds complex, but it is quite feasible to paint 40 pikes in an evening, and they look great from a distance, as the eye fills in the details, giving the spears a real impression of having shaped heads.  

Saturday 26 January 2013


Chalkaspides is the term used to describe the bronze-shielded phalangites, in Successor armies.  You may be familiar with the related term agyraspides which indicated silver-shielded guards, and leukaspides, which may have been applied to white-shielded reservists (although Nick Secunda has recently challenged this).

These are the first two completed chalkaspides units (of an eventual five) for my Raphia phalanx.  They are in "Sidon" helmets, my absolute favourite Successor headgear, which marks them out as later Successors.  "Sidons" crop up on the eponymous stelae from Gaza, and in a scene on the Palestrina mosaic.  Stephane Thion tells me that the type may have become general in the later Successor period, and that I might therefore be able to use them as part of a Pontic army.

The miniatures are a mix of Foundry (30%) and Gripping Beast (70%), with mostly Foundry shields gained from a swap with Allen Curtis. 

This gives me 3 complete units of the 12 that I need, although I have got quite a few other painted and part-painted minis ready, waiting for comrades to be painted.

Friday 25 January 2013


Tonight I'm finishing the flocking of the first two line phalanx (photos to follow tomorrow), and tomorrow I start work on the first two native Eygyptian Machimoi phalanx. These will include a number of unarmoured, recently recruited Egyptians, pressesd into service by Ptolemy's leading courtier, Sosibus.

To this end I was very lucky that my Raphia partner in wargaming crime, Craig, very kindly sent me a dozen painted minis, and Shaun aka Redzed, has just most generously chucked me 48 more unpainted, unarmoured minis!  6 of Craig's painted minis are above (the finished ones), mixed in with 6 part painted from ebay, and 6 unpainted. I now need to paint 27 Polemarchs, and add new pikes to 57 more more I bought off Gareth Lane.  Busy, busy, busy!

I'm still on the lookout for the phalanx characters in straw hats, if anyone has any to swap.  I also need lots of the 100mm Foundry steel pins.  If anyone has any spare, I would very happily swap for the 100mm North Star pikes, which I have bags of.  Please email me at the address above.

Sunday 20 January 2013


These are the latest fruits of my Successor Pike mania; the units imaginatively named Phalanx 2 and Phalanx 3.  They are varnished and just need basing/flocking.

I've cut all the pikes to slightly different lengths, and they aren't all upright; I like this effect.

I started to paint the units around 3 years back, but have pulled the stops out over the last month.  I'm trying to paint 18 a week, but falling just a little short... but I think I can catch up due to recent purchase of Raglan's phalangites and getting some blocked in by a professional. The minis are Polemarch (mostly) and Foundry.  I really like the Foundry mini in the Sidon helmet, it paints up beautifully.

Just 384 left to do...  :-)

Thursday 17 January 2013

Welsh Ptolemaics

64 Ptolemaic reinforcements arrive from Raglan's Welsh mountain fastness... these are going to form the front ranks of my 192-strong white shield phalanx, for Raphia.  Huzzah!

Saturday 12 January 2013

Cleopatra is a harsh mistress...

I'm plugging away with my Ptolemaic phalanx, but it is proving quite a job! 

Above are batch 4 (blocked in, not yet stained) and batch 5 (half painted, right), which, when finished, will give me the 96 phalangites I need for my second and third pike blocks (of 11!).  I'm going for varied bright colours for the tunics based on the new Stephane Thion Lagid Army book.

I've fired off 100 pikemen to Dr. Simon's painter, to get them blocked in and will be getting another 64 painted ones from Raglan, so I think I'm slightly ahead of where I need to be at this stage.  No room for complacency, though! My mate Nick is going to paint Ptolemy and his bodyguard, too, which is a result.  I'll be using Aventines for these.

I've also been amending my draft rules to include heffalumps and long pointy sticks.

Finally, my mate Ian has lent me his treasured Bar Kochba account of the battle, which looks like it will be invaluable for understanding deployents and what actually happened on the day.  Already I've decided that I'll be drawing up parts of my phalanx 6 deep, perhaps even deeper... 

Wednesday 9 January 2013

My first magazine article

My first magazine piece, about basing miniatures, came out today, in Wargames, Soldies and Strategy 64.  Woo hoo!  If you want a copy, you can buy it here.  WSS is a great little magazine, and I hope to post there fairly regularly.

Interestingly, Guy the Editor comments that I must disagree with Dr. Phil Hendry's approach to basing.  I actually really like Phil's bases, especially those on his Roman and Sassanids.  He is very consistent, which is what I aim to be, too.

In other news, we played our first game of the New Year last night; the classic Avalon Hill boargame Successors.  This will hopefully make a great background for a campaign, later in the year, once I have enough miniatures painted.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

One last resolution...

...this is the sorry state of the floor in the gaming/dining room in the BigRedBatCave, as of this morning.  There are a mountain of gaming boards at the rear, debris from xmas and a couple of boxes of cider (why?).  Over the next few days, I plan to clear the lot!  Once clear, I'll hopefully be able to get some serious gaming underway, again.