Wednesday, 29 July 2020

More long pointy sticks

A quickly-snatched picture of some Burgundians that I’m working on- mostly painted by Shaun McTague, with some by Lionel Bechara and a couple painted by me. I’m adding facial details, highlights and shading. 

This block will be 48 strong and will provide opposition for my Swiss (who are presently awaiting reinforcements). Later, I quite fancy adding some Low Country contingents, which often served in some Burgundian armies in the livery of their own cities, perhaps under guild banners, and which would help me to field Maximilian’s Hapsburg Burgundians.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Switzers II

I've finished up most of the remaining minis for the first two Swiss keils- adding a highlight and matt ink wash over Shaun's painting. I now just need the final 2 dozen pikes, the flags and some new bases that I've had designed for the project. In the meanwhile, I will base the 18 skirmishing arquebusiers and a command stand, which will help clear some space for the expected reinforcements, and I'll prep some more minis for the remaining 2 (or 3?) keils.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Switzers I

Here are my first two Swiss pike keils, forming up. All the minis are Perrys, painted by Shaun McTague, and highlighted and inked by me. They are mounted in threes on temporary painting blocks (magnetised Jenga blocks).

Here's the Berne phalanx, and mascot. The spare painting blocks are for the balance of the minis- Shaun has painted most of these and I'm filling in the gaps at the rate of 15 minis per day.

...and here's Uri. 

I plan to have 4 keils of pike (possibly 5). When completed, each keil will have 96 minis- mostly pike with a few halberdiers and command minis.  Several will also have an attached unit of skirmishing arquebusiers, and there will be a handful of light cavalry.   I'll also have the option of fielding a keil of pure halberdiers, for the early period, and I will be able to swap out some of the central pike, for halberdiers, in the transitional period. I'll describe the basing system in a later post.

Here's a close-up- I'm using the metal Perry Swiss heads on plastic bodies, with some metals mixed in, and some conversions. The chap in the middle, Lofty, is a cut'n'shut (WotR torso, Swiss legs) who came out on the tall side. Shaun, who painted him, calls him "the man with the two bums". :)

It's a big project- 500++ minis- but with Shaun doing the heavy lifting, it's going rather swiftly. I'd like to think I'll have the first two keils based in around a month's time. 

PS If you fancy a Swiss army of your own, have a look at the Swiss army list for TtS!, and also the special rule for "field squares."

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Weekly catch-up

This week I received some much-needed reinforcements from the Perrys. I must have already gone through at least 20 boxes of their Wars of the Roses plastics, and here are almost as many, again. They got the order out really quickly; kudos to them, great customer service. I also bought some metals, not shown.

On Wednesday we had a power cut, and I took this atmospheric shadow photo of my current painting project, by torchlight, silhouetted against a sofa in the background. It looks very much like a grainy 1930's movie. I'll take a proper pic of the minis, next week.

The weather round here has alternatively been rainy and sunny, and consequently the plants are doing really, really well. Above, red cabbages forming nice heads; below, the potato (5' high) and spinach bed. This gardening lark is very rewarding; who knew?

This is our first cauliflower- with Perry mini for scale purposes! Consumed, yesterday night, in a cauliflower cheese (the cauli, that it, not the Perry).

Finally, here's a  better shot of the winner's trophy from the recent online tournament- now flocked and in the post to Andy Lyons. It's on a Warbases counter, so super as a victory medal counter.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

TtS! 1066 Online Tournament- the Final Results!

Congratulations to Andy Lyon, our new Bretwalda,  who won the TtS! 1066 online tournament, and commiserations to Antony Spencer, who came second, after a very closely fought battle last night. 

Here's a shot from late in the game (above). Antony subsequently broke Andy's centre, but the heavy casualties he took doing so, and Andy's mercenary Normans taking his camp, led to a Scottish victory (below). 

Andy wins the Harald Hardrada victor's trophy. I think the mini was painted by James Morris- I still need to flock the base.  There will be modest prizes for the runners-up, including Wyatt Traina who came fourth (I came third)- I'll post them out tomorrow.

Thanks very much to everyone who participated in the tournament!. It's been great fun meeting new players, and all very good-natured. I've played way more games than I expected I would, this year! We played 59 games, in total- almost as many as are played at the TtS! Worlds in Chalgrove.

There will be another tournament starting in 3-4 weeks time- on the theme of the Italian Wars. It'll run for a longer duration, but with people playing a single game (or at most two) per week, which I hope will benefit those players who have busy jobs. It will also have what I hope will be an interesting campaign background, running in parallel with the tournament. I'll let you know more about it as we get closer to starting.

In other news, we are in the last few days of my current sale and I have rules, bases and even some mats marked down. Parcel postage prices to the USA will increase from Sunday, so it's a particularly good time to buy if you are American.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Coustilliers II

Last night, I couldn't resist starting to base most of the finished coustilliers up with their knights. Here are a couple of quickly snatched photos. In the front are two units of 18 Venetian knights/coustillers, each, and, at the back is the front rank of a unit of Florentine knights, as yet lacking supports.  Hopefully, when I add my Milanese, I'll eventually be able to form seven units of 18 knights, and four units of light cavalry.

I'm mounting most of the minis for these armies on the FK&P6 base (my personal favourite). I can fit all 15 bases into a single 7L Really Useful Box.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020


I've not been painting much, recently, but am just getting back in the saddle. Here are some minis painted my chum Shaun McTague for me, that I've just done a wee bit of additional highlighting, and inked. Most will serve as the coustilliers (rear ranks) of my Venetian knights, and the rump will be join my projected Florentine army. They are mostly Perry WOTR light cavalry; superb little models. The mounted crossbows are Perry metals on plastic horses; they work better than the plastic crossbowmen, I think, because the plastic crossbows look too large for mounted use.

In other news.... the Midsummer Madness online tournament is going from strength to strength! So far we've played over 40 games, and will likely have played over 60 by the 24th, when it ends with a Grand Final. It's probably the only big battle tournament running in the World, just now.

Here's a shot from the end of my last battle with Simon Purchon, which I narrowly won when my brave Anglo-Saxons braved the Welsh arrow-storm to chop up his Combrogi with their Dane-axes. It's been a lot of fun, and a great success- so I very much hope we'll run another tournament, later in the summer.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Everything coming up (bar) roses

A brief digression from wargaming. The garden has been a rare beneficiary of lock down. This new bed has cabbages, red cabbages, green beans, broccoli cauliflower and a solitary courgette plant. It had previously been an abandoned play area, for at least ten years, and it's great to see it in use. The scarecrow is there because pigeons have been at the caulis.

Broad beans and rhubarb.

I am really chuffed with these- first crop potatoes in pots, improvised planters and a grow bag. We put a lot of potatoes in because of the food scarcities back in March.

Little gem lettuces in £1 plastic planters.

This was our original raised bed- peas, spring onions, spinach, rocket and onions.

And finally the big new raised bed. This has been really exciting- I was worried that it might prove too shady, but the main crop potatoes are coming through big-time, also the carrots and spinach. 

We have been assiduously watering everything every day- ten watering cans, or so. This year it's all been about vegetables, on account of the crisis, but next year we'll plant some flowers and possibly put in a small pond for wildlife. It's been a whole lot of fun!

Monday, 18 May 2020

Midsummer Madness- Week 1 results!

We've been running the online To the Strongest! 1066 online tournament for a week, and, so far, ten players have played eight games between them- which is a super start.

Here's a shot from a game I played with Alex Meyers, this week. Alex played a bewildering number of Aces- four, out of eight cards, in one (all-to-brief for Alex) turn, captured in the photo. The game was very close- I won by only two medals.

One of the nice things about an online tournament is that once can play people all around the world- Alex is in Belgium. Next week I hope to play some US opponents.

Here are the scores at the end of week one; points depend upon victories and the number of games played, with a positive bonus for playing at least one game in a week. Most of us played one or two games, Paul played three. 

STOP-PRESS corrected results!

We have a couple more players starting this week, and I'm hoping to game with a couple of the other players, this week, who have signed up but haven't played yet. If you'd like to join in, just drop em an email at the address on the left and I'll help you to sort out your first game!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Mid-Summer Madness Tournament- first game!

Last night I played the first game of the To the Strongest! 1066 online tournament against Howard Litton (Limejelly3). I drew Harald Hardrada's Norwegians (ie Vikings), and Howard drew King Malcolm's Scots. The terrain was one of the more open versions.

I won't go through the game in too much details but I planned to charge and chop my way through his line with my Huscarls, and he to outflank me. We both achieved our objectives, more or less, as you can see above. King Malcolm was seriously wounded and carried from the field, and I was lucky enough to win the game by a slender one victory medal margin.

A huge hats-off to Antony, who set the online version up, and to Paul Thompson who showed us how to play online.

The tournament will run until Mid-Summer Day (24th June) and it's not too late to join in- if you'd like to turn a few virtual cards, drop me an email at simonmiller60 at gmail dot com!

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Knights of Terra Firma II

Here's my second unit of Venetian knights. These are a repaint, re-base and  and expansion of an earlier unit (below); they look all the better for it. They were too drab, before. There's a WIP shot, here.  On the painting tray, I have the figures required to add a second rank- I'll be using units of 18 knights and cousilliers on a 20cm grid. I find myself drifting towards modelling the battle of Fornovo.

In other news, I'm recruiting players for an online TtS! tournament, called Midsummer Madness, starting next week. If you'd like to join in, please drop me an email at the address above and to the left. It'll be a blast!

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

TtS! Midsummer Madness

Midsummer Madness is a pop-up on-line To the Strongest! tournament designed to while away the isolated evenings of early summer 2020. The tournament will commence on Monday 11th May and finish on Wednesday 24th June- Midsummer’s Day- with a Grand Final between the two players who had recorded the highest scores on the previous Sunday (21st June). I’ll provide various prizes.

Simply email me at the address above, giving me your “Discord” handle and I will record you as a participant.  n.b. I will need to publish names and email addresses in the form “simonmiller60 at gmail dot com” so that we can contact each other to arrange games (if this is a problem for you, let me know, there may be a work around). I'm particularly keen to attract players from Europe and further afield, who can't usually make it to the UK-based tournaments. If you've not previously played TtS!, don't worry, we can teach you. I'll be gentle on you. Promise.  ;-)

Booking a Game
Any entrant will be able to arrange an online game of To the Strongest! 1066, with any other player who has registered for the event, at a mutually convenient time, using the "arrange a game" section on Discord or by email. Players are encouraged to book the games as multiplayer and publish the server name and password so that people can drop in and observe, or have a chat.

Armies and terrain should be randomly selected from the 5 available armies (“1-2 I play the Normans, 3-4 etc…”) or agreed between the players. Games timings start with the roll for scouting. After 1 hour and 50 minutes have elapsed, the phasing player finishes his turn. After this, the non-phasing player gets a final turn, if he lost the scouting, so as to even out the number of turns played. Should players both prefer, though, they are welcome to battle on to a conclusion. 

A decisive victory is won when one player takes all of the other players medals. Otherwise, the player who has taken the most medals wins a tactical victory. A draw occurs when both players have taken exactly the same number of medals. Should the game have to be abandoned for technical reasons, the player who has taken the most medals wins a tactical victory.

This is designed to encourage players to play at least one game in each week (n.b. this is subject to change at my whim- it's possible may increase the points awarded during in the latter weeks of the competition).
  • 3 points for a decisive victory/ 2 points for a tactical victory against a player on the ladder with more points than you, or during the first week (before the ladder is published), or against someone who isn't yet on the ladder.
  • 2.5 points for a decisive victory/1.5 points for a tactical victory against a player with the same points as you.
  • 2 points for a decisive victory/ 1 point for a tactical victory against a player with fewer points than you.
  • 1 point each for a draw.
  • 1 bonus point for the first game played in a week.
  • A penalty point applied to each game played, after the second, in any given week (so that people don’t play endless games!).
  • Only the first game against a particular opponent, during the period of the tournament, will count towards the competition score. This is to encourage people to play against as many opponents as possible.
Example: Macbeth plays three games in a week. 
  • Game one is a draw- 1 point plus 1 bonus point for his first game of the week, so 2 points.
  • Game two he wins, against a player above him on the ladder, scoring 3 points.  
  • Game three he loses, scoring -1 point (since it is his third game in the week).  
  • Macbeth therefore scores a total of 4 points for the week.
Results should be posted in the results section on the discord forum and emailed to me (simonmiller60 at gmail dot com). Please let me know the date, players’ names, who won and whether decisively or tactically. I’ll record scores and publish an updated ladder, either late on the Sunday night or early on the Monday morning, ready for the next week's play.

That's it- it's simpler than it sounds. :-)  I do hope you can join us- I've been playing online for three weeks, already, and it's been really great to chuck down some (virtual) cards, and enjoy the usual banter with my opponents! I hope to cross swords with you, soon!

Monday, 27 April 2020

To the Strongest! 1066, unleashed online!

I'm very pleased to announce that friends and I have been able to set up an online version of To the Strongest!, for your isolation gaming pleasure! It has been developed by Antony Unwin, with Paul Thompson sorting some of the technical and organisational aspects and me doing army lists. It enables up to six players to play a game of TtS!, very much as one would at home or in a room above a pub, but, instead, online. It doesn't have an AI, so you need to know the TtS! rules- if you don't already own them, you can buy a digital set, here.

Here's a shot of the table, from above. For the sake of simplicity (and for various technical reasons) we have started with five pre-set armies, all roughly themed to the year 1066 (Normans, Anglo-Saxons, Norwegian vikings, Scots and Welsh). Below, you can see the Norman army ; lots of hard-hitting milites lancers, some spearmen, archers and crossbowmen. Everything you'd expect to see on a TtS! table, is there, including the camp, cards and the army list. Each of the armies is divided into three commands (distinguished by slightly different base colours). Flags indicate the generals (William the Bastard) and army standards (Papal Banner), where appropriate. There's a camp, too. Dice record ammunition, and the yellow sticks are lances. The smaller medallions are heroes, and the large coins, victory medals.

There are also terrain pieces, stored in bags.

The blue bags contain individual pieces, and the ten brown bags contain completed terrain setups; there's a deck of 10 cards next to them, in case you want to pick a random set. You lift the terrain over the table, line it up carefully, lower it and then use the right mouse button to "lock" it in place.

Here's the table, above, set up with a set of terrain pulled, as if by magic, from one of the brown bags.The markers on the side are to record disorder, and there's a quick reference sheet.

I'll post some in-game shots over the next few days.

In order to play To the Strongest 1066!, you'll need a reasonably modern PC and to buy some software called Tabletop Simulator, which is available on Steam for £15. You can download a free PDF of instructions on the PC specifications and how to install it and get going from the BigRedBatShop. There's also a new online section, supporting it, on the To the Strongest! forum

I've played a few games, myself, and it's very easy to pick up and a whole lot of fun! We use Discord to chat, and there is all the usual banter, expletives, etc. that one associates with a game of TtS! Once we have a critical mass of players behind it, I'll organise some informal online tournaments; perhaps even some sort of league- I really want to keep my hand in!  I very much hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Venetian knights II part 2

Four or five painting sessions haven't got me very much further, with these, I seem to be getting slower and slower, and my sessions getting shorter and shorter. :-(  But the three new horses are mostly finished, most of the older minis have been retouched and the lances on the new knights are painted. A couple more sessions should do it!

Part of the reason I've been busy is that the shop has been lively- thanks for all the orders! Any and all panic-buying of rules is most welcome as I have plenty of stock. I've notice a big upturn on sales of bases- I can see that lots of you are getting down to some serious isolation re-basing!

Also, I'm working hard with a couple of groups who are developing modules that will enable both TtS! Ancients/Medieval and FK&P to be played online,  which is very exciting! Here's a screenshot from a prototype of the TtS! game I played last week.

And below, For King and Parliament.

I'll provide more information later this week!

Monday, 13 April 2020

Venetian knights II

I've started to prepare a second unit of Venetian knights. I'm cannibalising a unit I based last year- I plan to repaint 5 of the 6 models (they weren't originally painted by me, and need some TLC), and I will add four new ones, painted from scratch, to give me a larger unit of 9. Later, I will add coustilliers to both units, which will then each become 18 strong.

I'm trying something new here- I've sprayed the horse armour and knights aluminium (a trick from Mr Imrie). I've painted the unarmoured parts of the horses and will add the armour after they are finished, which should save time and be less fiddly.  Hopefully these will take around a week to do.

In other news, some Burgundian knights are on the way from France. 

And finally, the garden is looking stunning; it is currently a mass of blossom! Yesterday I couldn't hear any traffic, at all, over the noise of the bees in the crab apple tree. Such a delight in tough times.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Swords to Ploughshares III

Garden- latest! During the current emergency I've taken a brief pause from modelling to transform the back garden into a big vegetable patch.

I conscripted all the Bat-lings this weekend, for a Big Push, and it's all starting to come together. Above are the first proper plantings- some broad beans that will hopefully grow up the tripods. Last year our crop amounted to 8 beans- this year I hope to grow kilos of them 

Below is the new main planting area, which looks like a swimming pool filled with mud. We've dug a lot of compost into it and taken a lot of stones out, and planted the first French beans in the corner. Later we will landscape around it.

Above are improvised planters with early crop potatoes in them. The cardboard boxes are what the magnetic sheets arrive here in- they are very substantial, but it remains to be seen whether or not they will survive the spring showers. Nothing much lost, if they don't.

Below is the small planter- we have onions, spring onions, spinach, peas and beetroot in there.

And finally, here is the new raised bed, pretty much as before except I took out the great big bush by the steps and its roots last week, and a couple of sacks of stones, and Harry and I dug the earth over, again. This will be where we will grow most of the root vegetables- it's too shady for much else. Later, I plan to put a water butt in the corner.

So that's where we are; this evening we sat out with a round of gin and tonics and surveyed our domain, with considerable satisfaction. I've already done more gardening than I do in most full years and it's been a comfort, in difficult times. It's going to rain tomorrow, though, and I hope to get back to the modelling! Take care, all.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Burgundian Arquebusiers

Here are the last of the Burgundians, for the time being, a unit of skirmishing arquebusiers painted, once again, by Lionel Bechara. These Perry plastics are superb minis- feather-trimmed hats off to the brothers!

I've just realised that this is my 11th blog post in March, the most blog posts I have made in a single month since March 2016. A Covid dividend! I do hope you all stay well, out there, as I plan to do, here.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Burgundian Crossbowmen

This unit of crossbowmen is my favourite Burgundian unit, so far. The Perry plastic minis were all painted by Lionel Bechara, although I did the Little Big Men Studios pavises and (with the help of Ian Notter) the basing.

It's a most unusual unit, because it looks better from the back (below) than it does the front, where you can see the details of the reloading crossbowmen (protected by their pavises). So I will be able to enjoy both the appearance of the unit and the effect of its shooting!

Above; lovely painting by Lionel! Below, I used the flag image from the Perry box.

Finally, you can see I've again used three of my favourite FK&P6 bases, so that I can field the unit either on a 15cm or on a 20cm grid. From this angle, you might also be able to make out the arrows stuck in the ground and pavises.