Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pirates at the Shed!

A view down the board

Eric the Shed kindly invited me over to his splendid shed for my first game of 2015.  This was doubly exciting as not only was it a pirate game but he let me use my own figures!  It is really nice to get an opportunity to play with figures I have painted myself and makes all the long hours worthwhile. I think, in the end, I got all my painted pirates on the table, plus a few of the less Tudor looking Foundry Swashbucklers.  A first action for the latter!  

Lovely scenery as always at the Shed. My Black Scorpion pirate girls at left, Foundry Swashbucklers at right and Foundry pirates on the building,  Most enjoying their first outing

You always expect a spectacular layout at the Shed but I think this was my favourite so far and included a first game for his new modular rocky outcrops.  These made the terrain feel rather like the Pirates of the Caribbean online game, which my son and I used to enjoy playing so much before Disney pulled the plug on it, although it is due back soon under new management. 

The game was set in the pirate town of San Pedro where the Royal Navy launched a landing to recover a group of hostages. There were two players, including me, on the pirates side and two players on the naval side. In essence it ended up as two separate games as we took an end of the town each. Although we could see what the navy was fielding, the pirate forces, who all started the game inside buildings, were activated by dice and cards so some of my units were just one pirate while one had eight. 

My first unit of pirates are driven off by the regulars.  Lovely clutter, as ever

The rules were a version of Musket and Tomahawk as adapted by Eric. I have played M&T once before at the shed but, as usual, I didn’t remember enough about it to understand some of the finer points. There was, for example, something to do with heroes getting certain extra actions but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what they were. So I played very reactively, as I wasn’t sure what I was doing or what the capabilities of my troops were. I was worried about getting into hand to hand combat with the regulars but then I discovered pirates were better in melee. If I had known this I would have got stuck in more.  As it was several of my groups of pirates didn’t get engaged at all. 

These men were too far out on the flank to get really involved but they were guarding a key hostage so I didn't want to get them too involved in any fighting

I ended up in a lot of shooting duels with the navy but my dice throwing was as bad as usual (remember that these figures, apart from about ten of them, had never seen a game before so they could be expected to be rubbish) so mostly my units were whittled away by the regulars and one particularly nasty group of sailors.   Another group of sailors kidnapped all the bar girls at the tavern and when I shot at the sailors I found my musket balls unintentionally whittling away the doxies, meaning the group of sailors took less casualties and escaped.  Curses!

Bad girls in every way.  All Black Scorpion figures

In many games you often find a surprising unit doing better than you would have expected and for me it was my small unit of five lady pirates, who were my only unit to engage in melee and cleared a building of a unit of regulars in short order. They then went onto the roof and had some success in shooting. Sadly, later in the game they got caught in the open by a firing line of regulars and only two survived. They deserve reinforcement so I will see if I can find some of their unpainted sisters in the hope they might see another game. My North Star Anne Bonny is nearly finished, for a start. 

The navy having retreated, my pirate girls are left to lick each others wounds.
The girl on the right is the Black Scorpion limited edition girl from their Cutlass rules

 Victory was based on how many points worth of hostages you kept at the end of the game and in the end the pirates took this but we lost the game as Eric had decided that the war artist figure on the naval side had behaved particularly heroically and so the pirates lost by one point. Personally, I think that to have gained these artist points the player concerned should have had to produce a sketch themselves of the artist’s composition (says the person who won a place at art school).

This was a very enjoyable game indeed and has even got me thinking about building some pirate buildings myself.  I think Gary Chalk had a piece in one of the wargames magazines back in the nineties on how to do this.  Thanks, as ever, to Eric and my fellow shedizens!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On the Seven Seas figures from North Star: an initial look

My big order from North Star arrived yesterday.  I had, inevitably, ordered all five sets of figures together with the rules which also gave me five other bonus figures for doing so.  The figures come in the trendy boxes North Star packaged their IHMN and Ronin figures in but I will dispose of these pretty rapidly as they take up a lot of space. I've only had a quick look at them so far but they certainly live up to expectations.  Some of them are very much at the Hollywood end of piratical costumes rather than the revisionist view of clothing presented in the most recent Angus Konstam book on the subject.  These are in the minority, however, and for anyone who wants historical pirates these will be just the job.

L to R: Foundry, North Star, Foundry

The castings are pretty good with no flash but some slight mould lines which needed some work.  Removing these can be tricky given the detail on some of the figures.  The ones I received were much better than the IHMN figures, though.  Sizewise I was expecting large figures but they are actually pretty much spot on 28mm foot to eye and some are as small s 26.5mm.  In contrast, Artizan's recent North-West Frontier British are pushing 30mm foot to eye.  Above we have one of the new pirates with two Wargames Foundry ones.  Slightly bigger but I would be quite happy to use them together, which is a great relief given how many of the Foundry ones I have.  Crucially, the heads are the same size.

Oddly, the one really tall figure is the notorious Anne Bonney one, at 29mm foot to eye.  Here she is with one of the Black Scorpion pirate girls who I always thought of as one the big size.  One of the things about the new figures is that they have very thin bases which reduces their overall height when compared with other figures.  All in all I will have no trouble integrating them with my existing figures and I am really fussy about different sized figures!

These are the bonus figures and several of these have much thicker bases but as they are a cabin boy and a monkey this isn't an issue.  The casting of the chest had a nasty mould line which was tricky to remove given the detail on the chest and I also needed to do quite a bit of filing on the telescope of the left hand figure too due to a slightly misaligned mould (this is the before filing shot).  Incidentally, he is another tall figure at nearly 30mm foot to eye.

Overall I am very pleased with these indeed and can't wait to get some painted.  I have based half a dozen and will start work on them properly once I have finished my Afghans.  Next time I will have a look at the rules.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

North Star On the Seven Seas figures pre-order

North Star are about to launch their pre-order for their On the Seven Seas figures to go with the new Osprey rules.  Some of the figures are at the more fantastical end of even Hollywood pirates but they all look completely splendid.  The Legatus fears he will have to buy the whole deal of all the figures and the rules for £130.99.  This includes some extra figures which are not, at present, available separately.

There are five crews up on the North Star website and they are priced at a rather pricey £23 for eight figures (£2.87 per figure) compared with, for example, IHMN companies at £27 for 11 figures (£2.45 per figure).  Still, its peanuts compared with GW and  they score marks for naming their marines Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb (obviously the other twin is missing in action).   Many years ago when my sister worked for one of those government organisations that didn't officially exist (actually they reported to the Crown not the government) she and some of her colleagues reckoned that the best way to expose a Russian deep cover mole was to start reciting "Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew..."  The Russian, of course, would not be able to complete the list.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New North Star Marines for pirate games

One of the things I have always wanted for pirate games were some government troops to pitch them against.  Today North Star have revealed a marine for their forthcoming pirate range but I'm not sure what to think, frankly.  They don't say that he is a Royal Marine and the period around 1700 is not one I know very well but I have never seen a hat like this before!  It is very strange!  the rest of the figure looks good but the hat?  Really not sure!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New pirate TV drama: Crossbones

Honestly, you don't have a pirate TV series for decades and then two come along within months of each other.  American network NBC is launching Crossbones later this month following on from Black Sails

This time the story is based on a real character, Edward Teach aka Blackbeard, rather than the fictional ones of Black Sails.  Images of Brian Blessed beards are out of the porthole though as Blackbeard, played by John Malkovich, has a very small beard which isn't black, strangely.

Set in 1729, the story seems an odd mixture of pirate yarn and Dava Sobel's Longtitude as Blackbeard tries to capture the Longtitude Chronometer from English spy Tom Lowe. 

The trailer displays a typically mannered performance by Malkovich and I suspect the success of the ten part series will be dependent on how much you can stand his idiosyncratic acting style. 

Being an American network show it won't have the naked wenches seen in Black Sails, of course, but at least it is genuinely shot in the Caribbean and looks right as a result. 

The cast's wenches do look rather fine and are led by English actress Claire Foy with her very un-eighteenth century teeth.  

They've built two full sized ships for the show and this one, at least, looks like an authentic pirate ship (seen here in Puerto Rico, where the series is being filmed).

Let's hope that there is plenty of piratical ship on ship action as, I gather, Black Sails has been conspicuously short of it.

It should all help to shift copies of Osprey's forthcoming pirate rules and the very appealing looking figures from Steve Saleh for North Star.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

More pirates for 2014

Completed last March

Pirates are figures I sometimes paint a few of while doing something else and I recently started work on three more of the Foundry ones.   I didn't note on this blog that last year I painted a couple of pirates which were included as a freebie included with a Foundry order last year.

For International Talk like a Pirate Day last September I photographed all my painted pirates and was surprised at how many I had painted.  I have a feeling that 2014 is going to be much more of a pirate year.

Firstly, there is the new Osprey pirate rules by Chris Peers, On the Seven Seas.  I have played several of Mr Peers rules which are enjoyable, although tend to have very heavy casualties.

To go along with these North Star are releasing a new range of pirates.  The four they have previewed so far, which are sculpted by Steve Saleh, look tremendous.  If they are the same size as his Ronin figures they will match perfectly with the Foundry ones.  They are due out this summer.  Can't wait!  

Hopefully, and if the cover of the rules is anything to go by, he will do a few lady pirates to go with the Black Scorpion ones I have already got.  I treat pirates as a fantasy game so don't worry about the fact that the two most famous lady pirates were so ugly everyone thought they were men. 

One thing which it would be nice to see is earlier period pirates from the time of Henry Morgan, with matchlocks and apostles, rather than the post 1700 style which are seen in virtually every range.  In addition it would be nice if someone made local colonial government garrison troops to take on the pirates.  I think Brigade Games promised these when they started their pirates range but they never materialised. 

Finally, and possibly even more important, is the new pirate eight part TV series, Black Sails, by Starz the US TV station that gave us Spartacus.  This is produced by Michael (transformers) Bay, which should be enough to put me right off but such is the man's power in Hollywood that they have already commissioned a second ten part series which is currently being filmed.  

It has had mixed reviews based on previews.  It premiers in the US this Saturday but there is no news about it showing in the UK yet so I'll probably have to wait for the DVD.  The producers are making all sorts of claims about showing the real world of pirates for the first time but that just seems like an excuse to include lots of violence, swearing and sex.  And why not?

Set in 1715, it purports to tell the early life of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens)and Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.  However, I don't recall such things as a feisty lesbian tavern owner from the book!  It also mixes up Stevenson's characters with real pirates such as Anne Bonny.

Clara Paget as Anne Bonny

The series was, unlike Pirates of the Caribbean which did film in the Caribbean, filmed in South Africa but the few external shots I have seen look fine and aren't like, for example, Cutthroat Island which was filmed in Thailand and looked like it.

As usual, for pirate films, the producers give the crew an enormous pirate ship rather than the smaller vessels most pirates actually used. 

So, a much more swashbuckling year on the wargaming front is envisioned!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Black Scorpion pirate girl

Here is my first ever resin figure:  a Black Scorpion pirate girl based on the cover painting for the Cutlass rules. She was quite fragile and I soon broke her sword off but it stuck back very easily. Still, it is a shame that Black Scorpion have abandoned metal for resin, especially as their resin is not a patch on Games Workshop's.

There is nothing wrong with the detail but the figure is very fragile.