Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Change of Scenery, If You Will


The new table layout - a change of scenery, if you will.


Last night and today I decided that it was time to take down the Nile River terrain and set up new terrain   for my Assault on Khartoum game. I was really sorry to see the Nile terrain and boats go away for awhile as I was quite taken by the look of the table, shown below:

The old terrain has been stored away

So I removed all of the boats, the British camp, the various Dervish figures, riverbank pieces, rocks and lastly, the blue felt. 

I have been taking inventory of the figures and buildings and terrain pieces that I have so far, and I figured that spreading everything out on the game table would give me a better sense of what work remains to be done. This also gives me a preview of the available table space relative to the size of the game tables that I will need at Historicon '23. Mind you, my home set up features two parallel tables (5ft by 12 ft and 6ft by 15 feet) whereas my plan is for three 6ft by 24ft tables for the Historicon '23 game. Aspire to big things so to speak.

The new table places the outer walls of Khartoum on what will be the "middle table" (#2 of 3) and the rest of the city on the "outer table" (#1 of 3). A "back table" (#3 of 3) will provide some table depth where the Dervish army can form up for the game.

My thinking is that it will be easier for the Egyptian defenders to stand in the aisle behind the outer walls of the city and face the Dervish rush towards the walls. The Dervish players will initially be on the other side of table 2 facing the Egyptians at the walls.

Previously I had placed the whole city on the Outer Table (#1 of 3), but this would result in all 10 to 12 players being jammed into the aisle between tables 1 and 2. Once the Dervish make it over the walls then they can carry on into the city on table 1.

I don't think that the scenario will work if I start the Dervish on table 2. This places them too close to the city walls, which they will likely reach in one to two turns. I would like to allow the defenders the opportunity to fire at the Dervish for at least two turns, otherwise the defenders will be overwhelmed too quickly and make a short game of it. The defenders have a tough enough go of it anyway since they will be outnumbered 3 to 1. The defenders will have some victory conditions that don't require them to repulse the escalade of the walls. Thus they have a chance of "winning" the game despite losing the city to the assault. Likewise the Dervish players will have some victory conditions that assume that they will get into the city and get into a street fight with the Egyptian defenders.

Setting up the game terrain and the troops gives me a better idea of the spacing needed to make  it a good game.

A view of Khartoum from the Dervish perspective. 

Ground scale view of the city walls.

Here are some pictures of the spacing for the city:

The interior of the city of Khartoum is laid out on Table 1 while the front walls are set up on the edge of Table 2.

My convention game table will be 6ft wide compared to the 5ft wide table shown in this picture.
This will give me an extra foot of space to work with.  I can either make the river wider or
increase the depth of the city. This would require making more walls and buildings. It is evident that I need to have
more walls on the side closest to the camera.

Once the Dervish get over the walls then the game fighting will largely switch to both sides of Table 1. I'm leaning towards using the extra foot of table width to make the Nile River 2ft wide which provides more room to use some of the boats that I made for the game. Maybe one of the Egyptian victory conditions might be coercing Gordon to escape via a boat and to rescue as many European citizens as possible.

Taking Stock of What I Have and What I Need

It looks like I will have/need more depth on Table 1 (inside the city). It looks like I will need at least four more wall sections. One 12-inch palisade for the front town wall on Table 2 and three wall sections to extend the side walls of the city. I could also make some of the building "wings" for the Governor's Palace so that the palace grounds are U-shaped. I see that I need to make some wharf sections for the riverfront.

In terms of figures for the game, I have 400 Dervish foot, 60 Dervish riflemen, and 32 Dervish cavalry. I don't think that I have to add too many more Dervish to their army.

The Egyptian defenders will man four sections of the city walls. There will be two commands on the front facing walls (one command on each side of the main town gate) and two other commands, one on each side wall of the city.

I want to scale up the game so that 12 players can participate.

To summarize then, it looks like I am in fairly good shape in the number of painted figures that I need in the game, but I need to add some more wall sections and perhaps a couple more houses to place inside the city walls.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Getting That Painting Mojo Back?

We have all been there. We reach a point where we couldn't paint another miniature if our lives depended on it. It could be a result of hobby or painting burnout, seasonal depression or family matters being front and center (and taking up all the time that one used to spend on painting). The loss of painting or hobby mojo is evident when one has lost interest in the thing(s) that one normally likes to do. I get that "I just don't care anymore" feeling. (This can also be a sign of depression and it is something that you should take seriously. Check with your wife and ask her if she notices any changes in your demeanor and attitude).

I am there right now. 

But I think that I might have turned the corner as of today. 

How do I get out of the painting funk and getting my painting mojo back? There are three methods that I usually relay on and most of the time they work, getting me back on my horse. 

The first method is to start watching historical movies. Put a CD of Waterloo, Zulu or Gettysburg into the old machine and watch movies to get your inspiration back. 

The second method is to contact some of your gaming brothers and get them to host a wargame that you can play in. It's important to let someone else host the game and take care of all of the logistics. Remember, you don't care that much right now. I usually find that playing a game is a great tonic for curing the loss of hobby mojo. You get to play with someone else's toys, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to socialize with your friends. Getting out of the house and getting together with your friends is an important life hack.

The third method is to force yourself to paint! I know, it sounds like a hard thing to do when you are in a deep funk. If I force myself to commit to one hour of painting over the next several days then it knocks the rust off of my painting funk and I begin to remember some of the reasons why I enjoy painting figures again. If the enjoyment returns then the funk usually goes away.

These past several days I have employed Method Three, sitting at the painting table and painting a few 54mm Dervish that have been sitting around for some time just begging to be painted. I started with just two figures. Then I upped it to ten figures and also added five cavalry figures. It seems to have worked because now I am complaining that I don't have enough time to paint. Yikes!

Another sign of the old mojo returning is that I placed a new order for some more 54mm plastic Dervish from Armies In Plastic today. Maybe buying miniatures should be Method Number Four.

So I seem to be back. Huzzah!

Now if I can only get back my interest in 18th Century wargames and figures. That's probably a left over thing from my Historicon experience last summer. Give it some time. It will return one day.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Back From Vacay


Fritz and The Flamingos
(Sarasota Jungle Gardens)

I am back home after two weeks of vacation in sunny Sarasota, Florida and as one might imagine, I have not done much in the way of hobby activities during that time span. I brought  a couple of history books with me, but I failed to crack them open, preferring to binge watch reruns of Chicago P.D. to while away the evening hours.

We were supposed to be in Sarasota for three weeks, but we had to cut the trip short by several days in order to get Lady Emma Cuddlestone-Smythe back to Illinois in time for the start of school.

Lady Emma enjoys visiting The Sarasota Jungle Garden in Sarasota and I think that she visited the park at least five times, maybe more, over the course of several weeks. I went with her maybe three times and she took an Uber to the park to make some visits on her own. SJG has a vast menagerie of flamingos, alligators, other reptiles, monkeys/lemurs and a Florida Panther or two. The best part of the visit is seeing the flamingos and letting them eat feed pellets out of your hand.

It is a rather odd sensation when a flamingo is nibbling out of your hand. They tilt their heads sideways and kind of peck away at the feed in your hand. It's an odd tactile experience, but it is fun nevertheless. I took a pass at holding various reptiles in my hands, but Lady Emma was nonplussed by the whole experience with slithering things.

Monet's water lilies perhaps?

Some of the inhabitants of the Butterfly House

It wasn't all flamingos and Key Lime Pie though. We paid a visit to the John & Mabel Ringling art museum (yes that Ringling, of circus fame) and we saw lots of Old Masters paintings from Rubens, da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rembrandt, among others. I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon some 18th Century denizens such a The Marques of Granby and Lt. General Phillip Honeywood, both painted by Gainsborough.


Marquess of Granby

Frederick the Great's sister

Some handsome French aristocrat

A copy of Michelangelo's David

Mr. Ringling's manse

18th Century gallery with harpsichord

Ringling collected whole rooms and brought them over to the New World.

Edouard Detaille painting from the Franco-Prussian war.
I spotted this from across the room and immediately identified the artist.

We made a day trip to the Everglades

Lelia and Dad in the Everglades

A crocodile, waiting to be turned into a matching pair of shoes and a belt.

The Everglades wetlands.

The garage of the house where we stayed. I'm seeing a wargame room here.

I could live in this house. No problem. I like the colonial style architecture and the outside porch.

We made a college visit to the University of Tampa for Lelia. I liked the campus because it had some interesting architectural buildings and it was not too big of a campus.

On the trip back home, we made a short visit to the Chickamauga National Military Park. Here are some pictures of the park headquarters.

Ice skating rink on New Year's Day in 75F temperature.

Home again and ready to paint more 54mm Dervish figures.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Passing Another Age Milestone: 70

I turned age 70 on December 18th. Age years that end in zero are a milestone of sorts in which one can look back on the decade just concluded and look ahead to what lies ahead in the next decade. Now I am in pretty good health with no issues, I walk a lot to keep fit, and I work out with a personal trainer twice a week. I have gone from barely being able to do 10 pushups up to 25 fairly easily. My goal is to reach 30 consecutive push ups without gasing out. My mother's side of the family has pretty good genes, with many of them living into their mid 90s. On my father's side, well, not so good. I suspect that I will be around a bit longer based on my genes.


I have reached the stage of my life where I now have to consider down sizing my house and all of my "stuff", particularly my wargame stuff. I have too much of it. With respect to the house, it comes down to an economic decision on how to save money, reduce expenses and have enough coin to live a decent and comfortable retirement lifestyle. 

I live in The People's Republic of Illinois where the property taxes are sky high and the cost of living is an arrow pointing upwards. My property tax on my house exceeds my annual mortgage payments which is absolutely crazy. People are fleeing Illinois in droves and moving to more tax friendly states. I would like to join them. Probably somewhere in Florida. I figure that I could save $15,000 per year just by moving out of my state. Think about it, that's a savings of $150,000 over the next decade. And I get to live where its warm year around.

The idea is to buy a smaller, less expensive house and either pay off our mortgage or take out a chunk of the home equity that we have built up over the years. However, a less expensive home likely means a much smaller home, maybe without an area to set up as my wargame room. That kind of sucks, doesn't it? That also implies less storage space for figures and terrain. The obvious solution is to reduce the wargame collection quite a bit. I will have to take stock of what I have and what I am likely to want to play over the next decade.

In terms of culling down the herd, here are some likely candidates for sale:

  1. 1) Late Romans and Barbarians in 28mm
  2. 2) Big Battalion SYW Austrians and Prussians
  3. 3) Maybe 28mm AWI, but keeping the skirmish level figures.

The keepers would include the following:

  1. 28mm SYW Austrians, French and Prussians
  2. 54mm Sudan
  3. 54mm Ancients

And then there is the big one: selling off the Fife and Drum and Minden Miniatures figure business. I started this venture in 2012 and after ten years I am ready to get out of the business side of the hobby and just enjoy playing some wargames. I have enjoyed running the business, increasing the size of the ranges, and meeting lots of people from all over the world. But I am getting tired and I don't have the energy that I used to have. The inventory shelves in my basement take up a lot of space and if I were to downsize the square footage of my house by 50% then there wouldn't be any room to hold the stock for the business. Decisions, decisions.

This is all speculation at this point as I have no firm plans. My daughter wants to go to college in Florida and to make that her permanent home as soon as 2024. That's her life's dream and so we want to do everything that we can to help her reach her dream. We would probably want to live somewhere in Florida where we are far enough away from our daughter to not be pests, but close enough to be there for her in case she needs some help.

Well there you have it. This is what is on my mind as I look ahead to the next decade of my life.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Picture of the Day: Daughter & Dad


Today's picture shows Lady Emma Cuddlestone-Smythe and I leading the Prussian army to victory over the Russians (boo! hiss! boo!) at Gross Jagersdorf circa 2017. My dice rolling was notoriously bad until Lady Emma took over and rolled the dice for me. That wise tactical decision by der Alte Fritz proved to be the game winner.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Fife & Drum and Minden Going on Vacay.


The Fife and Drum Miniatures and Minden Miniatures "staff" will be going on vacation tomorrow December 29, 2022 and will be back on January 15, 2023. During this short period we will not be shipping any orders. Business will return to normal on January 16, 2023.

While the web store remains open, allowing orders to be placed, we recommend holding off on placing orders until our shipping department staff returns.

We thank all of our customers for their support in 2022 and want you to know that your business is much appreciated. You make it possible for us to continuing adding to and expanding both product ranges.


der Alte Fritz (Himself)

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Belated Happy Holidays (and all that)


I would like to extend a belated Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Seasons' Greetings to one and all who spend a bit of their time gazing upon my blog. Your continued interest and support is much appreciated here in Hesse Seewald.

This year's Christmas tree in the Library Room.
Bella the Golden Retriever seems to fit right in.

Bella and me enjoying a bonding moment.

Christmas Eve

Mrs. Fritz and I went to the 5PM Christmas Eve service at the local Episcopalian church (Church of England, or "Roman Catholic Lite" as I call it). The church is very beautiful and is designed in the shape a cross, with the alter at the center of the four wings of the "cross". The ceiling is supported by massive oak beams to remind me of many a church that I've seen in England during my travels. There were lots of holiday decorations inside including a forest of red poinsettias and garlands of greenery hanging from the rafters. All of this can't help but get one into the Christmas spirit what with the decorations, the ceremony and the singing of Christmas carols. 

The only off-putting part for me was the opening ceremonial procession of candle bearers, a Bible bearer and a carrier of a Chi-Rho vexillum. The minister and his staff bowed and crossed themselves whenever they passed by the front of the alter. The minister wore some magnificent looking robes and all that seemed to be missing was a miter cap. This is the Roman Catholic Lite part that makes me chuckle a bit to myself. I can't help myself thinking of a Dave Allen comedy sketch whenever I see this processional. Mrs. Fritz is a church member. I'm a sometimes Presbyterian.

All that said, this church really is a sight to behold and the Christmas ceremony is second to none. The Anglicans know how to put on a good show.

After everyone snuggled into their beds for a long Winter's nap, I turned on the television to watch some of the choirs singing on some of the PBS network shows. I like the St. Olaf's Choir (from Minnesota) the best. I was going to retire for the night, but at the last second I started scrolling through the channel guide and stumbled up a playing of the movie Die Hard. I just had to watch it! I stayed up until about 2:30AM watching Die Hard and I made myself turn it off, missing the ending. I know how the movie ends so I wasn't missing anything, but I still would have liked to have watched the movie to its end. Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis are hard to beat. LOL! Over the years I have learned that going to sleep after 3AM is a fool's errand. If I stay up that late then I go into a restless sleep that makes me no good for the rest of the day. 2AM is my cut off point if I want to get some good sleep and be at my best the next day.

Christmas Day

Santa decided that I probably had enough wargame toys so there was nothing under the tree or in my stocking that was hobby related. Mrs. Fritz and I decided that this year we would try to keep the number of presents to one another at two or less, making an exception for the small stocking stuffers that show up every year. 

As is often the case, the best present is being able to be around family and celebrating with a Christmas Day dinner at Schloss Seewald. We had 14 guests for dinner this year, including some relatives that we hadn't seen for a couple of years due to that Covid thing that has been going on. We prepared two legs of lamb (14 pounds of lamb in total) and an assortment of side dishes including stuffing, mashed potatoes, mashed yams, French cut green beans and a spinach and pear salad. Our guests brought the desserts for the party and there was much to choose from an assortment that included pumpkin pie, a Yule Log cake (or Buch de Noel), lemon squares and lots and lots of cookies.

Before dinner, I conducted a tour of my war game room at the request of some of the guests. I guess that I am always a little bit surprised at how interested "civilians" are in our little hobby. If someone shows a keener interest in the Little Men then I often give them a painted figure to take home. I sometimes worry that "civilians" will think that (1) I am a lunatic war monger; or (2) a little boy who is still playing with his toy soldiers. I am not the first, but I confess to still having some of the second in me. Always have and always will.  I'd say that 99% of visitors to the war game room are fascinated by our hobby and they ask lots of good questions. So my fears are not justified for the most part.

After dinner, four of use settled onto the Living Room floor and played a game of Euchre, something that I hadn't played since my college days. It took me a hand or two to remember how to play the game, but it came back to me quickly enough. Now we have a card game to play at future family events!

Later that evening I had to drive Lady Emma Cuddlestone-Smythe back to her home and that proved to be the opening that the guests were seeking to bug out of there (just kidding). Usually once the first couple leaves, the other guests go home shortly thereafter. Afterwords, Mrs. Fritz and I did a partial clean up of the kitchen and then we settled in to watch the final two episodes of "Wednesday" on Netflix. The eight episode series focuses on the Adams Family teen daughter, Wednesday, and her life at boarding school. It's a brilliant concept and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a new series to binge watch.

It seems like every Christmas, Mrs. Fritz and I decide that this year was the best Christmas EVER and I suppose that it is, at least until it comes around again next year. Then next year's Christmas will be the best ever.