Monday, May 11, 2020

Warsenal Angled Planters and Benches

These are Angled Planters from Warsenal. This specific product doesn't appear to be available at this time. However, they are included as part of certain Island Packs and Warsenal's Square Planters are a comparable product.

The Havoc Girls check out a small park. Some of the groundskeepers went missing recently.

These Angled Planters have been unfinished projects (UFOs) for awhile now. I've got plenty of hobby projects sitting around in various states of completion. Even though I'm still working regular hours, some of my work can be done from home and the commute has been much easier. This freed up time that I've been using to catch up. My plan is to shoot down as many UFOs as possible to free up space and time down the road for new projects.

This project became a UFO after I ran into some issues gluing it together. The Angled Planters use MDF parts for the main structure with plastic panels for the details on the sides. The glue I used worked well for holding the MDF parts together, but the plastic panels popped off with routine handling. Fortunately, this problem came up before priming or painting. Since I had other priorities at the time, I stored the parts in a plastic bag with the intent to get back to it later.

As it turned out, "later" took awhile.

The second step of restarting this project - the first was making sure that all the parts were still in the bag - was to sand off the glue residue from the plastic panels and where they were glued on to the MDF pieces. This also had the benefit of roughing up the surfaces and insuring a stronger bond when I reassembled the pieces with cyanoacrylate glue.

A pair of tourists use a public comm array in a small park to call for directions.
Priming was straight forward - I just sprayed on a thin layer of dark gray auto body primer.

Next came spraying on the base color. I prefer to spray on the base color for projects with large, flat surfaces. It helps with achieving an even, consistent layer of paint.

This particular color was chosen for these very important reasons:
  • I knew that this product works on both MDF and plastic from past experience.
  • I still have a can of the stuff in the garage and need to use it up.
  • Spraying on the base coat would speed things up.
  • I felt the need to use up the can.
  • The bold and colorful Jack Kirby aesthetic appeals to me for futuristic civilian models and terrain. I've still be reaching for khaki, olive, and brown for near-future or hard sci-fi military stuff.
  • I really need to use up that can.
I applied a dark wash left over from a previous project to bring out the details. The wash was brushed on and the excess was wiped off with a sponge to prevent pooling. I also experimented with using a Silver Metallic Sharpie to simulate wear on the corners of one of the pieces, but I didn't feel that it really added anything worthwhile.

For most of the pieces, I decided to simulate soil and foliage from an Earth-like environment. I applied the same mix of PVA glue, Folk Art 231 Real Brown paint, water, and sand that I use to base some of my miniatures and allowed it to dry completely. The green bushes are Woodland Scenics Light Green Clump-Foliage held in place with PVA glue. A neatly trimmed appearance might have been more appropriate, but I feel that the uneven look is more interesting to look at. The bare patches allow the basing material to show through.

The quality of landscaping declined after the groundskeepers started disappearing.

I wanted some kind of alien plant life for the remaining pieces. Some spare melted drinking straws stored away from the Alien Plant Terrain project I did several years ago did the trick. I picked out the best of the lot and hit them with a few layers of spray paint. A layer of black covered the bright colors of the plastic. This was followed up with a layer of red and finally a layer of orange. Again, the color choices were determined by what I had on hand and had a mind to use up. I attached the straws to the planter pieces with hot glue.

These XT flora samples adapted well to class-M conditions. There is no evidence that they are carnivorous.
Alien plants need alien soil to grow in. In this case, I used an Ikea product - Kulort. It's crushed glass used for decorative projects. I picked up a bottle awhile back for use in alien terrain projects and as basing material. There were a number of colors available - I opted for black since it would match with just about anything.
Unlike the Angled Planters, the Benches weren't UFOs. I assembled and painted these awhile back. However, the tan color I originally used was rather bland. I decided to repaint the Benches to match the Angled Planters. This would make using them together easier (and use up more of the can). A dark wash brought out the details and a little work with a Silver Metallic Sharpie added some wear marks to the edges.

The Benches are available from Warsenal on their own and as part of their Island Packs.

Benches in the process of being moved for park maintenance. They're a little worn and could use a touch up of paint.

Together, the Angled Planters and Benches make for good scatter terrain to represent a park or similar area in a sci-fi setting. Both are large enough to plausibly provide cover for 28mm figures, although more robust small arms might be able to penetrate the Benches depending on the setting and rules used. Combining the Benches with some consoles and container pieces could represent the passenger waiting area in a spaceport. The Benches could also be placed around a stage or large data console piece for a theater or auditorium.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

No Chupacabracon This Year - Looking Back at a Local Tabletop RPG Convention

My original plans - made last year - for first weekend of May was to go to Chupacabracon. I would take in the cyberpunk theme for the year (the con's name was even changed to Chupacabracon 2020 for the occasion), attend a couple of panels, and sit down for as many roleplaying game sessions as I could before my body reminded me that a man of middle years can't game all weekend like he could a couple of decades ago. Unfortunately, putting that many bodies in close proximity for a whole weekend is a bad idea these days. The convention organizers made the announcement that they would be shutting down a couple of months ago. It was the best choice they could make. I'm just a little bummed out that my favorite local tabletop roleplaying game convention was canceled this year.

This seems as is as good a time as any to look back.

Chupacababracon V was the first I attended.  I published a post about it a week after it wrapped up in 2018. That post doesn't properly convey the feeling I came away with after it was over. Something about Chupacabracon clicked with me. Looking back, the magical moment may have been while I was munching on Round Rock Donuts and slurping coffee while listening to Kenneth Hite and Mark Carroll discuss horror (Lovecraftian and otherwise) in roleplaying games. Or it could have been playing a Star Wars D6 game run by Bill Slavicsek. Or it could have been something I couldn't quite put my finger on. I just knew that I had found something I liked and was looking forward to experiencing again.

I did attend Chupacabracon VI last year, but didn't post about for a couple of reasons. First, I mostly ended up going to panels that year. Not really the most exciting stuff to write or read about. Second, I didn't take many photos while I was there. It just slipped my mind. This blog doesn't include the phrase "over the hill" for nothing. With little in the way of thrilling game-play or photos to spice up a post, I decided to skip doing a Chupacabracon post for 2019.

That may not have been the best call.

I played two games at Chupacabracon VI. The first was a Savage Worlds game held Saturday evening. The other was a session of Grim War on Sunday afternoon. My recollections of these games were aided by Tabletop.Events, the tabletop game event management site used by Chupacabracon. Tabletop.Events still had the schedule I set up for last year.

The beginning of the Savage Worlds game. Before we all split up. Because that always works out.

The Savage Worlds game was a reverse dungeon scenario. We played Orcs defending our subterranean home from invading adventurers. The Orc who seized the most treasure - by fair means (taking it off the bodies of adventurers) or foul (taking it off the bodies of other Orcs) - would be the winner. Naturally, between the group splitting up and backstabbing each other, it was the Orc who spent much of the game as far from danger as possible who won! Our host - Steve Kellison - mentioned that this was one of a series of scenarios he's run with this set up of terrain and miniatures. Great fun!

Grim War is a superheroes game with weird and horror elements using the One Roll Engine (ORE). It was my first experience with ORE. Fortunately, one of the designers - Greg Stolze - was running the game and had plenty of experience at explaining how everything worked. The experience turned out to be not quite my cup of tea. I'm not sure if it was the game itself or the fact that everyone was a little punchy on the last day of the con. I'd probably give it another shot if the opportunity comes up. I did pick up a few valuable lessons about running a convention game.

The scenario that Greg Stolze ran was simple - we were supers trying to get by while maintaining a low profile. Only government sanctioned supers are legal in Grim War. Naturally, we were independents operating without the approval of the powers that be. There was an item - I don't remember what - stored in a nearby bank that we had to retrieve. Greg Stolze produced a map of the bank building and let us start planning the heist. Most of the session was taken up with casing the bank, other preparations, and a confrontation with a team of government supers at the bank.

What stuck with me was the minimalist approach that Greg Stolze took. He provided each of us a few handouts including a character sheet and the map of the bank, but relied on a "theater of the mind" approach for everything else. He was able to run most of the session from memory, but I do recall him consulting a set of notes at least once. With a simple scenario that he obviously had run before, he wouldn't have to look up a bunch of rules. With minimal materials, he wouldn't have to pack pounds of stuff into his luggage. It's a clean, elegant approach that I might borrow if I start running convention games.

Moving forward, it looks like tabletop gaming conventions are moving online. There was some discussion of running Chupacabracon 2020 as a virtual event in August, but I haven't heard anything recently about the idea. Tabletop.Games is running its "Con of Champions" on May 23-25 to keep itself afloat. Given how many tabletop gaming events have canceled this year, it's no surprise that Tabletop.Games needs a hand. I'm still considering it, but it will give me a chance to see how games are run online. That's gonna be a handy thing to learn these days.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Space Corridor Terrain WIP

This project is a single Spaceship X set from Creative Gamescape. It's a backer reward from their Kickstarter from awhile back. Going into the ups and downs of that particular Kickstarter will have to wait until I do a proper review.

Makin' progress.

I've been making slow and steady progress on this project for awhile now. There was a setback or two, but things have sped up lately due to the current state of affairs. I'm now at a decision point. Which is as good a time as any to look back and see how things have gone so far.

I originally assembled and painted this set for an encounter in our Star Trek Adventures campaign. Unfortunately, I ran in problems with both the assembly and the paint job.

  • The pieces started coming apart from routine handling. The bond from the cyanoacrylate glue I used was brittle and weak.
  • The metallic spray paint I used was coming off on my hands. A little research on some online forums revealed that this "overspray" issue was common to that brand.
  • The wash I used looked patchy. A wash shouldn't be evenly distributed - after all, the point of a wash is for it to flow into the details. However, the bare spots looked less like weathering and more like the wash mixture broke during application. To be fair, the particular bottle of wash I used is years old.
Starting over looked like a better approach than trying to solve each problem piecemeal. I disassembled the pieces and gave all the parts a long soak in Simple Green to strip off as much of the paint and glue as possible. The parts also got a good scrubbing in soap and water.

I started each step with a couple of test pieces. Overall progress slowed down a bit, but this approach allowed me to evaluate the results and make adjustments as needed. No sense in wasting time going down a blind alley.

I took the opportunity to file down some molding lines and other imperfections that I neglected earlier. Next I used plastic cement to bond the parts together. The plastic cement resulted in a stronger bond than cyanoacrylate, but left noticeable gaps between some of the parts. Some slightly watered down PVA glue worked as a gap filler and to reinforce the bonds holding the parts together.

Primer and Base Coats:
The same research that turned up the overspray issue also suggested a fix. The spray paint I used was supposed to be an all-in-one primer and paint. The fix is to not rely on that and to go ahead and apply a separate primer layer. The theory is that the metallic spray paint would bond better to a primer than directly on the plastic. Unfortunately, that theory didn't pan out. The metallic paint still came off on my hands. Washing the pieces in soap and water improved things only slightly. I decided to press on in the hopes that I could find a solution later.

Comparison: Base coat only (left), base coat + wash (center), and base coat + wash + detailing (right).

I mixed a large batch of dark wash for this project using a formula I found online and stored it in a plastic bottle. This would help to keep the color of the wash consistent over all of the pieces. I repeated a method of applying the wash that worked well for a previous project. Rather than brushing on the wash and leaving it, I used a sponge to wipe away some of the excess. This resulted in even coverage on the flat areas while letting the wash settle into the details. The downward motion I used also helped to simulate weathering - nevermind the notion of "weathering" in space.

After highlighting. Note how the center of the room and corridors are a little brighter in color than the rest.

While my goal for the base coat and wash was an even coat in the flat areas, the pieces were looking a little too uniform at this point. I remedied this by applying a small amount of Craft Smart Premium Wax Metallic Finish with a soft cloth. This method provides a subtle gradation between the darker and lighter areas. I considered drybrushing a silver metallic paint to achieve the same effect, but I wanted to experiment a bit.

Detailing in progress. Note the difference between the gold colored rivets and the plain ones.

At this point, I felt that the pieces needed something to make them more interesting to look at. Coloring the round "rivets" with a Metallic Gold Sharpie gave them a little more detail. I choose a Sharpie over paint for convenience. It was easier for me to grab a Sharpie and color a few rivets in between doing other things than to deal with a bottle of paint and a brush in the same circumstances. I also had a Metallic Silver Sharpie on hand for corrections.

Door closeup.

I choose to make the doors visually distinct from the rest of the set. During the first time I tackled this project, I spray painted the door pieces the same metallic color as the walls and they tended to blend in. The first test was in a bright orange color that didn't coat well. That test piece will be stripped, reprimed, and repainted later. The purple spray paint I tried next coated well and stands out from the rest of the set. I used the same wash as the rest of the set to bring out the details. The buttons on the keypads were colored using a Metallic Sapphire Sharpie. I applied some thinned down Reaper LED Blue 09288 to rest of the keypad to simulate the appearance of a backlight. I tried something similar in green on the other side, but it didn't work as well. That side on the doors will be repainted to match the blue keypads later. A Metallic Gold Sharpie was used to pick out a few details. The wear marks where the doors meet and near the keypads were applied with a Metallic Silver Sharpie.

Next Steps:
I'm considering options at this point. There are the issues I mentioned above with the door that I need to fix. The corridor pieces looks good enough for tabletop use and are an improvement over my previous attempt. However, the overspray issue is still a concern - I don't want to be washing silver paint off my hands every time I handle the pieces. I'm considering spraying a seal on the corridor pieces to see if that fixes the problem.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Reaper Bones #77113 Eldritch Demon

Been making some progress on my pile of unpainted miniatures and unfinished terrain projects.

This particular project has spent time on and off my work table since I received it with the rest of the original Reaper Bones Kickstarter's backer rewards. The initial plan was to use this miniature to test a paint scheme to eventually use on its much larger cousin. That fell through when I couldn't find a way to produce a satisfactory green. I tried various combinations of base colors, highlights, and washes over the years. Nothing came out quite right until recently.

The key, it turns out, is Baby Poop.

But more on that later.

Look! He's waving hello! What's that he's saying? "Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!"

The Name

"Eldritch Demon" isn't the most accurate name for this friendly fellow. "Eldritch" is fair, given its obvious Lovecraftian inspiration. "Demon" isn't really descriptive of an extraterrestrial being, though. Fortunately, there is a wealth of alternatives:

  • Star-Spawn of Cthulhu
  • Cthulhi
  • Xothian
  • Li'l Cthulhu
  • Cthulhu Junior
  • Baby Cthulhu

The Paint Job

The results of my previous attempts formed a dark green-brown base for me to work with. The original primer/base coat is FolkArt 869 Glass & Tile Medium with a little brown paint. That coat is buried under multiple layers of paint, washes, and failure. Couldn't complain about lack of coverage, though.

I hit the raised areas with FolkArt 527 Forest Moss. Some might question the use of a craft paint, but I had a couple of reasons:

  • 527 Forest Moss is a light-to-medium green with a hint of yellow. It provides plenty of contrast with the dark green-brown base, even under a layer of wash.
  • It's the one thing that worked well from previous attempts at painting this miniature.
  • I'm planning on using craft paints as much as possible on the larger miniatures in my collection. This decision is driven entirely by cost - buying enough hobby paint to coat a Reaper Bones Cthulhu or - if I'm ever insane enough to attempt it – Kaladrax Reborn is well outside of my budget. If 527 Forest Moss works well on this project, it will hopefully work as well on a larger version of this project.
Check out those shoulders! Must be all that time working those wings.

Next came Secret Weapon W008 Baby Poop Wash. I purchased this stuff back on Black Friday/Cyber Monday. This is my first experience using a wash from Secret Weapon. The wash flowed smoothly straight out of the bottle, coating the whole miniature without breaking and setting into the recesses on its own. The finished glaze is glossy enough to suggest wet or slimy flesh on close inspection. The green-brown-orange color was just what I was wanting for a tentacled horror not made of ordinary matter.

The claws and bony spurs are a base of P3 Morrow White and a wash of Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade.

The tentacles and suckers are a base of Reaper 09183 Cloud Pink and a wash of Secret Weapon Dark Sepia Wash.

The eyes are a base of P3 Morrow White and a wash of Citadel Baal Red that has somehow survived years of storage.

The base was finished in my usual way:
  • Paint the integral base brown so none of the Bones white plastic will show through. (The figure was glued on to the round base during assembly.)
  • Brush on a layer of watered down PVA glue to the integral and round base.
  • Apply sand. Allow glue to dry completely.
  • Apply a mix of PVA glue, FolkArt 231 Real Brown, and water to the glued down sand. This further secures the sand to the base surface while coloring it. Allow to dry completely.
  • Drybrush FolkArt 420 Linen on the sand layer. This gives the base the appearance of dry earth or wet sand.

I'm pleased at how this project turned out. I'm also happy to be able to put the finished miniature in my display case and move on. It will emerge to menace some player characters soon enough.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Rule and Fate of Wizard-Kings

"Wizard-Kings always fall" goes the ancient saying. A wizard who seizes secular power must give up some measure of his magical progress. His hours and days become consumed with the demands of rulership. Meanwhile, his rivals and challengers are free to redouble their research, often spending every waking hour on their studies. Eventually, one such rival will unlock enough mystical secrets, gather enough arcane knowledge, and unleash enough eldritch power to eclipse the Wizard-King in magical strength and topple him in a clash of magics, seize the crown, and fall into the same trap.

Some mystics who would walk the path of rulership seek to avoid such a fate by dividing their time, only to lose ground in both the political and magical arenas. Only so much of the work of ruling can be delegated, even if enough trustworthy and talented people could be found to take on the burden. Only so much time can be pried from other responsibilities for the research that is a wizard's passion, especially compared with those free of such burdens. Political rivals will take advantage of the Wizard-King's divided attention to gain influence. Rival wizards will focus on their researches and inevitably close the gap in magical power.

It is commonly accepted that the best place for those who follow the mystic arts is to advise and assist those who already rule. This role is relatively undemanding and the time it requires can be spared more easily. While direct rule offers more political power, the influence of a trusted advisor is considerable.

But there are always those who try to use their mystic might as a stepping stone to political power. They think themselves too cunning to fall into the same traps that ensnared previous Wizard-Kings. A few have actually succeeded.

The Wizard-King Ballantyne outlawed magic throughout the realms he conquered to prevent the raise of rival wizards. One such rival escaped his notice. She sought out allies among those without political ties in Ballantyne's realms. Outland barbarians raided those who worked to bring forth the bounty of the land and wealth of its markets. Bards labeled nobles close to the Wizard-King as despots, justifying their later assassinations. A few bold adventuring parties assaulted Ballantyne directly – they failed to kill him, but injury and paranoia hampered his activities. Meanwhile, the rival wizard used her own magics to cloud the Wizard-King's scrying and counter his spells. In the end, the Wizard-King and his base of support were so worn down that his realms welcomed a challenger – a callow youth armored against Ballantyne's magics and wielding the sword fated to pierce the Wizard-King's heart. That youth was elevated to the throne by those who thought him easy to manipulate, but they were thwarted by the appearance of his chief advisor – a woman of great beauty and insight.

There are the tales of the Lich-King Koschei, who began his rule as a mortal man, but used the rituals of Lichdom to strip the flesh from his form and gain an unholy form of immortality. Without the need for sustenance or sleep, he could rule by day and study by night, making every moment of his undead existence count. As the years wore on his studies unlocked knowledge of the outer planes. His interest in the material world declined. He was removed from power by an alliance of his treacherous apprentices and rebellious courtiers, but tales hint at his survival and eventual return.

Related in principle to the Lich-King was the Necromancer Lord. His source of power was not reality-bending spells, but his endless army of undead. His rivals, both political and magical, were simply overwhelmed by the cold, unliving hands of his followers. Shortly afterwards, those unfortunates found their minds imprisoned within their own animate corpses. Enslaved by necromancy, his former rivals knelt at his feet and offered their undying support. Only his own death ended his rule – as he found himself dying of age, he attempted the rituals of Lichdom, but his ailing body caused his spells to falter. His corpse was consumed by his own army of undead.

(This was some background for a D&D campaign that never got off the ground. I found it, dusted it off, and gave it a quick edit before posting it here.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Dungeon Origins - From Howard to Gygax to 13th Age

Dungeons. Ever wonder why? Where did they come from? Who dug out all those corridors, neatly lined them all with stone blocks, built them to be all twisty and looking the same? Underground construction ain’t cheap, even if the builders happen to be dwarves who love that sort of thing.

Origin #1: Ruins from Ancient Times

This one dates back to Robert Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien. Dungeons are a remnant of older times - when things were grander than whenever "now" happens to be in the setting. Times of vast and wealthy empires. Empires that could afford to build vast underground areas for, y'know, reasons. Maybe those empires were run by dwarves or some other folks who enjoy subsurface living. Or maybe those empires needed a place to hide from something on the surface. Flocks of dragons would be a valid reason for hiding underground, even for ancient empires. On the other hand, underground structures tend to attract the types who find it like home - goblins, demons, etc. Maybe that explains what happen to all those vast and ancient empires?

Origin #2: A Wizard Did It

Gary Gygax wrote about how the wielders of powerful, unearthly magics had nothing better to do with their spare time than screw with people. When they weren’t creating Owlbears or conducting other experiments, they built dungeons under their towers. Look at the spell list for Magic-Users in 1st edition AD&D. There are certain mid- to high-level spells intended to secure a fixed location. Name-level player character Magic-Users getting tired of the murder hobo lifestyle, settling down, and building towers with dungeon expansions was A Thing in those early Lake Geneva campaigns. I suppose it could be entertaining to watch a party of up-and-coming murder hobos try to navigate your Dungeon of Doom after a hard day of exploring the secrets of the universe. Come to think of it, I'm kinda surprised that this isn't a standard dungeon set up.

Origin #3: Dungeons as Living Entities

13th Age presents the idea that some dungeons are living things that bubble up from the darkness under the earth and slowly rise towards the surface. I kinda like it. It reminds me of the video game Dungeon Keeper where the player runs an underground structure with a living heart that can be destroyed by do-gooders and rivals. However, there is nothing in else in Dungeon Keeper that suggests that the dungeons are alive. Making dungeons malevolent beings does justify why they seem to go out of their way to kill intruding parties of adventurers.

(I wrote an earlier version of this and posted on Tumblr awhile back.)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Haul, Part Two

This is "gaming related stuff I picked up inexpensively at recent holiday sales" part two. Part one can be found over here. My comments explain my reasons for purchasing these specific products and present my first impressions. More detailed opinions will come later, after I've had the chance to actually put these products to use. Fortunately, I've got a couple of projects in the pipeline for next year that will give me a chance to experiment.

Secret Weapon Miniatures

This is a company that's been on my radar for awhile. I backed their Tablescape Kickstarter way back in 2013. Before that, I heard positive things about their paints and washes from various sources. Their recent sale gave me a chance of pick up some of their products and try them out for myself.

So, let's see how many words I can throw up on the screen about washes and weathering powder.

Acrylic Wash - Armor Wash - W003

As the name implies, this is marketed for shading surfaces coated with reflective metallic paints. The color is a black/brown strong enough to significantly darken the surface that it is applied to. It should work well for armor plate and chain mail as well as any time a dark brown wash is appropriate - weathered surfaces, dark cloth, and leather come to mind.

Acrylic Wash - Flesh Wash - W005
This wash is a mix of orange and brown tones. Most of the flesh washes that I've tried use red rather than orange for shading. I'm not sure what effect that it would have or how it might throw things off for me. I suspect that the difference might be too subtle to notice.

Acrylic Wash - Baby Poop - W008
I'll fully admit that I got this one because I was amused by the name. It's mostly green and brown with a hint of red. Speaking from experience, real baby poop does contain these colors, but also has a strong yellow tone. Let's attribute the difference to "artistic license" and all that. I'm pretty sure that it is intended for a certain sci-fi wargame army with a green color scheme and featuring themes of physical illness, decay, and warm hugs. I'm thinking that this wash would work well for shading zombies, aliens and alien technology based on the works of H.R. Giger, swamp creatures, and adding to a corroded appearance on a metallic surface.

Acrylic Wash - Dark Sepia - W010
I've been looking around for a burnt sepia wash since my gradual return to tabletop gaming awhile back. Back in the day, my go to was Games Workshop's Gryphonne Sepia. It was handy for shading flesh tones, cloth, and gold metallic surfaces. Unfortunately, that product is long out of production. This purchase is the latest step in finding a "close enough" substitute.

Weathering Pigment - Rust Red - WP1013
I don't have any experience with weathering powders except that they seem pretty expensive for the amount that's in the container. Given this product's sale price, I decided that it was a good way to start experimenting. The strong red color took me by surprise - I was expecting something with more brown mixed in.