Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - Looking Back at My Gaming Goals

It's as good a time as any to take a look at the plans I made for gaming this year. Things didn't go as planned, but that's how life works.

Role Playing

The idea of running quarterly RPG games hit scheduling issues and go tossed to the side early in the year. But the underlying concept of promoting variety did work. I got three games off the ground during 2012.

Unfortunately, two of those games died off within two sessions. The first fizzled out. My issues with the ruleset (Palladium) caused me to trash the second.

The third, an AD&D campaign partly motivated by nostalgia, lasted for the planned half-dozen sessions. My gaming group will likely revisit this one later in 2013.


Terrain Projects

I tried my hand at creating my own terrain and learned quite a bit. Of course, some of that knowledge came at the cost of failure. Still, I feel better about trying, failing, and learning something than not taking the chance at all.

I have also been looking at sources of terrain for purchase. Expect some more reviews in 2013.


Painting Projects

I got a fair amount painted this year. Certainly the projects that were hanging over my head from 2011 were all completed early in the year.

Not buying more miniatures went out the window with the Reaper Bones Kickstarter. The summer and winter sales from various sources were also too tempting to resist. The end result is that my pile of unpainted metal, resin, and plastic is bigger than it ever was in 2011. Things will get even worse in March 2013 if Reaper stays on track.

So, yeah, more painting.


Overall, not a bad year.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Premium AD&D Books and How They Sparked Off a Campaigh

Wrapped up a AD&D First Edition mini-campaign yesterday to avoid Campaign Death Due to Holidays. It wasn't deep roleplaying, but everybody had a good time. The game will come out of hiatus after we get some other gaming under our belts.

The whole thing started when I treated myself to the Premium Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks. These are incredibly nice books. The crisp printing and bright paper makes it much easier to read than the originals. The gold coating on the edges might be overkill, but it sure looks swanky. The bookmark is handy (the one in my copy of the DMG marks the combat tables) and attracts playful cats. And I can testify to the durability of the covers - stuff just wipes off them. Nevermind how I know that.

I'll admit that nostalgia played a role in my getting these. I actually started gaming with the Basic D&D Set back in the day, but AD&D First Edition wasn't far behind. My original set was lost in a move long ago. Although I replaced them with secondhand copies awhile back, owning a new, high-quality set was something I couldn't resist.

Something I didn't expect was how these books put the game back on the radar. My players asked me to run a game as soon as I purchased the books.

The mini-campaign lasted six sessions. I used the maps and some thematic elements from the classic modules X1 Isle of Dread and C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. The basic plot was that a mysterious island showed up out of nowhere and the player characters were hired to go check it out. One shipwreck, some ruins, a few groups of undead, a couple of native villages, lots of jungle, some mild Lovecraftian elements, and a close escape later, the adventurers are off the island and sailing for home.

There are more than enough loose ends to pick things up later. The current plan is to start Part Two after March. That's when I'm expecting some fantasy miniatures to show up and provide a greater variety of monsters to throw at the player characters.

In the meantime, the group's consensus is to give Ashen Stars a try. More on that next year.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Painting By Numbers #6 - Sarah Blitzer, IMEF Sniper

This one almost got filed under Learning Experiences rather than Painting By Numbers.

I'm not sure if I like how this mini turned out. What I learned made it worth the effort of painting. I'm just not sure if it looks fine, could use a little more work, or needs a soak in Simple Green.

This is "Sarah Blitzer, IMEF Sniper" from Reaper's Chronoscope line (50274). The model is clearly based on the "female long ranged soldier/assassin/spy" that shows up in sci-fi shows and films from time to time. The rifle is huge. The armor is skintight. We all know what's going on here. Let's just move on.


The miniature is of good quality. The mechanical details on the rifle and armor are sharp and well-defined. A little work with a hobby knife took care of the small amount of flash. There is an annoying seam line on the top of the head. It blends into the hair at some angles, but is glaringly viable at others. I left it alone, but it's getting some time with a file if I decide to strip and repaint the figure.


It will be interesting to compare this metal model with the plastic version in Reaper's Bones Kickstarter. I'll follow up on that next year.


The base is from Champ Industries. I've been really happy with these from beginning to end. The service was prompt and efficient. The fact that these are plastic rather than resin meant that there was no clean up and no pinning required. Just a couple of drops of superglue and I could move on to priming. The detail is excellent and takes drybrushing well.


My paint job was inspired by the character Nova from Blizzard Entertainment's Starcraft setting. The model was primed with grey auto body primer. The body suit got a shade of medium grey (Citadel Codex Grey). The armor pieces and rifle got a darker shade of grey (Reaper MSP 09088 Stormy Grey). And a light shade of grey (Reaper MSP 09090 Misty Grey) was used as a highlight. A slightly diluted dark wash (Citadel Badab Black) was used to bring out the details. The rifle and base were drybrushed with a darker metallic (Citadel Boltgun).


Overall, I like the effect, but it might be too subtle. It stands out in good lighting, but it gets lost in darker conditions. What I'm tempted to try is using a light grey for the body suit while keeping the dark grey for the armor to enhance the contrast. I could use white or a white-light grey mix as a highlight.


I would also like the details to stand out a little more. The green on the goggle lenses is barely viable except on close inspection.


The hair came out well. I base coated it with a nice blond color (Reaper Master Series 09074 Palomino Gold) and hit it with a medium wash (Citadel Ogryn Flesh). A little more Palomino Gold was applied as a highlight.


What I'm really not happy with is the face. The skin came out alright, but I'm just going to have to learn how to paint eyes for Reaper's female figures. They just don't look right without that detail.


I'm still not sure what I'm going to end up doing with this mini. It's good enough for tabletop as it is, but I feel that I can do better with another attempt. For now, I'll just set it aside and get some work done on other projects.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Workbench #6 - Alien Crystal Terrain




These are what happen when you have some spare parts and a little milliput.

I was using some milliput to fill a few gaps in a project. As usual, it worked fine. Also as usual, I had some left over. And you can't unmix milliput. So it was either find something to do with it or throw it out.

This time, I had a plan. Best of all, it would use stuff I had laying around from previous and shelved projects.


Materials:

Flat wood craft pieces with the edges cut into irregular shapes. Used as bases.

Cocktail stirrers. I used plastic cutters to snip off angled pieces. This resulted in rather sharp edges, so I gave them a light sanding. Used as the "alien crystals".

Milliput. Used to mount the plastic stirrer pieces.

Sand. Basing material.

Glue. I used tacky glue, but any PVA glue will do.


Assembly:

Step 1: Push a small blob of milliput down on the wood base.

Step 2: Push cocktail stirrer pieces into the milliput.

Step 3: Wait for the milliput to cure.


Basing:

Step 1: Apply watered down PVA glue to the base and over the milliput. Be careful not to get any on the cocktail stirrer pieces.

Step 2: Cover the glued areas with sand. Wait until the glue is dry.

Step 3: Apply a watered down mix of brown craft paint and PVA glue over the sand. This colors and further fixes the sand in place. Wait until dry.

Step 4: Drybrush some linen craft paint over the sand.


Results:

These will look good on a variety of game boards. They could be alien crystals on a newly explored world or magic crystals in a cavern deep underground. I'll have to keep a few bases and cut stirrer pieces around for the next time I have a little leftover milliput.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Half Price Books Finds #1 - Four AD&D Modules

My latest score from Half-Price Books: four AD&D modules from way back when. All in pretty good condition.


S2: White Plume Mountain. Go into volcano dungeon, kill things, get past traps, and take stuff.

I2: Tomb of the Lizard King. Find source of evil, go to source of evil, and try not to get killed by source of evil.

C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness. Go into dungeon, kill things, get past traps, and take stuff.

Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Go into extra-planar space dungeon, kill things, get past traps, and wonder why invading the lair of Lolth ever sounded like a good idea.

Now, as the name of this blog suggests, I've been gaming for awhile. Modules like these were among my first gaming products. I've parted ways with many gaming books over the years. Some got lost during moves. Others were sold off during lean times. Purchasing nostalgia items like these modules is a chance to reconnect with my earliest days as a gamer. It's a luxury that I've come to relish.

Of these four modules, C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness is the only one that I owned previously. I missed out on the others the first time around, but I'm familiar with them from other sources. I'm looking forward to reading them. Maybe I'll get the chance to run a couple of them in the First Edition game I started recently.

Of course, I don't think I'll be able to convince them to take on Lolth on her own plane of existence.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tectonic Craft Studios 30mm Bases

It's always nice to have a little something show up in the mail. Last week, for me, it was a set of 30mm round miniature bases from Tectonic Craft Studios. All of their bases, terrain, and other game aids are made from laser cut MDF. Tectonic Craft Studios got started early this year when they ran a Kickstarter to raise funds to buy their equipment and get things rolling.


For my very modest pledge of $3 USD, I got twenty of these bases. I opted for four different types, Gangplank (lower left), OrthoGrid (upper left), Diamond Tread (upper right), and Cobblestone (lower right). I already have plans for some of them. The rest will likely get used up when the Reaper Bones Kickstarter miniatures show up next year.

I had a very positive experience with Tectonic Craft Studios and their Kickstarter. Updates came often enough to show their progress and I received exactly what I requested on their survey. These bases are a clear demonstration of their commitment. Going from funded to shipping product in a matter of months is not something every company can achieve.

It doesn't look like the Tectonic Craft Studios is taking orders on their website yet. But I'll be keeping on eye out for when they do.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Matchbox Finds for 15mm #2

All of the models below are part of Matchbox's Real Working Rigs line.

Abrams M1A1 Tank



The level of detail on these models is outstanding. A more realistic paint job and they fit right in on the tabletop. The scale may not be an exact match for 15mm, but it is close enough to work.

I've picked up a total of four of these models over the past few months. Two are the gray/blue/black scheme seen in the pictures. The scheme actually looks pretty good, but I could do without the “United Alliance” markings. The other two were part of Mission Force packs and had a hideous black and green paint scheme. Even worse, the paint was thick enough to obscure the details of the models. I've already stripped one and the other is going through a long soak in Simple Green. I'm thinking about a jungle green scheme might work well over the green plastic pieces.

Stryker M1128 MGS



These are based on the real world Mobile Gun System version of the U.S. Army's Striker. The gun in question is a 105mm cannon. My understanding is that the vehicle was designed for situations calling for a large bore direct fire weapon, but not the tank that usually comes with it.



The detailing is excellent, but the models are a little too large to be in scale with 15mm. That's fine with me, since I have no plans to use them in a modern game. These will likely end up being repainted for sci-fi wargames like Tomorrow's War. They have the right look to be convincing as tank destroyers or in an infantry support role. Unfortunately, placement of the cannon and the fact that the rear hatch opens to a blank panel makes using one of these models as a troop carrier problematic.

Tracked Missile Launcher



As far as I know, this model is not based on a real world vehicle. Most of the large missile launchers that I am familiar with are wheeled rather than tracked.

The model is nicely detailed, although there are some mold lines on the plastic missiles. This model will likely see use as an objective in sci-fi wargames. A planetary defense force would be wise to keep some of its missile launchers mobile and in the field to survive a surprise attack The missiles are big enough to convincingly threaten a large target – like part of a planetary invasion force or the ships that deployed it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Workbench #5 - Alien Plant Terrain


These were the results of a couple of experiments in terrain making. The goal was to some "scatter terrain" useful for sci-fi miniature games. The terrain had to be small, inexpensive, and within my current skill level. It also had to work with both 15mm and 28mm scale miniatures.
A little research introduced me to the idea of using drinking straws as the basis for alien looking plant pieces. TerraGenesis has an article covering the basics and Miniwargaming has a video demonstrating the techniques involved.

The above links do a fine job of describing the idea and the process. I see no real need to repeat the details here, so my descriptions will mainly focus on where I varied from the sources above.

Manufacture:

I used a candle as a stationary heat source to deform the straws. A word of warning about this step - it uses an open flame to melt plastic. Do it in a well ventilated area with a bucket of water nearby. The plastic can get plenty hot even if it doesn't liquefy enough to drip down on your hands.

Assembly:

I reshaped a pair of flat wood pieces with a craft knife for the bases. Next, I mixed some Milliput to use as mounting point for the straws. The Milliput was pushed down on the wood bases to form small mounds. I pushed the straws far enough into the Milliput to provide firm support.

Painting:

The undercoat was some black spray paint left over from another project. The coverage was not perfect, so I watered down some black craft paint to cover up the bare spots. I paid particular attention to the areas where the interiors of the straws were exposed.

The base coat was a couple of layers of thinned down dark green craft paint. I drybrushed on some lighter green craft paint to serve as highlights.

Basing:

I applied some watered down PVA glue to the base and over the Milliput and covered the glue with sand. Next was a watered down mix of brown craft paint and PVA glue to color and further fix the sand into place. Finally, I drybrushed some linen craft paint over the sand.

Results:

These pieces look like they should work well as sci-fi scatter terrain. They were simple to make and the costs were very reasonable, especially since I had some of the materials on hand already. As the picture indicates, they look convincing with different miniature scales.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Workbench #4 - Alternate Energy Scenery from Scene-A-Rama



These were a lucky find in the local Hobby Lobby's clearance section. I had previously passed them up at full price, but a few bucks off made them worthwhile. I wasn't the only one to think so. Every other Hobby Lobby in the Austin area has been sold out for awhile now.

These models are made by Scene-A-Rama under their Scene Setters line. Each package comes with two windmills and two solar panel arrays. The windmills are are roughly six inches tall and the solar panel arrays are about an inch in height.

These models are largely scale independent, although I did have 15mm in mind when I purchased them. They can be an objective for a sci-fi game on a distant colony world. Destroying or capturing the power generation for a small colony or outpost is a realistic mission for an attacking force. Alternately, they could just be terrain to add some flavor to a board.


Ambush Alley Games uses these models for their Tomorrow’s War demos, as seen on their Facebook page. They can also be seen in the Tomorrow’s War rulebook on page 103.

Assembly was straightforward. I used plastic cement to attach the pieces and gave it a day to cure. The windmill blades could either be glued down or left to move freely on the shaft. I left them free to spin.

The bases that came with the windmill models were too small to be stable enough for a gaming table. I fixed the issue by gluing the original bases on larger plastic bases. Then came the sand and a watered down mix of glue and brown paint to hold the sand in place and give it a base color. After it dried, a quick drybrush with a linen acrylic craft paint finished things up.

Reaper Bones Kickstarter Update

The Reaper Bones Kickstarter funded with 11,430% of its goal, so I'm reasonably sure they have enough money to go forward with expanding the Bones line. I ended up pledging just shy of $250. That's the $100 "Vampire" level pledge plus some of the extras made available by stretch goals.

Yes, I did end up raising my original pledge amount. By about a hundred dollars.

Reaper's shipping target is March, but I wouldn't be surprised if the date slips a little. Some of the stretch goal miniatures were still in the concept art stage when Reaper presented them. There is the whole process of getting the infrastructure in place to start production. And 17,744 backers is alot of folks to ship miniatures to.

The over 200 miniatures showing up early next year has put a deadline on clearing my worktable. It will be much easier to prioritize the Reaper Bone Kickstarter miniatures if I have my backlog of miniatures related projects under control first. To that end, I've been knocking out some quick and easy projects first. Expect to see some progress reports soon.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter

I've been keeping an eye on Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter. The original "Vampire Level" pledge was a pretty sweet deal at a $100 for over 60 fantasy miniatures. Still, I decided to wait and see.

When it hit the point where the $100 level worked out to less than a buck a miniature, I just couldn't justify waiting any longer. It was too good a deal to pass up.

At the time of this writing, the Vampire pledge gets 111 miniatures. This includes the original 67 and those unlocked by the project achieving several stretch goals. It does not include the optional rewards that require raising the amount pledged. Those optional rewards include paint sets, a figure case, and additional miniatures. All of which was nice deals at the prices Reaper is offering.

Which presents me with two problems.

First, that's gonna be alot of miniatures to paint.

The second is the temptation to raise my pledge every time this thing hits another goal...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Work Bench #3 - More Gamecraft Miniatures Buildings

These are the other two MDF terrain pieces I purchased from Gamecraft Miniatures. Much of what I wrote about the Small Cargo Module applies here: 15mm, made for Ambush Alley's Tomorrow’s War, and expect a wood smoke smell after getting the parts out the package.



The larger piece is named the Garage/Shop Module (15MTW003) and has the Optional Raised Detail (15MTW003-1) added. The cargo door and the building itself are a little small to hold most 15mm vehicles, so I'm not sure about calling it a garage. It works fine as a workshop or storage building, though.

The Small Module (15MTW001) also has the Optional Raised Detail (15MTW001-1) offered for this piece. It could represent a small residence, office, or storage building by itself. On the other hand, Gamecraft Miniatures made it just the right size for another option: stack it on top of a larger piece in the same product line. Placed on the Garage/Shop Module, it becomes a second story office or on-site residence.



Assembly was fairly simple, but I did run into an issue not present on the Small Cargo Module. I used super glue for the initial assembly followed by watered down craft glue to seal off any gaps. The roof and corners were still uneven after assembly. The MDF parts fit together well, but not perfectly, resulting in small gaps. I spread some filler (the same stuff used to fit holes in drywall) over the top and on the corners. A day and a little sanding later, the issue was mostly resolved. Some of the gaps can still be seen, but are not really noticeable at table top distances.

I used almost the same painting methods as on the Small Cargo Module. The only difference was going easy on the weathering for these pieces. I wanted them to look used, but still kept up.

The laser etched detailing is pretty good. It is deep enough to be seen after painting, especially if using thinned paints and washes.

The optional raised detailing does add to appearance of the pieces. It has a much stronger effect than the laser etching and is clearly visible even from across the room. It also almost doubles the cost of each piece. Personally, I like the optional detailing, but I can see how the choice between it and more pieces for roughly the same price might be an issue for some folks.

Overall, these are good, solid pieces that I'm looking forward to putting on the table. I plan on buying more when time and finances permit.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Austin Boardgame Bash 2012

Spent most of Saturday afternoon, all of the evening, and a fair chunk of early Sunday morning at the Austin Boardgame Bash. It's only the second year for this convention, but it's already proven popular for the local gaming community. I tried out some new games and enjoyed the chance to catch up with some familiar faces. Best of all, some commemorative dice to remind me of the event!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Work Bench #2 - Gamecraft Miniatures Small Cargo Module


I picked up three of Gamecraft Miniatures' 15mm scale MDF terrain pieces during one of their recent sales. The ones I purchased were made for Ambush Alley's Tomorrow’s War game. That said, there is nothing so distinctive about these pieces that they can't be used for any futuristic game.

This particular piece is a Small Cargo Module (15MTW031). Not being familiar with assembling and painting MDF, I decided to use it as a test piece before working on the other two (which will be seen in a later post).

The piece came unassembled in a plastic bag. I noticed a strong, smoky smell immediately after unsealing the bag. This is to be expected as the parts are laser cut wood. It wasn't unpleasant, but the smell was still noticeable days after taking the parts out of the package.

Assembly was straightforward. Test fitting revealed that the parts fit together well. The piece went together quickly and without a struggle. I used super glue to hold the parts together during assembly. After the super glue set completely, I applied watered down craft glue to the seams to strengthen the piece and to seal any gaps.

Although it is called the Small Cargo Module, the piece is a good size for a terrain piece. It is big enough to provide cover, influence maneuver, and effect lines of sight. It is also small enough to be added in without dominating the board or getting in the way as players move and measure.

The assembled piece is very durable. It survived getting knocked off my desk without damage. This piece should survive years of gaming with nothing more than touching up the paint.


Painting took longer than I expected. Online research suggested that priming would not be necessary and that the best approach would be multiple layers of thinned paint. The MDF absorbed the initial layer while barely changing color. It ultimately took four layers until I was happy with the coverage of the basecoat.

My initial concerns with filling in the laser etched details on the piece proved unfounded. The etching is deep enough not to be effected by the layers of thinned paint. I did apply some Reaper Black Wash (09255) over the etching to being out the details a little more, just in case.

The next step was highlighting. I gently brushed on a thinned down linen color over the medium gray basecoat. I paid particular attention to the upper edges where light would catch on a real structure.

Finally, I detailed and weathered the piece. I used some thinned down Reaper Black Wash to simulate shadows in between and below the panels. Some thinned down Reaper Brown Wash (09254) went into the lower parts of the piece to represent the build up of soil and dust over time.

I'm pretty happy with the piece. Its price is offset by its quality, durability, and utility. It would not look out of place as part of a near-future location here on Earth or in a far-future space colony or industrial world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Checking In

Just a quick check-in and an observation. I've made progress on some terrain pieces since the last post. Expect pics as soon as I can find the time to take them.

In the meantime, an observation – wipe down your work area regularly. I had just finished applying a nice, smooth coat of paint on a flat area of my latest project when I noticed a problem. A cat hair was stuck in the middle of it! Fortunately, the paint was still wet enough for me to fish out the hair with a spare brush and reapply the paint. Unfortunately, a quick check of recently worked on pieces revealed more cat hair. At least none of it is visible at table top distances. Looks like some touching up is in order...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Painting By Numbers #5 - 15mm ARC Fleet Infantry


Here's my first fully painted bunch of 15mm infantry figures intended for sci-fi wargames. These were actually completed after the first attempts at making terrain out of cardboard and electrical boxes, but before the second attempts.



What Company Made These Miniatures?

Critical Mass Games. These are the ones ordered back in November. I completed a test batch back in February and have used them for scale comparison shots ever since.

How Did These Get Painted?

I primed the figures with gray auto body primer. The base coat was a thinned down medium gray. Next was a blue-black wash. The final step was painting on details like the face plates and shoulder pads.

The bases are steel washers super glued to the integral bases that came with the figures. I textured the base with sand applied over watered down tacky glue. Once this was dry, the sand was colored with a mix of dark brown paint. tacky glue, and water. The mix also further secures the sand on to the base. I drybrushed on some linen paint to produce a sandy color and glued on a few pinches of static grass.

Why This Particular Paint Scheme?

Basically, I wanted to avoid the “Master Chief” look (no green with gold face plates) and the “Stormtrooper / Clone Trooper” look (no white or light gray). The test pieces I did in brown and khaki just didn't look good to me. So medium gray with a dark wash it is.



The colored shoulder pads to denote specialization isn't realistic nor is it intended to be. I just wanted something clearly visible at tabletop distances and didn't feel much like mucking around with coloring the bases.

What About Storage?

Not much to tell, really. The plastic box is part of a stackable storage container that I picked up years ago. The strips are magnetic material from Hobby Lobby. The strips tend to curl since the stuff comes in a roll. I ended up supergluing the ends down to keep them from popping up like seen in a couple of the images. The whole process only took a few minutes.



Any Lessons Learned?

This was my first experience with painting 15mm figures and with painting large numbers of figures in batches. Choosing a simple paint scheme that can be applied to multiple figures in steps enabled an efficient, assembly-line approach. Breaking down the job into batches was also critical. Each batch went quickly and rewarded effort by making progress easy to track.

Learning Experiences, Case #2a – UPDATE: Electrical Box Terrain, Ready for the Tabletop

This is a fresh start incorporating the lessons learned from my previous attempt.



First Lesson Learned – I used super glue to reassemble the piece this time. Some tugging and a short drop served to test the bonds after the glue set. It should stand up to normal use - place it on the table, remove it from the table, put it in a box, maybe drop it on the way a couple of times - just fine.

Second Lesson Learned – I got out the auto body primer and started spraying. Sandable auto body primer is good stuff - it leaves a surface that holds on well to paint and bonds to plastic, metal, and resin. It took two thin layers to get a good, even coat that covered up the original colors of the plastic.

Third Lesson Learned – A darker color for better coverage seemed like a good idea. I also went back to the tried and true method of paint large, flat surfaces - multiple layers of thinned down paint. The paint dried smoothly.



The end result wasn't bad, but it looked dull and flat. Applying a thinned down dark wash brought out the details, but the piece was still missing something. I highlighted the corners and top with the original base color. Finally, I applied a thinned down brown wash to weather the piece. Small steps like these add character to a piece, but I might have gone overboard with the brown wash.



There is another, larger piece in the wings. I plan on adopting the same techniques to complete it later. For now, I've got some other projects to complete first.

Learning Experiences, Case #1a – UPDATE: Working with Cardboard – More Success, Less Fail

Another try and a new approach.



I abandoned the idea of spraying on an undercoat and went straight for my brushes. All of the base colors were applied using “overbrushing” (which is just a fancy way of saying “drybrushing, but with more paint left on the brush). Also, the paint mix was a little thicker than the “milk-like consistancy” I normally use for miniatures or terrain. The overall idea was to go light on the amount of paint drying on the piece at any given time. This prevented the warping and fraying issues encountered with the first test piece.

However, this left me with another problem. The gaps between the cardstock pieces were still clearly visible. The idea behind spraying on a dark undercoat is to cover up these gaps in coverage before applying the base colors. With no undercoat, I had to find another way.

The solution was a dark wash. Normally, a wash serves to bring out details, but this time it filled in the spaces between the cardstock pieces. The result was the appearance of shadows where the cardstock pieces meet.

The wash did darken the piece considerably. I drybrushed the base colors over the wash as a highlight to bring back a brighter look to the piece.



The end result is a nicely weathered looking shack suitable for a “lived-in” sci-fi setting. I've got some plans to use a settlement on a distant world as the backdrop for some upcoming games, so this piece will see time on the board in the future. I might even make a couple more down the road.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Learning Experiences, Case #2 – Electrical Box Terrain

This is project that got started after doing a little reading on the Internet. The idea is simple – take a blue plastic box normally used for electrical work and modify it to look like a futuristic building suitable for a smaller scale sci-fi game. This article on the Reaper Miniatures site and this post on TMP do a good job of presenting the concept. The boxes and bits were inexpensive and everything looked like it would be within my skill level.

But, as they say, experience is the best teacher.

The first step was getting all the materials. A quick trip to the local Home Depot and a few dollars made me the owner of a couple of promising looking electrical boxes. A few minutes of sorting through my bits boxes yielded enough plastic doodads to provide some additional details like doors. I already had plenty of paints.

There were a few things on the electrical boxes that needed to be removed. Basically, anything that made them look more like electrical boxes and less like buildings. A few minutes work with my trusty Dremel took care of that.

Next was assembly. I washed everything in soap and water and let it all dry completely. Then I sat down to work.

First Point of Failure – Plastic Cement. I decided to use plastic cement since I was assembling plastic bits on plastic bodies. The only exception was a metal bit that I used super glue on. This proved critical awhile later.

After everything was put together, I let everything sit until the next day.

Since I had two electrical boxes, I decided to try two different approaches to painting and see which worked best. The smaller box got sprayed with some Krylon Fusion left over from a home improvement project from last year. The bigger box got hit with some craft store primer left over from one of my wife's projects, also from last year.

Second Point of Failure (Smaller Box) – Spraying on a base coat without primer. I noticed I wasn't getting good coverage on the smaller box. The original colors of the plastic box and bits were showing through the light gray of the spray paint. I applied more paint to correct for this, ultimately spraying down two fairly thick layers. This turned out to be a mistake. The second layer never really set correctly – it was still tacky to the touch after a couple of days. The age of the paint may have also been a factor.

Second Point of Failure (Larger Box) – Cheap primer. I had a much easier time spraying down the primer on the larger box, although multiple thin coats were needed for good coverage. The primer set overnight and was ready for painting. Unfortunately, it didn't do a good job of holding on to the paint. I have some experience with painting large, flat surfaces on miniatures – shields and larger pieces like Warjacks – so I knew the need to thin down the paints and go for multiple thin layers. But the paint refused to flow properly on the surface of the primer. It either pooled or ran down the sides. In any case, the results were unpleasant.

At this point, I had two unusable terrain pieces – one with paint that wouldn't set, the other with paint too ugly to put on the table. Hoping that everything would look better in the morning, I gave up and went to bed.

The next morning revealed even more horror. At some point during the night, one of the boxes was knocked to the floor. (Ah, the joys of letting my wife keep cats around.) As I leaned down to pick up the wayward terrain piece, I noticed that a few of the plastic bits had come off. A little experimenting revealed that the plastic cement had failed to provide a strong bond. I could break the plastic bits off the boxes with little effort. On the other hand, the metal bit I had super glued on refused to budge. These pieces wouldn't have lasted long if they had made it to the table.

Lessons Learned:

  • Both pieces have taken a long soak in a solution of Simple Green and water. The paint and primer came off after a good scrubbing. They need another wash in soap and water to get rid of any residue from the Simple Green, but are otherwise ready for assembly.
  • First Lesson Learned – Assembly. I will be using super glue to assemble everything with time around. The bond is much stronger than plastic cement on this material.
  • Second Lesson Learned – Priming. Both pieces will be primed a dark gray with an auto body primer. The dark color will cover up the original colors of the plastic better. I've also had good results with auto body primer providing a good surface for paints on large, flat surfaces. Multiple layers of thinly applied primer will be used to provide good coverage.
  • Third Lesson Learned – Painting. I'll try a slightly thicker paint mix when I get started. The paint mix I used before didn't seem too thin, but it's best to be sure. It's easier to thin down a paint than thicken it back up, anyway.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Learning Experiences, Case #1 - Working with Cardboard

This started with some small cardboard pieces I found around the office. Here is what one looks like:


They are just the right size and shape to hold small items. Prior to this project, holding bits was their main contribution to my gaming projects.



They are just the right size and shape to hold small items. Prior to this project, holding bits was their main contribution to my gaming projects.


Then, one day, I flipped one over. It was about the right size and shape to be some kind of 15mm building. Maybe a bunker or a small house or something.

Eventually, I was inspired by a thread over at TMP about cobbled-together colonies. I used some other cardboard pieces and other bits to make something that wouldn't look out of place in a sci-fi setting like Firefly. So far, so good.

(By the way, I wasn't the only one inspired by that thread. Check out these MDF pieces offered by GameCraft Miniatures. Good stuff.)

The failure occurred when it came time to paint the thing. This was supposed to be a quick, cheap, and easy project. An afternoon prototype. The kind of thing that gets done in between more time- and resource-consuming work. So I reach for some black spray paint.

Now, in my defense, I had yet to try painting cardboard. Imagine my surprise when the cardboard starts coming apart. I expected some warping, but the material started to fray where I sprayed it. I'm not sure if it was the cheap spray paint or the amount I used, but the piece was unusable after that.

No pictures, I'm afraid. The offending piece got thrown out. I have some ideas on a new approach, but it will have to wait a little longer.

Learning Experiences

I've heard it said that failure can be a learning experience. Unfortunately, I've also heard it said that “learning experience” is a way to say “total butt kicking” with a positive spin.

No, this isn't about why I haven't undated in a long while. That can be attributed to a combination of too many other commitments, too little time, and just plain laziness.

The particular failures I'll be describing are a couple of terrain projects. They started out with high hopes and limited budgets. One ended up in the trash and the other ended up getting stripped of paint for another try.

Next: Case #1 - Working with Cardboard.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Scored a Copy of Survive: Escape from Atlantis!

I tried out Survive: Escape from Atlantis late last year and liked it enough to put it on My List of Stuff to Get When I Have the Money. Unfortunately, by the time I got through the Holiday Season with some gift money burning a whole in my pocket, I heard that the game was sold out. Word from Stronghold Games was that it would be reprinted sometime in 2012.

This blew a hole in my post-Holiday plans. Survive: Escape from Atlantis struck me as a good family game. Getting it was to be a step towards getting a regular family game night going. Now I would have to look for alternatives while keeping an eye out for the new printing. Checking online came up empty. The game made My List of Titles to Check For Every Time I Set Foot in a Game Store.

I resigned myself to a bit of a wait.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw some copies at Barnes and Noble. I had already sold my wife on the game awhile back, so a copy got rung up with a book for each member of the family. (My book was Erwin Rommel's Infantry Attacks.)

I unwrapped the game and set to reading the rules. My wife, daughter, and me started up a game after dinner. We all had a good time and it looks like it will be a staple once we get family game night going again.

I guess you just get lucky, sometimes.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Matchbox Finds For 15mm #1

The Oshkosh HEMTT A4



The Oshkosh HEMTT A4 in box, out of box, and with a 15mm ARC Fleet rifleman for scale. From the Matchbox Real Working Rigs line. HEMTT is short for an even bigger mouthful: Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. The real thing is made by Oshkosh Defense and is in service today.

My plans for this pair involve a repaint to match my existing collection. Although they are modeled on a current design, they should serve well as generic space military trucks. And there is an added bonus – the container in the back is removable. That simplifies customizing the truck to carry other loads or simply using the containers as terrain.

Stealth Launch



The Stealth Launch in box, out of box, and with a 15mm Arc Fleet rifleman for scale. From the Matchbox Sky Busters Missions line.
The Stealth Launch is available in gray and black. I felt that the gray was more “military” looking than the black with racing stripes look of the alternative. At least I could pass the orange racing stripes on the gray ones as warning markers of some kind. I might touch these up a bit, maybe put a wash on them to bring out the details, but they do look good out the package. I have a scenario involving a raid on an airstrip in mind, but that's pretty far down my “to do” list.

Tucker Sno-Cat



The Tucker Sno-Cat in box, out of box, and with a 15mm ARC Fleet rifleman for scale. From the Matchbox Real Working Rigs line.

These are likely to see use a civilian vehicles. They look similar to some real life amphibious all-terrain vehicles, so they could serve as colonial exploration vehicles after I remove the plow blade. Or I could use them as technicals after adding some weapons and painting them up with a “Road Warrior” look.

Matchbox For 15mm

Matchbox vehicles are promising to be a handy addition to modern and sci-fi 15mm miniatures wargaming. They will never replace the variety of vehicle models available online, but work well to supplement a vehicle collection. True, they're not perfect, but their limitations are manageable.

Cons
  • Scale can vary from vehicle to vehicle. You'll want to take a close look at each potential purchase while still in the store. Nothing is worse than bringing something home and finding that it's too big or small. Fortunately, the clear blister packaging makes this pretty easy.
  • The paint jobs vary from glossy and garish to flat and uninspired. Many vehicles will need complete repainting to match the look of everything else on the table.
  • Not every need is covered. There aren't many armored vehicles on the market, for example.

Pros

  • Matchbox is widely available. Most of the big box stores that carry toys have Matchbox available.
  • The level of detail is good.The prices are reasonable compared to metal and some resin models.
  • Civilian vehicles are common, a niche not filled by many 15mm miniature vehicle lines.

Next: Matchbox finds.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Painting By Numbers #4 – ARC Fleet Test Batch

As promised way back in November, here are some pictures of the 15mm ARC Fleet miniatures I got from Critical Mass Games. I wanted a simple, fast paint scheme that I could use to get them done as quickly as possible.



For this test batch, I mixed up a batch of watered down Liquitex Payne's Gray for use as a wash. The first layer of wash was applied over a light gray basecoat. The faceplate and shoulders were painted on and a second layer of wash was applied. After touching up the details, I used sand and static grass to complete the basing.

Painting By Numbers #3 – Cygnar Battle Box Completed!

February wasn't nearly as productive as I hoped. I only made progress in a couple of projects, but I'll take “some” results over “no” results.

Here is a project that I really wanted to get done. It's Commander Coleman Stryker from Privateer Press. Keen eyed fans of Warmachine know this as a variant miniature. I picked it up after an unfortunate accident occurred to the Commander Striker that was in the Cygnar Battle Box. It's just as well, I like this pose better, anyway.



Commander Striker completes the Cygnar Battle Box I started awhile back. These were all painted using techniques (loosely) based on the ones Matt DiPietro described in No Quarter #35.



Of course, I have the Black 13th Gun Mage Strike Team around here, but they can wait until some other miniatures get painted.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012 – Looking Forward

I'm not in the habit of making New Year's Resolutions, but I do have plans for early 2012. Bear in mind the old saying about how long plans survive in the face of opposition, though.

Quarterly RPG Campaigns

Divide the year into quarters and run a new game every quarter. This puts a hard deadline on story lines and promotes more variety.

I ran this past my regular gaming group and they all approved. Now comes the tough part – what to run first?

Terrain Projects

Look into low-cost alternatives to commercial terrain pieces and kits. Not that there is anything wrong with well-made, good-looking terrain being produced these days. Many of them are available for reasonable prices. However, limited funds are forcing me to choose between buying terrain and buying miniatures. Given the difficulties of playing miniatures games without miniatures, I'll be trying my hand at creating terrain rather than purchasing it. Not that I'll pass up good deals on commercial terrain if I find them.

For the immediate future, this means preparing more trees for the tabletop. I picked up a package of plastic pines suitable for 15mm or 28mm scale at Home Depot's after-Christmas clearance sale. A little paint, some flock, and new bases will make them ready to go.

There are also some odds-and-ends that I've collected that would be good for creating futuristic terrain. That will be a little further down the road.

Painting Projects

Knock down the amount of unpainted models in my collection. No more impulse buys. If I have no immediate plans to put it on the table, I don't buy it.

Clear off the desk. There's a couple of models that were repeatedly pushed aside in favor of other projects last year. Got to get them done before moving on.

Base and paint my 15mm ARC Fleet troopers from Critical Mass Games.

Base and paint miniatures appropriate for upcoming RPG projects – pirates and sci-fi at the moment.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2011 – Looking Back

2011 brought changes in how and what I play. There wasn't as much gaming as I wished for, but that's something that I've come to accept as time passed. Getting more out of the limited time and funds that I could put into gaming inspired me to look for new options.

Role Playing Games: I was planning on running more RPG campaigns and one-shots in 2011. Some of them stalled out in the planning stages, others ran aground on conflicting schedules. I've got some thoughts on how to address these issues, but the basic principle is to simplify. Long running campaigns are out, campaign ideas that can be developed in a mini-campaign or one-shot are in.

Miniature Wargames: The chance to play Tomorrow's War at Millennium Con has left me wanting more. 15mm wargaming is going to play a bigger role for me in 2012.

Board Games: Give to Game, the Board Game Bash, and (most of all) the board gaming group that took me in showed me that board games can deliver a satisfying game experience. Part of my Christmas money went to Arkham Horror and Pandemic. More will likely follow in 2012.

Post Holiday Clean Up

It never fails. I manage to catch whatever is going around almost every holiday season. This despite getting a flu shot, monitoring my diet, and getting better about exercising regularly. Maybe it has something to do with living in one of the allergy capitals of the world.

The good news is that I'm getting my energy back. It was taking everything I could muster to make it through a day of work. Now, I can get some things done at home before looking for a place to lie down.

The first order of business was digging out my office and hobby area. Something about a flat surface tends to attract every loose paper around it. Cleaning up turned into re-organizing. My hobby tools and supplies are back in place. Next up will be the bookshelves – I haven't even looked at some of that stuff in years. It might be time for a trip to Half-Price Books to sell some of it off.