Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, July 24th, 2016 - A Nautical Diversion

Nemesis comes alongside; Harchar's on his quarterdeck, and all's right with the world. Dreadnought to the left.

Maritime Mayhem Game, with much of the fleet in action. Lady Caroline's Revenge got in Harchar's way...

We're going to have a small diversion from our course, and talk about ships and boats for a bit. One of our Regular Readers, who has a very nice blog entitled 'Adventures in Lead', asked about the ships he'd seen in the various photos of my game room. He recently posted an excellent article on an excellent model ship of his own; please do have a look:

I do have a lot of ships and boats that I use in games as needed; this goes all the way back to my getting a copy of "Bireme and Galley" from Fantasy Games Unlimited and a copy of "Sea Steeds and Wave Riders" from Judges' Guild. I mounted all the lovely deck plans included in these publications onto foamcore sheeting, and used them for years in our adventures out at Phil's. (I still have all of them, too.) I also drew up the plans for dear old Captain Harchar's various ships for our adventures; we spent several years of game and real time afloat.

Gaming technology has come a long way since those days. I was able to get a pair of solid foam galleys and a merchant ship back in 1987, and then in the middle 200's several companies came out with cast resin ships of various sorts. Grand Manner, Old Glory, and Flagship Games / Scale Creep Games are all represented in the fleet; I have also built a number of ships for specific scenarios and games. (Commercially available ships used to be available for very modest prices on Ebay; the Missus, Queen of the Internet, really deserves a lot of credit for building up the fleet for what was a very modest investment.) Laser-cut wooden ships and boats are also coming in to the market, and these are very nice; you might have to do a bit of gluing and assembly, but it's worth it. TRE Games has some very nice boats that make great cargo lighters, for example. And, interestingly enough, the gift and novelty shops also can be a useful source of boats; I got a half dozen very nice little fishing boats / rowboats from a company that specializes in table decorations, for example.

The flagship ship of my fleet is the mighty Nemesis, a gaming model of one of the packet galleys that go up and down the Missuma River between Jakalla and Bey Su; I built her in a weekend for a game session, along with the Prince Ahmed, a smaller sailing ship that can be seen in the lower photo - she's the red and white ship with the lateen sail. She has a removable quarterdeck, as access to her cabin was an important plot element in the game session.

Usually, when I build ships, they are intended for specific games and so usually have to be built pretty quickly. I normally cut a solid 'plank' of wood to the basic hull shape, and then wrap card stock around that shape to form the sides of the ship. (Glue. Small nails. Trim up as needed.) Nemesis is three planks, stacked on on top of the other; the railings were the most time-consuming part of her build, as was gluing 96 (!) Foundry shields to the railings. Similarly, Harchar's big merchant ship is also stacked planks, but this time of the pink extruded styrene foam I used for a lot of scenic projects. Her arch foe, the Hlyss nest ship, is built the same way.

The rest of the smaller ships and boats are resin, from various manufacturers; look in 'pirate' ranges, and you'll often find some very nice bargains. I prefer to buy the smaller boats, as they take just as much work to make them look good as larger ships, so for me it it simply more cost-effective to buy commercial products then make them; it's certainly possible to make them, though.

Serious ship modellers will note that I usually don't put a lot of detail into my ships. I've found, over the years, that while doing so makes for great models, it also makes for trouble in games; the details usually get in the way and get broken, so I usually put in only the stuff that's going to get used in a game. Masts, yards, and sails all fall into this category, as the players are forever shooting them off, hacking them off, setting fire to them, and doing all the things that heroic players do in the movies. I generally don't do holds and cabins, and prefer to supply separate plans to the players - it seems to keep the games moving faster, and adds more of a surprise factor when somebody breaks doen the cabin door or falls down through and open hatch.

And yes, I do have grappling hooks, in both artillery-fired and hand-thrown sizes; look in fishing supply shops for treble hooks, and then make sure to file down the barbs on the hooks before you try to use them in a game. Stout thread for rope is always nice; I like to supply my ships with lengths of thread for ropes, just in case of need. More then one ship has had to be towed to safety, over the years. :)

I think, if people don't mind, is that I'll alternate a post on painting figures with a post on a specific ship or boat; I think it might be fun to do so, als get more information out to all of you...

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, July 18th, 2016 - Of Wooden (Laser-cut) Ships and Iron (Portcullis) Men

More from TRE Games!

Lots of news, this week, and if it's all right, we'll dive right in!

 I've now had my first week in the new job, and I can say that I am really enjoying it. Yes, I do come home tired, but it's a good tired. My health is markedly improving, I'm getting more sleep, and I think I've made a good move. I am, as they say, a happy camper.

I was at the Minnesota Miniature Gamers Association' quarterly meeting - Recon - and played in a game of "Close Action!" rum by Mr. T. Arndt. It was great!!! Three of us old hands from the Conflict Simulation Association and three 'younger' players, amongst five ships - one player arrived late, so I offered him my ship, and I took on the role of the Spanish Commodore. It was 1777, and we were trying to get away from the Portugese squadron off Uruguay. We were bigger, and thus slower, but we had a lot more guns. The net result was that both squadrons got battered about pretty well, and lots and lots of reports had to be sent to Lisbon and Madrid.

It was a wonderful game, and reminded me of the nights at Coffman Union, all those years ago. A truly wonderful day!!!

TRE Games has come out with a pair of new products - a larger portcullis, and a set of three triremes, all in their laser-cut wood. I have the smaller versions of the working portcullis, and it's one of those little detail items that really makes an underworld adventure special. This larger one would be founf in more important areas, and it'll work just fine. I am very happy to have these!!!

The trireme kits gets you three ships for $8.00, and is - in my opinion - very good value for money. Each ship is built up in layers, and has alternate oars; you also get several sets of parts for the masts, so as to have spares, and there's a sheet of a dozen different sets of sails. These are very elegant little kits, and I'll say a lot more about them when I start talking about my little fleet of model ship...

More to come! :)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

On Miniatures - Essay The Fifth - Azure Blue And The Heavy Infantry

Azure Blues
Tsolyani - Heavy Infantry 'A'
Tsolyani - Heavy Infantry 'A'
Thank you for your patience - the first week at the new job has been great, but I've been pretty busy.

So, let's move into deeper and murkier waters, shall we?

Back in the summer of 1975 - the dating is pretty vague, actually, Bill Murray of Old Guard (a manufacturer of historical collector figures in 54mm) contacted Prof. Barker regarding doing a line of Tekumel miniatures in 25mm. Bill had gotten the license to do the line from TSR, but since the latter didn't have a lot of material for Bill to work with, he contacted Phil for more information.

Phil sent him a list of the figures that he'd like to see made - it later formed the basis for the 'Painting Guide' information - as well as a pile of illustrations from both Phil and Dave Sutherland. In the beginning - this is back at the dawn of the RPG era, remember - the feeling was that 'fantasy wargames' would be like the usual 'Ancients' and 'Medievals' games; big armies facing each other across broad expanses of tables. So, there was an emphasis on 'military' figures in Phil's list; the various priests and priestesses were included with the idea that these would be the 'officers' and 'personalities' used in wargames, as well as the magic-using contingents that are part of Tekumelyani warfare. A this time, there were no recognized legions as such; this would come in a couple of years, with Dave Sutherland's "Legions of the Petal Throne" miniatures rules.

So, let's have a look at this 'Ur-list'. I'm using the "Heavy Infantry 'A'" figure; which was drawn by Dave Sutherland. Phil did the drawings of the Standard-Bearer, Trumpeter, and Archer; Dave did the Officer. Phil used these as a generic infantry figure; several different paint schemes exist in his collection. Today, I'll concentrate on what became the Legion of Serqu, Sword of the Empire, in later publications.

The first, and possibly oldest, question about Phil's idea of what his figures should look like is "What did he mean by 'azure blue'?". Well, as near as I can make out, he was probably thinking of the Humbrol MC20, 'Prussian Dragoon Blue'. I used Pactra 'Flat Light Blue' on my own figures, and Phil said that this was several shades too light; he preferred a slightly darker palette, himself, and it became very easy over the next decade to tell my figures from his simply by looking at them; put them side by side, and my figures were always a shade or two lighter then his. It made clean-up after games a lot easier.

So, from what I could tell that was his standard for the classic 'Azure Blue' - which he promptly departed from, as you can see from the photos. The armor on these figures is a metallic dark blue, which I'm still trying to identify: I am pretty sure that it's a Floquil color, as Phil didn't like using Pactra - I did, and the Pactra metallic blue I used looks a little lighter then Phil's color. The 'skirt' is a darker blue, kilt and tunic white, leather is Humbrol 'Red Leather', and trim in gold. I am pretty sure that the plumes are the MC20 color, right out of the tinlet.

Now, at this point I think I need to make a point that Phil was at pains to make for years:

There is no 'color standards list' for Tekumel.

Very early on in the history of Tekumel publishing, Phil got a letter from a fan asking what were the 'FS' numbers (from Federal Standards, published by the US government) and Phil replied that he didn't know. His point, in the course of a long and detailed letter, was that the dyes used by both his Tekumelyani and those used in the Terran ancient and medieval settings did not give perfectly consistent results. So, he pointed out, there will be subtle differences in these colors - the Temple of Ksaul may specify that their members should wear black cloth, but that black will vary between locations and between individuals; unless the very same 'dye lot' of a bolt of cloth is used, you will see subtle different shades in a group of what are supposed to be all the same unit or group.

Interestingly, Phil's point of view has been borne out over the following decades by practical experiment. Various re-enactment groups, such as the justly-famed Ermine Street Guard, have been using natural dyes in their outfits, and there are indeed noticeable different shades of color in fabrics. Hence, his lack of a color standard; it just didn't show up on his radar. He felt then, and for years later, that he was happy to provide descriptions of how he painted his figures but that the owner of a figure should have the right to paint their figures anyway they wanted to:

"Here's my Tekumel; now make it yours..."

Which is why we have this figure in Phil's own collection in blue armor and white kilts, black armor and orange kilts, blue armor and linen kilts, and so on.

"So, Chirine," I can hear you say, "Cut to the chase and tell us what color you use for 'azure blue' and where to get it." I use a color that Howard Fielding of The Tekumel Project found: Vallejo Game Color #72023, 'Electric Blue'. This color is a shade lighter then the Humbrol paint, but a shade darker then the Pactra paint I used; it's an acrylic, and looks very good on the game table.

Which brings up a point; we usually use very good lighting on our workbenches, but very poor lighting for our game tables. For example, I use three 60-watt lamps on my game table, but most of the places that I game have fluorescent tubes that give a bluer light. Wheh I built my game room, I installed track lights that provide a lot of light, in the same color spectrum that I have on the workbench, So, while I am very aware that my figures will look slightly different in some venues, I don't worry about it all that much and just get on with the painting.

Right, then. Questions? Comments?

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, July 11th, 2016 - The First Day At The New Job!

There's some rust, but it still runs...

This will be a very short update, and then we'll be back to the series of painting essays later today or tomorrow. It's my first day at the new job, and I've been trying to get used to the new schedule all weekend. This will be the first day shift I've worked in eight years, so I'm having to do the 'jet lag recovery' thing to get my internal clock reset.

Posts and updates here will be getting done at different times as we transition over into days, but I will get them done.

speaking of the essays, what would people like to see? I've had one request for information about the boats I have, and I'll do this after we get done with the painting stuff. This blog is as much yours as it is mine; what would you like me to talk about? :)

Friday, July 8, 2016

On Miniatures - Essay The Fourth - Inferences and Choices

Various editons of the Chlen:
Original sculpt, resin in primer. basic colors, detailed and 'weathered';
Tummy scales shown at top.
Let's move on a bit in the painting process, if we may. I'm using a pretty basic paint scheme, that of a Chlen beast, to get us started in the process of color and paint selections.

Back in the day, we didn't have model Chlen to paint, but we did discuss what color Chlen-hide, that common and useful material - this of it as the 'plastic' of Tekumel - might be as we saw it so much. Phil considered the problem, and I brought him a couple of color charts ('chip charts', we used to call them) to look at. These used to be given away for free by paint companies in hobby stores; these days, you can get them from the companies on-line.

So, Phil looked over the Humbrol and Floquil chip charts, and selected a nice green-grey color for basic chlen-hide: Humbrol Authentics HP-4, 'British Army Deep Bronze Green'. I used I don;t know how much of the stuff over the years, as anything made of Chlen-hide that wasn't going to be dyed a different color - like weapons or armor, for example -  got this color.

Now, this particular color - like the rest of the Authentics line - is no longer available; however, we look at the IPMS Stockholm chart, and we see that it has been replaced by Super Enamel 075, 'Matt Bronze Green'. So, off to the hobby shop, and four of the classic Humbrol tinlets go into the drawers of my painting stand.

Two bits of very hard-won advice for anyone thinking about using Humbrol:

1) When you are using the stuff, keep a supply of toothpicks handy and stir the paint every now and then. Humbrol has a very high density of very fine pigment -it's why it's such a good model paint - and keeping it stirred helps keep the stuff at it's best.

2) After each time you use the stuff, clean off the cap / lid of the tinlet and make sure it's clean. Any air leaks into the little can will cause the paint to dry out with truly astonishing rapidity, and the stuff is not cheap. An occasional drop of the right thinner doesn't hurt, either, but one much be judicious about this.

Nowadays, we happen to be able to get a very nice Chlen from Howard Fielding of The Tekumel Project; this is a model done for me by one of my players, and is of the full-grown mature Chlen. Phil once commented that the beasts are big and slow, and this one certainly fits the description he gave as well as the drawing he did that was on the game board of "War of Wizards".

The model has belly scales, and these had been mentioned in our of our games by Phil as being the same sort of greyish-green, but much lighter. So, enter Liquitex Artist's Acrylics, stage right. Phil was an early adopter of these for his models; he didn't go to the art supply store, but being both clever and thrifty went to the University of Minnesota Bookstores' art supplies section. He pointed these excellent paints out to me, and I took the suggestion and have been using them ever since.

Back in the day, Liquitex made a very handy device like a circular slide rule, but with colors instead of numbers. one spun the inner wheel to get the colors that matched the sample printed on the outer wheel, and so got the color matches for the base color. It's a lot like the complimentary shades one finds in various paint ranges - the Reaper 'triads' come instantly to mind - and it makes it very easy to select colors. I don't know if this handy device is still made, or if a similar device is available from other companies; I'd be willing to hazard a guess that there is an on-line tool that does this same function.

Be that as it may, a little comparison work and we get out the bottle of Liquitex 'Baltic Green'. This color is in the same chromatic range as our 'Bronze Green', and a fair bit lighter - I used this lighter color because the beast's belly is going to be hard to see - it's always going to be in shadow, on the game table - so the lighter color makes it stand out when a player does have a look across the table. Details, like the yellow for the eyes, is simply one of the yellows from the Liquitex range. I also used the 'Baltic Green' to drybrush the beast, to bring up the details of the horns, toenails, and bumps on the hide. It looks good, I think, and brings out the details on the beast.

We'll let the beast(s) dry, and in the nest installment of this series of essays approach a more complicated subject...