Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, December 29th, 2013 - Fun and games, at least as practiced hereabouts...

The Scene Of The Action - the seaside resort at the mouth of the Psgheti River;
Lady Tsahul's barge is moored at the dock, providing accomodations

Lord Chirine and Lady Si N'te discuss the forthcoming safari to see the fabled
Lost Pyramid of Phil-ho-tep the Magnificent, a local tourist attraction

Aliya, Lady Kiya's maid, and Nyssa, Lady Tsahul's maid and Chirine's junior wife,
in hot pursuit of a would-be ambusher who is fleeing from the wrath of the outraged maids

The melee becomes general, with spells flying left and right from the howdahs
and the Sro throwing their weight around.

Well, I thought that it went all right; people came, they had fun, and we all enjoyed ourselves. The general idea was that the tourists from Tsolyanu would visit the local tourist attractions via the Sro-back rides; several parties of treasure-hunters had other ideas, and thought that the tourists' money-pouches might prove full of negotiable specie - i. e., loot. Things got very chaotic after that, and much fun and laughter resulted. Lady Kiya's long-suffering coast guards / river police took the brunt of the combat, with the palace porters' department in support. Interestingly, the ladies' handmaidens proved to be the best melee troops; make of that what you will...

This was a 'long table' game, with our standard 30" x 60" tables arrayed on the long axis of the game room - see the top photo, if you please. Ground cover is three of our stock 103" x 66" canvas drop cloths, and scenery is largely from PetCo and PetSmart. (Look in the aquarium, terrarium, and hermit crab departments.) Next time I run something like this, I will provide the players with pre-printed cards showing them a picture of each figure (for individuals) or group of figures (for multiples) to make things easier and speed up play - I had to explain things a lot, which didn't surprise me.

The new storage system for our gaming supplies worked very, very well. It only took a few minutes to pull the bins from the storage shelves, and I'm very happy with how everything worked.

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I have updated the Photobucket page with the photos we took during yesterday's game; there is a link at the bottom of the left-hand column of this page for you. Have a look, if you would; I think you'll be amused.

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I have no idea who the nice girl on the flying carpet is. I gathered that she's a friend of Si N'te, and she provided the services of a flying scout for most of the game. She got along with everyone, and spent a lot of time at the beach with all of the ladies-in-waiting as they improved their sun tans.

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I had the first of what I hope will be many wonderful Skype calls with a Tekumel fan on Friday; he was calling from Europe, so I made an adjustment in my schedule, and we talked for almost six hours. I'll be happy to take calls, but you may want to e-mail me to reserve a particular time. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Sro and all of us here at The Workbench!

The three Sro in their first coats of paint; half a bottle of Pactra / Testors'
"Jade Green" / "Green Metal Flake", with more to come to give some depth to the scales.

Superb howdahs from David Allan; 25mm figures for scale, from Prof. Barker's campaign
that I did 1976 - 1985; 'saddle blankets' from the Internet and the color printer

'Pannier' howdahs for the Tane from David Allan;
festive holiday parasols from the party supplies store

The 'heavy industry' part of the job is now done, and I'll be moving operations back to the actual workbench part of The Workbench to get these done for Saturday's game. The saddle blankets hide a multitude of sins, and were a quick find on the Internet and an even quicker print job on the color printer. Each Sro has a magnet inset into their back, and there's a steel plate - an old 20mm x 20mm steel base from the parts bins - glued to the underside of each howdah. The howdahs are very well-engineered, and are very stable. They have 3-D printed banners, separate shields, and various figures for their Tane crews; wonderful stuff, if you ask me!

As a side note, Christmas doesn't fall on 12/25 for me; it comes on your 1/7 and my 12/25 this year, which is the difference between the common Western Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar in use by the Orthodox Church. Be that as it may,

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

More on those Sro...

"Given enough Gorilla Glue and C-clamps, I can glue up the world!"
-Archimedes (misquoted, of course!) 

Larry, Moe, and Curly after curing for twelve hours in a warm room

A set of PHD wings - lovely stuff! - slipped into the locating holes
And here's a trip down memory lane for you; the last time I built any of these was in 1977, when I built two for myself and two for Prof. Barker. His with the Tane howdah still survives; his with the wings, and my pair (one with howdah, one with detachable wings), did not over the past thirty-odd years. I had forgotten just how huge these beasts are - the mat I'm working on is marked with one-inch squares, so you can get an idea of the sheer bulk these have to them.

This trio too almost my entire inventory of C-clamps to assemble - see the top photo - and I pumped just about a half a bottle of Gorilla Glue's 'instant' glue into the gaps. This particular glue is a great gap-filler, as well as being quite strong; I left the clamps on for twelve hours, to get the best possible bond, and I also 'cheated' a bit by using my little clothing steamer to flood the work table with hot, wet air - this dramatically improves the cure rate on the glue; admittedly, it's an extreme measure, but then a lot of folks consider me to be an extreme modeler!

The next step in the process will be to fill in all the gaps and holes - not the wing holes, though! - with epoxy glue; this will smooth out the beasts, and provide some extra strength to the joints. I will be modifying the two sets of wings I have to take square brass tubing on the wings' locating pegs; this is sized to fit matching tubing that will go into the wing 'roots' on the animals, so I can slip the wings on and off as needed for games. It'll also keep the wings from bending, too.

The final step, most likely to happen tomorrow, will be to mount the beasts on bases, prime them, and paint them up. The final coat will be some of the classic Pactra / Testor's "Jade Green" enamel, which will give a nice glossy coat to the scales and is also the color I used on the original four, back in the day.

More photos, as the process moves along!



Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Weekly Update For Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 - Holidays at The Workbench

Minicon, 1987. Phil seems amused.

Well, here we are at the holiday season; I was a little preoccupied last year at this time, what with the zipper in the back of my head (I was having my stitches removed) and we really didn't do much of anything for the holidays that year.

This year is different; we're hosting the Annual New Year's Game again, on Saturday, December 28th, at noon. Game starts at one, once everyone has the chance to nosh on the goodies being served on the buffet table in the Lava Lounge. (Note to self - must find a lava lamp!) I expect not-so-great things from this game, which is the idea; it is a very light-hearted romp, with no Serious Business intended.

I am working on getting my three Sro built; these are all the later PHD castings, and the metal alloy shrank a little bit as it cooled. This was back in the days of The Big Lead Scare, in the early 1990s, when various local governments tried to enforce bans on lead in toys - a laudable goal, if I may say so - but the game miniatures industry got caught in the line of fire and a lot of companies had to switch over to lead-free alloys in order to stay in business. After a lot of lobbying by the industry and GAMA, 'war game' miniatures were exempted from the ban and things sort of returned to normal.

Anyway, the Sro - sculpted by Bill Murray of Old Guard - is a big honking lump of metal; it was designed back in the very early days of the miniatures industry, when there was a sort of 'arms race' amongst the small number of miniatures companies to have The Biggest dragon in the industry. The Sro topped the scales at two - yes, two! - pounds of metal in the body alone and another pound of metal in the wings. It was, in my experience, an amazing pain in the posterior to cast up. One had to empty our little three pound melting pot every spin, and I truly hated making the things. To add to the pain-in-the-butt factor, the soft lead-tin alloy we had been using made the wings soft enough so that they didn't support their own weight; over time, the wings gracefully drooped and had to be flattened out occasionally.

The metal mix used by PHD fixed the wing-droop problem - it's a harder, less ductile alloy - but I'll have to use a heap of clamps to position the body sections for gluing. I foresee lots of epoxy cement in my immediate future - tomorrow morning, in fact...

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The hot news from The Workbench is that the new PC with the hot Intel chip set is now up and running; I now have fully-functional, fully duplex video calling available through Skype and Google+ Hangouts. The plan for this year is to be able to offer fully interactive games from here at The Workbench over the Internet; I'm not sure if we'll move the PC from the home office into the game room, or simply run some cables from the office to the game room. Either way will work - I'll have a look at the cable inventory and see what we can do. I'm hoping that I can use the huge WEGA monitor in the basement for this, with the USB camera atop it, as I think it'd give the on-line folks a better view of the game table as well as the best audio connections. Worst comes to worst, I'll use our collection of microphones and mixers to get the best audio - experiments are in order, I think.

I plan on being available every Friday evening, here in the home office, for Skype calls; I can be typing away on "To Serve The Petal Throne" on this machine, my Apple IMac, while leaving the PC up and running over on the island desk with Skype up and running. 'Office Hours' should be something like six to midnight in the evening, but I am flexible - I have a lovely old 'retro' Mastercrafters 'World Clock'  (which see:)

that is quite likely as old as I am; I don't remember where I picked it up, but it sits on my desk and tells me what time it is where ever you are. So, drop me an e-mail, and we can talk!

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Howard Fielding has announced some new figures, on his Tekumel Project website, and I encourage you to use the link in the left-hand column to mosey over there and take a look.

Mike Burns is starting a new Indiegogo campaign for his range of 'Ancient Egyptian' palace figures that is inspired by both the paintings and art of this fabled land and by the classic 1950's "Sword and Sandal" pic films that I watched while I was growing up - and still do, for that matter. These figures are perfect for the kind of games we run around here, and look quite visually compatible to the figures from The Tekumel Project. Here's the update, and I'll have the correct URL as soon I have it:


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A very big news item from here in the Twin Cities is that Fantasy Flight Games has opened a new and greatly expanded Event Center. The old site was pretty cool, but the new one is simply mind-boggling. I am planning on doing more games here in the coming year - lots of room, great access for my carts full of stuff, and good food on site. It's amazing; have a look, and take the video tour:


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We are all caught up on our video podcasts; both the November 2013 and today's December 2013 'casts are up on both "qik" and the You Tube channel. Use the links in the left-hand column to get to them, and thank you for watching!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, December 15th, 2013 - An Influenza Epidemic, but on the mend...

The Vriddi cross the east bridge, and have to shove a wagon out of the way...
Things have been a little slow here at the Workbench for the past week, as I have been suffering from a touch of the 'flu; since I work nights, it has been a very long and very tiring week. We have had a bit of a break in the very cold temperatures, however, which has helped quite a lot. I'm coping as best I can; getting a lot of fluids, a lot of sleep, and being very careful!

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Be that as it may, I finally got the last of the storage shelves in the game room up, and the fleet of 25 / 28 mm ships and boats we fool around with has finally come into harbor. There are new storage bins / drawers for all the player-character figures I've been doing for our games since 1976, as well as more storage for things like the long-suffering Missuma River Water Police and their friends the river pirates - er, 'honest fresh-water merchants'. The palace staff also has it's own box - thanks to Mike Burn's recent Indiegogo, we have miniatures of everyone - and I think that this will speed up play in our games.

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Work on getting all of our Tekumel materials digitized and uploaded continues; this week, the Northwest Frontier map set, the draft of the map guide with Phil's hand-written corrections and ken Fletcher's artwork (that Tom Thompson didn't use), and the published version of same all got their own folder and are on-line.

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The new computer - a PC with the latest Intel chip set - is up and running; I just finished a Skype call to my daughter in Zurich with full audio and video duplex communications. We're on the threshold of being able to offer on-line fully-interactive gaming from here at The Workbench, and I'm pretty excited!

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The schedule for my podcasts has settled down to being on the third Saturday of every month. We're finding that trying to do the podcasts on the same days as we're having a game session just doens't work; likewise, we've found that trying to use the small hand-held cameras to record video of a miniatures game isn't really practical; we're finding - as we learned many years ago, when we were doing video production professionally - that having individual cameras in a room full of active gamers is a formula for looking at hours of video of somebody's shoulder.

So, we're working on using some of our fleet of little fixed and remotely-controlled cameras to be able to record miniatures games without the camera crew disrupting the flow of game play. Yes, it will mean that the game room is wired like a pinball machine, but we'll be able to use the video switcher to look at the cameras without having to have somebody in the same room - or having to 'fix it in post', as the old saying goes...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, December 8th, 2013 - Shock And Awe!

Another one of Those Days at the Temple of Thumis in the city of Hekellu

(Zoom in, and that's Yours Truly in the red suit at the base of the stairway)

It has been a very good week, if I do say so myself. Lots of sleep, the past few days, and I feel really pretty good. I have been very touched by all of you sending me your birthday Best Wishes both here on the blog and on both Facebook and Google+, and I'd like to thank you all very much for these - it's very kind of all of you!

I have been genuinely surprised to the very strong response to my post about having to storm Hekellu, back in the day, and even more surprised by a little 'review' I have gotten from a blogger who writes a well-informed and well written blog about the gaming scene; I hope I'm not taking a liberty by quoting him:

"chirine's workbench One of my personal favorite blogs, this little gem focuses on the world of Tekumel and on the early history of the game while never forgetting the modern world. You'll find lots of inspiring posts here, an interesting podcast, and so much on the history of the game that it'll make your head spin.  Updates: Weekly."

-from http://dyverscampaign.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-great-blog-roll-call.html

Um. Wow.

First off, of course, a very big thank you for your very kind words! What I'm trying to do with this blog, as the Usual Suspects here know, is try to tell people about the early days of gaming here in the Twin Cities, and about some of the, ah, 'colorful personalities' I knew and gamed with. We had a lot of fun, and I try to maintain that sense of fun (and the absurd) that our games had - 'whimsy', if you like. I spent most of my gaming time with Prof. Barker, of course, which is why we have so much Tekumel stuff lying around the blog. I'll try and tell more tales of life in the basement at East Elmwood Place, and get to work on "To Serve The Petal Throne" as well.

I do a lot of miniatures, as you all can see, and that was considered normal, back in the day; we really didn't have a separate genre classification for each sort of game we played - we played in a spectrum of games that ranged from 'pure' miniatures of the classic 'war game' kind, all the way over to nights where it was 'pure' role-playing and Phil just told stories that we contributed some dialog to. We mixed our game types all the time, and that's the way I still game. It's worked for me, over all these years, and I'm delighted to see that other folks are also interested in this kind of thing.

So, here's  a question for all of you:

What do you want to see here? I feel that this is just as much your blog as much as it it mine; it's a way for you to pump information out of my poor old noggin, and I'd love to hear what you think!

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In other news, I am getting the shelves in the game room finished; these are the shelves with all the scenery and terrain we use in game sessions, and they have become over-loaded and over-crowded with the passage of time. A few quick cuts with the circular saw, and we're done! Hurrah!

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The Missus has been working on getting the new PC up and running; this has the chip sets to enable us to have full interactive video from here at The Workbench, and she's been installing software and hardware for most of the weekend. Until the new computer is up and running, we'll be doing the podcasts from the Bloggie - it works!

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And just a little reminder; we're doing an RPG session this coming Saturday, December 14th, and our Annual Holiday Miniatures Game on Saturday, December 28th. I'll do podcasts for each, and we'll have those up on the You Tube channel for you as well.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Great Pyramid of Philhotep The Mighty, or, Regarding My Birthday

14" on a side, urethane foam, and really nice!

Why, yes, it has a top level!

And a middle level!

And even a lower level! Whee!

Phil - Professor Barker, of course - loved Ancient Egypt, and had a wonderful 25mm Middle Kingdom army that he gamed with. It was, it has to be said, a singularly useless army on the table; Ancient Egypt had what amounted to guys in kilts with stone maces, and any time any army with armor or sharp weapons arrived, Phil's boys would get thrashed. His solution, with always worked, was to trot out a huge palanquin with a giant statue of Horus on it - his fleeing Egyptians would take heart at this Symbol of Divine Might and turn around and drive us off the table. (My little cohort of Late Imperial Romans hated the thing...)

Be that as it may, my birthday was yesterday, and the Great Pyramid of Philhotep The Mighty "(Look upon my miniatures collection and despair!") showed up early in celebration. I love the thing - and have no idea who made it! It will look great on the table, once I fill it with all the 25mm tomb furnishings I've accumulated over the years, and I have a feeling that my players will come to hate it.

BWAA-HA-HA-HA!!!

In other birthday news, I got a whole 12 hours of sleep - in two six-hour segments, admittedly - but this is the longest block of sleep I've had in months. I feel really good, and am pretty pleased. The Missus also fed me a t-bone steak, which was great, and I stopped by my favorite purveyor of weapons and indulged myself with a mace and buckler - as Chirine, fighting whatever Phil could throw at us over the years, these were my preferred weapons as a Priest of Vimuhla. The boys at Arms and Armor keep this kind of thing in stock, so I indulged myself with my saved-up birthday money and bought one of their steel bucklers (their #045 Round Targe) and one of their 'Iberian Mace' heads (#147 Iberian Mace) that I'll be mounting on my own haft to make an accurate replica of the mace I rolled up in Phil's campaign back in 1976. The set will go with my armor, along with the collection of daggers, short swords, long swords, and other weapons that Chirine accumulated over the years in Phil's games.

If you remember the movie, "The Mummy", you'll remember the scene where the Egyptian zombies under the control of Imhotep menace Our Heroes; Phil loved the movie, so...

"Philhotep! Philhotep! Ya! Ya! Philhotep!"

So, go storm something, and give the heroes a rough time! :)



Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, December 1st, 2013 - The Battle For Hekellu (or what's left of it...)

The north-west quarter of Hekellu -
That's the Palace, burning on the right-hand side; our camp to the north of town is to the left.
Various locals spot our advance, and contest the restoration of Imperial rule.
Lord Takodai and his Vriddi cousins storm the East Bridge, and get a rough reception.
The cohorts of the Legion of Hnalla, Master of Light, storm the West Bridge;
Yours Truly lobs in a Doomkill or two to discourage the locals a bit.
It has been a wonderful weekend!

I got to visit my sister and her family on Thursday for dinner, and we have a great time. The nieces and nephews are smart, quick, and fun, and my sister and her husband are as wonderful and kind as ever.

Friday, I got the game rooms all set and ready to go for the game, and got all of my spare figures sorted out into the new chests of drawers. It had to be done; the lead mountain is not down to a foothill!

Saturday, we stormed Hekellu, and it was pretty messy. Two players were the locals, and two the Tsolyani. The locals made life difficult for the Tsolyani, throwing barrels and bags of grain at the advancing troops, and put up a very stiff fight. A very good time was had by all, and a lot of laughter was heard.

We also learned a lot about how to to video recording of this kind of event; the biggest lesson was that urban fighting makes for lousy video; I should have done this as a formal three or more camera shoot, with a lot more open terrain. It was just too had to keep track of the flow of the game, despite using two small cameras - we used the Bloggie and another small Sony camera to get in tight - and what we really needed was to have somebody at the video mixing console in the Lava Lounge concentrating solely on the video side of things. I wound up being both the video producer and the game master, and the two roles did not mix at all well.

We'll be able to salvage the video we did get - ah, the wonders of post-production! - and we'll eventually have the video of the game up on our You Tube channel.

A very special Thank You to all the players - you did a great job!!!