Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Back Home...

My Missus, bless her...

Just a short update; the Missus and I are back home after her biopsy. Because of her underlying health issues, any kind of invasive procedure is a high-risk activity, so we had been a little concerned. However, she did just fine, and is now simply lying down and being comfortable.

We'll get the pathology results back on Friday, but both she and her doctors are very pleased; this has been caughter much earlier then her last bout, and the feeling is that she'll do all that much better as she goes into treatment as a result.

So, that's the news from this morning. Back to our regularly scheduled programming, I hope... :)

Monday, December 26, 2016

On The Fourth Day Of Christmas...

Ever get that 'army on the march' feeling?

It has been the last day of my official holiday, and it has been productive. No serious modeling has gotten done, but I did install the new ceiling light fixture in the 'spare room'/'dorm room' after a short trip out to the nearby IKEA. The fixture that had been in there was a ceiling fan with light, and we thought that having a daughter sleeping in an IKEA loft bed above the Whirling Blades Of Death was a not very good idea. So, the fan is out, the new light is in, and I got all the rest of our furniture out of the room and out into the rest of the house. There's a lot of small stuff, but that's all easy to deal with. And I have a three-day holiday for New Year's coming up, so we should be more or less ready for the arrival of Fifth Daughter a week from tomorrow.

The Missus has, as part of the final budget for the 2016 fiscal year, ordered up the five new figures from Bronze Age; Helium's navy and their pirate foes will soon be getting additional figures, and I really should break out the desktop band saw and get to cutting all those eighth-ray lift vanes. Lots of Plexiglass will get cut up, and I'll most likely do the transparent bases for all of my sailing ships and galleys at the same time. I tend to group jobs by the tools used, and a weekend of cutting away on Plexiglass seems like a good way to spend some good modeling time.

Speaking of ships, in the photo you can see the TRE Games biremes and triremes that come three to a pack and are nifty little models. They are larger in scale then the metal castings I've had for years, but that's all right by me; I doubt I'll be mixing the two sets on the table, unless we have a really huge naval battle. (See also "Ben Hur", in both the silent and technicolor versions.)

I also have tomorrow off, due to the Missus' medical appointment, but I expect to be hback to a more or less regular schedule later this week. The rain finally stopped; it's colder, but much more of a respectable climate for Minnesota in the winter...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 25th, 2016 - Christmas Day, 2016

The van's soggy. The walks are soggy. I'm soggy.

I wasn't kidding about the holiday flamingos. They move, too.

It's raining. Actually raining.  I had to run the van a bit to dry it out, and I'll be happier when we change over to light snow in a few hours. Everything is wet and soggy, here, and I'm doing what I can to keep pace with things.

We still have Fifth Daughter arriving in a week, and I'm moving the last of my books out of what will be her room and into other shelves; she may need the shelves, so we'll keep them in place for now.

It's been a very relaxed holiday for us, which is all to the good. Earlier this past week, the Missus got the results of her annual MRI checkup back, and they did find 'something'; she's going in for a biopsy on Tuesday. She and her doctors are very optimistic; they found this very early, and she should respond  to treatment as well as she did the last time around. We have hope, and we're going to go into this with all the courage we can muster.

People keep asking me why I don't do a lot of convention gaming; my reply is brutally simple. All of our disposable income, beyond our respective Birthday and Christmas Funds, goes to her medical care. (Mine too, but I'm actually pretty cheap to maintain.) Doing a convention trip, with all the related expenses of travel, food, and lodging, means that we have to give up something else in the monthly and annual budgets - things like food, utilities, and medications. Fifth Daughter, bless her, understands this and will be paying her share of the household's running costs - which will still be light-years cheaper then living on her own.

When you see a new product go by here at the Workbench, it's because the Missus and I made a very deliberate decision to make the purchase and debit the appropriate budget cost center. Our backing the 'Temple of Set' Indiegogo was billed out quite some time ago, as was the TRE Games trireme and the Forge of Ice set. I have the Missus review all of the figures and stuff I get; if she doesn't like them, we don't fund the purchase and pass up the item(s).

All of this lead to the Event Guide that I have done for people, and why we don't travel much. As I've said before, if you want to game with us, organize something and we'll reserve the time for you. Sorry if that sounds 'cranky' but that's the state of our lives, these days.

be that as it may, it's been a good holiday, with tomorrow yet to come.

Watching "Ben-Hur", today; already had the big parades and the sea battle, and we're on to the horse race...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve, 2016 - From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

The stage show soundtrack - get the movie... :)

It has been a great day, here at the Workbench; I had a nice excursion to visit several places in search of more of the vinyl sheets I mentioned yesterday. The search was successful; I now have more then enough 'cobblestone' sheets for the Sakbe road project, and what should be enough of the 'brickwork' sheets. I also found some other bit and pieces that will be useful for other projects, so it was a very fruitful trip.

Spent the afternoon laughing my head off, with the movie "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum". We'd all seen this film. back in the day, and could recite much of the wonderful dialog by heart: "And now, back to Rome, for a quick wedding and some slow executions!" To say that is influenced our gaming was an understatement. Gamers today might find that the film will give them an idea of the kind of pacing and characters that we loved and used in our games. Anyway you want to look at it, it's a fun romp with some very gifted comedians playing the script for all they're worth.

Got the lights and the nodding light-up flamingos out for our holiday lighting display as well; the lights add a cheery glow to the front of the house, if in dubious taste - but then, the neighbors have expressed their delight and amusement at the flock of plastic pink flamingos we have in the front, so this is just an extension of that.

Tonight's been devoted at an annual tradition here at the Workbench, the rebroadcast from King's College in Cambridge of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from the Chapel. It's something I love, and really enjoy.

From all of us, here at The Workbench, Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Of Sakbe Roads and Holiday Sales

Lemax brick and cobblestone roadway strips

Lemax cobblestone sheets; also in brickwork, too
It's the time of the year when all sorts of useful things go on sale, and my little excursion today was no exception. I was out getting the Missus some goodies for this holiday weekend, when I spotted one of the common 'Christmas Village' displays we see at this time of the year.

One of the larger ranges of this kind of thing is made by Lemax, and over the years I have gotten some really great scenery items from them. They have a very useful on-line catalog:

They have a nice range of trees and scenic stuff that is very useful; it's all supposed to be scaled for their roughly 54mm figurines, but for items like trees and their foam scenic stands it's not an issue.

As regular readers will have been seeing, I'm currently in the throes of finally (!) getting the big Sakbe road set done. I have been dreading doing all of the stonework texture needed for the project, and then I recalled these sheets of brickwork and stonework from Lemax. I already had two of each, and I picked up two more of each today. This should give me enough to get the foam roadway sections done - I'll repaint the sheets, of course, but that's easy.

I use a little paint on the Lemax trees, too. They usually come with 'snow' on the branches, but a quick spray with a green tempera paint - I use either a spray bottle of my airbrush - and they look properly green for our games. I also do the same thing with their conifers, too, but with black tempera to match Phil's descriptions of the conifers found in Yan Kor and places farther north. These trees are, I have found over the past decade, nearly indestructible in gaming service, and they do look good; I do base them on irregular cuts of MDF, and ad a little scenic cover to the bases; photos of all this on my Photobucket page, as seen in various games.

I also have the same company's 'moss' and 'ocean' sheets; these are a little more 'specialized' in their scenic uses, but I still like having them. Especially at this time of the year, when the sales are on...

Happy Holidays! More to come!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 18th, 2016 - How Cold Is It? Well...

Dreaming of warm weather...

It's been so cold hereabouts that I walked out the front door to run the van - which I have to do every six hours or so to make sure that it will start - and my bi-focal sunglasses shattered. Low last night had an air temperature of -22F, and a wind chill of -35F to -40F. And just before the cold weather hit, we got about six inches of snow, so I was out yesterday with the little electric snow-blower clearing the walks and front steps; we also had a snow emergency, so I had to move the van around to give the city's snowplows room to work. As we're getting back up into the +20F range tomorrow (!), I'll be out putting the hockey puck sized salt tablets in all of the roof's gutters to keep from getting ice dams and water into the house.

Ah, the joys of being a homeowner! :)

All of this domestic activity has meant that nothing of any import or substance in the modeling department has gotten done; being out in these low temperatures really saps my energy, so I've been concentrating on simple survival. Which is really the important thing right now, as I was informed late this past week that Fifth Daughter will be arriving from Zurich on January 3rd, and we need to have her room in at least inhabitable shape ahead of her arrival. Her vast collection of worldly goods will arrive in New York for customs examination tomorrow, and will be off-loaded here at the house sometime in the next few weeks. So, we're going to be pretty busy for a while!

However, I do have one bit of miniatures news. Bronze Age Miniatures has updated some of their 'Dead Earth Citizen' figures, and they can be seen here:

The ladies in grey primer,  #5 thru #9, are all new, and I am reliably informed by The Missus that I will be getting these ordered as a Christmas present. We've been getting all of these figures since they started coming out, and we really like them. Full of 'charm', with great animation and heaps of weapons for those desperate adventures.

More to come, once I get caught up!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 11th, 2016 - Lights! Camera! Action!

The new camera, which works with our laptops. (!)

The new addition to the collection, which is a heap of fun!

The Missus, bless her. announced the other day that my final birthday package had finally arrived. She had been a little reluctant to get the Bloggie out and do a new episode of my little YouTube talks, and I finally found out why.

Ever the bargain-hunter, she found us a really neat little device for six bucks - a camera that will work with out laptops, and is made up of length of cable with LEDs at the end with the camera lens. It's a borescope, and for the very forst time we can show you the insides of the buildings I make. I think that this is a very cool device, and I'm looking forward to trying it out.

It will certainly give a new meaning to the phrase "I look around the corner; what do I see?"

The other item in the package is a copy of the 2014 "Hercules" movie, with Dwayne Johnson in the title role. I put this on yesterday while I was finishing up the foam work on the big Sakbe road tower, and it is what I would call 'good clean fun' and a 'delightful romp'. Perfect Saturday Afternoon Matinee fare, and I felt like getting a bag of popcorn and settling in for the fun. Very good ensemble of actors, with Ian McShane stealing the show as the seer who keeps predicting his own death - and then being saved by somebody.

Lots of sheer fun, all around, and a very good depiction of how a military campaign actually works - and why one should not charge formed bodies of infantry.

Very enjoyable day, and even a guest in the game room for a visit. All I needed was the popcorn!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Yearly Update - December 6th, 1956 - Six Decades, Would You Believe It?

You must read this book. Period.

From Forge Of Ice - "A sleazy merchant and his guards"

It is my sixtieth birthday today, and I am delighted to be around to enjoy it - especially after the brain bleed four years ago. I'm a little older, and a little more dyslexic, and I don't do being cold anymore, but that's it. I am very lucky to be alive, and to be here for my family.

The family, for their part, has showered me with felicitations and sundry gifts. You've seen Akho, the new TRE Games trieme model, which came out of The Birthday Fund, and the wonderful "Temple of Set" figures from Dark Fable Miniatures, which also came out of the same source. I have also been very happily surprised by a new book, seen above, which deserves a place on everybody's bookshelf. I started reading it, and simply could not put it down until I finished it.

And the family invested in Alex Bate's new Kickstarter for his 'Forge of Ice' miniatures - he does not have a website, but he is on Facebook - and I am looking forward to getting the archtypical 'sleazy merchant' and his guards. Four of them need more sleep, and two are alert; this, to me, looks like a fun game all set up and ready to go. Alex has some wonderful figures; I have his two "Snake Priestesses", who are in with the Temple of Set crowd, and I can see some interesting times ahead for parties of adventurers.

This time of the year is also more then a little sad for me as well. It was this time last year that an old friend brought his game group over for an evening's tour of the game room and the game lounge, to see all the miniatures, games, artifacts, and costumes we'd built over the decades. It was a very pleasant time, and I was delighted to be able to talk about gaming with Phil and our travels around his world.

That is, it was a lot of fun until my friend's involvement with local LGBTQ politics came up; he announced to his game group - which was supposed to be doing Tekumel gaming - that his old Tekumel player-character had been driven out of Yan Kor (he was Yan Koryani) by, quote, "gay persecution". I was pretty flabbergasted, as this came right out of left field, and his game group - which, it turned out, was made up of LGBTQ people - were equally astounded; they were even more astounded when my friend, after dropping this conversational hand grenade, left and I wound up entertaining his gamers for another couple of very uneasy hours. It was impossible to tell who was more uncomfortable, them or I.

What really, really hurt was that my friend seemed to have forgotten that he was playing in Tekumel before he'd come out as gay, and that his PC had never come out as gay - and that I had been the GM for those games. After his guests had left my house, I went back and looked in my old game journals and listened to the tapes we'd made of those games we'd played back in the late 1980s. Couldn't find anything like he'd described; nothing. It turned out later, I found out from mutual friends, that it was all about enhancing one's position in local LGBTQ circles; politics, in other words.

I'm still hurt by all of this, and haven't been able to run a game session since. I don't know if I ever will, at this point, but we'll have to see. I've had worse happen to me and the Missus over the decades; I have hope, and look forward to the future.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 4th, 2016 - Sakbe Road Tower Work

Big tower to the fore, interval towers to the rear

It's been a pleasant afternoon, here at the Workbench, with a bit of work on the Sakbe road towers now done and waiting for the glue to dry. The big tower has the little watchtowers all glued on, the external facing on the outer face done, and the upper parapets in place. Next up will be the inner parapets. The two interval towers now have their lowest roadway sections glued on, and their parapets started. Lots more to do of course, including a session on the table saw to make MDF bases for all of the sections; that will probably have to wait for warmer weather, as I'll have to do it in the back yard due to the sheer size of the sheets being cut.

So far, all of this work has been in extruded styrene foam, available in from the 'big-box' DIY stores as 4' x 8' sheets. I used a lot of salvaged pink foam from a very unsuccessful set of game scenery, cut down as needed; the blue foam is part of a full sheet that I had in stock. Lots of razor knives, lots of glue, lots of right-angle try-squares, and the very handy picture-framing saw that we have. This has preset detents for all of the usual angles, and so cuts the time needed for a project like this in half - and makes accurate angled cuts very easy. Have a look:

Working in foam also makes this a very easy - and light-weight! - project. If we'd tried this back in the old days, the thing would have been made out of wood and we'd still be cutting and gluing the thing to this day.

The question has been asked,  by a great many people over the years about my projects, "Why do something like this?" My answer is, as it always has been, "Why not?"

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard somebody say, "Oh, we can't do that! It's too hard!" I could retire to a life of luxury. I freely admit that I do big projects, but then I also point to the great response that I get from gamers who walk into the game room and stop dead in astonishment at the game they are about to play.

My Scots cousins - Macdougal of Lorne, to be precise - like to quote a popular (in some circles) toast:

"He either fears his fate too much, or his desserts are small, 
who dares not put it to the touch, to win or lose it all!"

Or, as those men - like the late and very lamented Sir Christopher Lee - who wear the wings of the goddess Isis like to put it:

"Who dares, wins!"

Dare to dream. Your games will be a lot more fun, if you do...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Proof - As If You Needed It - That I Am Nuttier Than A Fruitcake; The 'Big' Sakbe Road Set

The 'big' set, in all it's foam glory

Anch'ke, nested in the new crate

The 'big' road set was a project I began almost a decade ago, and am now finally coming back to. I can only plead that getting five daughters occupied a lot of my time...

The set is fully modular, and has six roadway sections, two interval towers, and one big multi-turreted tower with gate house. The whole thing stretches about fourteen feet when all assembled as one unit. Lots of work yet to be done, like the merlons and such, but at least it is back out of storage.

There's also a storage / shipping crate, so that's done.

Anch'ke  is now in the new crate I made for it, and it too will go out to the shed when I can dragoon somebody into helping lift the box. I have to move the crate Castle Tilketl is in at the same time, but it's a half-hour bit of work to do.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 27th, 2016 - My Very First Real Game of D&D; Ever!

Dear old Chirine, as a 1st Level D&D PC

I'd been invited to come and play in a D&D campaign at the FLGS, and I had my first session yesterday. Several players were astonished to hear that this was my very first real game of D&D, and I had to point out that the previous GMs I'd had (Dave, Phil, and Gary) were not much into rules mechanics but rather into setting and story; as a result, I'd never really played the game 'by the book'.

The GM came up with a very good replication of Chirine as he was in early 1976; the character sheet is above. We were in Blackmoor castle's dungeon, starting on level two and moving up to level one. This was the modern d20 version of Blackmoor, not the FFG early version. The players were the usual diverse bunch, with a very useful variety of classes and skills, and they worked well together; very solid playing, very solid approach, and while I did offer some tactical advice from time to time, they really did a great job and provided this newbie with a wonderful time.

I did find a couple of things disconcerting, though. This was D&D 5.0, and I was amazed at all the numbers and number-crunching that had to be done in order to do the simplest actions. I was also amazed, after reading the rules books, at just how much 'gaming lore' had to be spelled out for people - but then, if you're selling a game to people with no knowledge of what the game is and how it works, then you have to have this kind of thing.

I also read through the two d20 Blackmoor books, and I have to say that while they are great books and a good grounding in Blackmoor, I had problems with them. I played with Dave when Blackmoor was in an earlier incarnation, and the d20 version is later and - frankly - doesn't seem to have much Dave Arneson in it. Lots of things, like Gertie the Great Golden Dragon on her island in the bay, are gone; Blackmoor is now a Very Serious Place, where Serious Gamers play Serious Games. The whimsy that marked Dave's games isn't there, and I felt very out of place and out of time.

What made this game, however, were the players and the GM. Great fun, lots of laughs, and I had a great time. (Which, I think, is what the game is all about.) My heartfelt thanks to all of them for a wonderful time!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Sakbe Road at Anch'ke - It Seemed Like A Good Idea, At The Time (2)

Looking down the length of the set...

The Battle of Anch'ke was originally fought in Phil's campaign, as part of his 'Hekellu - Sirsum' micro-campaign. We, the Tsolyani, were trying to being the benefits of Imperial civilization to the tribal clans east of Hekellu; they, on the other hand, felt that they didn't particularly need the benefits of Imperial Civilization, thank you very much. Our little army consisted of Chris (Bear) Huddle's Legion of the Translucent Emerald (32nd Imperial Mediums) and my tiny Legion of the All-Consuming Flame (which may be descended from Searing Flame, 10th Heavies) as well as some Vridd clan troops. 6,000 - 800 - 600, respectively. Not a very big force, but a good one.

A day's march out of Hekellu on the dilapidated and not very big Sakbe road to Sirsum, we realized that the Young Master (the local version of the Mahdi) had the tribes out in force, and we were in deep trouble. Phil obviously knew his history of warfare on India's Northwest Frontier, and had us right where the Afghans had had the British on several occasions. In short, we were in deep trouble and likely to get wiped out.

What Phil didn't know - mostly because he didn't allow gunpowder weapons on his game table, I suspect - was that I really liked 'colonial warfare', and had read up on the history of the fabled Frontier in preparation for this micro-campaign. Phil sprang his ambush just that little bit too soon, and I attacked into him with my cohorts. It was the only time in over a decade of gaming with him that I caught him flat-footed; I won the fight, and kept us all alive to fight another day.

A number of years ago, as part of my series of Tekumel-based games at the FLGS, I built the battlefield from the map that Phil had drawn for us, scaled to fit the 140" table they had. Anch'ke requires a set of specific terrain, as it plays a major role in the fight; there's two ranges of low hills to hid the ambushing tribesmen, and the dilapidated Sakbe road that we fought around.

I varied from my usual practice of using extruded styrene foam, and used expanded foam instead; the latter has a 'pebbled' texture, which I thought would look good on the model. (This was my first project that I did with Third Daughter and Second Son-in-law, by the way, so I have kind of a special place in my hart for this model.) We went and re-fought the battle at the FLGS, with very bad result for the Tsolyani.

So, my question for all of you: I am standardizing my table sizes, and the largest table I use these days is 60" x 120". The big table at the FLGS is 140" long; I really don't do games there, at this point. Should I cut down the roadway (by lopping 10" off each end, most likely) or leave it as it and live with the extra length hanging off the 120" table?

The Sakbe Road at Anch'ke - It Seemed Like A Good Idea, At The Time (1)

This is going to be picture heavy, if that's all right...

Center module, with the tower complex at Anch'ke

All 140+ inches of the thing, on a 120" table...

Doors open - magnetic mounting, here...

Doors closed; same mounting in inner face

Chirine and his guards, to give a sense of scale

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 19th, 2016 - Short Takes

The trireme shows her colors

Torchbearers, with removable torches

No long post today, and comments replied to later; the cold I've been nursing for the past two weeks has come back with a vengance, and I've had to cancel all my appointments for the weekend and stay home in bed with fever and chills. More, when I feel better, and in the meantime a couple of photos of things that did get done...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 13th, 2016 - Whither The Workbench?

Why, look! Plot devices, forsooth!

Here we are, at Post #401 - the beginning of a new era, I think. I thought that I should pause for a moment, an try to give an idea of where this blog might be going in the future. I'll try not to be boring; what's prompted this bit of introspection is a note from a reader about the thread I'm in on the last Internet RPG forum that I'm active on:

Much to my surprise, this thread has had 486 pages, 4,856 posts, and 90,750 views since it got started last June. I had, as part of my general disengagement from the Internet gaming scene, wanted to close out as many of the various accounts that I had started some years ago; however, one of the regulars on that particular forum started the thread as a way for people to learn about Phil's Tekumel and the time we had with him. It's spread a little farther afield then that, as people have asked me about the early days of gaming here in the Twin Cities and the beginnings of the hobby and the industry. I answer all of the questions as best as I can, and honestly. I have not enjoyed some of the questions, as they do pout salt into old wounds, but I forge ahead anyway.

I do a lot better in a question-and-answer format, and this can probably be seen in this blog; I do enjoy your questions, and I will keep trying to keep track of them and get them answered. The thread seems to be the place for short questions and answers, and this blog for the longer and more in-depth stuff - as well as the projects that I'm working on, of course. It's also a place to provide a portal to my other sites on the Web, like the You Tube channel and the Photobucket page. (Links in the column to the left, as usual.)

One question that I did get from readers was why I stopped being a presence on RPG fora; the answer is a little complex. Most of the discussions that happen on these sites is way over my head, about rules and settings that I have no familiarity with. RPG players, especially some of the self-described 'OSR' people, also have reacted pretty badly when I talk about the kind of gaming we used to do 'back in the day'; there seem to be a lot of preconceptions and misapprehensions about what Dave and Gary and Phil used to do back in the day. My observations on the three of them don't seem to fit in with the prevailing mythologies, and I got tired of having to say the same things over and over again. I thought that I was wasting energy and time that I could be using more usefully elsewhere, so I drew down the number of places that I visit and participate on-line.

I think the trigger incident was a conversation I had a while back with somebody I knew, who floated their idea that Dave and Gary had "stolen the idea for RPGs from Phil"; after I picked my jaw u off the floor - this is somebody who does know better, after all! - I pointed out that all of the historical evidence points to the opposite, and I pointed out "Playing At The World" for a great exposition of the facts. The person responded by telling me that "If you were loyal to me and Tekumel, you'd find the information to back me up!"

No, I don't think so; there is no such evidence, and I'm not the kind of person to lie for somebody to bolster their stance or position in gaming.

It was after that conversation, and other incidents on-line and in real life, that I started to close out things that I felt were not central to what I believe in and enjoy doing. This blog is an example of what I like and enjoy, and the RPGsite thread is another. You'll see both continue; there will be more photos, and the Missus wants to get out her little Bloggie and shoot some more videos in the newly refurbished and reorganized game room - since we'll have a better Intenet connection in a few months, this has become a practical proposition again.

Which reminds me - I need to get all of you some new photos of the game room! I've been busy for the past few weekends building new shelves and getting stuff moved, as I need to get the 'spare room' cleared for the arrival of Youngest Daughter in January. (As previously mentioned, the living room has also been redone to allow for viewing of the television, and the possible housing of Fourth Daughter and her First Son-In-Law should they visit us.) All of my gaming library and archives have been moved to the new shelves, my vast collection of historical books moved onto the vacated ones, and the miniatures collection reorganized to absorb the 60 Nubian archers, 30 Egyptian slingers, 30 Philistines, 30 Sea People, and six chariots I have been working on after the big sale at the FLGS. (There's also five new Silver Suits for the Space Marine platoon, but they were easy to absorb.)

There have been casualties; I got rid of the old resin buildings that I'd gotten in 2002 for a convention game, and which had been damaged beyond reasonable repair when a box collapsed. Likewise, some historical books I never had looked at went to the local historical gamers, and I expect I'll keep clearing out stuff that I haven't used in a decade. I'm refining my focus: Tekumel, Barsoom, Ancient Egypt. (Well, all right, ships and pirates on occasion as well.) If people want to adventure in those worlds, then they are welcome to organize up a party and go adventuring. I'm open Friday evenings, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons. Call ahead, and I'll set something up.

So, you'll see a lot more of what I'm doing, and what I'm writing. Work proceeds apace, and I am very happy with what's happening. If you want to come along for the ride, welcome!!!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 6th, 2016 - Post #400, Would You Believe It?

Sample of a page design

Well, well, well, here we are at post #400. As I have mentioned, this is the second edition of this little effort; the old Workbench blog was taken down during the legal troubles we had with some 'friends' some years back, and this has been the revived version that we put back up some months later.

A lot of things have changed, over those 400 posts; The game group that I started for some friends back in 2002 died in 2015 due to some pretty nasty politics, and some very insensitive and inappropriate actions on the part of several people. As an old friend has been heard to remark, "No gaming is better then bad gaming!" So, we've had no gaming here at the Workbench since December of last year; there may be some coming up, but nothing like on the scale or intensity that we used to have. I am letting the gamers organize up what they want, and just being available on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons for people. You want to game you organize it.

All of my archives are in digital format, so I'll be culling the paper archives and disposing of the surplus copies; no sense filling the shelves with paper that I rarely look at, I think. I'll keep one pristine copy of everything fort the future, of course.

My painting is picking back up, after a long 'dry spell'. Lots of great figures out there, and I paint what I like for the games that I want to run. Photos and posts as I get things done.

The game room and lounge have been substantially rebuilt. Now that the living room is once again able to be used for guests, we're moving the 'movie nights' upstairs and keeping the big 40" screen in the basement for gaming use - with a selection of my favorite flicks, just because.

Guests are still welcome, but we will admit that we've become very careful about who we let in the house. We've had some really bad experiences over the past few years, so we're being a lot more restrictive. It does cut down on losses, breakage, and legal bills, so from our standpoint it's been a great success.

My book continues to chug along; I hope to have it done by this coming spring. We'll see.

This blog continues, as a way to let everyone know what we're doing; it's your blog as much as it is mine, so please feel free to let me know what you'd like to see - and we'll be on for another 400 posts!

- Chirine

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, October 30th, 2016 - WARNING! Philosophy Ahead!

The Ladies of the Court
A question came up about why I support the three (and maybe four) world-settings that I do - and right off the bat, I should note that I think there's a very real difference between 'rules' and 'worlds'. I am, not to make too fine a point about it, not very interested in 'rules'. I've seen a lot go by in my time, and a lot of them just don't excite much interest in me. I was in the FLGS yesterday, picking up two more chariots - more on this anon - and I looked over the racks of RPGs and miniatures rules.

None of them really appealed to me, through no fault of their authors. All good stuff, from what I could tell, and very nicely produced. It was just that none of what I was looking at had any real 'spark' for me; the world-settings that each had on offer just didn't 'click' for me.

This, by the way, is also true of my reading material; I much prefer a series of books, set in the same universe, to 'one-off' / 'standalone' works. I've picked up a lot of series, over the years, ranging from Asimov's "Foundation" series through Gordy's "Childe Cycle" and Cussler's NUMA collections to Burroughs' Barsoom and the 'Lord Meren' mysteries. I just like well-developed worlds, and love to adventure in them.

So, my 'supported world-settings'. This is where the Missus and I choose to spend our gaming budget; the kind of thing we enjoy, and what we like to see on the game table. Phil's Tekumel, of course, which I've been adventuring in for the past four decades; Burroughs' Barsoom, which Phil first introduced me to; and - in what I've been told is a curious thing - Ancient Egypt, specifically of the Eighteenth Dynasty and of the Technicolor 'Hollywood Aegyptus' of the big- and small-budget epics. These used to be all the rage in the 1950s and 1960s, and the tradition has been nobly carried on by the first two 'Mummy' movies. There are a lot of possible adventures, both in the historical record and in the legends oft he time, and I enjoy painting up the people and places I've read about and seen.

I enjoy history, and I enjoy gaming in historical settings just as much as I do in fictional ones. Back in Ye Olden Dayes, the difference between the two was a lot more 'porous', and we enjoyed making up fictional scenarios from history just as much as we did making up historical scenarios from fiction.

It also made doing the figures a lot easier. We regularly crossed between genres, using historical figures for fictional games, and the other way around. Yes, I do love getting specific figures for specific settings, but the kind of games that I play do require that we hire a lot of extras for the big crowd and battle scenes - no CGI on the game table.

The 'Lord Meren' series, for example; the players will need chariots to get around our miniature Thebes or Memphis, so I have obtained a half-dozen for their use. The FLGS happened to be having a sale - 25mm / 28mm Ancient Egyptians are not a hot seller, I gather - so the new transport is now on the Workbench. It also so happens that the Missus is a big horse person, so I have been getting 'advice' (read 'commands', there) on how I will need to paint the horses.

Will these chariots get used in Tekumel or Barsoom? Not really, but all the other Egyptians, Sea Peoples, and Philistines I picked up at the same time as I got the chariots will - we'll always need lots of 'extras' in our productions, and you never know when you need a horde of raiders to man that new trireme...

So, that's what's going on. More to come, as I slap on the paint...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Building The TRE Games Trireme - Photo heavy, by the way

Bottom of the hull; this is a 'waterline' kit.

Main and upper deck in place

Side view; note the 'egg crate' design

Yes, you will need a lot of clamps.

Bow, being glued up

Stern, being glued up

The ship, complete with masts and yards

This has been a most enjoyable project! The trireme looks just plain deadly; Tim at TRE games has captured the look of the full-sized ship - google 'Olympias', for the reconstructed ship of the Hellenic Navy - in a model that will still fit on a game table. This ship has sixty oars, thirty to a side, making her a smaller ship and quite suitable for our miniature adventures. (You also get spare oars, too; there must be something like 75 oars included.)

I will be right up front about it; this is a challenging kit, and not particularly suited for beginners. Having said that, if you look at the 'Blog' feature of the TRE website, you'll find out how to do this kit with a lot less effort. (Look at the 'Longship' entry; guess what the Missus wants me to build next, for her Norwegian ancestors.) The secret is soaking the planking sections of the hull in water, and bending them while wet; I built this kit dry, and so had to use a lot more clamps then I would have expected. And you do not need the kind of specialty clamps that I have; ordinary 'c-clamps' which you can get at any hardware store, big-box DIY, or ironmongers, will do just fine.

The secret is patience - take your time, and this kit will flow together. Follow the instructions as you go, and understand what you will be doing in each step; there are a lot of parts in this kit, and you'll want a good-sized table to spread them all out. And, if I may observe, work on a sheet of 'cling-film' (like 'Saran Wrap') or waxed paper to keep the parts from sticking to the table as you glue them up. Allow plenty of time for your glue to dry hard, and it'll all work just fine. TRE also includes spares of the more delicate and vital parts, so you can work with confidence. A little care in getting the parts out of the matrix pays for itself in assembly, and a sharp craft knife helps with this.

Now, this kit does cost US$80; it is not a cheap bit of gaming gear. Is it worth it? You bet it is; the final result is a whopping two feet long, and about four inches wide over the decks. There's plenty of room for figures on bases, and the ship is so sturdy I can put any number of them on the decks without any fear that I'll damage the ship. And the building process was well worth the cost of the kit in sheer entertainment, too; I loved doing this project, and I love the final product even more.

I am hugely impressed by this kit; both the Missus and I thought that the price was good, and well worth it.

Tim makes some very nice kits, and this is one of his best!

(Link to TRE Games in the left-hand column, too.)

The Weekly Update - Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 - Lots And Lots Of Good News

The Kickstarter has already fully funded! There are seven figures in the full set, too.

Lots of news to get through before I do the post on the TRE Games trireme, so let's dive right in.

First off, my father-in-law is walking again; he had surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves in his back that control his legs, and he's now back on the Iron Range regaining his strength. As might be assumed, we're very happy about this, and wishing him a speedy recovery!

One bit of very sad news, which I did not pass along until now out of respect to the people involved, was that there was a death in our very extended family a while back. I will not comment further, as I respect their privacy, but the Missus and I were both shocked and surprised by the news.

In the miniatures world, The Tekumel Project has been posting photos of Howard's upcoming release of Vimuhla troopers and personalities; link to his site in the left-hand column, and we encourage you to have a look.

Alex Bates,  who runs Forge of Ice Miniatures, as gotten a Kickstarter going for a set of 'Sleazy Merchant and Sleepy Guards'. I just found out about this last night, while on the Lead Adventure Forum, and we'll be getting this set; the Missus pronounced Herself to be pleased with these figures, so I know what I'm getting for my Christmas present. We already have the two Snake Priestess figures, which have joined Mike Burns' Dark Fable 'Temple of Set' set. (Sorry; could not resist that.) Alex does not have a formal website, but does have a Facebook page. The link to the Kickstarter is:


Speaking of Mike Burns, rumor has it that his next Dark Fable Miniatures set will be "The Legend of Cleopatra", with suitable figures of the lady her herself and various court officials and officers.I'll want to get in on this; I have a huge bronze scarab to use as the palace gong, so I'm well on my way to doing the epic production... :)

Getting the house ready for the arrival of Fifth Daughter from overseas continues; went out to IKEA yesterday and bought a new side table for the front door to hold all those hats, gloves, and scarves we seem to need up here in the Northwoods. I continue to find all sorts of treasures and curiosities that I had clean forgotten about, stashed away in the 'spare room', and I continue to sort them all out. I'm also making room in the workshop for the old painting desk; I'm really looking forward to using it again!

More to come!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Weekly Update - Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 - Terse, Sorry...

Sorry to be so terse, today; my father-in-law, the Missus' beloved dad, is in the hospital for spinal surgery. He's doing fine, and walking again, but we've been pretty busy.

Much more to come; we'll be back as soon as we can.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Blowing off the dust; hidden treasures...

Yep. That's where this all started.

I thought that you, my gentle readers, might be amused to see something we uncovered in the living room this past weekend. It's been sitting there for around a decade, holding up all the gloves, scarves, and hats that are part and parcel of life hereabouts during our winters. It's a little wooden desk; the top has been cleaned up a bit, and I would guess that it doesn't look like much.

Except for one thing. That's the original Chirine's Workbench, bought second-hand right about the time I started painting figures in earnest, and right about the time I started working for Dave Arneson at Adventure Games.

Like me, it's a little older and a little more beat-up, but still serviceable. It's been replaced by the much larger and sturdier workbench that the Missus got for me, but you know, I think I still like this old desk.

I think, if nobody minds, I'll seal the top with a new coat of finish and paint some figures on it...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Tim At TRE Games Does It Again!!!

I'm having the vapors over this model...

It has been a truly wonderful weekend, and I'm pretty darn happy; there have been all too few weekends like this of late, what with both the Missus and I having health issues. Getting the wreckage cleared, and the living room reset has hugely improved our health and our morale. The icing on the cake came this evening; I give Second Daughter a ride to work, as transport is an issue for her, and I try to stop by The Source (my FLGS) to see what's new.

Tim over at TRE Games had stocked a set of biremes - about 1/400 scale? - to go with his pack of triremes mentioned in these pages; you get three for $8.00, and they look very nice. The big - and I do mean big - news was that he's done a 28mm scale trireme kit. The kit retails for $80, and it's simply huge; something like fifteen sheets of parts, and two pages of instructions.

The thing is huge, by gaming standards; it looks to be about two feet long, over all, and about four to five inches wide. The oars - and you get a lot of oars - will make it about six inches wide, I think. Parts are all, as usual for Tim, neatly cut and practically fall out of the sheets. Get out some wood glue, and we're in for a very happy time in the shipyard.

This model is especially attractive both for the very reasonable cost and for the vast amount of playable space on the top- and mid- decks. (You can't play the lower hold, but that's what paper plans are for.) The oars are all separate, so there's an immense amount of 'play value' there for hapless character to fall overboard and clutch at oars as they drift. Boarding actions, sea voyages, and treasure hunts all suggest themselves for several historical periods and for Hollywood 'Sword and Sandal'-style epics - in Technicolor, of course! - with everybody from Helen of Troy to Queen Cleopatra setting sail and telling the rowers to go a little faster.

This is, right out of the zip-loc bag, a model to dream about. I'll be taking this one very slowly, getting it right, and I'll take lots of pictures of the process.

The sheer size of this model is also perfect for me; it's halfway between my treasured old urethane foam liburnians that I got in the late 1980s at an Origins convention, and the vast (at some three feet long) Nemesis galley I built. She's sleek and fast, from the looks of her, and I think will see a lot of use in games. Both the Missus and Third Daughter have seen the kit, and both love the look of the galley; I think we'll score this one a success...

Break out the life jackets, and stand by for action!

The Weekly Update - Sunday, October 8th (2) - Getting Things Together

This is kind of a post-script to the one I just published, and is much more of a personal note then what usually gets published on this little effort.

As I've mentioned, Fifth Daughter will be moving in with us in January, and yesterday her elder sister (Third Daughter) and her husband (Second Son) came over and we spent a pleasant and productive afternoon clearing the place to move some furniture around to make some room for the new arrival. One ancient couch went out the door, one newer one got moved, and a family heirloom one arrived from the back of the van. Many. many boxes were filled, and several carpets cleaned. They'll be back today, to clear the actual room Fifth Daughter will occupy, and then we'll fall to the Sorting Of The Stuff in all the tubs and boxes.

If it sounds like our little house (2100 square feet, as I recall) sounds like it's much more of a warehouse then a home, that's because it is. For literally decades, The Missus and I have worked very hard to make other people's dreams come true. The left-overs from all those dreams have usually been abandoned when people lose interest in the dream-of-the-moment and move on to something else, and these left-overs usually get abandoned here with us. This is because we've always been Those People, the ones who sit in the back in the meeting and listed to all the ideas being floated and then are the ones who volunteer to help out. I got my very first award, while in the SCA in the 1970s, for "always helping out when needed". (I have a wall full of such awards, collected over the next forty years from a variety of people and organizations.)

The net result is that I have a house and garage full of stuff that I made or got for people, and which after a few years they left behind. (Need the interior to a Klingon D-7 for your cable access television show? I'm your man.) Starting yesterday, The Missus and I beganclearing all this stuff out, tossing the useless stuff, recycling the recycle stuff, and repacking and labeling the useful stuff. We are, in effect, starting our lives together all over again; we've been married since 1990, and we had to hit the ground running to satisfy the people we helped. Now, we're living for ourselves and our friends - we're making our dreams happen, after a life of making other people's dreams happen. We're taking control of our lives, after all this time; we think we've earned it.

You won't see a lot of changes here at the Workbench, stemming from all this; this blog has always been a way for me to tell folks about what we're doing, and how we do it. That will not change; what will change is the number and diversity of the projects you see, and how they relate to my gaming. In a lot of ways, this is your blog as much as it is mine - your questions and comments fuel it, and help keep it going.

Drop me a line; we'll be here! :)

The Weekly Update - Sunday, October 8th, 2016 (1) - A Question About Game Genres

The dead bird I have in the living room

A comment on yesterday's post about the ocean tiles got me thinking; I did a very quick and terse answer, but I thought that the question deserved a much better answer, as it gets to the heart of why I do things the way I do - and why this blog exists in the first place:

Nice looking gaming surface! What sort of scenarios do you envision using it for, role-playing or more traditional wargaming?

I've been thinking about this for most of last night, after it came in. In formulating my answer, we're going to go back in time about forty years, to the third floor of Coffman Union at the University of Minnesota and the meetings of the Conflict Simulation Club on Tuesday nights. There were guys named Arneson, Maker, and Wesely there, and the faculty adviser was a professor named Barker. So...

First off, thank you for the compliment! I have to say that what had  been a very unpromising project turned out pretty well, and I think the fleet will get many hours of high adventure and low comedy out of it.

When I did these tiles, I did them to match up with the three other sets that I have: 'Temperate', 'Arid', and 'Desert'. I can do a pretty good river or sea front by mixing this set with the others - or the canals of a dying world. In terms of scenarios, I can anything I want with about fifteen minutes' notice; all I have to do is put out the appropriate tiles and 'dress the set' with vegetation and scenery as required.

When I got started in gaming here in the Twin Cities, this was the then-unobtainable ideal; being able to put on a good game was as much about showmanship and craftsmanship as anything else. Quite a few games became legendary, like my "Great Mos Eiseley Spaceport Raid", as much for the sheer spectacle of the thing as for the actual gaming. Games varied wildly in form and content; in answer to your question, as we didn't see any difference between what I think you mean 'traditional wargames' and 'role-playing'. We looked at it as a spectrum of play styles, where one session we'd be playing a man at arms, a wizard, a ship captain, a tank commander, or a space pilot in a one-on-one game - and in the next game, we'd be pushing mighty armies around the table. We had various sets of rules, and each was pretty clear about the scale of the forces involved; for us, the 'campaign'; some rules were man-to-man, like "Chainmail", and some very abstract, like "Empire". It made no difference to us, as we played anything and everything that somebody wanted to run.

I still game this same way; I'll run what I need for players as required by what's going on in the campaign. If it's one or the other genre of gaming, it matters not; it's all gaming to me, and I don't really have any feel for a difference between the genres that seems to have evolved over the following decades. So, in effect, my gaming is a living fossil of what we did back in 1975-1980, and my game room a time capsule of that place and style of Twin Cities gaming. May I suggest:


Both will give you a sense of that time and place, I hope.

So, yes, I'll be using the tiles for both role-playing games and more traditional wargames. I run both, as you've seen, and hearken back to a time and place where I met some of the most amazing people in the world.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Catching Up - Something Cool For Mobile Gaming...

The great outdoors...

The great indoors...

Three-dimensional buildings...

... that have gameable interiors.

As regular readers of this little effort know, every now and then I mention something that I think is pretty cool, and worthy of your attention. And, I make no bones about it, I am a guy who likes models and miniatures. (There's an RPG title, in there...) Last week, a Kickstarter got going for a project that I think people may very well find useful; I was so busy with the Dave Arneson Day, I didn't get the chance to mention it. So, a little late, here is the link they sent me:

I will quite freely admit that one of the big drawbacks of the kind of gaming that I do is the sheer volume of storage space and logistics transport that is needed for me to get out on the road for events not happening here at the Workbench. What these gents have done is taken advantage of modern technology to come up with an answer to that problem; like a theater doing a road show, they are offering portable scenery for games that works like stage sets.

There are the usual tiles and modular floors, but that's the beginning; they've come up with a method of securing parts in three dimensions. You can have playable floors, and playable tree-tops - that great scene where Robin Hood's merry band drops out of the trees on the Sheriff and his thugs is now doable - and in a format that will go back into the briefcase at the end of the game.

It's like IKEA for miniatures, and I like it. Have a look at their site, and the video that they've got posted.

The Ocean Tiles - A Project Salvaged!

The tiles on the table. 25 x 25 array.

Triremes by TRE Games; islands by JR Miniatures

Customs inspection on Lake Hekellu; the marines seem wary...

The shoreline tiles in use; I liked the 'wave' texture, myself.
Well, I was delighted to finally wrap this 'easy little project' up, last night. It had been a sort of trying week - we're in football season, which means more work for me - and I needed a little break to sooth my nerves. The tiles did come out nicely, I thought.

These are pretty basic. I started by cutting MDF sheet stock - this was well over two years ago, so these are 'old stock' - into my usual 9.5 x 9.5 squares. Paint with a nice light blue (from the 'mismatched paint section, if you'll recall) and - after the first coat is dry! - then splatter drops of a lighter blue-grey paint (same source) onto the tiles and dry-brush into long streaks across the tile to give a subtle wave pattern. I had found an old spray can of Pactra 'Transparent Blue' while I was getting out the paint thinner to strip the tiles of the unsuccessful polyurethane varnish, so I very lightly sprayed all of the tiles to add a little 'depth' to the 'water'. Finally, a coat of spray gloss polyurethane varnish to give the 'water' a little shine, and our miniature ocean is ready to use. (After it all dries hard, of course.)

The shoreline tiles had an extra step. A bit of tan paint to mark out the beaches, and then some diluted (50:50, water to glue) white glue - all right, "Elmer's" school glue, familiar to generations of kids - dabbed on to make patches of vegetation; while this is still wet, sprinkle on some Woodland Scenics ground foam - I used two colors, just for variety - and let the whole thing dry out. Results as seen above...

If I may philosophize for a bit...

Not every project here at the Workbench is a great success. This one was one of them; I got distracted by several things - like being a part of Dave Arneson Day at The Source - and I kind of let this one get away from me. There's a moral, here; take your time, do things carefully, and you'll get a good job out of it. However, once I got my hands back on the controls, I was able to salvage this project; there's probably a moral in that, as well.

And I think I should make a comment about domestic harmony, too. It's been remarked that I have a lot of tools and gear dedicated to my model building, and that's quite fair and accurate to say. It is, I think, one of the reasons why I have been married to The Missus for over twenty-five years; I make sure to do any stinky or dusty jobs outside in the back yard, and I make sure to clean up any mess I make inside the house. I also have all my own measuring cups and spoons, spatulas, mixing bowls, brooms, dustpans, and cleaning rags - these do not get mixed in with the household stuff, both for safety reasons and to keep the domestic authorities happy. 'Dollar Stores' and 'Poundland Stores' are the model builders' friends - visit them!

And don't try the old wheeze of "Chirine says it's all right!" either; they are on to that, and will simply laugh at you. Get your own stuff; it's cheap, an makes these projects a lot easier on you...

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Ocean Tiles - A Project Adrift...

The set of 25 ocean  tiles and 6 shoreline tiles

This project was supposed to be a simple one; take some tiles, paint like ocean, cover with gloss varnish, let dry. The latter has been the issue' the polyurethane I'm using should be mixed two to one paint thinner to varnish, and I think I got the mix wrong. It hasn't dried, and if it hasn;t by tonight I'll wipe off the tacky finish with thinner and start over.

This is a prime example of having to be in multiple places at the same time; I had to leave this to do the Dave Arneson Day event, and am now having to Come Up With Something to fix this project. Luckily, I have paint thinner in stock by the gallon...

More photos as we progress...