Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, April 25th, 2016 - I had a great weekend!!! And then some!!!

Wonderfully painted, eh? But look at the d4...
Yes, these are normal d4s; the figures are 54mm tall...
Overview of this game - I was astounded!!!

The table next to ours - WWI air combat
The game I played in; I am in Hermione, the green ship

The week did not go well, at first; I had a particularly nasty flare-up of my gout. I woke up in very acute pain at five am on Wednesday, and had to crawl down the stairs on my hands and knees to the medicine chest. I had to take a day off, and spent the whole time feeling really sorry for myself. The misery was relieved somewhat by an invitation from a gent I know, to play in a naval game on Saturday. I really didn't know if I would, but the very persuasive personalty of Dave Wesely (yes, that Dave Wesely!)  got me back on my feet and feeling better. Between the powerful medications and the ortho boot, I was able to get there and play.

This event is the Minnesota Miniature Gamers' Society quarterly meeting - a sort of micro-convention, if you will. There were all sorts of games on offer, from WWI aircraft through modern armor to an absolutely astounding French and Indian Wars game done in a dense forest. In 54mm. It was one of the most awesome things I have ever seen. Judge for yourself, of course...

I had a great game. I'd never played these rules ("Close Action") before, so Major Wesely and one of my old gaming friends from the Conflict Simulation Society took the bulk of the ships and I got a nice 32-gun frigate. Our mission was to get a captured French ship back, and hopefully prevent the British ship from getting away. The setting was the approaches to Boston harbor, during the American Revolution, and we had the wind against us.

It was one of the very best games I've ever played in. My fellow players got stuck right into each other, each capturing his opponent, and I used my nimble ship to keep the channel blocked and to dart in and out of the British guns' range to keep hitting them where it hurt and not get hurt myself. At one point, the referee was pretty impressed by my ship handling, and asked me "Are you sure you've never played these rules?" Nope, never had; but I had Dave Arneson as my teacher on how to handle ships during the Age of Sail.

The GM also pointed out that I could have gotten more into fighting range, but the good Major interrupted him and pointed out that as far as the Royal Navy was concerned, I'd won the game for the French; while everybody else was pretty badly battered, I was still in very good shape, I had the weather gauge, and was still blocking the channel to the sea. He pointed out that while he was sure he'd lose his prize, he was not going to get his ship away to the open sea without a fight, and was probably going to have to suffer the agony of surrendering his 50-gun line of battle ship to a light 32-gun frigate.

Well, gosh.

It was wonderful; I felt like I had gone back in time to those Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons in Coffman Union back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lots of fun, a great game, and lots of laughs as we rolled the dice.

Afterwards was even better; I gave my commander a ride, and got invited in for a sandwich and a cool glass of ice water. I spent the next six hours telling stories about those far-off days. I was in heaven, and my foot didn't give me any serious trouble the whole time.

It was all right up there with the day I married the Missus...

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, April 18th, 2016 - Projects Advancing!

I love my table saw.

The warm weather is back, and I had a great weekend out in the shed where I store all of the larger bits of my gaming terrain and scenery. The shed, which is one of those small metal ones with the doors in the front and which has all my larger bits in numbered plastic tubs on shelves so I can set a game up in literally minutes - is also full of materials that I've either been saving for projects or starting to use for projects. I had a good time getting a lot of this stuff cleaned out or salvaged - I just enjoy doing things like building and making things!

One of the very few downsides of having multiple daughters is that the time needed for them is time away from my workshop. There are a number of projects that had to be put off to the side while I spent tim with the girls, and I am now getting back to those. One is the really big Sakbe road set - it measures 14', when fully set up, with two small towers and one of the big towers as a separate module. I finally got the battlements for the large tower's little turrets done this weekend, and I am beginning to move ahead on finally getting all the merlons cut in all the sections. I have to do this outside, as I use a wooden template and a hot-wire cutter on the foam I use for this kind of project; the fumes are A bad Thing.

I also finally found the bags of red clay that I'd bought - five pounds for $2.00, at the pet store; they were having a sale - for doing my Barsoom scenery. The tiles are already done - I cut them down from the old Castle Tilketl scenery boards - but I have to finish off the vegetation bases that I made this past winter.

The towers of the large urban city 'set' also got inventoried and I will get to cutting the remaining roof combs that I need to finish this set of buildings. Once again, the table saw comes into play.

As you might guess, from this and other posts, I am getting away from having 'dedicated' scenery sets for games, and moving towards a entirely modular system. I used to have very specific terrain for each of my 'pre-built' games, and this has gotten to be a difficult storage problem. So, now, I'm doing specific game 'maps' like for Chanis and Ry on my favorite canvas drop cloths, and only building what I need to for games. The one set of specific items I have left is for Anch'ke - but that's the decrepit Sakbe road and a range of low hills, and I can't do a lot about that. Castle Tilketl itself is still in the crate I built for it; we'll keep that, as it's a very fun game. Third Mar and Anch'ke will get new 'maps', as I have copies of Phil's battle maps for each; I'm debating doing Tilketl, as while I do have a map for this I can do the terrain with my modular tiles. Some thinking will have to occur.

I'm also standardizing the table sizes as well. Chanis and Ry are 60" x 90" tables, Third Mar and Anch'ke are 60" x 120", and I think Tilketl will also be a 60" x 120" in the final form. Everything else is modular - the two three-dimensional games (The Lost Temple Complex/Pyramid of Death and the Lake Parunal adventure) are 60" x 60", by the way.

More to come - it was a very busy weekend!!!

Friday, April 15, 2016

April 14 - 15, 1912

Yes, it's that time of the year, again. The company house flag has been on the flagstaff, and will be until tomorrow.

Take a moment if you would, and ponder. And then, look up Captain Arthur Rostrum of the Carpathia. They gave him some nice recognition, for what he did that cold night, and I think he richly deserved it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, April 10th, 2016 - A Pause In Our Barsoomian Idyll

Doors and barges. I'm a happy camper, I am.

We're in a bit of a pause in our Barsoomian idyll, as I get the sanding jig set up for the resin thoats. One of the little annoyances of the resin casting process is that the resin will often develop a concave surface on the inner side of a large casting; this is caused by the resin shrinking very slightly as it cures. This results in the face of the casting that was the 'top' / 'open' side of the mold being a little dished out. It's an easy fix, much like removing the flash off of a metal or plastic part; however, because the thoats are large castings, and I really do have a soft spot for them - after waiting for some thirty years for them! - I want to do a really good job on them. So, I've made a little sanding jig so that I can get a perfectly flat surface and a tiny join line when I glue them together.

In the meantime, TRE Games has scored again. I submit for your delight the new 'Closed Doors' pack (28H007), which has 12 doors and thresholds - six arched doors, six flat-topped - and suitably etched with stonework and wood grain. I am delighted with these, as I always seem to need heaps and heaps of doors for the players to knock down, break through, pick up to use as shields, and all the other antics that players tend to get up to. The doors are etched on both sides, so you can indeed have left- and right-handed doorways. I have tons of uses for these, ooohhh yyessss...

Our other offering from TRE is a 'bateau' - a pretty basic boat in their 15mm range, and intended for their series of useful items for the Black Powder era. This is a lovely little kit, easy to build and etched with planking; there are interior details, as well. They assemble into very strong little boxes, and are quiet sturdy. They can be used 'right out of the box', too, as the natural wood makes them look just fine 'as is'.

But, I hear you say, you are a 25mm / 28mm guy! Well, yes, I am; but these handy little boats look just fine loaded up with crates and sacks in my larger scale. They make great barges and lighters, suitable for those scenes in the harbor or on the canal, and are just the right size to be poled along by sturdy watermen or 'borrowed' by desperate player-characters in frenzied escapes from Certain Death. You'd see these in any large harbor from Antiquity to Modern, being poled, rowed, or towed to move goods around from ship to ship, ship to shore, or shore to shore. They are also good for river traffic, too, and will be moved along by the same means.

However, these are not 'landing craft' in the modern sense; the sloped bow may look that way, but this is a fixed bow, not a ramped one. One could indeed use them in a landing action, but they are much more in the line of the ship's boats that were formally used for such landings. (See also the "Hornblower" TV series for this kind of thing.) Beach assaults are the province of raiding parties, which is what we like - lots of employment for those pesky player-characters!

I should also mention that I am working on a post / essay on painting figures, at a regular reader's request. I'll get this done as soon as I can, and see about some pictures as well.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, March 3rd, 2016 - Thoats and Tharks and Bill Hoyer, Oh My!

The Tharks on their bases, and on their thoats.

I'm priming them in flat black - normally, I use flat white.

Forced flash on the camera, so you can see a little detail

Well, here we are, back again. I am delighted to be able to report that I can actually move my right foot; the very powerful anti-inflammatory that I am being dosed with is doing a great job, and I am feeling a lot better. Not perfect, but a lot better; I can, for the first time in two weeks, actually get a shoe - the largest and loosest one I have, admittedly! - onto my foot. The swelling has gone down that much; it still aches, as the foot gets used to the idea of being back on line, but it's not the agonizing pain that had kept me flat on my back for all too many days.

I'm supposed to stay off the foot, as much as possible, so I have been able to keep moving along with the new lead. (I'll have more reports, too, as I do have all of the new figures from The Tekumel Project to report on, as well.) The tharks are now all assembled; the thoats will come later, as being cast in resin they'll need a slightly different tool and skill set.

These stalwart warriors really look the business. You get six of them in very active combat poses, and the other six in the range are in 'ready for action' poses - several of them look, to my eye, like player-characters! There is a chieftain, a henchman, and ten warriors on foot; a chieftain and two on thoats. (And yes, I am aware that these are not really either in an 'Officially Authorized and Approved' sense, due to IP and license requirements; but, like the GW 'Elves' I gave square shields in order to have the Legion of Mnashu of Thri'il, these are my figures and I'll make of them what I will.) There's a massive assortment of nasty weapons, and I would not want to have these folks mad at me. Ever.

These went together very well; I took a tip from an old friend, Mr. Bill Hoyer, to do these up right. Bill, who is one of those people you've most likely never heard of, was one of the people who founded out hobby; he used to play miniatures with a bunch of guys in Lake Geneva, who you probably have heard of. He was there at the beginning, and a few years ago I had the very rare and wonderful honor of having him in my basement, playing on my game table with my miniatures. He had a great time, he said, and we had a lot of fun.

Bill's tip is, instead of using the usual cyano-acrylate gule to hold the parts together, was to use a product called "Walther's Goo", which is a contact adhesive that we model railroaders have been using for decades. It's a very good contact cement, and will hold just about anything to anything. It is a flexible glue, though, and I'd never even thought of using it on miniatures because of this.

What Bill taught me to do is attach the parts with the Goo, then flood the joint with cyano-acrylate to fix and hold the part rigidly. Both types of glue use acetone as their solvent, so they are mutually compatible - and the joints are both filled and locked together by the process. It works, and works really well. (Thank you, Bill!!!)

I normally primer my figures in flat white, as it does add a bit of 'bounce' to the acrylics I use. These are in flat black, as I want a different look to them, and the black will help punch up the details - again, these are big figures! Base color for the skin will be Testor's 'Model Master' 4734 'Medium Green', and the air-brushed layering will be Liquitex 'PHTHALOCYANINE GREEN'; I'll be thinning this way down so that it acts more like a whad then anything else; the underlying paints will allow the pigments to flow off the high points, thus giving nice highlights and really popping out the details. After that, brushwork as usual...

The thoats will need a touch up of very light sanding on their edges, which I expect for resin castings; these are very clean and sharp, so they'll need only a tiny bit of clean-up. That's for the next post, though... :)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

An Update: Friday, April 1st, 2016 - New Lead!!!

Break out the air brush, honey, I'm a comin' home! Woo Hoo!!!

It's been a very mixed week, here at the Workbench. I made it into work on Monday and Tuesday, because we are so short-handed, but I've been out since; saw the doctor yesterday, who took me off two of my blood-pressure medications and is dosing me with a mighty and powerful anti-inflammatory. The stuff has made a huge improvement in my condition, but it is so powerful I have to stop taking it the first moment I possibly can. One more of them tonight, only two during tomorrow, and one final dose on Sunday. Incredible stuff, but sort of risky.

The way forward is that we're going to bring my blood pressure back up into the human normal range, and manage things so that I stay there. Fluid management and rest, along with a balanced diet, should keep me on an even keel.

And it could be worse; I got in on Monday to the news that one of my coworkers had had to have his right foot amputated that morning, which both put my problems into perspective and pretty depressed me; he's a great guy, and didn't need this on top of his other health issues.

Morale wise, the week has bee salvaged by the fruition of the investment of my birthday money into an order to Bronze Age Miniatures. The results have arrived, and you can see what came out of the box above.

I got caught up on the humans, the 'Imperials', and got a full set of the 'Mutants'. These, like all of the figures that David Soderberg does, are very dynamic and really look like swash-bucking adventurers. 32mm scale, but that's not noticeable against the Tekumel Project 28mm or Reaper 28mm. Many of the figures have open hands, and you get enough exotic weapons to gladden anyone's heart.

These are big, beefy figures, with lots of personality and charm, and I'm looking forward to assembling them. No pinning needed - these all have very good attachment points, and will really look grand. I am not kidding about the airbrush, either; these are so good, I will be getting out the old and treasured Thayer and Chandlers for these, and doing my very best job; they deserve it, quite honestly!