Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Weekly Update - Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 - Very Big News !

I can think of muses for these.
Lots and lots of uses...

Two big news items for you to ponder, and then we'll get back to the miniatures and the paint.

First, TRE Games has released their eye-popping 28mm kits for skyships. He's also done a working portcullis for keeping those pesky player-characters out of where they shouldn't be. And, he's gotten all of his wonderful 28mm furniture and accessories up on his website, as well. May I suggest yaking a look?

Secondly, things are a bit hectic here at the workbench because I have a new job. I start two weeks from yesterday, in a job that I am really looking forward to. Big, dangerous, noisy machines; power tools galore; what's not to like?

I'll also be on a daytime schedule, which will give me more time to write and to get out and about. Lots and lots happening, and I'll have more on this later on as the situation develops... :)

Friday, June 24, 2016

On Miniatures - Essay The Second - First Colors Go On!

First color: Testor's Acrylic Model Masters 4707, 'Red Earth',
which is the closest color I can find to match the Floquil
'Samoa' that Phil specified way back when.

Second Color(s): Black for the hair, 'french vanilla' for the kilts,
'Terracotta Brown' for the leather, and Liquitex 'Antique Bronze'
for the lady's armored skirt.

More Second Color(s): More black for the kilts, headdresses,
and shields; Reaper 'Chestnut Brown' for the leather, Ral Partha (!)
'Dark Brown' on the spear shafts; I've gotten ahead of myself and
added more 'Antique Bronze' for the detail on the armor. the inner
surfaces of the shields are Reaper 'Shield Brown'.

Yet More Second Color(s): Liquitex 'Titanium White' for the
robes and headdresses, Liquitex "Pale Orange' for the
(Who's that goddess in the back?)
Our coat of primer now having dried overnight, we're clear to start work. A long time ago, there was a French company called 'Historex', which produced some truly incredible model solders in 54mm. They had a very useful booklet on painting figures, which I think I still have; the important thing in there was the sequence that one slapped the paint on the model.

The idea is to work from the skin out, 'dressing' the figure with paint as one works from the skin to the outer layers of equipment.

So, the first color that went on all of the figures is my usual Testor's Model Masters Acrylic #4707, 'Red Earth'; this paint is the closest color that I can find to match the old and now long-out-of-production Floquil 'Samoa', which Phil first mentioned in his 'Painting Guide' that he published in The Dragon magazine back in 1976 or so. Since all of my figures usually wind up standing in for somebody on Tekumel, I paint everybody in this for their skin tone. As you can see, you don;t have to be really precise; any stray paint will get covered over in the next step.

Second, kilts / tunics, headdresses if any. I also usually do hair at this point, fully expecting to have to touch up the black after I do any collars or necklaces. Hair is usually Liquitex 'Ivory Black', often with a flat black undercoat, as this is a slightly glossy / satin finish and looks more like real hair. Once the basic clothes are done, then it's whatever layer is on top of that; in this case, it's the leather armor for the temple guards.

I also got ahead of myself here, and did their shields and some other stuff; normally, I do all this in the third step, when I do all of the belts, straps, bags, and other accessories. I also put some Liquitex 'Antique Bronze' on the emblems on their armor; again, this would normally one of the last things I would do, but hey - I love these figures!

Should I do a list of paints, both the old ones and what I use these days?

Now, with this set of colors curing, we'll let everybody sit on the workbench for a night, and be back tomorrow after everything dries hard...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

On Miniatures - Essay The First - Basing and Primer

Ten sets of figures from the recent Dark Fable Indiegogo:
The Temple of Set

Still organized by sets; the last time they will be, actually.
Bases by Litko Aero and TRE Games

And now with flat white spray paint as a primer...

Well, here we go. This series of little essays is on how I do my figures; one of my regular readers asked, so...

I'm going to leave aside until later the question of where I get my figures, and why; it's a much more involved subject, so we'll leave it for another (series of!) post(s). This batch are the figures I got from the recent Dark Fable offering, and are:

Top to bottom, left to right:

Reward Figures, including Prophet of Set,
Temple Guards I, Cultists I with Set figure, Cultists I with Cultist figure, Heroes, Temple Guards II,
Cultists III, Female Temple Guards, Serpent Braziers, Consort of Set, Temple Characters, Cultists IV,
Nubian Queen, Nubian King and Followers

These come with plastic slotta-bases, which I do not use; I think they're too tall, and not all of the 'slots' on figures will fit into them. So, out come the sharp side cutters, and off got the slots. Bases for my figures intended for characters are rounds, 25mm for humans, and bases for military types are 25mm square - there are variations to this, for 'wargame figures', but we'll pass over that for now. Bases are laser-cut 3mm thick plywood, and I use hot-melt glue to attach the figures to the bases. I had a few bases with laser-cut slots from an earlier project, so I used these up on this one; I dislike sanding the slots in the plywood to fit some figures, so I usually go with the solid bases and the glue. I also use various brands of 'tacky' glue, used for crafts; I do not use epoxy or anything really permanent, as we run smack dab up against Chirine's First Law Of Miniatures:

"No matter how well you paint the figure, or how much detail you put into it, you will always find someone who can drop it on the floor for you."

So, by using a good but non-permanent adhesive, the base will break off the figure on impact, and the shock will be largely absorbed in the process. Fire up the hot melt gun, and your little warrior or sorcerer will be back in action in a flash.

At the same time I base up the figures, I also do any assembly and gluing on of parts. This is to assure the best possible bond between everything - see the First Law, above. One note on these figures; as supplied, two of the soldiers had shields that looked a little too much like medieval 'heater' shields, so I replaced them with more 'Aegyptian' ones from the parts bins. Otherwise, all of this batch was used 'as is'. I tend to use Walther's 'Goo', a contact adhesive, reinforced by super-glue; this works very well, and I have yet to have anything done this way fall off...

Once everybody is based up, they get put on a sheet of scrap plywood and taken outside to the back yard. I do most of my painting with acrylic paints, so it really helps to have a coat of a good primer on the metal figures to help the paint adhere. I use a flat white enamel spray paint almost all the time; I do use flat enamel black, as well as the usual red and grey enamel primers. Each of these, when used as an undercoat, will make a difference in how the final paint scheme will look; I used the flat black for the silver tubeway car, for example, and I'd use it for metal armor as well. Grey is good for buildings and other objects, and red for items which are supposed to be made out of wood or leather - experimentation is the order of the day, as you will have to be the one who chooses how you want your figures to look.

So, it's out to the back yard, as it's summer and the weather was perfect - warm, low humidity, and a slight breeze to keep the fumes and paint out of my face. I put the figures on a bit os scrap plywood, about 18" on a side to make it easy to handle, and I put the figures in staggered rows so that the paint can get to all of them. You want a nice even and light coat - as you can see from the third photo, the miniatures actually look grey as the spray paint went on perfectly. Now, the most important step: let everything sit and dry for twenty-four hours. if you try to slap any acrylic paint on before this, you can get a 'crazed glaze' effect, as the solvents in the spray paint will leach out and cause the acrylics to break up.

So, we'll let everybody dry for a day, and be back tomorrow. I am - for once!!! - stopping and getting photos of the figures as i work on them, so next time around we'll see the first coats of paint on them.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Weekly Update - Wednesday, June 20th, 2016 - Better Late Then Never!

All silvery, with the hatch inked in.
A little 'used, with one owner'; the neat hole above the
hatch is where somebody took a shot at us...

There's been a lot of real-world stuff happening, some good and some not so good, which is why I am so late this week. The tubeway car is done - at least this particular model - and we're going to move on a bit. I may do another tubeway car, 'newer' looking, but right now I'm thinking about a station to go with the new underworld tiles...

I've been asked by a regular reader about how I paint figures, and I'll be starting a series of essays on this subject as the week continues. What I thought I'd do is follow a group of miniatures through the 'commissioning process' from the time they arrive here at the house through to when they appear in a game. I am taking photos as I go - finally!!!! - and I hope you'll find this interesting.

In the meantime, here are the blogs of two friends who have what I think are great approaches to using miniatures in their games:

More to come!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Update to the Weekly Update - Sunday, June 12th, 2016 - It's been a very, very tough day...

I dunno. It's how I feel, tonight.

It has been a much longer and much tougher day then I thought that it would be. I did today's post this morning, before I looked at the news and saw what happened in Orlando.

We've checked in with family and friends, and everybody seems to be safe. We are still waiting to hear from all of the friends of friends, and this is not going as well as I'd like to hope.

I don't have any brilliant words about this atrocity. There will be a lot of them splashed around for a while, and I don't know if I can add anything that would be meaningful, helpful, or even useful. If I do, I'll see if I can articulate how I feel.

Got out to Pete's visitation, this afternoon, and talked about him and his influence on gaming and on me for something like three hours. Dave Wesely kept egging me on, with "Hey - remember the time..." and I'd be off again telling people how much Pete set the tone and conduct of our gaming. Turned out that I was being the storyteller for his family and friends, which was a startling thing for me; all I thought was telling what I knew of a very smart, very talented, and very funny guy. Grandchildren, nieces, and nephews' we all laughed, had a pretty good time, and remembered a man who shaped out hobby.

Lux Aeterna.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, June 12th, 2016 - It's going to be a very tough day...

Not Pete's, but you get the idea...

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, some friends got together to play a miniatures battle. On the one side, there was the formidible Roman legions and their brand-new war elephant; on the other, the doughty Britons defending their homes and hearths from the invaders. There wasn't much else to say about this game, as it was a pretty typical one for the time and place, with one exception.

The guy running the game was Dave Arneson, and he had a surprise planned for the Romans. During the game, as the Britons fought desperately to stave off the relentless war machine that were the legions, he took the Briton's druid out of the room and slipped him a card that said "You have a device of the gods - a phaser." Not too long after, as the mighty war elephant thrashed away against the Britons - played by Ken Fletcher and Cliff Olilla - the druid, Dave Megarry, vaporized the beast and turned the tide of battle.

Yes, that Dave Arneson. And that Dave Megarry.

They were playing what may very well have been the very first 'fantasy' game in the Twin Cities, and what may have been the very first step on the path to what later was called "Dungeons and Dragons", a game of which you may have heard.

Their opponent was Pete Gaylord, one of the local gamers who was one of the people who set the tone and standards for gaming hereabouts, back in the day, and who was one of the people I started gaming with back in 1975 at The Little Tin Soldier Shoppe on Lake Street. Pete was also one of the original players in Dave Arneson's 'Blackmoor' campaign, playing the Wizard of the Woods - so called, because he was the one and only wizard in the campaign, and he lived in a house in the woods.

Pete was the one who set the pace and tone for what would be generations of wizards, sorcerers, and magic-users to come in role-playing games; many of his concepts and ideas can still be found in games today. He was a lot of fun to game with, being both a formidable opponent and a gentleman; gaming with him was always a pleasure and a joy. He was a good friend, too.

Pete passed away last week after a month-long illness; he was 73.

I will be going to the visitation today, and the funeral tomorrow. It's going to be a very, very tough couple of days.

(I had planned on doing an essay about how I paint figures. I'll still have that for you, just later on as I have the chance. Thanks for your understanding.)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, June 5th, 2016 - More From The Workbench

So round! So silver!

It's been, I am happy to be able to say, a very productive week here at The Workbench. The Barsoomian figures can rest their weary feet; four of the little scout flyers, four six-figure air skiffs, and two ten-figure skiffs are done to table-top standards. Fifty-two people in loincloths to join my Old Guard 'Ancient Egyptians' as the generic light infantry / hot weather tribal types, to go with the horde of  Celtos 'Gaels' that I use as my 'cold weather tribals' - hot and cold weather being relative to Tekumel, of course. Phil's thought on using figures like this for Tekumel was simply: "A guy in a loincloth is a guy in a loincloth is a guy in a loincloth" as his own New Kingdom Egyptians chased our leaden alter egos across the game table for the umpteenth time. (We used to spend a lot of our time running for it. Simple survival was usually the order of the day with Phil.)

The big news, as far as I am concerned, is that I have finally gotten back to an old project that got stalled and put on the shelf years ago- a tubeway car. In all the time we adventured with Phil, we never got around to making one of these; no idea why, we just never did it. So, a while back, I thought that it might be fun to have one. This is a very basic 'solid body' model, intended to be as easy to use in games as possible.

The car is a 6" sphere; I am mounting it on a clear Plexiglass base, as there will be times when I will need it as a free-floating model - like when the players wind up in one of the junction stations or the repair yards. My question is: we never ahd a model of either the cars or the stations, so what should I do for a tubeway car station? The opening in the floor for the tubeway will be the same size as the car, with a little 'windage', and as I'm doing this car as a 'midships' model with the door on the greatest diameter, the car will be 'floating about halfway in / out of the tubeway.

I am leaning in the general direction of a pretty 'generic' station, one that takes these cars and not the big ones, as I think this would get more use in games over time. The base, will have to be about three inches thick, to make the car float at the right level, and I'm wondering if I should try to do a little 'forced perspective' modeling and install the "dim purple lights" that Phil said are in the tunnels. My other option would be to rebate the underlayment for the floor, and have valence lights with purple filters to give a nice glow to the thing as it sits in the station. I am also sort of assuming that I am going to want to do the three colored 'tiles' in the floor that are the panels that summon the cars and indicate status. (LEDs, no problem.) Walls? The service rooms off the corridor that leads to the actual station?

My thought is that this will be about a foot wide and deep, so that I can use it as a 'super tile' in Underworld adventures. I'll have to make the stairs that lead 'up' from the base level of the game board to the station entrance, but that I can due in my sleep. Same thing with stairs down from the surface, if that's how the players get into the station.

Game design philosophy note: I usually do not do interiors in models, unless the game scenario requires them; taking the models apart during the game is usually kind of disruptive, so I normally provide separate paper plans to players when they go into a building or something else with an interior. It keeps the game moving smartly, and also forces the other players to send somebody in to see what's there - adventures ensue. If I was doing a display model, I would indeed put in all the lights, screens, and controls; it's pretty easy to do, these days, as model railway suppliers have all the stuff needed to do this kind of detailing.