Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Weekly Update - Sunday, March 26th, 2017 - An Essay On Conventons, if you don't mind...

No, I am not at Gary Con this weekend these are all photos from three years ago. The folks who were organizing a possible trip for me to go down to Lake Geneva this year missed several important deadlines with the convention, so we went to Ohio instead.

I've been asked, by multiple people and on multiple occasions, why I don't go to conventions and run games for people. The quick answer, as I've mentioned, is resources - and the lack of same. I have a limited amount of disposable vacation time and an equally limited amount of disposable income available to use on my gaming; I have to budget very carefully. And, as I've also mentioned, I have very limited amounts of stamina and energy available - I can either organize a convention trip, or run events and games; not both, on the same trip. If people want me to come to their convention, then they need to take the lead in organizing the trip. I can advise on what I can run, load everything up, and do the show; that's about it. I can pay for fuel and food; I can't afford a hotel room, and I do need a place to stay at my age.

That's the tangible aspect of the subject. The intangible aspect of the matter is that I am a relic of an older style of game play, dating back some forty years. I don;t fell all that much connection to modern gaming; when I was walking through the game rooms at Con of the North, I felt very disassociated and alienated, as there didn't seem to be anything there for me. I just wasn't interested in what I was seeing. Now, there were lots and lots of people there, having a very good time; it just wasn't my kind of good time, if I can put it that way.

The bottom line is that if I'm going to be shelling out money and time, I'd better be having a great time like I did at Cincy Con. Gary Con is a great convention, but for me there's not a lot to actually do; it is an RPG convention, and I happen to strongly agree with that focus; I just don't see a difference between RPGs and miniatures, as seems to be the norm these days. We didn't, back in the day, and I still don't.

So, to conserve resources, I stay home; the door is always open for visitors. If you want to stop by, drop me an e-mail...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Interlude - A Conversation With My Missus

The topic of the conversation...

So, I'm getting the groceries in from the van after a shopping trip, and the Missus is eying a blister pack - Reaper #80037, "Telephone Box", to be exact - and asks "Can you paint this up for me?"

"Well, yes," I reply, "but that's not the best model of the classic GPO phone box. I have a couple in the model railway supplies, but they're OO and not the O scale that I think you want."

She rolled her eyes, and favored me with the kind of look one reserves for a beloved but dim spouse. "If I'd wanted a GPO phone box, I'd have gotten one. I think you know exactly what I want this one painted up as..." Heavy sigh followed.

"Yes, dear. I'll look up the BSC color number and get on it..."

The origins of this particular conversation go back almost thirty years, when I was first courting Herself. I bought her a complete set of the RAFM "Doctor Who" figures, as she's a fan of the series from waaaay back - she was a friend of Anthony Ainley, for example - and also a complete set of the Ral Partha "Elfquest" figures. This hit both of her big interests, and I thought it might advance my cause with her. (It seemed to work; thirty years later, and she's still here. Anyway:) She still has both groups of figures, still in their boxes, and these unpainted miniatures came up in the discussion of vintage figures that we were having at the paint-and-take at CincyCon.

A number of collectors have been of the opinion that she should keep the Elfquest figures in their boxes, as they still have all their packing and inserts - they are out of the shrink wrap, that's all - and the Who figures are still in their little 'Tardis' boxes. (I had also gotten her a set of the plastic GW Daleks and Cybermen, which came off their sprues in 1988 and are still waiting for paint.) Other collectors have taken the position that these are her figures, and if she wants them painted then they should be painted. She's of the opinion that she'd like them painted; she had a lot of fun painting up one of the little goblins for the Goblin Horde project, and is kind of wanting to paint something.

Thoughts? Comments?

Along these same lines, she's also 'happened' to mention that I still have a lot of unbuilt card model kits in my railway stocks, and that her smaller 'true 25mm' figures don't look at all out of scale next to them. Suggestions about getting a bit of card modeling done have been made, and I get the hint - hopefully not being too dim, in these matters.

In a similar vein, the Missus has mentioned that Mike Burns, of Dark Fable Miniatures, is about to get his new Indiegogo - "The Legend of Cleopatra" - up and running, and that she approves of the figures as she sees the photos of the greens.

I am getting the feeling that there's a connection here. Wasn't there a set ofTom Baker episodes with an Ancient Egyptian theme? I feel a 'pulp' adventure coming on...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Weekly Update - Sunday, March 19th, 2017 - Housekeeping And More

Convention loot plus - one

Convention loot plus - two
We're doing a bit of housekeeping here at the Workbench today; I manage4d to pick up some sort of noro-virus after we got back from Ohio, and I've been pretty under the weather for the past week. We did have a very good day of gaming yesterday - "Close Action" and "The Fantasy Trip" - and I'll have reports on those games as soon as I can. Fifth Daughter got to play in the TFT game, to great effect, and she's been invited back to play with the group. I played a series of NPCs, a town guard and a tavern keeper, and I had a lot of fun; the players seemed to have fun interacting with a 'live' NPC, and the GM laughed his head off at the results. A good time, as they say, was had by all...

For those of you who have been commenting on the blog over on Google Plus, I have been able to see your comments - I get e-mailed notifications of them - but for some reason I am unable to reply to all of you there. I'll be doing a sort of omnibus reply to everyone here on the blog, so no, I haven't forgotten anyone. I think it's got something to due with old hardware and old browsers, and the Missus is looking into it.

Getting back to our Cincy Con coverage, I enjoyed doing a little shopping when I had a break. For me, a huge delight was discovering a very nice line of boats and ships:

They have everything from 6mm to 28mm in ships and boats, as well as a nice line of shore installations that your pirate crew will love to storm. I got four of the big 'whaleboats', which are about the right size for Chirine's collection of landing boats - provided by dear old Captain Harchar for a 'very nominal fee' under very dubious circumstances - as mentioned at the close of Book Five and in Book Six of "To Serve The Petal Throne". Getting the troops ashore has always been an issue in the days before purpose-built landing craft, and these boats filled in a gap that we had in the fleet between the regular ships and the smaller boats and lighters used in the bridging train.

These are big, solid resin castings, and will probably survive everything that the players can through at them A nice feature is the spacing of the seats, which is specifically designed to work with 25mm bases - so, our troopers can stand on the bottom of their boats, instead of perching on the seats. I'm very happy with them, and how they look on the table.

There were also some folks with a 3-D printer, and I got some market stalls from them. You never have enough market stalls for the players to rampage through, no matter what your chosen period. They make a variety of useful things, and these can be seen on their Facebook page:

I also got some neat stuff from various flea market vendors, like a nice resin spaceship hull and a die-cast model of the airship from "The Golden Compass", all of which will fill in little nooks and crannies in my collection of game props and miniatures.

The Missus also weighed in with a purchase from Iron Wind, from the  Ral Partha Chaos Wars line; she got all three 'Amazon Regiments' from the first wave of their Kickstarter, as she thought that it was high time that she and her five daughters were represented on the family game table. I took the hint, and also restocked some of the truly superb Iron Wind paints; I've been using these since they first came out in the 1980s, and they are a truly great line of paints. For more on this, try the Iron Wind website:

Several mail-orders that the Missus had made have also come in, and so the five young ladies from Bronze Age Miniatures, the Sleazy Merchant and Six Guards (Two Alert, Four Drowsy) from Forge of Ice, and the Pillar of Woe set (plus a sneek peek at the Cleopatra Indiegogo) from Dark Fable have all been based up and will get a coat of primer when the weather finally warms up. I also have the plastic Numidians all assembled; I didn't like the plain round shields, in the end, so I dug around in the parts bins and gave them an assortment of plastic shields from both the Warlords 'Roman' sets and from the Wargames Factory 'Amazons' set. I think they look a lot better with the variety of shields; I'm sure I think of a use for the spares...

More to come; I'll have more detailed posts and photos up on all of this as soon as I can manage...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The CincyCon Trip - My Duty Station: The Paint And Take

The scene of the action for the weekend

The action, itself
My tiny contribution to the Goblin Horde (left)

Phil Neuscheler and the Missus, Herself

Iron Wind Metals, the company formed to take over the assets of the old Ral Partha, Inc. after it had been takenn over and then closed by RAFM - there's a long, sad story there, which I only know parts of - has relaunched the Ral Partha brand as a wholly-owned new division of the larger company; which, of course, happened a couple of years back. This is their local convention, so they put on a splashy show for everybody. One of the guys, an old friend, thought it might be fun to have me and the Missus show up as his personal guests, and maybe talk a little bit about Ral Partha and miniatures in general.

I am, supposedly, very well informed about little metal people and how to slap a coat of paint onto them. With this in mind, I was happy to take up the paint-and-take at the convention; this is a pretty simple idea - you sit down, pick out a figure from the box, paint it up the way you want, and then you take it home. An added feature was that you could also choose to add to the Goblin Horde; paint one of these, and it's stay with the demo army and you could pick another figure to keep.

All of the Goblin Horde figures got assigned an individual number, and all of the people who did one will be thanked on the Chaos Wars website; one can also follow the career of 'their' goblin on the demo tables, the idea of which people really liked.

The whole idea behind this event is to 'demystify' the often arcane business of miniatures for people. I talked to several hundred people, of all sorts, over the three days, and I told them all the same thing: You can paint miniatures, and do a good job of it, right now. Well over a hundred of them sat down and did just that; over fifty of them also added to the Goblin Horde. The amazed looks on their faces as they discovered that they really were able to paint miniatures was, if you ask me, a joy to behold and it made the long road trip all the more worthwhile. We had people as young as eight, and as old as me, and it was a grand time.

A very special treat for me was having Philip Neuscheler there with me; he authored the 'Dragonsmith' articles for The Dragon, and he's both a gifted artist in his own right and a true gentleman. It turned out that he and the Missus share a love of horses - Phil used to treat them - and watching the two of them carry on about their shared interest was truly wonderful.

I was able to get away for a bit at times - the restrooms are great - and I was able to visit the amazing variety of vendors at the convention. I need to shoot some photos, and then I'll be back with my next post on the treasures that I found.

The Cincy Con Trip - The Convention Itself

Pre-dreadnoughts - The Czar vs. the Great White Fleet off Alaska!

The USS Artremis starship bridge simulator

Warhammer 40k, I think...
One of the club areas

I was a little worried, going into this convention, about the noise levels; the convention is held in two huge barn-like halls, and I don't handle high levels of sound pressure any more.

Much to my delight, it was really nice in the halls! The walls and roofs are lined with insulation, so all of the surfaces above head height are absorb sound, not reflect it, and it made for a really good environment. The sound was that of a lot of very happy people having a really good time, and not the absolute din that I've had to suffer through at other conventions over the years.

The convention is an 'open-table' set-up; if one waned to reserve a seat at a particular game table, one got a ticket - at no charge! - from the registration desk, and one had a seat at the table. If one simply wanted to play, then all one had to do was pull up a chair and have at it; I didn't see anyone turned away from any game during the convention, as all of the GMs were very happy to have extra players - and had made their plans accordingly.

There was a huge variety of games on offer, too; everything from the classic RPGs to the classic miniatures games. There was something for everyone on offer, and I saw a lot of kids and families having a great time. My personal favorite was a modern game with a pair of Stryker armored vehicles - these were being run by what looked for all the world to be a couple of stereotypical 'soccer moms', who were playing hard, fast, and furious; anytime a dismounted trooper got into trouble, they were there in a flash with all guns blazing in true cavalry spirit and with true cavalry panache. George Patton would have been proud of them, and it was wonderful to watch.

Another favorite was the pre-dreadnought battle between the Czar's Imperial Navy and Teddy Rooselevdt's Great White Fleet off the Alaskan coast; icebergs were an additional hazard. This was a legendary game - it was played with the famous 1/700 scale ships made by and formerly owned by the legendary naval gamer Richard Huston (of 'Houston's Ships" fame) and lovingly preserved by one of his friends. None of your delicate 'steampunk' goggles-and-top-hat types here; this was manly men shoving coal into the boilers and shells into the guns as fast as they could, and having a damn good time doing it. As was usual with the technology of the time, nothing worked quite right, and the mishaps of machinery malfunctions was a very funny part of the game. (Certain American warships of this period could not point all their guns in the same direction at the same time, due to capsizing issues; it does affect your tactical thinking, I assure you.)

At the opposite end of the technological spectrum was the amazing USS Artremis starship bridge simulator, which worked all the time all weekend, and was very popular with players of all kinds. I've seen a couple of these kind of things in action at various conventions, and they never cease to amaze me - we never had anything like this, back in my day, and it would have made those far-off 'Traveller', 'Star Trek', and 'Star Wars' games something else to have been able to play. Wonderful stuff.

As I mentioned, the convention venue was great - and the food was even better! The convention organizers had set up a food stand, and the food was both inexpensive (a rarity!) and really good (even more rare and unusual!); I don;t know about anyone else, but I stuffed my face. An additional feature was that criers would tour the halls before the kitchen closed, offering deals on the 'leftovers'; nothing went to waste, and the whole operation was wonderfully well-managed and staffed.

If you asked me, this whole convention was wonderfully well-staffed and well-run. I had no problems at all during the weekend - the first time that this has happened at a convention in literally decades!

Right, then; next up, What I Did For The Weekend...

The Weekly Update - Sunday, March 12th, 2017 - CincyCon VIII

My post for the weekend - the 'paint and take', in West

The central connecting room, with the registration desk

East Hall, with lots of game tables

East, during dinner - the food was great!!!

 As related in the previous update, we're back from what it probably our last great adventure. We had a wonderful time, but both the Missus and I are just not in the kind of health one needs for long road trips. Having said that, on with the report!

The beginnings of this trip lay in the smouldering wreckage of last years' proposed Tekumel Room at Gary Con, over which the Tekumel Foundation had made such a fuss that everyone actually working on the thing just gave up and walked away. (We're all still baffled by them and their attitudes.) A couple of the people who were going to participate in the event said hey, we have this perfectly good local convention - why don't you and the Missus come to that? It all seemed like a good idea, so we made our plans. For what we were going to please see:

What was a big part of making this trip so special for the two of us was that the Missus loves horses. She has a little fund that she saves up and puts into all through the year, and then goes and places her wagers on the Triple Crown races. She always does well, I am happy to say, and has built up a little nest egg for herself like I have with my gaming fund. Lexington, Kentucky, is just over the border from the convention, so it was her plan to drop me off at the show and then do a series of day trips into thoroughbred country. And because of this, she informed me that she'd be willing to pay for half the trip expenses out of her horse account; one does not turn down offers like this from one's Missus, I tell you. Fifth Daughter, she with the yellow in karate, would watch the house for us; our friends were supplying the hotel room, so everything was taken care of.

Or so we thought...

Because of her health issues, the Missus has trouble sitting in our van for more then a couple of hours; so, she called her usual car rental agency and reserved a full-sized sedan for the trip. I packed our luggage accordingly, with  our big Land's End suitcases - these have been all over the world with us, and enable us to live for a week in luxury - and flight bags full of snacks and medications for the back seat.

Got to the rental agency a week later, and the trouble started. We were told that we could have either the giant SUV that was out on the lot, or our pick of the three sedans. The Missus asked if these were full-sized cars, and got blown off. I had a look at the largest, and what we were being given - and billed for as 'full-sized' - were 'mid-sized' cars that our luggage simply would not fit into. She got the look on her face that her Viking ancestors would have recognized as being a sure indicator that somebody was going to get a visit from Ragnar Hairy-pants (actual historical personage) and his boatload of stalwart Scandinavian 'attitude adjustment counselors'. The transaction got cancelled.

At this point, all we had left for options was to take our old van - it had 326,000 miles on it, was loaded down with 800 pounds of book that the girls' grandfather had left them, and we were not at all sure that we'd make it to Ohio.

She still had That Look on her face; she turned to me and said, in the same kind of voice that I imagine that Rollo used when he announced that he was invading France: "I want to see my horses, you want to have fun at the convention, and we don't want to disappoint our friends. We're going."

So, we did. Next up, what it was like...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Weekly Update - Tuesday, March 7th - The Last Great Adventure!

Old Reliable does it again, one last time...

There will be a series of much longer reports to come, but for now the news is that Chirine and The Missus are now back home here at The Workbench after a very long and very exciting trip to see some very old friends.

This has been, I suspect, our last great road trip together. Her health - and mine too, for that matter - as well as our limited financial resources mean that we simply can't do a lot of the things that other people can. But, this was an important trip for the both of us, so we went. Our poor old Astro, with 326.000+ miles on the clock, came through one last time for us and got us there through wind, snow, rain, darkness, and sheer exhaustion - and then saved the day for our friends in their need.

Was it worth it? We thought so, and so did quite a few other people.

Lots more to come!!!