Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sometimes you win, other times: not so much

Tackled two smaller projects lately: one was to make decent fields for less than $30 each as some companies charge, and the other to finally muster the nerve to paint pea dot camo patterns.

After watching a Terrain Tutor tutorial (and if you've never watched his stuff, I highly recommend it, just be prepared for what a ADHD kid becomes as an adult), I decided to go with the welcome mat process. Very simply, buy a welcome mat, cut it, paint it and apply flock as you see fit. It was quick and easy, and VERY affordable. I spent $12 for the mat; the rest of the stuff I already had in the house.

Take a look.

Not luxurious by any means but $12 is a lot less than $180 from a terrain manufacturer. I am very pleased with the way they turned out. Perfect for my tastes. Plus, I only used about a third of the mat! As I find new 'crops', I will make more fields. They should store easy as well.

Now, about the pea dot...

I have put this off for literally a decade or more as I was afraid I couldn't do it and I would just make a mess of it. Turns out I was right! What a disaster from start to finish. These guys started as 15's and ended up heroic 28's as they have each been painted over so many fucking times, they grew to over double their original size!

I hate them. I hate them so much I may never use them just to spite them; leaving them in their little box, hoping against hope I may pull them out someday to use. They may see the light of day again, but only after years, when I will pull them out and them hit them with a hammer ala Vercingetorix who was locked up for years, then dragged out and executed.

The only positive thing about this project is that by looking at the guy in the upper left in this shot, we can finally answer the decades old question: what did Shemp do during the war?

Sometimes you win...

Monday, July 16, 2018

Pig Wars

Met in Pittsburgh for a 6 way game of Pig Wars, a fine 30 year old rules set for Dark Age skirmishes in which points are awarded for getting food (livestock) off the board.

Being a meddler, I had to add VP's for whacking (some) dudes plus I also created secret VP's awarded for meeting certain conditions. Each of these was picked in secret and the players were given the choice to share them or keep them secret. They included things like: '+5 VP if you kill a guy from each different War Band' or '+ 2 VP for each goose if you kill a guy with a sheep' or '+3 VP if you set 'the house' on fire as log as you kill a guy with a duck' and so on.

The scenario idea was that each of the war bands had recently been allies in a battle, which they lost, in Roman Britain. Now they were all angry, hungry, tired, and looking for food and a fight, when they come across a big fat Roman Villa. I played the sacrificial Romans and could not score any VP and only stood as a speed bump for the others.

Each War Band consisted of 15 dudes and each had a slightly different make-up in terms of weapons. Never having played the game before I had no idea whether it was better to shoot, slice, or dice, so I crafted each slightly differently and let the guys pick. Now that we've played it, I'm still not sure.

Sorry, some of the pics are blurry.

'The Villa', 'The House' and 'The Barn'. The Romans have come out of the House and formed a shield wall while their archers are on the roof of the Villa. The serfs run willy *and* nilly through the fields.

Chris' war band was unique in that it had 3 mounted 'Level 1' warriors.

Oh yeah, the usual suspects. You know who you are.


Mike's troops had to schlep through the woods. This is what happens when you come late and have to pick last from the available war bands and starting spaces.

Kevin's war band avoiding bad terrain. Kevin had a guy with an axe to grind, and some men on a (secret) mission.

The Romans seek shelter from concentrated archery between the barn and the house. Their peasants are still running in circles as there is death in every direction they look.

Chris' guys come in waves. John's war band can be seen taking a defensive stance to the left and Kevin's down the road as everyone closes in on the villa and it's food on the hoof.

After an extended march, Mondo's guys finally get in the same zip code as everyone else and go straight for the big ticket items: the owner's horse and some goats.
This picture is also unusual because it shows the only time that Mondo's war band was facing the correct direction.

Kevin's war lord hands off a sheep to a waiting peasant. This would turn out to be a good strategy as exiting a 0 level peasant is worth thrice less than the sheep he is getting off the table!

The Romans Legionnaires are finally armored and exit the villa with their warlord. The form a shield wall with a brave chicken. Is that a contradiction in terms? It turns out, the chicken was a better fighter than the rest of them and outlived them all. Next time, leave the nerf swords at home, guys.

Meanwhile several of Mike's guys try to set the villa alight out of pure meanness as they got no points for it! Actually, he was trying to burn it down to stop my archers, which had a knack for killing any of his guys within sight!

Kevin's guys watch from the center of the farm as animals and thieves are everywhere! Look at the axe on that guy!

Some body's shield wall.

Kevin and Mondo fight it out over some perceived slight while the rest of Mondo's dudes protect the fleeing guys with the owner's horse (and 5 Victory Points!)

Pass me another arrow. Do you smell smoke?

Mike's flank attack chases Kevin without success.

John's shield wall looks menacing. 

Got me a chicken!

A brouhaha in the middle leaves the Romans NOT laughing as they were slaughtered as easily as their sheep will be, around various and sundry campfires tonight.

John inches closer to Mondo's party, who promptly splits.

Two Warlords duke it out (get it?) on horseback while the Romans definitely smell a cookout. Sheep wander around after being dropped as the Roman archers killed about 7 dudes from atop the villa. Too bad those archers are going to die a horrible death.

Just in case anyone comes this way.

We called it after a dozen turns or so and remarkably, Kevin and Mondo tied with 22 points. *And* at one point, they both pussied out and spent a turn with two of their guys carrying chickens stopping and having a picnic together! Chris was close behind with 17 points, and he didn't exit a single animal! All his points were from killing dudes! He definitely killed more than anyone. Ironic, that the best fighters will be the hungriest and have the least food!

All in all, it was just what the doctor ordered: a cool and simple game that was easy to play, gave us  an excuse to use Dark Ages figures, get together and have a good time. It should be mentioned that the two other casualties of the day were the two home made pizzas Mondo brought. They disappeared faster than teenagers at clean up time. 

I think we'll use this system again for sure. Fun, fast and easy, and when you think about it, the scenario possibilities are almost endless. Good, clean, fun.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Big Decision

Recently I have decided I want to have 'cleaner' tables for my games; that is, I want more of a stylized look over trying to create every rock, stone and twig. For starters, it's hard to do the latter, and secondly, it never feels like I capture what I want to do. To me, it's starts with getting some buildings that aren't rubbled, that look nice, and have a WW2 European look to them, not fantasy gabled cottages. And while the buildings I made for Mordheim 12 years ago are cool, they are all 'destroyed' and do have the fantasy look about them. Though, a few can double for European buildings, I guess.

So, the hunt was on for what I wanted. I searched the interwebs and found literally dozens of companies that made buildings (and other terrain), that met my qualifications. However, problems arose. Mostly price. I'm a gamer on a budget, and typically, when I buy gaming things, I'm usually buying that and not medicine. (Hey, we all have to die of *something*, right?)

Plus, I didn't want to have to paint the things. Assembly was okay, but I did not want to spend hours trying to paint the damn things. 4Ground was the obvious choice. They have great stuff and everything you can think of. I own several small ruined houses of theirs and they are great. Unfortunately, I would have to hit the lottery to go that route. That's not a slam on 4Ground by any means; their stuff is great, but I decided I just couldn't swing it financially.

I kept coming back to Sarissa Precision though. Kept seeing their stuff on other blogs, kept looking at all their really cool lines of products. And their prices were right in my wheelhouse. But I'd have to paint it! 

Then something just clicked. It hit me, I actually *enjoy* modelling. WTF? That's why I am in this hobby to begin with, right? I love assembling and painting little toy soldiers, why not the houses and buildings I want. I decided to embrace the project instead of fear it.

So, I decided to pull the trigger. I ordered 3 buildings: A corner 'terrace' house, a shop and a another terrace house that all fit together. And get this: all three were $66. To compare, the corner house alone from 4Ground is $68! But it *is* painted and looks great out of the box. Still, three buildings for less money. A no brainer.

Shipping from England was $3.44, again,  shipping from 4Ground was $26. I ordered last Thursday evening and the package was on my porch when I got home form work on Thursday afternoon.

So, here's the package:

The contents. The shutters are actually thick paper and the rest is MDF. (Whatever the fuck that is). When I was young, we called it masonite. Anyway, it's the same stuff on the back of old clipboards.

I decided to paint some of it before assembly. I wanted to test it too. I had heard horror stories of the stuff soaking up paint and needing 4 or 5 coats to cover it. I wondered if tempera paint would be better, though I've never used it. After consultation with my brother Tony, I decided on acrylics and got to work. I didn't prime it because then I would lose the details. I wasn't worried too much about cracks in the plaster, but I didn't want to lose the bricks or roof slates.
I never liked my terracotta color and eschewed it for 'red leather'. I also used a 'tan' for a few lighter bricks. Looks good to me.

The slate was done with 'black grey' with lighter touches of 'cold grey'. Luckily, for both the bricks and roof slates, I am good at coloring in the lines.

Here's the two stories  and roof assembled with wood glue. The roof was a little tricky and I am not happy with the seams up the front of the building but there's nothing I can do about it.

The whole shebang, unpainted.

After textured painting, rough coat. I've never done this before but I added genuine Deerfield Dr. dirt I brought with us when we left civilization. It's the same soil I use for my bases. I plastered it on pretty thick, hoping it wouldn't soak in too much.

The back. Duh.

Here' the pretty much finished product. I went back and forth about painting the shutters. I had a real light green in mind but ended up just leaving them as is. I may paint them in the future but for now this is what I went with. Also splashed paint on the chimneys to make them look like stone. I'm not sure the brick color would have been better; maybe on the next one.

See that damn seam?

Plus, you know, it always seems to me that projects look better in person. The camera picks up a lot of what my eye doesn't see. I think it looks pretty good for a first attempt.
Also, I wanted to make it look like it wasn't brand new, freshly painted. I toyed with using all the washes and inks to age it but finally decided since some of the paint *did* soak into the MDF, that instead, I would apply liberal amounts of paint elsewhere to highlight the darker areas. Again, I am trying to be more stylistic than exactly accurate. I hope this makes sense. It just breaks up the regularity of a perfectly painted building.
Oh yeah, it came with doors but I am not sure if I want to permanently affix them.

In that same vein, here's a shot of the finished project from eye level when it will be on the gaming table. Looks nice, in my opinion.

So, maybe the coolest thing of all is that when my wife freaked out about me spending more money on gaming stuff, I told her they were for under the Christmas tree! Of course, now I have to set up a 28mm village under the tree. I just hope she doesn't mind if my Americans are attacking the occupying fallschirmjagers.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

28mm Italians

Who doesn't love Italians?

This is a start for a Bolt Action force. It features 2 squads, a 81mm mortar, a medium machine gun and HQ.
To round out this force. I intend to get a few squads of Berseglieri, an anti-tank gun and a couple vehicles. I've always loved the Semovente 75/18 and the Carro Armato M14/41.
In the meantime, they can fight every other force I have, including the Japanese. (They had several dust-ups in China. Peking embassy, and I think a few others.) But specifically, they can face off against the Americans, Germans and Soviets. So they are really the utility force in my collection.
I'd like to get some partisans and do some fighting around Rome as well.
As purchased, this is a 500 point force for Bolt Action. 

Italian mortar and machine gun teams. I decided to go with the grey cotton uniforms. I just felt it offered more color than the monochromatic olive grey uniforms and helmets too. They wore these in Sicily, Italy and Russia. Good enough for me.

The HQ. The Capo di Capo in front, with second, runner and Observer. Unfortunately, the observer's radio was not included in the blister so I had to make one. not as hard as it seems; it is just metal sprues from other figures glued together. I'm thinking the runner could double for a medic if needs be.

Squad number one. 

Everyone, including me, likes their backpacks, so I included a shot.

Squad number two; identical except for the NCO figure. BTW, these guys are metal and the only part that needed attached was their heads which turned out to be a major pain in the ass.
For starters, for each squad of 10 there were 48 heads included which sounds ridiculous until you realize that a full 40 of them were for either North Africa (sun hats) of for Berseglieri (w/ feathers). Of the remaining 8, only 4 had helmets, the other 4 were soft caps. Well, I wanted helmets, so I had to use clippers to trim the feathers off the Berseglieri helmets. Just in case you're wondering why some of these guys have heads shaped like Milk Duds.
Oh yeah, and they are hard as fuck to glue too.

My good friend Armando. Pretty sure he has panettone in that pocket.

Bolt Action Soviets

It's been a busy spring.

Along with the Japanese, I've just finished the Soviets and a the main bulk of an Italian force for Bolt Action (or any other WW2 skirmish game.)
Actually, I started the Soviets way back before I was marooned in the corn. But, I had only done a couple test figures and they sat, and sat. Inspired by the Japanese and the chance to game Nomonhan, I set to work a few weeks ago. 
The infantry are not Warlord models. They are from the Plastic Soldier Company and there is good and bad about them. The good is that they were cheap. I think I paid $32 for a box that had 57 dudes. That's a good deal in toy soldier speak. The bad was that there were three sprues and each had the same models on them, albeit, they switched heads on some of them. There are multiples of the same figure, some with soft cap and others with helmets. The other aspect that was both good and bad was that there is not a lot of detail in the figs, so, on the one hand, they were easy as shit to paint, and on the other, not a lot of detail.
Funny that though. The PSCo makes great 15mm vehicles with tons of detail. You'd think it's be easier with 28mm? Who knows?
Buy I wanted an army that is ready to play, so I don't have a real big issue with the lack of detail. 

So, here we go...

The ubiquitous ZiS-3. Love this gun. The BA rules short change it though and only classify it as a howitzer. True, but t was in actuality also an AT *and* anti-personnel gun. When I design scenarios it will be used as such. The table will be way too small to use it as a howitzer in the first place; one of the drawbacks of the game as a rules set.

The ol' 45L. There *will* be a Bread Works scenario designed around this baby before too long.

The 82mm mortar.

The workhorse, T34/76. I pondered doing all kinds of camo patterns on this baby and then realized: being the most mass produced tank of the war, it was meant to be utilitarian and I decided to paint it that way. A lot of the finer details in this and all the models are not coming through in the photos; it really isn't as bland as it looks, there is some depth to the color.

This will double as a T34/85. I'm not paying $35 more to have a bigger gun on the model. Deal with it.

Soviet heavy metal. Despite what anyone says, I have seen two instances of footage of a guy running while holding this thing upside down on his back.

More ZiS3.

Soviet officers and NCO's and medic. Somebody is definitely THAT way. Going the wrong way will get you the gulag. Choose wisely. The medic was a construct of my own. Each sprue had a woman like this on it, which is fine, everyone knows that Soviet women fought on the front lines. But why make her looking into her purse? I got creative and made her a medic. Still have two more if anyone needs one.

Six LMG's and loaders.

A close up of the drum.

Tommy gunners! There's a total of 15 in the box.

Rifles. There were 21.

The whole kaboodle. I like these guys.

I still need to get an SU76 and would like a SU85 as well, but that's a little bit down the line.