Thursday, October 23, 2014

Random Cool Geeky Stuff

 October has proven to be a big month for random "cool geeky stuff" for me and I thought I would share some of my encounters.  First off is a life sized sculpture of a Spinosaurus in front of the headquarters of National Geographic.  I drive past the site when heading to my office in Georgetown.  During the baseball playoffs the dino was sporting a Nationals ball cap!

 Next up are some large scale plane models on display in the San Francisco airport (I was there this week on business).  I really liked the two Spitfires.  The models looked to have 15 foot wingspans.  You'd have to have a pretty big gaming table to play with these models!

 Just to be clear, I wasn't the only adult making plane "zooming" sounds while gazing at these beauties.

EDIT: It's been pointed out that I would have been a very poor plane spotter - the display is of one Spitfire and one Hurricane (not the 2 Spitfires mentioned above).  I suspect the authorities will be coming around to confiscate my "Geek-Card".   Oh the shame....

 While a bit paltry, here's the last harvest from the garden (outside of beets which we've got a few more months to go - I'll be sick of beets very soon).  It's a bit of an eclectic mix.  The carrot never made it into the house because I was hungry.

 One of my "garden guards" was sunning herself on the day I picked the items from above.  We get a few mantis egg sacks via mail order (along with lady bug eggs) and they really do cut down on the pests.  Plus preying mantis's are just cool.  This one measured about 5 inches.

Finally an update from my son - here's a picture of his custom made 3D printer.  He took the shell from cheap commercial one and replaced all the electronics and printing parts so it will "work better".  What's it printing now? - parts to make an even bigger 3D printer because every tech crazy kid wants a 3D printer made from 3D printed parts.

The Design department at CMU has some 3d renderings of tanks so Sean plans on trying to make me a few gaming pieces to try out.  Maybe there is something to this whole tech thingy.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Regimental Fire and Fury Scenario Book II is Out

The second scenario book for the Regimental Fire and Fury game system has been published and is now available here.  The book covers battles from the mid period of the war (1862-63).  The series is extremely well researched and these scenario books are as much historical research as they are game scenarios.  The orders of battle and battlefield layouts are extremely detailed and well researched.

There are 13 scenarios in the book and I've been able to play test a few of them.  RF&F is the best ACW rules set I've come across and does a great job in balancing playability with historical "realism".  I've yet to have a bad game playing the ruleset and doubt I ever will.

Go on over to the publisher's website and take a look!

OK, heres the deal - in addition to purchasing a great scenario book, you'll be encouraging Rich (the author) to start work on book III, which means more gaming opportunities for me via play testing.  Good karma for you, more gaming for me - that's a win-win baby!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

British Ironclads?

 Yes, those are, indeed, British ironclads on my workbench.  Specifically the Warrior on the left and the Hector on the right.  There might be a few more ships waiting their turn in the background.  Why British Ironclads?  Because there cool and because this year's "big project" will be putting on two linked games at Historicon'15 that are based on a hypothetical British intervention during the Civil War.  The first game will be a naval one featuring a combined British/CSA fleet trying to force a landing of British troops.  The second game will be a land battle game in 28mm whose setup will be influenced by the outcome of the first game.  There "may be" some representation of the French fleet but who knows what side they'll take.  You can thank the Perry brothers for this madness with there new line of 28mm British intervention forces.  Unfortunately for Curt and his annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge this means yet even more submissions of 28mm Perry Plastic Confederates as I'm aiming for 24 battalions per side for the land battle.  "Bigger is Better" is always true, isn't it?

 The ironclads are all 1/600 scale.  The cast resin hulls for the British ships are from Bay Area Yards and were purchased several years ago.  The casts are fairly basic, but inexpensive ($8-$10 per hull).  However, all you get is the hull cast.  To be honest, Thoroughbred Figures models are far superior in both detail and completeness, but are a bit more expensive $20-$25.00 per model for a similar sized ships (more traditional ironclads are less).  As some readers may surmise, I like all things nautical, so the extra scratch building and painting challenge to make the Bay Area Yards models table ready is something I'm looking forward to.

Rather than use brass rod for the masts, I went with styrene rod.  Why - because I've lent my small parts soldering iron the my robotics team and will not see it back until April.  Despite the "thick" look of the styrene.  I found it fairly easy to work with.  When making a mast first drill out the holes in the hull (1/8 inch).  I use a drill press to ensure the hole is straight.  Then insert the rod to mark off the depth of the hole (that's the portion on the left side of the measuring line.  I didn't do a lot of research on mast height so kind of winged it.

Next step is to cut the second portion of the mast with thinner rod and glue in place.  This is where styrene shines as a materials as you can file the joining portions flat to ensure a good bond.

Once the masts are done, cut small squares of thin styrene sheet for the mast platforms and drill a hole the size of the main section and then slide up to then bottom of the top mast.  (sorry, no pictures)

The last step is the spars - which are cut (I used sizes of 1.125, 1.00, 0.75 inches), cut a notch in the middle and then glued in place.  A little green stuff was added for furled sails along the lower sections.  Some of the spars are not exactly square but that will be fixed during rigging after painting and detailing are done.

These ships are referred to as "Broadside Ironclads" and they pack a punch.  The Warrior was armed with 26 68 pounders, 10 110's and 4 40's while the Hector had 20 68 pounders and 4 110's!  Very impressive!  They're weakness is hinted at in their name - armor plating was only applied to the sides - the bows and sterns of both ships where unarmored.  The first chance we'll get to see how these behemoths do against they're battle tested Union foes will be the upcoming play by blog game that was discussed a few posts ago.

That's it for now - I'm heading back to the sailboat show!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Annapolis Sail Boat Show Friday Visit

 Yesterday I spent most of my afternoon at the Annapolis Sailboat show, which can be described in gaming terms as a combination of Historicon and Salute on four miles of floating docks.

Weather wise it was a pretty bad day - intermit an rain, high 50's low 60's.  The one positive is the weather kept the crowds down and made navigating the docks a bit easier.

First up is my boat, the Bucentaure,  an Alerion 28, which was on loan to the manufacture to use as a display.  In talking with the sales reps, I think she may have helped sell a few more hulls for them so hopefully I'll get some goodies from this little favor....

 A view from the stern.  In front of her is an Alerion 41, which is the largest boat in the line and is extremely nice.  While I was there, the sales people kept trying to upsell me but I think I'll keep what I have.  I guess sales people have to, well, be sales people.

 Ahhh - the most beautiful boat at the show - a 65' custom built sloop with all-wood hull construction and a carbon fiber mast.  The wood hull is a sight to see but will be a maintenance "challenge".  But the really great news is she's for sale for the bargain price of $5.5Million.  Alas, far out of reach for me but I'm happy to throw the name of any of my readers into the bid......

 This cruiser had a really neat way to store /launch it's tender.  The boat has an extremely wide beam and is most definitely a cruiser rather than a racer.

 On the other hand this boat is a pure racer - not a lot of creature comforts other than a cushion cockpit deck but she is lighting fast.

 The vendor areas reminded me of a war-games convention - 10' by 10' booths hawking all sorts of things  that the fashionable sailboater needs

 There were a few "big tent" areas with even more stuff from top of the line electronics to no-flush marine heads (the less said about those the better)

 One of two catamarans from GunBoat.  These are all carbon fiber monsters that are very striking to see.  Unfortunately, the sales staff at Gunboat were less than welcoming to anyone with kids, which I find very annoying.  If a manufacture builds a boat where kids can break something they need to get new engineers.

The last picture, below, is of a giant catamaran - I think it was the largest of the show.  I chuckled when I say it because it reminded me of one of those giant Orc ships from Spartan games Uncharted Seas product line....
Lastly, not all the display boats had room on the docks - there were a few you could only get to by water taxi.  They look kind of lonely.

All in all a great day.  I'm heading back to the show on Sunday.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ironclad Play by Blog Game - any interest?

I've been participating in a "play by blog" Napoleonic Naval game being run by Clint over at his "Anything but a One" blog.  The game is about to hit it's 11th turn and has been both very extremely fun and fascinating to see the social dynamics.

Since I'm really not the most creative of people, I've decided to give Clint the highest form of a compliment by copying his idea but changing the venue from Nappy Naval to American Civil War ironclads.

Why ironclads? - a few reasons:
(1) Despite having a large 1/1200 Napoleonic Naval collection, I think Clint has that market covered
(2) I've decided that my next convention game (Historicon'15) will have have an ironclad scenario and I want to test out a rule set and some game management concepts.
(3) Ironclads are cool - 'nuff said

The purpose of this post is to gauge interest in participating.  Given that I'm kind of lazy, I'll limit the number of players to 8 and each will control one large or two small ships.  To be clear, you'll be guinea pigs, but guinea pigs involved in a grand experiment that pushes the boundaries of gaming, social networking and technology.  I'm highly confident that the Nobel committees may be watching our little endeavor with some level of interest.

The game will start sometime in December.

Oh there will be prizes for participating - yes, I'm not above bribery to goose participation....

Please let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

FOW "Throcktober" Tournament Update and New Project Musings

I had a great time yesterday at Sean's FOW tournament.  The German team ended up winning as the Allies drive to Berlin was less than effective.  Sadly it looks like the war in Europe would have gone on a few extra months given the allied teams performance.

That said, my personal performance was better than expected - I went 2-1 and was the second highest scoring US/Brit commander.  My games went 5-2, 1-6 and 6-1.  US 155's are very effective and accounted for the 2 Jagd Tigers and 4 King Tigers killed by my plucky paratroopers.  I'm also figuring out how to use TD's better.  Many thanks to all three of my opponents who were more than gracious with my newbie mistakes and offering advice.

With the mad dash for the tournament over, I now find myself without a major miniatures project and need to think about what the next big project is.  The decision will need to come soon as It's been very motivating to combine a big game for historicon along with the Analogue Hobbies Painting challenge which (hopefully) starts in December.

One can't have an empty workspace, so there's a new ship in the yard a 1/600 scale US civil war ship from Thouroghbred Miniatures - the USS Hartford.  The again this might be for the "big" Historicon 2015 game(s).

One never knows!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sail Boat Show Prep II

 Last Saturday some friends helped me sail the Bucentaure across the bay to Annapolis to get ready for the Sail Boat Show.  The weather was beautiful - 70's, sunny but there was one hitch - zero wind.  So when I use the term "sail", I really mean we motored across and occasionally caught a brief gust of wind.  It makes for a less than exciting passage as the boat's "massive" 14 hp diesel engine can get up to 5 knots.  At least its fuel efficient - we only used 2 gallons of fuel.  But it was a lonnnnggggg 5 and a half hour passage.

 Coming up on the Thomas Point lighthouse - it's one of the last screw-pile light houses still on the water.  This light house marks an approach into Annapolis harbor.

Tied up at a temporary spot.  With the sailboat show coming, dockage is at a premium and you tie up where you can find a spot. In return for letting the guys at North Point use my boat, I'll get a compete  cleaning and they'll help me pick out a good electronics package.  At 28', she'll not be the largest boat at the show but I think she'll do OK.

If you're at all interested in sailing, the Annapolis Sail Boat Show is a must do.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Tournament Prep Done

 Whew - the painting's done for this saturdays "Throcktober" tournament.  It a nice little haul for my glacial painting rate.

 First up is a four gun battery of US 155's, which are just the ticket to pry open the tops of those nasty late war big german cats.

 A little AT support in the form of a M-18 tank destroyer platoon.  These guys are a bit of a glass cannon as they have no real armor (except against small arms) but are very fast.  Never fielded them before so lets see how they work out.

 Lastly, some odds and ends - 4 jeeps 'cause you can't have too many, and air observer, a staff and command team for another artillery unit and a Jumbo Sherman.  I have been dithering about on my exact list and have received some input for a certain Mr Rhia that I need a tank platoon with a jumbo.  Since Mr Rhia will forget more about FOW than I'll ever know, his advice is well worth taking.

All that's left to do with these guys is hit them with some matte varnish and they're good-to-go.

The tournament is an interesting event - It's a 24 person late war themed team-based event "Race to Berlin" where 12 allied players (6 US/Brit, 6 Soviets) fight against 12 germans in a
historically based scenario event.  Since it's really late war, I suspect there will be lots of big cats fielded by the germans, which can be tough nuts to crack.  The event is being held at Huzzah Hobbies in VA and will be my fourth FOW tournament.  It sounds like a lot of fun.  The tournament is being organized by Sean Sarah who has put a great deal of effort and enthusiasm into it - I'm grateful for his efforts.

As with all curmudgeons, I rarely change my way of doing things hobby style, so when I do, it's a big deal (to me).  I had bought the pictured surface primer at least a year ago and never used it.  I gave it a go for the everything pictured above except the 155 unit and was extremely please with the results.  The brush on primer allowed me to compress two steps (priming then main color painting into one) and provided an excellent shade of olive green.  I highly recommend the product.  Sometimes labels can be hard to read so the product is:
Vallejo Surface Primer
US Olive Drab

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

15mm Flames of War Tournament Prep

In a bit of a switch from Napoleonic naval mini's, there are a good number of 15mm WW2 figures on the workbench now.  These mini's are needed to flesh out the list I'm planning to run at an upcoming FOW tournament.  When is the tournament you ask?  Oh it's this Saturday so I'm under a bit of a time crunch!

The units that need to be painted include a M-18 tank destroyer platoon (4 M-18's, 2  M-20's and a jeep), an air observer and some misc command/staff teams.  In terms of painting "crunches" it's not the worst and I should have the details painted out tonight.

I do find that these self-inflicted painting crises really do increase my productivity and can re-engerize my approach to the hobby.  It's also good to have a break from 1/1200 sailing ships which are very rewarding to build but very taxing at the same time.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Essex is Done!

 Another frigate has been added to my 1/1200 scale US Fleet - the USS Essex a 38gun ship.  As previously posted, this was yet another Langton model with the brass sails.

 All of the additions to the US fleet, from left to right, the USS Essex (38 guns), the USS Ohio (74 guns) and the USS Congress (44 guns).  All-in-all a nice little addition to my collection.
Another shot of the new additions.  I suspect these ships will see some action very soon.