Monday, April 27, 2015

Sectional Terrain: Advances and Minor Setbacks

 A few steps forward and a few backwards on the test pieces.  I wanted to test out a different way to apply texture to the board without adding a weight.  My usual method involves sand and such and that adds too much weight to the boards which are designed to be transportable.  I saw a interesting method on a youtube vid from Mel the "Terrain Tutor" which looks very promising.  Its a three step process that involves spackle or joint compound.  Step one involves pouring a little water into the spackle containers and painting on a light wash across the surface.  Steps two and three involve taking the same spackle once the water's been absorbed and stippling it across the surface to add texture. The picture shows the board after the first stippling pass.  The board needs to dry before applying the second stippling but the results look promising.  I do need to test it resiliency by dropping the board a few feet to see if the plaster holds.  I think it will but let's find out.

Here's a shot of the joint compound I'm using.  There's nothing really special about it but I wanted to keep track of the materials that are being used.



 There were a few setbacks yesterday, which are good things as it always better to fail small when testing than fail big in production.

The first failure was the adhesive I used to attach the foam to the frame - It didn't hold which I realizes after applying the wash of joint compound. It reapplied some of my trusty yellow wood glue and relighted the boards with paint cans.  The glue took this time but you can see where the cans were and that will be easily cleaned up.

I'm also not happy with the test plowed field I added to the board.  I used Durham's "Rock Hard" Water Putty but forgot to throw in a little sand for texture.  Durham's is fantastic stuff but dries very smooth.  It also lives up to the name and will be need to be chiseled out if I decide to redo the field.  I may be able to hide the texture by adding some crops and a little sand to the paint.

I do recommend adding Durham's to your scenery tool kit.  It's intended to be a wood filler but serves as great tool for scenery and is astonishingly durable.  It also sets fairly fast so work with small amounts at a time.  Also remember to clean any tools immediately after use or they'll carry around reminders of the stuff forever.   When cleaning up don't do so in a sink, do it outside - this stuff will clog your pipes very quickly.  Trust me - I've had to redo the pipes for a sink because of that mistake.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sectional Terrain: First Test Pieces

 OK, enough talking and planning - lets get started with this sectional terrain project.  There are 2.5 months to go until Historicon and I've got 60 sq ft of terrain to finish up.  Doable?  I hope so!

First up is a test build of a single 2'x4' section.  The 1x2 is cut to estimated dimensions and test fit on the 1/4 inch wide 2'x4' plywood panel.
 Rather than screw the 1x2 frame in place, I will be glueing it down and then reinforcing the corners with blocks.  Glue provides a more secure bond (when applied properly) and doesn't result in splitting the wood.
 While the glue on the 2x4 section dries, I'll fixe the foam in place on one of the 2x2 sections I built last summer.
 Ever impatient, I started to fit the foam in place on the big section.

 Here's a shot of the foam in place and you may spot my first mistake - I used a 1x2 as the center cross beam which id 3/4 inches high and my fan is 1 inch thick which means I'll have some height issues so I need to shave a piece of scrap fan down by 1/4 inch to fit.  Going forward I'll use some 1/z2 wide scrap so I don't have to worry about these issues in the future.
 A little joint compound is applied alone the edges to ensure a smooth fit.  You can also see where I've nocked on a spot for a plowed field on this board.

The 2x4 section has also had it's gaps filled.

It's good to start making progress on this project.

Post Spring Brunch Report

 Despite a catering disaster of epic proportions (see the previous post), my wife's spring brunch for her female dental students was a great success as this years group photo attests. The weather actually got a little colder as the day went on so, perhaps, my wife questionable decision to forgo my suggested wet T-Shirt contest may have been the right call.  Who can really know about these things....

 Given the catering mix up (prepared food for a men's event), I stay up all night and made 10 quiches for the ladies.  Pictured is the 10th and final quiche just out of the oven at 5:30am.   I may have dozed off a bit as you can see it got a little singed but it still tasted good.  This one was just a simple broccoli and cheddar / colby cheese mix.

 At 6:30 I ran down to the fish market and picked up a nice salmon which I cleaned and filleted.  I'm not a big fan of salmon but MB and her students seemed to like it.  You now know my big secret - I'm actually a fairly decent cook.

 The salad table spread.  I will say the caterer tried to make amends by supplying the salad and light stuff gratis.  MB refused delivery of the mis produced chicken wings and burger bar that the caterer made by mistake.  I was devastated not to get the wings, but then again my waist line is probably the better for it.

 An "action shot" of the event - these young ladies can consume mass quantities of food when no one is looking!
My lovely wife reaching for a rather menacing knife - that means I being banished back to the basement....

Yes we managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and I've got a pile of leftovers to plow through for the next week - that's what I call a win-win.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dark Days and Ill Omens

Things look grim as I peer out of the Lair this morning.  My once happy household is overcome with fear and foreboding - what has brought us to this sad state of affairs?  A catering mix up of epic proportions.

You see today is my wife's annual spring brunch for her female dental students.  In past years, our house was filled with 40-50 twenty something young lady dentists-to-be guzzeling down mounds of fine french food and gulping gallons of wine while learning how to keep their man under their thumb from one of the masters of the art.  A joyous feast that made the halls of Valhalla green with envy.

Not so for this year, as our normal caterer Eric has retired back to Quebec' and my wife selected a replacement.  Unfortunately this replacement, who shall not be named due to public safety concerns, has managed to screw up the menu.  Instead of little fluffy quiches, salmon canopies, and other french delicacies as was specified by my wife - in writing, our intrepid soon-to-be-former caterer will be delivering  buffalo wings, a burger bar and other somewhat masculine items.  Apparently he has mixed up the dates for our event and baseball coaches party the following week.  Lets us say that news of this transgression was not met with joy by the Lady of the House.

Ever ready to change adversity into advantage - one of the benefits of being a tabletop gamer, I boldly suggested to my wife that we run with what the fates have decided and go with a neo-classic bachelor party theme for this years event.  I even, out of the goodness of my heart, offered to go out and get a keg or beer, invite my gaming buddies over, rent a stripper pole and even organize a wet T-Shirt contest as the weather is very nice today.  There's nothing I wouldn't do to help out my lovely wife.  Moreover, what 24 year old young lady wouldn't be captivated by exciting tales of derring-do on the table top?  "AND then I rolled a SIX!!!!!"  Sadly, these bold yet tasteful suggestions where met with a stony silence as my wife finds the bonds of conventional decorum to burdensome to slip.

So what have I been doing whilst my UK friends are getting ready for Salute?  Making F'ing quiches all night long, literally.  Asparagus quiches, quiche lorraine, if it can go into a G-D quiche I made it last night.  I'm now about to leave the house at 6:15am to drive to the fish market to get fresh salmon.  Help me......

It's disappointing that my wife couldn't see the fun that a wet T-shirt contest might be for a professional women's event.  Of course I would need to judge and out of decorum and class would promise not to rate any contestant below a "5" out of 10 - this is a social function after all.  I'm not a barbarian.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sectional Terrain Planning

The time between now and mid July will see me embarked upon a rather large sectional terrain making project - the building of 8 2'x4' terrain sections and 5 2'x'2 sections (one of the smaller 2x2's is picture to the left). I'd like these to be two sided - the primary side land and the flat underside sea.

The goal will be to have these completed to use during my two games I'll be putting on at Historicon this summer (July 16th - 19th) in Fredericksburg VA.

I'm trying to plan this out as best I can so as not to meander during the build process when some shiny concept pops into my mind.  I really like making terrain but can be a but undisciplined about it and that's not so good when there's a schedule to keep.

The basics of the terrain sections will be 1/4 in luan or maple plywood bottoms with a 1x2 pine box frame attached to provide stability.  There will also be a 1x2 piece (laid flat) running through the middle if the frame for the larger 2x4 foot sections.  I've already built (but not added scenery) the 5 2x2 sections so at least construction concept has been tested.  To provide a bit more stability when in use, I will be adding some rare earth magnets to "bind" the sections together.  Using magnets limits the ability to combine sections given the requirement that + only go with - but I think the gain in stability is more than worth that tradeoff.  (Be prepared for me to constantly screw up the polarity alignment during construction, it's just inevitable).

I've priced out the cost of materials for each 2x4 sections as follows

Lumber (1, 2x4 plywood sheet & 2 1x2 8' lengths of lumber)      $19.59
Foam (2 2x2 1" foam project panels)                                             $ 8.84
Magenets (6, 1 on each short end & 2 on the long sides)              $  0.90

Scenery Materials (flock, plaster paint, etc)                                 $10.00
  Total cost per section                                                                   $39.33

Total cost for 8 2x4 sections                                                        $314.64
Scenery costs for existing 2x2's                                                   $ 27.25
  Total Project Cost                                                                      $341.89

Cushion (i.e. screw-up factor)                                                      $158.11
  Total Budget                                                                               $500.00

Sunday will see the project started as that's when all the needed lumber will be purchased.  I think I have most of the other materials "in-stock" but I suspect there will be some things that will still be to be purchased.  I'm really looking forward to getting started on this project.  There will also be some side projects for additional terrain (roads, forrest and some hills).  At least all the mini's I need for the game are all painted up.

One of the bigger decisions I have is what color to make the sea side of the sections.  I'm leaning towards a blue-gray with hints go green but lets remember my EPIC FAIL on selecting a water color last year:

Ugggh - that was wayyyyyy to blue!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

WWPD Wounded Warriors Tournament Report or Confessions of a US Arty Party Partier

 I had a great time at the WWPD Flames of War tournament yesterday at the Games Vault in Fredericksburg, VA.  It was a Battle of the Bulge themed event and all of the proceeds went to support Wounded Warriors.  It was a bit of a "silly" tournament as a player could buy up to 25 "re-rolls" for $1.00 each.  I bought 25 but only used 10 as I forgot about them most of the time!

You can still donate by going to the link.

My first game was against Ken who was running a german infantry list that was backed by 2 king tigers and panther and three Panzer IV's.  The focal point of the game was the objective in the center of the picture and we fought back and forth for it.  I had Ken one platoon away from a break but my remaining infantry platoon failed its tank terror test to assault his remaining King Tiger that was sitting on the objective.  A well deserved 4-3 win to Ken.

 My second game was against KJ who also ran a german infantry list that was backed by 2 Jagd Panthers and 3 Stugs.  We rolled the fair fight scenario.  This was the only game I took the offensive by sending one infantry platoon, the recon and M-10's down the right side of the table.  KJ sent an infantry platoon to try and attack my artillery park down my left flank and it was touch and go and all game but I manage to seize the right side objective and win the game 4-3.  This was one of the best games I played of FOW in a tournament.  We also only used about 3-4 re-rolls each as KJ did;'t have a lot remaining and I only wanted to match his number to keep it "fair"

 My last game was against my friend Jon Baber, who I've played many board games with but never met across a FOW tabletop.  Jon ran a Confident/Trained German Panzer list with Jagd Panzer iv/70's and Hetzers.  He was a most gracious opponent and kept his disdain for my legal but rather gamey "arty party" list in check.  We rolled "Counter-Attack"and the game really focused on my right edge of the table and the objective in the center right of the picture.  Jon sent his Panzers on a sweep around to my ride side and then down to the objective,  The heroes of the game were my Priest artillery unit which entered as reinforcements in the upper right of the pictures and managed to survive the game and tie down Jon's Panzers until my artillery could chew through them.  I won the game 6-1 but more due to the dice gods frowning on Jon's dice rolling and the overly positive US artillery rules than anything else.

I went 2-1 for the day and placed solidly in the middle of the pack so I was very pleased with the results.  This is my fourth FOW tournament and the second one with a winning record.  Through four tournaments I'm 6-5-1 and having a lot of fun.

I do think this is the last event I'll run a US list that has more than one artillery unit.  While they're legal and completely within the rules, I don't think they're very fun to play against and they provide an incentive to the player (me!) to just turtle up and let your opponent come to you while the artillery pounds him to dust.  It's an effective strategy, but just doesn't seem fun for my opponents.  I can prevent that situation in the future.

Here's the list I ran yesterday:



Airborne Engineer Combat Company(Glider)
Infantry Company
Platoon
Qty
Unit
Points
Headquarters
Airborne Engineer Combat Company HQ (Glider) - p.21
2
Cmd Carbine team
15
Combat Platoons
Airborne Engineer Combat Platoon (Glider) - p.21
1 1 2 4 2
Cmd Pioneer Rifle team Pioneer Supply Jeep and Trailer Pioneer Bazooka team
Pioneer Rifle team
Pioneer M1919 LMG team
235
Airborne Engineer Combat Platoon (Glider) - p.21
1 1 2 4 2
Cmd Pioneer Rifle team Pioneer Supply Jeep and Trailer Pioneer Bazooka team
Pioneer Rifle team
Pioneer M1919 LMG team
235
Support Platoons
Tank Destroyer Platoon (Veteran) - p.27
1 2 4
.50 cal Recon Jeep M20 Scout Car M18 Hellcat GMC
410
Parachute Machine-gun Platoon - p.18
Fearless Veteran
1 4
Cmd Carbine team M1919 LMG team
100
Cavalry Recon Platoon (Trained) - p.28
Confident Trained
1 1 1
M8 armored car Mortar Jeep Recon Jeep
70
Armored Field Artillery Battery (Veteran) - p.30
1 1 1 1 1 3
Cmd Carbine team
M2 half-track with AA MG
Staff team
M2 half-track with .50 cal AA MG M4 Sherman OP
M7 Priest HMC
230
Glider Field Artillery Battery - p.25
1 1 1 3
Cmd Carbine team
Staff team
Observer Carbine team M3 105mm light howitzer
115
Field Artillery Battery (155mm) (Trained) - p.30
Confident Trained
1 1 2 1 1 4 4
Cmd Carbine team Staff team
3/4-ton truck
Observer Carbine team Jeep

M1 155mm howitzer
M5 high-speed tractor with .50 cal AA MG
235
Company Points:
1645
www.EasyArmy.com
Source document: Nuts Book 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

WWPD Wounded Warriors Tournamnet

There hasn't been a lot of hobby activity in the weeks after the end of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  I think we all go through a bit of "decompression" after that wonderful but grueling "marathon of mini's".  I've been crazy busy at work including trips to the UK, San Francisco and even New York to speak at a conference.

There's been a good bit of Planning going on for the upcoming British Intervention into the ACW games that will be put on at Historicon and I might even start building some terrain this week.

The only Hobby activity to report is that I'm heading out to a Flames of War tournament today at the Game Vault in Fredericksburg, VA.  It's part of the WWPD Wounded Warriors fund raising effort so it's for a good cause.

By the way, if you want to donate, here's a link to do so WWPD Donation

I'll be running a US Para Combat Engineer unit out of the Nuts book - it's a real defensive list but does fit within the overall theme.  Points for the event are 1,650

1 HQ
2 x Combat Engineer Platoons w 2 bazookas and a engineer supply jeep each
1 Para machine gun platoon
1 trained recon
1 M18 TD platoon (my only armor)
1 unit of 3 Priests
1 unit of 105 para arty
1 unit of 155mm trained arty

There will be snow effects and no aircraft - should be fun.

8 platoons and well structured to play defense.  I'm toast if I get any offensive missions, but it still I'm rolling dice and pushing toy soldiers so what's not to love 'eh?.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Terrain for Historicon 2015

Historicon is roughly 3 months away and I'll be putting on 2 linked games, as I've babbled about before on the blog.  The armies and navies are pretty much done but I really want to up the ante on the terrain for this year's con in two ways.  I want to build my own contoured sectional terrain boards and provide all of the terrain details from my own collection.

In past games I've borrowed heavily from Ernie at Architects of War who has been generous with both his time and his massive collection.  The fantastic terrain boards and most of the terrain in the picture is Ernie's and terrain really does make a game.  Ernie has a business to run and with the massive success of All Quiet on the Martian Front, he's got a lot on his hands - by the way AQMF is a really fun game - you should give it a try.  I'm sure Ernie would be happy to provide the terrain but I'd like to see if this year I can reduce my "leach factor".  I also really enjoy making terrain (it's the old model rail roader in me) and it's rare I've got the miniatures all sorted so far out from a con game.

So what do I need to build?  Actually a lot, but lets start from the bottom up:

Sectional Terrain Boards:
Both games will be played on a 6' x 10' surface and I'll be building terrain sections that are 2' x 4' and a few 2' x 2" sections.  In order to get an 6x10 space that will require a minimum of 7 2x4 sections and 1 2x2.  I'll build a few more of each to have a bit of variability.  I've settled on a simple box frame design using 1/4 inch luan plywood as the base and a frame made of stock 1x2 lumber (.75 inches x 1.5 inches).  The basic design is outline here.  The goal is for the boards to be two sided - contoured land on one side and then flat painted "water" on the other.

Hills:
I'll need to make some hills and that will require some some pieces to place on top the terrain boards - lets assume 6-8 square feet of hills to be scattered about the battlefield.  I've got one large hill but will need to redo the scenting to match how the terrain boards come out.

Forrest Plates:
I really like the Architects of War forrest plates.  They are a neat combination of stock woodland scenics trees and some sculpted resin bases.  My collection has seen heavy table use and, unfortunately, I didn't pack them very well after last year and most of the tree were damaged.  I'll need to make some new ones but will do so in a manner that allows me to remove the trees for transport.

Roads:
Ernie's boards have built in roads that look fantastic but I'll be going with some flexible roads that are put down on top of the table.  I like using roofing shingles to make the roads - they look good and are very inexpensive.  Here's a tutorial of how I'll make the roads.

Buildings, Fencing, nick knacks:
I've got a nice collection of buildings and fences but can one ever really have enough?  I'll be adding a few items here as time allows including the new Renedra Cross Rail Fencing.  I really like the Renedra products and recommend them highly.

1/600 Scale Terrain:
One of the great things about putting on a naval game is that the terrain requirements are very limited - one just needs a flat surface and a handful of details.  The will be some terrain added to help "channel" the flow of the combatants.  The basic outlines of the terrain pieces can be scene here.  I'll probably add a few more items as time allows.

Most of my hobby time and blog postings will be about my progress (or lack thereof) on the above terrain.  I'll also slip in a few posts about sailing 'cause the weather is getting a lot nicer.

Work will really commence in May as April is pretty full with a work related trip to London next week and then preparations for the Robotics World Championships at the end of April.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My Hobby Area

 Over Spring Break my son and I spent a good bit of time cleaning up my "Man Cave" both to make some room for him and his projects (which includes a 3D printer) and to appease my wife who has become concerned that our house is being transformed on an accelerating basis from a standard home to a storage facility for miniatures and their related debris.  Personally, I didn't see anything wrong with that but I'm not the one who calls the shots on these things....
2 years ago I did splurge a bit and purchased a commercial workbench from American Workbench (their Ben Franklin model) to use as my painting station.  Having a fixed "work" location is very useful and when cleaned up looks very presentable and serves as a great staging location for game nights.


 My game room is dominated by the table, which was built by yours truly and has served me well over the years.  It's a bit beat up for its days as a robotics workbench when my son was in high school but she's still in good working order.  There is a built pair of book shelves which are usually in disarray.  The table top is 4' x 8'.

Currently the wood is unfinished furniture grade pine and my wife would like me to dress it up a bit - perhaps add some decorative framing and cherry stain.  I think that will be an early fall project.
 There's a good bit of storage under the table which is accessed via sliding doors on either side.  Most of the storage is used to hide the lead and plastic mountains from prying eyes....

One thing that needs to be addressed is that there is no rails to hold dice, drinks and reinforcements  along the sides.  I've got a project in the workshop to build some "L" shaped trays the will attach along the sides.  Each tray will be 4 feet long and when attached will form a shelf.  They'll also be able to be flipped over to provide a playing area extension so the total playing surface can be expanded to a 5' x 9' space

 I did build a mini cabinet inside the workbench for miniature trays.  This unit has enough space to hold 2,000 28mm infantry figures (mounted on 20mm square bases.  It's currently filled with a range of stuff including my 15mm Flames of War collections.
My wife allowed my one set of storage cabinets, which I find very useful.  Sadly, they are pretty much filed to the brim and additional storage units are forbidden by executive management.  At some point I'll need to sell some of my stuff to make room for other stuff.  Most likely to go first will be my Romans and Dacian collections which occupy the bottom shelves of the middle two units.  They haven't seen the playing table since the last time I ran a Hail Caesar game at Historicon - which was in 2012!

In terms of future game room projects, In addition to the trays described above, my other "big" gaming project will be to finish a set of sectional terrain units - I started that project last summer and will need to complete it by July'15 in order to put on my planned games at Historicon.


 To be honest, I think both the game room and  table were happier when they were used as a robotics building platform.  All of the boy scouts in this picture are off in college now studying to be some type of engineer from left to right - Virginia Tech (Mining), Carnegie Mellon (Robotics) and GA Tech (Mechanical).  All three got scholarship offers so there was some good from their robotics addiction.
The robotics field has been replaced by a nice card table and the storage cabinets for miniatures - again a bit quieter and less damage prone but not nearly as fun!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

ACW Naval Terrain Draft

 A start to the terrain for my upcoming Historicon games.  The fictional naval battle will take place in the "eastern bay portion of the Chesapeake Bay - it's near where I live.  Doing a fictional battle does give one a bit of "artistic license" and I think it will be fun to build the shorelines for areas that I often sail in.

 The test game is a bit crowded as it's on a 4 by 8' table.  The game will be run on a 6x10 space which is almost twice as big.

The land cut-outs of 1/8 thick white styrene.  I like using styrene plastic for sectional terrain bases and it doesn't warp and is both cheap and easy to work with.  A few years ago I bought two 8x4 sheets from a sign manufacturer and have only used about 30% of the material.

 I've also rebased all my ships using clear plastic bases - that makes matching the water effect simple.  I'll add ship names to the bases over the next few weeks.

 A look at Tilghman Point.  It has a shape like portrayed but there isn't really a fort there - there's that ol' artistic license again....
 More Unions ships on they bran new plastic bases.
Another shot of the fort.  Once the weather warms up a bit I'll take the sections outside to base paint and then scenic.