Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Historicon Prep Update - The Clocks-a-Ticking

Yikes!  There is a month to go until Historicon and I've still got a good bit to get ready.  Last May I wrote up of list of objectives for the new games and have since promptly ignored it.  Well mostly ignored it.  Here's where I stand

1) Jungle Terrain - that's 8o% done - all the Jungle sections are complete.  The remaining works centers around "junglfying" my desert ruins in a way thats removable.  This may be as simple as dropping some flock on them and then vacuuming it up at the end of the convention.  ConcernFactor - LOW

2) Add a 6th catacomb section.  Again this is 80% complete as I've finished staining the new Egyptian themed dungeon sections and now just have to stick them down on the MDF sheet.  This will get done over the next few days.  ConcernFactor - LOW

3) Redo Oasis Terrain Plates - 0% complete.  The existing ones are serviceable so this task will be reprioritized to the end.  Of course that's how I ended up with sub-par oasis terrain last year.  ConcernFactor - MEDIUM

4) Simplify the Rules - I've made a few editing runs through the rules to simplify them.  The biggest  change involves getting rid of the different dice and standardizing on a D10.  The rules originally had a set score for success (6+) and combined both terrain/armor modifiers with different dice types for troop quality - veterans rolled a D10, regulars a D8 and mobs a D6 - that sounds great in theory but doesn't work in a con game with 8 players - it was just too easy to get confused and D8's look an awful lot like d10's with a casual glance.  I've adjust the modifiers and now everything is on a D10 basis.  Leaders and Boss Monsters used a D12 which I'll likely keep.

I also used 8.5 x 11inch force cards that had the number of troops prayed by squad and used sliders to track limited ammunition (AT rounds, grendaed and Satchel charges).  They cluttered up the playing area and were often ignored.  I'd like to go with specific bases they are on the troop trays which once used are removed by the player.  We'll see how that develops.

My goal is to get the one page summary printable at a readable font (say font 14 or larger).  ConcernFactor - MEDIUM

5) Troop Movement Trays - Like a moron, I cut the runtime of the game down to 3 hours (it can go to 4) based on the time and motion study I did examining how much time players needed to move individual figures (yes, I am THAT geeky).  I've got all the troop trays purchased but need to assemble and scenic them while making sure the figure bases still fit in the sabots.  There's a lot to do and it will be a bit tedious.  Plus I need different sized trays for the two different games as DAK & Dragons uses 8 figure squads and SOCOM & Sorcery uses 5.  This change will get prioritized to number one as it needs to get done.  ConcernFactor - HIGH

6) Better Objective Markers - Last year used cheap plastic disks that really looked awful.  Like the troop movement trays this needs to get done and will get moved up the priority list.  The one good thing is that these will be useful in all sorts of games post the convention.  ConcernFactor - HIGH

7) Improve Random Encounter Tables - DONE!

8) Improve Special Objectives - Still needs to get done, but this is just a few hours of concentrated thinking.  Those of you who are located down wind of the Maryland Eastern Shore will know when I attempt this feat as I often emit the scent of bacon cooking when trying to think.  Since I find that distracting, I try not to think that often.  ConcernFactor - LOW

9) Establish Kid Player Objectives - DONE! - Well I think it's done, I need to review with my household expert on everything (my son) and get his thoughts.  He's more direct with me when cranky so I'll need to time asking his opinion to right after I've barraged him with a whole bunch of inane technical help questions like "can you make the TV work", "what's my password to X" and my all time favorite "why is the internet so slow today" (that usually has something to do with him).

The rest of June promises to be a busy month!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Scenery Workbench and Workspace

 The other half of the newly "reclaimed" 8x8 ft storeroom will be used as a scenery workbench.  The actual workbench is 5 ft by 3 feet which will provide plenty of room for just about any scenery project - from basing to 2x4 ft terrain panels.

This is the first time I've managed to get all my scenery stuff in one place so hopefully that will increase productivity - or at least reduce time wasted looking for stuff!

I slapped together some extra shelving for my scenic materials - I'll be testing different types of arrangements to see what works best.

The workbench is 18 years old and was my first woodworking project - it's help up nicely and weighs a ton.

 My collection of tufts in a nice storage box.  I'll build some other cabinets to store terrain over the next few days.

My first project in the new space - staining some Egyptian themed dungeon tiles from Lunesdargent Workshop.  These will be used in my upcoming Historicon games "Dak & Dragons" / "SOCOM & Sorcery".  Last year I only had enough tiles to make five of the six 2x2 ft dungeon sections - I used some Dwarven Forge cavern tiles for the sixth.  It just didn't look right - that's not a knock on the DF stuff, it just didn't fit the theme.  With these new tiles I can build out the sixth section and have a much more uniform flow for the terrain.

By the way - I highly recommend the Lunesdargent stuff - it looks great, is durable, and the Egyptian theme makes them very different form the standard grey dungeon terrain.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Sectional Terrain Storage

 As I recover from my little health drama, the wife and I have been doing a little clean out of the stuff (ok, crap) we've accumulated over the years.  It's a depressingly large tally and has almost filled the full sized dumpster I rented.  It's highly likely without this self impose "intervention" we likely would have been featured on one of those awful "hoarders" shows on cable TV in the next few years.

Anyway, the clean out frees up space for more gaming storage and I decided to build a rack to store my 2x4 sectional terrain panels.

Like most of my gaming projects the "racks" are made out of scrap plywood.  The design is very simple - two vertical columns with 3/4 inch rails every three inches.
I used my table saw with a cross-cutting sled to cut the 1/8 dados (slots) in a plywood sheet that was 10 inches wide and 24 inches tall.  Once the dado's were cut, the table saw was used to rip the plywood into 4, 2.5 inch x 24 inch column.  Doing it this sequence ensures all the dados line up.

I then cut some 1/8 inch plywood in the 1.5 inch strips and placed them in the dados to form the rails fro the terrain to rest on.  In hindsight I should have gone with 1/4 inch plywood as these are a little flimsy but the panel are light so I should be ok.

You can see the remnants of my old model railroad layout on the shelf - all the trains and buildings were packed away just in case I return to that hobby.

Here's a shot of the installed unit with my 8, 2x4 panels nestled in their slots.  I'm very pleased with how it came out.  I've also got some 2x2 and 1x1 panels that will be stored in a similar way.

These panels are pretty beat up and need a restoration project.  The endeavor will occur in the next few weeks.

The panels are located in a little 8x8 ft room thats adjacent to my gaming table - the other side has an old workbench which I'll be using for terrain making and that will likely be topic of the next blog post.

One of the more embarrassing things that has happened during "operation declutter" is I've stumbled across a bunch of stuff I forgot I had!  Some examples include:

- A Dewalt sable saw that was barely used (I was just about to go out and replace my current one - bonus!)
- a box board of woodland scenics ground foam and clump foliage - pretty much a lifetime supply
- a Noch static grass applicator

Monday, May 28, 2018

Terrapin Sunday!

 If it's May on the Maryland Eastern Shore, then a few things are true: the weather is great, the crabs are plentiful and the Terrapins (a type of turtle) are laying their eggs.  On SundayI ran into some of the said reptiles deciding that my yard and driveway would make a suitable nursery - including the one in the first two pictures in my drive (right next to the garage door).
 Since these pictures were taken, I've marked off the area with stakes and and ropes to protect the eggs.  I know my duty!

I ran across a number of other turtles in the yard.  One other thing I've noticed this year is a big increase in the number of lizards (skinks to be particular) and a decrease in the number of snakes - there may be a link there.

Seeing all these reptiles has given me an idea to include in my upcoming Historicon games - see I managed to get back to the topic of gaming!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Historicon 2018 - My Games (Shameless Self Promotion)

Yes this is my annual plug for the games I running at Historicon.  Its all very self aggrandizing and such but there you go.  You can pre-register for games at the Historicon site







I've got six games on the Event List (PEL) which you can register for:

T:125:10 DAK & Dragons

T:145:14 SOCOM & Sorcery

F: 143:10 DAK & Dragons

F:146:15 SOCOM & Sorcery

S:144:10 DAK & Dragons

S:147:15 SOCOM & Sorcery

These are games will be improved versions of last year's games which were very well received.  At let I think they'll be improved - I guess we'll all find out in July.

I'll also be running pickup versions of the games each evening but prefer not to be tied down to a set schedule - that allows me a bit of a break and time for a longer dinner.

Below are the descriptions of the games that can be found in the PEL listing.  As you can see, I have adhered strictly to running very serious and historically accurate simulations.

T:125:10 DAK & Dragons 2.0Thursday, 10:00 AM, 3 hrs, Players: 8, Room: Distelfink, Table #: D26GM: Miles ReidySponsor: None, Prize: Beyond the Dreams of AvaricePeriod: World War II, Scale: 28mm, Rules: DAK & Dragons
Recent reports from the local Berbers indicate something ominous is happening deep in the Egyptian desert. It must be something big as both the Axis and Allied high commands are dispatching teams of crack troops to find out exactly what is going on. DAK and Dragons is THE definitive historical simulation of WW2 squad level tactics vs. the Dark Gods of Egypt. Perhaps you can answer the age-old question - can a Panzer III take on a Dragon? DAK and Dragons 2.0 is an improved version of last year's very popular game and uses simple homebrew rules. Children are welcome w/ Parent



F:146:15 SOCOM & Sorcery 2.0Friday, 3:00 PM, 3 hrs, Players: 8, Room: Distelfink, Table #: D26GM: Miles ReidySponsor: None, Prize: Beyond your dreams of avaricePeriod: Modern, Scale: 28mm, Rules: Homebrew
Recent aerial reconnaissance has discovered ominous Egyptian ruins near the head of the Nile River. It must be something big as multiple teams of crack troops are being dispatched to find out exactly what is going on. SOCOM and Sorcery is THE definitive historical simulation of modern squad level tactics vs. the Dark Gods of Egypt. Perhaps you can answer the age-old question - can a TOW missile take out a Dragon? SOCOM and Sorcery 2.0 is an improved version of last year's very popular game and uses simple homebrew rules. Children are welcome w/ Parent.



Sunday, May 20, 2018

Jungle Terrain - Finished!

The 24 Jungle Terrain sections are now done.  Overall I'm very happy how these came out and this was a really fun project.
 I tried to break up the green monotony by adding some different colored flowers and other types of tufts.
 The sections are designed to allow figures to traverse them so couldn't be as dense as a "real" jungle but I think they convey a sense of dense foliage.


The bamboo worked out well and I may make some more bamboo sections for fun.

On to the next step for the Historicon game - movement trays

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Health Update #2

My recovery is progressing nicely and I've been cleared to do light exercise, which means 20 minutes a day on my Peloton bike.  That may not sound like much, but it's a welcome step for me.

Weight-wise, I'm down 31 pounds and have adjusted to the diet - it's actually not that bad.  I haven't eaten beef in over a month and don't really miss it.  My pace of weight loss has slowed as I can eat a bit more so it looks like I'll need to loose weight the old fashioned way of combining diet and exercise.  Still 30+ pounds is a nice jump start.

The only frustrating thing is my surgeries keep getting pushed off.  I'd rather get them over and done with but it seems that my lack of a medical degree and any board certifications have combined to render any of my opinions somewhat irrelevant in the matter.  I am amazed at the almost comical inefficiency of information transfer between medical professionals in the US healthcare industry and am seriously thinking of creating an investment fund to tackle that problem.  That will have to wait until the boss clears me to resume working again.

It has been fun to watch the rivalry between my Gastro specialist (Dr Raina) and my wife - Dr Raina is with Mercy hospital in Baltimore and they've just had a major renovation so have all the latest toys.  MB is with the University of Maryland and they a bit behind on the update curve and he loves teasing her about their latest new shiny toy.  It confirms my theory of human development - we actually stop developing at age 3, with the exception of our vocabularies which just allow us to express our playground teasing in more sophisticated ways.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What are the Planned Changes for this Year's Historicon Games

This's year's convention game will be a revised and (hopefully) improved version of last years "DAK & Dragons" and "SOCOM & Sorcery" games.  The games were A LOT of fun to put on but there are also a lot of improvements that can and need to be made to improve both playability and appearances.


Lets list out the changes in this post so I don't forget.

1) Make the center section a Jungle.  OK given the previous two posts, this shouldn't be a surprise.  The game rules I use really emphasize cover and having such a sparse center section where all the side collide was a bit stark for me.  I'll need to tweak the rules to ensure things don't completely bog down.

2) Add a 6th, 2x2ft catacomb section.  Last year I didn't have enough Egyptian themed dungeon section to build out the 6th section.  I used some Dwarven Forge cavern tiles which worked fine but looked a little out of place.  I've got enough now (thanks to Lunesdargent Workshops recent kickstarter).

3) Redo the oasis terrain plates.  These were done at the last minute (two days before the con) and really showed it.  I was kind of embarrassed to have them on my table.

4) Simplify the rules.  I used a homegrown set of rules for the game which were essentially a love child from a dalliance between Warlord's "Bolt Action "and The League of Augsburg's "Donnybrook" rulesets.  While most people grasped the concepts, a few really struggled with the rules, which means they are still too complex for a con game.  There will be a separate post that details the rules and how I may change them.

5) Movement Trays for the troops.  One thing that slowed both game play and setup was having all the troops move individually.  I purchased some skirmish infantry movement trays and will need to prepare them for play but they will speed up game play immensely.  The trays will not work in the catacombs but most players forces are pretty thinned out by the time they get there.
:)

6) Better Objective Markers.  Last year objective markers were dime sized plastic discs in different colors:

- yellow for treasure
- red for monsters
- blue for objectives



They were functional but looked awful.  I've got the time to make some WAYYYY better markers and have down some tests during this year's painting challenge - as you can see in the following picture:

7) Improve the random encounter table.  The one I used became very cumbersome as the game went on and didn't scale as well as I hoped.  There were also, at times, too many monsters so the players factions rarely focused on fighting each other.

8) Better special objectives for each faction.  I really like secret objectives for players in a game that is umpired and didn't put a lot of effort into fleshing that out last year.  The suspense of not knowing if one of your allies is really on your side is a lot a fun in a game.

9) Kid-Player objectives.  I have a rule that any kid players always win - always.  But that can be done without throwing the game in their favor so I'll come up with some special objectives for them and let the game play out for the rest of the players.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Jungle Terrain Test Piece

 Here's a shot of an "almost completed" jungle section that was built as a test.  I added the yellow and purple plastic flowers on a whim and like how they came out.  Some of the hot glue is still visible so I need to make another pass with the ground cover to finish this up.  The next step will be to hit the plastic plants with a light sepia wash to tone down some the the "plasticy-ness" (yes, that is an official terrain making term).

Overall I'm really pleased.

I'm also thinking about touching up some of the palm trees (painting the coconuts, etc).

 Jungle construction room.  Hot glueing all of the plants down can be a bit tedious but I'm really liking the results.  It's also kind of dangerous as I've burned my fingers more than a few times!

The bamboo sections also came out nice.  When attaching the plant pieces there's a balance one needs to find between creating a dense "jungle" and playability in terms of being able to move figures through the section.  I'll only know if I got it right after a few games so lets hope there isn't a lot of touch up work to do!

Only 8 sections need to have the plastic vegetation attached and then it's on to ground flocking.



 This project should be done in a few days and them I'm thinking of redoing some of the other terrain features from last year's "DAK & Dragons" / "SOCOM & Sorcery" games.  The picture to the left is the original desert themed table.  I'll be keeping the desert theme on the the two end sections but replace the middle with a jungle.

I do want to redo the oasis sections as they are very rough.  I made them two days before the con and they show it.
A close up shot of the middle section which was rather sparse but it worked.  I'll add some simple vines and other details to the ruins.  I'll also need to make better entrances for the catacombs that are more scenic.  Last year the game used dime sized plastic disks which looked awful.

I've got a jungle floor terrain cloth from Cigar-Box Battle Mats and just need to figure out how to soften the transition between the deserts and jungle, especially where the one mountain range veers off in an angle.

There are rumors that some dinosaurs may be found roaming around the jungle section - these are just rumors at the moment.  If proven true, perhaps the inclusion of historically accurate dinosaurs in the game will appease the purists who scoff at anything not historical.  I take their concerns about the corruption of the hobby from silly and fun games very seriously - yes, very seriously, indeed.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Jungle Terrain - A New Project


I've been cleared to go back to the hobby bench, which is a great relief for me.  I decided my first project will be building some jungle terrain plates to use in my upcoming Historicon games (DAK & Dragons 2.0 and SOCOM & Sorcery 2.0).  The bases will be made out of a 2 foot x 4 foot sheet of hardboard, which I cut down to smaller sections with my table saw.  The hard board is 1/4 inch thick (6.4mm) and the reverse side is a blackboard style of backing.  Each sheet is a little more expensive ($12.24/sheet) but the blackboard materials resists warping and ensures a smooth finish so the sections don't snag the tabletop.

 I managed to get 24 sections out of the sheet in various sizes.  Once the rough outlines were drawn I cut out each section with my jig saw (which is on it's last legs) and then beveled the sides with my trusty dremel multi-tool.

Making the terrain plates is a bit tedious and messy so I suggest you make them in big batches and store the ones you don't use for later.

Speaking of tools, the two most used "power tools" for terrain making in my shop are my Proxxon hot wire cutter and my dremel.  I haven't really discussed the dremel and its uses on the blog so I'll do a post about it in the next few weeks.

You'll notice there are a number of sections with straight edges - thats to allow placement along table edges.  The straight edges are either 6 or 12 inches in length so they can also be butted up together to form larger sections.

 I didn't want perfectly flat terrain so added some EPS foam to create undulations in the terrain.  Each piece was rough cut with a box cutter and then sanded smooth.  EPS isn't the most friendly of materials health wise so when working with it I set up a wind tunnel with my shop vac by clamping suction hose to the workbench.  I also wore a protective mask.

Once the EPS piece have set, I textured the bases with my standard mix of flexible tile grout and PVA glue - roughly 3/4 Tile grout and 1/4 PVA.  The mixture dries rock hard and gives a real nice texture to the ground work.

Here in the states you can get the tile grout pre-colored.  I used the earth-tone color which is great for terrain work.  There's also a sandstone color which is perfect for desert terrain.

 Here's a shot of the sections all covered in tile grout.  It takes about 12 hours for this to dry but once set these things are virtually indestructible.

My first test section - I'm using a mixture of plastic plants and some scale trees for the vegetation.  The "plants" are hot glued in place and so far I like the look.  This is still a rough mock up as there isn't any ground cover (which hides the hot glue) and the plastic plants need to be toned down a bit with a wash but I'm really happy with where this project is going.

My inspiration for this project is a series of jungle terrain videos that were made by Mel the "Terrain Tutor".  I watched a lot of wood working and terrain making videos during my recovery and came to really enjoy Mel's work.  So much so I actually became a Patreon sponsor. Take a look at his stuff - it's well worth your time.