Monday, May 2, 2016

Historicon 2016: Terrain Building

Hisoricon is just under 11 weeks away!

The good news is that the armies are pretty much done - some minor rebasing but not more than a few hours of effort.

The bad news is that there's a good bit of new terrain I need.  First up is 3 new terrain panels which at 2' x 4' each allow me to extent the battlefield for 6x10ft to 6 x 14'.  On Sunday morning, I built the frames for the new terrain panels.

2 of the panels will be generic flat terrain and the third will have some rolling hills and maybe even some pre-planted trees.

I still need to build 6 ft of shoreline and then a host of terrain details to make the board interesting.

It's terrain building season!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

St Michael's Con 2016

 I really like gaming conventions but being an obnoxious "Type A" personality, I always wonder how hard could it be to put one on a gaming weekend for a group of like minded souls?  Rather than post on TMP with uninformed thoughts, I decided to find out and hosted a gaming weekend for 11 of my gaming buddies over a long weekend.  While my little event will not rival Salute or Historicon, it was a nice experiment and a whole lot of fun.

Set up started on Wed night when Steve came over and we were able to baptize his new gaming table with it's inaugural game of X-Wing!

Thursday am was devoted to prep work, which mainly involved laying in food supplies.  11 adult male gamers will consume "mass quantities" of food and have been known to turn violent if not fed properly.  Don't worry there was also an ample supply of beer.

One thing I did decide early in the planning was to go with low set up / take down games (X-Wing / Armada and other board games.

Later thursday, Steve's table got a real work out with the start of another "Heroes of the Aturi Cluster" X-Wing campaign.   This picture is actually from Friday as I forgot to take pictures on thursday.  The first six initial arrivals on thursday were treated to a dinner in town and then there was gaming to 3:30am


 On Friday morning we had an uninvited guest - a 5 foot long queen snake.  You can also see we get a little bit of pollen out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

 All of the guests arrived sometime friday and the serious gaming began - here is a pair of strategic thinkers playing the new star wars rebellion game.  I made breakfast for the crew on Friday - eggs and bacon.  We went through a lot of bacon that weekend.

 The dining room table was protected by a painting tarp.  It proved to be a wise decision.  One side note - our dining room table is 8ft x 4' so it must have been designed for gaming!

 Yet more X-wing - I think I played in 14 X-wing games during the event!  As the gaming stretched into Friday night we ordered Pizza and played yet again until 3:00am
Happy geeks

Satruday dawned to a pancake breakfast cooked by your's truly and yet more bacon.
 Dano on the left is usually very shy and reserved but somehow we were able to coax him out of his shell.  The group is playing the Zombiecide "Black Plague" game which was a real blast.
I got to play a lot of new games but the one that stuck out the most for me was "Lords of Waterdeep" - what a fantastic game.
 Dinner Saturday night was a group cooking event.  I really need to get better kitchen staff.  We had a wide array of grilled meats, some star wars mac-n-cheese and steamed crabs.  There were also some lettuce for the burgers so we could say we ate a vegetable.

Gaming Saturday night stretched again to 3:30am with very raucous games of "Bang" and "Panic on Wall Street".  Three nights in a row staying up to 3:30am is an impressive streak for me.

As Sunday morning dawned it was time to close out the con and I bid a fond farewell to my guests.

So what did I learn?

Hosting a gaming event like this is the most fun I've had gaming and I will definitely do it again next year and increase the size to 20 or so.

Things that went well

(1) Food
Everyone seemed to be well fed and there was enough options to keep everyone happy regardless of dietary restrictions - The group BBQ on Saturday night went really well and was a lot of fun.

(2) House Wear and Tear
My house sustained no damage - while we may all play rather silly war-games, this group of friends are class acts and knew what fate awaited me from my wife if they broke something in the house.  My lovely, yet fierce, wife was both impressed and surprised at the lack of damage

(3) The Participants
All 11 of my guests were a joy to host and I'm grateful they decided to give this whole experiment a go.  Most of them are associated with the WWPD "gang" or put on convention games with me.  I kept the initial guest list pretty restricted as I didn't know how many would show up and if they'd have fun

I'll post a group picture of the participants as soon as I track one down.  I'm pretty sure Chippendales has nothing to fear from us.

(4) The Location
I think people really liked St Michaels.  It's a bit off the beaten path but is a nice vacation spot and offers a lot to do if people one day bring their wives and/or kids to next years event.

(5) Fun
Perhaps the most important indicator of success is that everyone appeared to have fun.  No one was left out of any gaming opportunities and there was a lot of laughing and high-jinks.  I didn't keep a formal tally but my best guess is that there were at least 60 games played across 6 or so game types.


Things that could have gone better

(1) Game planning
I really didn't do any and it worked out fine but next year I'd like to have more historical games and maybe a tournament of some sort.  That requires more advanced planning and, more importantly, enlisting volunteers to run different types of games.  I don't think we'll have a detailed PEL on online registration system but I do think a little more effort here on my part will pay real dividends

(2) Accommodations
We have a relatively nice place in St Michaels and the pool was open.  but it was straining at the seems to sleep 11 adults.  If I moved the event back a few weekends we could setup canopy tents for some outside gaming and even get the heartier souls to camp on the property.  It will also still be off season so I can also negotiate a cut rate hotel cost for those with more discerning tastes.

(3) Healthier food options
Next year I need to make sure there are wider array of healthier food options (fruit maybe even a vegetable of two).  While eating charred meat is fun and all, three days of a carnivorous buffet can take it's toll on ones waistline.

Overall
I had a blast doing this and will definitely put on another one next year with a larger size and a good bit more advanced planning

Ok here's the real reason I put this show on - left behind gaming stuff - I got two tokens from X-Wing, an empty plastic dice box and the timer from "Panic on Wall Street".  I'm sure I'll have full games after only a few years of hosting these events - Muuuhawwhawwahaawww.....



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Steve's Table - In Use!

 Steve's new gamin table got it's baptism of fire this weekend at a Mini-gaming "con" I put on in St Michaels.  I had 13 friends join me for three days of gaming, drinking beer and eating grilled meats - you know, Valhalla.

I'll do a more detailed report on the "con" but this was a test of an annual event I'd like to throw and it seems to ge really well.  We had a total of 13 people attend and we all had a great time.  But more on that in a future post.

Steve's table got's it first use and seemed to do really well.  It's now in Richmond for Steve to finish up the sanding and then apply his stain of choice.

I'll be building another table for Mike (far left in the second picture) as he just bought a house and needs a house warning present...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Steve's Gaming Table: Part 9 - Parts List and Build Advice

This post will feature a parts list and some advice on the tools you need to build a similar table.  Before doing anything the most important tools to use are a pad of paper and a pen - draw / list some ideas you want for your table.  Really think through what you want / what you don't need etc.

I tend to spend a week or so planning (my wife calls it day dreaming) and often end up changing the design / project goals several times before I land on what I think I want.  It's a lot less expensive to throw away a design on a piece of paper that a project that is halfway built.

In terms of tools needed for the project, I'll divided them into "got-to-have" and "nice to have".  A reason will be supplied for each "nice-to-have".

Before starting any project like this, you need to have 2 things firmly planted in your mind

(1) An understanding and respect for shop safety:
Power tools can be very dangerous if they are not used in a safe way.  Always wear eye protection (I keep a pair of safety googles with each power tool) and make sure your feet are clear of obstructions when using the tool.  The table is not a good project for a first time wood worker unless you've got an experienced friend to help you build it.

(2) Patience
One of the leading causes of shop accidents is haste - doing things too fast leads to accidents which can be unforgiving when a power tool is involved.  Take your time and don't get frustrated when you make a mistake (I make lots of them).  Have more than the lumber you need for a project on hand to account for mis cuts and always remember it's far better to go to the lumber yard for extra wood than the emergency room.

In terms of time to finish, the table took 3 weekends to completed assemble.  There's another few days of sanding and finishing work to do which will occur onsite at Steve's house.

Got-to-Have Tools:

- Carpenters Square

- Quality Tape Measurer (you use this tool the most, so don't go cheap)

- Hand Saw
- - I've become a big fan of Japanese style woodworking saws but any kind will do - very helpful for small parts or trimmings where using a power mitre saw is unsafe

- Power Mitre Saw
- - I have a big one (12" blade) make sure yours is big enough to handle a 4x4 post and cut 90 and 45 degree angles easily

- Power Router w/
- - 3/8 inch straight bit
- - 3/8 inch T-Slot bit

- Cordless Drill
- - 5/8 inch drill bit for mounting pegs
- - 1/4 inch drill bit  for T-Bolt holes on accessory trays
- - 1/8 inch drill bit for screw guide holes
- - Philips head screw bit

- Rubber Hammer (for "persuading" parts to fit without leaving a mark)

- Block Plane

- 3/8 inch chisel (for cleaning out the grooves)

- Clamps, lots of clamps

- Philips head screw driver

- Hand files

- Sanding Blocks ( pieces of scrap (usually a 6 inch length of 1x2 with sand paper wrapped around it)
- - 150 grit sand paper
- - 220 grit sand paper


Nice-to-Have

- Table Saw
Really helps with building the accessory trays, cutting the mounting lip

- Router Table
You can cut all the grooves needed with a standard router and guide but a router table makes it a lot easier, faster, more accurate and safer - other than than that there's no real difference.  Rumors that I used this project as a way to justify to my wife the purchase of a new Rockler Router Table (the Rolls Royce of Router Tables) are true.

- Nail Gun
For this project I wanted to go with no visible screw heads or other metal fasteners, using a nail gun will "speed-up" the glue drying process.

- Marking Gauge
Used for accurately marking cut lines where consistency is really important (multiple parts)

Part List:
The costs associated for the parts is based on pricing from a large big box US Home Improvement retailer (Home Depot to be exact).  You can trim the costs for wood by 20% by getting the stock from a lumber yard.

Parts List
Table PartNameNumberCost PerTotal Cost
Top Apron1x6 Pine, 6'4$6.75$27.00
2x2 Pine 6'6$7.96$47.76
Bottom Apron1x4 Pine 6'4$4.38$17.52
1x2 Pine 6'6$3.52$21.12
Legs4x4 Cedar 8'2$22.70$45.40
End Capsscrap exotic wood$0.00
Top
2x4 1/2 plywood3$15.00$45.00
Bottom Shelf
2x4 1/4 plywood3$10.00$30.00
Hardware / Fastners
L Brackets (2 per pack)8$3.97$31.76
http://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt-2-1-2-in-Zinc-Plated-Double-Wide-Corner-Brace-2-Pack-15052/202034033
3/8 Dowel, 3'1$3.50$3.50
1'1/4 Wood Screws40$0.12$4.98
Wood Glue
Total Parts Cost$274.03
Accessory Tray Parts
T-Slot Bolts (1/4/20, 1.5 inches)10$1.00$9.98
Knobs (1/4/20)10$2.49$24.90
Scrap Wood for the trays $0.00
Total Project Cost$308.91

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Steve's Gaming Table: Part 8: Finished! (except for the finish!)

 Whew, the construction part of the game table is complete - this baby's ready see some dice rolled in anger!  The wood's still unfinished, hence the odd title to the post, but I need Steve's input on any color choices since this is going in his house.  I know, I know, it's really his wife's decision but lets go along with the charade.  I've really enjoyed building the table and learned a lot in the process - thanks for being my guinea pig Mr Steve.

 The final tasks for today included putting in some cross supports to support the playing top and storage shelf underneath.  I did this by adding some cleated which I attached with some glue and my trusty cordless nail gun.  A cordless nail gun? - we live in magical times.

 Since Steve has a little one, I'm using 2'xs as the cross brace in case the young lady decides to go climbing.

All nice and square.  I'm using small brass "L" brackets to attach the supports - they don't bear any weight but make assembling and disassembling much easier.

 With the upper and lower cross braces in place, I needed to trim the lower plywood to fit around the tables legs.  Each post is 2/5inched square and i added 1/8 to the measure to account for swelling.

 For precision cuts like these I prefer to do them by hand and have a Japanese Kerf saw (it's like a giant X-Acto razor saw only sharper.  I've just started using Japanese style saws for woodworking and I must say they are superior tools.  I expect I'll replace my entire hand saw set with their Land of the Rising Sun equivalents.

My earlier post today mentioned some wrapping on the larger accessory troop trays.  I cut some angles for my project scrap and now things are nice and square.  Perhaps not the most elegant of designs but it's damn sturdy.

 The end caps are glued into place - I attached them to the short aprons with wood glue - nothing fancy.
 Action shot of the cup holder in use - very exciting, isn't it?

A close up of the cup holder showing the grove and dimple for wine glasses.

 A dice tray on the troop tray!
 A shot of the other trays.
 Here it is again all nice and done except for fine sanding and a finish.

 Close up of the I-Pad stand

I think the corners came out really nice



 I even cleaned up my work bench after the project was done!
 A shot of the cup holder showing how it accepts a wine glass.  The fit was a little tight show I'll file it open a bit more
Without the slot the wine glass looks a bit precarious doesn't it.

I'll be meeting Steve in a few days for a weekend gaming event and will give him the table then.  Once they figure out what type of finish and table top they want I may pop down and finish the project up.

This was a lot of fun and I have some ideas on how to fix up my table, which will be put in place after Historicon.  I've got to make some terrain now!

Steve's Gaming Table: Part 7 - Accessory Trays

Five accessory trays were assembled yesterday: 2 large troop trays (12x14 inches), 2 cup holders and in the center an I-Pad / Rule book holder.  Overall I'm very happy because they fit together and are very study when clamped to the table side.  I dressed all the corners of the trays with 1/2 inch square stock so they mirror the style of the table's corners.

The cup holders have a slot and center depression to accommodate a long stem wine glass so it's more stable.  I've got one more tray to make (a dice tray) and we'll be done with these (for now).

I'm not happy with two aspects of the larger troop trays.  First there's a little bit of wave (curve in the wood) because I used 1/4 birch plywood for the bottoms to reduce weight.  I'll fix that today with some bracing.

The second issue comes from a classic Homer Simpson "Doohhh" moment.  Take a closer look at the two trays - the one on the far left has a lip around its sides while the one on the right seems to be the opposite - why is that?


It seems I initially affixed the mounting plate to the right sided tray backwards - see the lower mounting groove is facing out rather than facing in to the side of the table.  By the time I had noticed this the glue had set so I had to run the piece through my table saw to cut off the top piece, flip it over and attach a new mounting plate.

So we'll now be able to test is Steve prefers either troop trays with walls around the edges or ones with without.  We'll call the second type of tray "free-range" troop trays.

The construction phase of this project is coming to an end - I think I've got about a days worth of work to do.  The remaining tasks include:

- cutting down the 1/2 inch 8x4 ft plywood into 6 2x4 ft panels to serve as the temporary top and bottom.  (I need some input from Steve and his wife on what they want for a permanent top)

- installing the "L" bracket hardware for the top and bottom aprons

- putting in cross-sectional supports for the table top and bottom shelf - no one likes a saggy table top

After that it's all sanding, sanding and, yes, even more sanding.  Hmmm, I wonder where Steve might come in handy?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Steve's Gaming Table: Part 6 - End Caps

 A little bit of work Friday night.  I trimmed one corner of the lower Aprons to match (it was about 1/8 inch off by using a hand plane.
 Next the 8 end caps were cut and sized.  These will go in the corners of the top and bottom aprons to dress things up a bit and attempt to make the table nicer than it really is.
 Here's a picture of an end cap in place
Some finish testing - I'm not sure I like any of them at the moment.  One plus of shaping the end caps is that I ended up with a nice supply of "large bases" for big units like artillery trains.

Saturday will be dedicated to adding the "L" braces for support, installing the temporary plywood tops and building a few accessory trays.

The table will get used in it's first game next Thursday so I need to get moving.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Historicon'16: July 14-17 Shameless Self Promotion

Historicon is looming on the horizon again and I'm starting to get excited about going.  This year will be a little different for me as Mike and I have elected to GM games for the entire con rather than just put on one or two.

As I've mentioned in other posts, I find that I like running convention games more than playing in them  Maybe it's the control freak in me, maybe its that I don't take direction very well?  It could also be that I like showing of my toys (running a game is the closest thing one can get to "show and tell" from elementary school).  Regardless of the reason we'll be trying a grand experiment of running a total of 8 games over the three day period.  As with most "grand experiments" it will end in either triumph or disaster.  It will be fun to find out.

We'll be running a "big battle" game set in a fictional version of the War of 1812 twice a day on all three days.  On Friday and Saturday evenings we'll use the same table to run a Muskets and Tomahawks game set during the American War of Independence .

The game table will be 6' by 18' long which means I need to add 3 additional 2'x4' panels to my inventory along with some shore line.  I think people will like the tables

The Longstreet ruleset has worked really well for the past two convention games and I'll be using an adapted version to simulate the War of 1812.  Of course, in my version of the War of 1812, events during the Napoleonic wars have played out a little differently (Nelson was defeated at Trafalgar!) and the French have intervened in the War of 1812!

Some may utter "harrumph" and say this scenario is foolish and likely just an excuse to get as many toys on the table as possible.  I have only response to you cranky grognardian wardens of gaming propriety (CGWGP's):

You're correct.

So sign up and enjoy another dramatic clash between Wellington and Napoleon on the Peninsula - it's just the Delmarva peninsula rather than that Iberian one.  I'll post the game ID's when the PEL comes out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Steve's Gaming Table: Part 5 - Accessory Rail Access Points

Last night I cut in the access points for the accessory rails on each of the 4 top apron pieces. To do this I built a simple jig.  The bottom part of the Jig is used for drilling out the holes for each accessory piece and the top is used for drilling out the access point so the T-Slot screws can gain entry into the channel.

 The concept makes more sense when shown after the access points have been installed.  Each Accessory tray, cup holder, dice bin etc is slipped into the rails and then slid over and tightened down.



The apron end caps will be cut from these blocks of scrap exotic wood.  I think it's teak but I'm not sure.  I'll need to cut these down to 4 pieces that are 1x1x5.5 inches for the top apron corners and 4 that a 1x1x4 inches for the bottom apron corners.

I've got a giant box of exotic scrap / cut-offs from a lumber yard but really don't know exactly what I've got.  Lets call it "mystery wood" for now.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Play Testing Fire & Fury Brigade: The First Day at Gettysburg

 Yesterday I got invited over to Rich's house for a play test of his revised Fire and Fury: Brigade rules, which is coming out in a new version (hopefully by year end).  With the base unit being a Brigade, one can play rather large battles and that's what we did - the entire first day of Gettysburg in 15 mm scale.
 Of course, Rich's tables are really things of beauty - the second picture show missionary ridge across the the top and the town of Gettysburg at the bottom.

Check out the rules at Rich's website: Fire and Fury.

 I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.  I commanded a division form the Union 11th corps and lets just say my generalship was "off" - I got my butt kicked but had a blast.  I also got to meet another local gamer which is always a plus.

 The Brigade level rules are similar but not the same as the regimental but I really liked them.  It was really fascinating to see a"whole Battlefield" play out in front of you.








 My defenses crumble against the onslaught of Early's division.

 Hmmm, I wonder where the confederate attack will focus on?