Sunday, November 23, 2014

Prep for The Analogue Hobbies Challenge Continues

 This weekend was all about figure prep and priming for the upcoming Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  Assembly was finished this morning on 38 28mm DAK WW2 Germans and 36 28mm French Napoleonic line infantry (both sets are Perry plastics.  Also in the photo is a TrenchWorx WW1 British tank and a All Quiet on the Martian Front US Mobile Artillery unit.

Check out the new website Curt has pulled together - it's very well done and the prize support for this year's event is superb.  Well done Curt!.

So far I've got just about 1,000 points of my targeted 2,000 points for the challenge assembled and/or primed.

One of the benefits of the challenge is it really does reduce the lead pile, which thus "forcing" me to re-stock (win-win!!!!!).  While planning my contest entries, I realized that I've been neglecting my Napoleonic collection and thus want to get a few French units read to go.  You might see some British Cavalry and maybe even some War of 1812 Indians added to the manifest as the Challenge progresses.

I'm a bit behind figure prep at the moment as I spent the last week in London on business.  Here's a shot out of my office window at One Hammersmith (West side of London).  You can see in the middle left the obligatory picture of a double decker bus.  It looks like I'll be jumping across the pond ever six weeks or so.  While hideously expensive, London is a great city to travel too on business.

Sacrifices have commenced to the calendar gods to help me manage the scheduling so one of those trips occurs so I can go the the fabled Salute show.  It will just be a coincidence that the schedule will work that way - trust me....

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rubicon Models: Panzer III Test Build

 Like any other gamer, I equate new toys with new joys and rushed out to pick up some of the recently released 1/56th plastic tank kits from Rubicon Models - specifically 3 Panzer III's, 3 Shermans and a Tiger.  I purchased mine from the Plastic Soldier Company and record very fast service (UK to US) - order placed on 10/27, models received on 11/4 - very impressive.  So how are the models?  The first picture shows what comes in the box - 3 sets of sprue's, a very detailed instruction sheet and a great set of decals.  The price per model is roughly $28.00 US which compares nicely to the other plastic kits and is much cheaper than the resin alternatives.

As for the instructions - they are very well done - very cleanly illustrated and easy to follow.  The decals were also a very nice surprise and included marking for the Africa Corps which these Panzer III's will be modeled for.  The plastic casting was VERY clean with really no mold lines on any warpage.

 It took me about 40 minutes to build the first tank any I'm really pleased with the detail.  One thoughtful thing about the kit is that the shurtzen (the hull and turret side armor - upper left and still on the sprue) is removable which provides a lot of modeling options.  The gun options included in the tank include a long and short barely which fit tightly - no glue needed again giving yet more optionality.

I went ahead and built the second (of three) panzer III and was surprised it only took me about 15 minutes to complete.  Everything went together without a hitch and all of the hull seam points were gap free!

I have one minor criticism for the Panzer III kit the deck details (tow cables, tools etc) are molded onto the to top section and are a little faint.  To be honest they look to be true scale and appear to be "thin" when compared to other 1/56th scale tanks which tend to have over scaled hand tools and such.

I doubt this will impact the finished model all that much.  Painting will be delayed until the start of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, which commences on December 5th.

All in all, I'd rate this kit a 9.9/10, which is superb - highly recommended!

Fall In 2014: The Host is most definitely not the Most

When writing comments about gaming events, I try to be even handed (and likely fail) and take into account these events are organized by volunteers who share my hobby but spend in-ordinate amounts of time and effort to "put the show on".  Perhaps the most important thing I can say is "Thanks to all the volunteers and GM's who make the show happen".  As for the event itself well I have a markedly divided view - the gaming aspect of the con was superb.  It seemed to me like attendance was up a bit and the crowd was generally happy to be there.  I had a fantastic time catching up with old friends and making new ones in our odd little hobby.   Despite a shortage of volunteers, things went smoothly and I really enjoyed the show.  Excellent event.

So where's the "yeah, but in this little diatribe?"

Ahhh yes, the venue.  As with past years, Fall In was held at the Lancaster Host Resort (as Cold Wars will be).   The location is great from a North Eastern US gamer perspective (it's only a 2.5 hour drive from St Michaels, MD for me).  Unfortunately, the redeeming qualities of the Host end after latitude and longitude coordinates.

The place is a shambles.  Every con that's held there has a special "Host Moment" that range from inedible food, leaky rooms and hallways, mold, non-functioning TV's and wireless - you name it was bad.  For me the apex of Host Moments was the year the staff needed to roll up not one but two septic system pump out trucks and run 5 inch hoses through the front lobby entrance to service the mens room in the main hall.  Oh yes, this event occurred during check in on Friday and you had to step over the leaky hoses to get to the tournament gaming room.  Nothing says quality lodging like a main lobby replete with leaky septic hoses in full working glory - kind a like a "filth fountain".  I thought this moment could never be topped.

I was wrong.

This year the Host out did themselves in yet another plumbing related mishap - they ran out of water early Sunday morning - not just for my room but the entire facility.  Think about this - you've got a hotel filled a thousand or so gamers waking up Sunday morning after late nights of gaming, beer and fatty foods (ummm not me of course - my wife reads my blog) and there are no working toilets on the facility.  I'll let your imaginations run wild.  Apparently the water level monitor in the Host's cistern failed and the system didn't know to refill itself and the water just kind a drained away.  The facility just isn't maintained (perhaps the 50 or so buckets in the hall to catch leaks is a tip-off to that fact) and I doubt that's likely to change.  The staff tries to do a good job but lets just say they have the chips stacked against them.

Some people defend the Host because it's cheap, and that is true, but still one has to get some value for whatever price is paid and I think we've gotten to the point where guests need to be compensated for the risk the take staying at the place.

I understand from talking to some of the HMGS volunteers that the current contract for the Host runs through 2017, but the last year can be voided without penalty.  I would strongly suggest they start to look for a new venue - perhaps to the West as the Host isn't going to cut it.

As for me, I doubt I'll do another overnight for a con at the Host.  Cold Wars is the next one and I suspect that I'll just drive up for the Bolt Action tournament on Saturday and head home.  There is an interesting event in Williamsburg which will likely get my spring'con business The lack of my presence will not move the needle but I just can't stomach the Host anymore.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fall In 2014: After Action Report

 I just returned from the HMGS convention Fall-In, which is held in Lancaster, PA at the crumbling Host Resort.  I think the best way to describe the 'con is it's a great event despite being held in what may be the worst hotel in the world.  I'll leave my whining about the Host to the end but I did have a grand time as usual.  The first picture shows a display at the Architects of War booth and some of Ernie's massive Napoleonic collection - I have many fond memories of trying to cross that bridge under fire in previous games.

 There was a very nice and active "All Quiet on the Martian Front" game - all the players seemed to be having a grand time and it's nice to see the game gaining real traction - there were 5 or 6 AQMF games being put on at the con.

 A stunning Pegasus Bridge WW2 themed game was also present at the 'con - the terrain was amazing and the ruleset used was Chain of Command.  The buildings are the new laser cut and pre-painted models from crescent root and look superb.

 Another shot of the game - top flight scenery can really push a good game to a great one and it looked like no expense was sparred.

 A Fire and Fury Regimental game put on by the rules author, Rich Hasenauer.  These are, by far, the best civil war rules out there.

 AQMF demo game near the Architects of War booth.  The river Monitor was scratch built by Ernie and may appear in future rules supplements.

As for my gaming, I managed to get in a great WW1 naval game based on the Battle of Coronel and was put on by Brian DeWitt.  I was on the British side and we managed a very narrow victory but no thanks to me - I managed to get all my ships sunk!

On Saturday, I played in the Bolt Action tournament and ran a Japanese Infantry with a capture Stuart and a Type 97 Tankette for armored support.  As usual the tournament was a lot of fun - more surprisingly - I won all 3 games and was declared the tournament winner.
My first game was against Duncan and his American regular infantry force.  Out lists were pretty evenly matched but Duncan had a lot of ground to cover while under fire and saw his forces reduced too much by the time they could make contact.  He was a great opponent and a very nice guy.

 The second game was on what we jokingly referred to as a "Indiana Jones" table.  I faced John B and his veteran German infantry force.  John had a halftrack, Puma and a wonderfully painted/based 88 AT gun.  This was a great game where my Japanese were able to gain an advantage in the second turn when both german vehicles were destroyed - the halftrack by a suicide AT unit and the Puma by the Stuart.  John's a great guy to play and his painting is some of the best I've ever seen.  In the end I had too much infantry and wore his force down to win.

The last game was against Judson (of Bolt Action Radio fame/infamy) and his German tank platoon - he fielded three Panzer III's, an 8 rad and a handful of infantry.  This was one of the toughest/funnest games of BA I've ever played and was so engrossing that I forgot to take pictures.  The game went down to the last turn where I was able to spring a counter attack which destroyed most of his armor and pushed the German remnants off the objectives.  Judson really should have won the game but I just got lucky!

Thanks to Stephan (aka Capt'n TO) and his son for putting on yet another great event - I've now played in 6 of his tournaments and always have a great time.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Challenge V: The Gathering Clouds

The world famous (at least in are little circles) fifth version of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has been announced.  This has become my favorite hobby event and seems to drive a big increase in my painting productivity.

This years fifth challenge (cleverly referred to as "V" - must have engaged a media consulting firm for that) runs from December 5th 2014 through March 20th, 2015.  Yes that's right - we've got 105 days of painting madness.  Curt has rightly scheduled the event to conclude right at the beginning of sailing season here on the Chesapeake - I commend him for such a gracious and just decision.

The month of November will be filled with frantic planning sessions, painting desk logistical reviews and resupply missions, figure prep and priming, oh lots of priming.  I may even create a photo booth to take better pictures of my little creations.

I wish "bon chance" to both my fellow "Challenge 5.0" participants as well as anyone brave enough to observe this madness

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your paint brushes!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Trick or Treat!, I Got A Land Ironclad!

Despite not donning a costume or even going trick or treating, the "Great Pumpkin" was good to me and I received another installment from the "All Quiet of the Martian Front" kickstarter - a US Land Ironclad.  I got this as part of a test shipment as this model is both HUGE and HEAVY (5 pounds of resin).  The kit comes with 17 resin pieces and a large bag of metal parts.  The hull of this beast measure 11.5 inches long and 5 inches wide.

 A close up of the hull section - while hard to see in the photo, the hull is very detailed with rivets hatches and all sorts of extras.  It's a remarkably clean cast for such a huge hunk of resin.  Assembly started this morning, after washing all the resin parts and leaving them to dry over night.  I used an epoxy glue for attaching the sponsons to both the tracks and the hull.  Standard hobby "super-glue" was used for everything else.

 A picture of the fully assembled model.  Assembly took about 2 hours and there was relatively little clean up required for the parts.  This kit has a lot of opportunity for customization - I'm thinking of adding a derrick assembly off the back for a armored car of some sort.  To provide some scale in the lower right of the picture is a battlefront 15mm scale Sherman tank.

This model will be a lot of fun to paint.  Actual painting will need to wait until the start of the Analogue Hobbies painting challenge this year.  I have no idea how Curt will score this beastie.

I look forward to blasting some Tripods with this baby.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Secret Santa Wish List

I've signed up to participate in Ian's Secret Santa Project as a way to ensure I have at least one gaming related item under the tree this year.

One of the requirements of the endeavor is for me to list a few "gaming wants" so my secret santa has an idea what to get.  Pricing is capped at 15.00 pounds or $24.15 US (at todays exchange rate).

So here we go - I suspect this list will rival the avarice of a sugar-infused six year old:

These ideas are listed in no particular order

(1) 28mm Napoleonics - really isn't this the "Mac Daddy" of gaming - the one that impresses the ladies and cowes your rivals?  Perhaps a nice British or French command stand or better yet a handful of Portuguese Cacadores.  I do prefer Perry's over other manufactures but will be grateful for any manufactures goodies

(2) 28mm War of 1812 - The shabby distant cousin of Napoleonics - you know the one that lives in a trailer that we don't talk about during the holidays.  To be honest I make my Peninsular British do double duty for the war of 1812 but I'm always on the look out for new mini's.  American Indian allies - Tecumseh and his band are always welcome on my table.  Sadly, I tend to make my indians also do double duty switch sides based on the game scenario.

(3) Anything naval (historical naval that is).  I've got a nice collection of 1/1200 Napoleonic Langtons (these maybe out of the price range) but I can also use some 1/2400 WW1 ships or even 1/600 ironclads.  My other hobby is sailing so anything that's wind powered will be treasured.  One note of warning, if my santa gives me a ship for a period I don't currently collect - say for example a Roman Trireme (hint, hint), I will have no qualms throwing said Santa under the bus as I explain to my wife that the gift now legally requires me to start a new collection.  I suspect my wife will hunt the offending Santa down to extract her revenge.  She's a surgeon so be very afraid.

(4) Anything - I'll be grateful for anything my Santa can come up with.  Just remember if the gift's the cause of me starting a new period, please look into your nations witness protection programs as my lovely but fierce wife will hunt you down.  You've been warned......

Really - I'm not kidding on this last point.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

3D printed Quad Copter

My son sent me a picture of his custom designed quad copter.  (It's an upside down shot but a shot none-the-less).  He'll be using this as a prototype for teaching a student lead class on quad copter design.  90% of the parts are 3D printed using CAD designs from Sean.  The electronics are all stock items.

The first test flight was "kinda" successful it went up about 4 feet hovered (all good) then flipped over and crashed into the ground (not so good) and hence the picture of the unit is repair.  Sean thinks its a wiring issue but time will tell.

His goal is to have a working unit by the end of November.  The class will be limited to 10-13 students and will start in January - by the end of the semester each student will have their own drone.  I wish we had classes like this when I went to college.  Of course back then the Wright brothers were still messing about with bicycles and just staring into the sky with longing looks.

Sean just found out his project got a grant from the School for $10,000 to fund both the class and making the course online accessible for other colleges and high schools - pretty cool.

On an unrelated note.  I will find myself in the UK for six days (arriving the evening of Nov 15th).  I've got an open calendar for Sunday - any good wargaming sites to visit in London?????

Monday, October 27, 2014

Late October Sail

 Last Saturday was a spectacular fall day here in Maryland - mid 60's with a steady 12 knot breeze - in other words a perfect day for sailing!  I took the Bucentaure out for a planned few hours that turned into 6 'cause it was just to nice to come in.  We sailed out of Annapolis harbor and weren't the only ones to notice the weather was nice.

 The Comet fleet was out in force (first two pictures) and had a very spirited regatta.

A nice little heel as we are close hauled (that means heading as close into the wind as we can).  The Alerion sails very well close hauled but I have a shoal keel which means I loose a few points to another Alerion with a deeper keel.  The benefit is the boat draws about 1 ft less water which means (hopefully) I don't run aground as much and have wider course options when racing.

 We ran into two other Alerion 28's in the afternoon - here's the the "Skimmer" (hull # 160).  We did some impromptu racing and I learned that I need a lot more practice!

 While hard to see, the right most boat in front is the other Alerion 28 - the "Magic" (hull #429).  One design boats like ours keep track of the hull numbers which also signify the build order.  The Bucentaure is hull #458.

For the month of November, the Bucentaure will be docked in Annapolis at Jabins Boatyard.  My son and I are planning the last sail to be the "Leftover Regatta" which is Nov 29th (the Saturday after Thanksgiving here in the States).

For those of you more interested in miniature gaming posts than sailing, I would expect to see many fewer sailing posts - I really don't like cold water sailing!

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.