This blog will will contain my rather pedantic ramblings on my experiences within the miniature war gaming hobby. There will be informative how-to’s, thrilling battle reports and thought provoking editorials. I fully expect that history will one day view the contents of this blog on par with Homer’s Illiad or Newton’s Principalia. Or it's a complete waste of time.
Last week I was in the UK for business and decided to extend the trip over the weekend to see if I could weasel my way into a game at the Legendary Posties game shed in sunny Gravesend England. To my delight I was deemed worthy and had a fantastic time playing a Crimean War themed game with the Rejects. In a surprising show of low standards, I was also awarded the title of "Honorary Member of Posties Rejects". I'm pretty sure this is the same thing as getting knighted so I should be free to pop in and say high to the queen the next time I'm in London.
Here's an action shot of me and my award enjoying a glass of Italian red on the flight back to the US. Being from the US, I'm not really familiar with how people should address me with this new and august title. I decided that "Your Grace" would do but really struggled to get any of the British Airways crew to recognize my nobility. Given their resistance to using my new title, I suspect the crew must have originated from Scotland and had just watched Braveheart the night before.
I'll do a proper battle report in a few days but I must say playing a game at Posties is a fantastic experience and reinforces how much fun a game with a GM/referee is. I didn't know the rules and think that made the experience even more fun. Perhaps the best gaming experience I've ever had.
I also learned that whenever Postie laughs, something bad is about to happen on the table.
Thanks to Postie and the rest of the rejects for allowing me to participate.
Before commencing any type of operation, it's critical to make sure sure logistics are well in hand. That fact is especially true for long winter campaigns such as the famed "Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge" - often referred to as the Ititarod of the miniature painting in the sporting world.
Careful attention must be paid to ensure all of your required supplies are well in hand or one might be forced to go outs into the cold to visit a hobby shop to resupply - loosing valuable painting time and having to interact with other people.
I just received a vital resupply of bases from the kind people at Renedra, who are my base supplier of choice. I even got some of those new fangled "clear" bases that seem to be the rage in more avant guard quarters of our hobby. To be honest I think they are a bit scandalous.
An order from Firelock Games, makers of the fantastic Blood & Plunder game also arrived on the same day. As you can see the package narrowly escaped being plundered by real pirates. Thankfully the contents were all safe and sound but maybe Firelock is taking this Pirate thing a step to far...
With terrain now being a part of this year's upcoming painting Challenge, I've resurrected a project that that's languish in the "should do but don't" list a long time - sectional interior terrain for skirmish and role playing games.. I really like some of the commercially available sets (Dwarven Forge and Lunesdargent) but they are expensive and hard to customize so wanted to build my own.
This weekend I built two test pieces trying different stone "textures" and wall sizes. Each section will be 4x4 inches in size and built out of 1/2 inch wide Extruded Polystyrene Foam (EPS) or "pink insulation foam. I used my trusty proxxon hot wire cutter and straight edge guide to cut the foam to size. I'll post more details on construction at the end of this post. I tested two types of wall style stone blocks and random stones:
Option A: Stone Blocks. These were carved into the foam using a dull pencil and just eyeballed. I added a 28mm Frostgrave Barbarian for scale but didn't think the grab a painted one - the grey plastic kind of blends in but you get the idea.
As these are test pieces, everything was done super quick
I like how the floor came out but am so-so on the walls. Perhaps drawing the stone on the walls with a bit more care would be in order.
Option B: Randon stones. After watching Black Magic Crafts video review of Greenstuffworlds's texture rolling pins, I picked up a few to try out. I used the cobblestone road one to try a make random stone texture for the walls. The technique is simple - just bear down and roll the texture pin across the face of the foam.
Everything the same size as the previous test.
The texture came out fainter than I wanted - probably because I didn't push down hard enough to really embed the pattern.
- Use a hot wire table cutter to cut your EPS down to size. In this case thats 1 4x4 inch base plus 2 1.5x4 inch walls. All of the pieces are 1/2 inch wide. I tried different wall sizes (1,1.5,2,3 & and even 4) and found 1.5 inches had the best combination of appearance and practicality (players can see and grab figures).
- Before assembling add in your texture of choice
- glue the pieces together - I use Eileens Tacky glue but any type of pva will do. I also added some toothpick "columns" to act as structural support
- Prime everything with a black primer/hardener - I uses a roughly 50/50 mixture of modge podge and black paint. This covers the pink color and really strengthens the piece.
In my never-ending quest to find the "perfect form" of sectional terrain, I decided to give the new Sally 4th Sectional terrain system a try, via their recently completed kickstarter. The "Terra-Formers" are a neat concept 1 foot square laser cut box frames that are held in place with magnets (round ones placed in the precut holes. The interior of each frame is filled with Extruded Polystyrene foam (EPS - aka insulation foam).
There are 33 unique types of terrain squares that allow you to incorporate hills, caves, rivers trenches, etc). Given this years painting challenge now has a terrain aspect, I suspect you'll see a lot of these on my blog over the next few months.
I decided to build a simple right angle jig to facilitate building the frames and ensure everything stays square. Given that the laser cut pieces fit together snuggly you can get away without a jig but it speeds up production.
It took a sheet of 1/4 inch MDF and cut it down to a 24" square. At one corner I glued to pieces of scrap 1x2 to form a right angle. Make sure you use a good quality square to ensure the pieces form a 90 degree angle. If you're off every terra former square will be off.
Once the glue on the frames has set, covert area where the frame will rest with painters tape - the glue squeeze out will not stick to the tape. If you don't cover with tape then you have a very high likelihood of glueing the terra former frame to the jig, which really isn't that helpful.
An action shot of the jig in use - it really doesn't get more exciting than that. Feel free to oooh and aaaghh.
After 30 minutes (plus some drying time) I had assembled 8 frames so it goes pretty fast. I've only built some of the flat panels and a few river sections - you can see one of those at the top of the stack.
I need to go to the hardware store to get some EPS and will use my trusty proton hot wire cutter to cut out foam to fill the frames.
I'm really impressed with both the product quality and Sally 4th's turnaround on the Kickstarter - it was only a few months from the close of the kickstarter until I received my stuff.
Oliver, our family cat-overlord, slipped the mortal coil this morning and has left us. He was ornery but good companion who seemed to tolerate living with us.
Oliver was a true hunter and would often stalk my son and attack from behind corners and such. The size disparity never really seems to bother him. Oliver wasn't really cuddly cat but could be fun - but only on his terms.
Yet more figure prep for the Challenge - a bunch of vehicles in the background and 2 Pirate factions for Blood & Plunder.
The B&P factions are French on the left and "Unaligned" on the right. The figures come "pre-based" on metal stands that are textured to look like ship decks. I decided to mount mine on 25mm round bases to give a bit more stability. I'll cover up the metal stand with some sand-like ground texture.
The Blood and Plunder figures are really very good and I'm looking forward to painting them.
Storage - its the bane of all miniatures gamers. If it can be said that a woodworking shop can never have enough clamps, then it can be also said that a gamers lair can't have enough storage options. Last Saturday, I received orders to clean up the basement to be ready for guests over Thanksgiving so I needed some more shelves. I decided to build a unit that would slip into the closet I've been allocated. The total size of the shelf is 48" long, 18 inches high and 18 inches deep.
This one is built for utility not looks and and requires:
- one 4x4' 8" sheet of 1/2 inch construction grade plywood cut into
2 18inch wide by 4 foot long sheets (These are the shelves)
2 18x18 inch wide squares (these are the sides)
4 48 inch long strips for backing
- 12.5 feet of 1x2 pine cut into
4 18 inch lengths
6 15 inch lengths
2 approx 8.5 inch lengths (more on these later)
Each side will use 2 of the 18 inch 1/2 for supports along the top to bottom and then 3of the 15 inch sideways to support the shelves.
I forgot to take a picture of the aside supports but you but the go in between the two vertical supports, with one at each end and one in the middle. You can see them in the next picture.
I used wood glue with a few screws to hold everything in place.
The next step is to attach the shelves to the side supports. I attached the top shelf first and then the lower one. You need to shorten the length of the lower shelf by 1 inch since it sits inside the frame and cut notches in each corner.
It's really import to check for square as you go about each step.
I added center supports long the back out of approx 8.5 inch 1x2's. These need to be cut to size. This will help prevent the center of the shelve from sagging.
Another shot of the front. It's not pretty but it's functional and very sturdy.
To prevent wobble, I added some plywood strips along the back I didn't encase the entire back to reduce weight as I need to carry the unit from the garage and down into the basement and I'm lazy.
I'll likely build a few more but this is definitely a function over form project.
The first preparatory step for the upcoming 8th iteration of the painting challenge (which I will call the "Ocho") is to clean of my painting workbench and get the game room organized. I spent most of Sunday afternoon cleaning up the space and getting organized.
The initial inventory for painting. All 28mm, with a strong influence of Pirates for Blood and Plunder. I wonder how Curt will score the sailing ships?
The first model for the "Ocho" was assembled late Sunday afternoon - a 28mm Panzer II from Warlord. I suspect one or two models may join it shortly.
After a 3 month break from the hobby workbench, it's good to feel the super glue on my finger tips again.
If you use Extruded Polystyrene Foam (EPS) for terrain making then adding a Proxxon Hot Wire Cutter to you tool inventory is a must. However, even really good tools can be improved and I decided to add a 90 degree cutting guide to improve the accuracy of my cuts. Total time to build this tool / jig was 45 minutes excluding glue drying time.
Why do this? The miter gauge that comes with the tool is ok but isn't that precise. It's also really low (only 1/2 inch high so larger pieces can shift when passing through the wire. If the face was higher this wouldn't happen.
The gauge also doesn't stay square as the far ends veers off. A straight edge guide that doesn't stay straight isn't that helpful. If you click on the picture you can see how the gauge wanders off to the left. It's set at 90 degrees but just doesn't hold that well.
Here are all the parts I needed - 2. 5.5 x 12 inch sheets and two 45 degree angles all cut from MDF. Remember when cutting MDF it's imperative to wear a face mask. The material release super-fine dust which isn't that good on the ole lungs. The last piece is a guide cutting to fit the channel along the side of the Proxxon. It's about 3/8 of an inch. I may mine out of a basswood strip - it took some sanding to get a cut fit.
Glue up is pretty easy - glue the two sides together and add the 45 angles as support. It's really important to make sure the face plate is at a 90 degree angle. Wood glue will be enough to hold these pieces in place.
Once the main assemble is dry, its time to add the guide rail. I added a few pieces of paper to raise the profile of the rail and then added a thin line of wood glue. When cutting the guide to shift also err on the too wide side and then sand into place. If you cut it too thin you have to start over.
Carefully but the guide fence on top of the rail and ensure it's square. It pays to invest in a top quality machinists square as you don't want to be off. Once I was sure the fence was square I added a drop of super glue at each corner to hold the rail in place while the wood glue dried.
I also added a handle at the last minute to help with uses. It was just a scrap piece of 1x2.
An action shot - cutting perfect 1/2 wide 4 inch squares.
I made 10 perfect squares from some scrap EPS in less than 3 minutes. This guide improves both accuracy and efficiency. I wonder what I'll be doing with those squares?
I got his idea for a you tuber named Jeremy Pillipow who has a channel called Black Magic Craft and demonstrates how to make terrain to role playing games. I've learned a lot for that channel and recommend it highly. The specific episode that discusses a proton guide is here
You can also buy laser cut guides for the Proxxon tool from a EU based company called "Shifting Lands" It looks like shipping to the states is pretty expensive but his tools look amazing.
I plan on making a 45 degree guide with the remaining MDF but that's a project for another day.
Final stages of this project - adding the top and some trim pieces. The first step is to measure out the foot print for the top. The most accurate way is the simplest - pit the case on some plywood and trace out the the shape.
And here are the dimensions - well not really. I need to enlarge the dimensions but the depth of the rabbit cut on the trim
I milled some pine stock down to 1 inch high by 3/4 inch wide. I'll attach the trim with a rabbit which is done on my router table. The router bit is 1/2 inch wide and will bore out a 1/4 inch trench or 'rabbit' that the plywood top will fit into. I need to add the depth of the rabbit to each side dimension before cutting out the top. This will create a snug fit and look good (well hopefully).
The next phase is testing the rabbited stock's fit. It's perfect. Sometimes the thickness of plywood varies by 1/16 of an inch so it's always best to test fit.
And then glue and clamp in place.
I also added the same size trim to the bottom.
I didn't cut enough stock to make full pieces for all the sides so had to use two smaller pieces.
I'm not the good a miter joints and had a gap on the tip. Rather than mill some more stock I cut a shim and then put a mixture of sawdust and glue to fill the gap. Once that fully dries I'll hit with a little wood putty and know one will be the wiser.
Everything clamped up and in places
Can never have too many clamps.
Here's a shot of the case after it's been sanded and given a coat of danish oil.
I really like Dainsh Oil as a finish - wipes on with no fuss and is easy to patch later on.
You can see I used plywood from 2 different sheets - that's why the top drawer is some much darker in wood grain. For most projects one should try to match the grains better.
A shot from the rear.
I left the top with a recess also so I could fit in a tournament tray that has scenery. I've always admired the terrain tournament boards that John B uses for Bolt Action.
There will be one more post on the case - once this cost of oil dries I need to resand and fill some spots but the case is in usable condition.
Oh and I need to add some hardware that's on back order....