Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Challenge VIII: Progress through Week 6

The Challenge has completed 6 of it's allowed 13 weeks and it's important to answer a question on everyones mind - Is he still so daft and tracking progression a spreadsheet?

It hurts me you have to ask the question.

In a typically overcomplicated form the attached graph shows my progress.  The two bars are based on challenge VIII with the red being plan and blue actual.  I've totaled 1,686 points vs a plan level of 1,305.  Please note the painted tally is a bit higher than the official score on the challenge blog as I've included some items that have been painted but not submitted for an upcoming Bonus Round.

I'm well off the pace for Challenges VII and VI, but thats ok.

As with all challenges lost everything I've painted has be 28mm scale.  The new scenery category has also been very fun, with 353 of my 1,686 points coming from there.  There will be a lot more!

Thats it for now.  I believe I have re-certified myself as an "uber-geek" with this post.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

London in January & Meeting Mr Roundwood

 A ery quick trip to London last week for work.  I've grown very fond of the city for both personal and professional reasons.  That's good because I average 10-11 trips a year.  My wife and I are seriously considering moving there one day.

I rarely remember to take pictures and when I do it's of more random locations.  The first picture is of a church in Notting Hill after a breakfast meeting.  It's rare to see the sun in January in the UK.

 London can also be a spectacularly silly city, as evidenced by the Hausner & Wirth art gallery on Saville Row, which is some really pricey real estate.  The "art" on display is essentially construction debris.  It's a solo show from the artist Monika Sosnowska titled "Structural Exercises" and appears to be made up from debris from construction and/or demolition sites.  Perhaps I'm doomed to an unenlightened life as my only reaction to the "art" is to compliment the artist for pulling a fast one over the gallery.

Hurry the show end on Feb 10th, 2018.
The highlight of the trip was meeting up with Sidney Roundwood (his non-de-plume) on Friday night.  One of the joys of this hobby and blogging is all the wonderful people you meet along the journey.  This fact is especially true with the those involved in the Challenge and being able to meet Sidney in person was a real pleasure.  He sales has exceptional taste in wine so I heartily recommend allowing Mr Roundwood "control" of the wine list!

Now back to painting

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dungeon Terrain Tutorial, Part II - Painting

Once the glue has set, it's time to paint the sections.  I typically give the tacky glue at least 8 hours to set.  My method involves a four step sequence of:
1) Priming with a black primer
2) Painting grey
3) Dry brushing a light grey
4) Washing with a black tinted wash.

As with the previous post on carving the tiles, I've pretty much stolen the painting process from the Black Magic Craft YouTube channel.  The first picture shows the tiles after the black primer wash.

While not the most informative of pictures, I did want to discuss the primer - it serves to both prime the polystyrene foam for future painting and also harden it.  The primer is a 50/50 mixture of basic black craft paint (I use Liquitex Basics paints) and Modge Podge (matte finish).  You could probably use any other matte medium.  Mix up a largish batch and then keep it around for other terrain projects.  I also add a little water to help it flow better as you want the primer to flow into all the recesses.

It's really important to make sure the primer has fully cured before moving on to step 2.  This is not the most complicated of steps - just paint the tiles the primary color your want.  I'm going with a dark grey.  Slap it on and then set the tiles aside to dry again.
Step Three is my favorite - dry brushing.  I use a beat up paint brush and a rag and dry brush a 50/50ish mix go grey and white paint onto the tiles.  Remember with dry brushing, less is more in terms of paint load on the brush.
And the tiles are all dry brushed.  Again set aside to dry before moving on to the final step.
Step 4 - apply a black wash.  Apply liberal amount.  The wash is a 10 to 1 mix of black paint and water with a few drops of dish washing soap added in to improve flow (breaks down the surface tension of the water to ensure it flows into all the details.)

Like the primer, I mix up a large batch of the wash and keep it in a sealable container to use for other terrain projects.  The plastic tub in the upper right is what I use to store the wash.
I'm using a very limited color palette for these tiles and may go back and add some different colors for details.  I tend to use Liquitex products for terrain making.  I can't really say if they are better or worse than other alternatives as I've pretty much only used them.  Liquitex has never failed me and with Amazon Prime anything I need can be at my doorstep the next day.

The Dungeon collection to date - I've got some more to make to be ready for Historicon 2018 but it's a serviceable collection and covers a little over a 3x3 foot square.  That’s all for now.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Challenge Bonus Theme 1: Flight

The first bonus round of the Challenge was titled "flight" and I was caught a bit flat footed.  The I remembered I had bought a starter set for "Check You Six" and had some unpainted WW2 Pacific theater aircraft in 1/300 scale.
These are some of my first gaming miniature and have remained unpainted for over 9 years.
I may gave to get them out on the table one day.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dungeon Terrain Tuturial

 I've been on a bit of a tear making geomorphic Dungeon terrain for this year's Challenge.  I thought it might be helpful to put up a short tutorial on how to make these sections.

Please note I've "borrowed" (OK, stole) the technique from Jeremy P. and his youtube channel "Black Magic Craft".  He's very creative and has a lot of useful "how-to" content on his channel.

There are a lot of commercially available dungeon tiles on the market but they can be expensive and heavy.  Plus there seems to be a general convention of 2 inch x 2 inch base size which makes set up rather hard - lots of pieces.  Plus, I just wanted to make something different.

 These tiles are made out of pink insulation foam (EPS) which can be made surprisingly strong with a coating of a 50/50 mix of black paint and Modge Podge matte as a primer.   The priming and painting of the tiles will be covered in another tutorial.  It's a very simple 4 step building process that I think yields very good results.

Step 1:  Cut out the foam pieces, in this case we're making a "U" section.  My tiles are based on 4 inch x 4inch size with 1.5 inch high walls.  I tested a lot of wall heights from 0.5 up to 4 and found that 1.5 had the best mix of looks and utility (players can see and easily reach their figures.  It's important to cut these out as exact as possible so I use my trusty Proxxon Hot Wire table cutter.  If you like to make terrain out of EPS foam then you should get one - it's the most useful hobby tool I have.

All of my walls are 0.5 inches think.  Remember to take into account wall thickness when cutting pieces the abut together. The "U" section has three walls 2 that are 4 inches long and 1 that is 3 inches - since it connects with the other two walls it needs to be shorter by 2x0.5 inches!

 Step 2: Engrave the bricks and floor tiles.  This part can be as simple or elaborate as you want.  I use a custom made engraving tool in the form of a dull pencil.  The brick patterns I'm using are rather simple as I've got a lot of these to make.

Step 3: Texturing.  This is an optional step but I think adds a lot of flavor to the overall effect.  Again another sophisticated special tool is required to add the texture - a rolled up ball of aluminum foil.  The foil starts out as a ball but quickly transforms into a cube!.  Take the foil ball and pound it into the foil.  Remember to add texture to all the wall sections that will be visible but not the parts that will be glued.

This technique does allow one to release some aggression and I can often be heard muttering "What did that Orange Moron say now?...."

Step 4: Glue the textured pieces in place.  Any PVA based glue will work.  I prefer "Eileens Tacky Glue" as it holds the pieces without any need of clamping.

There a 5 basic tile designs - an open square in the center and then from lower left a single wall, corner, corridor and a "U" shape.  Since these are "custom" designs you an also make other sizes - I'll be adding a few large rooms but everything will be sized to fit as a multiple of the basic 4x4 inch tile.

I'm also experimenting with some tiles that incorporate LED lights - you can see some tests in the upper right of the picture.

None of the tiles will have doors - I'm using slide on doors that fit over the 0.5 inch wide walls.  I'll do another tutorial on doors and other details.

One thing I strongly suggest is the make a lot of the components at once.  I find I get better results when I'm focused on making these and it goes relatively fast - I made enough for 30 4x4 tiles in less than 1 hour.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Technology is Taking Over the World

My son has been playing around with his Alexa and Echo devices and has built some switches to let them control physical things - the cool part is that he wrote the code that works with both devices.  Being at Carnegie Mellon he gets these thing for free as the companies like the students to push the boundaries.  The first video shows a light switch.  All the mounts were 3D printed by him.

The next video is much more important from a fate of the species kind of thing - he can now issue voice commands to turn on the coffee maker.  He's also got it rigged so that when his moving alarm goes off, the coffee makers gets turned on.

Now if he would only be half as industrious looking for a job post graduation...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Introducing Izzy and Buddy

 My wife wanted to get a new cat, as we our previous cat, Oliver, had recently passed away.  So off we trundled down to the animal rescue center and much to my surprise came back not with one but two rescue cats - a kitten we've named Izzy and and a giant orange beast called Buddy.  I felt the need to point out to my wife that adopting more than two cats at one time puts her dangerously close to "Crazy Cat Lady" status.

Izzy is 4 months old and very adventurous.  There isn't a space in our house that isn't climbable for this cat.

 Buddy, is pretty much the opposite - he's extremely timid and spends most of his time hiding.  We're pretty sure he came from an abusive situation and has become a bit of a project for Mary Beth.  He looks very similar to a cat Mary Beth had as a child so I knew right then he was coming home with us.

Buddy excels at hiding under ottomans and eating.  Skills that I often aspire to.

Izzy has taken a real shine to me and has become my constant companion - you can see her checking out some of the latest updates on the Challenge blog.  I'm not really a cat person but have warmed up to this little one.  I suspect some go my future Challenge submissions will feature cat hair as part base scenery.

If only I could teach her to paint.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Yet More Challenge Stuff - Dungeon Terrain

 Taking advantage of the terrain category addition to this year's challenge, production has commenced on some dungeon terrain.

My "system" is based on 4x4 inch sections and everything is made out of 1/2 inch polystyrene foam aka "pink foam".  I strongly suggest you get a Proxxon hot wire cutting table if you want to build similar items.  I'll make some detailed "how-to" posts in the near future.
 I've built the equivalent of 28 4x4 sections (a few are a bit larger - 4 x8 and 4 x 12 inches).  So far there are a handful of configurations

- plain (no walls)
- One wall
- Two walls opposite (a corridor)
- Two walls at a right angle (a corner)
- The walls in a "U" shape
- A stair section

I'm sure there will be some other configurations and some larger "set-pieces"
 Rather than make dedicated door sections, I decided to go with slip-on doors.  I've mocked up a few to try out.

 I also made some treasure markers.  Here's a shot of 6 small ones.  The three containers on the top row are custom built by me using popsicle sticks and bass wood.  The large barrel is my first piece of 3D printed terrain.
 A scratch built larger chest and a barrel from a Renedra set.

 Lastly, an open chest filled with"treasure"

As with the dungeon sections I'll make a how-to post on the treasure markers and containers.

These will be used in a gaming event I'm hosting in April and then at Historicon this summer.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

More Analogues Hobbies Stuff

 Two different groups of troops this time.  First up are some reinforcements for my DAK armies in the form of DAK infantry, some FJ's and armor.
 A Rubicon plastic Panzer IV - really can't recommend Rubicon models any more highly.
 My second box of plastic Perry DAK infantry
 A Panzer II from Warlord
 Warlords plastic FJ's - really like this box also
 An Italian armored car - I still need to paint up some Italian Paratroopres
 And a SKDz 222 also from Warlord
 The next submission is more fantasy oriented with 20 crewman from the new Ghost Archipelago Box set
 And 5 plastic Barbarians from Frostgrave
The whole group

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Look Back on 2017

 2017 has come and gone and overall it was a good year for us.  We spent a quite New Years day as a geeky family with our son fixing all of our tech related issues.
 On New Year's Day, Sean got around to fixing my 3D Printer.  He got frustrated with the old MacBook I was using to drive the printer and went out to an Office Depot and bought a cheap Windows laptop that was a display model - got it for less than $100 bucks.  It's a bit banged up but works.  Now I can get into 3D printing for terrain making!

Sean has a Pikacho print file he uses to calibrate any 3D printer he works with (there are a lot at CMU) and he successfully printed the piece yesterday.  The figure is sitting on some terrain I'm currently working on and it's a hint for where my gaming will be going over the course of 2018 - but that's another post.  The hint is related to terrain not Pokemon!

On a personal note, 2017 proved to be a good year, but dangerous.  Both my wife's and my jobs are going well, she still likes cutting up people to repair them and I still like investing in tech / financial serivces companies.  At this stage in our life if one doesn't like what one is doing, one should stop doing it - we're both lucky to be still having fun.  2018 may see me pull back a bit from the Venture Capital front and spend more timing teaching - college kids today are so much smarter than me.  We'll see.

Why did I describe 2017 as "Dangerous"?  I was involved and injured in two separate rear end accidents.  The first occurred in London in the early Fall - as I was stepping out of an uber another car rear ended that uber and pushed it forward a few feet.  My right leg was still in the car so I got pulled down and hurt both my ankle and pride.  Now there is a really funny aspect to this story.  I was being dropped off in front of a law firm we were thinking of using in London - Slaughter & May on Bunhill Row.  S&M is a very old-school / proper corporate law firm and the accident happened literally at their front door.  You know the stereo-type of lawyers chasing ambulances for clients - it's true! - a sea of lawyers flooded out to assist me.  I will say that I was most impressed with the emergency medical services personnel in London - top notch people with great senses of humor.  Lets all pray they don't get a lot of practice in 2018.  I ended up with a small fracture in my right ankle and a torn sport coat and shirt.  I flew back to the states the next day and lets just say I self medicated on red wine the entire flight back.

The next accident was a little bit more involved.  I was driving home one night in early December and was stopped in traffic.  Suddenly a SUV rammed into me going about 35-45 miles per hour.  I managed to smack my head on the steering wheel and wrench my shoulder - the other cars air bags deployed and the driver was knocked out.

The damage to my car doesn't look that bad but the whole frame squished like an accordion - I had to kick my driver side door open.  As I was walking over to his car to assist him I had the fright of my life as I could see two child car seats in the back.  For a few steps I couldn't tell if their were children in them then and those were some very long steps.  Thankfully there were not occupied and I was able to get the driver out of his car.  At that point, I didn't care about silly cars.

He admitted fault as he was texting but had let his insurance expire.  My newish Audi Q7 (purchased last April) ended up being totaled by the insurance company and I've got some rotator cuff damage to my left shoulder (can't raise my left arm fully) BUT no one was seriously injured and cars are replaceable.   I'm still out a good bit of money because I wouldn't let my insurance company sue the guy who hit me - he's got two small kids and no money - any lawsuit proceeds ultimatley hurt the kids and what's the point in that?  He also has no car as the engine fell out of his Toyota Rav4.  +1 for german engineering!

So now I'm in the market for a new car and safety features are at the top of my list.  Not surprisingly my son is pushing me to get a Tesla - cause the tech is cool.  Not sure I'm ready for an all electric car.

Enough whining from me - what did I paint in 2017 - apparently a lot!

Painting Tally
                                  2017          2016         2015
  Infantry                   494            488           222
  Cav/guns                     6            14               10
  Vehicles                     31             9                17
  Ships                           0              3                0

  Infantry                    297            101          132
  Cav/guns                     6              16             0
  Vehicles                     53              23            11

1/1200 Ships                 0               2               2

1/600 Ironclads             0               0              10

  Infantry                      0                0               0
  Cav/guns                    0                0               0
  Vehicles                     10              0                0

I need to paint more cavalry!

I also made a lot of terrain including a egyptian themed dungeon and 12 ft of "Desert Mountain Terrain"

In terms of my 2017 goals, my performance was decidedly mixed:

1) Historicon - run 6 versions of my DAK &  Dragons concept game:
I ran 9 games and had a blast.  This was one of my best received convention games and I'm planning to run it again in 2018 only a bit bigger!  The game won an award at the con so I'm really happy with the result.

2) Gemorphic Dungeon Design:
 - I built an egyptian themed dungeon terrain for the game using castings from a company called Lunesdargent.

3) Finish in the Top Ten of the Painting Challenge:
Managed to come in first again with over 4K points.  Not sure I can sustain that pace for the current Challenge.

4) Attend non HGMS gaming conventions:
Epic fail, 'nuff said

5) Get an Article Published
Fail - have several drafts but nothing published - of course that may be because I never submitted anything to get published!

6) Participate in 4 Tournaments
Fail - I was hopeful that version 4 of Flames of War would re-ignite my interest and, in fact, it really left me flat.  I haven't really looked into tournament play since March of 2017.

Other accomplishments

1) I did fill out one of my 2016 goals - write some wargame rules as the DAK & Dragons / SOCOM & Sorcery games at Historicon were played using a set of rules I wrote (or liberated from other systems).  The games went really well and people seemed to like the rules.  There is a lot of room for improvement and I'll be working on them over the course of 2018.

2) Spent a good bit of time on a new hobby -woodworking and am trying to link it to gaming via a blog series titled "Woodworking and Wargaming".  Since my workshop isn't heated, you'll have to wait until the weather gets a tad warmer before anything new gets posted.

3) Became and Honorary member of Posties Rejects - Perhaps the highest award any warmer can ever receive!  I'm pretty sure that after receiving this august title all of you "commoners" need to address me as Sir.  Don't worry, I shall not let my elevation to nobility affect me in anyway.

We are very pleased with 2017