Thursday, May 30, 2019

Historicon Prep: Post 1,

The official countdown timer for Historicon now reads 42 days and 11 hours so It's time to "get it in gear".  First on the task list is painting the village sets I picked up from Total Battle Miniatures.  I've primed all the buildings with grey auto primer (my go-to primer) and laid out the flexible base for the "Hamlet".

After about 90 minutes of work, I've gotten the Hamlet about 80% done and started another building.  The manufacture suggests not priming the flexible bases and just painting them with acrylic paints, which what I've done.  There is an amazing amount of detail in the building casts which just cry out to be painted.

The buildings look a bit shiny now as the paint is wet and I haven't applied any washes or the matte sealer.

I have three sets to paint:

- A Hamlet which has three buildings (to the right) and is mostly painted

- A Village which has four buildings (the buildings are on the left of the tray)

- A Town which has 7 buildings (grouped on the right of the tray).  The Town's base is also visible in the upper left of the second picture.

I did get a little lucky as the road widths for the entrances on the flexible bases match the 2" roads I have.  I will need to tweak the coloring a bit to get them to match better.  You can see one of the two road entrances on the Hamlet base - it's marked by the grey rocks.

The paints being used consist of mostly basic craft paints with some Vallejo used for details / brighter colors.

Overall, I'm really impressed with these Total Battle Miniature terrain pieces and kind of kicking myself for not getting them earlier.  Cast resin buildings may not be as fashionable as they once were given the advances in Laser cut building design and their price advantage.  I still think resin casts look the best for 15mm and smaller scales.  That's just a personal opinion and perhaps I'm demonstrating a bit of crumudegeonlyness I have been unfairly accused of.  I'm pretty sure "crumudegeonlyness" is a word and if it isn't it should be, dammit.

Hmmm maybe these accusations may not be as unfair as I first thought.....

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Nice Weekend

 No Gaming related activities this weekend.  There was some 1:1 scale modeling as I rebuilt 4 of our 8 garden boxes.  These boxes were first built in 2007 and are starting to fail due to a combination of weather and insect damage.  The ones along the north face of the garden just fell apart so I replaced them.  The fencing also needs to be replaced but that's a much bigger project and one I may hire some help for.
 This was a fun/easy to do project and perfect for working on the weekend I just returned for London.

Heres a picture of 2 of the four remaining original boxes where you can see how weathered the wood is.  They're all still functional but I suspect Mary Beth will make subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions to redo all of the boxes.  I'll need to wait until I redo the fences to provide easier access.

 Speaking of the garden - We've got our first Tomatoes!

My household is a Tomato crazy one, so getting the first ones on the vine is a big deal.  The garden has a total of 25 tomato plants of various types so we should be well stock this year.  There are also 5 other Tomato plants in pots on the deck.  One really can't have enough tomatoes.
With the summer now in full swing, we've pretty much relocated to the shore, which means the cats have moved house.  The younger one, Izzy, loves the St Michaels house and has picked this chair in the corner window as her favorite perch.

The other cat, Buddy, just hides under a bed upstairs as he doesn't accept change well - he comes out at night to serenade us.  In a month or so he'll be fine, assuming I don't shoot him.  I kid, I kid (mostly).
Izzy even tolerates (barely) me sitting in her chair in the early am as I have my coffee.  My apologies for including a picture of me, especially as it's one of those crass "selfies".  Let us all hope I use better judgment on picture taking in the future.  By the way, what do you think of my "New Wave" hair style?  I'm trying to update my look to be more modern in a late 70's "New Wave" way.  Sadly the tune 'Anarchy in the UK" seems to have a bit more relevance.

The handy-dandy Historicon Countdown timer from HMGS indicates it 43 days, 12 hours and 11 minutes plus a few seconds until Historicon.  I've got a fair bit to get done so better buckle down on that.  That means a interminable series of Historicon Prep Posts, which may be even worse than "selfies"

I'm very sorry, but you should know by now what you get from this blog.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Total Battle Miniatures: 15mm Village Bases

 The last items I need to put on the Historical game this July just arrived from Total Battle Miniatures.  They Mae some really nice resin building and basing plots that will make very nice centerpieces on the table.
A simple farm

A small village and
a larger version.
I'm really pleased with the casting quality and look forward to painting these up over the next few weeks.
The rules I'll be using (General D'Armee) use area terrain for urban terrain so the base will be uses for that.  The buildings can be lifted off to get them out of the way.
The large church comes with two options for the top of its' tower - one western and one eastern.  I plan on attaching them with magnets to give a bit more flexibility.

Really excited about getting these painted up and ready for the table.

Highly recommend Total Battle Miniatures

Monday, May 20, 2019

Sean's Graduation Weekend

Sean graduated form Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Statistics / Computer Science this past weekend.  I couldn't be more proud of him, especially after having overcome some daunting health issues which had delayed this event but could not prevent it.  
 Mary Beth and I were joined by three of Sean's aunts, who were representing my Alabama based family - here's a picture  with his great aunts Jana and Elaine.
and his Aunt Lori, who I grew up with.  These ladies are not demure southern belles and made a god-awful racket whistling and cheering while which made Sean turn beat red - it was great.  2 funny stories.  As they were yelling one family to our right turned and gave us the stink eye as, they were more "proper".  That was a big mistake as Lori flashed here badge (she's in law enforcement) and told them to mind their own business (maybe not exactly in those words).  After the Sean got his degree a second family asked if we would yell for their daughter as she got her degree.  Of course the ladies were happy to oblige.  I'm just thankful, Lori left her gun back in Mobile as things could have gone badly.

A picture of Sean with his friend Dani.  They were' officers in the Robotics club and built an autonomous buggy together.  I suspect there will be an upcoming trip to California for Sean.
A picture of Sean with his mom in front of the CMU fence.  This fence has been painted over to announce various clubs / events for close to 75 years.  It started out as a standard wooden fence and now has thousands of coats of paint.  Keeping the thing standing is a key project for seniors in the engineering school.
 Sean gave us a tour of the Robotics club.  He is the only person whose been president of the club who wasn't an engineering student.
In the machine room of the robotics club is this fantastic 1930's metal lather from Pratt & Whitney.  It still works!

I know this is a very self indulgent post but I couldn't be more proud of my son and happy for him.  Given his past struggles, we focused solely on getting to graduation and the next task for him will be to figure out what he wants to do as an adult.  It should be interesting to watch.  Personally, I'm hoping for he picks London but we'll see what comes next.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Review: Armies, Legions & Hordes by Dave Taylor

Having just finished reading Dave Taylor's book "Armies, Legions and Hordes", I thought it might be helpful to post a short review.

I highly recommend the book and think it's got a place in just about every gamers library.  The pictures are superbly done and it covers both historical and non-historical gaming genres.  (OK, it does skew to sciFi / GW stuff but that's where the majority of tabletop gamers are.)  The writing style is very clear and the graphics layout easy on the eyes.  It's also organized into clear sections by topic for those of you who prefer perusing these materials while in the "private library".  I nether condone nor disparage such behavior.

To be honest, this is one of the few hobby "how-to" books I've read cover to cover - mostly I just jump around looking for a specific topic or I find the writing style a bit painful to put up with for long periods of time "It puts the matte medium on the ground cover".

Not so with this book - I found it was really fun to read and helped me identify a few bad habits that to change to make my hobby time a bit more productive.

You can purchase the book from Ironheart Artisans or find it on Amazon.  For hobby books with limited distribution I try to purchase from a non-Amazon sources as I'd like the author to get a full cut for their work in the hopes they produce more.

My recommendation: Buy the Book - NOW!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wizard's Tower: Part Two - Painting

The painting of Steve's Tower was very simple.  The first step (which I have no pictures of) was to cover the entire piece in a primer made of 50% cheap craft paint and 50% Modge Podge matte finish.  This provides both a nice black primer to cover up the pink and white EPS and also hardens the foam a bit to make the piece a bit more durable.  I got this idea form the Jeremy's Black Magic Craft Youtube channel and am using it for almost all of my terrain related projects.

Because the surface is so uneven, I do the priming in two steps - a thinned down version is first applied and allowed to dry and then a full strength one is applied over the top.  The definition of thinned down is a dip my brush in the 50/50 mixture and then dip it again in some water before painting it on.  I used a 1" brush as priming terrain isn't exactly precision work.

Once the primer has been given 24 hours to dry, the next step is to paint the whole thing a medium grey, dry brush a light grey and black wash.

This is also a nice picture of the revised top where an overhand was added with the crenelation now along the outer ring.  I doubt it's architecturally sound but it looks cool.
Interior of level three
level two
and the ground floor.

The exterior was really simple, as Steve will be using the Tower in multiple settings.  I used a scenic express ground cover and then attach some loose material for vines and moss

It's a really simple technique that looks rather nice

The top was fun as I had some of extra bricks so I made a simple pattern around along the edge.  I also added a hatch.
and, of course a ladder to get to the roof.  The rungs on the ladder are spaced in a way that a minis' bases can be slotted in to some them going up the ladder.

I also painted up the beams at this point.
The last thing to bee done was to scratch build a pair of doors that open and close.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wizards Tower, Part One "Lets make foam bricks, a lot of foam bricks"

 A few months ago, I made a custom 3 level Wizards Tower for my friend Steve Mac to use on his D&D Streaming Channel "Castlemac".  He wanted to surprise his players so I've held off until now posting about the build.  It's a pretty simple design and was a lot of fun to build.

This post will cover the construction.
 I cheated a bit and purchased some styrofoam 12" diameter circles, that were 1" think.  I've always struggled cutting precise circles in EPS and wanted the base of each level to be as uniform as possible.  Steve's uses a 1" grid so one was added using a dull pencil.

 Once the grid was drawn in, I marked off 4 points in 90 degree increments which was very helpful later on in the project.  Then the somewhat tedious part of the project started - brick work.  The first course of bricks are 2"x1"x1" rectangles.  I went with larger "base bricks as the matches the floor level and broke up the monotony of the exterior a bit.  These were attached with hot glue and some care needed to be taken to ensure they where level with the floor.  I did angle the edges of each brick about 7-10 degrees to allow them to fire snugly along the diameter.  These cuts were just eyeballed and worked out ok.

Next came the laying of the smaller bricks - these where .5"x.5"x1" in size and laid in a double wall as you can see in the third picture.  I used Eileen's tacky glue to affix these as its thick enough to hold them in place put gives you an hour so to reposition, cut or level any bricks before the glue sets.

Each level is 3 inches high so the means 6 layers of double bricks per level.  To try and keep the walls plum once the third level of bricks was placed I added wood beam supports.  These were cut on my table saw using oak 1/2 inch square stock.  Any wood would do, but oak is what I had on hand. It's very important that these are all precisely the same size or you will end up with a leaning tower.  I used the 90 degree marks mentioned above to place the beams and glued them in place.  Once set and plum, walk away and let the glue cure.
Since this is a Tower with multiple levels,. we do need some stairs.  I was a bit daunted on how to make curved stairs until I realized I could take an extra foam disk and cut out a 1" deep piece .  These sections were then sliced in 1"2 inch heights and easy-peasy stairs that miniatures can stand on were born.
The entry to the Tower was even simpler than the stairs - I just cut three extra 1/2 inch wood beams and glued them in place.  Some custom brick cutting is needed to fit the bricks around the door frame but that's pretty easy.

You can still see that by the 6 level the brick aren't completely level.  I took my foam cutting knife and cut off anything that was over 3" - I used another 3" wood beam as a guide to do so.

This picture also shows that the bricks are all  textured.  The texture was added by putting the "freshly" cut bricks in a sealed container (I used an empty paint can), tossing some rocks in and shaking the thing violently.  It works surprisingly well and is good therapy when one is going crazy after cutting too many bricks.  Word to the wise, shaking bricks in a metal can with rocks is very loud and one shouldn't do this at 5:30am on a Saturday morning when one's wife got in at 2:00am the night before after performing a long and complicated surgery.  It doesn't end well for the hobbiest.

With level 1 done, it was time to rinse and repeat for levels 2 and three.  There are three differences for level two:
1) No door frame
2) I added 4 arrow slits
3) needed to cut out a space over the stairs up from level one.  This section also became the base of the stairs that are added to level two!
The same location process was used for the four wood beams.

Cutting in the arrow slots was harder than it looks but eventually they got done.
Level two is done and now I can create another one just like it.  Yipeee!!!!!

The top section took some time to figure out.  I changed up the base course of bricks going with 1x1x1" wedges and made a very simple crenellation along the top.   To be honest by this time I was getting a little tired of foam bricks.

Subsequent to this picture I changed the design of the top pretty radically.  You'll just have to wait and see what it became.  OK maybe not, you can look closely at the first picture if you really want to.

and we're the finished tower.  The next post will deal with painting and scenicing the base.

I suspect one or two of you maybe wondering how many bricks went into this little project.  My rough estimate is just under 1,600 0.5x.0.5x 1.0 bricks

 One note - this project would be impossible with out the right tools and the most important is my trusty Proxxon hot wire cutting table.  I think it's the most useful hobby tool I have and well worth the $120ish price tag.

One word of advice - the table comes with it's own mitre gauge, which is pretty much useless as it doesn't hold fast.

I strongly suggest you build a more robust straight edge - it's really simple and you can see how I built the one to the left here.  I think it took me 15 minutes to do.

My guide is not very pretty but it works perfectly.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Star Wars Legion Tournament at Huzzah Hobbies May 11, 2019

This Saturday, I played in a 10 person Star Wars Legion Tournament held at Huzzah Hobbies in VA.  I didn't have high expectations of winning as the three tournament games would be 3rd through 5th games played but the best way to learn to swim is to, well you know.

I forgot to take pictures, which is a good sign I was having fun and only have two on my phone.  The first pictures is from my second game where two very similar Imperial forces take on one another.  It was my funnest game and went down to the wire but the win went to John B.
A shot of Steve and Eric's last game.  I played on the Endor table you can get a peak of in the lower right and got crushed by Gordon's rebel force.  Crushed may be charitable to me.

Overall, I went 1-2 and placed 8th out of 10 - nothing to write home about (or blog) but I did achieve my goal of not coming in last.  The experience did cement for me two viewpoints:

(1) Legion is a great game and

(2) the local community is made up of a lot of Bolt Action players that I know and they are a great group of people.

While it uses miniatures and table top terrain, the game plays more like a board game than a historical tabletop game.  The key to being good is understanding how to kit out your troops and build command decks that allow you to maximize your forces potential so a good deal of planning goes into list tweaking.  The game does a much better job of capturing a Star Wars "feel" for me than FFG's 2 other tabletop miniature games in the genre (X-Wing, Imperial Assault and Armada).

I suspect you'll see a lot more Legion stuff on the blog.

The specific list I ran

General Veers 
Improvised Orders, Esteemed Leader, 

Boba Fett 
Hunter, Emergency Stims, 

+DLT-19 Stormtrooper, 

+DLT-19 Stormtrooper, 

+DLT-19 Stormtrooper, 

Scout Troopers (Strike Team) 
+DLT-19x Sniper, 


AT-ST 195
Imperial Hammers Elite Armor Pilot, 88 Twin Light Blaster Cannon, AT-ST Mortar Launcher, 

Ambush, Maximum Firepower, Evasive Maneuvers, Pinned Down, Assault, Coordinated Fire, Standing Orders, 

I used a great free web app called TableTop Admiral to generate the list - check it out it's hugely helpful.

The AT/ST was a beast - it evaporated 3-4 units every game (including the AT/ST opponent in game 2) but it's cost so many points that the rest of my force was just too weak and I didn't have enough activations.  The game is similar to Bolt Action in there is a tradeoff between unit firepower and force flexibility via activations.  Too much firepower in a single unit really makes the force a glass cannon.  Next time I play, I'll probably swap out the AT/ST for 2-3 different units.

Thanks to Steve and Eric for getting to get off my butt and attend the event.  It was a lot of fun.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Workbench is Disarray

 My Painting workbench is in a higher level of disarray than usual.  Perhaps it's due to mixing the painting of 15mm Napoleonics with Star Wars Legion mini's.  That's likely a phrase not heard too often.

The initial paint for Boba Fett is done - now need to do the details and a wash.  I am pleased with the progress so far.