Monday, August 31, 2020

War Games, Soldiers and Strategy, Issue 110

Warning - Shameless Self Promotion Ahead.

Wargames Soldiers and Strategy Magazines Issue 110 has just been released digitally and I'm sure it will be making its way to subscriber mail boxes in due course.  WSS if my favorite Wargaming Magazine and I highly recommend it.

I particularly recommend Issue 110 as it has two articles from yours truly on the revolutionary war involving Washington's Trenton Campaign.  These represent my first attempts at writing a for a Wargaming Magazine (the editor Guy can attest to my limited writing skills).  I found the whole process a lot of fun and may have a few other projects in the wings....

In all honesty, I actually only wrote 1 of the two articles I'm credited with (The one on Assunpink Creek).  The second article on Princeton was based on research fellow club member Greg W had done for the Little Wars TV Princeton gaming video so he should get the credit for that one.

Now that I am a "Professionally Published Wargaming Author" or PPWA for short, I suspect the lucrative endorsement deals will come pouring in from the gaming conglomerates and general high end luxury firms looking to jazz up their brand images with my countenance.  I shall try to remember all of you little people as I claw my way to celebrity.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Urban Ruin Test Hexes: 15mm or 6mm?

One day conventions will come back - when?, well none of us are sure, but they will be back.  I've been thinking of designing a tactical Stalingrad Campaign to run over a multi day event and have been debating scales between 6mm and 15MM using hex terrain.

Both tests have the same 3D printed building on them and were painted and dry brushed the exact same way, which was:

1) Dark Grey primer
2) Black ink wash
3) Dry brush Medium Grey
4) Dry Brush Green-Brown

Let's take a look at the 6mm version.  Obviously, one can fit more on a 4" wide hex in 6mm than 15mm but the level of detail is limited.

 The positives of 6mm is that it will be easier to have iconic buildings like Pavlov'sHouse or the Unimag Department Store (all of which are available for 3D printers.

The cons are more artistic in nature - it's a lot harder to add details to the rubble like bricks etc.  Not impossible but a lot harder.  Also this is mainly an infantry fight with a handful of vehicles and a wise club member has a rule 15mm for infantry fights and 6mm for armor.
The 15mm version of the building requires two hexes for a single building ruin.  It's a lot easier to add more interesting textures and shapes to the rubble.  It was also more time consuming and I struggled to get the right mix of adhesive (diluted PVA glue) and ballast to really adhere.  I needed to use a lot more tile grout!

The rear picture shows a more interesting set of textures and there is a lot of opportunity to add small details - weapons, damaged equipment etc.

In addition to testing scales, I'm going to need a lot of city hexes to fill an 8x4 table so I was also tweaking with the build process and set of the following "Rubble Making Station".  My collection of model railroad ballast and talus rock was laid out from smallest (left) to the largest (right).  Not shown on the extreme left is my trusty light brown tile grout.
 The builds in progress.  I added a lot more little detail bits to the 15mm test
Close up of the 15mm before priming.

I really had a fun time building both test pieces and each has their own +'s and -'s.  I think I'm leaning to 15mm as the goto scale.

What do you all think?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Steve's Stunning Escape from Goblin Town Game

 As I entered the club Monday night I stumbled upon Steve's setup for the night's game - "Escape from Goblin Town".  Steve really out did himself - he is a superb GM and puts on a great show.  The scenario was straight out of the Hobbit and starts right after Gandalf slays the GoblinKing and he and the boys need to escape off the board.  Of course they don't really know where the exit is and there are a "handful" of pursuing Goblins.  Steve used GW's Lord of the Rings rules and miniatures and made all of the terrain via 3D printing.  I've never played GW LOTR but really liked them.

My role was the Goblin commander and I had a map of the labyrinth and kept track of the goblin bands via tiny magnets 

The start of the game with the Goblin-King down.   Stee plans to run this at a few conventions so I'm not going to give away a lot of details  but suffice it to say it was a fantastic gaming experience - perhaps one of the best games I've ever played - at least in the top 3.
 Steve also had a period appropriate die roller - also 3D printed. 

The Goblins took fearsome losses but in the end ground the dwarves down, killing two and trapping the rest.  Steve called the game.  It seems based on the outcome that the Hobbit is now just a short story on the perils of traveling outside of the Shire, there was no trilogy and Gary Gygax had no IP to appropriate to create D&D.  The world as we know it does not exist!
We did get to see the full board while cleaning ip post game but there will be no pictures - it's best to experience playing the game and not on a blowhard's silly blog.  All I can tell you is if you see an "Escape from Goblin Town" game run by Steve on a convention event list sign up - it's well worth your time.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Urban Test Hexes: 15 or 6mm?

The latest scientifical-type test undertaken here in the Lair are some urban hexes.  The weather on the Chesapeake Bay has been horrible (thus creating hobby time) and I needed a break from secret project 12AZ36.  This confluence of events created the perfect opportunity to start yet another project - Urban Terrain hexes. 

One of my long term gaming goals is to bring the WW2 tactical board game "Old School Tactical" to the table top and I'll need some urban hexes.  Old School Tactical is a hex and counter game that reminds me of the original Squad Leader - before it became pretentious with the "Advanced"superlative.  I've been thinking about how to bring it to the tabletop and one of the first decisions is scale 15 or 6mm.  I fired up the Prusa 3D printer and printed off a building ruin in 15mm scale (which was what the STL file was set too and then scaled it down to 40% to get to 6mm scale.  The first picture shows the size difference - it's pretty dramatic and at 6mm I had room for 2 buildings per hex. 

 Here's a few close ups of the 15mm building.  I printed it at my standard 0.2mm layers and it took 3.5 hours to print.  There were a lot of strings going across the gaps (windows and doors) which would have taken a long time to clean up but I realized something - 3d printers melt the material to flow through the print head so what if I held the piece over a lighter?  Presto 90% for the strings disappeared.  The burning method works well for a ruin but may not work all that well for a piece that isn't supposed to look, well, ruined.
I glued 2 hexes together and then mounted the building on them - all with Eileen's Tacky Glue.

The base was masked with some flexible modeling paste (liquitex).  One that sets I'll add some texture and other forms of rubble.

I can fit two versions of the same building on a single hex in 6mm.  The one on the left is the same building as in 15mm and the one on the right has it's back wall still standing.

I printed both of these out using a 0.1mm layer setting and each took about an hour to print.  They had the same issue of strings across the gaps but the "trial by fire" clean up method wouldn't work.  How do I know?  These models are prints 2 and 3.  Print 1, ummm, melted.  It took me about 45 minutes to clean up both models with a hobby knife.
For the 15mm test piece I was going to need a lot of scale bricks in the rubble so out came my trusty proxxon hot wire cutter.  I set the width to just under 1/16th of an inch and made two passes to create 1/16th square "boards".  It doesn't take a lot of EPS foam to make a bunch of these sticks.

In all honesty the bricks are a little over scale for 15mm but close enough for me.
Some of the sticks I set aside to use as boards and the majority I started cutting into by hand into bricks.  This part is a little tedious but pretty easy.  While doing so, one also gets a free lesson in the wonders and joys of static electricity.  Our hobby never ceases to amaze me.

I'll be thinking up some suitable concoction to create a rubble mix.  It will likely involve tile grout as the binding agent.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

God's Own Scale Podcast

I've recently subscribed to Sean Clarks "Gods Own Scale" podcast.  Sean focuses on 6mm historical gaming, which has re-emerged from the shadows as a new favorite of mine and it's a huge favorite at the club.

Sean interviewed fellow club member Greg W and has said some very nice things about our Little Wars TV channel.

I highly recommend this podcast and suggest you give it a listen.  I subscribe via Apple's podcast service but I suspect their are a lot of other ways to get to the podcast episodes.  It's well worth your time.

Congrats to Big Lee for winning Sean's blog of the month - a very well deserved honor.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Tiny Wire Trees - Amazon is Your Friend (at least here in the states)

Several commenters from the previous post on forrest hexes have asked for a link to the wire trees I purchased from Amazon.  Here's a picture of the four sizes I'm testing outThe 2 ones on the left are  3.0-3.15 inches high and will work well with 15mm figures while the two on the right are more for 6mm and range from 2 inches to 1.25 high.  The smaller ones are used more from scenery highlights rather than forests.

Please note that Amazon links are not the most stable thing in the world as vendors do change their wares and pricing levels.  A better way to discover them is to search using the term "Z-Scale Wire Trees" (or any other model railroad scale of your choice)

80mm Deciduous Trees (3.15 inches)
    40 for $13.99 or $0.35 each

50mm Deciduous Trees (2.0 inches)
    50 for $13.99 or $0.28 each

32mm Deciduous Trees (1.25 inches)
    100 for $13.99 or $0.14 each

69mm Conifers (2.72 inches)
    40 for $14.99 or $0.37 each

These trees aren't perfect but really cant be beat for the price.  In my opinion they are better than similarly sized Woodland Scenics trees and the flocking is attached in a more durable way.  They're also cheaper as a pack of 24 Woodland Scenics 2"-3" trees which is priced at $33.73 or $1.40 per tree.  Better and cheaper is always a good mix for me.  It's likely some horrible chemicals are used in the glueing process and I would just prefer to remain ignorant of that.

I am sure there are cheaper ways to purchase these - perhaps from Alibaba if you buy in bulk, but nothing beats the time and ease factor of Amazon for me.  Of course, your milage may vary.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Forrest Hexes

Work continues at a feverish pace on Hex terrain.  Currently in the terrain dry dock are some forrest hexes. 

I gave up making wire trees myself after discovering that I can purchase these little beauties for about $0.35 each from Amazon and have them in my greedy little hands in 24 hours.
The trees are held by a plastic sabot which allows for the following features:

1) The trees are removable for both storage and transport (reduces wear and tear and space requirements

2) I can switch out tree sizes to allow the hexes to be used for 6 or 15mm scales

3) I can switch out tree types (deciduous, conifer or even palm trees based on the scenario need).

My standard "forrest floor" ground cover was used to depict the specific forrest areas - some rules treat a hex as all forrest while others are true line of sight - it's best to be able to handle both.

The base material for each each is standard blue (or pink) home insulation foam which is pretty rugged up and to the time you dig into it - then it wears away quickly.  The hexes are also only 1/2 inch thick so a pin wouldn't have a lot to grab onto.  I needed another method.  Plastic Sabot's!

Evergreen makes a wide variety of stryrene plastic bits, including tubes and I had some 3/16 diameter tube hangin around.

The first step is to drill through the hex where you want the trees.  I'm going for 5 per hex, so 5 holes where drilled.  I used a 5/16th drill so it would be a tight fight for the tube.  I suggest you use a drill press or power hand drill to make these.  It's difficult to drill a precise hole with a hand piece as the material doest create a strong bite for the bit and it will wander all over the place.  If you try and punch a hole out with an awl or narrow round file all you do is simulate an American Civil war musket ball wound - tiny hole going in and giant hole going out.

I chopped up the plastic tube into 5/16 inch lengths - just a little smaller than the hex depth to try and limit the chance for tubes to protrude.

Partially insert the tubes into the pre-drilled holes, put a circle of PVA glue around them and push them fully in.

The actual value of the sabots is that they distribute the force of inserting and pulling out the trees over a wider area and, therefore, reduce the chance of damaging the hexes.  This isn't a form of armor plating so you need to still be careful switching out trees but should make the hexes a lot more durable.

Once the glue sets, I painted the tubes to match the base color and set aside to dry.  After that was done the hexes get a layer of ground foam and forrest floor material.  The holes were "uncovered" by poking a wire from the bottom up through the tube to move and scenery material from blocking access - set aside to dry and you're done.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Office Clean Out

On Tuesday, I finally got around to cleaning out my office, which really hadn't been cleaned since the start of the year.  It's amazing how much crap one can accumulate during a pandemic.  Before you ask, there are no "before" pictures they are just too embarrassing - suffice it to say the papers covering the desk where anywhere from 12 to 18 inches deep and I really couldn't move the chair given the stuff that was "temporarily" stored on the floor.

I'd like to take credit for this amazing act of selfless organizational effort but that would be untrue.  Lets just say the CEO of the household suggested that I should, maybe, clean things up a bit.  You know, one of those offers that couldn't be refused.

I discovered a good number of hobby related items including the Gamecraft bridge kit in the lower left of the picture

In cleaning out my cabinets, I found this really useful manual from 2003.  I don't even remember owning a copy of FrontPage.  There were a lot of other useless stuff I tossed.  In fact I generated 5 large garbage bags of paper that went to the incinerator.

It's really nice to have a clean office and I have pledged to keep it clean and organized from now on.  Betting has commenced on when that last statement is proven to be untrue with the prevailing sentiment being late September of this year.

Monday, August 10, 2020

More Hex Terrain: Major Rivers and Forrest Testing

 The major river hexes I need for "Secret Project 12AZ36" are pretty much finished and I've laid them out on the table.  Ignore the hexes in-between the rivers as they are more for spacing purposes.
Whew - I made enough plus 6 extra.  Usually in these type of projects I make too few and need to add.

Why are a handful of hexes not fully done?  I suspect there will be some form of special terrain there...
 I like the look of the hexes but also see I need to pay more attention to flocking the edges.
And the progress to date.  I have really enjoyed making these hexes and look forward to a lot more.  One of the more enjoyable aspects is each hobby session can result in some finished hexes - as they are small at 4" across flat side to flat side.  Most terrain projects tend to drag on over multiple sessions so that sense of accomplishment is often delayed.  Equally positive is one also fails fast, which is just as good.

It's a good thing I have found making hexes fun as one does need a lot of them.  To fully cover a 6x4 gaming surface one needs 216 hexes!

A close up on one of the river hexes and two road ones.  The texture on the river banks was super easy - just. a few passes with a wire brush and *presto* "instant" sedimentary levels.  The roads are also the same width as a minor river within the GHQ "Terrain-Maker" format.

Speaking of failing fast...

I've been experimenting with how to make tree's and forested hexes.  Standard Terrain maker forests have the trees permanently affixed to the hex, which looks great but can be difficult to play on if one is attempting to move troops on a hex in the middle of a wide board.  This issue is magnified for those of us who are encumbered with, ummm, excess provision storage around our waists (hey, I resemble that remark!). 

I've been experimenting with different ways to make both trees and make them removable without excessively damaging the hex.  I think I've come up with a way that works by using small plastic tubes as sabots to hold the trees and covering the area with a forest floor flocking.  I've also been experimenting with making wire trees and pine trees from bumpy chennel.  By the way, there is a great "2 Minute Terrain Tutorial" on how to make 6mm pine trees on the Little Wars TV Channel - heres a link.

The green color is a little too bright so I washed all the pine tree in a 50/50 water / vallejo russian green primer.   I think it will look fine.

The copper wire trees proved to be too delicate so it's back to the drawing board there.  The plastic tube sockets worked great, so that's a keeper.

Once I figure out the tree method I'll do a more detailed "how-to" post.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Secret Project 12AZ36

My Terrain workbench is a disaster but I have started work on a super top secret project for the club.  Since wargaming blogs pretty much guarantee anonymity on the web, it's ok to share with you - but no blabbing!  I'm actually excited to get working on this as its my first time making a lot of hex terrain.  Fellow club member and generally great guy, Ed, has an extensive collection of the GHQ "Terrain-Maker" hexes and I've always wanted to steal (oops I meant to say "emulate") that collection.

For this project we're going to need a lot of "Major River" and a handful of urban hexes.  The GHQ "Terrain Maker" system use standard sized hexes which are 4 inches wide flat side to flat side.  It also employs standard dimensions for road and streams that are 20mm wide and exit centered on the flat side of a hex.  For major rivers, I just made them wider and used just about all of the flat side.

As you can see, there are a lot of river hexes.

I've been testing different color matches and have borrowed one of Ed's stream hexes to match terrain coloring .  The streams are a bit greenish so to contrast a bit the major rivers will be a darker mix of green, brown and black paint.  I've got a good match for Ed's for the ground color and flocking.

 To paint the rivers, I used a white gesso as a primer for the river bed.
Once the gesso had dried, the rivers were painted using craft paint.  The colors are Brunt Umber (the war-gamers goto brown for scenery), Medium Blue and a Hunter Green in roughly equal proportions.  The trick is not fully mixing the paints so you can see faints streaks as its brushed on.  Work in small amounts of paint.  I'll do some touch up and then cover with a few coats of gloss modge podge to make it look wet and add some ripples.

I really need to clean up my workbench.  Lee over at the quarantined gamer you tube channel has an episode on just that topic - here's the link
If one has rivers, one needs bridges.  Here's a shot of a test piece.  There still got some work to do on the urban hexes but the overall look of these 3mm scale castings from Pico Armor is pretty good.  By the way, I highly recommend the company - they have great products and superb service.

Hmmm, I wonder what we're trying to build out here.  Please be advised some of the clubs projects never see the light of day - usually because I'm involved and screw something up.  This might be one of them.

Making these hexes and scenicing them has proven to be really fun.  I've also got some ideas of using these hexes to bring some hex and counter games to the tabletop.  So many plans, so little time.....

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Great Wargaming Survey: 2020 Edition

Its that time of year - take the Great Wargaming Survey from WSS at the following link:

The survey has become an essential tool in understanding our hobby and finding ways to support its growth, so please take a few minutes to fill out the survey.  I may have  even added a question or two so bonus points if you pick out which one.

Let's see if we can get past last years record breaking response rate of 11K.