Sunday, June 26, 2011

Next Project: 28mm WWII

I've made a decision to collect 28mm WW2 figures.  No one I know is actively playing WW2 in 28mm on a regular basis.  There really are no rules popular enough to get support from a wide audience.  Flames of War is about it for WW2 games in my area, and it's 15mm at that.  While I like FoW, its scope is more than I want and I tend to feel "detached" from the game when playing it.  I guess it's basically a tournament style game with WW2 flavoring.  So for a long time I didn't want to sink effort and money into something I'd paint and put away.  (Witness the Viking army that I played twice before shoving in a closet for the rest of eternity.)

However, once I found Nuts! I realized that I could play 28mm WW2 as often as I wanted.  The rules are written for either solo or cooperative play.  So now I have an excuse to invest money into these figures.  Additionally I can use these models in any other WW2 28mm rules set.  So whenever someone does want to play a 28mm WW2 game, I'm ready for it!

I'm taking this from ground zero, meaning I have nothing in my collection besides paints to get started.  I purchased a bunch of US and German models to start.  I'm painting the US Infantry squads first and then the German infantry models.  Rather than bore you with a list of everything, I'll just say I have about 30 models per side both with basic troops and specialists. 

Here's a sample of my first group of models for the US, all leader models but for one rifleman.
When I think of WW2 battlefields, I think of mud.  So I'm keeping the basing along that theme.  I've actually painted a lot more of these figures since I took this picture.  So I'll post up the US squads once completed, then it's on to the Nazis!

If that's not bad enough, I ordered 40+ Japanese infantry in 28mm this morning!  I got the Nuts! supplement for War Against Japan, and am eager to try that out.  So there will be a lot of WW2 coming up soon!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Tale of Four Lord of the Rings Gamers, Phase Two

So it's time again to post up the 350pt force for the second phase of the challenge.  I've made one change up to the list.  I've added a Stormcaller to lead the force.  Arwen was nice, but she was killed at least three times previously.  I think she's been pulped enough to pull her from the ranks.  The Stormcaller is the same points cost, and has one extra spell and a better defense than Arwen.  He has lower courage and fight value, but he's still an Elf.   The "wild channeling" rule could make him better than Arwen.  I don't think he's a "game changer" but I like the model and wanted to try him out.

As for rank and file, I've added in nine spearmen.  I also fit in six more bowmen and one more warrior.  So I've got 28 models in this force, which is still going to be massively outnumbered.  I was just shy of being able to take that tenth bow for volley fire.  It's probably not that important.

I'm learning that to play Elves correctly, you've got to play like the other Elf players who drive you crazy.  That is, just stand at the far end of the table and shoot.  Don't move even if the scenario requires it.  Stand on the hill and shoot.  Back up 3" and shoot.  By the time you're engaged, you might have killed one or two models and made it all worth your while!

Here are the boys.  (Capes by Armani.  Armor designs by Hugo Boss)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Legends of the Far East -- Samurai!

I've completed my first six samurai models for Legends of the Far East.  These are the Perry Miniatures that I ordered when I first downloaded the rules.  I finally got around to painting them.  I was seriously stressed out trying to get the armor details correct.  Then I spent a whole lot of time trying to research the correct designs for the sashimono (the flag on their backs).  Here's what I learned.

To hell with that shit.  This is a game and not a goddamn history lesson.  I was totally spoiling my own fun.  I discovered a serious streak of "elitist know-it-all-ism" in the online community.  You might think these folks time traveled to Sengoku period Japan and took video.  To make my research more fruitless, the experts contradicted one another.  So I ended up just painting whatever looked good to me.

The sashimono designs are all authentic Sengoku period samurai designs.  I'm sure someone can tell you every detail of the samurai who displayed them, right down to his favorite breakfast cereal. I've probably mixed mortal enemies together in my little band.  Ah well, they'll learn to get a long.
I will take a short break from these guys to work on some other projects that have my attention.  But I have plenty more models to go.  I did promise I would get out of control, remember?  I have samurai and ashigaru with yari, ninjas, and samurai in kimonos.  So there's a bunch more to come... all guaranteed to be semi-historical and somewhat researched!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Battle Chronicler Review

I like battle reports.  I enjoy reading them and writing them.  I enjoy writing battle reports about my winning the game.  But that doesn't happen all that often.  So I was thrilled to learn about Battle Chronicler, which is free software that creates some really sharp looking battle reports.  I downloaded it right away and decided to try it out on a game of Lord of the Rings.  I had played a game recently with Rob as part of the Tale of Four Gamers challenge.  It was a downright disaster for the Elves and I didn't feel like writing it up.  But when I found this software, I thought I'd give it a try.

The game was straightforward.  I think I remembered the gist of it.  Besides, I wanted to try the software.  So what follows is my attempt to use the software to report the battle I played two weeks ago.  I found the software semi-intuitive.  I was able to import Army Builder lists with ease.  But I've no idea how to use the freakin' software to make my report.  It's not as easy as advertised.  Also, LotR is different than the "infantry block" style of games this software wants you to talk about.  Since each model is it's own unit, I'm thinking to truly represent a game I'd have to enter each model as a separate entity.  Yikes.

So read on.  It's only semi-pretty because it's all screwed up.  For one, the Elves show up as individual models but can only be moved like an infantry block in the software.  Weird.  All in all, I think it would be worthwhile to learn how to use this.  But no manual exists and the forum sucks.  So you're almost on your own with it. Well, it's free!

Scenario: The High Ground
Date played: Friday, June 03, 2011

Elf Warband 175pts

General: Jerry

  • H Arwen Evenstar, Hero
    Expert Rider; Woodland Creature; Nature's Wrath; Elven Blade
    60 points
  • EB 3 Elf Warrior, Warrior
    Woodland Creature; Hand Weapon; Elf Bow; Heavy Armour
    33 points
  • EW 8 Warrior, Elf Warriors
    Woodland Creature; Hand Weapon; Heavy Armour
    80 points
  • Total: 173 points
Elf Bow: Range: 24"/56cm; Strength: 3; Move Penalty: Half
Elven Blade: May be used single handed or double handed (if not mounted) -1 Fight, +1 to roll on Wound chart.
Heavy Armour: +2 Defence.

Durin's Folk

General: Rob

  • MH Dwarf Captain, Minor Hero
    Hand Weapon; Armour; Shield
    65 points
  • DB 4 Dwarf Warrior, Warrior
    Hand Weapon; Dwarf Bow; Armour
    36 points
  • W 8 Dwarf Warrior, Warrior
    Hand Weapon; Armour; Shield
    72 points
  • Total: 173 points
Armour: +1 Defence.
Dwarf Bow: Range: 18"/42cm; Strength: 3; Move Penalty: Half
Shield: +1 Defence

Turn One: Elves and Dwarfs line up on different sides and run to conquer the hill.
Turn Two: Not much happening yet.
 Turn Three: The Elf bows come up and shoot at the Dwarfs, killing one! The Elves hide behind the hill, not daring to pop up in front of the dwarf bows. Dwarfs return fire and kill one archer.
 Turn Four: Elves engage the Dwarfs on the high ground but lose their fights. Two are killed. The archers move up senselessly into Dwarf bow range and exchange shots. One of the Elf archers dies. Arwen tries to cast a spell but it is resisted.
 Turn Five: The Elves are pushed back and the Dwarfs gain the hill. They have a bad time of it and two more are killed. The lone archer runs for the hill. Arwen moves out of the fight and tries her last attempt at the use of a spell. The Dwarf Captain resists it. The last Elf archer gets on the hill. Arwen engages in combat. The Elf Warriors lose more fights, but manage to take out a Dwarf at last!
 Turn Six to End of Game: The Dwarf bowmen gain the hill and complete the surrounding of the Elves. After this, it is a slaughterfest and all the Elves are killed to the last one. Major victory for the Dwarfs.
So there it is.  Sort of mumble-jumbled as I learned the software.  It's really interesting but not as easy as it is made out to be.  I suppose if you were reporting on the infantry block style games or even 40K, it would be easier.  Also the actual battle had more stuff happening in it, like the special rule for wind knocking everyone down.  The kill counts aren't accurate either.  But you get the idea of the software by now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Guide to Creating Woodland Scenics Trees, Agent Orange Style

So many gaming blogs provide tutorials and guides that I felt obligated to provide one of my own.  My tutorial will focus on assembling Woodland Scenics  trees to use on your gaming tables.  I recently did this myself, and can now share the steps I used to create trees that look like something from Operation Ranch Hand.  Follow closely and don't deviate from these steps to get the same look.  Be warned, this is a fairly advanced procedure that will require a lot of your time and aggravation.  A huge portion of aggravation.  Don't enter into this lightly.

Step One:  Start off Wrong
Go to your local hobby shop and be sure to buy all the parts separately.  If you buy the tree kits, you'll end up saving money.  You can't be serious about this hobby if you are trying to save money.

Step Two: Increase the Challenge
Throw away the bags that have instructions printed on them.  It's far more rewarding to do this from memory after reading the instructions once.  Be sure to throw out the bags just before someone dumps a sloppy mess of food scraps on top of them.  This will ensure you won't got back to check.

Step Three:  Stop Thinking and Start Doing
You will have bendable wire frames of trees and bases for them.  The tree is flat, like a two dimensional picture.  You will have to twist the branches to make the tree come to life.  Don't twist the trunk, as that will provide depth and interest to the tree form.  Bending the branches and not twisting the trunk will make the finished trees look like they fell out of a book press.  Just like leaves.

Additionally fit the trunks into the bases provided.  But don't glue these together.  You'll never be able to accidentally pull them apart at a later time if you glue it now.

Step Four: Hob-e-tac Hell
 You should have purchased the recommended Hob-e-tac glue.  Open the lid and watch it spill out everywhere like a vanilla volcano.  There's no way to avoid this so just enjoy the experience.  Now apply Hob-e-tac to the branches where you want the foliage to be.  During this process, you will also get Hob-e-tac on your hands as well.  Remember this step, as we will return to it in a moment.  First, an important point:

Apply the glue in the stingiest, most miserly way possible.  Treat the Hob-e-tac as if it's your own precious bone marrow.  Also the instructions advise you to wait at least 15 minutes for the glue to become tacky.  Well, of course you have it all over your hands, your desk, and the part of your carpet that wasn't covered by a drop-cloth.  It feels pretty fucking tacky, don't you think?  Just go to the next step without waiting.

Step Five: Apply Foliage.  To Everything.
You should have a bag of clump foliage that you purchased (or it came with your kit, if you are one those lightweight hobbyists who needs to be hand held like a simpering baby).  You are to dip the tree frame into the foliage bag.  Don't bother to break apart the clumps of foliage in the bag.  I say this because you have to stick the foliage on with your hands anyway.  Of course this means the foliage will also stick to you as well.  This creates a neat little interplay between trying to get the foliage off your fingers and onto the branches.  All the while you'll be knocking off clumps that you've already attached, many of which will roll away to become toys for your cats.

Also, when doing this be certain not to attach the tree wireframe to a wider and more stable base.  If you do, the tree won't tip over every time you look at it.  This constant toppling will simulate an earthquake for your model trees.  The foliage will flake off more naturally this way.

Step Six:  Let Dry Overnight and Touch Stuff
You are done!  Or so you think.  Leave your model trees and go wash your hands.  Don't worry about washing off all the Hob-e-tac since it will have gotten on places that you have no idea about. You can now go about your house touching things like telephones, keyboards, computer mice, and expensive iPhones.  Rest assured that the Hob-e-tac will be surreptitiously applying itself to everything you have touched.  So later you can try to explain to your family why your keyboard is so sticky.  Won't it be fun to see what your family thinks about your excuse?!

Step Seven:  Witness the Defoliant Look
The next morning you will have gone back to your hobby room to admire your prior day's work.  If you have been following this guide you should find piles of fallen clump foliage piled about your tree models.  To truly get that Agent Orange feel, a few pathetic clumps will hopefully still be clinging to the wireframes.  Congratulations!

Optional Steps

These are some optional steps I took.  You don't have to do all of this, since your tree models will pretty much look wilted and dead after all this abuse.  But I'm into this hobby for the depth of detail you can go with modeling.  So if you share the same mania, try the following:

1. Go back to the store for more advice.
I picked a hobby store that was totally out of my way.  You may elect to pick a hobby store conveniently located to you.  If you're a wimp.  At the store, you should talk to the salesperson who confidently gives you advice the runs completely counter to the instructions provided by Woodland Scenics.  This person will most likely tell you that Hob-e-tac is not the right thing and that white glue is better. If you point out that this is not what the instructions say and the salesperson insists he knows better than the manufacturer, then you've got your man.  Listen to him.

2.  Use the white glue.  Contemplate throwing everything away
So if you followed the salesperson's advice, you've inevitably discovered that white glue is not your friend.  You've also probably ruined a good portion of you clump foliage.  By now it should be filled with dust, dirt, and cat hair from falling on the floor so often.  Go ahead and pitch that as well.  Ironically, my destroyed clump foliage landed in the trash on top of those discarded instructions.

3. Go back to the store again and don't talk to any of those dipshits
After having a day to cogitate on matters, you will likely have remembered something about spraying things with Scenic Cement.  Oddly, this is what you should've purchased on your first trip.  But all the extraneous trips are building character.  So get this cement and get out before someone gives you bright ideas about using superglue on the trees.

4. Spray the trees with cement.  Overspray the cement onto other import things.
To experience the maximum possible "character building opportunities" be sure to spray your trees in front of other things that you don't want to be enshrouded in a near permanent cement.  You'll enjoy chipping out these models later on.  It's like being an archaeologist, carefully chipping out fragments of your expensive models from the cement.

Well, that's about it.  Hopefully you found this guide useful.  Enjoy your trees!
DISCLAIMER:  I feel obligated to state that this was a parody of what I did to totally screw up my trees.  You should carefully follow the instructions on the package.  Use a good amount of Hob-e-tac (not white glue!) and definitely let it set for 15+ minutes before applying foliage.  If you do the opposite of what I described, you should get better results than me!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mythic GM Emulator for Solo Games

I've been clearing out closet space recently.  When I started playing miniature war games several years ago I bought up just about every "big name game" I could find.  So you can imagine what I uncovered in my closets: boxes of fully assembled, lovingly painted and totally unused armies.

The most regrettable find was all my Warhammer Fantasy Battle armies.  I can't bring myself to sell these.  But no one in my local group plays this game, and I don't feel like doing pick up games at the local game store.  In fact, doing pick up games in the local game store almost caused me to drop out of the hobby completely.  The total suckage of pick up games could be a post in itself.

But by now you are wondering how this post's title connects with my article.  Let me explain.

I took out my WHFB boxes from the closet, looked at the models and wanted to play a game with them.  I also wanted to renew my collection of WHFB models, and have a purpose for doing so.  I considered what I'd enjoy.  The story-driven, skirmish game Mordheim sounded right for this.  So I pulled out my rulebook, threw some Orcs on the table and started to push these around.  I did this to refresh myself on the rules, which reminded me of 6th ed WHFB (where I left off with that game; I'm two editions behind now).  Having done that, I decided I'd like to actually play a game.

This is where Mythic's GM Emulator (GME) made all the difference.  Originally created to allow GMs to run their RPGs without preparation or to play without a GM, the GME fits war gaming as well.  I heard about the GME's use from some forums, and doubted if it would work.  But I'm a sucker for these types of things and I plunked down the $6.95 to find out.  I'm glad I did.

So here's a quick explanation of how it works.  You ask a yes or no question, then determine the odds for a "yes".  You check these odds on a table, and roll a d100.  If you roll within the percentage given, then your answer is yes.  Depending on how you score, you can also end up with an exceptional yes or exceptional no response.  Other conditions, such as scoring doubles (22, 33, 99, etc) yield a random event.  The success of this system hinges on asking intelligent questions and not dumb ass things like "Do I automatically win the game?"  Additionally, as the game progresses, things can become more or less "chaotic" which will also influence the percentages.  It's a neat system.

The net result was that my NPC opponent did things that I did not expect and moved more or less like someone else was controlling these models.  That's the perfect situation for solo play.  Also, with solo play you are allowed to do things like have random events that are not strictly in the rules.  The GME helps add those in without any preparation or effort on your part, and these events will always be different.  An example of play will probably help with understanding how GME works.

Meet the "Bloody Eye Boyz"  These orcs are survivors from a recently sundered Waaagh! led by a now dead orc boss.  Time for a new boss!  Havak Dreadeye has pounded a few other boyz and gobbos into service to his Bloody Eye Boyz.  Uglug Bashead and Durg Smashface are Big 'Uns that help keep the boyz and gobbos in line.  They're now wandering the countryside, looking for plunder and violence.  They've heard an abandoned home at the edge of town still might have some loot.  When they arrive, some of the other boyz from the last Waaagh! are there already.  This is great news!  A fight is just what Havak and the boyz were hoping to enjoy!
After I set up the terrain, I deploy Havak and his boyz.  I divide up the NPC deployment zone into three equal sectors.  So while I could've used the GME to deploy them, it was faster to roll a d3 for each model to see where it starts.  Since recently my dice don't roll higher than 2, all NPCs ended up in the first zone behind a small shed and a small wooded area.  I went first and took my moves, deciding to walk into the zone so my Night Goblin archers could fire bows and that the other boyz would be ready to respond the following turn.

As an aside, Animosity was simply out of control the entire game.  I rolled one after one after one after one, until I canned those dice and got out my lucky Vegas dice.  Then things got better and I could actually play the game!  My Chessex dice cube is malfunctioning again.  My casino dice are far more consistent.  OK, back to the game.

It's time for the NPC to move.  Since this is a test game, I just made a simple band to fight against.  There are six Orcs, one Big Un and a Orc Boss in the NPC team, no magic or shooting.  After handling their animosity, I ask if the first Orc will go thru the woods.  Since he's eager for the fight, I assume he will not want to slow down and make the odds "Unlikely."  I roll the dice and get a 5%.  Not only does this mean the answer is "Yes" but it is an "exceptional Yes." (5% is in the lower 1/5 of the success range).  It's up to me to interpret what this means.  So he's definitely going into the woods, and he's really determined.  I treat the "exceptional" part to mean he moved like he rolled a 6 on his Animosity chart.  This means he gets an extra move above his normal move.  He ends up not only going thru the woods, but he exits the same turn.  Well done!

I now ask if the other boyz will follow him.  I assume seeing their buddy's enthusiasm, they are now likely to follow.  They don't want to be left out of the fight!  So I roll and score within the 75% success range.  They head off thru the woods.  I ask for the Big Un and the boss as well, but they prefer to move up the center.  I also ask if they would run.  I determine that this is very likely because they don't want to get shot and want to get to the fight.  However, I roll 87% and they decide to move more cautiously.

I could continue with the report, but won't bother.  Now you can see that as long as you ask logical questions the NPC will move and act independently of your influence.  I used this method to determine NPC charges, weapons selection, and other things that another player would do.  While it sounds like a lot of work, you're really just working it out in your head.  It takes only a moment to mentally ask the question and check the result.  Once models are in combat, the normal game rules take over and it's just a matter of rolling dice.  Using the GME with my Mordheim game, the story unfolded and I was really interested to see how Havak and the boyz would do.

Turns out Havak and his boyz were the "biggest and bestest" 'ead bashers around.  Havak took out the opposing Big Boss while Uglug, Durg, and the other boyz smashed head as well.  When the opposing orcs took 25% casualties, they fled the field.  Why stick around when the boss was dead?  I rolled up Havak's treasure and awarded XP.  Havak now has some cash to spend.  He also has got to round up the other orcs in the area.  No reason they should be listening to anyone but him, right?  Stay tuned for more of his story.

So if you are a solo gamer or would just like to try something different, give the Mythic GM Emulator a chance.  You could even use it to add some randomness to your regular games as well.  I've only introduced the basics of it.  Since it's an RPG tool, you can imagine it has a lot of story elements in it as well.  For the seven bucks it costs, you can get a lot of mileage out of it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Instant Terrain

After years spent collecting and painting miniatures, I have few terrain pieces.  This hasn't been much of an issue for me.  However, recently I've discovered a few things.  Models look better when photographed in a setting.  I've also discovered solo games like Nuts! or Isildur's Bane.  Terrain is needed to make that more interesting.  So how do I build a collection of terrain pieces both quickly and inexpensively? 

The answer is paper terrain.  Card stock models fit the bill perfectly.  The cost is quite low, assembly is quick, and storage is simple.

I started poking around the internet to find some card stock / paper modeling resources.  I found a variety of free models, a lot of them amazingly good for a free model!  These models also looked good on the table.  At the end of this post I'll put up all the links I found useful. But there is one site I've found that is just great for war gaming needs.  Check out Dave's Games for some excellent models.

Dave has a few free models to check out, with the coach house being the best.  This is a layered PDF file.  That means you can make the house look like brick, stone, stucco, or some other textures. You can add or remove doors and windows.  The chimney position can be changed, and the dormer is optional.  There are several other options as well.  So for one free model, you can get a three or four buildings out of it.  Check it out.  Here are some shots of the coach house and the hovel models.
So these represent my first attempts at assembly.  I really screwed up the roof on the small house (the hovel model).  The coach house model looks much better.  You can see these are sized for 28mm models.  However, you can apparently scale the printing for different sizes.  So if I wanted 15mm terrain for Flames of War, I can print at 50% reduction.  My only problem is Adobe Reader doesn't have a scaling option that I can find.  But you might have it on your printer.

I was so enthused about this, that I purchased the ruins bundle, which gives a bunch of ruin models that look fantastic.  Here are some shots of a ruined foundation, just right for WWII or 40K games.

Again, I'm just learning things.  So my cuts are a little sloppy and I didn't get things to match up perfectly.  But practice will make perfect.  So I'm saving those multi-storied building ruins for last.

So, I know that a fully modeled, 3D piece is beautiful and an art form unto itself.  There really is no substitute.  If you pick up a paper model and hold it up to your face, you'll be unimpressed.  I get it.  But for gaming purposes, how often do you do that?  You just note that the building obstructs LOS or slows movement or presents some other challenge.  A paper terrain piece can do that and look great in the process.

Finally, cost is something I've heard a lot about especially printer ink.  So, let's do some quick math on this.  I'll just throw all costs together and not even break it down to a "per model" basis.  Here's what it takes all told:
  • Ream of 110# card stock $18
  • Full ink cartridge $30
  • Glue stick $2
  • Xacto knife $5
  • "Ruins" bundle (16 models) $30
  • Grand total $85
Of course this is totally overstating the cost, as I didn't use even 1/4 of the paper and my ink cartridge is still half full.  But for the same price, you can get one or two equivalent sized 3D models from GW.  You would still have to factor in paint and paint brushes into the cost, too.  And you can't endlessly print these models like you can with paper!  Bottom line: Even if you go through two ink cartridges, you are probably still financially ahead.

So get moving on your instant terrain!  Here are some links to get you started.

Dave's Games  as I mentioned is a great, low cost resource.
Paper has some interesting 15mm stuff
World Works is the grand-daddy of paper eye candy, though more for RPG or small skirmish games.
Wizards of the Coast has some awesome looking terrain for free.  This stuff looks great, especially the covered bridge!  Don't miss this.
Model Train has software that will let you design your own stuff.  Looks very interesting!
Cardboard Warriors is a forum about all things paper model.  I've just found this site, and it looks promising.

Also, if you've come this far and didn't ditch my post, here's proof I still plan to use 3D terrain.  I've finally, after 3-4 years of procrastination, painted my GW modular gaming hill.  And my cat approves!