Monday, December 27, 2010

Dystopian Wars, and updates

Well, it's been a while since my last post, and I thought "What better time to update than right after Christmas?" So, what did I get this year on Jesus' birthday?

First, God gave us a wonderful white Christmas, with about four inches of snow falling on Christmas Day. Not enough to make live miserable like they are getting in the Northeast, but enough to make everything look like a postcard and for the kids to be able to sled in the backyard! Thanks God!

My kids got me a Nerf gun (the Deploy) and a bandolier with extra clips and ammo, to take our Nerf wars up a notch. I had been quite outgunned before that, as my daughter has the Nerf fully-automatic machine-gun while my son has several Nerf rifles, while I was limited to a single six-shot Nerf revolver. But now I was able to give as good as I got as the foam dart gunbattles got downright ugly! Of course, my advantage was short-lived as my parents got my son true nightvision goggles for Christmas! So now my favorite tactic (Death from the Dark tm) is rendered ineffective! Arrrggghhh! (Though I have to admit the goggles are incredible – nightvision technology made into a toy! We tried them out at my parent’s house, and from about 50 to 60 feet away you could clearly see someone hiding behind a tree in pitch darkness.)

And lastly, for Christmas this year I broke two of my gaming vows:

1. I asked for a new set of rules before completing an army for my last set of rules (Malifaux).
2. I asked for a new set of rules that had just come out, rather than wait for the next edition to be released and all the mistakes to be fixed.

You’re probably wondering what set of rules would be so tempting that I’d break not one, but two of my gaming guidelines. Dystopian Wars by Spartan Games!

I’ve been curious about Spartan Games since they came out with their Uncharted Seas fantasy naval combat game. I’d read and listened to several reviews of the game, and I was intrigued, but not enough to dive in and get the rules and a fleet or two. Spartan followed up with Firestorm Armada, a space combat game. I thought the models looked cool, but I was not even tempted as I am not a fan of spaceship battles. But seeing pictures of the ships for Dystopian Wars grabbed my attention very quickly.

Victorian-era sci-fi a la Jules Verne? Giant aircraft-carrying dirigibles unleashing death from above against twin paddle-wheeled behemoths on the ocean’s surface? Gargantuan walkers with Japanese temples on top crashing through the jungle to scatter smaller tanks and vehicles? These were more than enough to get me interested, and a review of the game on The D6 Generation podcast (Episode 70) was enough to push me over the edge. So I asked for, and got, the rules for Christmas from my awesome wife! Dave at Giga-bites CafĂ© got in an order just before Christmas and was kind enough to hold a copy for me that I was able to pick up on Christmas Eve.

I have not yet played a game (I am now in that wonderful stage of picking out my army, where everything is possible and I am not yet locked into any decision), but here’s my first impressions on the book. First off, the production value is extremely high. It is a perfect-bound soft cover rulebook in full color. The front and back covers are great, showing scenes of huge tanks, ships and aircraft battling. Inside, almost every page contains some sort of illustration to flesh out the background, or an example of play or a photo of a beautifully painted model.

The background section immediately sucks you into the alternate world in which Dystopian Wars takes place. The year is 1870 and the great empires of the world are at war, facing off with enormous war machines on land, at sea and in the skies. History in that world has several significant changes from ours, aside from the discovery of a new element that has enabled the construction of giant airships and weapons of tremendous destructive capacity. For one, the South has won the Civil War, resulting in the Federated States of America (FSA). In the east, Japan has emerged as the Empire of the Blazing Sun, while they Empire of Britannia holds colonies around the world. The Prussian Empire holds central Europe in its steel grasp, and prepares to face the Russia. Each of these powers has its own style of war machine, loosely based on historical fact. The Germans use massive dirigible aircraft carriers to ferry their attack planes into battle. The Japanese have sleek warships capable of firing waves of destructive torpedoes. And the FSA ships are reminiscent of the Civil War ironclads, with massive armored paddle wheels for propulsion.

The rules themselves are well-written and seem quite clear on the basic points, which I suspect comes from the fact they are, in essence, the third iteration of the same basic ruleset (following Uncharted Seas and Firestorm Armada). Once I get the chance to put together and army and take it to battle I’ll have a better idea of how the rules fit together as a whole and how the game plays. At the moment I am leaning towards the Prussians – that dirigible carrier is THE flagship model of the line, and is an instant centerpiece for a terrific-looking force. I usually try to collect two forces for my games (so that there is one for me and one for my kids if they choose to play), but here is where I am stuck between two options – the FSA and the Empire of the Blazing Sun. Both have great-looking models, and both have their strengths in the game, so I am quite torn. Stay tuned for updates on that front.

As far as other updates, my Malifaux jail has been languishing, with all work halted as I dealt with holiday preparations. Between making sure everything got done for Thanksgiving and then Christmas, and it being busier than normal at work, I am still stuck on painting the jail. I have been able to get some gaming-related tasks completed though. My son has decided to field a Gremlin crew, and I did get Rami LaCroix painted up for him. I'll post some pictures next time as soon as I get him based. I began the process of painting a Cult of December crew, but that is still in very early stages. And I did build a 3'x3' gaming table for Malifaux which just needs some finishing touches to be complete.

The Reading Table:

I finally finished Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of J. E. B. Stuart. A very good book that explains in detail the causes and effects of Stuart's disastrous "disappearance" just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. It is a balanced look at Stuart, describing his strengths as well as his weaknesses, and most of all showing how much more difficult it was to wage war in a time of uncertain communications. A bit dry at times, but a very enjoyable read.

After that I read Munson's biography, Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, which went very quickly. This was a very interesting book for me to read. Growing up in New York, Munson was my hero. He was and is my favorite ballplayer of all time. But I was a kid, and much of the drama and tension of the clubhouse and in his relationships with George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson did not register at the time. All I cared about was watching him get another game-winning hit! So finally reading the whole story, and learning more about Munson the man, in addition to Munson the player, was very enjoyable.

Following that, I polished off Robert Leckie's Helmet for My Pillow, his account of being Marine in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. I've read many, many books about the European Theatre, but not nearly as many about the Pacific. Leckie's story is both unique and common - his experiences mirror those of countless young men of that time, yet his views on it and how they impacted him are his alone. For me, this book took a little getting used to, as Leckie's writing is a little more flowery and descriptive than I am used to in a military account. But it is definitely worth the effort, and I was very moved to read of the sacrifices that Leckie and his comrades made for our country.

Next up: Easy Company Soldier by Sgt. Don Malarkey, made famous by Band of Brothers. And before you start thinking the name of my blog is totally misleading, after that I have a pirate novel lined up: The Blackbirder by James Nelson. It is the second book in the Brethren of the Coast trilogy, after The Guardship. It's been a while since I read the first one, so I may have to go back and re-read it before I start The Blackbirder.

That's it for now - hopefully next time I'll have more pictures of current and completed projects to share (especially if I ever get my Malifaux jail completed!).

'Til next time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Malifaux Terrain - Update

Well, the siding on my Guild Outpost is completed. All that is left now is the roof, the front porch, and the open area on top of the cell that will from a sort of balcony. Oh, and painting it and finishing the base. Hopefully by this time next week I'll have images of the completed building to share.

View of the interior, without the second floor in place.

View of the interior, with the removable second floor in place. My next building(s) will either have just one story or not be open - having to worry about interiors is a huge pain!

'Til next time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Malifaux Guild Outpost - Update

I was able to get in a few good hours of work yesterday on the Guild outpost I am working on for Malifaux.

One of the difficulties I am having is that since I want to be able to take the fighting indoors, it needs to have removable floors and roof. Next time, I think the fighting will stay in the streets since that makes the overall design and construction so much simpler.

The majority of the structure, besides the foundation and jail cell, will be modelled to look like wooden construction. I am making the shell out of foamcore and then gluing wooden coffee stirrers on as siding.

Here's the front view of the building. At this point, I've added a wooden floor to the interior, as well as begun the process of "framing" the exterior with wood.

In this three-quarter view, you can see the supports inside the building on which I'll place the second floor, while still allowing it to be removed for game play.

Here's a side view. eventually the jail cell will have a balcony/roof that can be accessed from the second floor of the building. It'll provide a nice place for snipers to get some elevation.

I've stained the floor using an alcohol ink I found at Michael's craft store. It came out a very nice shade of brown, with the exception of a couple of spots along the seam where glue got onto the wood. Solutions would be to either stain the wood first, or to be more careful with the application of the glue. Oh well, I think the stains add a little character. I can always say the Guild Guards got a little "enthusiastic" with their interrogation of a suspect, and had to use bleach to clean up the mess.

The last image for today shows the process of using the wooden coffee stirrers, cut to size, for siding. It is rather tedious, but I hope the end result makes it worth the effort.

'Til next time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bars for the Malifaux jail

A crazy couple of weeks have meant little progress on the Malifaux jail building. But I did get the bars completed - they just need to be painted up to look appropriately rusty...

I used styrene to make the frame, and styrene rod for the bars. They're clear since they are what I use to add lightsabers to my Star Wars minis conversions.

I will be making the basic shape of the building from foamcore - hopefully by this weekend - and covering it with wood to make it look "westernish."

'Til next time!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pirate Game at Dave's

Several weeks ago I began corresponding with Dave Cooper, who contacted me in response to a post on a Pirate gaming forum. It turns out he lives very close to my home (about 30 minutes away), but between family, work, school, church commitments and such, it seemed we were never able to get our schedules to match. Eventually, after several false starts, we were finally able to get together for a game.

Here are the pictures from the game at Dave's house last Saturday. It was great fun, even though I am not sure who, if anyone, won the game!

The basic premise was a couple of pirate crews raiding a town, where Dave and I each controlled one pirate crew, and the militia opposing each other's crew. The rules were a blend of Legends of the High Seas and some other sets that Dave had lying around, and when in doubt we just made stuff up!

Henry's ship and crew (the box counted as below decks)

Dave's ship and crew

The unsuspecting town, behind a curtain of sea mist.

The pirate ships approach...

Brave militiamen row like mad to warn the town garrison!

Dave's pirates begin to disembark

The rest of Dave's crew disembark from his smaller ship.

Henry's ship approaches defenders hidden in the mist.

It's the governor's private yacht!

Board her ye scurvy sea dogs!

Meanwhile, Dave's brigands continue to move inland...

... and capture a cannon! Which they proceed to (ineffectually) fire at Henry's crew

Another band of Dave's pirates approach a building, eager for loot.

While Henry's buccaneers realize there's a cannon in their faces!

Nothing to worry about - the yacht and cannon have been subdued.

And the men are off after loot (in this case conveniently loaded on pack mules).

On the other side of town, the militia is quick to respond to the threat of Dave's pirates and prepare to open fire...

... only to be charged in the rear by yet another band of brigands!

Bring them back to the boats lads!

The loot is safely stowed on the captured yacht.

Meanwhile, some of the town militia troops manage to capture Dave's smaller ship as it drifted...

And this was the scene after the final turn.

All in all, the game was very enjoyable, and it was a pleasure to finally meet Dave after several weeks of overly full schedules and too much "real life." I am very much looking forward to doing this again! Thanks Dave!

'Til next time!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Malifaux - Guild Outpost/Jail

As I mentioned in an earlier post, several weeks ago I wandered into Giga-Bites Cafe. Besides discovering a great gaming shop, I became interested in a game called Malifaux.

I had long admired the style of the figures, but I knew nothing at all about the game. Well, I went back to Giga-Bites on a subsequent Saturday, and managed to watch a couple of games of Malifaux in action. I was totally unfamiliar with the rules, and the fact that it is a card-driven game rather than based on rolling dice meant that I did not understand much of the mechanics. However, one of the guys who was at the shop works for Wyrd, and hooked me up with a copy of the rules (thanks Drew!).

Now that I have read them through (twice) I understand some of what is meant by "cheating" and "triggers." I am eager to get a crew together and find some time to head back to Giga-Bites and get a game in to make sure I actually do have an idea as to how the game mechanics work. At first glance, they are very elegant, and seem to reflect a more "cinematic" approach to gaming, rather than a more "realistic" one. Players can replace cards they draw with higher-valued ones from their hand to change the outcome of combats and spell-casting and such. But, you can also run out of luck and get stuck with a bad result. The only part I am still not 100% sure of is the "trigger" mechanic, by which some actions/events result in other actions automatically. I am sure that a game or two will help me make better sense of it.

But in the meantime, I am inspired to create some terrain for the game. I love the background mixture of Victorian horror, steampunk and spaghetti western! It is very evocative and you can go in so many different directions. There is room for pretty much anything you can think up. Besides, it's been a while since I built anything terrain-wise and I have the itch!

I checked out some of the posts on the Malifaux forums that pertain to terrain, and I was blown away by two in particular. First, Kaine is creating magnificent scenery for Malifaux. His terrain boards (complete 3x3 setups of various types of terrain) are amazing, and in my opinion they very much have the "feel" of Malifaux. My favorite is his ruined Miners & Steamfitters Union pumping station, although his sewer boards are a close second. The other terrain that is very inspiring to me is being created by the keeper and yazza. Their contract-town 27 is shaping up to be awesome. Their use of blocks from Hirst Arts and wood in their structures looks great, and it is a look I hope to copy, err, "borrow," for mine. Thanks to all of them for the inspiration.

My first building will be a medium-sized outpost/jail for the Guild faction. I sketched some ideas, before settling on a mixture of wood and stone construction. The jail cell will be stone, while the rest of the structure will be wood, and definitely in a western style, with a false front and porch.

I happened to have a bunch of blocks I cast a while back using one of Hirst Arts castle molds, so began by laying out the foundation for the building and attached jail to get a measurement for the building's footprint. I found a scrap piece of fiberboard that was almost exactly the right size for the base of the building, and began gluing down the bricks for the foundation. You can see the jail cell (on the left) has a stone floor, while the rest of the office will be a wooden floor over a stone foundation.

After that, I continued to build up the walls for the cell, including some small windows. I made sure to glue everything down securely and left it to dry.

My next step will be to begin the next phase of construction by framing out the wooden structure. I'll also build up the wall of bars that will complete the cells.

'Til next time.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Odds & Ends

First up – my favorite Mel Gibson character ever, as envisioned by Reaper minis. He’s from the Chronoscope line, Rex, Dark Future Hero. Since I recently saw “The Book of Eli” I modified him just a bit, adding a big blade to his left hand, a backpack, and a smaller knife on a sheath on his leg.


Second – OK, so this one is a bit outside the box. A while back I picked up several $1 wooden toys at the local Michaels. I thought they might one day come in handy for something, and if not, then the kids would have some fun assembling them. Among the sets I got, were two submarines. My son built his up mostly according to the instructions, but I had other plans.

I made a hunter/killer attack sub for my Dwarf pirates. I’m naming it the Hammershark, and it carries a crew of 4 or 5 little guys. I used a 1” drill bit to make the holes in the hull, then added hatch covers, lanterns (it gets dark under the water), and a steam-powered blade to the bow to cut through the hulls of enemy vessels. You cannot see it in these photos as there are Dwarfs in the hatches, but I cut 1” circles of plasticard patterned like diamond steel plate and placed them in the bottom of the holes. The figures, as yet unpainted, are Pirate Scrunts from Ollie’s Armies. They are great figures, and I can’t wait to have the time to finish them off properly.

‘Til next time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Giga-Bites Cafe

On Friday, my wife had a doctor's appointment in Marietta. The kids and I dropped her off, and then headed over to check out a gaming store that a friend from church had recommended: Giga-bites Cafe

From what I'd been told, I was expecting a Games Workshop dealer, with a little Flames of War. Well, I did find a terrific shop for GW product as well as Battlefront FoW stuff, but with a twist. The first thing I noticed was the friendly owner, David, coming over to welcome us to the shop. I don't even remember what was on the flat screen TV in the front of the shop in the cafe area, but he made sure to pop in a kid-friendly DVD while I was there with my son and daughter. That goes a long way towards making me feel comfortable in a shop.

The we started talking about games, and not just the big names I've already mentioned. David carries a huge line of figures for Infinity and Malifaux. He also has a selection of miniatures from a couple of Spanish companies (Enigma & Avatars of War) and others. This in addition to a ton of painting and scenery/basing supplies.

On top of the game shop aspect, there are at least six large tables on which gamers can go to town with their favorite minis and rules. The cafe is open until late every night except Sunday, so it is definitely gamer-schedule friendly.

I picked up a couple of boosters for Malifaux (more on that a little later), some bases and ordered a couple of GW Warhammer figures (Citizens of the Empire: Duellists) which I am sure will see some action in Mordheim or some other skirmish game. As we were leaving I realized the kids and I had not had lunch yet, and it hit me - this place serves food too!

My son had a hot dog, while my daughter and I both chose the cheese steak panini. We got a BLT to-go for my wife. I was blown away by how good my sandwich was, and my wife said it was the best BLT she'd ever had, and she is not prone to exaggeration. Heck, the food was so good, I can see us going back just to eat - though you never know what other goodies I might find in there! And on our next visit we will definitely give the smoothies a try.

Overall, for friendly atmosphere, fantastic food and great gobs of gaming goodness, I can say this is now my gaming shop of choice. The only drawback for me is that it is a bit of a hike from my place. But, it is on the way to my parents house - so it is only coincidence that grandma and grandpa will see an increase in visits from their grandkids!

Now back to Malifaux. I was intrigued by the figures - a very interesting and different look, in my opinion. The world of Malifaux appears to be a mix between steampunk, Victorian horror, spaghetti westerns and Cthulhu. Cool, but creepy. I think it may be a bit too dark for my kids. I went to the Wyrd Games site to get some more info. After some digging around I finally found where I could download the Wyrd Chronicles, which seem to be what I was looking for in terms of the background to the Malifaux worlds and the factions.

I think it might work for my children, if we stay away from some of the more horrific factions, although even the law and order types are pretty dark and edgy. For the time being, I will collect the miniatures that appeal to me and use them in whatever game system I am playing at the time - mostly Song of Blades and Heroes. So to that end, the two blisters I picked up were Samael Hopkins, who will see duty as a monster-hunter werewolf-trapper, and the Guild Guard pack which comes with a pair of very nice-looking guardsmen that will be equally at home hunting down Zorro or other bandits in a Western setting, as they would be prowling Mordheim.

So, Friday was a good day - I found a great new place for gaming and good eats, and picked up some cool new figures to paint up. Doesn't get much better than that.

'Til next time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

W&W Longboat Conversions

I haven't had anything new to post in a bit, so I decided to dig up some pictures of a pair of ships I kitbashed from Pressman's excellent Weapons & Warriors: Pirate Battle game. The set is a treasure trove of toys that with a little work can make excellent wargaming models.

The game comes with a pair of longboats, a pair of small sloops, two towers, and a ton of cannon and pirate figures. In this post I'll concentrate on the work I've done on the longboats.

First up is an image of the longboat as it comes, and beside one on which I've already started work. The first thin I do is decide if I want to keep the sail, or remove it completely. Then I take a Dremel tool and carefully grind away the excess plastic bits from the deck of the boat. In the case of the one pictured, I am removing the sail completey, so the stand for the mast has got to go.

Next begins the process of planking over the plastic with a wooden deck. I fully admit that I am a bit of an obsessive on this, as I use wooden coffee stirrers (available free at many fine coffee shops across the planet), and individually cut them to size and shape. I then superglue them onto the plastic deck below. The photo below shows a before and after on longboat where I've decided to keep the sail.

Here's a series of photos showing the planking process on a boat where the mast stand was removed:

After that all the boats need is a pretty quick and easy paint job. Most consist simply of a brown basecoat, a darker brown wash and a lighter drybrush. On some I get a little more creative.

Here's a pair of shots of a completed longboat with sail beside one in its original condition:

And here are a pair of completed longboats, one with sail and one without:

Lastly, a longboat with some crew, to show the scale. The figures are from Heroscape: the 10th Regiment of Foot from Wave 8. All I did to them was rebase them on 25mm round bases as the original Heroscape bases are oversized.

In the next post, I'll go into how I convert the sloops. They make perfect "small" ships for Legends of the High Seas.

'Til next time.