November 29, 2015

Christmas in Quindia

Detour from painting... it took literally all day, but my house looks like Christmas is on the way...

Forgive the photos - they were taken with my iPhone.

There's more scattered through the upstairs, but mostly small touches - every room has a bit of the holiday. Of course there is a wreath on front door and a holiday flag in the front yard. There are a few poinsettias that managed to be just off camera too. To be honest until a few days ago I didn't know if I was going to bother with just me here, but I'm glad I did. Sara loved this time of year and the decorating was all her - I just spent a lot of time climbing up and down the ladder!

November 27, 2015

Delany King

Delaney King is a Trans Woman who is also a well respected miniature painter, sculptor and works in computer graphics making some truly amazing models and designs (from quite a few big titles including Dragonage: Origins, Civ 4, LOTR Online). She has worked on developing computer model design coursework in this country in an attempt to raise the profile of Australian computer game design and appeared on industry panels at conferences.

This year she began transitioning, which together with it came a wave of transphobia from the nerd and geek community which is unacceptable in this era - especially from a community of which the chief focus is playing with toy soldiers. She is now resettled in Melbourne after moving from Canberra for work and split from her partner and one year old child who remain in Canberra.

She now finds herself struggling to stay afloat as described in her post. If you can help, Delaney is asking for donations to help her get on her feet in a new city. Share out to the wider nerd network if you can.

Delaney has chronicled her beginning stages of transitioning, separating with her partner and relocating to a new city together with some of the transphobia she has encountered. Her blog over the last year has been an interesting read if this is something you haven't known within your circles.

November 18, 2015

Historicon 2016

Well, it is all but set in stone that Barry and I will be attending Historicon 2016. Vacation time has been scheduled, travel options are being considered, and plans are underway for a participation game of Beneath the Lily Banners that we will run at least once a day (and maybe twice depending on what else we get up to).

The theme for Historicon 2016 is 'Cavalry - Mounted Warfare Through the Ages'. Our game will feature the attack on Penny Burn Mill on April 21st, 1689 in which Captain Adam Murray led a sally from the walls of a besieged Derry in an attempt to clear lines of communication to the north of the city. There are various accounts of the battle and all do not agree on the details, force compositions, etc. but it is certain that the initial assault was carried out by several large formations of horse. Likewise, the Jacobite counter attack contained lots of mounted soldiers, including Galmoy's Regiment of Horse. You can expect to see piles of Warfare Horse scattered across the table!

We are still juggling the details and I'm sure things will evolve as we go forward. While I will feature some progress here, there will be a full account on the League of Augsburg blog (well, most of it - we're going to save a few surprises for July). We'll cover designing the scenario, some of the how's and why's to consider beyond man to model ratios when picking units, painting the models, building the terrain, vignettes, and anything else that comes up along the way.

I am looking forward to every aspect of this project - can you tell? It's still November right? We haven't been to Historicon since 2010 (which was a blast - see here). Is it too early to start getting ready? I don't think so - looking at my sketches for the table there is a lot of work to do, not to mention documenting it all for the blogs!

Anyway, watch this space!

November 16, 2015

Ghar Battlesuit

Last week I received my box set for Beyond the Gates of Antares, The Xilos Horizon. The first thing I did was put together a few of the Ghar battle suits! These are nice models and cunningly arrange on sprues so the mold channel points are almost all hidden by construction, leaving very little in the way of cleaning required.

This my first one and I am very happy with the results. In the Antares universe, the Ghar are twisted, spiteful and pitiless creatures driven by an unquenchable hatred of all panhumans. They view other kinds of human as vermin that it is their job to eradicate (EXTERMINATE!). They care nothing for art or music or other things that may define a culture and they live only for war.

The studio versions of these models are well painted, but the clean color scheme didn't suit them fluff IMHO. I wanted these battle suits to reflect the character described above and opted for dark metal in the main. The orange markings are the minimum decoration required for squad identification and the white stripe on the head of this model denotes the squad leader. I presume in this hi-tech universe there are equally hi-tech combat displays that relay the same information to the pilots, but I wanted a more mundane solution for the table top.

My initial plan is to build three full squads of five - red, orange, and yellow. Depending on the size of the game or the scenario, I may field them in units of less than five, but I normally collect full units for any game whether it is a Napoleonic French battalion or, well, a unit of stomping giant robots!

November 9, 2015

Quindia Studios Guide to Modular Terrain Boards, Part Twelve

Whew! This is it! There are several different ways we could finish off the river. It doesn't look bad now, but after all of the work we've done so far, why skimp on one of the most important features of these boards. You could just paint the river with a high gloss varnish. If I go that route, I like an acrylic based varnish that is made by Minwax. This varnish cleans up with water so you don't have to mess around with turpentine or mineral spirits to clean your brushes! The more coats you paint on, the better the effect.

 However, an even better effect and my first choice can be obtained by using a pour-on resin. I use Envirotex Lite, but there are other brands of this type of material. This is like building up fifty coats of varnish in one shot (it says so on the box). It dries crystal clear (but we can muck that up - details later) and the finish is as solid as a tabletop. It is very important to follow the mixing directions on the box to avoid a finish that cures poorly or remains tacky!

Since we are going to be pouring stuff into our riverbed, we have to cap the ends to keep the stuff from rolling out onto the floor! Back out comes the hot glue gun! I carefully place a continuous bead of hot glue on the edge of the board around the riverbed and stick a piece of plasticard to it, being careful to ensure a tight fit. The glue will act as a seal and prevent the "varnish" from leaking through. Putting a little Vaseline on the plasticard will ensure the resin doesn’t stick to it. Just to be safe, I also folded a strip of tinfoil around and the under the section as well and secured it with tape. You do not want this stuff to get out! After the Envirotex is dry, you can easily peel the plasticard away and remove any remaining glue if necessary.

You want to pour the Envirotex on a level surface. Check both ends of the board and use magazines or something similar to make the boards as level as possible or you will wind up with one end deeper than the other (which won't really be a problem unless the difference is dramatic - just get it as close as possible).

Ok, after carefully following the directions for mixing the two-part resin, we are ready to pour it on. Start by pouring it down the middle of the river. This stuff is like thick maple syrup and will slowly flow to level itself across the riverbed. Be careful not to pour the stuff over your reeds!

At this point, you can't hurt this stuff by mucking with it so you can use an old brush to spread it across any small gaps that might remain. Sometimes a tiny ridge occurs along the shoreline and I try to break that up by pulling it very slightly up the bank with a brush. You can see the amazing reflections you will get with Envirotex below! If you are satisfied with the results you can stop here!

Obviously, I am never satisfied. My river was still a little too bright to suit me so I set out to pour another coat after letting the first one cure for 48 hours. This time, I added a drop of blue ink to the mix. You could also use brown or green depending on the effect you are trying to achieve, you initial river color, etc. One drop is all it needs because it goes a long way! I just poured another layer on top of the first and the effect was to create a much deeper appearance. If you want to ad color to your Envirotex, I recommend always pouring a clear layer first. I don't know the physics as to why it looks better - something about the way light refracts, but I have found that a clear coat followed by a tinted coat looks better than just one or the other.

The only thing I regret is that I didn't get to texture the river surface. You need to wait six to eight hours after pouring the resin into the banks and then drag a spatula or brush handle back and forth through your river about a zillion times! It will look as though you are positively ruining your lovely work, but the resin will settle back and round your defacing to create great ripples and eddies. If you do it too soon, you will see all of them disappear! I was unexpectedly called out and gone during the period when this should have been done.

I hope these articles have been helpful and if anyone has any questions feel free to drop me a note.

November 7, 2015

First Game of Beyond the Gates of Antares

I managed to finish my Concord Starter Army for Beyond the Gates of Antares this morning (I haven't had the chance to take pics of all of the finished units) and with a free afternoon I decided to throw them against my Boromites in a solo game. I set up a quick table layout and decided the Bormoites needed to destroy three caches of supplies secured at a Concord forward shuttle base. The quality of pics are a little dodgy because I took them with my phone...

Basically, the Concord could set up anywhere within the fenced area or six inches of the south edge (the side closest in the photo above). The Boromites could deploy up to twelve inches from the north edge. To destroy the supplies a unit simply needed to shoot them and beat a Resistance value of six, but the shooters needed to be within twenty inches to confirm the destruction (so no sniping with the X-Launcher). I deployed both starter armies - I don't have the full rule book yet (it is on the way), so I don't have the point values for the Boromites. I don't know if the armies are exactly even, but it was a solo game so I'm wasn't really bothered about that.

I'm not going to describe every round, but I will cover the highlights and give my first impressions of the game at the end.

The bulk of the Boromites set up as far forward as possible on their left edge, while the Lavamites were placed on the far right to give the Concord troops something to think about.

The Command Squad, X-Launcher, and Targeter Drone Shard set up int he compound and the other troops spread out along the table edge.

The game opened with a deadly salvos by X-Launchers from each side which managed to cause some hits and place Pin Markers. The Boromite Overseer and Work Gang were quick to find some terrain that blocked line of sight from all of the Concord Spotter Drones! Sadly, the Concord Strike Command Team were not as cowardly (wise) and were wiped out by a direct hit (rolled a '1' to hit and a '5' for the number of hits) from the Boromite X-Launcher on turn two! On the Concord right flank, a Strike Squad sent the Lavamites scrambling for cover as soon as the creatures crested the ridge, killing one and prompting a Run Order in the opposite direction when the next Boromite die was drawn.

Concord troops rush to reinforce the base, but find themselves confronted with the Lavamites. The Boromite die comes up first and the creatures charge, goaded by the whip of their master. The troopers managed to react quickly and got off shots as the monsters barreled in and killed the handler, but the resulting melee saw the squad completely wiped out!

A Concord Support Drone poured fire into the remaining creatures, but failed to kill them. However, the additional Pin Marker and the Lavamite poor Command stat ensured they remained 'Down' for the rest of the game.

By turn five the situation looked desperate for both sides. The Bormites succeeded in destroying one cache, but their numbers were dwindling. The X-Launcher fell back to get the attackers back beyond minimum range, but failed to cause any more casualties.

By turn seven (I think, I lost count at one point) the Support Drone had wiped out the Work Gang, but not before they had destroyed the cache sheltering the X-Launcher. I left the mid-range cache for last because it was in range of the Gang Fighters and Overseer without moving... who subsequently destroyed it when another Boromite Order die came up.

So a Boromite victory, but a costly one! The Overseer survived (need to name him now) to lead three Gang Fighters, two Lavamites, and the X-Launcher Team from the field. The Concord were down to their X-Launcher team and the Support Weapon Drone.

What a fun game! I made a lot of tactical errors because I was flipping around the rulebook quite a bit and was often struck with, 'Oh, I shouldn't have moved there!' (Sorry Concord Command Squad). I'm sure the subtleties will become more apparent after a few games.

- Shooting ranges are really long compared to most table top games you may be use to, with infantry standard weapons being able to tag targets at up to 50 or 60 inches (albeit with penalties to hit).

- Cover improves the survivability of your little metal men immensely - don't muck about in the open if you can help it.

- The Targeter Drones are more effective if you zip them to hover around targets that have already been given orders in the turn - else when an enemy die comes up, they simply walk away from them.

- Lavamites are dangerous if they make it into close combat - two of these monsters wiped out five Concord Troopers on a charge. Shoot these buggers every time you get an order die and can draw a line of sight to them!

I love the die activation and order mechanics (very similar to my own Victory Without Quarter ECW rules). After a few turns the combat mechanics were automatic, though with more variety of weapons on the board you may need to apply a few additional rules. I'm sure I missed a couple of things. It took me about two hours to play the game, but I spent a lot of time reading through the book, searching for weapon stats, taking photos, etc. I am going to run another game in a week or two for a pair of my normal gaming pals and I will report on the results of that game as well.

November 5, 2015

Quindia Studios Guide to Modular Terrain Boards, Part Eleven

Time to paint the river! No point in buying quart tins of house paint for this step. I used artists acrylics. Water has no color of it's own. It merely reflects the colors around it. The tendency of most folks is to paint model rivers blue, but the blue is merely a reflection of the sky and blue water is usually only seen in large bodies of water. Rivers and streams usually appear green, brown, or grey depending on what's around them. I picked green. The actually colors I choose were Liquitex Acrylics: Bronze Yellow, Sap Green, Turquoise Deep, Prussian Blue, and Mars Black (not pictured as at first I thought the Prussian Blue would be dark enough).

The technique employed for painting the river is different than that employed for the banks. I want to blend everything as I go so the thing is to work on short sections at a time. I start on the outside with my brightest color. The flash has reacted strangely with the wet paint and everything appears more "day glow" than it is. The bronze color is actually more of a brown green and mimics the shore fading under the water quite nicely.

I basically blend the colors from light near the banks to dark in the middle. If you aren't familiar with blending paint, practice on a scrap piece of card board until you get the hang of it. It's actually easier than drybrushing. You just have to work quickly.

The color above was not deep enough to suit me, so I started blending pure black into the center. All of the photos below show the results.

The river is almost finished. What will bring it to life is the varnish, but before we do that, I want to add a little more detail to the river. Nothing says "water feature" like reeds. For this I am going to use an old wisk broom, a pair of scissors, and my trusty hot glue gun.

Grab a small group of bristles and trim off a section. The exact length doesn't matter because we're going to trim them shortly.

Apply a small blob of glue where you want to position the plant...

Press the bristles into the glue and count "one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand..."

Then gently fan the bristles out gor a more natural look.

After about five minutes, these things will be stuck forever! You can trim them with scissors to the desired length (and yes, you need to risk the vacuum one more time). Again, you might want to try this on a scrap of card before doing it on your boards until you feel comfortable with the technique.

I just added a dozen or so per board, but you could really go to town and cover the banks. As this is wargames terrain, I really just wanted to give an impression of water plants... after all the goal is to play games on these things. The next article is the last one for these boards and will really bring the river to life.