Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Another Blast from the Past: Viking Turf Hall


28mm Viking Hall from Acheson Creations (with dragon heads on beams and shutters and doors added by me)
I've decided to "rescue" posts from my old Lead Legionaries blog -- especially ones that show great buildings or other terrain. Here's one on a Viking Turf Hall that I purchased from Acheson Creations way back in 2013:

So, this beauty is my payment for running my Viking Raid game at Origins. Well, essentially. I was given $60 in credit to be used either at restaurants, dealers, etc., to go with my weekend pass for running my game three times at Origins. This very large terrain piece by Acheson Creations is one of their pricier ones, and I was hemming and hawing about whether I wanted to pay $80 or not for it. When Acheson's convention rep, Bryan Borgman, stopped by my game I told him about my indecision. He offered to knock a bit off the price for me since I was using so many of his buildings in my game and urging all my players to visit his booth. I accepted Byran's offer and I now had two Viking buildings to use in my Dark Age skirmishes. 


The building represents a sod-covered Viking Hall -- a building technique that the Vikings employed both in Scandinavia and the British Isles. Rather than try to represent the color with different layers of dry brushing, I hit on the idea of using Woodland Scenics flocking for the sod. I began with my usual black spray paint and watered down black acrylic base coats. Then I did a wet brush (essentially a heavy dry brush) over the black using my earth red color I use as my ground. I then painted on straight white glue and sprinkled Woodland Scenics "Burnt Grass" on thickly. While it was still wet, I also sprinkled tiny patches of brown "turf" and "Blended Grass" to give it some depth. I am really happy with how it turned out, though I think I had too much glue run down the roof and collect on the edges giving the turf an almost liquid look. I'm honestly not sure what I could have done about that with the slope of the roof.
View of the interior of the 28mm Acheson Creations Viking Hall. The only thing I added here was trimming up and gluing down some craft sticks as logs in the firepit.
As it says on the caption above, I modified this Acheson building as well. I used the same Dragon "Toob" from Hobby Lobby and cut off the heads of the soft plastic dragons. I drilled a hole with a pin vice in the beams, glued in a straight pin with tacky glue. I drilled a hole in the soft plastic dragon head, too, and pressed it onto the trimmed down straight pin. I also used corrugated balsa wood to scratch build shutters for the windows. One is propped open and the other is closed. The same material was used to create a door.

This building will be a great centerpiece for a "Hall Burning" or similar type scenario. Like I said, it is a bit pricey compared to the deal that most Acheson buildings are, but it is a very large piece at 10" wide, 6" deep and 6" tall. At some point soon, I'll also be painting up my Acheson "boat-shaped grave mound" terrain piece I picked up at the same time. Other than that, I'm done for a little while with my Acheson terrain. I have more to do in my boxes -- ruined wall sections, a multi-section bridge (which can be used as a pier, as well),  and various other terrain pieces. But I'm going to take a break from it and fill out some holes in my 28mm Dark Ages troops. Up on my painting desk now are 12 Dark Age mounted warriors. I also need to do some unarmored Vikings for my campaign (all mine are armored ones), some monks, and maybe some more Dal Riatan Scots-Irish. My next big scratch building will be coming up soon, too. I'm going to do a Celtic monastery inspired by the UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael.

Build Something Contest - Steampunk Leonardo Helicopter


Leonardo da Vinci's sketch of his idea for a helicopter using an aerial screw
Perhaps unwisely, I decided to enter the Lead Adventure Forum's "Build Something Contest" the other day. I may have bitten off more than I can chew on this, especially since another project deadline recently got accelerated by more than a month.
What looks to be like an MDF model of Da Vinci's helicopter
Nevertheless, I decided to press on, and quickly got an idea when I read the theme was "Flight." Leonardo da Vinci is a personal hero of mine. I tell my students every year that I think he is the most talented and smartest man to walk the Earth, so far. What's more, I own an Italian army for my friend's Victorian Science Fiction/Steampunk games. My friend Tom has written and published his own rules set, For Queen & Planet: The Imperial Wars of Earth and Mars 1845-1930. Check them out -- they're a lot of fun!
One of our games of For Queen and Planet, with fanciful war machines on the tabletop
Tom's rules allow for flying and other war machines, and I had been wanting to scratch-build something for my army to use in our games. The contest is a perfect opportunity. And what better choice for an Italian army than a Da Vinci inspired design?
My Italian army for our Victorian Sci-Fi/Steampunk games
So, my thought is to modify Da Vinci's Helicopter, or aerial screw. With the invention of steam power in our game's time period, his screw no longer needs to rely on man-power to turn the screw's fan blades. I plan on cooking up some sort of lightweight steam power and gear assembly to replace the man powered crank in his design. Obviously, this is steampunk, so it doesn't have to be scientifically accurate or a blueprint for an actual vehicle that could take flight. However, I want to make a nod at the science part of Victorian Sci-Fi, and make it not outrageously unfeasible.
An image I found of a model someone had built, demonstrating Da Vinci's idea of employing human power
 I am still working out what kind of armament it would employ. My first thought was it would be a bomber, able to attack units it overflies by simply dropping bombs down onto them. Anther thought was to make it a helicopter gunship, of sorts, with a gatling gun mounted in some sort of swivel mechanism either beneath the helicopter or out front. So far, no sketches have been made. However, I  have ideas bubbling like the steam engine building up power. Hopefully, something productive comes out of this -- and I actually complete the model, unlike many of Leonardo's designs, which never left paper.

In bocca al lupo!













Monday, January 2, 2017

Blast from the Past: My all-time favorite scratch-build!

Scratch-built Saxon church, made using Hirst Arts bricks, cardboard and various other materials scrounged from the local craft store
I went looking for my post on this scratch-built, Medieval Saxon style church today and it took me forever to find it. I created this -- my all-time, favorite scratch-build piece of terrain way back in March of 2013. That means it just missed being on this blog, and instead resides on my old Lead Legionaries site. The way I organized the site back then makes it harder to find individual entries. It was more of a running log of projects I was working on. So, I thought I'd repost it over here so it is easier to find.

Without further ado, my words from 2013 on this build!

First off, I've decided that I'm going to pick up my 28mm Dark Age skirmish gaming again. I finally came up with a cool idea for a campaign I want to run for my Sunday night gaming group. So, to do that, I need to fill out my collection. I have plenty of Vikings and Picts, but could beef up my number of Britons and Dal Riatan Irish. And I owned zero Anglo-Saxons when I made that decision. I took care of that glaring need first, purchasing 25 Anglo-Saxon foot from Steve -- a guy who regularly sells Foundry 28mm figures at flea markets for just $1 a piece! My friends Steve V and Keith were planning a major purchase, so Steve actually drove down to Columbus on a Sunday night and brought his figures. I bought about $40 worth. In addition to the Saxons, I picked up some Irish, peasants and even some French & Indian War troops.
I immediately started on the Saxons, and they went very quickly. Within a month or so, I had all 25 completed. No pictures of them in this post, even though I have some because...well, I'll get to that later! Anyway, my campaign I am going to run for the group requires me to have a variety of Dark Age buildings. The focus of the campaign is raids by various players on each other's territory. And a main target of raids in the Dark Ages were those banks of the time, churches! So, I decided to scratch-build an Anglo-Saxon church. I did some research online and found a relatively simple design that I thought I could reproduce using leftover Hirst Arts bricks. A long time ago, my friend Zeke cast me up a bunch for a Pictish broch. He said to hang onto the bricks I didn't use, though. After deciding on a design and size, I sat down one night and began to stack the bricks up on my desk to see if I had enough for the church as I envisioned it. I did...barely. It was so close that I had to switch from a rectangular chancel to a rounded one to have enough!

The Hirst Arts bricks all laid out on the wooden plaque base
I based the whole thing on a cheap wooden plaque from Michaels craft store. Those Hirst Arts bricks are heavy, and need something thick and stable. There are 3 joined together sections to this building -- the long rectangular nave, a rounded chancery, and the small squarish portico entrance.  
The cardboard roofs are fitted, but the tiles aren't glued on yet
The next photo shows the model with the three roofs in place. They are made to lift off for gaming, of course. These were completely scratch-built, using a styrene base, foam core eaves, and cardboard roof. Next up will be to put cardboard shingles on the roof. You can see the decoration I've added for the eaves. The coarse gravel and Hirst Arts bricks combine to give a mixed building material look. The angel will be painted stone, of course, and comes from the local craft store. I picked a bag of them up about a decade ago and am finally using a couple of them!  And another view showing the portico entrance, with more simple decoration over the door.
 
The roof tiles were cut out in strips of cardboard and then glued on. VERY tedious, but looks nice!

It had been awhile since I used the Hirst Arts blocks. I found I needed to put 2 coats of primer and two of watered down black paint to completely black coat it. There were still some plaster gray spots peeking through. I was never one to use the min wax "dip" method, but now I'm wondering if it'd be quicker and do a more thorough job. Next, I constructed the roofs. I used the method suggested by my friend, Joe (from "An Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields" website). However, I stupidly used very thick cardboard for the first roof I tried -- the small portico entrance. You can see the difference in the photos. After that, I went out and got some ordinary black cardstock and it worked much better. Joe was right, cutting and gluing the strips of tiles into place was tedious. It took me two hours to do the large roof alone. As a facing, I glued on a piece of textured bass wood to hide the edge of the corrugated cardboard roof. I could have done a better job measuring and trimming the pieces up so they match. Live and learn!

I've also added in a few detail elements, as you can see. First, I took some craft store crosses and glued them to the peak of the eaves of the large roof. They were dry-brushed to resemble stone. I also put a washer over the door of the portico, and then cut off the head and shoulders of a 1/72 scale plastic figure as relief carving of a saint or Mary. 

I took some advice of other modelers and picked out individual tiles in contrasting colors...really made the roof "pop"
You can also see the windows I made, which were quite the pain, really! They are a sandwich of 4 layers. The outer layers are simply cardboard trimmed to fit the opening. The inner layers are clear plastic and a black mesh material I picked up at the craft store. It was difficult to fit them exactly to the opening in the Hirst Arts molds. I think they turned out okay, though. I also used some leftover bricks and made a small bell tower. The bell itself is a wooden tea bell from the craft store with the handle snipped off. Another charm cross sits atop the bricks.  
Top-down view of the interior of the church
I decided I wanted to jazz up the interior of the church, too. You can see the tombstones I laid in the floor, which are simply painted rectangles of styrene glued atop a styrene sheet brick pattern painted to look like stone. The tapestries are images I downloaded from the internet, photoshopped to the right size, and had printed out on linen type resume paper. The sconces and candles were scratch-built using beads, hook and eye clasps, and wicks for candles as the actual candles themselves.
The scratch-built altar of my church
 The curtain separating the nave from the chancel is made from ribbon material I picked out at the fabric store. The statues are 1/72 scale plastic figures, while the altar table is balsa wood and hook and eye legs. The candle sticks are fancy beads. As you can imagine, this was a very time-consuming model to create. I love how it turned out, though, and it will be the centerpiece of the games I run at conventions this spring and summer.

Now...why no pictures of my Saxons? And why am I GLAD I didn't update Lead Legionaries for 2 months? Well, the Lead Painter League has rolled around again. One of the caveats of your first three entries is they are not allowed to have been published online before. So, the fact that I never put up pictures of 2/3's of the Raccoon army and none of the Saxons helped me out! With just what I had finished, I could make up entries for 7 of the 10 rounds.  I loved competing in the leauge, but the deadline pressure was very stressful last year. Now, I get to compete pretty much without the deadline pressue since more than half my entries are done, they just need photographed.

As I am writing this, the first round will be ending soon. My Anglo-Saxon command group won its round. So, for the first time ever in the leauge, I have a winning record. I will post the image from each round on here as soon as the round ends. So, stay tuned for at least weekly updates...!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

28mm Tables & Rifle Cases

28mm Resin table I picked up awhile back from a vendor I can't remember...!
I had some odds and ends in resin that I'd picked up at various conventions that I felt needed to be painted up. The first of these was a set of three 28mm tables. I honestly don't know who I purchased them from. Doubtless, it was at a convention when I was browsing a vendor's resin terrain. I always like to support the dealers as much as possible, so I must have picked these up intending to paint them one day. Well, Christmas break from school afforded me that day -- or several days, as it turned out.
The plain table with nothing molded on top of it -- MUCH simpler to paint up!
I followed my usual method for resin terrain -- beginning by spray painting the tables black, following that up with a 50/50 mix of black acrylic paint and water. I wet brushed them Howard Hues Camo Brown, following that up with a dry brush of Colonial Khaki. I then went back and painted all of the items on the tables black, again, to provide a sharp relief from the table surface.
I really like how this one turned out, with my scribblings actually looking the part of writing on the scroll and book
The most time-consuming part of getting these ready for the table -- no pun intended -- was painting the various items on each. One portrays a meal with silverware, plates, various dishes, food items, and so on. The other portrays a scribe, doctor, or perhaps even a wizard's desk. These were fun to paint up, though I had to guess a couple times what each little resin lump on the table portrayed! In the end, I decided to base the tables up to help with wear and tear, using a small piece of styrene which I flocked with Woodland Scenics Earth Turf.
Gun crates posed with some of my 28mm Pulp figures (U.S. sailors)
The last two items were crates with firearms. I have also forgotten which vendor these came from, as well. I'm sure I was thinking they'd make good objective tokens for Pulp Alley, or even just warehouse or camp clutter for other games. They were also a snap to paint up. I based them all a couple of the last of my magnetic bases I used for DBA Ancients. I've been using the Renaissance Ink bases I had collected in my DBA years for various terrain or scenic items. The supply of them has dwindled till they are almost all gone, now.
Next up, some more terrain for my Modern Africa games!
Next up, I will be painting some plastic Quonset huts that I purchased at Advance the Colors 2015 -- yep, not last year's, but the previous one. They'll make good terrain for my modern Africa games. So, look for that update relatively soon.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Destroyed Concrete Wall sections

25mm Acheson Creations Concrete Wall sections with my 20mm Modern Africa figures
At Advance the Colors 2016 this Fall, I was sorting through Bryan Borgman's bins of Acheson Creations products. I was looking for some more terrain I could use for my 20mm Modern Africa games. One of the things I really like about this scale is you can often find 25mm and 15mm accessories or even buildings that work for it. I saw these Concrete Wall sections and began to wonder if they'd work. I decided they'd make a perfect ruined factory building, or destroyed warehouse complex.
The Concrete Wall sections come in a variety of angles, corners, and straight sections
They make a number of different pieces -- some straight wall sections, some corners  -- including those with either the left or right adjoining wall destroyed. I loaded up my bin with eight of the pieces of different sorts. Acheson terrain is always very affordable, with these pieces running only $2 each. They could be rearranged in a variety of positions to create the effect I want for the scenario.
The posters were simply downloaded images from Google searches and resized in Photoshop
I did my usual Acheson method of painting them -- starting with running them through the dishwasher to get rid of the mold release agent. Then I spray painted them with acrylic black, following that up with a 50/50 mix of black acrylic paint and water. Once dry, it was a simple two stage process to get the color I liked. I began with a thick wet brush of a darker gray. I followed that up with a drybrush of Howard Hues Rebel Gray. While drybrushing, I discovered a very nice lined effect that was modeled onto their surface which made it look even more like concrete that I'd anticipated. Normally, I do a black wash at this stage. However, I liked the color exactly as they were and was afraid the wash would darken it too much.
I really like the subtle "grain" that Acheson Creations molded onto the surface to look like concrete
I flocked them by painting the ground a reddish earth, and then with white glue and dipping them into Woodland Scenics Earth Turf. Next, I painted blotches of the dry turf with white glue and sprinkled on Woodland Scenics blended grass. Finally, I added dark green or light green pieces of clump foliage. Once dry, I dullcoated them with Testors spray.
These pieces can be rearranged to produce a variety of options for scenarios
At this point, I decided that perhaps they looked TOO plain. The thought struck me that some wall posters or graffiti would really spice them up. Previously, I'd done Google Image searches on African Independence propaganda posters and saved a bunch. I opened these up in Photoshop and resized them to an inch tall. I printed them out at the local office supply store in color on white cardstock. Trimming each, I painted the backs with Tacky Glue to apply them to the walls. After they were dry, I had to go back and paint the white edges of the paper with black paint to make them appear to blend into the walls. The graffiti was easy, too, simply painting various slogans on in black paint directly onto the wall surface.
The graffiti was simply painted on with a thin black brush -- any irregularities can be blamed on the spray painting vandal!
I was very happy with how the wall sections came out. I *may* have gone overboard on the posters, but it certainly looks better than a blank concrete wall. They will add to the atmosphere of my African games.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

"Bloody April" WW I Mini-Campaign using Wings of Glory

Keith's 1/144 scale WW I airplanes using the Wings of Glory rules
Every once in awhile, my friend Keith gets the urge to fly a plane. Or at least, using Wings of Glory (formerly Wings of War) 1/144 scale World War I airplanes on the miniature tabletop. Rather than just doing the odd scenario, he wanted to try a mini-campaign around the Bloody April phase of the air war in WW I. He would record losses and victory points for aerial kills (I imagine -- he never really explained that part of it to us!).
The Germans -- Steve and Joel -- plot their fiendish maneuvers to shoot down our bombing mission
So, Allen, Mike S, and myself took on the role of an allied flight trying to bomb a bridge and one other target. Allen had a fighter and bomber, Mike S had two fights and a bomber, and I had two Sopwith Pup fighters as cover. Our opponents, Joel, Steve, and Keith, had 5 German fighters which we were told were superior to our planes. I began on the left side of our formation and raced out and flew an arc towards their center, hoping to disrupt their formation and draw attention away from the bombers. I was happy with how I lined up my shots with both of my planes getting in shots at Steve's two fighters.
Colorful Allied and German planes bank and turn to get a shot at the enemy
Once we'd flown by them, my two planes split up, one peeling off to face off against Keith's fighter coming in from our left (and soon to be rear), while the other turned to follow Steve's fighters, which we'd damaged. I was completely unsuccessful in drawing them away from the bombers, though. We soon had a massive, swirling melee with planes from all six players involved. True to form, one of my undamaged fighters drew the dreaded "explosion" damage card and I was down one plane. Luckily, Joel had similar bad luck on the other side.
Allied planes line up to concentrate on one of Steve's fighters
In the end, we lost four planes (both of our bombers and two fighters), while they lost three. Allen did successfully bomb the target, damaging it. Considering their fighters took more and dished out more damage than ours, I considered that a draw. Not sure how Keith will score it, but he recorded all the statistics for the next time. It was fun to get out the Wings of Glory game again. It is a fast-moving, easy game to pick up. The card deck simulates the flying well, and having to choose three maneuvers ahead of time makes up have to do some planning and guesswork. I look forward to our next game, and hopefully avoiding the explosion card!
A good look at the swirling central melee a turn before my plane drew the unlucky explosion card

Chieftain's Hut for African Kraal

Acheson Creations Zulu hut as a chieftain's hut for my 20 mm Modern Africa games
I saw this terrain piece at Advance the Colors and decided to pick it up. It is a similar style to the resin African huts I have been buying at Michaels craft store here for such a bargain. It is much larger, of course. So, I envision it being the village chief's hut. It is made by my favorite, Acheson Creations, who list it in their Colonials section as Zulu Hut style 2. Up till recently, I was collecting modern looking buildings for my African Wars. However, reading about the bush wars again this year made me realize that much of the fighting took place in the countryside. There were still kraals that did not look much different than in the Zulu era. So, this was perfect, I felt.

It was easy to paint up, and I used my standard technique I use on my Acheson terrain. I ran it through the dishwasher to get rid of the mold release agent. Then I spray painted it black, following that up with a 50/50 mix of water and black acrylic paint. I wet brushed it Howard Hues Camo Brown, leaving black in the gaps and crevices. I dry brushed it Iron Wind Metals "Dun" yellow, and finally gave a light gray highlight. 
Some of my 20mm Liberation Miniatures Africans posed next to the hut

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Painting Some Terrain - Market Stalls & Acheson Log Cabins

Repainted Miniature Building Authority market stalls in 28mm
It was time to paint up some buildings and such that I have had laying around. First on the list were some prepainted market stalls from Miniature Building Authority. Wait a minute, you say, I thought you said they were prepainted? Well, they were -- and that was part of the reason I picked them up way back in the Spring at Cincycon 2016. MBA makes such gorgeous buildings, but unfortunately they are usually out of my price range. The market stalls were much more affordable, so I bought I blister pack of three. I always like to support the vendors at our regional conventions. I tend to pick up odds and ends when they show up at Cincycon. In the past, I've bought their "Jersey Barriers" -- triangular concrete barricades we see on roadways for my Modern 20mm gaming, resin Buddhas for 28mm Pulp, and even some 25mm office furniture that, ahem, still sits unpainted in my boxes!
Close up of the vegetables stall
So, back to the prepainted thing! Once I unpacked them, I was less than impressed with the paint job. Think cheap Chinese prepainted and that was the caliber. There was no wash or dry brushing -- just solid colors sloppily blocked in. The more I looked at them, the more I felt I would need to repaint them. This explains why they sat for half a year before I finally got around to painting them!
Just what I want -- meat that has been sitting out for hours exposed to the flies...mmmm!
I painted everything in black acrylic as a base coat -- right over the colors that were already on there. The detail and grooves on them were deep enough that I didn't feel it would obscure much. Once it was dried, I began work on the canvas roofs of the stalls. I chose three different whitish colors -- a light gray, tan, and dun yellow -- and wet brushed it on thickly. I left black where there were creases and folds in the canvas. I progressively dry brushed two lighter shades over each. Next, I went to work on the wood. With four 3D wood posts, a shelf, and upper and lower framework, there was a lot of wood to paint on each. I applied Howard Hues Camo Brown over the wood in a heavy drybrush. I followed this up with Colonial Khaki in my usual method for painting wood.
"Get your fresh bread here! Just baked -- right out of the oven!" Old Glory 28mm Baker
The toughest and most "fiddly" part was painting the products that are cast onto the shelf. One appears to be various meats, another vegetables or fruits, and the third is breads. It was time consuming, especially so when you consider these were prepainted...ha, ha! It was such a pain in the butt doing all of the sides of the wood and all of the products on the stalls that I think I will scratch build them in the future. Still, they turned out very nice, I think. The models themselves are very well done, and I recommend them highly. However, I would caution gamers to inspect them and determine how picky they are about what appears on their tabletop. If they consider themselves picky at all, expect to be repainting these.
Two Acheson Creations log cabins with some of my 28mm Colonial French marines
Next up were three Acheson Creations log cabins that I had purchased from Bryan Borgman at Advance the Colors 2016. I wanted to have them painted up and ready for our next convention scenario we will be running in 2017 for Song of Drums and Tomahawks. I have stated on here often enough how big of a fan I am of their polyurethane "resin" terrain. It is incredibly affordable, a breeze to paint up, and looks great on the tabletop. They are my favorite maker of buildings and terrain, and look better and cost less than most equivalent laser-cut wood buildings, in my opinion.
You can see the black foamcore board slots I add to the roofs of my Acheson buildings to keep them in place
One thing I do to all of my Acheson buildings that have roofs, now, is to epoxy in some black foamboard as slots to keep them in place and from sliding off. Early on, I used rare earth magnets, but the thickness of the metal and magnet leaves a gap between the building and the roof that I don't like. This more primitive approach works like a charm. I simply cut out a piece of cardboard in the shape I need, then lay it down on the foamboard and cut it out with a hobby knife.
Acheson Creation's polyurethane "resin" buildings paint up wonderfully and are a solid, 3D presence on a table
Otherwise, previous readers here know well my approach to painting up these log cabins. First, it goes in the dishwasher to remove the mold release from the surfaces. I then use an acrylic black spray paint as a base coat, and follow this up when dry with a brush-on, 50/50 water & black acrylic paint. I wetbrush Howard Hues Camo Brown, followed by dry brushing Colonial Khaki, and finish it out with a Rebel Gray light dry brush on the roof or most sun exposed portions of the wood.

And just like that, my Colonial era village grows larger and larger!



Monday, December 5, 2016

Swatters: UN Marine Force Guns Down Bugs in 2nd Try of Rules


Joel and Allen in the center were the Alien Bugs for the evening,  and faced the same frustration that last Bug Commanders did
Keith wanted to give the Ganesha Games "Swatters" rules another try, so cooked up a scenario with the UN Marines on the attack in an African desert. Under Keith's storyline, the alien bugs have invaded the Earth for unknown reasons, and are actively seeking out and establishing a present in the desert regions of our planet. Since the U.S. and Soviets are engaged in their 1950s-era Cold Wars posturing, the UN has taken the lead in aggressively confronting and turning back the alien incursion.

My force had one tank, 3 squads of UN Marines, and one elite squad -- all accompanied by one support personnell armed with a rocket launcher
My fellow commander, Mike W, took my cue and began a tentative advance. The last thing we wanted was a squad that advanced too far and become strung out. A small town hid the Bug advance from us, as we cautiously jockey our units for the best firing positions. We avoided getting too close to the center, where the Bugs would be able to "spawn" from any rocky outcropping. As soon as the Bugs came within range, we began firing.

Beyond the town, the Bug force advanced in earnest. They had learned from the last battle, and carefully hugged terrain to limit the effect of our gunfire.
One different thing, force composition wise, we were trying for the Bugs was more screening troops. Both Allen and Joel's contingents had units of Swarms or Worker Drones. The goal was for them to put them out front and soak up the the human fire rather than their more expensive troops. As it was, neither Bug Commander truly adopted this tactic. Instead, both did a good job of hugging terrain to decrease our firepower.
View from the Marine side as the Bugs come within sight and we begin to blaze away at them.
The rules employ a mechanic called a "Dice Pool," which the UN side used to supplement their fire regularly. In fact, we would see our dice pool dwindle to single digits by the game's end. I was forced to be a bit more conservative this game and sometimes fired without any bonus dice provided by the pool. The Bugs tried a new tactic with their dice pool. They also used them to supplement their die rolling rather than use it all for spawning new units. In fact, it wasn't until I had destroyed most of Allen's units on the table that they chose to attempt to spawn.
Three new units of Bug Swarms are spawned by the Bug side to replace Allen's losses.
Keith had unbalanced the forces using the rules' point system to favor the Bugs. Nevertheless, the UN continued to gun down the approaching alien units. They actually scored fewer successes than last time. Allen had a Bomb Bug which acted like a massive mortar, firing the length of the table over the heads of his troops. However, he mis-deployed it, and it was unable to spot enemy of our troops for a number of turns. When it did hit, it would typically take out one or two figures in our 5-man squads.

A Stomper Bug spawned, Allen's new force is ready and begins to scuttle towards my marine infantry and tank.
There was a moment when it looked like the Bugs might crash into our forces and create some mayhem. They had closed to within movement range and a number of very effective melee units were poised for the attack. I "crapped out" on my first activation roll, which meant no firing from me this turn. However, the Aliens responded in kind, with Joel crapping out as well, and Allen having a less than effective turn, as well.
Allen's King Bug lumbers into one of my marine squads who cause one hit upon it and escape unscathed.
Still, the Bugs moved into contact with my side of the battlefield. However, by this time, they had totally depleted their own dice pool. I was able to bump up my rolls (which allow you to roll more than one attack or defense dice and choose the best number), while Allen could do nothing except roll a single die and hope for the best. A number of times, in key situations, he rolled a "1" or "2" on a six-sided die, causing his troops to be repulsed or his attack to be less effective.
King Bug down! The last final attack of the Bugs came up short against my mostly undamaged troops
As it was, the result was the same as the first playtest: Human victory! Although they still had troops left on the table, it was apparent that they would be unable to break through our cordon of fire. Once again, the UN had done a good job of gunning down the advancing Bugs and preventing them from getting into effective melee contact. Keith vowed to keep tweaking the points to see if he can obtain a more balanced matchup. Joel pointed out that "crap outs" -- activation failures -- are more deadly against a side that relies on closing to melee than one that shoots. I feel the dice pool mechanic heavily weights the game in the Humans' favor. I think if we were not able to routinely use two dice every time we fire to ensure a higher number rolled then maybe we would not gun them down as effectively.

Either way, Swatters provides a fun game (at least for me, having played the winning UN side both times...ha, ha!) and we'll continue to play around with it to come up with a more balanced matchup.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Inglorious action for British in Sails of Glory

My sloop leads the British line into action -- or would have, if my co-commanders had their way (I was much to clever and deferred that role to the larger frigates!)
We had a guest GM for this evening's gaming, Ferkin, who wanted to introduce us to Sails of Glory. This is age of sail version of the popular Wings of War card game, with plastic ships and large wooden ship templates, but much of the basic mechanics being very similar. It was a small ship battle for 7 players. The French had 3 frigates, while our British side had two frigates and two sloops. I trust that Ferkin balanced the engagement, but I know my sloop was vastly inferior in its ability to take damage compared to the larger frigates. For example, it took only 1 hit counter to eliminate one of my ship's hull/gunnery boxes, yet the Frenchie that I was tangling with took 4 hits per box.
Age of Sail action on a Sunday evening using Sails of Glory
No surprise that Allen and I, controlling the sloops, hung on the edges of the battle plinking away at the enemy. Well, I hung on the edge and Allen -- after taking a couple splintering attacks from French frigates -- just hung out on the edges and did little else. The result was the French did a good job of ganging up on the two British frigates, particularly the one belonging to Mike S. He stayed in the center and mixed it up with Steve and Keith's ships, while our other British frigate, captained by Joel, helped me against Mike W's Frenchie frigate.
My British sloop gets a bow rake ("What? Rakes are an advanced rule...?") on Mike W's French frigate
In the end, we lost both our frigates, but both sloops would have gotten away. We did force Mike W's frigate to strike its colors due to crew loss. However, there would be no way for us to take its ship as a prize, as we had to flee the scene to save our smaller ships.
The brave British frigates try to pierce the French line, while my sloop at bottom turns away to stay on the edges of the fray and avoid slugging it out with the larger enemy
We played just the basic game, and it was a good time. Ferkin says he'll add in some of the advanced rules next time. It was a nice change of pace, and the "Wings of War" systems translates well to age of sail combat, I felt.
Ferkin (in purple cap) shows us how it's done in Sails of Glory
Another view of the brave, but ill-fated attack by the two British frigates on the French line