Monday, December 30, 2013

"Indiana Jones" Rope Bridge, Part 3

The stone sections with their black prime complete and their top surfaces masked, ready for the textured stone paint.
Much to my surprise, this ended up being the most time-consuming and "pain in the butt" part of the build. My thought was it would be simple. I would take the black-primed sections that the rope bridge would sit upon and give them a quick spray of Krylon "Make it Stone" textured paint. Then I remembered I would have to mask off the tops and bottoms of the sections so the texture would not interfere with the magnet and steel bonding. Simple enough. I traced the top-most birch wood section's outline onto paper, cut it out and masking taped it into place before spraying it.
Two of the stone sections after spraying with the Krylon textured paint.
Once it was dry (it takes quite awhile -- about 5 hours), I peeled off the paper, and flipped it over. I made another paper masking shape for the bottom and sprayed it with the textured paint, too. I also had to flip the upper bridge assembly over and spray the bottom of the end base sections, too. This required more masking with paper so the wooden bridge itself did not get sprayed. The long drying time for the textured paint and the need to spray both top and bottom slowed the build down a bit.
White paint is squirted into the gaps between the pine bark sections and coarse ballast is poured into it. This gives the start of the earth and grass that will sprout out between the rock sections.
Meanwhile, I had painted the entire surface of the upper bridge assembly -- wood bridge, posts, and pine bark rock surfaces -- a watered down black acrylic paint. Once it was dry, I squirted white glue into all the gaps between the pine bark sections and also along the edges. I poured Woodland Scenics Blended Gray Coarse ballast onto the glue. This would be the start of the ground and grass that would appear between between cracks in the rock surfaces.
A much more toned down stone look than the textured paint. I covered the entire surface with a dark gray wet brush, followed by a light gray dry brush. This was followed with an ink wash and further light gray highlight. Here the bridge posts and planks have not received its khaki dry brush nor its ink wash.
 With all parts done and dry, I looked at the stone sections and wasn't really crazy about the look of the textured paint. So, I took a dark gray color and wet brushed the entire thing surface of the sections and the bottom of the bridge ends. I followed this up with a light gray dry brush, black ink wash, and a further light gray highlight. A LOT of steps, and I wasn't even done, yet. However, I liked the look of the painted surface of the stone sections much better than the straight textured paint look. So, I guess it was worth the effort. In the meantime, I dry brushed the wood posts and bridge planks a medium gray, then a khaki. I did the wire connecting the planks in an autumn brown followed by a yellowish dun to represent rope. The skull beads atop the posts were dry brushed a yellowish parchment, followed by a sandstone. The entire surface then got a thorough ink wash.
The stone sections stacked up with the bridge assembly atop it. The posts, skulls, and bridge planks and rope are all finished here in this photo. One last bit of flocking remained after this stage.
My pine bark cliff sections have gaps of earth and grass in between sheets of stone, and I liked that look a lot. So, I decided to replicate it on the stone sections. I mixed up a 50/50 batch of white glue and brown paint and dabbed it on irregularly over the surface of the sections. I painted the gray ballast that I'd poured onto the top bridge ends with this glue and paint mix, too. While the surfaces were wet with this mix, I poured sand over them to give it more of a an earth look. This is very similar to the steps I do for the bases of my figures, and is essentially what I did for the two metal bases that the entire bridge assembly would sit upon.
You can see the earth flocking in spots on the rock sections and in the gaps of the rock surfaces, here. I'm hoping when grass is added to them that this will add to a realistic look to the pillars of rock.
I let this dry overnight. The only thing left is to put on the grass flocking, and any clump foliage I feel might look good. I'd say the rope bridge at this stage is about 95% done.
And finally, the flocked bases that the stone sections will rest upon. You can see the four "earth magnets" that will grip the steel base on the bottom of the stone section above it.

Ogre "Team Lift"

Zeke displays casual disregard for the caution label: "We don't need any stinking 'team lift'!"
I’m way behind in getting this game report from last week written up. Our old gaming buddy, Zeke, had recently received his Ogre kickstarter from Steve Jackson Games. This mammoth box contains 25 pounds of gaming accessories. My favorite part of it is the caution label on the box advising you to “Team Lift” the box! Anyway, Keith and Jason had also joined the kickstarter promotion and all were eager to see how it played. So, Zeke made a reappearance at our Sunday night gaming to stage a game for us.

There were six players divided into three sides. Zeke’s scenario was two massive Ogres (Mark IV or V, I can’t remember -- I never really read up on the Ogre world mythos) were defending a compound that the other two sides wanted to take possession of. Allen and Joel were the defending Ogres. The other two sides also had two players. Tom and I were the European alliance, with Tom having a lesser Ogre (Mark III?) and myself controlling a mix of heavy, light, and missile tanks, as well as some GEVx. Keith and Mike Stelzer were the the American side, and their force mirrored ours.
How far we've come in three decades! The original Ogre "mini-game" with a backdrop of the current mega-game...
Since Tom obviously remembered much more from playing Ogre more than 25 years ago than I did, I told him he was in charge. We advanced towards the defending Ogres in the center, hoping to be able to concentrate on one and avoid the other. On the other side, Keith turned tail and ran when Allen’s Ogre moved towards him. Allen reversed course and Keith was a non-factor in the first half of the battle. This gave us the chance to close in on Joel’s Ogre, though, and so we did. I made the mistake of bunching up my tanks along the road, which allowed Joel to run over way too many of them, grinding them up while taking minimal tread damage. Halfway through the game, I figured out the “stick and move” tactics I should have been employing all along.
Tom and my forces at deployment. Note Ogre uses 3D counters for the larger Ogre tanks, and ordinary flat counters for infantry, tanks, and GEVs.
Meanwhile, Tom was valiantly ramming Joel’s Ogre, and then Allen’s when it rushed to help out his not-so-beleagured brother. It didn’t seem like we were doing a lot to the Ogres, but eventually we began to strip away their weapons. Once that was done, we began to attack their treads. It was here that my dice rolling started to kick in, as I sniped at the Ogres with the remaining one third of my force. Keith and Stelzer had finally weighed in, after letting us take the Sams’ brothers’ battering. After about two hours of play, the Ogres were immobilized and weaponless.
Tom's smaller blue Ogre rams Joel's massive one, while Allen advances to help his brother. The black counters at the top are Mike Stelzer's. Keith's smaller ogre is frantically trying to make up ground and reach the battle.
Now, it became a struggle between my forces and the Americans for control of the compound (Tom had finally been battered to an immobilized hulk). Stelzer had more troops and a better pathway to the compound. Despite bravely forcing a one-turn tie, we were driven off on the subsequent turn. The Americans held the objective. Under Zeke’s point system, my force came in a distant dead last. I thought I was fairly effective late in the game, but I guess the numbers don’t lie. I lost too many tanks early on in the game. In hindsight, I would not have tried to mass for one attack. It might have been better to divide my forces into several waves, so that they were more spread out and less easy for the Ogres to counterattack.
Outnumbered, outclassed, Tom chooses a glorious death and repeated reams the Sams brothers until his Ogre is immobilized and all but a smoking hulk
It was a fun game, though. Hopefully, we’ll see Zeke again soon -- and play his 25-pound boardgame once more...!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Indiana Jones" Rope Bridge, Part 2

The heavy metal bottom bases (layering of styrene and metal bases which will be the very bottom of the assembly. The bridge in the background with the pine bark pieces, as detailed below
I mentioned in the last post the sectional "sandwiches" I was creating for the bridge to sit upon. By stacking up as many of these sections as I wanted, I could vary the height of the bridge. If you remember, the sandwich was created by using rectangular birch wood pieces from Hobby Lobby as the "bread," and 5mm black craft foam as the "meat." Like any good sandwich, the meat overhangs the bread in an irregular fashion. This varying of sizes between each of the layers will hopefully make it more realistic. I used five slices of craft foam per section, attaching them one atop the other using Tacky glue.
Using a sheet of paper to trace the outline of each base bottom so it could get its layer of cardboard
The next step was how to connect the sections together. I planned on attaching a metal base to the bottom of each section and earth magnets to the top of each. The strong magnets would hold the pillar of sections together (hopefully). However, to prevent a gap between the two section equal to the width of the magnet and metal base, I dug out my scrap cardboard. I searched though them until I found one of the same thickness of the metal base and magnet combined. I then took a sheet of paper and placed it on the bottom of each section, rubbing it to get the outline. This was cut out and traced on the cardboard so it would be a good match for each section. I then placed a metal base on each piece of cardboard and cut out a square hole for each to fit inside. These were then affixed to the bottom of each base using white glue, which I used because I hoped it would dry thinner than the Tacky glue and not throw off my measurements of thicknesses (if that makes sense).
The bottom of one section, with its cardboard cap and the square for the metal base cut out and base inserted
After they were dry, I flipped them over and traced the outline of a metal base onto the top of each section. Four earth magnets were attached using two-part epoxy, which I used hoping it would be a stronger bond than white or Tacky glue. In the picture it shows just two magnets. I experimented using just two at first, but there was a slight wobble once the bridge was placed atop the stack of sections. I figured two more magnets would hold it in place more securely. You do have to press the magnets firmly down onto the wood base, as they are light enough to float atop the epoxy. Also, be careful not to place the magnets too close to each other or they will attract and move together. I also felt I would need a heavy bottom base for each pillar of sections. So, I combined a stack of metal and styrene bases which would come together to be the actual bases for the whole assembly. The bottom-most sections would sit atop these bases, which would hopefully be heavy enough to keep it from being knocked over. The beginnings of the metal bases, without earth magnets, are pictured at the top in the first photo.
The top half of one of the sectionals -- what attaches to the cardboard and metal base bottom. I used 4 earth magnets, though two are pictured at this stage.
I'd been looking at the bridge assembly itself -- the topmost section -- and was thinking it needed a little more spicing up. The craft foam ovals were just too bland and not "cliff-like" enough. I decided to find some pine bark pieces that would fit and Tacky glue them to the top level of craft foam. I sorted through the pieces I had left over from my pine bark cliffs, until I found several that were thin enough and roughly the correct shape. I trimmed them up with wire cutters and used generous amounts of Tacky glue to affix them to the top level of craft foam.
A close up of one end of the bridge, with its pine bark sections Tacky glued to the craft foam top. You can also see the skull beads atop each post.
Once that was done, and the metal bases were affixed to the bottom and the magnets atop, it was time for painting. I'd decided to give them a black spray primer coat first. I found some old plastic cups to tape each to so it would be elevated and easier to spray underneath. I sprayed once, let them dry, flipped them upside down, and sprayed again.

The next step would be texturing and flocking the rock surfaces.

Friday, December 27, 2013

"Indiana Jones" Rope Bridge, Part 1

"He not mad, lady...he crazy!" With those words, Short Round and Kate Capshaw hold onto the rope bridge for dear life in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." What with my last Pulp terrain piece being a cannibal's cookpot, it was time to do another equally iconic terrain piece from Pulp movies: a rope bridge spanning a chasm.

I'd been wanting to do a rope bridge for my Pulp games for awhile, but had been waiting on genius to strike. I knew the base material I would use, but not how I would make it more than a one-shot, stand-alone piece. I wanted something that could be used to span any number of chasms in games -- not attached or sized to just one set of cliffs, or whatever. I finally hit on a modular design which would allow me to adjust the height to fit whatever chasm I was planning to span. The gap would remain the same, but how high up the rope bridge was above the tabletop could be adjusted.
This craft store "Picket Fence" would be turned on its side and become the base of my rope bridge (the pointy ends trimmed off with a wire cutter). The wire that holds the fence together is bendable and holds its shape well -- making it a ready-made stand-in for Indy's rope bridge...!
The base material would actually provide me with most of the work pre-made. I'd long ago spotted the craft wood "Picket Fence" that Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and other stores sell. Turn it on its side, and scale-wise and look, it was a perfect stand-in for a rope bridge. And once I made the decision to forgo a certain aspect of my anal-retentive, perfectionist nature, I knew it would be even easier. I decided NOT to have any handholds or railings on this rope bridge. Yes, I know that in real life, any such construction would definitely have them. I was willing to give up that realism, though, in return for ease of construction. Besides, it is for Pulp games -- not a historical diorama!

The first leap of genius (I'm being generous to myself, here...!) was my decision to make the rope bridge butt up against whatever the gap would be it was spanning. Originally, I'd been thinking of something that would sit on top of cliffs, hills, or whatever. I couldn't figure out how to make it sit evenly on any type of surface. But by making it free-standing, all I had to do was shove whatever cliffs I'd be using on the tabletop up against it, sandwiching it in, so to speak. The obvious first choices would be the cliff pieces I made for my French & Indian War games from pine bark.
The top and bottom of each segment of the pillar holding the bridge ends would be made from one of these birch wood rectangles -- carved into irregular shapes, of course
Still, I was "stuck": Other than making every single gap the same height, how do I make this piece truly modular and adaptable to later tabletop setups? The final piece of the puzzle came when I decided to construct the "pillar" -- the piece that each end of the bridge would rest upon -- out of segments that could be stacked one atop the other to reach the correct height. The segments themselves would each end in a piece of sturdy birch wood -- the kind you can buy from craft stores for $1.99 a bag. Originally, I thought I'd use circles, but later decided birch rectangles would fit the shape better. The middle of each segment (the "meat" between the birch wood "sandwich") would be made up of layers of 5mm craft foam, which goes by various names in stores ("Silly Winks Foam Sheets" at Hobby Lobby). I could vary the width of each layer to represent the erosion and horizontal striation of the rock (I think that is the right term...I teach Social Studies, not Science!). The various segments would be held together by earth magnets and steel applied to the ends of the stiff birch wood tops and bottoms of each segment.
The craft foam which would provide the "layers" or striation of the rocky pillar each end of the bridge would rest upon
So, my concept was finalized, and now construction could begin. I cut a 9-inch section of the picket fence (the pack I bought was like about a yard long!), and then trimmed off the pointy ends of each fence board. This made it look more like the boards of a rope bridge. I then slid the end boards out of each terminus of the bridge. I cut four dowel segments and trimmed them to points for the four posts that would hold the bridge in place. I forced each dowel through the empty wire loop where I'd removed the boards. They fit perfectly!
Although it is hard to see, I would sit one layer on top of the craft foam and draw the outline of the next, slightly larger layer in pencil
I then made each bridge end piece by cutting out and shaping three layers of craft foam to go atop a rectangle of birch wood. The layers would get progressively wider as they went up from the wood base -- which I also rounded the ends on to give a more irregular appearance. The layers were glued together with Tacky glue, and also glued atop each birch square. Once dry, I pressed each dowel bottom firmly onto the top foam piece to mark the spot each post would be. This circle was roughly hollowed out with an X-acto knife. The hole was filled with a squirt of Tacky glue and the two posts pressed down into it so they attached to the bottom, and the layers of craft foam held them in place. Once this was done with each side, I bent the entire bridge into a pleasing, looping arc. The thick wire connecting the boards held the shape. The last two boards rested on top of the craft foam, but I figured that was okay.
This photo shows how the last board was removed from each end of the bridge, and the wire gap turned sideways. The dowel posts were then forced through the empty wire loops
Stage one was done! The next step would be to create the segments that would be stacked underneath each end of the rope bridge to raise it to the proper height dictated by the scenario. I liked the way it looked sitting on my desk. So far, so good!
Stage 1 complete! The rope bridge spans the two birch wood and craft foam end pieces, held in place by the dowel posts

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cannibal Cookpot

An iconic scene in Pulp adventure -- an unfortunate explorer ends up in a cannibal cookpot!
 The story arc for my 28mm Pulp games has the Portuguese monk, Brother Virigi, being captured by pygmy cannibals (of the South Seas, no less!). An iconic cartoon image of cannibals is a big metal cookpot with a hapless explorer plopped down inside of it. So, I just h-a-d to build one for the game where the players' archeologists race to rescue Brother Virigi. After all, he's the only one who knows the way to the lost city. I agonized over how to do this and how elaborate to make it.

I knew I was doomed to an elaborate construction when my friend Mike S mentioned "LED votive candles" to me one Sunday evening after gaming. "The make votive candles with LED lights?" I asked. Then immediately went into "Hmmm..." mode. I stopped by Hobby Lobby the very next day on the way home from work. Wouldn't you know it? They had all their LED candles on 50% off! Naturally, I picked up a pack of two. They were a bit taller than I'd hoped. My original thought was to make a little mound to slip over the candle and have the cookpot suspended over the LED flame. At 1 1/2 inches tall, the mound would have to be bigger, which meant more elaborate construction around it.
This terrain piece was made from 3 layers of blue foam with a hollow cylinder in the center for the LED votive candle
I apologize for not taking "work in progress" pictures. It is a fairly straight-forward construction. I cut three layers of blue foam out so they would stack on top of each other in a rough, rounded, pyramid mound. I then traced the edge of the candle out in the center of each piece of blue foam. I cut out this central circle and stacked the three pieces up, gluing them together so they would fit over the candle. I sized it so the flame part of the LED barely protrudes above the surface of the mound. A piece of black styrene was the base, which also needed the candle hole cut out of it.

Next, I took some dowel rod and roughed it up with an X-acto knife so it looks like a tree trunk, carving it to a point. I drilled a hole right before where it narrows to a point and inserted a piece of craft wood to be the crossbars the cookpot hangs from. Then, I plunged the dowel rod poles through the three layers of blue foam so they'd have a firm grip and stand upright. I added Tacky glue around the base for additional grip. Next, I trimmed up the three layers of blue foam to give it a less stacked and more rounded appearance. Blue foam doesn't really trim well with an X-acto knife, so this was fairly messy.

The next step was working on the surface of the mound. I glued on larger stones here and there along the surface of the foam. Afterwards, I painted all but the stones the earth brown I use for my bases. When dry, I painted the brown areas again with white glue and poured Woodland Scenics "Gray Blend" coarse ballast over it to make it a rocky mound. Once dry, I painted the surface with my black ink wash to give the stones further depth.
Ladder and platform made from bamboo skewers and craft sticks
Because of the height of the votive candles, I decided my pygmy cannibals would need a ladder and platform to stand on while cooking their "dinner." I made these out of craft sticks or bamboo skewers, and Tacky glued them into place. I also dug through my figure drawers and found two plastic figures I wouldn't be needing. I cut off their heads, hollowed out a wedge shape underneath and mounted them atop the poles with Tacky glue. Now, it was time to do some painting. All wooden parts were painted Dark Brown first, then dry brushed a medium brown and then Khaki. The heads received a light gray base coat, then a dry brush of the palest flesh tone I own. I very sparingly added some less ghoulish flesh tone here and there on the bald head to break up the monotony. Everything painted then received a black ink wash. I did go back and add a highlight to the larger stones that were protruding from the mound -- the ink wash had really darkened them up.
The cookpot itself is a doll house tin pail from Hobby Lobby, as is the votive LED candle
The cookpot itself is a doll house tin pail from Hobby Lobby. I painted it black with two coats, then dry brushed it copper. I don't know why, but I always imagine primitives having copper utensils and metals. More earthy looking, I guess! Anyway, the pail already had two little rings which I'd pre-measured to loop over the craft wood crossbars. I hung the pail on the crossbars and then added more ink wash to "fix" it into place so it didn't swing back and forth. The final step was to flock the styrene base, as well as adding patches of grass on the mound. I used my normal, multi-step method of coarse ballast and sand for the earth texture.
Now imagine that yellow light flickering, reflecting off the cotton whisps, and you get a better idea of the effect...!
Now, it was time to go back to what started this whole elaborate construction -- the votive candle. I shredded cotton ball material and glued it around the top of the candle so that only the fake flame protruded. The cotton ball would reflect the light of the flickering LED and look like smoke from the firepit. I did not glue cotton to the inside of the pail. I figured I would just manually place it in there to cover the base of whatever unfortunate figure has been chosen for that evening's dinner.

All in all, I am happy with how it came out. It'll be a great counterpoint to Skull Cave once I run the scenario. Plus, cannibals are a staple of Pulp adventures, so I'm sure I'll be able touse it time and time again. Hope you like it!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Catchup on what's been going on...

So, I didn't get a chance to update our board game night over here, last Sunday. There were five of us present, and we decided to give Steve V's "Atlantic Storm" card game a try. In this game, the players switch back and forth between playing Allies trying to protect North Atlantic convoys during World War II, or Germans trying to sink them. The idea is to get the most victory points (downing convoys or opponents' ships/aircraft). If you think you are better served playing Allied one turn and then Axis the next, you do so.
The most interesting aspect is that players have a hand of cards, but can only play ones that are in the correct theater (North Atlantic or Arctic), and the correct year (1939-45). So, you may have several cards to choose from, or possibly even no cards to play. In that case, you can discard a card and draw a new one, but you will not affect the outcome of the game. Whichever player does the most to protect or defeat the convoy wins the hand. Opposing card are sometimes worth victory points, which must be divvied out relatively equally to those who joined the winning side.

Steve V and Mike S jumped out to early leads and held on for most of the game. I was competitive early, but then fell out of contention quickly towards the end. There is a "rich get richer" component of the game that those with more victory points accumulated get a larger hand of cards (which of course gives them more cards to choose from to play to win still more hands). Luckily, we forgot about that until the very end of the game or it could have been even more lopsided! It was a fun game, though, and a nice, relatively-quick moving 5 player game. To be honest, I don't remember whether Steve or Mike won -- but I'm sure it was one of them!
Since Steve had to duck out after the game, we were down to 4 players. We decided it was time to give Pandemic another go. This is my favorite cooperative game, though it takes a maximum of only four players. Also, the more players, the harder it is to win as a group. Allen was hoping to score his first victory as a player. Myself, I think I've played where the group won less times than I have fingers on one hand! Our first game got off to a great start, and I was confidently predicting a victory for us. Then, we were hit with a round of cascading "outbreaks." Before we knew it, we'd gone from coasting to what looked like a comfortable victory to losing. D'oh!

Allen insisted we play again, as it is a quick game. This time we managed to win. Instead of staring off quickly, we seemed to be moving slowly. But the tortoise ended up being better than the hare, again. We picked up steam towards the end and won relatively easily. We were helped by having one of the four diseases (yellow -- Africa and South America) come up rarely. So, we were able to concentrate on smacking down black and red whenever it popped up. Also, our one missing occupation (5 possible roles, so each game the four players don't have one) was the "Researcher," who's special ability is to build new research stations. That is the weakest of the five, in my opinion. So, it ended up being a good scenario for Allen to notch his first group win.

Next week, rumor has it, we will be playing the new Ogre board game -- all 25 pounds and umpteen million counters of it...! Otherwise, I've been working on my cannibal cookpot terrain piece. It is fairly close to being done, so you should see an update on it soon. Mike S had mentioned electronic votive candles with flickering LED lights when I was talking about how it would be cool to "light up" terrain pieces with integral lights. So, this piece is designed to go over one and conceal all of it except the flickering light. So far, it looks great, and I can't wait to see it completed. I've also been working on pieces to uses as "plot points" for my 28mm Pulp Alley games. I did a selection of idols, supplies, books, secret maps, etc. Those are all but done, too.

So, look for more updates here soon...!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tukish Delight? The Battle of Manzikert, 1071 A.D.


Our Byzantine opponents, Joel and Keith

So, one of our regular Sunday night gamers, Steve, is a big fans of staging refights of historical battles. He'll playtest them with us and then takes them to area conventions to run. The latest battle that caught his eye was the Battle of Manzikert -- a pivotal encounter that probably did the Byzantine Empire as much long-term damage as any other in their history. Because of this disaster, the empire lost is vital agricultural and recruiting lands in Asia Minor. Through the centuries, the Byzantines had relied on this area for manpower, horses, crops, and other goods. Its loss to the Turks was one of the nails in the empire's coffins, though Constantinople did not actually fall for 400 more years.

A couple weeks earlier, he and Keith had tested out the game using Might of Arms rules. Steve wanted to give the battle a whirl using Hail Caesar rules, which our group had played a number of times. I enjoy Hail Caesar, though I often end up getting hammered by its abundant dice rolling! It plays quickly and is easy to learn its mechanics. There is a bare minimum of modifiers -- all of which makes sense.

The centers advance towards each other...or would be, if my light horse would move! Allen's heavy cavalry behind are getting impatient and would ride through as we stalled for a third consecutive turn.
In this game, Allen and I would take on the role of Arp-Aslan and his Turkish emirs, while Keith and Joel would be Emperor Diogenes and his subordinates. Both Allen and I like to play fairly aggressively, so we planned an immediate advance all along our front. One problem, though. My dice rolling was its usual suck. I needed to roll an 8 or less on 2d6 to activate my troops. In the first three turns, I failed on that 5 of 6 times (I had two commands). Considering that rolling an 8 or less is a 72+% chance, you can see how poorly I was rolling!!! Whenever one unit in a command fails to activate, you are done for that command. So, our Turkish advance stalled. In fact, it stalled so badly, Allen's heavy cavalry in the center advanced through my motionless, screening light cavalry.

By turn four, I was starting to succeed on activation rolls. I began to envelop Keith's left wing, spreading out my more numerous horse archers out to concentrate fire on him. Eventually, this wore his command down, along with a couple charges that went my way. His broken left wing ended up being the only command broken in the entire battle. We were really surprised at how much horse archery could wear down an opposing battleline. It taught me that you need to have reserve troops to punch through once the enemy is wavering.

With my slacker light cavalry out of the way, Allen was able to close with the Byzantine center and soften it up with archery fire before charging in.
Allen and Keith did get to grips in the center, with honors about even -- maybe with a slight edge to us. I couldn't follow the action on our left so well, but from the sound of it, Allen and his brother Joel were battering each other about the same amount. In the end, it was likely a minor victory for the Turks -- unlike the overwhelming disaster it was for the Byzantines historically. The thing I took away from the battle is how different a horse archery duel plays out from the usual Roman vs. Carthaginian foot slogs we'd done before. That is a good thing, of course. Those two types of battles should feel different.

Late in the battle, my right wing starts to turn inward on the Byzantine center
Next week, I believe we will be doing board games. I'll post a report following the evening's gaming.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Rhinos, Hippos, and Apes, oh my!

Beware the hungry, hungry hippo lurking in the rivers of my tabletop...
I have always enjoyed painting animals, whether in 28mm or 15mm. I think that even if they're used just for scenery, they always seem to make a good table look even better. So, when I finished my Southeast Asian temples awhile back, I thought I should raid my unpainted lead drawer and see what animals I have that would fit the locale. I have a decent-sized stock, and there were bound to be some in there that I could use in my games.
A 28mm Iron Wind (Ral Partha) Rhino. This is probably my second favorite, after the hippo, of this batch of animals
 What's more, Pulp Alley -- the rules I'm using for these games -- has a concept called "Perilous Areas." This is meant to be that generic dangerous part of the miniature tabletop. It could because of treacherous footing, a creaky old rope bridge, or even savage animals that might ambush the player. In the game, opponents can play a Fortune Card on a rival player when he enters one of those areas. These are "challenges" that they must pass using a designated character's statistic -- such as Cunning, Might, Dodge, etc. I envisioned these animals I painted up as perfect "markers" for perilous areas. You want to cross that jungle stream? Well, see that hippo in the water, that means it is a perilous area...will one get territorial and attack you, or will you pass the test?
A nasty, ill-tempered denizen of my jungles are these over-sized porkers
 So, when I hunted through my unpainted lead drawer (okay, rolling set of drawers!), I found a hippo. I also found a rhino, gorilla, wild board, cobra, and two water buffaloes. Yes, yes, I know. Not all of these animals are necessarily Southeast Asian, but it is close enough. These are Pulp games after all. Once you accept that you are being attacked by Pygmy Cannibals of the South Seas, you're not going to quibble about whether the type of rhino I painted up is native to the jungles of Southeast Asia!
"Out of bananas again...? Why I oughta take the head offa the first dope who comes along...say, who's that over there?"
I painted this up as an Egyptian banded cobra because I loved the yellow and black pattern
I believe all of these except for the water buffalo are from Iron Wind Metals. The descendants of Ral Partha, this company is a regular at the conventions I attend. I love sorting through their loose lead bin, and have a hard time coming away without my hands silvery and a brown paper bag full of animals that you-just-never-know if I'll need one day. After all, look at these beauties! Who knew that I'd be needing them to mark out perilous areas on a 28mm Pulp game? But there they are! Anyway, I highly, highly recommend hitting up Iron Wind at conventions. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better assortment of animals, dinosaurs, and various other loose metal bits that what they carry. They charge by the pound, too, so you can mix and match to your heart's desire.
Two water buffalo posing by the second, smaller jungle hut I built in less than a week leading up to my second game of Dakota Smith's Oriental Adventures. Notice the improvised staircase of crates. Clever, aren't I? Ha, ha!
When I finished running the second installment of Dakota Smith's Oriental Adventures at my buddy Keith's the other night, one of my friends found these three Easter Island moai on his table. I snatched them up and told him I'd touch them up and flock them. I knew they'd be perfect for the next game. Yes, yes, I know Easter Island is nowhere near Southeast Asia! But these could fill the bill as primitive stone idols. I mean, last time I checked, Easter Island has never copyrighted the concept of a giant stone head. And if they did, their copyright expired with their civilization! Seriously, all I did to these guys was dry brush a lighter shade on exposed areas, give them a nice dark ink wash, and put flocking on the bases. It'll be a shame to give them back to Keith...I've always loved that otherworldly look of the moai. And yes, I have been to Easter Island in my travels. Here's a couple of my favorite photos from that trip to close out this post.
I have no idea where these came from -- well, other than my friend's basement! I just had to snag them, touch them up, and get them ready for my next game.
Iconic shot from Ranu Raruku -- the quarry on Easter Island
One of my all-time favorite sunset shots I've ever taken
What's up next? A small project and a really big one, size-wise...more to come soon!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Welcome to the Jungle

28mm Senegalese askaris creep through the jungle pieces I created
Since my 28mm Pulp games are set in Southeast Asia, there's bound to be a scenario or two set in a jungle. I decided I needed to make some dedicated-looking jungle pieces for my games, rather than just plop down my normal trees. I have some palm trees that I use for my 20mm modern Africa games, but I wanted something looking more overgrown and wild.

My thought was that -- rather than put one tree on a base -- I would make the bases larger and have them contain a variety of plants. Many years ago, I'd done this for terrain for my 15mm southeast Asian ancient armies. I dug them up and wasn't that impressed. The plastic plants I'd used were very glossy, and the flocking I'd put on the base was shedding off every time you touched them. Step one would be to touch these up.

My old jungle pieces touched up with a dark green wash and light green dry brush
 I also wasn't particularly impressed with the lurid greens of the plastic plants. So, I mixed up a 50/50 batch of water and Ceramcoat English Yew Green. This is a duller, darker green color that I thought would tone them down well. I didn't try to cover every inch of the plants, but splash it across the majority of the surface. It took less time than I thought it would. Originally, I'd intended that to be it (other than fixing the balding flocking). After they dried, though, I thought to myself: "These are just crying out for a light green dry brush." So, I did, and was a LOT more happy with how they looked. I applied a 50/50 batch of white glue and water to the flocking to fix it down. After it was dry (and warped -- can you believe I used balsa wood way back then?), I sprayed them and was happy. Not the greatest pieces, but they will look good in bulk.

Cheap plastic trees won in a raffle - no paint, no touch-up
 Now, for my new jungle pieces. Awhile back, I'd won a batch of cheap-looking, plastic trees in a raffle. I decided to make one of those the centerpiece of each jungle base. Next, I went to Michaels craft store and perused their plastic plant aisles. I found three likely looking types -- one a fern, another with round leaves, and a third that was very sparse and "stemmy" (technical term). I wanted a variety in looks.

Plastic plants from craft store ("rounded," "stemmy," and "fern")
I decided to use some 45mm across hexagonal plywood bases I'd bought from Litko for another project that was several back burners behind this one. I could always order more if I got around to it. I Tacky glued one of the plastic trees to each one, generally in the center or slightly off-center. The double-trunk tree pieces would be the largest plant on the base, so it made sense to have them in the middle. Then, I decided to fix the "cheap" look of it. I painted the trunk dark brown and let it dry. Then I dry brushed it a medium brown, followed by a khaki. Once this was done, I gave the same treatment to the palm-like fronds that I had to my previously-made jungle pieces. The dark yew green and water mixture was followed up by a light green dry brush when they were dry. I was impressed by how just a quick application of a few colors really made the trees look ten times better.
Cheap plastic tree painted with 3 colors on trunk and 2 on fronds
Next, I grabbed the plastic plants from Michaels and trimmed up a bunch of pieces to apply to the bases. I varied the heights -- making the ferns taller on some, the rounded leaf one on others, and the stemmy one on still others. I took a small bit of blue tack (sometimes called poster putty) and wrapped the bottom of each plant in it and used it to affix it to the base. I molded the blue tack into a roughly pyramidal shape so that it would blend into the base once the flocking was done. Next, I painted the blue tack with Tacky glue to seal it, making sure to slop some paint up onto the plant and also onto the base around it. I'd hoped this would lock it in, and it did a nice job.

The plant pieces attached to the hexagonal bases with blue tack, or "poster putty"
The Tacky glue seal would be aided by the multi-layer ground flock method I've been using for awhile now. The first step is to mix a bit of my reddish-brown ground color with white glue and paint the base completely (also covering the Tacky-glued plant bases). Then I dipped it in medium ballast, covering the surface thoroughly.
The jungle bases after the Tacky glue seal and the medium ballast layer has been put down
Once it dried, I remixed the white glue, base color, and added about 50% water. This was painted over the ballast. Then I poured sand across it, which adheres and gives a more ground-like appearance. Incidentally, this is how I flock my miniatures, too. Then I take straight white glue and paint it on the base, covering at least 3/4's of it. I sprinkled Woodland Scenics blended green turf across it. The final step is to add a few pieces of Woodland Scenics clump foliage of various colors. Darker colors were placed towards the shadowed center, and brighter ones towards the edges. A spray of Testors Dullcoate was next (the only clear coat I use anymore). Once dry, I put a final 50/50 mix of white glue and water on the flocking to seal it in. These multiple layers serve to seal the plants to the base fairly well, it seems. I really like how they turned out, too.

The jungle bases complete with flocking