Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dakota Smith goes to Cincycon!

I packed up pretty much every piece of SE Asia terrain that I've made for my Pulp games, all of my 28mm Pulp figures, and headed to Cincinnati, Ohio, for Cincycon 2014. I would be running my game both Friday night and Saturday morning. Jenny and I arrived before noon, and I took the opportunity to set up the board since no one was using it before my evening event. It took a good bit of time because I hadn't done a "dry run" like I'd originally planned on doing. What's more, I hadn't even play tested the scenario -- usually a "no-no" for me!

Plus, I was not using Pulp Alley -- the rules I normally run for the guys in our Sunday night games, Dakota Smith's Oriental Adventures. I had set it up for 8 players, and I really didn't feel confident running the rules for a group that large. Instead, I was using "Flying Lead," the modern rules set from the Ganesha Games engine made popular by Song of Blades and Heroes (which I use for Dark Ages skirmishes). I had never actually run a game using FL, but had played in a number of them. I was using my innovation I premiered at Advance the Colors 2013 of splitting the game board into separate, simultaneous games. Rather than have it be four one-on-one matchups, like at ATC 2013, this game would essentially be two separate four player games. The figures could meet up, though, as the two boards were connected by a the rope bridge piece of terrain I'd scratch-built. I felt pretty safe running the rules, though I did need to scan them a couple times to make sure I was aware of the differences between FL and SBH and the French & Indian War variant I usually run, Song of Drums and Tomahawks.

I really didn't need to worry as the players all said they had a blast. There was a lot of laughing and joking around going on, so I think everyone had fun. I made one adjustment after the first game, switching out the deployment of the secret martial arts society, The Order of the Fire Coral, with that of the international smuggling ring, Svetlana's Smugglers. The pygmy cannibals were simply too deadly to the martial artists, and I felt that with three submachine guns, Svetlana's lot would be able to handle the swarm attack of the pygmies. It was a near thing, though, and if it hadn't been for the Pygmy player crapping out twice in a row exactly when they had the smugglers on the ropes, they might have repeated as the scenario winner on Saturday, too.

As it was, there were a lot of humorous and cinematic moments. My favorite was when the portly Harris McLeod of the British archeological team braved the crocodile infested water and escaped only by the skin of his, well, you know what...! Another favorite moment was when Svetlana -- beset by three martial artists -- was knocked off of the cliff. The player remembered the reroll ability of the Hero trait just in time. With a new set of dice rolls, Svetlana went all "La Femme Nikita" on the Fire Coral and drove them off, remaining Queen of the Mountain.

Pics and comments are below. I'm grateful for all the praise and comments I received from players and convention goers. Many years ago, I remember admiring South Pacific Island skirmish games set up by other GMs. I recall secretly wishing that, one day, I could run a game like that. Well, Cincycon 2014 was THAT day, and I'm happy it all worked out great and seemed to give the players several hours of enjoyment.
The board was a big hit with the players, and got lots of nice comments
Close up of the board, with the river dividing the boards. Notice the large temple in the upper left and the giant, Petco statue in the river island.
Svetlana's international smuggling ring advances towards the jungle hut
Von Jaeger and the German archeological party, with a force of German sailors, advance on the jungle hut on the other board
Harris McLeod leads the British Museum party, guarded by a force of Sikhs, survey the area around the big temple
The Order of the Fire Coral infiltrates the temple area, looking to secure artifacts from the prying hands of the foreign devils...
The Pygmy Cannibals were vicious and deadly, swarming over the martial artists of the Fire Coral and then attacking the Germans and Americans in Friday night's game
Pierre Fournereau's French archeological party and their Senegalese Askaris seize the high ground
Tatko and Jaz Minh of the Order of the Fire Coral sprint up the cliff path to be the first to make it to the river island
Other agents follow them and cross the rope bridge in their path, while below Jaz Minh -- who fell when making the leap into the lap of the stone god -- scrambles away from the hungry, hungry hippo
Meanwhile, H.T. (who won playing the Pygmy cannibals Friday) notices that the martial artists have split half of their strength off...it is a well-known fact that Pygmy Cannibals highly enjoy Chinese food!
One by one, the Fire Coral's agents remaining on that half of the board are surrounded, beaten down, and dragged off to the simmering cookpot -- including the leader, Opay
Meanwhile the British climb up their side of the cliffs to squabble over it with the French
It became quite the scrum on top of the cliffs. Peace broke out for a moment in Anglo-Franco relations, but it was quickly tossed aside as close-range shotgun blasts proved too tempting!
The final, climactic battle royale atop the cliffs. When the martial artists attempted to cross over to join in, Harris McLeod cleared the bridge with a shotgun blast that pitched three into the water
After securing the fabled artifact, the Tears of the Buddha, from the island temple, Tatko decided to bypass the bridge and instead take a shortcut through crocodile and hippo-infested waters. The burly martial artist ended up being guest of honor in the resident crocodile's dinner plans...!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lead Painters League 8, Round 1: Splintered Light Miniatures Mice

My Round 1 entry into Lead Painters League 8: "Fight the Gouda Fight!" Splintered Light Miniatures mice, painted and based for the fantasy miniatures rules set I'm writing. I won 443-17 in that round to start with a 1-0 record.

Since Round 1 of Lead Painters League 8 is a theme ("Classic Fantasy"), I decided to go to the inspiration for Splintered Light Miniatures excellent 15mm-20mm line of anthropomorphic animals. The mice of the Redwall series are the iconic force from Brian Jacques line of young adult fiction novels. I've wanted a mice army ever since I read the first novel in the series. However, whenever I parked myself in front of the Splintered Light booth, something else always seemed to catch my eye. First it was the badgers, then Squirrels, Fauns, Raccoons -- it seemed everything animal in the forest was cutting in front of the mice. However, when I decided to write my own set of fantasy miniatures rules, I knew it was time. I bought the figs needed for the mice from David at Splintered Light.

And there they sat. At least for a year. Until the league was announced, and the Classic Fantasy theme was unveiled. I am assuming that the league won't have a problem with them counting as "classic". After all, a line of 22 books is fairly extensive! Anyway, my new rules feature units on hexagon-shaped bases. Each base contains 3-5 figures. So, I sorted through my lead pile and pulled out two bases worth of mice. One is a unit of spearmen, er, spear mice, and the other is armed with swords.

Like I do anytime I paint an animal or SLM anthropomorphic animal, I did my research first to see what mice really look like. I sorted through Google images until I found and downloaded a range of colors from white, gray, tan, brown, black and yellowish-colored mice images. I always glue my figures down onto cardboard squares to paint them. So, I wrote on each piece of cardboard what that particular figure would look like. Each base would have a standard bearer, leader figure, and three rank and file mice. I decided to go with a "quartered" medieval look. The spear unit would be green and white, while the swords would be red and yellow. I also intended to give them a regimental name. In a rare bit of whimsy (for me), I decided to name each regiment after a type of cheese, and give the a battle cry based off of that. So, channeling the state of New Hampshire, the Brie regiment would have a battle slogan of "Live Brie or die!" The Gouda regiment would be "Fight the Gouda Fight!"

The first step was to paint the fur. Using dry brushing and washes, I did my best to replicate a variety of mouse looks that I'd found in the Google image searches. The figures are crisply detailed and relatively easy to paint. There is not a overabundance of equipment on them, so they went fairly quickly. I did a dry brush for each color of their uniform quartering, too, beginning with a darker tone and dry brushing the lighter over it. I really liked how some of the figures turned out -- the medieval hooded surcoat in particular looks sharp painted up in a quartered pattern.

I wasn't overwhelmed with the job I did on the shields. I was even less pleased with the look my ink wash gave me. I've been using this new method of washing ever since I abandoned the clear Acryl and black mixture. The acryl has a tendency to strip the acrylic paint I use off of the miniature to the bare metal. The ink was a change, and I have been fairly pleased with it. I am starting to become disenchanted with it, though. This league may see me switch if I'm not pleased with it again, soon.

For the banners, I used a combination of Google images and Photoshop. I created a rectangular banner with an image of cheese on it, with the battle slogan for each unit. I printed them off on my color laser printer and glued them around the standard bearer's pole. The mice standard bearers are cast with no flag, but simply a large crescent shape atop their pole. I also decided to change the way I do the flocking for this entry. I painted the base with white glue and poured Woodland Scenics brown medium ballast over it. Once dry, I painted it in Burnt Sienna -- my favorite earth-red ground color. I then dry brushed a light tan over the ballast. I also added a few slightly larger pieces of tallus as rocks. I did my ink wash over the surface, and then Woodland Scenics blended gray turf was added to it for patches of grass, and clump foliage further added for brush.

All in all, I am pleased with how these two bases of mice came out. Will they bring me a victory? Well, smaller scale figures tend to not do as well in the Lead Painters League. So, we'll see, as these little buggers measure about 10mm from feet to eye level. I'll bill them as "15mm" in the contest. Otherwise, voters always assume the figs are 28mm.

Remember, pictures will be added after the first round voting is complete (late March).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"Going dark" for the Lead Painters League

I'm about to enter my third year in the Lead Painters League -- a 10-week contest run by the Lead Adventure Forum website. I'll be painting up ten entries to submit one a week in a head-to-head match against another participant. I've yet to break the .500 winning percentage mark -- nor do I expect to this time. The quality of artistry in this league is superb, and my meager skills put me nowhere the top of the field. That's okay, though. I enter because it forces me to try to improve my techniques and get better at painting miniatures.

One of the stipulations of the league is that the miniatures receive bonus points if they have never been published on the web before, qualifying as "new." Needing all the points I can get, I try to submit a newly-painted entry each week. So, what does this mean for Lead Legionaries? Well, essentially, my posts here may not contain photos for awhile. I may talk about what I'm painting up. I may even link some pics of the unpainted version of the miniatures. However, my painted results will have to wait until the end of the match that entry appeared in.

So, what am I going to paint up for the contest? When the contest was announced around 3 weeks ago, I dug through the unpainted lead pile to plan out my 10 entries. There will be a heavy dose of French & Indian War. Six of the 10 rounds will feature Indians, French, or Rangers. One round will be for my Pulp games and will be a pack of Splintered Light Miniatures Velociraptors. The other three rounds are Theme Rounds. For the Classic Fantasy round, I will be submitting some Splintered Light mice (ala the "Redwall" series). For Ancients, I will paint up 6 mounted Dark Ages warriors. And finally, for the World War I round, I have a few packs of figures that I purchased for Pulp, but can be used for WW I (at least, that is what my friends have told me).

The contest was announced Feb. 5, and I've been busy pretty much ever since. My hope is to have five rounds' worth of entries completed before the contest begins on March 20th. Tall order, I know, but it will certainly help keep deadline pressure away! I'll start detailing my round-by-round entries below. After that entry's match is over, I'll go back and put in photos of it.

So, wish me luck...and I hope you enjoy my entries...!