Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dakota Smith's Oriental Adventures, Part 4: The Lost City

The board for the "Dakota Smith and the Lost City," containing all of the scratch-built temples I'd made over the last six months, along with an Acheson Creations one
I ran this scenario -- the 4th in a series -- for my Sunday night gaming group about a month ago, and am just now getting around to writing up a battle report. It was crunch time at the end of the school year, so I apologize if the details are hazy. In previous chapters, Dakota Smith and his rival teams of archeologists were hot on the trail of the Portuguese monk, Brother Virigi, who knew the location of the Lost City in the jungles of French Indochina. Rescuing the monk from the cookpot of cannibals, the French archeological team followed his lead to a splendid ruined city, built in the Middle Ages by the Khmer Empire and since lost to time. The other archeologists tracked the French party, and soon came upon the site themselves.
Dr. Lambert, from the French archeological party, investigates a crumbled statue in the Lost City
Others were on the monk's trail, too, and soon emerged on the scene. The sinister Order of the Fire Coral, a secret martial arts society, sprang into action and did their best to hinder the archeologist's search of the ruins. Despite their persistence, the archeologists soon realized that inscriptions in the temples of the Lost City gave exciting information. They described the location of the mythical relic, The Tears of the Buddha. Legends say this crystal vial containing actual tears from the Buddha has magical powers. All who consume even a drop of the liquid lose all aggressive and violent thoughts, and succumb to the persuasion of peace. Upon reading an inscription below a frieze of carvings, Dakota Smith growled, "That's why Von Jaeger is here! Those damned Nazis want to find a way to make a weapons out of the Tears!"

This was also doubtless the secret the agents of the Fire Coral were trying to protect. Although the three martial artists fought long and valiantly against the Europeans, each of the archeological teams were able to decipher enough clues to point them in the direction of the Forbidden Temple, which is rumored to contain the vial. As the agents slunk away into the jungle, their leader admonished them not to give up. They would track the foreign devils through the very Lost Valley, if necessary...
Allen, controlling Dakota Smith's team, wears the fedora which signifies he controls the initiative in the "Pulp Alley" rules we use for our 28mm Pulp games. Mike S, controlling Lady Shannon's Irish fortune hunters, laughs as Allen designates who will move next.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sci Fi Rules Playtest

My Starship Trooper infantry take cover on a steep hillside and prepare to open fire on the swarms of bugs headed their way
Keith had picked up an interesting sounding rules set and wanted to test it out. They are called, "Tactical Assault: Combat Cards." The core mechanic is each player has a deck of 72 cards. These are used for everything -- command and control, combat resolution, special events, and more. Players have a hand of six cards which they can use some or all during a turn, and then replenish. Reading it, the rules reminded me a bit of the Memoir '44, Battle Cry, etc., board games. You can't always move or fire the unit you want, you need the right card to do it. The random aspect of a deck of cards means you need to figure out what cards to save, what to play, when to discard, etc.

Unlike Battle Cry and its brethren, the cards are also used to resolve combat. Each unit type has a Protection Level and Attack Level for shooting or close assault. You compare the two, and along with tactical factors like cover, this causes the result on the card to shift up or down levels. So, if flip a card from your deck that shows "Fall Back," it may shift up one level to "Shaken," or so on. It all sounded good on paper, so I was real interested to see how it played out. I had been looking for a good set of Science Fiction combat rules, and had high hopes for these.

The Behemoth Bug exchanges fire with my infantry, who face out in all directions to hold off the enemy
Keith set up the battlefield with three, separate one-on-one engagements. He provided each of us with forces about 2/3's of the size of the recommended size in the rules. I think he wanted to keep it as simple as possible for us, what with learning a new set of rules and all. In the end, this worked out against giving us a true feel for the rules. With many of the forces having just 3 troop types, that meant most of the cards in the deck were for troops we did not have in our forces. This led the battle to become very static at points. You may have no cards that you could use on your turn, or at best one or two. So, as the game went on, there were a lot of discarding turns instead of "playing turns" (you choose to either discard or play cards on the turn -- you can't do both).

I did like how Opportunity Fire was a card that you could play on enemy units that moved in your line of sight. That was perhaps my favorite aspect of the game. I wasn't crazy about the combat resolution system, though. There are 5 levels of results from No Effect, Fall Back, Shaken, Out of Action, and Eliminated. The frustrating thing is if you have hit an enemy unit and drawn a "Out of Action" card, then hit them with another one, or a "Shaken", it has no further effect. I felt that there should be a progression...you get hit once, further hits should worsen your status.

Anyway, we decided to give the rules another chance. This time, though, we will make sure each force has an adequately balanced troop list with infantry, armor, artillery, air units, and so on. That way, we shouldn't have so many useless cards. My battle against Joel was a Starship Trooper style game with my infantry fighting against his swarms of bugs. The battle was very static, though, and we had numerous turns where nothing happened as we both waited for cards allowing us to fire or attack. So, we'll see if a more conventional force provides a better game next time...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lead Painters League 8, Round 9

"Wampum or womp them" -- my Round 9 entry featuring more 28mm Conquest Miniatures Indians. I won this round 380-112, bettering my record to 5-4. Incidentally, it guarantees I will end up at least with a .500 record, which was my goal for this third time entering the contest.
So, to me, this round would decided if I met my goal of a .500 record or not. I didn't have a lot of confidence in winning the next and final round, which was a WW I theme. In this round I was submitting more 28mm Conquest Miniatures Indians. I feel they are one of my strong points, and I tend to do fairly well with them.

This batch included a chief holding a belt of wampum, along with four warriors. So, I decided to call it "Wampum or womp them" -- meaning, will you accept our belt of peace or do we go to war? I really liked the look of the figure and wanted to make sure I did a good job on it. So, as always, I leafed through my Robert Griffing book, which contains dozens of painting by the specialist in depicting native Americans. I found a particularly striking blanket worn by a chieftain and adapted its gold on dark blue colors to the figure. I also used more washes to give a range of color rather than simply base coating and dry brushing. I tend to add more highlights to, a technique I've learned from Joe -- the artist behind the website An Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields (http://www.hourofwolves.org/). He is ahead of me on so many levels in painting, but he tends to add in multiple lighter layers in a single color, and I've tried to replicate his work, even though I don't have his skill or talent. The rest of the warband were bare chested, so I put extra effort in on the tattoos.

I posed the group of five in front of some of my Acheson Creations longhouses. The Indian style palisade behind them is also from Acheson Creations. I highly recommend everything put out by Acheson. Their resin is deeply detailed which makes dry brushing these a snap. The scalp poles are scratch built, while the cookpot and hide stretcher are 1/72 scale plastic pieces from toy sets.

I was highly gratified by this win, as I was matched up against a painter of similar skill level. So far in this season, I had been beaten by all the painters of superior skills and lost to all those of what most would judge a tad below my skill level. I don't say that to sound arrogant, but I would say I am a better painter technique wise than I was, say, five years ago. It is not a judge of potential, but at where somebody is on their level of learning. Anytime someone tells *me* "I could never paint that...!", I respond it is simply practice. You get better with each figure you paint. So, it was nice to win one against a painter I judge to be mid-tier, like myself.

Next round is the finale, and a WW I theme, so we'll see how I finish the league...!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lead Painters League 8, Round 8

"Regardez les bois!" -- 28mm Foundry French infantry -- was my Round 8 entry. I ended up winning fairly solidly, 435-36, raising my record to 4-4.

I went into this round being pessimistic about my chances. I was 3-4, and in my opinion, these 5 French line infantry from the Seven Years War were one of my weakest entries. Most people rave about Foundry 28mm figures, but I felt these weren't the greatest. Their faces, for example, were shapeless blobs that I had to work really hard to bring out some definition. The rather bland pearl-gray uniforms would also work against me, I felt. I did like my idea for the scene I would photograph. Calling the picture, "Regardez les bois!" (Look at the Woods!), I thought the Indians emerging from the trees aiming their weapons at the wagon escorts gave it a nice implied violence and action.

As it turned out, this one was a fairly resounding win. I was matched against some 28mm Uruk-hai that were painted in a very dark color scheme, which made it difficult for voters to see the detail. So, I ended up winning 435-36 and raising my record to 4-4. That put my goal of ending this league with a .500 record (5-5) within reach. I would only have to win one of the next two rounds to attain it.

The figures were painted a very light gray first, then given a thorough dry brush of white on top. The blue cuffs and other trim were given a couple shades of lighter dry brush to give them a dash of color. I continued with my new way of doing European style flesh, too. I give them a base coat of ordinary, somewhat ruddy flesh. I then doing a dark orange wash over the flesh areas. I then pick out the highlights with a very light flesh tone. This method worked well for my earlier Rogers Rangers entry, and I decided to stay with it. I like the contrast it provides against the red brown basecoated Indians.

All in all, I think these figures will look fine on the tabletop. They are no works of art like some of their Indian opponents, but they will make a solid addition to my French & Indian War scenarios.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Lead Painters League 8, Round 7

"Raptors? They bred raptors?" -- my round 7 entry, that went down to defeat 350-144. I honestly felt they had a good chance, but they were matched against some incredibly colorful 28mm Conquest Miniatures Indians...hey! That's not fair...!

I actually had these guys done before the league started. I planned them as a change of pace since I was submitting so many French & Indian War themed rounds. Wouldn't you know it? They got matched against some very well-painted 28mm Conquest Miniatures Indians...! I guess it is only fair, considering how many rounds of those types of figs I've submitted in my three Lead Painters Leagues...ha, ha!

I broke new ground on technique in the subtle banding of the raptors. I did several layers of watered down paint for each stripe, and the results really repaid the effort, in my opinion. These are some of the most subtly shaded figures I've ever painted, in my opinion. Maybe TOO subtle, considering my opponent's bright colors. Oh well...*I* was happy with them.

The eggs, if you're curious, are last-minute rolls of blue tac that I was inspired to throw into the scene. I dropped to 3-4 after this round, continuing my tradition of losing anything resembling a close race. The voting was about 70/30 in my opponent's favor. The good thing, though, is I have yet to be "blown out." Everything is no worse then this ratio. This has kept me in the middle of the pack, and I am usually the highest placer for contestants with the same record. I've decided that my goal for this league is to end up at least 5-5. I was 4-6 in both of my previous ones, so I figure it is a good goal...

Lead Painters League 8, Round 6

"Once We Were Many" -- my Round 6 entry. Conquest Miniatures 28mm Indians, of course. This was a victory, evening me back up to 3-3, by a score of 407-45

So, my mode for Lead Painters League 8: Win big, or lose the close one. Thankfully, this was a win big round. I was actually surprised how quickly I could paint up this batch, considering it is only 5 figures at a time. I definitely like how it turned out. One tricky little photo thing I did was to put lichen in front of each of the bases. The voters on the the Lead Adventure Forum don't like my "clunky" bases, so I figured if I cut off the front of them, they won't be offended by how thick the bases are....haha!