Thursday, October 15, 2015

It's a Small World after all...

Sunday night board game at my place
This game probably wins the award for longevity in the "one I've been meaning to pick up..." category. I played it first a number of years ago, and liked it right away. Players control a series of fantasy races who invade and try to stake out as much territory as possible before playing themselves out, losing steam, and going into decline. Lots of player choices -- which race to choose from those available, where to arrive on the board, and how long to keep the race active before letting it go into decline so you can grab another one. Each game can be different because the races are randomly paired up with a special ability each game.

We were playing the Underground version, which Mike S owns. I began the game controlling the "Historian" Will O'Wisps. They get victory points each time another player race goes into decline. Since I took my turn last, I thought that would be a good way to pick up a few extra victory points. Next, I had the "Thieving" Mud-men, which others had shied away from because another race was in control of the muddy areas. As it turns out, their special ability -- to steal one victory point from any player with an active race adjacent to your tokens -- probably won me the game. I also briefly controlled a magic ring that did the exact same thing on one of my turns. I was adjacent to 3 of the other players, which meant they lost two points and I gained two points from each. That is a swing of four in my favor against three of the other four players (we had five total).

In the end, I was surprised I won the game. I never felt on any turn that I collected the most victory points. I guess I collected enough and avoided really low turns. The others accused me of "sand-bagging," by claiming I was losing. However, I could swear two or more players earned more victory points than me every turn. It was as great of a surprise to me that I won as it was to them!

Here's the boardgamegeek link for the game.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Corn Rows quick and simple

One of Rogers Rangers advances through a corn field I constructed for my Bloody Run scenario
 One of the centerpieces of my Battle of Bloody Run scenario is the farm where Pontiac springs his ambush on the British force. I already had farm buildings and some scratch-built field stone walls. I even had some pigs to put in a pen. However, I thought I'd need a good corn field to make the table look that much nicer. I'd seen a threat on the Lead Adventure Forum about how to use the O scale corn stalks by JTT Scenery Products.

A package of 28 corn stalks by JTT Scenery Products
Some posters on the thread were creating a one-piece field using the stalks. Others talked about basing them individually. I wanted to be flexible. Eventually, I want to do Native American style corn fields, which also incorporated beans and squash amidst the corn. I wanted to leave open the possibility of rigging something up like that. Plus, one giant field would be harder to store, while individually stalks sounded too fiddly. So, I hit upon the idea of basing 3 stalks up to a rectangular stand. They would be in rows so they could be used for settler's corn fields, but in small enough numbers per stand that maybe something could be rigged up to make it look Native American later.
I drilled holes in each 40mm x 20mm base and forced a stalk into each hole, covering it with two-part epoxy
I took some 20mm by 40mm Renaissance Ink magnetic bases I had left over from my DBA days. I drilled three holes in each with a pin vice. This was easily the most time consuming part of the process. I was lucky in that my smallest drill bit for the pin vice matched the size of the stalks. I then forced the stalks into the hole, covering each with a blob of two-part epoxy to affix them to the bases.
A raised row is created by drawing a line of white glue connecting the stalks and dipping it into a tub of ballast
Next, I grabbed each base and put a line of glue connecting the stalks. The base was then dipped into a tube of brown ballast to give the effect of a raised field row.
A batch of corn row bases sit drying, waiting to be dipped into Woodland Scenics turf
Once dry, I painted the whole base with white glue. It was then dipped into Woodland Scenics brown turf and the excess tapped off. Once dry again, I put some dabs of white glue on the raised row and sprinkled it with Woodland Scenics blended grass. This makes it appear more like the corn stalk is growing out of the ground. Finish it off with Dullcoate and a sealant of 50/50 white glue and water, and they're finished!
Another look at a quick and simple corn field costing a little more than $5!
The JTT corn stalks come 28 to a package, and are priced at $8.99 at Hobby Lobby. If you use the online 40% off coupon, that brings it down to $5.34 before tax. One package produced nine bases of three corn stalks each. Being on bases of three, I can rearrange them for whatever size and shape of cornfield I want to create. Definitely a quick and simple way to do a corn field!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Log cabin for $3.99???

"Dad-burn Injuns would come a'raidin' while the menfolk were away...!"
 Although I don't approve of their attempts to impose their morality on their employees, I confess I love Hobby Lobby. My latest stop there is an excellent example of the serendipity that can be found wandering its aisles. I stopped by on the way home to pick up a can of Dullcoate -- my one and only sealant that I use on my miniatures. Lo and behold, I see this:
Yes, this is indeed a roughly 28mm scale wooden log cabin for $3.99!
I was incredulous when I saw the price: $3.99. My first thought was, "This CAN'T possibly be in a scale I can use for 28mm figures." I read the building dimensions on the package and turned it over and examined at the wood that came with it. It sure looked like it would work for my figures. I had just finished painting an Acheson Creations (my favorite terrain maker) log cabin, raising my total of dwellings to 2 cabins and 1 shed for the period. My upcoming game at Advance the Colors could actually use another cabin. "Hmmm...." I thought.

What the heck? It was only $3.99! I picked it up, and went home and did a dry run of assembling it. I shook my really didn't look half bad. I decided to dress it up a bit, though. I dashed up to Hobbyland Graceland and bought a piece of basswood I call "scalloped" or "clinker-style," with what appears to be overlapping boards. I figured that would look much nicer than the flat wood included. That piece of bass wood actually cost almost as much as the building...Hobbyland has never been cheap. Their selection of bass wood in various shapes, patterns, and styles is unbeatable, though.

I  began putting the building together using tacky glue. The notches cut in the wooden dowels make assembly easy. Once all pieces were together, I epoxied it down to a piece of black styrene I'd cut for the base. I cut a slice of the scalloped bass wood for the floor and slid it under the logs. I then began assembly of the roof. I used some bluetack to hold it together as I glued the two triangular pieces to one side of the roof. Once dry, I glued the other side of the roof on. I then cut a piece of cardboard, folded it into a "V"-shape, and glued it along the top to hide the seam between the two pieces of wood.

Next, I glued the door and windows to the outside of the building. I tricked out the door a bit by adding a frame made from wooden craft sticks. Note that there are no "cutouts" on the inside of the cabin for the windows or door. It looks like solid wall. Maybe I'll try adding those in if I do another one!
The inside of the cabin is bare, but it would be easy enough to saw the dowels to create cutouts for the windows and door
Finally, the wood chimney piece was dressed up, too. One side at a time was painted with white glue and pressed into a tub of coarse ballast. Once painted back and dry-brushed, this would give it a more stone-like appearance. Speaking of painting, it was time to paint the cabin. I spray painted it black first. Then I applied a 50/50 water and acrylic black paint to cover up all the areas the spray nozzle missed. Once dry, I added a wet brush layer of medium brown (Howard Hues Camo Brown) and then a Khaki. A black wash completed the painting of the wood insides, outsides, floor, and roof. The chimney received a black base coat, then medium gray and lighter gray dry brushes.

Flocking along the edges completes the cabin, and just that simply a new dwelling is added to my American frontier!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Battle of Bloody Run at Advance the Colors 2015

    I ran the Battle of Bloody Run once each on Friday and Saturday nights at ATC 2015
I had been running my Ohio Frontier Aflame for a year at various conventions, so I felt it was high time to shake some things up. I decided to use a historical engagement as my basis for my four battles side-by-side scenario. The Battle of Bloody Run from Pontiac's Rebellions was perfect for the format! It is a sprawling, disjointed battle that could easily be divided up into four (or more) separate engagements.

    The 12-foot long table for the Battle of Bloody Run, seen from the fort on the left and Baptiste Meloche's farm on right
The historical background is that Fort Detroit is under siege by Chief Pontiac's Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomie warriors. A convoy of boats carrying reinforcements, including by Major Robert Rogers of the famous Rogers Rangers, forces its way past the Indian blockade. Shortly thereafter, the British officer in command of the convoy, Captain Dalyell, convinces the post commander to attack Pontiac and break the siege. Pontiac watches the British column leave the fort and waits until it is strung out along the river road. As the van crosses the bridge to Baptiste Meloche's farm, Pontiac springs his ambush. Fighting rages up and down the line. Historically, the British were battered and retreated back to the fort -- thanks to the heroics of some of the British commanders, including Rogers.

    British regulars cross the bridge under fire from Pontiac's ambushing warriors
    When the redcoats take cover in a treeline, Pontiac sends his warriors forward to engage them in melee

I created four boards all inspired by the account I read of the battle in the excellent biography of Rogers, "War on the Run," by John F. Ross. One end of the table was anchored by Baptiste Meloche's farm, with two log buildings, a gorgeous Acheson Creations bridge, and woods. British regulars had to force their way across the bridge and drive off Pontiac and his ambushers. The bridge -- which doubles as a pier if you take off one end -- attracted a lot of comments, and led Bryan Borgman (who brought some of their product) to sell out of them at the event! Next in line was a curving line of river road bordered by woods. A detachment of Colonial Militia were escorting some wounded to a waiting bateau. They are attacked by a warband of Indians, their blood fired up for scalps and blood.

    Colonial militia escorting a group of wounded are attacked by Ojibwe and Ottawa warriors out for blood and scalps

The third board was inspired by an incident in the battle when Rogers and his rangers seize a log cabin and convert it into a strong point to hold off the swelling numbers of Indians. Since my Acheson Creations log cabins don't really have enough loopholes and windows to simulate this, I also threw in a wood shed and a stone walled cornfield for the rangers to use. The other end of the table was anchored by the outworks of Fort Detroit and a tiny part of Pontiac's original encampment. Here the rearguard was being ambushed by Indians within sight of the fort.

    Cheers and groans rang out along the table as dice rolls heralded successes and defeats
The two games filled up with eight players in both. On the first night, the British could do no wrong. They won an overwhelming victory using the scenario VPs I'd created. However, on the second night, it was much, much closer. The British won on two boards and the Indians on the other two. Counnting up the totals, it came to a difference of 10 points -- one scalp! One more British soldier killed and scalped and it would have been a victory for Pontiac. All the players seemed to have a great time.

    Indians close in on the log cabin that Robert Rogers and his rangers have occupied
 We sold 8 copies of Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules at the show. I was hoping we'd sell more -- especially since we had a dealer table at the show, as well. I think we've hit HMGS Great Lakes conventions fairly well this year, though, and many of the attendees had already purchased them. Time to get back to work on that Beaver Wars in Ohio campaign book...!