Monday, July 30, 2018

Caged...Like Rats! Second Fur-grave Game

A Splintered Light Miniatures Weasel explores for hidden treasures among jungle ruins in our Ghost Archipelago game
We played our second game of Fur-grave last night. A few of the regulars could not make it, so I fielded a crew to make it an even six players. I had chosen one of the scenarios from the rule book, Drichean Cages, to play. Of course, since I substituted Splintered Light Miniatures Rats for the Dricheans in my campaign, I renamed it, "Caged Like Rats!" I set up a fairly symmetrical 6'x4' board with two scratch-built, wooden cages each containing a prisoner, as central treasures. There were 11 ordinary treasures scattered about the table, too. This table did not feature any temples, but just random ruins overgrown by jungle.
Looking down the 6'x4' table - you can see the two cages in the center. Most jungle patches towards the center had treasures, as well. Captain Hugh and crew advance at the bottom left.
Since narrative AARs are becoming quite the rage with Frostgrave, I will do ahead and try my hand at it here, since I actually got to play this time...!

The hard-eyed, hulking Heritor motioned his crew forward, after inspecting the bodies of the slain adventurers. He thought he recognized some of the crew as belonging to a rag-tag band that had been successfully exploring the isles of the Ghost Archipelago for years. Yoti, his hunter, murmered, "Rats, sir -- this is definitely their work. I see their tracks everywhere." The Coyote was seldom wrong, and the Wolverine captain had grown to rely on his advice through the years. Captain Hugh was contemplating an idea. If he could find any captives, perhaps they could be Shanghaied into his crew and persuaded to show them where they'd hidden their treasures.
Three Ratmen guard one of the two cages containing a prisoner, which acted as the central treasures
Soon, the five adventurers entered a clearing in the jungle. Yoti pointed out a wooden cage just beyond a small patch of trees. Inside, was another crewman from the unfortunate band. Surrounding his cage were three large ratmen, heavily armored and carrying swords. His warden, Jack, another wolverine gestured to ask if he should call out to summon help. Jack had a way with the animals of the jungle, and his howls often brought creatures to assist the crew in their mission. Hugh nodded, and the wolverine warden's piercing howl rang through the clearing. Simultaneously, Yoti trotted forward, followed by the two Beavers, Bucky and Bentley. Hugh's chainmail jingled as he ran forward, as well.
Early success for my crew! Bucky finds a treasure amid jungle ruins, while Capt. Hugh and Yoti dispatch a Ratman
The five split into several groups, Jack leading Bentley off to the left around the patch of trees, while Yoti and Hugh went to the right. Bucky ducked into the trees, having spotted something hidden amidst the vegetation. It turned out to be a moss-encrusted oaken chest. The beaver scooped it up, and checking with his captain, began to carry the heavy chest back the way they'd come. Yoti snapped off a couple bow shots at the closest guard, the second shot wounded the rat who growled in pain. He scurried towards the Coyote hunter, slowing his approach at the sight of the menacing wolverine captain when he appeared around the grove of trees. Yoti fired again, wounding it further, then dashed in with is sword out. Captain Hugh followed in his wake, and with one mighty swing of his axe, dashed the rat lifeless to the ground.
Action raged around the board as players seek to scoop up as many treasures as possible! Counter-clockwise from right, Mike S (Mouslings), Brian (Weasels), Joel (Squirrels), Keith (Raccoons), Mike W (Pine Martens)
Yoti advanced on the next closest guard, feathering him with an arrow, too. Both then waded in on this guard, swinging their blades. Hugh felt a tingling run up his arm and recognized the blue glow surrounding his axe -- it was Warden Jack, casting Mystic Energy upon his weapon. His swipe staggered the rat guard, but he could see it was still alive and preparing to strike back. Hugh narrowed his eyes and summoned the Surge of energy which would let him act again, quickly, before the enemy could respond. His eyes twitched in pain, but the Surge worked and his axe struck again before the rat could reply. Another guard lay lifeless at their feet, and neither had suffered a wound.
Cute, but evil! The Mousling Crew were my main opponents on the table, felling my Warden
Meanwhile, Jack was hurrying along to catch up with Bentley, who had also spotted something that looked valuable in a clump of overgrown ruins. Bentley was surprised that no jungle creatures had appeared in answer to his call. Perhaps the rats infesting this area had slain all the animals? He did successfully cast a couple more spells -- empowering Bentley and Captain Hugh with Beast Strength. Just as Bentley reached the grove containing the ruins, he spotted several figures hurrying towards them from across the clearing. More rats? No, he could see they were Mouslings  from a rival crew -- probably also intent on absconding with the captives. Just then, the Jack's fur began to stand up on end and he could almost smell the electricity in the air. He ducked, but too late -- BZZZAPP! A massive bolt of lightning arced across the clearing from the Mousling Warden and knocked Jack to the ground. Bentley looked back at the still form of the warden, " Jack...? You okay?" No reply. The beaver growled in rage and charged into the mousling who'd entered the grove after the same treasure. They exchanged blows, but neither was hurt. 
Freed! The Raccoons and Squirrels team up to free the prisoner while keeping the Rat guards busy
 Meanwhile, Captain Hugh and Yoti stood before the stout wooden cage. The other rat guard had been felled by the Mousling crew. Both hammered on the wooden bars, but to no avail. The prisoner was a bedraggled-looking Satyr who looked at them fearfully. The wolverine and coyote hammered on the cage again, and still the wood held. Suddenly, Yoti tugged on his captain's arm and pointed. Across the clearing, a horde of rats was pouring from the jungle, headed towards the cages. "Sorry, mate!" Hugh growled to the Satyr. "Time to go! Bentley, Jack -- back to the boat!" As the captain turned around, he saw a wounded Bentley carrying his warden Jack in his arms as he followed. Yoti turned and fired a few arrows into the rat horde in the hopes of slowing them down. He snickered as he noticed the Mouslings also taking to their heels. He also caught sight of a couple more crews rapidly absconding -- they looked like Weasels and Pine Martens, but the hunter couldn't be sure. Up ahead, he could see Bucky still waddling along with the chest he'd found. "Well," the hunter thought, "at least they'd have something to show from this landing on this rat-infested island!"
From the other side of the table, the Raccoons cast Brambles to wall off the guards temporarily,
With six players, things moved relatively slow at times. We need get better as players in with taking our turn if the previous player is on the other side of the table and our move will not affect his. As it was, we had to cut the game off early -- just as my Heritor and Hunter arrived at the cage! Bad luck. A series of horrible die rolls kept us from opening it up -- more bad luck. In fact, my rolls were pretty bad in general. After a successful casting of Beast Call, I managed to never roll a 10+ the rest of the game (5+ turns?) to summon any random creatures. Luckily, Warden Jack would survive on the post-game die roll and was just knocked out. The Lightning Blast spell is TOUGH! It is a +6 shooting attack, to 1d20 roll? My Mousling opponent almost maxed out on damage, but did enough to take the warden out on one roll.

All in all, it was fun to play a game and not just GM. On the other side of the table, Keith's Raccoons managed to free the prisoner in their cage, with assistance from Joel's Squirrels. The Weasels ignored the cages and scooped up as many treasures as they could. The Pine Martens, also in the center but on my side of the table, also ignored the cages for the treasures. Captain Hugh's "Crushers" -- as I called my crew -- came up on the short end in the treasure hunting. They'll be back, though, and hopefully fortune will smile upon them on that day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

An Interlude with a Prelude

The Blood Brotherhood of the Wastes

When I came home from Historicon last week, I had a “problem” I hadn’t experienced in quite awhile. I wasn’t sure what to paint next! I pretty much had everything I needed for Ghost Archipelago (except for the four chimps I bought at the convention). I didn’t feel like continuing working on the Fox army for my fantasy miniatures battle rules (a completely separate project involving the Splintered Light Miniatures animals, but on multi-figure “unit” bases). Hmm...what to paint, what to paint...?

One of the three types of poses in Sgt. Major Miniatures Cultists line that I bought

At Historicon, my friend Jason had brought along his choice of post-Apocalyptic miniatures rules - Across the Dead Earth. I read them and liked them - more so than another set I had borrowed to read, This is Not a Test. I always imagine post-Apocalyptic as the Mad Max movies - not the weirdo, magical mutations of the old Gamma World role playing games. No psionic abilities, no lobster-clawed humanoids. Just desperate, punk rockers meet motorcycle gangs type action.

Back of the three Waste Cultist pose

Last year, I picked up a couple dozen or more 28mm Foundry figures for a buck each from a guy who bought out a store going out of business. They were a mix of street gangs, modern military types, and armed civilians. I sorted through his collection looking for figures that would work for a post-Apocalyptic world. They were to supplement the packs I had been slowly picking up from Sgt. Major Miniatures at the conventions. They have an amazing post-Apocalyptic line, though they seem to have stopped coming to shows. Their website says they’re closed and up for sale, so hopefully someone will buy them and revive the line.

Two of the Waste Cultists wearing gas masks

So, I decided to begin painting post-Apocalyptic figures. Yes, yes, I am still running Ghost Archipelago. This is - as the title I’d this blog entry says - a Prelude to future games (no pun intended). Before they closed, I had purchase two “gangs” - how Across the Dead Earth organizes a player’s forces. One of these were Chaos Cultists, which could also easily work for my Pulp games.

These hooded guys with sub machine guns could also easily be used in my Pulp games

There were three main varieties of poses. A pack of three sub machine gun-toting hooded and robed figures (think KKK-looking). The other pack had five robed and hooded guys with ninja-style face masks. Two wore gas masks instead and had full backpacks. The other three had the upper half of their face visible. All five carried a black powder looking weapon. These would be my first gang -perhaps the Blood Broetherhood of the Wastes?

I chose to give them iron red robes with tan trim. White would make them look way too KKK-ish, and might draw some objections from players (and in this current political climate, myself included). I painted the robes and hoods a craft paint color called Iron Red - which is just a slight bit brighter than a red-brown. I dry brushed them with Howard Hues Middle Eastern Flesh, which gives it a nice orangish cast. I really like how the robes turned out.

As for the accessories, I painted them with a leather, tan, or olive drab look to show they scavenged their equipment Andy were not uniformly equipped. I also made them multiracial with the majority Caucasian, along with a couple black and a couple intended to be Hispanic/Middle Eastern or Asian. It’s interesting that when doing painting the periods that I have, it is not something I have had to do much. My gladiators were multi-racial, too, but the other periods I’ve painted were not as diverse as I envision the near future.

Finally, I needed to fit their base flocking scheme to the imagined wasteland of the future. I went back to gluing large rocks onto their bases first. I washed the boulders brown to make them blend in more. Next, I added Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast. I used some greenish-brown tufts and a tiny dab of grass to give it some color. Finally, I sealed it out withmix of white glue and water.

I really like how they turned out, and look forward to doing another batch!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Spur-of-the-moment Historicon 2018: The Games

The Evil Leader and his Mad Scientist keep a lookout on the top floor of their secret hideout inside a ruined chapel
I had not preregistered for any games before I left because this was such a spur of the moment trip. Jason was scheduled to arrive at 3:30 pm, and we had planned to hit up our favorite buffet, Dieners, for dinner that night. So, I was looking only for an evening game on Thursday, the first day of the convention. I went through the booklet and marked games that sounded interesting. I even prioritized them somewhat, since I didn't want to hold up the event registration line. However, every single game I was interested in was sold out on Thursday night. World War II was extremely popular this year -- I would estimate that 1/3 of the games were WW II. I rarely play this period for a couple reason. I am absolutely uninterested in tanks. You can talk to me about Stugs, Panzers, Shermans, Tigers -- whatever -- and my eyes immediately begin to glaze over. The other reason is I feel that if rules writers are an accurate simulation of the conflict, Germany would have conquered the world. Too many seem to be in love with the Nazis, which kind of rubs me the wrong way.
One of the "extras" belonging to my Evil opponent in Jason's 7TV game I played in on Friday night
Anyway, Jason was stuck in traffic, as an accident shut down the freeway, putting him three hours behind. He HAD registered for a game, so I just made sure I was ready to shuttle him quickly through the stowing his luggage at our hotel, registering for the convention, and finding his game. We accomplished all that in about a half hour, and he was able to make his 7pm game. I decided to walk across the street and have dinner and a beer at the Lancaster Brewing Company taproom across the street. By good fortune, who should sit down next to me at the bar but prolific rules writer from Too Fat Lardies, Richard Clarke? We had an absolute blast chatting away about rules, History, our two countries, and more. Three hours (and quite a few beers) whipped by and I was soon hurrying back over to the convention to meet Jason as his game ended.
My extras had military training and quickly began to whittle away at my opponent's troops
We went back to our room -- Jason had booked a double room at Tru by Hilton, a new modern hotel about a five minute walk away from the Lancaster Host Resort (just past the Classic Inn, for those who know that one). While we talked, I went through Friday's event listing prioritizing my event choices. Historicon would have trouble all weekend printing their event tickets for attendees to register for games. Both Friday and Saturday's events did not go out until those mornings -- instead of 4pm the day before, as usual. Hopefully, they get that worked out for next year. It really kind of handicaps those who want to run or play in a morning event if people don't have access to it the day before! Perhaps they kept event preregistration open too long, and it was too complex of a process to figure out how many tickets to print out for each based on open slots.
The missile silo in the early phases of the game, with my "Star" taking possession of it
Luckily, I got my first choice -- Jason's 7TV game with the good guys attacking an evil scientists' lair. He set it up with three separate scenarios running on the same table simultaneously -- much like I do with my French & Indian War games using my Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules. I am pretty sure this is the first time that I have ever played in one of Jason's games -- and I've known him for more than 30 years! Usually, if he and I are at a convention and one of us is running a game it is ME doing so. I helped him carry everything over and set up a bit beforehand.
The Missile Silo opens up in preparation for warhead launch, as one of my extras takes cover by the heavy metal doors
Jason's game (and the rules) were a lot of fun. My opponent in my scenario was a great guy, and we had a blast chatting all throughout the game. Both of us were being very fair -- deferring to others on line of sight and other questions. It is always a good thing when you roll the dice at a convention and come up with a good opponent. We have all been in games where a sourpuss or poor sport ruins the experience. Not so this time, and my opponent even paid me the compliment afterwards of saying what made the game most fun was gaming with me. The rules were relatively easy to pick up, once you wrapped your head around the sequence and the combat process. On each of the 9 turns of the game, each player turns over a countdown card -- a random event, of sorts -- which generally allows it to do some extra things prior to their turn. Once the turn itself begins, players spend out "plot points" -- think command points more than victory points -- to move and combat with their figures.
Jason's table in the second game on Saturday morning with pairs of opponents playing on their portion of the table
In the early going, I had my opponent on the ropes. My military trained "extras" (as opposed to your Star and Co-Star) had picked off three of the enemy to no losses myself. It wasn't just that I was using good cover, my guys seemed to be just a tad better than his (though we had fewer), and I took advantage of a few poor die rolls of his. One of his countdown cards turned the tables, though, and I loss two of my extras in one turn. The game went back and forth until the final turn. For my opponent's fortune card, he turned up one that allowed one of his figures to sprint towards the missile silo to "claim" it (up to that point, my figures had been closer, and thus had it under control). This gave him the edge in victory points, as I had inflicted more losses on him. Great game! If you like a game with some random components -- the countdown cards -- that can mix things up a bit and disrupt carefully laid plans. .Jason was running it again the next morning (alas, on a different table...). So, we packed up, moved everything, and set it up again before calling it a night.
My faction's two freighters which were bringing arms to this fictional African nation undergoing an Islamist insurgency
On Saturday, I signed up for a gaming being run by the guys from Miniature Building Authority. It was set in modern Africa and would feature some of their excellent 28mm terrain that they sell at conventions and online. The scenario featured an insurgent attack on a port town. The government forces had recently been reinforced by a U.S. contingent. Just to add some confusion to the mix, a criminal faction was at the port trying to make a weapons delivery to the insurgents and some other locals. I played the criminals, trying my best to not get caught in between the shooting by the two insurgent forces and the government and U.S. contingents. We had half our forces in the port on two freighters, and a poorer armed half on the opposite side of the table. Their mission was to hijack two trucks and drive them to the port for pickup of the arms.
An insurgent IED takes out a police vehicle and most of the police station -- and some of their own forces!
This was definitely a game of "best laid plans going astray," as the violence opened with the insurgents setting off an IED which took down the police station (killing half the prisoners they wanted to rescue), as well as the truck they were sending on their own to the port to pick up their arms. No doubt, inside that overturned white van was our payment for the arms! Although the opening shots went to the insurgent side, it quickly became obvious that the U.S. player was on a roll. His shooting was accurate and overwhelming, as he took down Islamist group after group. His patrol vehicles aggressively scoured the town, shooting up anything that looked like an insurgent.
My sailors on the docks awaiting vehicles to load the arms onto and moving to take positions to secure the port area
My two hijacked trucks were in cross hairs, but he ended up deciding not to shoot. However, he or the government player shut down all five of the routes that I could cross the town towards the port on. As one route was closed off by heavy firefights, I redirected to another -- only to have that one become a shooting gallery, as well. I kept going for backup after backup until I had only one option, which was blocked by two insurgent technicals dueling it out with the U.S. forces. It was only after the insurgents in the pickup trucks were gunned down that I was able to burn rubber and zip across the main route along the beach, into the squatter town, and towards the port.
Insurgents pop up on rooftops to engage the U.S. and government forces
It was a curious thing -- my forces were maneuvering for position the entire game, but ended up never actually firing a shot. My missions would have been compromised by me opening up on any of the other players, except if they initiated combat. The other players seemed to sense this and never actually targeted my guys. There was one tense moment when I put my entire port force on "overwatch" and told the government security force player if any of his men inside the compound opened up on the insurgents (provoking return fire into the port, near our ships, cargo, and fuel) I would shoot all of them. The government player backed down and the port became a relative safe zone.
A U.S. mounted patrol dismounts to better engage enemy targets in buildings
It was a fun game, but the die rolling of the U.S. player made it horribly one-sided. He suppressed and destroyed each insurgent group as it popped up to fire. The U.S. and government forces took some losses, but they paled next to the massive losses the insurgents suffered. Just as my trucks were arriving near the port, we called the game on time. It was obvious who had won and who had lost. My missions were probably going to be about 75% successful, but I doubtless came in a distant third or second, at best. The rules were MBA's own "Open Conflict" rules, which seemed to me a bit inspired by Force on Force/Ambush Alley. They were easy to learn and did a good job of reflecting the deadliness of modern warfare, yet leaving things open to random chance.
Although heavily armed, my sailors never ended up firing a shot, as we sought to accomplish our objectives

I took pictures of some of the other games going on at Historicon, of course. One, in particular, was not only visually impressive, it was interesting to me. Jeff Allen ran a game of Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago for 10 players on both Friday and Saturday night. It was a show-stopped, spectacularly sited in the lobby in front of the main gaming (Distelfink) room. Many people stopped by and took pictures. One of Jeff's purposes was to promote the game, and he did a great job of that. Most people asked what it was and watched some of the action.
The star on a board full of eye candy was this isle with its carved lizard mouth entrance -- with glowing LED lights!
I tried to get into the game both nights and it was sold out. I talked to the GM both nights, and he said that he actually had a couple slots for walkups, too -- registering it for 8 but ending up having 10 player positions by the time he had it ready to go. What I especially liked was his game enticed a number of younger gamers, too. These are the type of events at our shows that can go a long way towards introducing the next generation to our hobby.
The GM could lift off the top of the Lizard Isle to reveal a cave with more glowing LED lights beneath
As a member of the Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago Facebook group, I knew something that most observers did not. Most of Jeff's amazing terrain was simply raw styrofoam a week beforehand. Jeff literally worked on the terrain up until the day he ran the game. He said he spent time on Thursday at the convention painting and flocking in a marathon effort to get it ready for the tabletop.
A look at the spectacular South Seas board for Jeff Allen's Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago game
As a GM who runs games that receive praise for how they look on the table, I found that simply amazing. I would never have the guts to trust myself to get this done in such a last-minute fashion! I am such a planner and so "anal-retentive" that I can't imagine loading up unfinished terrain into my car to go to a show. I would be pulling all-nighters beforehand, rather than do that! I do admit that I often -- as a show approaches -- think of some final tweak that I want to complete before the scheduled hosting of the event. More than once, I have loaded miniatures or terrain that were dullcoated less than 24 hours before. So, maybe this deadline pressure is something that all GMs are addicted to -- ha, ha!
Adventurers onto these islands would be intimidated by this altar with a skeleton of a chained prisoner
Jeff's Frostgrave game seemed to be the appropriate, signature event for a spur-of-the-moment trip to Historicon. About the time he was beginning to work on the major portion of his scenery a week before the show, I had finally decided to attend. It was a good trip, all in all, with plenty of spare time at the dealer area or wandering around checking out events. It was a bit light on games played, but considering I usually don't play ANY games when I run events at conventions, something is better than nothing! Thanks to Jason for sharing his room, Chris for allowing me to ride along, and all the GMs and Vendors who helped make my trip a success!!
The steep steps leading up to the pyramid on the temple isle on the Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago board

Monday, July 16, 2018

Back from Historicon 2018!

The Historicon 2018 Dealer Room, as seen from the small balcony where several more dealers were cubby-holed
 It was a spur-of-the-moment trip to Historicon, this summer. My friends and I had already made our "big" trip outside our area to Little Wars, in April. However, my friend Jason from Columbia, SC, couldn't make it, so had made reservations for Historicon - which returned to Lancaster, PA, this year. He invited me out to share his room. My parents were doing much better medically, so I felt things were calm enough for me to hitch a ride East and join him. A fellow Great Lakes member, Chris, was heading that way and kindly let me ride along with him.

I have attended many Cold Wars conventions in the often-belittled Lancaster Host Resort, where the convention was being held. Some of the guest rooms had indeed been upgraded, and looked nice (like Chris's). Others, I heard, were still not renovated. The rooms in which the games were being played had definitely NOT been updated. The air conditioning worked well in nearly all of the rooms, which was good -- considering it was summer! Otherwise, the hotel is still in pretty sad shape, and is a lackluster location for a convention. The dealer area, formerly the Tennis Barn, had been completely rebuilt. Inexplicably, the entrance is on the opposite end, facing away from the hotel. The walk there was down a steep asphalt drive -- which shouldn't be something to complain about on the sunny (but hot) days. However, I can't imagine what it will be like in icy or snowy weather, or in the pouring. Very strange design thinking by those who are upgrading the facility.
Another look at the dealer room -- one of every Historicon attendee's favorite places to visit
 Speaking of the dealer room, I may as well go ahead and talk about my purchases. Shopping in the dealer area is always a fun part of the convention for a wargamer. Historicon historically has the best shopping of any convention in the U.S., so it is a highlight. I wasn't extravagant, though -- by any measure. Plus, $50 worth of my purchases occurred AFTER I had sold the five DBA Ancients painted armies I had brought along to the convention to try to sell.  So, here is what I bought, for those interested (with links to the companies).
4 Eureka Miniatures 28mm Chimpanzees
Ideally, I was looking for Baboons to go along with the three I had already painted up for Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago. The only ones I found were the same three I had purchased from North Star Miniatures, which honestly, I am not crazy about. So, when I saw Eureka Miniatures had four chimpanzee poses, I snapped them up. My first purchase of the convention.
Miniature Building Authority Clothes Lines from their 28mm Shanty Town line
Miniature Building Authority Scenery
My next purchase came at the Miniature Building Authority booth. They have a 28mm Shanty Town line which has all kinds of nice city terrain odds and ends. Even though my modern Africa games are in 20mm, they usually work for the scale, too. I had previously purchased their Jersey Barricades -- and who is going to argue about how tall a concrete barrier should be? Similarly, with my first purchase from them: Clothes Lines made to string between two shanties. The picture above is from their website -- no, I did not get them painted up that quickly! In fact, all the product images are from the manufacturer websites. Two Clothes Lines come in a package for $6. MBA stuff tends to be a bit on the pricier end of the scale, but it is good stuff, and they are loyal supporters of our hobby. So, I support them with purchases, as well!
Miniature Building Authority Weapons Cache - Medium
Another item in their Shanty Town line of scenics was a Weapons Cache. They had two sizes, and I opted for the medium one. This could either be a good objective, or simply some atmospheric scenery in a lawless, third-world town. This appears to be in resin, too.
Miniature Building Authority 28mm Dumpster
My third MBA purchase was one of their 28mm Dumpsters. I had won a $5 gift certificate playing in their game one evening. So, I picked both this and the fourth purchase up the next morning. The dumpster is in resin, and has a removable roof -- in case you want your players to go dumpster diving in a scenario!
Miniature Building Authority Police Barricades in 28mm metal
I felt it would be cheesy to use a $5 gift certificate to buy a $6 item, so through in another pack I could use for my Modern Africa games. These Police Barriers will complement the Jersey Barricades I've owned for awhile. These are in metal - not resin, and come with four in a pack. They are about 2 1/4" long.
A new company I had not seen before - I purchased two packs of "2 Coiled Snakes"
Windsword Accessories
This was a new company for me. I asked the guy working the booth, and they said they had been going to Cold Wars recently, but not Historicon the last several years. That explained why I had not seen WindSword Accessories before. Someone told me that many of their products are made using the Hirst Arts molds, which people can buy and cast their own walls and such using plaster. I don't own any of them molds themselves, but generous friends of mine (Zeke and Tim) have given me what they've cast up. I bought four items from them. The first was two packs of Two Coiled Snakes for only $2 each. These will make great things to affix either side of a temple entranceway, or something (or creating an altar). Each snake is just a bit over one inch tall.
WindSword Accessories - two Toothy Skulls
There was lots of cool stuff at their booth. I have a feeling if I had sold my painted DBA armies earlier in the convention, I would have ended up buying far more from their booth. My second purchase was a pack of two Toothy Skulls. These will make great things to decorate the walls of a temple of an idol. They are flat on the back side, which should make it easy to affix them to a wall. Each skull is about 2" tall.
Sold at the convention booth for 50 cents each, these skulls will also come in handy as temple decoration
My final WindSword Accessories purchase came from a tub of simpler skulls for 50 cents each. I picked up four of them, and they will similarly decorate the walls of a temple or altar, one day. Each skull is flat on its back like the Toothy ones above, and is about 1.5" tall.
A 28mm Sarissa Precision building (City Block), which will see action in my modern Africa games
One booth I kept going back to over and over to decide what I wanted to purchase was Wargame Tools. They carry both TT Combat and Sarissa Precision laser-cut, MDF buildings and accessories. This is where I bought my Cargo Container Ship two years ago at Historicon, and used in last year's "That's My USAid" modern Africa games. This year, I was looking for some city buildings to do a scenario set in the capital or large town in Africa for my rules, Wars of Insurgency. The buildings are VERY affordable. The first I purchased was from the Sarissa Precision line that they carry, and was called City Block 64, Style #4. At only $20, and with two interior levels (that come apart), and a flat roof that could easily accommodate models, it is a perfect gaming piece. I am not normally a huge fan of MDF buildings, as they appear too flat and two dimensional to me.
"Apartment A" from TT Combat, a laser-cut 28mm MDF building with lots of decoration
Wargame Tools was the booth I returned to after I sold my DBA armies, with money apparently burning a hole in my pocket. I had been deciding between a few different styles of buildings from the TT Combat line they carry, as well. I ended up deciding on either Apartment A or Apartment B. When I sold all five armies, I said, "Heck with it!" I splurged and bought both...ha, ha! I have some plans on how to disguise the MDF trademark notch and tooth method of attaching pieces together. It is definitely one of the things I like least about MDF.
"Apartment B" from TT Combat's line of 28mm laser-cut MDF buildings
This entry has gotten long enough that I think I will do a second one to talk about the games I played in and saw. So, stay tuned for Part Two of my Historicon 2018 report!

Monday, July 9, 2018

More Jungle for my Jungle

My second batch of my new Jungle Scatter pieces, with Splintered Light Miniatures frogs stalking through them
After setting up and looking at pictures from my first game of Ghost Archipelago, I came to a conclusion about my terrain: I don't have enough! Now, I feel I do have plenty of temples and ruins, yes. However, the vegetation looked a little skimpy, in my opinion. Of course, I WAS putting out terrain for 32 square feet of board (8'x4' table, divided into two, 4-player boards). I do actually own more trees, so I'll pack another box, next time.
A rat patrol makes their way through my first, more colorful, of Jungle Scatter pieces
However, I also noticed in the photos that much of the terrain is simply bases -- I need more visual stuff down at table level at figure height. I have about a dozen jungle pieces I'd created awhile back for my 28mm Pulp games. But those don't go far on a 32' square foot board! So, I decided it was time to create more jungle "scatter" -- pieces to place on the board to give it more color, more 3-D appeal.
A close up of the frogs as they search for enemies amidst the vegetation
So, it was off to Michaels craft store to see what they had in the plastic plant aisles that I could use. Luckily, they just happened to be 60% off this week. I picked up a number of plants that looked like they might fill the bill, and stopped by Hobby Lobby for more of the wooden circular bases to put all this greenery on. Prior to making the trip, I'd dug out all my saved plastic plants and other types of vegetation (like the flowers and tiny, blooming trees from JTT Scenery Products).

Cleverly (for once), I created a prototype before going all-in and doing a dozen or so. I was happy with the prototype, but figured a way to simplify the work even more. Here are my steps for creating Jungle Scatter at ridiculously inexpensive prices:
Step 1: Wooden disks as bases
1) For bases, I used"Wooden Nickels" from Woodpile Fun -- though many other make similar pieces. These measure about 1.5" diameter. I use these soft wood ones because they are cheap, and easy to drill through, as you will see in a later step.
Step 2: Mount the bases temporarily to bamboo skewers with bluetack
2) Using bluetack and bamboo skewers, "mount" each base so you can hold onto it easily while applying the flocking.
Step 3: Flock the bases with Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast
3) Paint the edges and top of each base with a 50/50 mixture of brown paint and white glue (I have a bottle of it premixed that I use for pretty much all my basing, now). Put it on heavily, then immediately press it down into a plastic container filled with Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast.
Step 4: White glue and water mix painted on the surface, then sprinkling with Turf Earth
4) After it dries, paint the base with a 50/50 mixture of white glue and water (I also have a bottle of this premixed). Paint this on heavily, as well, and immediately sprinkle it with Woodland Scenics Turf Earth. It would probably work to press it down into there like with Step 3, but I find the glue will then clump up instead of giving a more even surface. When dry, this will be hard like sandpaper with a nice surface.
Step 5: Central piece of vegetation
 5) While drying, figure out what you want to be the taller, central piece of vegetation for each base. I use a mix of different types of plants and greenery: Flowering trees, ferns, various greenery from plastic plants, and so on. The more variety, the better. Some plastic plants are attached to stems with a tube-like piece of plastic you can use (such as the one on the bottom right). Others will be too long and need trimmed so all you are left with is a plastic stem. Either works. Take a hand drill and select a bit that matches the size you'll need. Drill it through roughly the center of the flocking.
Leaves trimmed from various cast off pieces of plastic plants are added to the ground to look like fallen vegetation
For pieces that have a tube, take a small section of craft sticks or similar, and trim it to be just larger than your hole. Force it through the hole from bottom to top, with just enough projecting so that the "tube" fits perfectly over it. Coat this projecting spike, so to speak, with Tacky Glue - also applying some to the bottom. Place the vegetation atop it and press down. Elevate it while it dries and make sure the vegetation is standing close to upright.
My first 12 pieces of jungle scatter -- after I finished them, I thought maybe they are a bit too colorful
For pieces that are just a stem, coat the bottom portion of it heavily in Tacky Glue. Put a blob on the hole, too. Then force the stem through the hole from top to bottom. Elevate it while it dries. Like with the tube type above, you will trim off this bottom piece once the glue dries.
 6) While the central pieces are drying, pick out the other pieces of vegetation you're going to use on the base. As you can see in the above, I picked out quite a variety from the craft store. I went back the next day and picked up even more. Use a mix you like. The pics in this post are from my original batch. I have since decided to tone down the color a bit. Make it more green and use the occasional color as accent, but you decide. It's your jungle!

I place a very large blob of Tacky Glue onto the surface of the base. I then press the plant firmly down onto it, making sure the glue has welled up around it. The flocking method I use above gives it something solid to grip onto.
My second batch of jungle scatter pieces -- as you can see, I toned down the brightness and made it more green
7) Cover most of the brown areas with grass flocking, and even some fallen leaves. First, I paint the brown areas visible between the plants with undiluted white glue. I sprinkle this with Woodland Scenics Blended Grass. To make it look even more jungle like, I have trimmed off various different leaves from plastic plants. I affix one or two of these onto the grassy areas for additional effect.
And there you have it! Jungle scatter that really takes VERY little time to do. They are easy to store, cheap to make, and add color and effect to your tabletop.