Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Finn's Factory - 28mm Sarissa MDF buidling

28mm Sarissa MDF Factory Unit #2 - named after one of my Sunday night gaming friends
Two of the half dozen or so MDF buildings I purchased recently from Wargame Tools were factories. They were inexpensive ($16 each), and would be perfect for an urban battlefield for either my modern games or my Gang warfare clashes. Sarissa makes a variety of styles, but I assembled only one, so far - Factory Unit #2, from their Industrial line.
The recessed cardstock window panes are visible in this photo, which I left black to give it a gritty and dark look
When I opened it up, I actually let out a whoop of surprise. This WOULD be the simplest MDF building I had put together! One of my favorite features of Sarissa buildings is how easy they go together, and this one was the simplest of the simple. Essentially, there is a base, four walls, and a roof. Now, the roof has three window covers, and three of the walls have detail-cut cardstock to represent the window panes, but it is still a minimum of parts. You glue the cardstock on the inside of the walls to cover the open rectangular hole of the windows with a window pane pattern. I like this because the panes look recessed a bit, and not as thick as the walls.
The Sons of Thor, German Village Chapter stake out the factory with its Photoshop-created and printed details
As per usual, after gluing the four wall sections to the base, I put a rubber band around the building to hold the joins tight. While it was drying, I took a look at it and planned how I would paint it. I decided I would not paint the window panes a color - they would remain black. It is a factory, after all, and not trying to impress anyone with colorful styling. I decided on gray concrete walls and floor, though I would vary the look with dry-brushing and different shades of gray. The floor would be darkest, followed by the outside walls, and the lightest would be the inside walls. All trim would be dark red.
Industrial posters add to the building's look, while the bamboo skewer in the corner helps cover the small cardstock gap
Prep-work was done exactly as I do all of my other MDF buildings -- spray paint Krylon acrylic black primer and follow up with a 50/50 mix of black acrylic paint and water. I made sure I went over the window panes thoroughly because I would keep them black on this building. Once I got to the painting stage, I think it works best to work from inside out. I begin with the walls, as some paint slops onto the floor, inevitably. The floor is very easy to "cut" sharply with a rectangular brush. I like to leave a line of the black primer separating the walls and floor to give an illusion of depth. I had to go back over the window panes in a few places, though, where my brush went crazy and splashed over onto them. There is some trim on the bottom of the outside that is done in brick that I had to paint. I did a dark red base coat followed by a Middle East Flesh (Howard Hues) dry brush. Once all was painted, I did a black wash over the interior and exterior.
Another look at the gray concrete interior to the factory, livened up by the colorful safety posters
One thing I had decided after painting the Shell Gas Station was to use as much printed out patterns and details as possible (at least compared to brush painted). For this model, I decided that I would work something up in Photoshop for both the garage double doors and the office door, print them off, and simply glue them on. The same for a sign. I think my painting skills have "jumped the shark" and I can't make it look near as well with a brush as I can with Photoshop! I also found some industrial safety posters to glue to the inside walls. I debated over a name for my factory for awhile. I had been wanting to start naming them after my gaming friends, so finally decided on "Finn's Industrial Fasteners." I'm sure Keith will be honored to have a building named after him...ha, ha!
The roof looks nice with the blended gray ballast for texture and the dark red window cover accent
I was worried if I would have to rig something special up for the roof. It simply sits inside the walls, resting on the cardstock inner layer of the walls. I decided to give it something more substantial to rest upon, and cut four bamboo skewers to size. I glued each flush against a corner of the inside walls so that the roof would rest on them. This had the additional benefit of hiding the small gap between the interior pieces of cardstock. Speaking of the roof, I used some blended gray ballast for the roof material to give it some texture.  The window covers were painted dark red.
The Sons of Thor check out the graffiti on the factory to see who has been "tagging" their turf
As a final touch, I decided an industrial building, with its big expanse of gray blank walls, would get vandalized by graffiti. As I had done previously with the Jack & Benny's Old Time Diner, I simply did a Google image search on graffiti and picked out a couple images I liked. These I opened up in Photoshop to change from a rectangular to irregular shape. I did htis by "trimming" them with the paintbrush tool (so, I'm kinda of painting, right...?). This gives it more of an edge that looks like it was done with an aerosol can, I think.

I am incredibly happy with how this small (6"x4") building turned out. I think I am going to look for some plastic bits I can use to represent machinery for the inside. There's a local hobby story that has all kinds of miscellaneous...well, junk, on its shelves. I think I can find something there. Either way, my guess is that I'll do the next factory as my next building, too. That Sarissa Motel I purchased looks kind of intimidating...WAY more parts than Finn's Factory. There's something to be said for "easy," and this was definitely an easy build. Highly recommended! 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Gladiators - Trying Out 'Blood, Sweat, and Cheers'

Pick a gladiator and enter the arena! My stable of 28mm Gladiators
Keith wanted to try out Ganesha Games' "Blood, Sweat, and Cheers" gladiator game at our regular, Sunday evening gaming session. I was excited because it meant that my 28mm gladiators would finally be used in a game. Plus, I am looking for a system that I can use to teach to my 7th grade students when we learn about Ancient Rome and gladiators in class. It has to be easy to teach, and simple enough for the 12-13 year old kids to understand, of course!
My Murmillo, left, against Brian's Hoplomachus, right
Keith spent the weekend preparing, printing out decks and cards for gladiators, along with quick reference sheets. Since there were seven of us, he matched us up in three, one-on-one games. I like that each of the different fighting styles has a different card and stats. There are three basic stats -- Speed, Attack, and Defense, which range in values from 1 to 6. Typically, they seem to be 2 - 4. For example, my first gladiator was a Murmillo, a heavily-armed gladiator who had a Speed of 2, Attack of 3, and Defense of 4. I was matched up against Brian's Hoplomachus, another heavily-armed gladiator with a spear, but whose stats were all 3's.
Thanks to a timely Fortuna's Favorite card, Brian's gladiator goes down before my Murmillo
Speed is critically important, and this is how the game allows the very Roman method of matching heavier armed gladiators (like Brian and mine) against lighter armed ones, such as a Retiarius (trident and net guy). The slower gladiator plays his one or two card choices for his action before the faster one, who can then react and select which cards he wants to play. In the five matches I fought that evening, I was the faster one only once, and it WAS nice being able to react. It took us our first match and partway into the second to really get the system down in our heads. There were subtleties that we did not notice right away, including the fact that after each two-round turn you can discard any of the remaining cards in your hand before drawing up to your compliment of five, again.
Those about to die, salute you! From left, Brian, Keith, Joel, Mike S, Mike W, and Allen
Blood, Sweat, and Cheers is a card-driven game. Your hand of five cards can include any of the following, which is a typical deck in the game:
  • 9 Step Cards
  • 11 Strike Cards
  • 9 Guard Cards
  • 6 Glory Cards
  • 3 Roar of the Crowd Cards
  • 1 Fortuna's Favorite Card
  • 1 Imperial Interest Card
Each of the cards allows your gladiator to, in order above, move, attack, defend, use their fighting style special abilities, take advantage of the crowd's favor, swap dice scores with your opponent, and...well, I never saw my Imperial Interest, but I heard it saves you from dying or something. Once we got it down, games went quickly. I learned that Fortuna's Favorite is a VERY powerful card - indeed, it was how I won my first match against Brian. We both attacked, and I rolled a 1 and he a 6. I swapped our dice, and the difference between our scores was 5 or more, so his gladiator was down and out of action. Boom! Just like that, it can end quickly. In fact, Allen and Mike W's first game ended on the second turn of fighting.
Our night's marathon match with Mike W and Allen well-matched
Most matches tended to last 10-20 minutes, though Allen and Mike's rematch went for a half hour or so. With an odd number for the evening, we swapped opponents, which meant we had some of us who played a lot of games and some who played fewer. Mike Stelzer's Thraex (Thracian) was the clear winner, going undefeated in four matches. There is even an mechanism for deciding whether your losing gladiator gets the thumbs up and lives, or whether his appeal for mercy is denied and he is dispatched at the end. Here was our final standings for the evening:
  1. Mike S, 4-0
  2. Mike W, 3-1
  3. Mike D, 3-2
  4. Brian, 2-2
  5. Keith, 1-2
  6. Joel 0-3
  7. Allen 0-3
A funny thing happened in the arena tonight: Only Mikes could beat other Mikes (the three of us beat all non-Mikes)
How did I like it? Well, it IS quick, and possible to get many bouts in during an evening's play. The Glory cards do a great job of making each gladiator type different. There is almost no record keeping and you need only dice, a few counters, and cards. You will need action separate deck for each gladiator, which costs either money to purchase or print. Ideally, I would like rules for matches between multiple gladiators on a side. However, no one said they are uninterested in playing again, and most saw possibilities. Mike S loved it, of course - but that tends to happen when you win, right?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

MDF Gas Station for my 28mm Urban Terrain

My 28mm MDF Sarissa Precision Gas Station being overtaken by one of my 28mm gangs
Although I think I may be at a stopping point on painting up gang members for my 28mm Urban Gang Warfare project, I have lots of buildings I can add to give them more "turf" to fight over. The latest is another Sarissa Precision building from their Retro Americana line, Gas Station - P002. I obtained it from one of those great guys you run into in this hobby, Terry Jones from Wargame Tools. Although he didn't have it in stock when I asked him about it, he picked it up for me on his next trip overseas and brought it back for me. From there, my friend Zeke grabbed it from him at Cold Wars (with my other purchases), and kindly brought it back to me.
I didn't use the Sarissa MDF pumps, instead painting up this resin one from Miniature Building Authority
As with most Sarissa Buildings, it went together VERY easily. I think that is the thing I like best about their products -- they are so simple to assemble. I did decide to NOT assemble their MDF gas pumps because I had previously purchased a resin gasoline pump island from Miniature Building Authority (another great group of guys!). Since my project is based in the 1980s or so, I wanted to make this gas station somewhat retro, like it is entitled. I also want it to be usable for more modern stuff, though, so I tried to think of what gas company hasn't changed its logo much over the decades. Shell came immediately to mind, so this would be a Shell station. I googled images of vintage shell stations to get the color scheme, and began painting.
The front interior section of the gas station - not the simple painting with details added by printed paper
I prepared the model as I usually do -- black prime with Krylon acrylic spray primer, followed up by a 50/50 mixture of black acrylic paint and water. Although this often makes the base colors on top of it need two coats, I like the effect and coverage that it gives. I painted the interior Ceramcoat Rain Gray first, then the outside Ceramcoat Ivory (a nice cream color) with Red trim. Honestly, painting this gas station has made me realize my physical painting skills are deteriorating. Look in the pictures and you will see the mess I made of straight lines on the red trim (the doors are the absolute worst), I am tempted, from this point on, to use even more printed paper on my models -- and as you can see, there is quite a bit on this one already!
Seamus, the leader of the Hilltop Highlanders, patiently waits his turn to use the facilities
I printed out the floors, interior doors, and posters on the walls to decorate this model. I really like the way they look -- far superior to what I could do freehand! I was wondering if a printed door would detract from the three dimensional aspect of the model, but I think it actually adds to it. Same with the signs and posters (and floors). They seem to give it depth. To get these, I simply do Google searches (except for the doors, which I downloaded from a free textures images website. I did have to add the Male/Female bathroom signs to them with Photoshop, which I use to resize the images to the correct size. The service bay was fun to decorate with pinup calendar girls...yes, I am stereotyping what mechanics would put on their walls! But I have been in enough service shops and seen enough scantily clad women in tool posters to base this at least partially on reality!
A couple gang members admire the artwork on the walls of the service bay while Seamus takes a pee
The Shell signs were taken from Google and resized, as well. I really like the side projecting signs. When I assembled the model, this had me scratching my head. I almost didn't put them on for fear of them catching on things and snapping off. It looks like they're secured fairly well from how the model is designed (going through two thicknesses of MDF), so I put them on. I think them painted red with the Shell logo looks great, though. I probably should have done more for the roof sign, utilizing the oval space more than the circular logo does. Oh well. Something to remember for future models.
A good look at the roof and the back of the building, as Seamus assembles the gang
The rooftop is one area of the model that I modified. Instead of simply using the MDF roof, I glued a sheet of textured plastic onto it. I used a brick-like pattern, and painted in deep red wetbrush, followed by a Howard Hues Middle Eastern Flesh dry brush. I think it gives it a much more three dimensional look than flat MDF. However, my plastic didn't attach so well to the MDF, and you can see where to bowed up a bit in places. I should have flattened it really well when affixing it under a stack of books, or something. Another thing to remember for future buildings!

All in all, I think the gas station is a nice addition to my 28mm urban terrain. In my game, I plan to give each player multiple missions for their gangs. The gas station will allow me add some cool stuff, like maybe stealing a car from the service bay! I have a lot of choices which building to do next as I bought a nice stack of them from Terry when I purchased this one. Stay tuned to see which one I build...

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Two New Urban Gangs: Eastmoor Kings & the Hilltop Highlanders

Two leaders of the Eastmoor Kings, an African-American gang in my fictional world for 28mm Urban Gang warfare
With these last two gangs completed it means I have seven 28mm urban gangs completed. Since our normal attendance on a Sunday evening gaming is seven, I think I am at a stopping point in painting up figures for player factions. I may still want to paint up miscellaneous figs, like civilians, police, etc. And of course, I'll be working on terrain pretty much continuously for this project.
I decided to do this gang in matching shirts - black with a light green crown for Kings and "E" for Eastmoor
Appropriately enough, these are probably two of my favorite groups. I purchased figures from The Assault Group from their Ultra Modern line (their "rioters" packs) and they are perfect for this period. I tossed in a couple figures I had already to supplement what I purchased, but most of these figures are straight out of the pack, unmodified.
I was tempted to cut out the molotov cocktails from the hands of The Assault Group figures, but decided not to in the end
Let's start with the Eastmoor Kings. When I was going to high school in Columbus, Eastmoor was always a "scary" school. It was largely an African-American school (two-time Heisman trophy winner Archie Griffin went there!). So, it seemed a natural to name an African-American gang like the Kings after that school. Why the Kings? I did a Google search on gang logos and symbols, and The Kings kept coming up. It seemed like an appropriate gang name. Plus, I felt I could handle painting a crown with an "E" inside of it on their gang apparel.
As you can see, there is some repetition on the poses from The Assault Group, except for subtle difference like face scarfs
I gave most of the gang members jeans or gym shorts. I really like how the leader with the pistol came out, though, with the purple sweat pants. I am basing my games on the world of the Hollywood movie, The Warriors (except set in Columbus instead of New York City). Like in the movie, the gangs will prefer melee weapons rather than firearms. However, the figures was too good to not use, so he will make it onto the tabletop.
The Assault Group figures I used for this gang are probably some of my favorite ones I've painted for this project
The Hilltop is a neighborhood on the West side, so it was only natural that I locate one of my gangs there. Unlike Eastmoor, the Hilltop was mostly working class white when I was going to high school. I thought I would play off of the Hilltop name and call the gang the Hilltop Highlanders. For their gang apparel, I thought why not paint their pants as trews (or golf pants, if you prefer)?
Yes, that is my attempt at a Cincinnati Reds Johnny Bench jersey! Note the Hilltop Highlanders logo on the leather jacket
This was my last gang, and fun to paint. The Assault Group figures have a lot of character, and these probably have the most. I did not like how any of my other figures I own mixed with them, so this gang has only eight figures, fewer than the 10-12 of the others. For the trews, I decided to go a couple steps further than I have in the past for painting tartan patterns. I began with a deep red, drybrushed a brighter red. Next, I did a "window pane" of horizontal and vertical lines in dark brown. This is where I usually stop on tartan patterns, but I decided to add more. Next, came a thin, vertical yellow line in between the two brown ones. Finally, I added a dot of kelly green at the intersection of each vertical and horizontal brown line. I really like the effect it gave.
I like the sunglasses on the guy in the striped shirt, plus the variety of hair styles on these figures
Since the pants were the gang identifier, it allowed me to be a bit more creative and use more variety in their shirts or tops. As you saw above, I painted one as a Cincinnati Reds Johnny Bench jersey. Another had one of those blue down jackets that were so popular back when I was growing up. Others had leather jackets, and there was even one with a tie -- he must have a job that makes him dress up! The one with the scarf wrapped around his head gave me a pause. In this working class white gang, an Arab head scarf would hardly be welcome. So, I decided to give him a flag-looking one for a suitably patriotic look!
The gang member with the numchuks is a modified Foundry Ancient German, the rest are from The Assault Group
I guess now that I have the figures for this project mostly done, it is time to finish writing the rules! Weirdly, I woke up the other morning with ideas for a command and control system for a skirmish game running through my head. So, I may decide to go back and rewrite a portion of what I have done to include these (dream-inspired?) ideas. I also have another MDF building on my painting table, so things are finally moving again on this project!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Roman Civil War Intrudes on Gododdin

The men of Gododdin march to engage the two Roman invaders on the far corner of the board
Due to so much going on on our chosen weekend, we had only three players for our monthly Saga day at The Guard Tower East, today. The two mainstays of Saga in Columbus -- Andy Swingle and Steve Phallen, were both waiting when I arrived. We chatted for awhile, and then when no one else showed, decided to try a 3-way battle. Luckily, "Battle Royale" in the book of battles supplement has rules for three players, so we combined two 3'x4' mats into one 6'x4' one, and selected our armies.
Andy's Byzantine Roman army included a Legendary, heavily-armed cavalry unit (on hill)
I was playing the "Welsh" list, continuing the tale of Lord Gwendawg and his victorious (at least in the past) retainers. Andy chose the "Last Romans" list from the Age of Vikings book (representing the Byzantines), while Steve chose the Roman list from the Aetius & Arthur book. So, it was Romans vs. Romans vs. a list that used to be called Sub-Roman British in the old DBA days. The deployment sequence is clever, with a player choosing one of his units and placing them anywhere on the tabletop not within a Medium Move of an enemy unit. He then nominates one of his opponents to deploy a unit, who then does the same.
Andy and Steve's forces were deployed close to one another and were soon slaughtering each other
I deployed my units to essentially hide, out of sight. One of Steve's Roman units was a ballista, which is deadly against my large units. The effect is that my force was gathered in one corner of the board, while Andy and Steve were much more aggressive and intermixed their forces at short range, mostly in the opposite corner. I would have a long trek across the table to engage them, by which time the two would be savaging each other, suffering grievous losses. The movement system is equally clever, with each player having six markers (surrendering one after taking its turn and moving all of its forces). After finishing, the moving player nominates which of his opponents moves next (but it cannot be one with fewer movement markers left than the other).
Another look at the original deployment - the only enemy close were archers in the barn, top left, and woods, top right
Andy started off concentrating his forces better against Steve, though each kept one unit of archers to hold off the forces of Gododdin. It seemed he would make short work of Steve's troops, but Steve deftly turned the tables on him. Soon, it was Andy's forces who were dwindling. Meanwhile, we kept up a steady advance, bypassing the unit of Warrior Archers that Steve had left in the strongpoint of stone barn. Andy's Levy Archers were our first victim. After inflicting minimal casualties against them with our javelins, one of my 12-man warrior units charged in using the "Wild Charge" ability (which provides a bonus 6 attack dice). The men of Gododdin all but obliterated the archers, with one sole survivor fleeing deeper into the woods.
The tidal wave of brave men of Gododdin about to fall on the depleted Roman forces
Affronted, Andy's Warlord charged my own Levy javelinmen, who inflicted two fatigue on him before falling back. As he was in the middle of several of my units, it was obvious he would not survive his rashness. The Byzantine warlord went down under a hail of Gododdin javelins. Meanwhile, my mounted hearthguard (8 figures strong) and my own Warlord were hurrying to close with Steve's Romans before the game ended. Biding his time, Steve advanced his foot hearthguard unit towards my mounted ones, but had forgotten about the Welsh "Our Land" ability. This allows us to move or charge in reaction to an enemy move. The mounted heroes of Gododdin crashed into the elite foot legionaries. Bad dice kept the casualties equal, driving us off, but we followed up the next turn with another charge which eliminated the Romans.

To close at the battle, Lord Gwendawg charged the Roman Warlord and rode him down. Both enemy warlords had fallen to our javelins and swords. Most of my force was remaining, which also counts towards victory points (along with how many charges you launched), so Gododdin was declared the victor. I honestly think it was mostly due to the two of them wounding each other so savagely, allowing me to come in at full strength and finish them off. Granted, I felt I used my Welsh Battle Board well and augmented my superior numbers with key abilities.