Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Bronze Legion - Ready for Battle!

    The Bronze Legion assembled - five squads totaling 24 points for Xenos Rampant

With the last squad of heavy infantry for the Bronze Legion finished, I can officially say this "detachment" (as Xenos Rampant calls a player's force) is ready for the tabletop. These last five figures should have been a breeze to paint up, but when they were about 3/4's of the way done, I got sick a couple weeks back. It sapped all my energy, so they sat there, partially painted, in the basement waiting for my recovery.

    Progress on the final squad of heavy infantry for the legion was delayed by two weeks of sickness
The heavy infantry for the Bronze Legion comes from the "Troopers" box of the Stargrave Miniatures plastic kit. I'm ashamed to say that it wasn't until gluing together this batch that I noticed the left and right arms had matching numbers. That certainly made positioning the arms of the figures bracing their weapon with their left hand easier! I'm still a bit of a novice still at this "assembling miniatures" stage of painting figures. I prefer metal miniatures, but realize that so many people like the kit-bashing aspect of plastic figures that they are here to stay.
    I think the Wiley Games 3-D printed and Stargrave plastic figures go together well for this force

I painted them up identically to the last batch. They were spray primed with Krylon acrylic matte black, which I always follow up brushing on a 50/50 mix of water and acrylic black paint. Next, I do a medium gray dry brush over the figures to bring out some highlights on the black. I remembered this time to NOT do a black wash over these areas at the end. Last time I did that and it erased my gray highlighting! It was on to the armor next, which I painted using a metallic craft paint called "Ancient Bronze." After some bright red detail on the belts and back armor plate, all that was left was the figures' weapons. I like how my method for painting Sci-Fi weapons has been working out. I start with a metallic gray craft paint base color, add some details in metallic brown, and finally highlights in silver. Weapons, faces, and the armor then receive a dark black vehicle wash from Vallejo. At that point they are ready for clearcoating, with one final step of painting gloss on their visors and the red dot on their backpacks.

    Wiley Games B3AST provides some heavy support for the legion, counting as a "Fighting Vehicle"
I'm sticking with my urban style flocking on the bases, using Woodland Scenics fine Mixed Gray Ballast. Before applying it, though, I glue a couple bricks to represent rubble, and then over bricks and ballast I do a black wash. One or two tufts and mixed green flocking and the figure is ready for the tabletop. It was fun to assemble the whole detachment and take some pictures. I am giving the Bronze Legion a fighting vehicle (in Xenos Rampant terms) to round out the force. This is the B3AST tracked Bot from Wiley Games. Its color scheme somewhat matches the Bronze Legion, so I figured it would be a good fit.
    Seeing how few figures it takes to field a force in Xenos Rampant, I ditched the 2-figs = 1 SP scale

I have also pointed out my detachment for Xenos Rampant, too. I have officially backed off of the two figures equals one strength point. I am going all in with a one-to-one ratio. As you can see with the legion, it really doesn't take that many figures to do a 24-point force. Here is how I plan to field the legion:

  • 5 strength points Elite Infantry with Commander: (includes Back into the Fray, Firefight, Ranger), +2 points for Heavy Weapon = total 8 points.
  • 5 strength points Elite Infantry: (includes Back into the Fray, Firefight, Ranger) = total 6 points.
  • 5 strength points Heavy Infantry: (includes Go to Ground, Firefight), +1 point for Armor Piercing = total 3 points.
  • 5 strength points Heavy Infantry: (includes Go to Ground, Firefight), +1 point for Armor Piercing = total 3 points.
  • 5 strength points Fighting Vehicle: (includes All Terrain, Anti-tank, High-powered blades), -2 points for Light Armored Vehicle = total 4 points.

Total Detachment Points = 24

    I'm excited to play my first game of Xenos Rampaint, which could be very soon...!
What's up next? I have assembled another squad of five figures for Xenos Rampant. This will be another batch of Blue-skinned Troopers for Xenos Rampant. This will finish out that detachment, as well. When that squad is complete, I will have four detachments done.

Miniature Painting & Purchasing Tally for 2024

  • Miniatures purchased in 2024: 15
  • Miniatures painted in 2024: 31

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Giant 3-D Printed Bridge (with Graffiti)

    My newest piece of terrain -- a large, stone bridge with brick sidewalks and an asphalt road atop it
This is probably the largest piece of terrain that I have ever assembled and painted. It is a 3-D printed bridge that I purchased from my friend Rusty Parker of Jarl's Workshop ( I first saw it at Drums at the Rapids a couple years ago. I was sorely tempted to buy it then, but my cheapskate nature had me hold off. By the time that Advance the Colors rolled around five months later, I told him that I wanted it. I bought it and there it sat in my closet for nearly a year.

Nearly a yard long, this 3-D printed bridge from Jarls Workshop is the biggest terrain piece I've made
Recently, I pulled it out determined to get it completed and use it in a game. The first step was to glue its seven pieces together. I used superglue and assembled and was pleased how it kind of "locked together" tightly. You can see some gaps here and there, but for the most part, it fits together very nicely. I did add a couple thin pieces of styrene to cover a couple gaps, but otherwise, there were no modifications to the bridge as purchased from Rusty.

    Multiple layers of spray paint, washes, dry brushing, and another final wash color its golden stones
My next decision was to decide on a color scheme. I decided that I wanted to yellowish-golden colored stone. I scoured the aisles of the local Menards home improvement store, and found a nice khaki colored primer. First, I sprayed two coats on it while it was upside down. After drying, I did the same with it standing upright. The next step was to take a more golden toned khaki color craft paint and water it down so that it could be used as a wash. I slathered it on a couple times and was really happy how it settled into the crevices in the stone.

    Two of my street gangs taunt each other from opposite sides of the river, daring the other to cross
The next step was to take another craft paint, a light tan stone color, and use it as a dry brush to highlight the pieces. I used the largest flat brush I own and would probably say this was the fastest and easiest step to do. Once dry, it was time to work on the sidewalks and road surface atop the bridge. The sidewalks were brick, so I did my usual method. I painted it Iron Wind Metals Red Brown and then dry brushed it Howard Hues Middle East Flesh color. Once that was done, it was time to do the asphalt road surface. I used my second darkest gray color as a base coat. As I was applying it, I noticed that I could see the tiny ridges common in 3-D printed items. I was worried that a dry brush would highlight that and draw attention to it. The road would look unnatural. What to do?

    The top surface of the bridge with its brick sidewalks and "stippled" gray asphalt
I decided to take a somewhat frayed brush and "stipple" it rather than dry brush. I used a medium gray color and stippled the entire length of the road surface. My original thought was that I would do a medium gray coat and a lighter one. However, I was so happy with how the asphalt looked that I decided to keep it as is. Almost done!

    The Santanas have painted their side of the bridge to mark their turf, warning others to "Salir!"
The last step was to give it a brown wash. I have a bottle of seldom-used dark brown "vehicle wash" from Vallejo. I took a plastic container and filled it partly full with water. Then I began squirting in the brown wash until it had a color that I thought would work well. Applying this final brown wash was probably the messiest part of the process. I dripped quite a bit all over my desk and it soaked the paper towels I had laid out to collect the excess that dripped off. After it dried, I examined it and was very happy with how the bridge had turned out. Was I done?, not really!

    Creepy clown logo & threats sprayed onto the bridge's surface warn others they're in Flippo turf!
The final step was to dirty it up with graffiti. I went back and forth whether to paint graffiti on it. I finally decided that the bridge would be used most in my Mean Streets gang warfare games. Next, it may see use in post-apocalyptic games. In both environments, a clean pristine bridge would look out of place, right? So, I Googled images of "graffiti bridge" and saw ones that had way, way too much on it. I went back and forth on how much to do, but decided I the best way would be to start in on it and stop when I thought I had enough. 

    The first graffiti "tag" on the bridge that I painted was the purple & yellow Daos logo
I began with large, colored graffiti-style letters for one of my gangs, the Daos. I then did another set of letters for The Kings. I added it a bleeding eye for the fun of it, and then scrawled various phrases like, "Hate Thy Neighbor" and "Not Your Turf." I did a couple hearts with initials -- one "J.T." for Jenny -- and another a shout-out to the movie, "The Warriors. We'll see if anyone who hasn't read this blog post catches the "Swan + Mercy" Easter egg!

    As my most numerous gang, the Kings are slated to take on a starring role in my upcoming games
Most of the graffiti was based around my painted up gangs, also including the Mohawks and Santanas. Once most areas of the bridge sides had something on it, I called it quits. In "reality," it would probably have more graffiti -- somewhat like the photos I saw on my image searches. However, I didn't want to cover up the beautiful golden stone color of the bridge completely. I figured in this case that less was more. I did one final matte spray coat and the bridge was finally done. The process had been dragged out much more than it should by my two bout of sickness. I accomplished little during that point. In actual, sheer hours put into it, I would say it took less time than a building of similar surface area. 

    Not all gangs got their 'tag' on the bridge, but I tried to cover most -- like the Indianola Mohawks
I think it is an amazing terrain piece. If you like it, contact Rusty of Jarl's Workshop at the above email and pick up one yourself. It is a definite eye candy cornerstone for a tabletop. Those who show up to Cincycon 2024 in less than two weeks will get the first look at it in person. I will be using it as part of my Mean Streets game scheduled for Friday evening. If you want a really close look at it, sign up to play in my game!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Battle of Valcour Island, 1776

    Joel and Allen, the British naval commanders on Lake Champlain in the Battle of Valcour Island
My friend Keith had an itch to do some Age of Sail miniatures with his big 15mm scale models the other day. His first thought was to go way back and play using the Limeys & Slimeys rules from about three decades ago. After moving some of his ships around on the table and testing out the mechanics, he was turned off by its fiddly nature. Too much counting up figures and guns, he said. Instead, he decided to go with a much more streamlined system, Galleys & Galleons, from Ganesha Games. These use the Song of Blades and Heroes "activation" system and abstract many of those things that older rules may force you to do with counting and laborious, multiple, math steps and die rolls.

    My brigantine and gunboat bravely sail and row towards the two largest ships in the British fleet

This is actually an ongoing rules debate in our Sunday evening gaming group. I am much more in favor of  modern streamlined systems. Others, like my friend Andy, prefer the "chewy" (his word) nature of counting things up, rolling for numerous hits on charts, and checking off boxes. Our respective viewpoints clashed most recently when we played one of the Star Fleet Battles clones (Federation Commander, perhaps?) recently. To me, the process was borderline painful. When one devastating hit was done to a player's ship (actually, one of their THREE ships), we had to sit there twiddling our thumbs while they rolled for and checked off 30-40 internal hits. This includes marking off such useful things like "science labs" and other systems that had nothing to do with a standard fleet game. Really? This is fun??

    Each player received a gunboat carrying one cannon in its bow, along with their larger ship
Anyway, I think miniature rules writing has evolved away from a codex full of charts which you flip between and ship profiles with dozens or hundreds of boxes to check off. Other players have fun doing this (apparently), as the clear divide between the younger and older gamers in our Star Fleet game showed the other night. Guess who likes to check off boxes? The younger guys! Those of us who lived through 1970s & 1980s rules -- to be fair, Limeys and Slimeys was the '90s -- apparently prefer not to go through that again. Nostalgia might be behind some wanting to resurrect old gaming systems. Like when one of our founding club members, Allen (who I have been gaming with for 40+ years), wanted to play the boardgame "Talisman." He would not be deterred with a simple question: "Why would you want to do that?!" He needed to experience once again the painful process of endlessly waiting your turn while the other players took theirs, then waiting twice that time again when you got a Lose a turn" result. The sheer randomness of, "Oh look! I found a suit of magic armor on my turn!" Meanwhile, you flip over a Demon Lord and lose another life. Sheer awfulness, in my opinion. Not fun to play, and no strategy. Just roll dice and flip cards!

    My brigantine suffering damage (see pink dice) from the heavier broadside of Allen's frigate
Yes, that was quite the digression, I realize. Apparently, I still had some more internal hits to roll off from the experience! Keith chose Galleys & Galleons, which we had played a few years back because he remembered it seemed to flow well and do a better job simulating naval warfare than you might expect from rules that grew out of a fantasy skirmish engine. The key component is that hits suffered replace one of your three potential dice you can roll to activate with a colored "damaged" die. You can choose to roll fewer dice, thus not risking rolling that colored die, until all three of your dice have been replaced. If you ever roll an activation and score a "1" on a colored die, bad things can happen, including striking your colors if you are nearer an enemy than any friends. Similarly, once you exceed three colored dice (three is the max dice you can roll to activate in the "Song of..." engine), bad things can happen then, too. 

    Keith's sloop at top right sails to add its broadside to the weight of our cannon fire on Allen's frigate
The game abstracts much of the damage and critical hits on specific components of your sailing ship. It worked fairly well in our game, we felt. Allen had a 22-gun frigate (I believe), the largest on Lake Champlain. He was able to shrug off much of cannon fire that we peppered him with throughout the game. His brother Joel could not do the same with his 18-gun sloop, though, and ended up striking his colors to Jenny's American sloop and being captured. Keith warned us that he'd made the British better at gunnery and that we would need to close the range to hope to do significant damage. That proved true. All in all, the system worked well. Each player controlled one larger ship and one oared gun boat with a single, bow chaser. The gun boats did little damage to the bigger ships, as you might expect with only one cannon. The marine sharpshooters did even less. 

Took more than half the battle, but Keith's gunboat finally sinks Allen's - mainly due to catching on fire
We did have one boarding action, but it was inconclusive. On the next turn, Keith's larger sloop disabled the grapples which Joel's gunboat had snagged it with. He didn't want to leave to a die roll the ignominy of being boarded and taken by a smaller gunboat! I can't say I blame him. My own gunboat was on the way to rescue him, but we never closed before the two ships parted ways. My own brigantine bravely sailed between Joel's sloop and Allen's frigate, blazing away with furious ineffectiveness nearly the entire game. We score one hit on Joel's sloop, but after that, suffered a series of bad die rolls (as is often my nature in games...see Joel -- I said it!). 

    Pounded by two ships, Joel's sloop strikes its colors as it approaches Jenny's 'Royal Savage'
In Galleys & Galleons, if you beat an enemy with an even roll on your die you replace one of their three activation dice with a colored "damage" die. If you beat them with an odd score, you do nothing (unless you doubled them). Weirdly, the first six-plus shooting rolls that hit in the game were all even. We weren't irked by the rule then. Once, the rolls evened out, it felt a little "wrong" to hit someone and do nothing, over and over. 

    American cannon balls seem to bounce off Allen's frigate, whether from gunboat or brigantine
Still, with Joel's sloop captured and Allen's gunboat sunk (fire on board, then explosion), we called it a victory for the Americans. Historically, the British battered Benedict Arnold's American fleet, which later withdrew under cover of darkness. They were eventually run aground by the American commanders to prevent them from falling into the hands of the British. The naval battle delayed the British advance enough to give solace to the American defeat in the first naval battle of the American Revolution. 

It was fun getting the large 15mm ships out and sailing them around on the tabletop. We picked up the mechanics quickly, and the colored dice mechanic gave some risk vs. reward decision making for the players. Keith, as has been his wont of late, tossed in the Wiley Games card activation system on top of the Galleys & Galleons system. The effect was that there was no danger in "crapping out," or turning over your activation. So, we typically always rolled 3 dice for activation until we had one or more colored, damage dice. The fleets closed relatively quickly, and we were soon blasting away at each other and having a good time on Lake Champlain. I can see us playing with Keith's ships again, and using G&G again for more naval fun.

    It was fun to get the big ships (and little ones) out on the tabletop - first time in years!
Otherwise, you may have noticed the LONG pause between updates. I caught a nasty cold just over two weeks ago. It was the worst I'd felt since having Covid, and I didn't not have the energy to paint or game. I think the two weekends of missing Sunday evening gaming are the most that I have in a long time. I didn't want to get the other guys sick, and besides I was feeling awful. Today is actually the first day that I have woken up and not felt congested or tired and drained. So, hopefully, I'm back in the groove and you will see more updates on here, again!

Miniature Painting & Purchasing Tally for 2024

  • Miniatures purchased in 2024: 15
  • Miniatures painted in 2024: 26