Friday, June 22, 2018

Back to Battletech

My primordial mechs with neolithic style drybrushing and my first attempts at "basing". These guys may be due for some stripping and repainting.

The last time I played Battletech was with my roommates just after college. We all loved the game, or the "concept" of the game, but after failing to finish an actual battle due to fatigue we decided the rules were just too slow, cumbersome and detailed for us.

I packed up my figures and maps, sold all my unpainted, mint-on-card Unseen on eBay and closed the chapter on "Battletech" in my life.

Then Harebrained Schemes released a Battletech video game in the spring of 2018 and giant, stompy, overheating robots got their hooks back into me hard. The video game is a nearly perfect translation of the tabletop game to digital media. Discussing it with my nearly 10 year old son while he watched me play we talked about its origins as a board game, which naturally led to getting my old minis and maps out for "old time's sake", resulting in my son falling in love with the tabletop game, which of course led to the purchase of dozens of new mechs, terrain and updated rules and a plan to run a multi-game epic campaign. I mean, of course.

Mechs dug out of the lead pile, the first I've painted in two decades.

Returning to the game after two decades, many of the things that bothered me then are no longer an issue now, because I've come to realize you can just change the game to make it what you want. 

Here are the various house rules we've been experimenting with to speed the game up so a battle can be finished within the attention span of a nine-year-old.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Rocky Desert Hills for Wargames Tutorial Part 2

Some intergalactic pilgrims wind their way through the finished hills.

In part 1 of this tutorial I documented the construction of my rocky hills. In part 2, I'll cover painting and detailing these arid lumps of weathered, igneous stone.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Rocky Desert Hills for Wargames Tutorial Part 1

Some Star Wars rebels take a watchful position from atop my desert terrain.

With Star Wars Legion in full swing at our local comic shop, I decided to put together some rocky desert terrain for our stormtroopers and rebels to battle over. To fit the sci-fi setting I went a bit fancical with some of the rock formations, but the techniques I used should be applicable to creating rocky desert terrain for Afghanistan, the American South West, and arid regions of Africa and Australia.

In part 1 I'll show you how I assembled the various rocky hills, with part 2 dedicated to painting and finishing them. Let's get to it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

On, In, Through: A Theory of Terrain Design for Wargames

This dense jungle terrain channels figures between each piece, but they can't enter or cross them.

I finished my jungle terrain pieces a few weeks ago and brought them to the game shop for our Monday night wargame. One of our group stopped to inspect them.

"They look cool, but you can't really do anything with them."

I was initially confused. You could do lots with my jungle terrain! Move figures around them! Hide behind them! Why, the possibilities were... two. There were just two ways figures could interact with my new jungle terrain.

I was still happy with the look of those jungle pieces, and they've served well to fill out our jungle themed Caribbean games, but I did go through quite a bit of thinking on terrain and came to some conclusions about what makes wargame terrain functional and fun to play on. First, let's check out why some terrain is problematic.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sculpting Progress

Just a quick update, but I've made some more progress learning to sculpt in zbrush with the end goal of creating some miniatures for myself. I've got a number of heads completed and just need to figure out the best way to get them printed. I'm not sure if it's better to print them attached to a sprue (more expensive) or print them individually and then attach them to a piece of plastic sprue myself.

Two of the five trooper heads I sculpted.

All my helmeted heads ready to be sprued.

Trying to get some advice on how to orient the heads for casting and venting.

A sci-fi helmet for my dastardly cannon fodder troops.
Once I get the masters printed out I'll tackle casting them in resin as a proof of concept (which is a while other kettle of fish I've been putting off until I got some 3D modeling under my belt!)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Learning to Sculpt

I've been working on some homebrew rules and reached the point where my ad-hoc collections of stand-in miniatures aren't cutting it anymore. I have some specific ideas for the various figures I'll need, and don't really see anything that matches my vision available on the marketplace. I've spent hours combing through obscure figure lines, or working out the costs of converting something usable from a variety of parts, but figured if I'm going to put this much effort into this project, I might as well sculpt and cast exactly what I want. Really, how hard could it be?

I've dabbled with green stuff sculpting as well as metal casting years ago, but the results never seemed worth the amount of work my amateur efforts required. I've always felt more comfortable with a mouse and keyboard, and seeing the success of other vendors translating 3D digital designs into 3D prints and final metal castings, I decided to see if I could use a similar workflow for my own figures.

I downloaded Sculptris, a free, bare-bones version of Zbrush. Each day I spent an hour or two poking at the interface, trying to learn how to sculpt.

If only I were sculpting this guy!

Day 1:
Most of my first day was spent just learning the interface and the various ways of sculpting digital clay. This head was by no means a successful effort, but the tool itself was a lot of fun to use.

A face only a mother could love.

Day 2: To force myself to practice as much as possible, I decided to scrap each day's work. On day 2 I pulled this smiling, Buddha-like fellow out of the clay. He even had ears! His brow is too large, cranium too small, and there's a host of other anatomical issues, but it was progress!

Yul Brynner, Westworld (1973)

Day 3: I continued to study anatomy of the head and learn how to translate features into a 3D form on day 3. I like strong jaws and sharp cheek bones on heroic miniature figures (which are easier to pick out with highlights). This model's ears were a disaster though, and I wound up scrapping this head pretty quickly.

He's got a bit of a Neanderthal look to 'im.

Day 4: Ok! Still lots of issues with anatomy and scale, but I spent extra time on the nose and mouth, and was beginning to feel more comfortable with the sculpting tools rather than fighting against them.

Starting to look human

Day 5: Finally! Still issues with proportions and anatomy, but this was the first model where I could see an end state that wasn't completely embarrassing. Rather than deleting the head I picked it up again the next day to continue working.


Day 6: Still some issues, but I was pretty excited with the sculpt at this stage. Working digitally, it's hard to tell how the model's subtle details are going to translate to a physical object only 6mm high,  so I uploaded the model to Shapeways to output a few test prints.

The test prints after priming. So tiny the camera had trouble focusing.

I printed up two different materials to see how they fared (frosted extreme detail and black Hi-Def Acrylate if you are curious). I used some fine grit sandpaper to remove the VERY subtle print lines and gave them a primer coat of gray to compare them. Wow! So cool! They turned out a bit underscale since my measurements were made in haste, and their features need to be a bit more exaggerated for wargame figures, but overall I'm encouraged by the outcome. I've been soaking in all the Zbrush YouTube tutorials I can find and attempting to learn what I can about casting in preparation for an producing an actual figure. I know I'll need to bring in professional partners at some point, I'd like to see how much I can handle on my own before bringing in the pros.

Hope you enjoyed checking out my first fumbling attempts at sculpting. I have a lot to learn, so if you have any tips or contacts feel free to share them in the comments!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Making Explosion Markers

I love a good spectacle, and nothing catches the eye like an over-the-top Michael Bay style fireball. I needed a few good explosions for the game I'm tinkering with, so took a shot at creating a few explosion markers of my own. The clump foliage method seemed to produce pretty wicked results, which I attempted to replicate for my own wargame tables.

I used an mdf base, drilled some holes and glued kabob skewers into them.

I added foil, sand and wall filler to the base to build up a crater from which the fireball would be erupting.

Using a liberal amount of hot glue and various shades of fall clump foliage, I affixed the foam to the skewers, filling out the central base area with additional polyfill stuffing. I drenched the completed explosions in Woodland Scenics scenic cement to fuse everything together (I tried watered down white glue, but didn't feel they results were as robust as the scenic cement).

I used craft paint to ease the transition between colors, then hit the whole thing with black spray from above. A bit of gray drybrushing and basing, and they were done.

The whole process wasn't too difficult and these markers have already proven useful in our playtesting. Give it a try, they're not too tricky!