Saturday, December 22, 2018

It Begins: Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge

Jeez, one day in and I'm already falling behind in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. I've got a table of primed minis ready to go, just need to finish up the Christmas prep and I can get crackin' on them. I foolishly signed myself up to knock out 1000 points of figures. But having miscalculated, I believe that's more figures than I have on hand! Here's hoping I can finally reduce this lead pile to Nil and start refilling it with new purchases.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Whoa! We made a game convention!

I've been joining Joe and the crew for monthly meetups of the Second Saturday Scrum Club. They're a good group of gamers and rotate through a variety of wargames and one off RPG scenarios, but if not for our dedicated host and de facto leader Joe that's about the extent of what I'd be able to say about them. Good group of guys, fun monthly game sessions. Fairly typical. But "typical", Joe is not.

He only entered the hobby a few years ago, but in the last 12 months he's run several convention games, launched a successful miniatures Kickstarter and now lead us into our next venture, a home grown local gaming convention. The speed with which he's knocked each of these gamer bucket list items off his list makes my head spin. Joe got the ball rolling, but our entire crew will be hosting ScrumCon February 16th, 2019 in College Park, MD. Most of the scrummers are veteran convention game masters and will be running a variety of RPG sessions and tabletop miniatures games. We've also gathered a number of excellent GMs to host games as well. All of them are seasoned GMs who have run dozens of awesome games at the HGMS and RPG shows, including Zeb Cook writer of the D&D Expert set and 2nd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

Joe and I will likely not be running games, instead handling admin duties (but we've both got some backup games planned in case we have any last minute no-shows). I can't guarantee this will be a flawless convention, but we do have enthusiasm on our side. If you're in the area grab an attendee badge (while they're still available), play some games and I'll sell you a hot dog. It should be fun!

Sunday, November 25, 2018


I've gotten a bit tired of our Monday night Star Wars Legion battles, and when my gaming buddy Chris mentioned he had picked up Gaslands I suggested we give it a try. I wasn't really interested in picking up a new system and scale, but since the rules were cheap and the "minis" were a buck, I figured it would be a nice diversion.

So I picked up the rules, grabbed some Hot Wheels and superglue, and got to work. All of my thoughts, shiny and chrome, after the jump.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Above the Fray Miniatures Kickstarter

Here's a day of high adventure for ya: today fellow Scrum Clubber and monthly game host Joe has launched his first miniatures Kickstarter! He's a big fan of classic pulp fantasy and had a series of miniatures commissioned dripping with old school charm. I've seen some sneak peeks of the initial test casts and painted samples at our monthly game nights, but today he's launched the campaign to get the final production molds created and miniatures cranked out.

I've been consistently surprised at how much Joe has accomplished in the short time he's been in the hobby. He's run multiple convention games, acquired a vast array of figures and terrain, spun up our local Scrum club and has plans to launch a variety of other projects. I can only imagine he'll deliver this Kickstarter with the same enthusiasm and determination. Check out the Icons of Pulp Fantasy Kickstarter running now, with final figures expected to be delivered in February.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sci-Fi Flotsam: Walter Warbot and Servant Prime

I painted up a few more sci-fi figs to take part in the generic space opera games I've been working on.

Walter the Warbot is a mini from the first Diehard Miniatures Kickstarter. He's still available as part of the second campaign, ending today.

The second is a limited edition resin figure from Joe K Minis. It depicts "Servant Prime", a nefarious character from a comic book and novel I've never heard of. Still, super creepy. He reminded me of the alien weirdos mentioned in the Lankhmar books.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Sci-fi Soldiers with Custom 3D Printed Heads

Pew Pew!

Sure, you may be tempted by that new Star Wars Legion game, or your eye may wander to the freshly released Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team, but friends, custom sci-fi figures are where it's at!

It's so simple! Follow my easy step by step instructions, and you too could have a unique set of space soldiers from a sci-fi property of your own design:
  1. Fall in love with a set of multi-part plastic figures, like Dreamforge's Eisenkern space Nazis.
  2. Wait for them to go out of production for a few years, and then pay through the nose to pick up a single box of figures.
  3. Get disgusted with the preponderance of REAL LIFE NAZIS who seem to be crawling out from under their rocks and decide you need to de-Nazi-fy your spacemen by replacing their Stahlhelm inspired helmets with alternate sculpts.
  4. Learn Zbrush and sculpt a digital head for your sci-fi troopers.
  5. 3D print them, assemble everything and then paint them up!
'troopers on industrial grating bases for guarding bases and breaching bulkheads of captured blockade runners.

'troopers in field gear. They get extra shoulder pauldrons for better protection against hooded little scavenger goblins.

Once you are done you may realize your sci-fi troopers need somebody to fight, so go through the whole process again, but this time cobble together some sci-fi palace guards from Mantic bodies, Fireforge crusader cloaks and some more Zbrush sculpted heads.

These heads were proof of concept. I'll need to enlarge and accentuate their features a bit for the next print, but I was surprised out how much detail the 3D prints picked up from the digital model.

It's a snap! And in only 6 to 12 months you too could have a few dozen figures ready for tabletop wargaming! 

You may also want to pick up some figures from a Kickstarter like Colony 87 to round out your force with leaders or VIPs to guard.

The Colony 87 and Astropolis Kickstarter figures are so much better than my humble efforts. Tons of character, and a joy to paint!

Sarcasm aside, I'm pretty happy with the way everything turned out. I considered 3D printing the heads and then casting them in resin, but the cost of printing them was much lower than trying cast everything up myself. I'm thinking of jumping back into Zbrush to add some bodies to the heads I sculpted and then possibly getting the complete figures cast in metal.

I've been messing around with my own set of wargaming rules and wanted some figures that would be a clear break from existing properties, but still hint at well known tropes to make it easier for my game buddies to get into the game. 

I've got a ways to go with testing and writing the rules, but it will be nice to be able to playtest with figures that are better representations of what I'm going for than the Space Orks, British Desert Commandos and Wooden Cubes that have been filling in up till now.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Historicon 2018

We're back from Historicon 2018 with a photo dump and impressions of the convention. Check it out after the jump!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Battletech Campaign #3: 'We Shoulda Brought an Atlas."

Following their defense of the logging camp, my son's mercenary battlemech company were able to determine the location of the pirate camp.

After hastily repairing and rearming some key machines, the company set off to finish their mission. I also took this opportunity to introduce a scenario structure closer to one of those from the Campaign Operations and Sword and Dragon.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Battletech Campaign #2: "There will be consequences."

My son agonized over which of the two possible missions to take for our second Battletech campaign mission. He was tempted by the opportunity to knock out a lone elite pirate mech before it rejoined its comrades, but opted to defend the nearby logging outpost against a pirate counterattack.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Battletech Campaign #1: Surprise!

Sensors detect unknown mechs approaching along the forest road.

My son's mercenary company "Razor's Raiders" undertook the first mission of their contract, using the campaign rules from Campaign Operations.

For his merc company's first contract, he'd be driving a band of pirates off a remote planet just over the Lyran border in the Periphery. It seems the Lyran noble Baron Von Schtumfwassel's pet project, the Schtumftech Mercantile Company, has become hostage to pirates who are disrupting the Schtumtech logging operations on the cold, rainy, forest-covered planet of Wudiwun.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Battletech Campaign #0: Getting Started with Campaign Operations

Freshly painted mechs, ready for our campaign.

After playing his first game of Battletech my son declared "We HAVE to play a campaign!" Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity and dug up some of the old campaign books I had: First Strike and The Dragon Roars. After flipping through them though, they weren't quite what I was looking for. Getting up to speed with the changes Battletech has gone through since I stopped playing 20 years ago, I discovered there was an entire rulebook dedicated to campaign play, Campaign Operations.

 I've looked for tutorials, advice or a play through of using Battletech's Campaign Operations but couldn't find a description of how the rules actually worked. Since I managed to muddle through the detailed rules ("I'm shocked! Shocked to find detailed rules in Battletech!") for setting up a mercenary group with the rules, I thought I'd break down the process in case someone else was struggling with the same system.

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!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sci-Fi Civilians from Astropolis and Colony 87 Kickstarters

I've had these civilian figures from the Astropolis and Colony 87 kickstarter primed and sitting on my painting shelf for years, another monument to a stalled project. I've been working diligently on some homebrew rules which require civilians as an integral part of the gameplay rather than just window dressing. I'm not sure if I wrote the rules to motivate myself to get these civilians done, or wrote rules that just happened to require civilians, but in any case it did the trick. I can check off another seven figures from the depths of the lead pile.

Both kickstarters created miniatures that would fit in well with the Rogue Trader universe, my first love in sci-fi wargaming and a unique atmosphere that I think later editions of Warhammer 40K lost. While the sculpting style is different between them, they both draw from the weird mix of medieval, Asian, post apocalyptic and sci-fi sources that inspired Rogue Trader and all feel like they belong to a single world.

I love them all, as each figure is full of character, adorned with details that evoke a suggested history and universe and are a treat to paint. Both kickstarters have spawned "sequels" (from which additional members have been added to my lead pile) and I'm optimistic that future kickstarters will be just as good.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rigging a 28mm Sloop for Blood and Plunder

One of my reasons for backing the Blood and Plunder Kickstarter was the chance to build and rig a tall ship, complete with sails and rigging. I've built plenty of model planes, tanks and vehicles as stand alone kits or wargame models, but I've always been too intimidated to tackle a classic tall ship. The Kickstarter seemed to be my opportunity to check an item off my hobby bucket list. Besides, it was going to be a stripped down wargame version with simplified rigging, how hard could it be? How little I knew about how little I knew about ships.

Follow along as I blunder my way through ship rigging and maybe pick up a few tips, all after the jump.