Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Very Sad News

I'm very sorry to be making this post but I've just learned that Dale past away from a heart attack on November 5th.

Most of my relationship with Dale was online, but we did get to meet in person at one of the Cold Wars conventions several years ago.  We shared a love of wargaming and more importantly a love for home made figures.  Dale always said that he got excited about doing his figures after seeing photos of my figures on the old Yahoo group "Wargaming on a Budget".  But the truth is that Dale had been making his own figures since he was a kid, and seeing my figures just reignited his passion.  Even though we both post to this blog, he created it, he was a far stronger and more influential proponent of making your own figures than I ever was, and he was the loudest advocate on the forums for approaching wargaming in this way.  His care for me and my work made me want to be as creative as I could be.  My most recent Conan games are by far the best things I have ever done in gaming, and while they were made in my basement, they would not have existed if it was not for Dale's support and encouragement.

So, I am sad to be sharing this news on this blog, but I needed to let you all know.  I miss you brother, and thank you.  Rest in peace.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Dark Ages Two-Handed Axemen (Minimalist)

Dark Ages Two-Handed Axemen

I've started painting more figures for my minimalist Dark Ages army. This time it is armored warriors with two-handed Danish axes.

Sorry that the close-up is a little blurry!

Front and side views.

It was a moderately complex build, but it required very little modification to the component parts.

Here are all of the components to the figure.

The figure consists of the following components.

  • The head and helmet is a button plug, also called a mushroom plug. It is a plug for holes and is used in furniture making.
  • The body is a cylindrical, plastic bead. I would prefer wood as the paint sticks better, but I cannot find a cylindrical one that is the right size.
  • The feet are a polymer clay 'bead' that I picked up at Hobby Lobby. Because it is a flat disk it works well for adding height, and the polymer clay is very easy to cut with a hobby knife to shape.
  • Because I use a lot of toothpicks as spears for my other Dark Ages warriors, I end up with a number of wooden scraps as I only use the pointed ends.
  • Finally, I found a smaller, flat, polymer clay bead that, when cut in half, makes a passable axe blade.

If I have any criticism it is that I need to do a better job of trimming the ends of the axe handle so they don't look like the were squeeze cut with wire snips (which they were). Also, I probably need to put shields on their backs, although that is not strictly necessary.

Another Minimalist Experiment

I have a lot of painted Napoleonic miniatures, but they are all 6mm, and to be honest, they are very hard to discern what they are (Nationality, troop type, unit designation, etc.) so it makes it harder for gaming. Forget about photographing them!

Although I like the two component body design I generally use – a round bead or button plug for the head and a cylindrical or square bead for the body – I want a little more height on the figure. So I continue to experiment with designs with an eye of replacing my Napoleonics, or creating a 'imagination' army.

I started with three flat head plugs. Again, these are used for filling holes in furniture, but being flat-headed, they are intended to lies flush with the surrounding surface. What makes them a 'plug' and not a 'dowel' is that dowels are straight-sided and plugs are tapered.

I started with a 5/16" flat head plug for the body. The widest end is at the top and represents the shoulders.

On top of that I glued a 1/4" flat head plug for the head and hat. If you want a shako, put the widest end at the top; put it at the bottom is you want a kepi.

Below the body glue a 3/16" flat head plug for the legs. The widest part is at the bottom, although I could see putting it at the top also.

Finally glue the polymer clay bead to the bottom of the legs. You can use a hobby knife to trim it to size. It will also give more stability to the figure.

I used an all-material adhesive for all of this. When I am done I will cover it with Mod Podge (glorified white PVC glue) to seal the wood pores – making it easier to paint – and giving more strength to the figure. I am concerned about this popping off of a base, however.

These plugs do not have much of a taper, so the idea of using wood, or plastic tile spacers, for the arms seems like it would take more work trimming off some material so it would lie flush to the body. I would probably use simple dimensional paint for the arms. Definitely will use that for the shako/kepi peak or any ornaments like a shako pom-pom. I would probably drill a hole and use a toothpick if I wanted to go so far as to create a shako plume.

By the way, a round head plug – it is what it sounds like – makes a great grenadier bearskin or round helmet. Flat head plugs also make great Crusader helms.

I used to be concerned about pulling these troops out for public games. Not any more. I may get funny comments like "I am glad to see the mushroom heads are getting some play" or things like that, but I have never had anyone say that would not game because they had to use them.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

New Material Cutter

Looking at Matt's latest creations I can see that Matt and I have different styles. Whereas I see Matt's style as more 'pure' (unadulterated wooden craft parts, with added pieces of plastic and paper), mine uses more digital assets, unless I am making minimalist miniatures, like the little guys below.

It really started in 2010 when I started printing details onto paper using an inkjet printer, to save me from painting fine details that make up a Napoleonic British line infantryman.

In 2016, I bought a Cricut Explore 3, which is a desktop cutting machine. You feed it a drawing and rather than printing the design it cuts it out. I used for a lot of parts that I used to craft from wood, such as arms, legs, bicorne hats, plumes, axe blades, etc.

One day I was curious about whether my Cricut could cut a particular material and I found a page on the Cricut website showing all kinds of materials I did not know it could do. It could do 1/16" basswood!

Unfortunately, I was on a page showing what the latest model could do, not what my model could. Nonetheless I tried the custom settings it was recommending and, although it scored the wood pretty good, it did not cut it all the way through. The custom settings allow you to make multiple passes, but no more than nine. Running the job twice seemed risky as the material doesn't need much shifting in order to mess the second job up. No, the only thing to do was to retire my seven year old machine and buy the latest model!

By the way, if you have read my older stuff you know that I have a laser cutter, so why am I looking for a heavier cutting machine, you might ask? Well, the laser does not do well in the heat and the building where the laser is housed has no air conditioning. Oh, and I live in Arizona. I cannot bring the laser into an air conditioned house because of all the smoke generated by the cutting, so…

So, I bought the new Cricut Maker 3 from Amazon (that is an affiliate link; won't cost you anything more, but gives me a penny or so). So far the results have been mixed, but getting better.

The first thing I tried was my basswood cutting project. It failed. I kept getting a 'Blade not detected' error no matter which blade I put in. So, I backed up a bit, followed the Getting Started instructions, and started over. I updated the software and tried a calibration test. Failed with same error. I tried the sample project and it worked. I then decided to try one of my old craft foam projects and it also worked. Looking up.

I called tech support and was greeted with an expected call wait time of one hour and 40 minutes. Eventually it let me leave a voicemail and they did, in fact, call back. Told him everything I did, including reinstalling the software (which the website suggested) and told to send in a video. As an aside, because this machine is on the internet they were able to see it, despite the fact that I was connecting to it via Bluetooth. Nonetheless, they could not diagnose the issue.

I did some more testing today. I tried cutting chipboard (1.5mm thick), which I could do with the other machine, using custom settings. With this new machine the material is already in the list to pick; no need to set custom settings. It also failed with the same error. This was when I noticed that the material from the pick list has a special icon, indicating a 'smart' material. I noticed they had Mat Board (1.5mm) as a material and it did not have that icon, so I tried that and it worked! The blade was recognized. I decided to try and create a custom material, with the exact same settings, and see if it would work. It also did!

It seems like the special icon indicates settings that you cannot set when defining custom materials, i.e. more pressure or more passes of the cut. Something I am sending to tech support. So I am still debugging it, but I am back up and running and far as grinding out foam and chipboard parts, just not basswood parts yet. I can probably switch to balsa wood though, but that is too fragile for gaming, even if I soak it in Future floor wax or superglue.

So, am I happy with the purchase? Actually yes. One feature of the new model was faster cutting, and that is true.  Also, the software can now be downloaded to the computer instead of running only in a browser. Does it cut wood? Not yet, but I am sure that it will when the issue is resolve (or they send me a new unit).

Until then, I have more Dark Ages soldiers to build.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Bill's Wargame World Youtube Channel Highlighted My Game!

Thanks to Bill from Bill's Wargame World Youtube channel for interviewing me and highlighting my game during his coverage of Barrage 2023.


Saturday, September 9, 2023

Hyrkania Royal Foot

 Got the first of the heavy Hyrkanian infantry units finished.  I think I might try and make three different "looking" units rather than replicating the same figures each time just to add some visual interest to the table even though in the game, all three units function the same way.  Here they are.

Sort of hard to see in the picture but I went with a samurai/Eastern armor type using paper to create the flat shoulder protection.  Wasn't difficult and it was easy to paint.

You can see the "samurai-looking" helmets a little better here.  Just paper wrapped around and painted to look like the segmented armor they have protecting their necks.

I wanted to go with a shield that wasn't really "historical" to give them a bit more of a fantasy flavor.

I planned to do a cavalry unit next, but I have to order some of the necessary pieces.  So I'll probably do a unit of Hyperborean heavy infantry.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Battle of Trimos: Part 1

It has been a while since I have done a large scale wargame with my wooden warriors.  I have clearly moved into doing these more detailed figures that I've been using for rpgs and skirmish games, like the Conan series.  I still want to do a game of the raid on the tower where the trio gets the big ruby and kills the huge snake, but the challenge has been in finding something big enough but round enough that I can use for the tower (or I should say the various levels of the tower).  Still working on that, the forms used to pour concrete pillars look promising, but they are really hard to cut.  But enough of that, I did want to also do a larger scale wargame again using my "new" more detailed figures.

I of course tried this with the Dark Ages guys I did years ago, but it was just too hard to paint them already attached to the base, and how they were attached altered their appearance significantly, causing them to lose a lot of height.  I was never satisfied with them.  And, I'm just going to be honest, I've never been able to bring myself to base the larger scale figures as multiples on a base.  I just prefer them to be individually based.

I also know that I probably don't want, or even need, to do a project that is historical, unless it is in a new area that I don't have the older figures already done for.  There is just little reason to do Biblicals, or frankly anything up to about 100 BC because I for the most part already have those guys done in the older format.  Why do Macedonians and Persians again in these larger, more detailed figures?  I've already got a ton of the older ones done and they work just fine.

I've always been enthralled with Don Featherstone's book "War Games".  I love the rules, I love the pictures, I love the philosophy of gaming, and most of all, I love the Battle of Trimsos from Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign that is detailed in the book, pitting the Hyperboreans against the Hyrkanians.  And hey, isn't this just an extension of the Conan games I'm already doing, just larger scale battles instead of skirmishes?  Sure it is!  

So that is the next project, doing my version of the Battle of Trimsos, using my more recent versions of the wooden warriors mounted individually.  This also obviously lets me use these figures in skirmish games, and they are based in a way that is consistent with these older rules that while they may not be the most historically accurate rules in the world, they are certainly fun and great for convention games which is what I am after.

Rather than using the rules as they are presented in "War Games", as they are a bit confusing in places (the morale rules are frankly a hot mess), I went even further back and used Featherstone's "Lost Tales" book and the Ancients rules from it as a starting point, added in a simple command and control mechanism, but kept the movement, combat, and other core elements of the game.  The rules are done, I obviously need to playtest them, but I can't do that before I have figures to use.  So off to the crafting/painting table!

There are a total of 17 units in Tony's game, but I never liked that the Hyperboreans had one more war engine unit, so I decided to go with 8 units a side.  The first unit I decided to do was the Hyperborean Thurn Archers unit.  After doing a little reserach, the more contemporary way of looking at the Hyperboreans in the Hyboria world is as a mixture of primarily Russian/Slavic medieval units with a little Viking flavor added in.  This is nice because at the level of detail that I do my figures, they could be used for Medieval/Late Dark Ages Russians as well.  The archer figures tend to be a little more tricky than the heavy infantry guys, and since I am "fresh" in terms of my motivation to do this project, I thought it would be good to start with them.

 In the game the infantry units are 20 figures in size with usually a leader figure and a standard bearer.  These are really "place holder" figures in the game as they are there just to signify whether or not the command and control elements of the unit are still alive.  So this unit is 20 actual archers plus the leader and standard bearer figure.

Here are the Hyperborean Thurn Archers!

There is not a whole lot new construction wise except that I decided to do the heads differently in yet another attempt to do the mail coif.  The helmet is a larger split bead, head is a smaller split bead, and the mail coif is paper.  I am really happy with the way they turned out, and they were not difficult to do!

Off to a good start!  Onto the next unit, which will by the Hyrkanian 1st Imperial Foot Guards!

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Finally Finished!

 I got distracted with some regular 28mm miniature painting, but this weekend I focused on my Conan game and finished everything.  Here is a pick of the set up from the beginning of the game, with our three heroes standing outside the opening of the orgy of the Snake Cult, ready to sneak in and steal back the princess.

This will be the starting point of the game.  The heroes need to sneak in, climb the stairs or the rock walls at the rear of the chamber to get up to the top level where the princess is located.  Right now she is in the chamber with Thulsa Doom.  The merry-makers on the lower level are busy having "fun" and eating their "stew".

A close up of the three heroes:  Subotai in the lead, Valeria behind, and the big man himself Conan brings up the rear.  I can see I need to touch-up the bases a bit!

The cult members party down while their big boy serves up the stew!

Thulsa Doom and the princess hanging out in the royal chamber overlooking their followers.  Two guards stand outside protecting them.  As you can see, I just had to add the mural on the rear wall of the chamber to my set up even though I didn't plan to do it originally.  I love how it turned out!  Very happy I changed my mind and decided to add it!

A famous scene from the movie (who knows if this will happen in the actual game!) as Subotai sneaks up the stairs to dispatch the cult member stirring the stew.

Another famous scene.  Valeria is about to take this guard by surprise and ... well, let's just say she finishes him off.

"You!"  I just had to use this pose, even though a fighting pose might have been more useful in the game.  This is just too iconic of a pose not to use!  I fleshed out his arms to give him "muscles" using cut tile spacers.  Happy with the result!

Thulsa Doom sitting atop his huge cushion with the princess at his feet.  Those two holes in the wall back there?  Couldn't be important, right?

Thulsa Doom begins his transformation into a snake!  Again, too iconic not to have in the game.

Completed his transformation, now retreating through one of the holes to safety!

This game board was a TOUGH build, but I am happy I did it.  It came out way better than I thought it would.  I also have the figures for the retreat, guards and Picts to chase the heroes after they get the princess.  They will have to fight their way past them and exit through the hallway to win the game.  At that point it will move away from the movie scene a bit, but that's okay, it will be a better game having them have to fight their way out.  I am not going to have the two main evil heroes show up in this game like they do in the movie, just lots of guards for the heroes to wade through.

I'm doing a test run of the game in a few weeks at one of my gaming friend's house and I'll try to take lots of pictures and post about it.  Then it's off to Barrage at the end of September where I'll be running three games of this scenario on Saturday.



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