Tuesday, January 21, 2020

"Granny Grate" Vehicles

Needlepoint plastic canvas sheets, otherwise known as "Granny Grating", is useful for lots of useful customizations, especially guns. One of the questions I received previously, when working on my WW II troops was when I was going to make a vehicle. As it happens, I generally like infantry more than cavalry, artillery, or vehicles, so I gravitate towards infantry games and those WW II troops were for one. However, I started working on a modern Africa project – something along the lines of the rules AK-47 by Peter Pig/RFCM – and I did intend to have vehicles in those. So what was I going to do about vehicles?

I had thought about it quite a bit in the past. I could see myself taking a block of balsa wood, sketching the outline of a vehicle, and using my Dremel tool to power-carve it out. Another was to do the same thing just for the basic outline, and then adding other elements to flesh out the details. Then one day I was sitting there painting the soldiers and spotted the granny grating...


I knew I wanted the vehicles to look a little "cartoony" because the figures were also. (Let's face it, when the head is bead and the entire body is a bead, the chibi effect is a bit cartoony, so everything else needs to be too.) So I sketched out the shape of a technical (generally  pickup truck with a heavy weapon on the back in the pickup bed) with a black marker.



Here are the pieces, cut out, making it a little easier to see. I seem to have lost the pictures of the truck assembled before I put in filler, but I basically took a hot-glue gun and did my best to make a box, after trimming all of the pieces closely.

Once I had the truck assembled I had to figure out how to fill in the holes. I started with acrylic modeling paste and I can assure you, that is a bad idea. It may look thick and goopy, but it dries thin so it requires a huge number of layers to fill out the holes and smooth out the "bumps". In fact, I still haven't succeeded in the smoothing.


Here is where it is at right now, after filling and sanding a number of times.


The hood of the truck is clearly too small, but it seems like a perfectly chibi-style truck! 😄

So, my next vehicle will still follow the granny grating method – I think it is a great way to beat out a basic shape quickly and easily – but I need to figure out how to fill the holes and get a smoother finish than what I have now. As I am working on a terrain board project right now I am eyeballing that wall spackle as a possible candidate. Another possibility is using wood filler. The latter can still be easily sanded and will take hobby paint very well.

If you have any ideas, please let me know. But I can see that this could be the start of a new series of pieces, as long as I can find a quick and easy way to fill the grating that still looks reasonable and does not resist hobby paint (such as, say, silicone caulk would).

Monday, January 13, 2020

New Project!

Like most of us in the miniature gaming hobby, I am much more productive when I have an actual project to work on.  I do better with goals and things to aspire to where there is a measurable "end" to the project.  I decided that my next game for Barrage in September 2020 will be a Conan skirmish game based on the battle at the end of the classic 1982 movie often called the "Battle of the Mounds."  It's that great skirmish at the end of the movie between Thulsa Doom and his minions and Conan, Subotai, Akiro, and the spirit of Valeria.  As a game, it should please fantasy wargamers, fantasy rpgers, and even military wargamers alike.  Here is a still from the movie towards the end of the battle.  Conan and the large stone markers are clearly visible here.

The board should be fun with the various mounds, funeral pyres, large stone markers, booby traps, etc.  The heroes need to have two of them survive the battle and they have to keep the princess alive until the end (she's chained to a stone but can be killed by anyone, including Thulsa Doom with a snake arrow just like in the movie).  I should be able to do the board no problem.  But what about the figures.

I've done enough games now to know that although I want to start with the heroes, it's best to end with them.  First, doing the other figures gives me even more practice so the heroes are more likely to turn out good.  Second, by doing the less interesting "fodder" figures first, I keep up my motivation for the heroes at the end.  If I do the heroes first, I lose interest in doing the run-of-the-mill fodder troops, so it's best to do them first.

There is already a scenario and map online for the current Conan boardgame that I am using for inspiration.  However, in terms of rules, I will use a variant of the ones I used for my Lord of the Rings games.  They seem to work very well for convention play.

So, what troops do I need?  For the baddies, I need 6 Black Guard troops, 6 Fangs of Set (and for each of these I need mounted and dismounted so that when they get knocked off their horses they can fight on foot if they are not killed).  I also need Lexor and Thorgrim as well as Thulsa Doom himself.  For the heroes, I need Conan, Subotai, Akiro, and Valeria.  Finally, I'll need to do a princess figure chained to a rock.  Not too bad!  I am feeling good about being able to get this project done in time for Barrage in September.

So far I have done one mounted and dismounted version of both a Fang of Set and a Black Guard figure as a test.  Here is a movie image of a Fang of Set speaking with Conan who is disguised as a priest.  I just love the armor and the helmet as well as the face guard.

And here are my dismounted and mounted first try figures for a Fang of Set trooper.

The construction is a bit involved, but I think they look pretty darned cool!  I got the helmet and the armor, the most distinctive features, to come out pretty well I think, and I can't wait to slap some paint on these guys to see if I can get them to look good.  I added a "lower jaw" to the horse head.  I hope it looks good when it is painted.  I also added "hooves" to the horse which is nothing but a split small plug glued flat-side down to the base.  This gives the horse more height, which it needed, and also makes it look more like it has hooves than my old way of just gluing the split egg directly to the base.

The Black Guard are a mish-mash of guys in the movie, but I want some consistency in my figures so I'm going for only one helmet and armor look.  I'm going for the helmet in the following picture for these figures.
I am going to also give them larger shoulder pads that are painted sort of like a snake head.  Here is the mounted and dismounted first try for the Black Guard.
Can't wait to get some paint on these guys too!

So far so good, I'll post some painted pics when I get these guys done.

More Pulp

Did a few more pulp/superhero figures a while ago but am just now getting around to posting pictures of them.  First up, I did a female version of the Grenadier.  Here she is on the right standing next to the male version.

Decided to give her some action and have her throw a grenade.  The only major difference is the use of the peg for her body that I have been using for female bodies for a while now, and her helmet/head is smaller in size.  It's much more proportional obviously.  I like the way she turned out.  I left the bottom of the plug that tapers down on the body to serve as the top of her boots.  Makes her tall, lean, and athletic looking I think.

Next up is a priest, a pulp or superhero "brick" character, and a street thug with a crowbar.

I have always been partial to the supervillain from Marvel comics called the Juggernaut.  I decided a similar type of helmet as his would make a great pulp figure, or even a low-powered superhero or villain.  The priest is a standard construction, nothing new.  Same for the thug.  It's all paint with those figures that makes them look different.
The thug's crowbar is a trimmed tile spacer.  The hero's helmet is a very large bead split in half.



Saturday, October 26, 2019

Pulp Anyone?

Okay, the title is a little misleading.  These two guys could be in most pulp games, but honestly I'm doing them for different reasons.

The first is a Cthulhu Adventurer that looks a lot like a particularly famous archeologist.  I have a gaming buddy who wants me to take a stab at making some classic Cthulhu investigators (adventurer, priest, professor, journalist, etc.) and this guy was my first attempt just because he is so iconic looking I thought he would be the easiest to start with.
His construction is a little new and a little old.  The body is an upside down wooden craft milk bottle (7/8" tall) with the normal tile spacer feet that I always use.  His head is a 3/8" bead I split in half.  I made the head/hat grouping by gluing the flat side of the bead to a piece of paper, and then glued a 3/8" tapered plug, larger side down, on the paper on the opposite side of the bead.  After it dried it was easy to cut the paper to make the proper brim shape for the head and then just shape it with my fingers.  Arms are also tile spacers as is the gun, holster (on his right hip) and satchel (on his left hip).
His jacket is paper.  I put strips down the front to his waist and then put a larger piece on his back.  After it dried I cut a semi-circle and cut it to fit to make the collar of the jacket.
One thing I may try and do in the future is to sand down the top of the milk bottle in front of his head to make more of the right "chest tapered shape," but I might be getting a little too crazy.  Probably best to leave it as is.

The next guy is going to probably be a superhero in the new minis game I'm working on for low-powered supers like Batman, Daredevil, Hawkeye, Black Widow, most of the characters in the Watchman, etc.  I call this guy "Grenadier" and his big thing is he is a hand-to-hand combat expert and he has all these different gadget grenades (smoke, flash, tear gas, explosion, goo entanglement, etc.).  He also wears some light body armor and a gas mask to protect him from his own grenades.  I modelled the outfit after a WWI French Grenadier.  At the same time, this guy would be just as at home in a pulp game as an ally or enemy of the archaeologist above.
He sort of shows how different looking of a figure you can get using add-ons like belt pouches and goggles and gas mask.  He really is nothing different construction wise than the Dark Ages guys I've been doing except for the two pieces of tile spacers that make his goggles, the one that makes his breathing apparatus just below the goggles, and the various pouches he has on his belt.  His cloak and hood are just paper.  In every other way, he's just like a Dark Ages guy I've made before.
I like the red pants (early WWI French) and the gray light body armor.  His helmet is a dark blue and his cloak is a brighter blue similar to the color used by the French early in WWI.
I've got a few more of these on my construction table right now and I'll try to show the pieces separate from the figure as I'm building them so that you get a better sense for how the figures are constructed.





Sunday, September 29, 2019

Barrage 2019 Follow Up

Joe, one of the players in the Khazad-Dum game I just ran at Barrage, who is also the organizer for ScrumCon a convention near me that I hope to go to this year posted about the game in his blog.  He provided an incredibly kind review.  I've included a link below if for no other reason he has some GREAT pics of the game, much better than the ones I took.

https://miniaturescrum.blogspot.com/2019/09/crazy-for-khazad-dum-barrage-2019-con.html

Barrage 2019 Games - Two Lord of the Rings Affairs!

I got back from Barrage 2019 late last night, too tired to post about it.  24 hours later, I'm still tired, feeling very much the "old man," but am going to post some pics of the games I ran at the convention.

First off, it continues to be one of my favorite minis gaming conventions.  It is a little on the small side, but the Hawks, who host the convention, are very professional and organized in putting together a local, but still two-day convention that attracts enough gamers to make it fun and interesting.  I have been to probably six of the last eight Barrage conventions, and have had a good time at each one.  Now for the games I ran.

My plan after last year was to get my Dark Ages game done and run that.  Didn't happen.  But Buck, one of the Hawks and one of the main organizers of the convention, contacted me and asked me to run a game or two, even if it was a rehash of my old games.  He told me that the games with my little wooden miniatures have become somewhat of a "standard" at Barrage in terms of there always being a game or two with them offered at Barrage, and I was too flattered not to put on a game or two after being asked so nicely.  So I decided that the easiest thing to do was to do a Balin's Tomb game with my 2nd generation LotR figures (since I had already done one for my club over a year ago), and I would also do a Bridge of Khazad-Dum game, since that would force me to get off my duff and finish the balrog … a figure that has been unpainted in my basement for … I can't believe it … more than a year!  So I committed to Buck that I would run these two games.

Before I get to the games, here is a shot of the finished Balrog miniature.  I made a lot of additions to him, besides the paint, since the last pictures of him that I posted on this blog over a year ago.

I am very pleased with how he turned out.  I changed his feet, I put him on a different base, and I used the hot glue gun to fill in a bunch of the areas that used to be open space, such as around his "elbows" and this turned out to be a great decision.  I also used the hot glue gun to make the "ridges" on his horns and face as well as to create a mouth opening.  His teeth are tile spacers.  The fire coming out of his back behind his head is just paper with hot glue all over it to give it strength.  I painted the areas on him that were going to be fire white and then used the neon craft paints (orange and yellow colors) to create the fire effect.  Then I painted the dark brown over the fire to create the look like what is on his shoulders.  There are other pictures of him in the second game report below, but above is a close up of him.  I can't tell you how happy I am to finally have him finished!  I think he turned out really good!

Game 1 - Balin's Tomb
The first game was the old stand by the skirmish in Balin's Tomb.  I used different terrain for this game than the last time, so I'll spend more time talking about it.  The main difference is I used a oil painting canvas as a "board."  This turned out to be a good decision because it made it easy to move the "tomb" floor plan around and all I had to do was paint it black and then do some lighter to darker tones starting with the middle of the room going to the edges.  The corners are black cardboard boxes I got at a craft store.  The "doors" are just wooden craft shapes that I glued together and painted to look like the doors.  This is the beginning of the game before the goblins rush in, but the doors have been broken open.

Here is a shot after the battle has been joined.  Aragorn, Gimli, and Boromir have rushed to the front to stop the onslaught of goblins pouring through the doorway.  Legolas provides supportive bow fire from behind and the hobbits and Gandalf provide moral support from the rear.  The gold gem on Aragorn means that he is shaken because he lost a melee combat with that goblin, but he wasn't wounded.  He would rapidly recover from the shock and fight on!

In game shot … I accidentally got a shot of Zeb Cook's hand in the shot.  As you can see Merry has moved up on the goblin's left, getting ready to join the fray.
Here is a shot right before the end of the game.  The dreaded cave troll has entered the room, striking fear in the hearts of the Fellowship.  Lucky for them Zeb was playing Legolas, who before this point in the game hadn't hit anything with his bow, and he got two shots into the cave troll as it entered the room before it could get into melee with anyone and I rolled a "1" on the death check … "www-UUUUhhhhhh …" went the cave troll as it fell face-first onto the floor of the tomb, dead.  You can see that Sam has moved up to help out Gimli, and that goblin in the upper right of the picture was Shaken for three turns I think, never recovering, and spent the entire battle cowering back on that corner <laugh>!
It was a pretty easy victory for the Fellowship.  Killing the cave troll so quickly certainly helped, but I didn't put enough goblins in the fight.  Next time, more goblins.

Game 2 - The Bridge of Khazad-Dum
Probably my favorite scene in the first LotR movie is the Fellowships flight to and across the Bridge of Khazad-Dum.  Seeing the Balrog, Gandalf falling, all highly dramatic stuff, and something that I wanted to try and capture in a minis game using my little wooden fellows.

I had a great group of players in this game, all very experienced minis game players and this really helped out a lot, because they had a very bad shock of bad luck within the first few turns of the game.

The Fellowship has about three or four turns to try and get as far from the door, and to the bridge, as possible before the Balrog makes an appearance.  The problem is there are goblins coming in from the sides to try and serve a speed bumps to slow them up so that the Balrog can get them.

Here is a close up of the Fellowship running through the doorway in the mountainside on their way to the bridge, with Balrog and goblins in hot pursuit!

And here is amore distant shot.  The mountain wall was made with thick craft foam cut into the shapes and layered together to give the impression of a thick rock formation.
Here is a shot of the game right before the Balrog arrives.  You can see that the Fellowship is making progress, with Gandalf leading the way, but the goblins are closing in and causing some problems for them.
Tense times for the Fellowship.  Boromir is about to have 4 goblins on him, Frodo is under attack (they lose the game if Frodo is killed), and Gimli is being held up close to the door by a lone goblin.

But they do manage to start making some progress thanks in large part to Boromir blowing the Horn of Gondor and causing 6 goblins to become shaken, allowing the Fellowship to run past them without getting stuck in melee with them.  You can see the edge of the bridge in this shot (it is also made out of craft foam) and the blackness over the edge is just black felt that the two canvases that serve as the two boards (one on each side of the bridge) are painted more or less the same way as they were for the Balin's Tomb game.  And then … the Balrog came through the door!  And you'll note that … wait … where's Gandalf!?  He fell!  Gandalf fell!  No way for the Fellowship to hold back the Balrog now!  And they can't destroy the bridge anymore either!  Oh no!  The poor guy playing Gandalf rolled a "1" on the first Death check, the only thing that would kill Gandalf, and Gandalf was removed from play.  This sapped the morale of the players, but like the heroes they were playing, they pushed on!

The Balrog moves at a steady 6 inches each time it is activated, and if it comes into contact with friend or foe it doesn't stop moving … it pushes them forward with it.

I took the backdrop cave wall down because I kept knocking the #@$%! thing over, so it doesn't look as good as in the other pictures, but what can I say.  I got tired of knocking it over.  At this stage you can see Frodo, Pippin, and Sam have rushed across the bridge and are nearly to the other side.  Merry is close behind but there is a goblin next to him (Frodo and Sam knocked the goblin down in the turn before so they could run past him this turn!).  But you can see a goblin closing in from their right ready to attack them in melee once they exit the bridge.  Once any one member of the Fellowship is within an inch of the bridge, the new goblins that come on each turn can come enter on the board that is on the far side of the bridge close to the exit.  Boromir, Aragorn, and Gimli are attempting to hold the Balrog back on the other side of the bridge!  The issue is although they can "win" in combat, they have no way of hurting the creature (only magic can hurt it) so the best they can do is slow it down.  But they were able to fight this thing for several turns as it pushed them across the bridge and they were not miraculously wounded or killed!
The Fellowship got stuck on the other side trying to get out, but the Balrog kept coming!  Without Gandalf, they can't destroy the bridge!
This is the next to last turn.  I think it was this turn that the Fellowship won the melee combat with the Balrog and the lone goblin (you can just see him in between two of the hobbits on the right side of the fray) and they caused two Hits.  The goblin takes one of them, and he died, and the second must be taken by the Balrog.  Normally this would be ignored because only magic can hurt the Balrog but since Frodo, using Sting, was in the melee the Balrog could be wounded.  I rolled … he was wounded, and had to make a death check.  If I rolled a "1" on a D6 he would die ... but I rolled a "5" so he was only wounded, not killed.  Finally the cards (which are used to activate the figures) were kind to the players and the Fellowship all acted before the Balrog which allowed them to flee up the stairs and out of the cavern to safety.  To win the Fellowship had to get Frodo and four other members of the Fellowship out alive, and they were able to get all out except for Gandalf.  Player victory!

I also played in a game at this year's Barrage (I don't always do that) and had a really fun time in the game I played in as well … even though I was soundly defeated!  Another great year at Barrage and I'm already looking forward to next year.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Gamma World New Heroes & Baddies Revisted

Decided I needed to take a better picture of the baddies so that you could see the construction differences.  Here is the new pic.
Ahhh … better.  You can really see the new construction for the bodies on the Morlocks in particular in this photo.  The tapered bead is the chest and shoulders and this is glued on top of a barrel bead, which is then glued on top of a small tapered plug.  Arms, weapons, and feet are tile spacers as usual, and the head is a small round bead as usual.  It's a little tougher to see on the Brain Lasher but the same tapered bead is the chest and shoulders of the figure (although I have armored shoulder plates from a split small bead on top as well).  From the bottom of the chest there is a vertically glued tapered bead that makes up the ribs to the knees.  A small plug is the calves down and the feet are tile spacers as are the arms as usual.

New heroes!  My campaign is heavily influenced by the Terry Brooks Shannara books, I just love them, especially the ones that take place right after the great wars before everything got much more "Lord of the Ringsy" in feel and plot.  Gamma World (toned down a bit) is the perfect rules IMO to use to represent this period of Shannara and although my world is a little different for the game, the influence from Brook's writings is clear.  One of my players is playing an elf who, in my world, are aliens who were a slave race to the alien invaders of earth that created the devastation and ruin of the earth.  They eventually broke free from the invaders and worked with humans to fight back against their former masters.  Another player is playing a Troll who is essentially the same as the Shannara trolls except that in my world Trolls were created through intentional mutation by humans with human volunteers to produce "shock" troops to fight in the war against the invading aliens.  Here are the figures:
The elf is armed with a vibroblade and a hand crossbow on his right wrist (hard to see in this picture).  He is wearing some lighter armor, either leather or maybe plastic depending on what is needed at the time, and has a distinctive "Elric" appearance, which is what this player asked for.  The troll is wearing a Navy peacoat with a blaster pistol on his belt.  He is clearly carrying a huge club, which is what the player asked for.  I thought that when this game takes place there would be enough technological know-how left to be able to strengthen the club with metal plates and spikes at the "business end" of the club, so I made it that way.
Better view of the hand crossbow for the elf.  The elf is standard construction.  The only thing that is new about him is the vibroblade.  I wanted a definite "light sabre" appearance, so I used a toothpick to make it.  Then I painted it white (the "blade" part anyway) and then painted a neon orange color over the white to give it a "glowing" effect.  I'm pretty happy with it I think it looks pretty good.

The troll is a lot of new construction.  His head is made up of a large and medium sized round bead both split in two but what I did differently is I glued the smaller bead half on top of the larger bead half.  This creates a "lizard" looking underbite, because the skull is not as deep as the jaw, which is what I was going for.  His shoulder and chest is a larger tapered bead split in half and glued on top of a larger barrel bead, which is on top of a smaller barrel bead for the lower legs.  His upper arms (hard to see here) are split small barrel beads with hands and lower arms tile spacer and hot glue.  The pistol is tile spacer as are the feet.  The club is a dowel with a small tapered bead glued to one end, then I used hot glue to give it texture and make it smaller towards the handle.  I did a similar procedure before with one of the giants I made who is also holding a club.  I also used hot glue to put the "spikes" on the metal part of the club.
Little easier here to see for the troll the split barrel bead upper arms that then go into a tile spacer lower arm.  You can also see the split tapered bead shoulders better in this picture.  I used the hot glue gun to fill in some of the larger gaps in the figure, creating shoulder pads and such for the coat.  The collar of the peacoat is paper.

Pretty happy with them, I hope the players like them.

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