Sunday, July 31, 2022

Barrage 2022 Game Preparation

 <dusting off the keyboard>  Well, well, it's been a while.  Almost a year.  How time flies!  I haven't been doing much in terms of wooden figures this part year, mostly spent my time painting up a complete Heroquest game, but with Barrage coming up I need to do a wooden figures game.

 So, as usual I am trying to get a game together for the Barrage convention this year.  I had almost given up this time, if I am completely honest.  I couldn't get motivated for a particular project which I have found is very important to me in terms of getting things done.  I need to have the "I need to see this game on the table top with little wooden warriors" in my head or I don't finish the project.

I thought about doing a superhero game with Batman and Robin and some traditional villains.  I still want to do that, but the prospect of making a table full of buildings and not really knowing how I want to do them was just too daunting.

I thought about a second Conan game, in particular the "rescue" (abduction!?) of the princess from Thulsa Doom's tower basement, so that I could do two games in a row as a "campaign" (the rescue, then the one I did last year the final battle).  But again the though of how I would do the large multi-level room where the heroes steal her from was just too much to do in a couple of months.  If you haven't noticed a trend already, I enjoy doing figures ... I don't really enjoy doing terrain.

Then I thought I would just do the Lord of the Rings game again and just remake the Fellowship in the same style that I do figures now.  It's a fun game, the folks who have played them have really enjoyed them, and I love LotR.  But the idea of "remaking" figures was not that appealing to me.

As I was killing time one Sunday afternoon before my weekly evening rpg, "Return of the Jedi" was on.  I love that movie, it's my favorite of the original trilogy films.  As I was making my way through the attempted rescue of Han at Jabba's place (sorry for the spoilers!  :-)) when they got to the execution scene at the sarlacc pit it hit me ... like a ton of sand ... what a great convention game this would make!  You know how much I love co-op convention games so the players would play the heroes and droids and I would play the henchman and Boba Fett (bonus!).  With figures like the ones I do trying to make the figures look individual while using basically the same body, head, arms, and feet construction is a real challenge but is honestly the fun of it.  Jabba's henchman are all very distinctive from one another, and obviously the heroes look quite different from one another.  Plus ... no f-ing terrain to speak of except for the sarlacc pit which is really more of another figure than it is a terrain piece!  Yes!

So my 2022 Barrage Convention Game was born!  The Battle of the Great Pit of Carkoon!  And, to quote Pippin, "where are we going?"  In other words, where to start?

Breaking down the game it has the following requirements as I see them:

1)  2 Skiffs (small ships) each has a collection of henchman and one of them has all the heroes on it minus Leia and the droids.

2)  Sarlacc pit - a terrain piece but I will treat it like a figure.  I actually think this will be fun for me.

3)  Jabba's Barge - henchman, Boba Fett, plus Leia and the droids.  It also has a couple of medium-sized guns on it.  I really I don't need to do the interior of this thing for the game.  All the fighting will occur on the outside deck.  Might not need to put those iconic "sails" (protection from the suns, really) on it either as they will just get in the way of playing but I might, we'll see.  But the issue is it is HUGE and is going to be a real challenge.

4)  The Sands of Tatooine - fabric from Jo-anne's, no problem!

4)  Rules - I looked at some commercial rules but they all end up being too complicated for my taste for a convention game.  I'll just rewrite my normal fast and fun skirmish convention rules and give them a Star Wars feel.  Piece of cake.

I can do this in 2 months!  I know I can!

So off to the internet I went and found some great pages with pictures of everything I would need, including the crew for each craft.  

Part 1:  Enemy Skiff & Crew

Making the skiff I thought was going to be a nightmare, but it really turned out not to be bad once I focused on making them player/play friendly instead of trying to make them look exactly like they are in the movie.  I knew that for most of the parts of the skiff, I could use thick and thin craft foam and that turned out to be true.  The only things that are not craft foam on these skiffs is the control panel for piloting the vehicle (they are made from two wooden craft blocks, 3/4" one and then a smaller one that I'm guessing is 3/8" but I could be wrong) glued with the smaller one on top of the larger, and the kabob skewers that make up the rods of the tail fins.  Everything else is craft foam.

I had years ago made a trireme for a never-to-happen Greek and Persian Battle of Salamis game that I never did, so I knew from making the test trireme that I could use a similar construction process for the skiffs.  And it worked well I think.  Thick craft foam cut to shape and glued on top of each other gives the craft the height in places that it needs.  Then I used thin craft foam for the railings, cutting it as needed.  You can't really see it in these pictures but there is two layers of thick foam on the bottom as well first because the skiffs in the movie have a very shallow "hull" so that's what this craft foam on the bottom represents, but also these two layers on the bottom gave me something to use to literally sink the basing system I was going to use into the bottom of the skiff.  The tails of the fins and the circular pieces on the fins are also made of craft foam, the thin kind this time just like the railings.  Everything was glued with regular white glue or for the railings hot glue was used.

Constructing them did not take too long.  Painting them took forever.  To date, I have this one done with it's crew and the other one is 3/4 done but coming along well.  Here are some pictures of it with the crew figures on it with the fabric that will be used for the sands of Tatooine.

One of the trickier parts was how to attach the tail fins.  I didn't want to do it permanently because I knew in transit they would break off at some point.  So instead I used split spools glued flat side down to the floor piece of the skiff in the rear of the craft with squared off beads glued to the ends of each split spool sticking out from the side of the body of the skiff with the hole in the bead pointing in the right direction.  This allows me to slide the tail fins out and off the craft for transport, and they stay in place because of gravity, but makes it really easy to set them up once I need to do so for the game.

I took some liberties with its dimensions just to make the skiff more playable in the game.  The deck is about twice as wide as it really was relative to the size of the figure bases.  If I didn't make it wider, though, it would greatly limit movement for the figures and make for not a very fun game.  I also needed to tilt the tail fins differently than they are on the skiff in the movie so that the fins were less vertical and more flat.  If  I didn't do that, you know that ever turn at least one player or me is going to bump a tail fin as they are moving figures and knock the whole thing over.  But the length and the relative size of the front and back angled parts of the skiff are consistent with the skiff in the movie, at least as best as I can tell from photographs and some schematics I found online ... without any actual measurements in them, they were just drawings.  But helpful nonetheless!

You can see the base here a bit better.  This was another challenge, and I didn't want to purchase an aerial base from a company.  In the spirit of crafted figures, I wanted to make them using craft type supplies.  Michael's has greatly reduced their wooden craft supply section, much to my disappointment, but they do still have these thick wooden pre-cut pieces that are great for bases for the skiffs because they are so thick and heavy relative to the craft, not to mention being the perfect size.  How to get the craft to "fly"?  Again, I wanted to use existing craft stuff for the clear poles used to make the vehicle fly and thick glue sticks for a hot glue gun are perfect for this.  First, they are more or less clear.  Second, they are flexible.  This is really important because I know that I am not going to be perfect when cutting the holes in the first layer of foam that makes up the bottom hull of the skiff into which these glue sticks will be inserted to "hold" the skiff onto the base.  A little flexibility in the posts is not just ideal but it is going to be a requirement due to human error.

To make the base all I did was first use the glue stick as a guide for the hole size, I literally pushed it into the foam piece before it was glued to the bottom of the skiff which left an indentation for where the hole should be and how big) and then just cut out the holes out of the foam with a hobby knife.  So when this bottom hull piece is glued onto the next bottom hull piece the glue sticks will "slide" a ways into the bottom of the skiff itself.  Then after the holes were cut I put the foam piece on top of the wooden base and traced where the holes were on the base.  After that I glued the foam piece to the bottom of the skiff and then off to the hot glue gun which I used to attach the glue sticks to the wooden base putting them over the circles that I just traced from the foam piece template.  All that's left after that was painting the base which was easy.  I used a dark brown, burn sienna, milk chocolate brown, and a yellow ocher layered with a stipple brush and then removed any paint from the glue sticks (the acrylic pain did NOT like sticking to the glue sticks so this was easy).  Done!

Painting them was a nightmare and I wanted to do it freehand.  Painting them this way fits with the "folk art" style of the figures, so I'm glad I did it, but it took ... forever.  Painting the brown, then going back with black and repainting the lines to get them as crisp as I can freehand, etc.  But I am happy with the skiff.  It looks cool and is still playable as a mini game piece.  Onto the crew ...

This is the "escort" skiff, not the one that has the heroes on it originally (that will be my next update most likely).  So this skiff at the start of the game just has bad guys on it.  I eliminated one of them (honestly because I don't like how he looks as an alien!) but the rest of these guys are made to represent the henchman on this craft that were on it in the movie.  They of course eventually all die but not until Luke makes his way over to this second skiff craft.

They all have names, I'm not enough of a Star Wars fan to know or remember them, but these three humans are some of my favorites from this skiff.  The front guy with the diving helmet and the white jump suit is awesome.  The dude in the yellow-green jump suit is also cool (has great head wear), but my favorite hands down on this skiff is the human in the back with the sci-fi helmet and the ancient period torso armor.  I love how his pose came out.  I love how his paint job came out.  And he is just my favorite collection of armor, clothes, and weapons of all the guys on this skiff.

I am also a fan of the alien that is towards the back holding the gun down at his side.  His dark color scheme is hard to see in this picture, but he turned out cool.  The guys with the melee weapons (either a vibro-axe or a vibro-spear like this alien closest to us in this picture had) were not tough to do.  Just a collection of toothpicks, small beads, and cut pieces from tile spacers.  You can see the other human armed with the blaster at the front of the skiff in this picture.  He's the one who gets kicked by Luke in the face during the movie.

I hope you like them!  I am very happy with how things are going so far.  I think the hardest thing I have to do is going to be Jabba's barge just because it is so big, so I am saving it for last.  Next up, the skiff with the henchman and heroes on it, complete with a plank for Luke to be forced to walk.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Painted French Napoleonic Marine of the Imperial Guard

 In the last post I revisited my process for making shakos for my Napoleonic figures. Basically my original process of cutting a wooden spool in half, hollowing it out, etc. was a lot of work. Lopping the top of the pawn's head off did remove the step of hollowing out the shako, but cutting was still difficult as I was using a mitre chop saw on a round object, so it was never straight.

Using my laser cutter I was able to cut out a shako shape by essentially slicing it horizontally. With that done, I needed to paint it to see how it looked once done. I needed something with a French-style shako and a plume, so I decided on one of my favorite French Napoleonic units: the Marines of the Imperial Guard, part of the Old Guard.

Interestingly, Funcken has the cuffs as blue, while others show them as having red cuffs. I wonder if perhaps that is the difference between the campaign and parade uniforms because the image above (of the campaign uniform) also does not have the hussar-style chest lace that the parade uniform has. Nonetheless this is the uniform I am going for.

As a reminder, this is the unpainted figure.

My big question was whether I should break out the Dremel tool and sand down the shako brim, making it thinner and more distinct, or rounding out the arms and feet.

Here is the figure, painted to a tabletop standard.

Probably going to touch up the figure a little. If I made a unit of these I would add a cartridge box to the right hip, a pack and bedroll, which means painting the black cross belts, and add a musket and the sword they wore. As it stands, this one will just be a specialty figure that can fill in as a spare gunner, and engineer, or a pontonier.

The only complaint I have is the feet are too long and possibly not wide enough. From the standpoint of the shako though, if the slices don't line up perfectly – and they did not in this experiment – then you really want some sort of gap filler or you should sand. I tried painting gesso on top, but that was not thick enough to fill all of the gaps.

Overall, I am happy with the shako and will be using this process for all my hats now. I can see using it to make an Austrian-style shako, a round hat (although I would need to play with woods of different thicknesses), and others. I might even be able to pull off a WWII German helmet, but I think that will take some sanding.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Revisiting Napoleonic Shakos

First off let me start by saying sorry that I have ignored this blog. If you read my Dale's Wargames or Solo Battles blogs you know I have been active over there, playing a map campaign in a fictional 1750 country and Marvel United, but not much in the way of this hobby.

I have written Matt (my co-author on the blog) and he is doing fine. He has done some RPG gaming (which he switched to online during lockdown) but has mostly been painting figures. I rotate hobbies (gaming, computer gaming, painting, terrain making, miniature making, laser cutting, etc.) too, so I understand how it goes. It all comes around in the rotation eventually.

Revisiting the Napoleonic Shako

One thing I have always contended regarding making figures is that, because we look at our figures on the table from above and behind, the hat of the miniature is one of the most important shapes to get right. It is how we generally identify what the figure represents, more so than probably any other part of the figure, save maybe color. The smaller the figure though, the less distinct the shape becomes and the more color is important. (When the figure gets too small, such as 6mm, they all just become blobs of dark color, so mass becomes more important.) Because I am building 42mm Napoleonic figures, the shape of the hat, or shako, is important.

Way back in May 2010 I built my first 42mm Napoleonics figures, on this blog, showcasing it on the Wargaming on a Budget forum on Yahoo (where I also met the group's creator, Matt). You can see the steps to making the shako were fairly involved.

  1. Take a wooden (thread) spool and cut it in half.
  2. Hollow out the inside of the half spool so it fits on the pawn's head.
  3. Create a brim (peak) for the shako and glue it to the shako.
  4. Plug the hole of the spool.
  5. Add a pom pom to the shako.

Eventually I purchased a hobby mitre chop saw and I simply chopped the top of the pawn's head so that I could glue the half spool to the top and the pawn and skip the 'hollowing out' step.

So, what's wrong with this process? Using a small chop saw on a spherical wooden piece was not always a clean chop. If you put the pawn in the mitre saw's vice even slightly off the level horizontal line, the shako would cock at an angle. Cutting the wooden spool in half was even more problematic as it would slip in the saw's vice. I ended up making a jig in order to get a better grip and to ensure that I cut the spool evenly in half (yet a third problem).

Enter the Laser Cutter

When I purchased my laser cutter the first projects were all utilitarian, i.e. I made a bunch of paint racks so I could organize my paints. The first few attempts at terrain were less than aesthetically pleasing. I started casting about on Etsy for SVG files to see what kind of projects I could buy and make. There were some interesting ones, like skyscraper buildings, cabins, and a tank. It was that last project, making a T34 tank, that made me look at laser cutting projects differently.

The T34 Tank Project

I purchased an SVG file that defined a tank 'puzzle', which looks something like the below image.

This image is of the tank turret. The black lines are where the laser cuts and the red lines indicate the laser only scores the wood (to create details, such as tank hatches). Basically the file contains 3mm thick layers. The pieces on the left are at the top and as you continue right you get the next layer down. The two pieces on the right create the 'cross' piece that holds four layers to the left together, making it easy to line the pieces up.

The Shako Project

This style made me wonder whether I could create a shako using this same layering method. Also, I intended to use the laser to cut out the arms, legs, and other accessories rather than requiring I craft them manually from craft sticks.

I created an SVG file (using Boxy SVG, an excellent SVG editor for the Mac, Linux, and Windows) shown in the image below.

  1. This is the base of the shako, with the brim. The inner circle is removed so that it slides over the head of the pawn. This layer is 3mm thick.
  2. This is the next layer of the shako, also 3mm thick. The inner circle is also removed so that it slides over the head of the pawn.
  3. This is another layer of the shako. By this layer you no longer need to cut out the inner circle as it is above the top of the pawn's head. There are multiple layers in order to increase the height of the shako.
  4. This is the top of the shako. Note that it is slightly larger than C so that it is wider than the shako body, simulating the lace at the top of the shako.
  5. This is the pom pom and plume that is affixed to the front of the shako.
  6. This is the left arm of the pawn, if the figure is at a right shoulder arms position, or the right arm if at left shoulder arms.
  7. This is the right arm of the pawn, if the figure is at a left shoulder arms position, or the left arm if at right shoulder arms. It would hold the musket. (In the future I will include the outline of the musket itself.
  8. This is the pair of feet for the pawn.

Now it is just a matter of assembling the 'layers' of the shako and adding the arms and feet.


It looks like I may need to adjust the length and width of the feet, but they don't look bad. Now for the shako.

Note that even though the pattern has three solid layers and two with center cutouts, I only needed two of the solid layers for this French-style shako. Note the top layer is slightly larger and given a 'lip' around the edge. This represents the shako lace.

Add the plum jazzes up the shako and the arms complete the figure. At this point I could leave it as is, or I could take a Dremel with sanding drum and thin out the shako brim, round the edges of the feet and arms, and shape the shako plume. Because my goal is to minimize the build process, I am going to try this first unit straight off of the laser.

What do you think? Is using a laser cheating, because I am not crafting all of the parts anymore, or is it simply a tool that reduces the time to manufacture the figure? (I feel it is the latter, especially as I created the SVG file of all of the pieces.)

Now that the proof of concept is proven, I am going to change one of the arms to hold a musket shape and make a backpack shape (maybe even using scoring to make some details?) and a cartridge box shape.



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