Wednesday, September 25, 2013

miscellaneous: mysterious package

So I get home the other day and the wife informs me I received a package. I didn't think too much of it, as I've made a few test purchases for projects lately and I've got several Kickstarter projects that should be arriving any day now. However, when I looked at the return address, it didn't ring a bell. Sounded familiar, but I couldn't match it to anything I was expecting. And there was odd, Asian writing on the side of the box...

The hell is this?

Curiosity piqued, I sliced open the box to find another box covered in more Asian text. That's when I started laughing out loud.

I know what this is!

A few months ago, I won a forum contest by painting up an Ork toof lovingly crafted and cast by "MightyTim" for fellow forum members attending Adepticon. I did a bang-up job and beat out all the other contestants (there were none) to win a Lambda class shuttle for FFG's X-Wing Miniatures Game. The knock-off packaging was just for show.

Well played, MightyTim! Well played.

I look to have it blowing up rebel-scum soon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

paint: dreadball: da (new) albinorks

Back in 2010, with Australian Podcasters practically shouting sweet nothings into my ears, I got a hankering to play Games Workshop's (now defunct) fantasy sports game, Blood Bowl. The problem? Nobody around I knew played. The solution? Adepticon has a yearly Blood Bowl event known as The Stupor Bowl. I signed up at first opportunity and got to work assembling a team from various fantasy Orcs waiting in the wings for a (now defunct) Warhammer Fantasy Battles project. The result was a fun little team I affectionately named "Da Albinorks" that somehow managed to get the ball across the line on the last play of the last game of the day, saving me from being dead last in the tournament.

Da Albinorks: Blood Bowl

Three years later, I played in Adepticon's Dreadball tournament and had an absolute blast, wanting to sing Dreadball's praises to the masses. But for that, I'd need a second painted team to demo with. A team without a well researched, faux-background or elaborate team logo. A team that was already assembled, that could paint up quickly. A team like... the Marauders! But no matter what variation of armor and skin-tone I mapped out, I kept coming back to that Blood Bowl team from 2010. Partially because I had so much fun painting and playing with them. Mostly because I they sit on a shelf easily visible from my painting area, mocking me...

So I revisited the concept, making a few, notable changes to the scheme. I dropped most of the the blacks and greys, using multiple shades of green for variety. I also subdued the bronze and added in a couple shades of brown at the straps. I like to think of 'em as Da Albinorks after a slick marketing guy from the future decides that their skin doesn't have enough chlorophyll for instant brand recognition.

Albinorks: front

Albinorks: rear

Albinorks: Jack, outta the box

Albinorks: Guard your back

Yeah, I know. There are visible mold lines, the paint work is sloppy, and the pictures kinda suck. I'm okay with the two of those. This project was a quick-and-dirty way to get a second team on the table, painted, and it does that pretty well. It was never meant to win any awards. I've got other projects in the pipe-line for that...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

build: arena rex: designing an arena, pt. 2 - the stands

While an arena floor is what you need to play the game, it just looks like an empty patch of sand without some stands to back up the illusion. As much as I researched reality for my arena floor, I researched fantasy just as much when trying to figure out my arena's stands. There are some beautiful reference pictures of other folk's miniature arenas out there, but no matter where I turned, I kept coming back to pics from the Starz series Spartacus.

Capua's Arena: primary entrance, exterior, host's box

My design aesthetic will borrow heavily from these design cues. However, recreating Capua's arena in in full would pose several challenges - transport, ease of play, and build-time being chief amongst them. For this reason, I plan to draw a bit of inspiration from Arden Fell's arena. I really like that the missing wall breaks the typical "god's eye view" most wargames give us and invites us to get down onto the sand with out gladiators. It helps give the feeling that we aren't commanding the gladiators so much as being them, and I dig it hardcore.

However, Arden built his as one solid piece. While I applaud that for arena's kept in one location, I plan on transporting my arena quite a bit. To combat the bulkiness problem, and to fit the arena in my tiny Yaris, I plan to break my arena into four pieces - arena floor, "backdrop" stands, and two sets of side stands.

Arena Composition: floor, backdrop stands, side stands

The arena floor is the arena floor as detailed in "designing an arena, pt. 1." The "backdrop" stands will be the largest single piece, encompassing the host's box, multiple tiers of seating, and the shades seen so prominently in Gladiator and Spartacus. The side stands are likely to only have one tier of seating, and one of the sides will feature the "Emperor's Gate" entrance. Where the "front" bit of seating would go, I'll leave open for the reasons stated above.

Arena in 3D: incomplete sketch

I've not yet decided whether the walls between the gladiators and the spectators will be part of the stands, or build directly into the arena floor. The upside of attaching them to the stands is that the floor becomes a flat piece for transport. The upside of having them attached to the floor is that they're always there and can create the cursory illusion of an arena when time or space doesn't permit the stands. Either way, the aesthetic of the arena walls will draw heavily from the Spartacus photos above, as will the Host's box.

Arena Walls

Host's Box: cribbed almost entirely from the show

Depending on how the build goes, I've got a couple ideas that could give the backdrop and side stands some utility beyond elaborate decoration. Unfortunately, those came to me just today and I don't yet have them mapped out or drawn up. I'll let them marinate until I'm ready to tackle them head-on.

For now, it's time to run through a few games of Arena Rex and paint up another game's figures from the backlog.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

build: arena rex: printable test arena

As promised, here's some pictures of the printed arena floor I'll be using for the Arena Rex beta test.

Test Arena: 1/2 the size of a regular arena, all the fun!

Just for these photos, I laid out the arena with three columns on either side, two braziers, three regular pits, one animal pit and a dais in the middle. I may need to come up with a simple way to lock the modular terrain in place while play-testing, but other than that, I think it'll work great for giving the rules a try.

Blood Brothers: what I'm hoping will be my "good guy" team

Ludus Magnus: the faceless "bad guys" I hope to acquire and paint

At half-size, I was able to print up the arena, terrain counters and Red Republic's figures for less than $5. Not too shabby. Plus, after putting the figures and chits in ziploc bags, the figures, rules and terrain all fit nicely in an easy-to-transport school folder. If only the dice and tape measure would fit too...

If anyone is interested in printing the arena or terrain, here are the PDF files I used. If you want full-scale, just have your favorite printer blow it up. All the art is based on vectors, so it should scale nicely.

Arena Floor - for Legal paper (11"x17")
Arena Obstacles - for Letter paper (8.5" x 11")

Thursday, August 22, 2013

build: arena rex: designing an arena, pt.1 - the arena floor

A few months ago, when the Arena Rex Kickstarter was going strong, I pledged that if my friends jumped in I'd build us an arena to play in. Two of 'em jumped in, and I've been marinating on the build ever since.

My primary design goal was to balance modularity of the arena's traps and obstacles while having legitimate depth to any pit traps. After a few less-than-enthusing starts, I did a bit of internet research on the actual architecture and techniques used to make traps and animal pits in ancient Roman amphitheaters. Turns out most of the pits, animals, and other tricksy stuff were kept in a systematically designed underground labyrinth known as a hypogeum.

Amphitheater of Italica | Amphitheater of Capua

Using the two amphitheaters shown above as inspiration, I've combined elements to design a hypogeum of my own.


There's a central staging/animal control area connected to an under-arena circuit by a lengthwise passageway. As you'll see in later pictures, a large chunk of this will be covered. Because of this, I plan to keep detailing simple - mostly dry brushed rock walls and passageways. The columns in the central staging area will get some extra attention, as they're a decidedly structural component. Here's why...

Amphitheater Floor: contiguous w/ holes

The arena floor will be a layer of wood (popsicle sticks or balsa) and sand over the hypogeum with regularly placed 2.5" and 3" square holes. As you can see, there's still dark brown from the hypogeum layer showing through every hole. The idea is that the "drop-in terrain" will rest on these areas, allowing for obstacles flush with the top layer of sand. The next couple pictures should help explain.

Hypogeum + Arena Floor: cross-section

Pit Trap: essentially a square donut

As you can see, the square would drop into one of the holes of the arena floor, resting on the hypogeum substructure, but also hanging a little over the tunnels. Terrain that sits above ground level (columns, crates, dais, etc) will be a snap, just make a square that lies flush and place the terrain on top. I've got ideas for at least two more terrain pieces that would take advantage of the passageways' depth.

Animal Cage & Brazier: both have components below ground level

Hopefully that helps my intentions make more sense. Theoretically, a completed arena with some drop-in columns, pits and an animal cage might look something like this:

Arena Floor: w/ modular terrain

The arena floor as designed is 33"x22". For the Arena Rex playtest, I plan to print up the above design at 1/2 scale with varying terrain squares I can drop on top of the map. (When playing, I'll scale the movement distances and ranges accordingly.) If the dimensions and spacing work well with the playtest, great! If not, it's easy enough to tweak the design in Illustrator 'till something works. The implementation of the "drop-in" terrain concept should work regardless of arena layout.

Sometime this weekend, I'll try to post up pics of the printed arena as well as my ideas for the amphitheater itself.

Monday, August 19, 2013

paint: spartacus

So I've been playing Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery since it came out last year. It's a great little game with a nice balance between player cooperation and player betrayal. While the detail on the gladiator figures that come with the box are a bit soft on detail, I've been planning to paint them for quite some time. With recent plans to organize my hobby life for increased output, and since I finally got to play with the expansion a couple weekends ago, I figured now was as good a time as any.

I knocked the paint jobs out in a day, but it took me several more days before I got around to basing and shellacking 'em with protective varnish. I cleaned the mold lines a bit, but didn't feel like fighting the malleable plastic was worth it for figures that are only 1/3 of the game.

I'm rather pleased considering they're quick-and-dirty paint jobs on less-than perfect figures. They'll definitely add more than detract from our next game.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

paint: saga: jomsvikings

Fresh off a tournament victory, I tasked myself with getting my Jomsvikings 100% completed... and now they are!

A consistent problem I've had when painting armies is that I tend to overdo the number of steps, colors and layers to the point that I get burned out before I finish. Starting with my Rammers for Dreadball, I've been trying to simplify my process so that I can find a happy medium between time spent and aesthetic quality, and ultimately get more of these figures to the table top. With the Jomsvikings, I think I've got a winning combination.

So here they are, in all their "table-top quality" glory.

Jomsvikings Leadership: Jarl Olaf "Two Axe" and his sons, Sven and Ragnar

Every good warband needs someone to lead it, and these Joms are lead by Olaf "Two Axe", an old, grizzled warrior who stalks the battlefield more than strides it. He's flanked by his two sons, Sven and Ragnar, who lead his two units of Jomsviking while following in their father's footsteps by dual-wielding axes.

Leader's Shields: Raven, Valknut, Raven

When I first got into SAGA, I did much internet research and even read a couple physical texts about Vikings and the Viking age. While details on the Joms aren't concrete, there is some evidence that they were a Cult of Odin. I've chosen to reflect this in the leader's shields, giving Olaf a Valknut, which is often claimed as a symbol of Odin. Each of his sons' shields has a raven, symbolizing their role as Olaf's eyes and ears, much like Odin's ravens, Huginn and Muninn.

Sven's Jomsvikings: Hearthguard x6

Ragnar's Jomsvikings: Hearthguard x6

As the Hearthguard of a Jomsviking force, I wanted the Jomsvikings to stand out and look a bit more elite. Naturally they got the chain mail clad torsos, but I gave them a red and black color scheme with black-and-white shields to help set them apart. After all, these are the most experienced mercenaries in a mercenary warband, I figure they've spent some coin to get "finer" duds.

Dreng Unit 1: Warriors x8

Dreng Unit 2: Warriors x8

Dreng Unit 3: Warriors w/ Dane axes x8

The Dreng are the Warriors in a Jomsvikings force, but are younger and less experienced. I gave them a mix of earthy colors to keep them simpler, but gave them grey-and-white shields to help tie them to the force as a whole. I think the unified shields and basing work pretty well to make them a cohesive battle group...

The Jomsvikings of Olaf "Two Axe"

It's funny, the shields were the part I was dreading the most. I even looked into multiple decal solutions. But when push came to shove, I hadn't decided on decals and the shields were the only part of the figure left to do, so I buckled down and did 'em myself. Once I got going, I found the simple patterns and creative freedom quite enjoyable and cathartic. (Catching up on The Walking Dead probably helped a little too.) Here's all the patterns...

Jomsvikings Shields

Now that the Joms are finished, I'm not sure what SAGA force I might try next. I need to have a good sit down with all the rule books and battle boards and figure out what sounds the most fun... In the mean time, however, other projects await!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

miscellaneous: organizing the kanban way!

After listening to episode 82 of The Independent Characters and hearing Carl extoll the virtues of Kanban flow, the organization system piqued my interest.

However, when it comes to organization I'm a more tactile kinda guy. I enjoy the physical act of scratching items off a list. I don't get the same feeling when I delete an item off a grocery list on my iPhone. With that in mind, and several materials already on hand, I made this...

To solve the problem of sub-tasks, I've divided each column into stages, denoted by what color pin is holding the card. The column header also has pins as a key. For example, the Zombicide Runners, Walkers and Heroes are ready for the final stage of PREP, they're ready for priming. My sections are:

  • PREP - Wash, Assemble, Prime
  • 3-COLOR - Skin, Clothing, Weapons
  • DETAIL - Highlight, Shadow, F/X
  • BASE - Build, Paint, F/X
  • RECORD - Photo, Edit, Blog
  • COMPLETE - Admire, Beer!

Different games have different colored cards. Currently the purple cards are for SAGA, pink is Dreadball and blue is Infinity. The yellow cards are board games. I switch up the color of Sharpie to denote which cards are from different factions or board games - thus "Marauders" is written in green and "Robots" is written in black.

So far, it's working well. I only bothered to make cards for the stuff that's fresh in my mind and it's driven home just how many models I've got sitting around, doing nothing. None of my 40K, Flames of War, Privateer Press or Malifaux figures have cards yet! Hopefully, it'll be the motivation I need to stay on task and get some of these models ready to show off in the light of day.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

play: saga tournament: jomsvikings

Last week, with more than a little trepidations, I set off to Texas Toy Soldier for their July Saga Tournament. You see, I'd last played the game in February and had little-to-no clue what the last two expansions brought to the table. I also had spent the prior week or so trying to finish my vikings, but fell short of the mark. They were past a 3-color standard, but the bases texture was straight out of the sand box and the shields were all a flat brown.

My mind was soon put at ease. All the guys participating in the tournament were understanding regarding both my lack of recent play and not-quite-complete figures. Most were even highly complimentary of how they looked, despite their unfinished nature. A total of 7 players started the tournament, which was to be best of 3 rounds all played with the "Kill the Warlord" scenario. Winner by best win-loss ratio, total points killed as the tie-breaker.

GAME 1: Jomsvikings vs Scots - A fiercely bloody battle with some very wily Scots. This one came down to a single die roll. On the last turn we had a Warlord on Warlord clash where the Scot had to make 1 save on 3 dice to stay alive... and flubbed all three. I killed his Warlord despite a Scottish 20-19 point lead.

GAME 2: Jomsvikings vs Byzantines - First time playing against the Byzantines, and I didn't enjoy it. It wasn't my opponent's fault, he was a good guy and played his forces well, but between the inherently strong defense of a fast and shooty army with a mounted general able to cower behind a mass of troops, "Kill the Warlord" is a tough road to hoe with a foot-slogging, melee only army. Add in consistent denial of Wraith by my opponent, and I was a sitting duck. Byzantine win by points, 11-2.

GAME 2: Jomsvikings vs Pagan Rus - First time playing against these guys as well, and I've got to say I like 'em. Some incredibly nasty tricks up their sleeves led to the near annihilation of a warrior unit that got caught out in the cold. "You can only move 4 inches. Oh, and your unit that isn't within 6 inches of anybody is now max fatigue. Oh, and every unit on the board with a fatigue marker takes off that many models - the fatigue stays." is a nut-buster of a combo. Fortunately, I was able to use my battle board to deny the Rus some of their other shenanigans, and managed to pull away with a 26-14 point victory.

After the bodies were laid to rest in their foam trays, it was determined that three of us were tied for first with a 2-1 record. When the points were tallied... I somehow came in on top! Netted me a $20 store gift certificate for my efforts, which I'm still trying to figure out how to spend. I was pleasantly surprised with how well I did, despite the lack of experience, and am looking forward to getting in more games soon. The Jomsvikings will definitely be staying on the painting table 'till they're done.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

play : adepticon 2013

In the weeks leading up to Adepticon 2013, I was debating whether this year would be my last. I've made the 15 hour drive five consecutive years now and, to be honest, I ended Adepticon 2012 on a particularly bad note (Through no-one's fault but my own). For that and other reasons, I've been eyeballing the potentially greener pastures of other conventions - GenCon, WargamesCon, DuelCon, etc. Now that Adepticon 2013 is over, I find myself reinvigorated - jazzed on mind-blowing displays of hobby, gaming and friendship. Sunday night, while chatting post-con with friends who came into this year's con with a similar mind-set, we resolved to once again make the pilgrimage to Chicago next April.

Highlights of the convention, and things that swayed me into coming back include, in rough chronological order...

  • "Give me your muffin!" - Celso
  • X-Wing Miniatures Game - Ran several folks through demoes of this one and most bought in by con's end. It really is a fantastic little game, even without the 2nd set of ships. I definitely learned the value of a Y-Wing equipped with an Ion Cannon! Depending on schedule conflicts, I could easily see playing in a tourney of this next year.
  • The William Wallace Burger - a nice, thick hamburger with a sausage & beef patty, gently breaded and fried, topped with a fried egg. Serve it quartered, pulled to the edges of the plate with a heaping helping of beer-battered onion straws drizzled with ketchup and a side of blue-dyed ranch just big enough to dip half of each burger in. (Doesn't exist, but MightyTim and I think it should. Makes more sense than Tilted Kilt's "Braveheart Salad.")
  • Cards Against Humanity - Yes, it often devolves into racist, sexist, sexual or grotesque humor... but I'm okay with that. I laugh too damn hard not to enjoy the game. I particularly liked when, "Life for the Native Americans was forever changed after the white man introduced them to scalping," and "White people like smallpox blankets." were played within cards of each other.
  • Dreadball - Fast paced game with crazy simple mechanics. Played in the tournament on Friday and had an absolute blast. I plan to do a better write up of the tournament later this week, but the short of it is that I'm dying to get the local guys into it and start a league. Teams are cheap, and I think they'd love it if they gave it a try.

  • "Slaanesh!" - Damon... at first. Then e'rybody.
  • Display boards - Always inspired, often inspiring, these monuments to gaming and hobby never cease to be a highlight of Adepticon for me. One of these days, one of 'em will be mine.

  • Roman - anyone looking to go from gamer or hobbyist to artist needs to watch this guy in action. His build process is downright Bob Ross-ian in it's flow - he's got a general idea of what he wants to do, but lets it come out organically, ebbing and flowing with each new addition to the base. His paint style isn't much different and provided my biggest "Holy crap! Mind = blown!" moment of the con. What he does is amazing. And it's art - not the rigid process that Games Workshop uses (for better and worse) to get people into the hobby. I'm already looking through models to see what inspires me to work in a similar fashion.

  • The people - I got to catch up with old friends (Celso, Damon, Fish, Rich, Tim, etc.) and make new ones (Loopy, Starminer, Jen, et. al.). I got to hang out with folks whose work I've been wowed by for years and they got to be wowed by my "Rice Whiskey Treats with Bacon." No matter how much time I spend with these people, when Sunday rolls 'round I'm jonesing for the next year to get here so I can hang out with them again.
  • Portillo's - Between the Italian Beef & Hot Pepper sammich literally dripping with au jus and the diabetic bliss of a Cake Shake, it's probably for the best that I don't live anywhere near one.

  • BootaTown - MightyTim did a stellar job taking the abandoned reins of BootaTown and putting together a fun, laid back event for Sunday. Fun people, fun games, amazing swag. The fact that he's already soliciting advice for next year makes me confident that BootaTown is in fantastic hands for the foreseeable future.
  • The atmosphere - The Adepticon council made several changes this year (separate vendor hall, changing order and length of some tournaments) that I think drastically improved the overall vibe and feel of the con. I've been coming for 5 years straight, and I don't think it's ever felt this relaxed and accessible. Big thumbs up to Hank, Greg, Matt, Jeff and the rest of the crew.

For the above reasons, and many more, I had an absolutely fantastic weekend. The doubt is gone. I'll be queuing up to register for Adepticon 2014. Can somebody save me a spot in the VIG line?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

paint: dreadball: rammers of krass brokkr

So, amongst last year's Kickstarter backings I pledged at Striker level on a little game called Dreadball. I've got mixed feelings regarding Mantic's handling of this project - Primarily that my FLGS had it for sale a good two-three weeks before I got my copy and that flashing on my Veer-myn is so bad that I stopped assembling them from frustration. - yet I was still incredibly excited when I got my box around New Year's and quickly assembled both the Forge Father and Orx teams and grabbed for my paints.

Rammers of Krass Brokkr : Striker (Gorim Ironstone model)

Because I tend to use paint schemes with a ridiculous amount of steps, I decided to change things up and see if I could strike a balance between speed and visual appeal by only using base-colors, sloppy highlights and an all-inclusive wash. The results aren't my favorite figures I've ever painted, but I think they do look like a coherent team on the table-top and I'm not ashamed to call them my own.

Rammers of Krass Brokkr : Team Photo

Oddly enough, the color scheme was picked out long before Dreadball was even a game! Several years ago, when I saw Mantic's Dwarf infantry models for Kings of War, I was struck by their similarity to one of the few He-Man toys I ever owned - Ram-Man. I always thought it'd be fun to paint up a regiment with colors that drive home their aesthetic similarities, but never had reason to purchase the models. Fast-forward to now, and I've finally got my hands on Mantic figures that, while not holding the aesthetic quite as well as their fantasy Dwarfs, they still hold close enough to follow through on the concept.

Rammers of Krass Brokkr : Guard

And, because I can't ever be too big a nerd, I decided this homage needed a team name and logo that helps solidify the connection between these guys and their Masters of the Universe roots. With a little research I found that Krass was Ram-Man's name prior to donning the armor that makes him literally spring into battle head-first and that Brokkr means mine and/or blacksmith. So the name roughly translates to "The Ram-Men from a Mine named Krass" The typography is a vectors-from-scratch throwback to the old Masters of the Universe logo.

I like to think I pulled it off.

Despite finishing these guys in January, I've still not given the game a whirl. One of the local guys took my Corporation team off my hands, but we've both been too busy with life and other games to get it to the table yet. I hope to remedy that soon, as I'll be playing in the Dreadball tournament at Adepticon this April, which happens whether I've gotten in practice games or not.