You'll find a little of everything here. Genres covered in this blog include (so far) prehistorics, fantasy, old west, swashbucklers, pulp, Blood Bowl, Ghostbusters, gladiators, nautical, science fiction and samurai in 6mm, 15mm, 28mm, 40mm, 42mm and 54mm sizes. You'll also find terrain, scenery, basing, gaming, modeling, tutorials, repaints, conversions, art and thoughts in general about the hobby.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Asteroid Mining Circuit Boxing: Round 1

Janadon worked the mines on Rock 1359, but liked to box for a little extra pocket change. Fights on the asteroid circuit are difficult to schedule, so opponents usually are pitted against whoever was available, regardless of weight class or skill. Underdog opponents, however, are usually allowed a stim or two to help equalize the match.

Janadon was the underdog of today's fight, having been matched up against the creepish Kazz-AH of the Elder Planet. So Janadon took his favorite Stim in the dressing room, Robert's Rebound #7, which would add some resilience to Janadon's body.

The klaxon signaled the beginning of the round. The two fighters came together, hands and tentacles up. Kazz-AH flowed to one side looking for an opening, but Janadon came straight at the alien ready to lock fists right away.

The two traded a couple test blows, but Kazz-AH quickly forced Janadon into the ropes. Janadon had a deep-seeded fear of all beings of the Elder Planet, but had manage to overcome most of his childhood phobia. Still, that fear would resurface every once in a while, and Janadon carried it into this fight.

He found enough in himself to get off the ropes, but Kazz-AH landed a solid blow across Janadon's face, dropping the man to the ground and swelling his right eye shut.

Janadon rose up, but was in a bad way. Almost senseless, he couldn't muster his boxing skill to help him, and was relying on nothing but pure aggression to get him back into the fight. But it was enough -- just enough to allow Janadon a few moments to regain his senses.

Despite Janadon's newly found mental reserves, Kazz-AH was unfazed. And again it pushed Janadon into the ropes, but the man quickly clinched, just long enough for the round to come to an end.

The man walked to his corner. He turned and looked straight into the eye stalks of Kazz-AH and smiled. Suddenly the alien opponent was no longer a big, ugly, scary monster; it was just big and ugly.

Friday Night Fights: New Hope City (by Two Hour Wargames)

I got a draft of these rules to try out -- well wait, what is it? It's boxing just like in Friday Night Fights, but the setting is the far-flung future of 5150, and the opponents can be human or alien. They can rely on natural ability, but more often than not will also use physical enhancements, Stims (stimulants), and Loops (embedded CPUs) to shift the balance of the fight.

There are also rules (new from Friday Night Fights) for judges, injuries (during the fight), negative effects from overuse of stims and loops, and digging deep during a fight among other rules changes and additions. There are also a few more traits/signatures added since Friday Night Fights.

And yes, there are aliens. Aliens are defined less by weird physical traits, and more by the available attributes packaged to define specific races. I created Kazz-AH as an original alien, but the major races from 5150 are represented (Hishen, Grath, Razor, Xeog and Zhuh-Zhuhs.)

There are also, of course, rules allowing you to box with your human characters from 5150.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Charioteer: Someone else's idea

Analogue Hobbies shows us an excellent example of how changing the context/background can really set the mood for a game. Two Hour Wargame's Charioteer rules provide for a good chariot racing game, but what if you were one of Pharoah's charioteers chasing down the Moses' tribe, and suddenly found yourself in the middle of the Red Sea? It doesn't just become a simple race to see who wins, it becomes a struggle to see who survive's the wrath of God!

So props to Analogue Hobbies for taking a great game and making it fantastic with a simple change in setting; See it here: Escape the Red Sea

Monday, July 22, 2013

Reaper Bones: Cloud full of ladies

This is the translucent Bones version of Reaper's "Ghostly Summons" (3395) figure. I didn't originally intend on painting it, but it just seemed naked without any paint.

This one was a little difficult: The facial features were tiny and hard to find on the translucent plastic; there were a lot of limbs to look for (and I was trying to paint the women without getting any paint on the mists part of the figure); and, unlike most of the other Bones figures, there were a couple mold lines I had to carefully cut away.

But the figure is finished, and it looks nice. Not sure what Jeff will do with it, if anything; maybe he can use it to distract his players while he sets up something mean and ugly for them to fight (during D&D.)

Update: This translucent figure (as well as the metal version) is actually for sale individually now at Reaper. It is No. 77095.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reaper: Flesh and Bones

Here's another group I finished for Jeff. I picked out a bunch of minion-type stuff that would be easier to paint -- mostly drybrushing. There are a few zombies (and a ghoul/flesh golem?) as well as plenty of skeletons. The zombies, I painted up in more "living" colors, so that they could double as thralls for the vampires Jeff wanted me to paint first.

I also took out one of the translucent Bones figures - this phantom - and tried out something a little different, a physical being rising out of the ethereal mist. I think it worked out just fine. Not all the translucent figures have an element such as this, and I think some would be best left as just translucent figures to represent ghosts or spirits. I wonder when they'll be available to buy individually; I could use a few for my Ghostbusters collection.

The detail on these figures isn't as good as on metal or resin, so it's a little more difficult to paint. But still, I think the lack of detail on some of the figures with smaller features (such as the female vampire here) is worth the cheaper price. I hope the industry works on achieving better detail before (and if) it goes all-plastic.

I also received my first full set of Reaper HD paints (Thanks, Jeff!) So far, they are working great. I was a little worried because I had heard so many bad stories about the Reaper Master series (too much flow improver which thinned out the paint too much.) I had read that the HD (High Density) series also contained flow improver, but that the paints also had much more pigment. Well, they flow nicely and the coverage is great! I'll still have to do the "red" test. I have some Vallejo Model Red which does nicely, but it would be nice to have a back up.

Minor note: I'm mounting all of these figures onto Proxie Models bases using just super glue. I wasn't sure what adhesive would work best to attach hard plastic to soft/Bones plastic, but the super glue (Gorilla brand) seems to be holding fine. And since the figures are softer plastic and a bit lighter, they don't put as much strain on the glue bond.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Samurai Road Warrior

So I was watching "The Road Warrior" for the millionth time when I came to the realization that this movie (and the other two Max films) was just another samurai movie along the same lines of Kurosawa and Mifune. Or maybe, like all movies, it just shares similar aspects (No - let's say it's a samurai film; I like it better that way :)

The evidence
In "Mad Max," Max Rockatansky begins as a "retainer" for the Main Force Patrol, but leaves when he can no longer abide by the clan's rules -- though, really, it's because he simply becomes "mad" ("Sword of Doom"?). He becomes the wandering "ronin" who roams a wasteland that has been ravaged by war and is full of malcontents, bandits, murderers and their prey.

In "The Road Warrior," our hungry ronin finds a village in need of help, so he offers his aid  ("Seven Samurai.") He's in it for his own gain, but his actions will eventually reveal he still has a loving heart buried beneath all the violence (Kuwabatake Sanjuro in "Yojimbo.")

Though his part is a diversion, Max helps the village sneak it's gasoline (the Akizuki gold) across the land while being pursued by many enemies ("The Hidden Fortress.")
We could continue with "Beyond Thunderdome," where he plays two factions within the town against each other. He is eventually captured and punished, but soon after, recuperates and returns to finish the job ("Yojimbo.")

Maybe this is why I enjoy "The Road Warrior" so much. It all seems so obvious now.
And maybe this is why my favorite miniatures are my post-apocalyptic warriors and samurai.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Machinas: Sneak peak

I know many of you are patiently waiting for Machinas.
Well, I got the first deck in my hands from Ed at Two Hour Wargames, so we do indeed have a product, and it looks great!

A key change to the rules: The game will be entirely card-based. All weapons, signatures, features and cars will be on cards. But miniatures lovers shouldn't worry, the game still supports those of us who want to use our Hot Wheels, models or other toys.

Having all cards also helps the game to be much more portable, and more accessible to regular boardgamers (who don't want to take the time to convert and paint any minis.)

The game will also still be compatible with After the Horsemen.

The cards are also giving me ideas for different kinds of races.

For example
Junkyard Rally: All the equipment cards (ie, not those with driver signatures) are randomly dealt out, one at a time to each player until his car can carry no more; you use what your dealt. You could do something similar with drivers; players build their own cars, but are assigned a random driver.
Limited resources: One thing I like about the cards is that they act as a self-limiter, allowing only so many of certain weapons. If there aren't enough of a weapon, some players will go awanting (and will probably reap the wrath of all the others who didn't get a Quad 50.)
Dealin' and Wheelin': Players are all dealt three or four cards each, and they must trade at least one from another player. Not sure how the details would work out, but these are just brainstorms from flipping through these cards.

Anyway, I'm not quite sure when the crowdfunding will begin, but there is certainly a physical product, now.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reaper Bones: Vampire and decor

Too bad you can't see them too well, but there are ripples in the blood spring. And in the tomb, that's a rose atop a pillow peaking from that corner. Note: the tomb lid is somewhat warped, but it still fits on top of the tomb.

Here's the first of the Bones figures I've painted for my friend Jeff. He asked I paint all the vampires I could find. There are only two or three that could pass as a vampire, so I'm also painting up a bunch of the scenery, including the tomb and blood spring shown here, and an altar and a pair of candelabras (not done).

I also threw together (painted) a bat swarm, because you need bats with your vampires, of course!

I'm finding it difficult to straighten out bent weapons. I'm trying the hot water method (heat the figure in hot water, reshape and thrust into cold water), but the weapons slowly return to their (mis)shape. I'll (carefully) try boiling water next.

A couple of the scenery pieces are also somewhat warped, though, they're ok for game play - so if you ordered some Bones, don't expect diorama-quality pieces. I'm also finding detail a bit lacking in the plastic, but honestly, at these prices, these are still good figures.

I'm also trying a few Vallejo paints I picked up. I'm not liking the flesh too much- the base shades (Flat flesh) have a little too much orange in them. The highlight is ok. I'll try a different base shade to see if that helps.

As part of payment for doing his Bones figures, Jeff will be purchasing some new paints for me. Instead of Vallejo, I'm going for some Reaper Master Series High Density (NOT the regular Master series which I hear bad things about.) The Reaper paint will be cheaper (in the box sets), and they're arranged in triads (since I like to paint that way.) And I've heard decent reviews for at least the HD series.

I wanted to go Vallejo, but I can't find a compatibility chart (ie: X color of Vallejo = X color of Foundry.) It's not imperative I have all the exact colors, but I have a few favorite Foundry colors (that I'd prefer in the dropper bottles.) There are a LOT of good charts out there, but none have Vallejo AND Foundry. And, in  any case, I'm acquainted with a few Reaper colors; when I first started painting in ernest, I used a set of Reaper Pro paints- and many of those colors continue on in the Master and Master HD series.

EDIT: On second look, the flesh colors actually aren't too bad- it just came across orange-ish in the photo (which was photoshopped out of the photo in this post.) So All I have to do is change my camera settings to adapt to the new Vallejo (and later Reaper) palettes.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Another samurai, and notes on Reaper Bones

Here's another of Steve Barber's samurai. This is actually one of the first 42mm figures I purchased a few years ago. I decided it was time for an update, since my skills had improved.

The first thing I did was to give this retainer a much more respectable blade. The other was too short (it could have been his wakizashi, but that's not the hilt I clipped away from his scabbard originally.)

I also changed the angle of his grasp. The original pose of holding the sword straight out to his side was because that was the way the hand was sculpted (holding a fan). The back of the hand was somewhat attached to his sleeve, so I couldn't do a simple cut and rotate. So I cut away the old hand and sculpted a new one. I chose to have the blade out front and down because this kept is close in to the figure (so that it won't bump into other figures during play.)

And yes, I stole the kimono color design from the Okko comic.

Reaper Bones

I got a start on Jeff's Bones figures. Here are a few quick tips:

You can indeed paint straight onto the figures without a primer coat, but I find the paint chips off much too easily without some kind of buffer (primer.)

Don't use Testors Flat Black to prime these figures (I use Flat Black to prime everything else); the figures will remain tacky for months and months. Instead, I use Delta Ceramcoat Black, brushed on, to act as my primer. My biggest worry is that the paint will easily chip off the porous surface of the Bones plastic, but I'm finding the Ceramcoat has some good grab. It also seems to be a good surface to paint on. Another nice thing with craft paints is that after they dry, they retain a little bit of flexibility, which is nice for these bendy figures.

The paint is still going to chip (I might try a brush on varnish,) but even all the metal figures I've given to Jeff have plenty of chips and wear on them, from years of D&D play. So I've resigned not to worry too much about the "chipping" factor.

Don't forget to wash the figures in soap and water, allowing them to fully dry. I didn't do this a few months ago with a couple test Bones figures  I had, and it didn't seem to make a difference back then. But I noticed the Ceramcoat layer "gripping" the surface a little bit better with this latest batch that was washed.

That's all I have for now. I'll try to offer up some tips as I paint the Bones figures.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Samurai Media: One-word movie reviews

These are my favorite samurai movies. Since there are too many for me to write a review for each, I'll try to do a simple one-word review of each. If I had to choose one as a favorite, it would be Hara Kiri. It's slow-paced, but intense and scathing toward the samurai class. And it stars my favorite Japanese actor, Tatsuya Nakadai. The recent remake is also not too bad.
I'm also fond of "Kill!" which I recently purchased. Nakadai shows less intensity but more range with his role in "Kill!"

The following reviews will simply show a picture with the movie title followed by one word that best describes (for me) what I like about that movie.
These are movies I've seen (and all of them more than once). Some might call it sacrilege that I didn't include any of the 60s/70s Zatoichi films- but I've only seen a couple, and while they were good and fun (and I hope to see the rest), they weren't necessarily my favorites. I also hear that "Three Outlaw Samurai" and "Sword of the Beast" are also good, but I have yet to (purchase and) see them.

"Hara kiri"

"Seven Samurai"

"Samurai Rebellion"

"Hidden Fortress"

"Sword of Doom"

"Yojimbo" (AND "Sanjuro")



"Zatoichi" (2003)

"13 Assassins"

"After the Rain"

"Twilight Samurai"

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Samurai Media: Books

When I take on a project, I like to immerse myself into the genre. Besides scenarios found in rulebooks, movies and literature (fiction and non-fiction) also provide plenty of inspiration and ideas for not only wargame scenarios, but also for  paint palettes, conversions, and terrain and scenery.
Here are a few of my favorite books I've read while I paint up my samurai (not listed in any particular order.) I'll try to post my favorite movies in the future, though I suspect we all have the same favorite movies.

I'm actually fairly new to Japanese literature about the period, so it would be wrong for me to call these my favorite books; really, these are about the ONLY books I've read on the period, but I enjoyed all of them. These are also not the only books I've read; I've gone through quite a few of Osprey's titles as well as a few older titles by Stephen Turnbull.

Revenge of the 47 Ronin
by Stephen Turnbull (from Osprey's "Raid" series.)

This book briefly covers the general facts surrounding the raid of the 47 ronin against Kiri Yoshinaka. Turnbull sets the book out as a chronology of actions complete with basic backgrounds and the politics of the events. He also goes into good detail on the tactics, weapons and equipment used during the raid (lots of spears and bows, a couple hammers and axes, and even a primitive "flashlight" for use in the dark to help identify the captured Kiri.)

This book isn't Chushingura, especially at only 80 pages, but it covers all the details well and provides a good framework for wargamers wondering how to arm their collection (lots of spears for samurai!)

A last note on Revenge; Turnbull makes a great observation that though the ronin are praised and made out to be the heroes, we should also consider all the retainers of Lord Kiri who put up a brave defense of their household despite being surprised in the middle of a snowy night.

By Eiji Yoshikawa

Called the "Gone With the Wind" of Japan, Musashi covers the first 30 years of the life of Japan's greatest swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi. The book (at 967 pages) is full of action and drama (and even a little bit of love. Bleck! I'm with Jotaro on this one.) A great novel, but also a great tool for wargamers; there are plenty of duels and skirmishes throughout the book among many different kinds of forces (individuals, sword schools, bandits, lance-armed priests.)

Whether you use it for wargame inspiration or not, anyone who games samurai should read Musashi at least once. If you don't, then at least remember to try not to anger any old women named Osugi.

Samurai: The Japanese Warrior's Unofficial Manual
By Stephen Turnbull

Turnbull seems to be the accepted Western scholar on the history of samurai, so plenty of titles will be by him. In the Samurai Manual, though, he departs somewhat from his academic writing style and narrates the book as a teacher speaking to the student who wishes to become a samurai.

The style of writing has plenty of flowery langauge (referring to the Shogun as "His Most Illustrious Highness," or to soldiers who would use guns as "Lewd and sordid persons.") But it's all done in good fun, yet Turnbull still manages to fill the novice with plenty of well-researched details about the samurai life: Do's and Don'ts of the tea ceremony; the hierarchy of bowing; armor and weapons and their use; preparing for battle and what to do after the battle; how to attack castles; how to prepare for head-viewing ceremonies; how to deal with old age and death; and the list goes on.
There are even a couple multiple choice quizzes about how to conduct yourself as a samurai (a few of the options are, "C: Cut his head off.")

It's an easy read. You can pick it up and turn to a random chapter and read.

The Bamboo Sword and other Samurai Tales

By Shuhei Fujisawa

Not all sword fights and action, but great nonetheless, The Bamboo Sword is a collection of eight short stories taking place in old Japan. The first tale, The Bamboo Sword, is the inspiration for the excellent movie "Twilight Samurai." Since the stories are short, they are easier to follow along, especially for westerners who might find it difficult to keep track of Japanese names (I almost needed to make myself a reference guide when I read "Musashi.")

For the wargamer, their are a few fights that can be easily translated into gaming scenarios. For example, in "All for a Melon," a chamberlain has asked a lowly samurai and his friend to be with him when he confronts a senior retainer about a plot; the chamberlain is certain the retainer will need to be killed. The forces involved include the chamberlain, his two samurai bodyguards, the retainer and his two guards. The setting is a small castle room (and possibly the adjoining corridor. I love gaming what I call "micro-skirmishes," (bigger than a duel, but smaller than a skirmish), and this fight is a perfect example of one.

At 256 pages, this book seems too short; I burned through most of the stories in one afternoon, but the book has a little bit of re-readability. Fujisawa apparently has MANY more samurai tales, but the copyright owners, for some reason, will not have them translated.

Hagakure (The Book of the Samurai)
By Yamamoto Tsunetomo

This is sort of a philosophy book put forth as a collection of tiny vignettes that give examples of the proper conduct of samurai. It was written in 1716, so it is free from modern morality, allowing a more authentic look at life, even if from a limited perspective.

This is another title you can pick up and randomly flip to a page to read. Each story is barely a few paragraphs long.

I, like many people I'm sure, discovered this book after seeing the movie "Ghost Dog, Way of the Samurai," about a assassin for the mob who uses the book as a personal guide to life.

"It is good to carry some powdered rouge in one's sleeve. It may be that when one is sobbering up or awaking from sleep that his complexion may be poor. At such a time, it is good to take out and apply some powdered rouge."

Other titles

There are other books I haven't covered, mostly because I don't own them yet. Here is a short list of some of those books. If any of you have read any of these titles, let me know what you thought. I'm also open to recommendations for anything not in this list. I prefer tales about individuals (such as Musashi) over the grander epics about great lords and large battles (such as "Taiko," by Yoshikawa.)

"Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan"
"Musui's Story: The autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai"
"Katsuno's Revenge and other Tales of the Samurai"
"Pagoda, Skull and Samurai"

Thursday, July 4, 2013

42mm architecture: Japanese Tea shop draft

Until I can sell off some of my minis collection, I'm trying not to acquire too much more that I can't easily store. Luckily, the samurai will fit into Chessex cases. But buildings are difficult to store away, so unless I can put them on semi-permanent display in my apartment, I try not to build any new ones.

But smaller buildings don't pose too much of a problem, so I think I might try to build a small Japanese tea shop, something a road-weary traveler can stop at for a few minutes to drink some tea and eat a couple rice balls.

I'll build it with a removeable roof for a couple reasons: First, of course, so I can have my samurai fight in the interior (though, there will only be space for a couple figures in the small shop), and second, I think I can build the shop small enough to also fit into a Chessex case.

Some of you might remember my Street Corner collection. I put that collection together (including all the small buildings and accessories) so that it would all fit into one Chessex case. The samurai already will two or three cases. My next case will have space reserved for the tea shop and all my little trade good accessories.

Another reason for choosing a tea shop is that I want scenery and details that a samurai, ronin or bandit might fight along the great road (the Tokaido.) There won't be any castles or towns for my samurai anytime soon (for the reasons I mentioned above), but there'll be plenty of adventures on the road.

Now, this is all still in the planning phases, so you won't see a tea shop for a little while. I still need to work out a bunch of details, such as how to sculpt some small goods such as sake jars and rice balls. I need to do some more proper measurements to determine how much wood I'll need to build the shop. I also need to work out some proper hiragana signage, and I need to figure out what the interior should look like. I'm also working on repainting yet another one of my samurai. So, yes, lots of work. Did I mention my friend Jeff's Reaper Bones figures have arrived? Oi vay.