Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hobby Fun with a Seven Year Old

Up to now letting my son "help" with hobby time has been less than satisfying. Unlike other forms of helping where something might actually get somewhat partially done he's just too young to paint small minis or do terrain. Much to his happiness and my pride that has now changed.

My 1/72 scale Russians needed some light armored vehicles and since I find armored cars to be super cool looking anyway I picked up some Pegasus BA-6's. Two vehicles is less that 15$ so it seemed reasonable. When I started cleaning the sprues my son asked to help and so each of us put one vehicle together.

My past experience with plastic models has demonstrated that engineering is everything. A well designed kit almost falls together with minimal filing and no forcing or prying. On the other hand, a badly designed kit Almost fits and that almost-y quality is a source of terrible frustration. Soon there's putty everywhere, dried glue on your fingers, and a model that looks almost decent.

Happily the Pegasus kit is very well designed. The instructions are clear, the pieces all fit nicely, and assembly is just complex enough to be interesting but certainly simple enough for a seven year old. The result- a nice looking vehicle! Painting time next, but I'll be looking at more Pegasus kits. Especially ones that have two models in the box!

Space Hulk Reprinted, Special Edition Acquired

Genestealers!
Fans of science fiction gaming are by now aware that the classic Games Workshop product Space Hulk has been reprinted for the third time. The game features outnumbered space marines trying to reach some goal in a labyrinthine spacecraft while under attack from waves of alien genestealers. Space Hulk was a formative game for many, for me the early computer version was hugely exciting. More recently a version with cards has been released. This game, Death Angel, is terrifically designed and I've played it often.

I did muse about shelling in the $100 for the fourth edition but luckily my son preempted me by creating the special edition himself. A pile of legos, some pen and paper, and you're ready to roll. To be sure, I drew the marines but he did a credible job on the genestealers and designed to ship itself. We both contributed sound effects and cries of "Avenge me brothers," and "my bolter is jammed!"

Lego Space Hulk is still plenty fun- we played with a mishmash of Death Angel and ios Space Hulk rules. Highly recommended and you end up saving $99.80!

More Plastic Soldiers

We've been playing Chain of Command lately and one of the more active players has a large 1/72 scale set of armies. I have Second World War armies in four other scales and it seemed a bit much to invest in a fifth but the he game me a few boxes of Pegasus figures so of course I had to paint them up.

The Pegasus figures are plastic and come on sprues. The manufacture and sculpting process requires most of the figures to have a separate arm which needs to be glued on. I started by washing the sprues in order to remove the oils that coat all plastics. I failed to do to proper job on that and later on my painting efforts would be a huge pain.

The figures glued together just perfectly. I didn't have to do any adjusting or customizing and the resulting pieces looked great. Considering some of the hoops I've had to jump through with Infinity or Warmachine figures that was a treat.

The painting was initially a horrible nightmare and entirely my fault. Plastics come coated with an oil and if you don't scrub the heck out of them the primer will not stick and neither will the paint and the result is just nasty. And I've only been doing this for forty years...

The figures on the whole are quite nice. They are much more slender than the other 1/72 minis on the market so I wouldn't try mixing in Plastic Soldier Company figures into the same unit. These are all designed for winter gaming so for summer I'll probably use the chunkier models from other sources, just to have some freedom to mix and match. Still, one or two boxes of these and a pair of vehicles and I'm ready to go with winter Eastern Front Chain of Command. Not too bad.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Boston Trained Bands Now Has Something in Common with Kim Kardashian

Boston Trained Bands is one of the more active gaming clubs in Massachusetts but for some time has had a small internet footprint. New gamers in the area might have some trouble tracking the club down and that's too bad. Now they've taken the plunge and set up a functional Facebook account.

If you're in Southern New Hampshire or the Boston area then check out the new Boston Trained Bands page. There should be information on upcoming games and events and ways of contacting the gamers and getting involved etc. etc. The group meets regularly at Malden's Hobby Bunker, which is a bit of a shopper's paradise anyway.

Chain of Command- Good Platoon Level Gaming

Over the last few weeks we've been playing a new set of platoon level World War Two rules at the club called Chain of Command. They're published by Too Fat Lardies and bring with them some of the best and worst qualities that the Lardies usually deliver.

In a game of CoC each player is likely to command a platoon with some support. The basic game may include a single vehicle and some low level artillery. A game takes a few hours to play. In this there's a lot to like. Setup is fast and you don't need a huge collection of models to play. Through the course of the game each player rolls a set of dice and then uses the results to activate teams and squads. If you roll a "2," for example, you can activate a squad to
do something. Rolling a "3" let's you activate a leader who can cause a small cascade of events to occur. Generally speaking you'll have the chance to do Something useful each turn, but the dice add an element of chance. At the same time forces with more and better leaders are likely to do more things, more often, which is appropriate for this level of game.

Firing and combat results are straightforward enough, with figures delivering a number of firing dice and then attempting to roll a target number or higher. Successful firing can cause outright deaths or simply weigh down the squad with "shock," which slows movement and makes firing less effective. Inflict enough shock and casualties and the unit will break.

CoC includes a few novel elements (as is typical for a Lardies game). The activation mechanism is exciting, a little "gamey," but adds some tense tactical choice making. There is a pre-game patrol segment in which players vie for deployment options that is also exciting and challenging. The shock mechanism is effective and overall the game flows well.

On the downside the rules could really use some editing. I don't know why but I constantly struggle to make sense of Too Fat Lardies rule books. The games themselves play quite nicely but I don't think I've ever learned the rules from the book itself- it's always been from having another person teach me.

On the whole, though, CoC is a very fun game and we've been playing the heck out of it. The investment to play is very low, especially if you play in 15mm or 1/72 scale. The games go fast and feel somehow more historical than the Bolt Action games. I think the only caveat is the oddly mysterious rule book. If you can get through that you have a very nice set of platoon level rules.

More Legendary Fun Plus Aliens!


I've continued to play one game after another of Legendary: Marvel Deck Building Game. My seven year old son likes it, the people at the club like it, my wife tolerates it (which is not too bad) and each time I play it still feels fresh and interesting. Thus, it was a struggle not to buy Legendary Encounters: an Alien Deck Building Game. Not too much of a struggle though, since I caved right away and got it.

The basic Legendary system allows you to use cards in your hand to either "fight" some enemy or "buy" new cards. The new cards get added to your overall deck and over time you can draw better and more effective hands. The other Legendary mechanism is that through the course of the game new threats appear literally as a row of cards. If you do not deal with them soon they stack up and eventually cause you some negative effect.

That being said, in Encounters you play a character trying to survive one of the four Alien movies. Through the game you can improve your abilities to fight and survive and at the same time waves of enemies and threats appear which may set you back. The specific rules are quite simple and the game includes lots of play aids included in the card's text- one rarely goes back to the rules after a bit of playing.

So how does it play? It plays like you're in the movie and frantically trying to stay alive! What's more, the design sets you very specifically in a given setting and moment. At one point you're exploring a derelict ship, later in the game you're racing against time to reset the Nostromo's self destruct mechanism. I like Legendary Marvel Heroes but you do have to do a bit of work to add a narrative on to the play. In Legendary Encounters the narrative is crystal clear. It's flat out tense and exciting.

The only caveat to Legendary Encounters is that it is absolutely designed for adults only. The art is fair but what is there includes lots of grisly deaths and chest bursting and head exploding. So keep it away from the kids, not just to play but even to look at.

As a game for adults, however, Legendary Encounters is just terrific. I don't know if it would be quite as much fun for someone who has not seen the movies, but if there was such a person they should go see the films anyway! And then see Prometheus, which is awesome.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Let's Paint with Oils

As the years go on I get restless every now and they to try some new approach to painting. I have to admit that Vallejo acrylics and a nice brush will turn out some pretty nice figures but there's always that desire to mess around and see what else is out there. My project painting toy soldier style Soldiers in Plastic was a fun experiment for example- using low levels of detail and lots of gloss varnish.

Flock those Minis!
I've been following the work of Stokes Schwartz through his blog and through various pieces he's submitted to Miniature Wargames/Battlegames. Stokes does a pretty stunning job on his 18th century armies and a lot of his work is done in oils. I've tried oils in the past but in short was using them wrong and they came out looking terrible. Then I read Mr. Schwartz's piece on using oils in Miniature Wargames #371 and decided to give it another shot.

The short form is that Stokes recommends diluting alkyd oils with a substance called Liquin before using them. I set up some Perry War of the Roses infantry, put down a white gesso basecoat, and set to work.

The Liquin dilutes the otherwise pasty oils up to a point where they resemble vaseline. If you dilute them only slightly they resemble acrylics and paint on in a familiar fashion. The main difference is that the oils don't dry as quickly and so you can't paint a layer, wait a minute, and then go back and add more color. If you do the first layer just gets pushed to one side. If you dilute the colors intensely they can be used as a wash of sorts, hardly as agile as Citadel washes or inks but still serving a similar purpose.

Overall I had a pretty positive experience. Acrylics are obviously faster in all ways- faster to mix, faster to paint, faster to clean. The oils are superior in the luster of their color. They really stand out across the table and for pretty armies they will do a terrific job. They also smell good, which is not Completely trivial.

I'm not going to use oils for dark ages or WW II figures. I could well imagine using them for Blood Bowl, War of Austrian Succession, or Successors. In the future I think I'm going to aim for more wash effects and less attempt at a solid and precise color. But overall, a nice experiment.