Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vehicle Fun Part Two

The Normandy campaign for Chain of Command is moving along at a spunky pace and the Americans I command get some vehicle options. I like vehicles, especially bizarre and obscure ones. I like early war desert light tanks and the Soviets have a real talent for putting motors in things (I'm talking about you,  Aerosani!). Imagine my dismay, then, to discover that the Americans had essentially four vehicles. Trucks and halftracks, jeeps, Sherman tanks, and tank destroyers. Granted there are a few oddball creations like the M-8 and early on the Grant and M-5 are active but even so, American vehicles are just plain dull.

Resigned to equipping my fellows with Shermans and tank destroyers I picked up a pair of Armourfast models. Armourfast makes affordable models and the range is fairly decent. My initial impression when I unboxed the kit was neutral. It certainly didn't look too complex, rather the opposite. That initial impression was borne out as the construction commenced. The kit is slightly less complex than the Pegasus models and is really lacking in detail. Further, it had a good number of fit issues and I found myself puttying up a lot of spaces. Finally, the sprues attach at points that are highly visible, meaning that if you detach them carelessly you end up with big, visible gashes in the model.

I finished up a Sherman and M-10. The models are fine. Not fine like fine dining but fine like not terrible. They build fast and the price is right but if you're putting something on the table it may as well look special. And if I want simple, fast builds I think I'll go back to Pegasus.

Camel Racing!

I like racing games and I own a copy of Formula D. One drawback to the game is that I repeatedly crash my car long before the finish line. I've played a good number of games and I think I've made it to the end maybe once. Now granted this is solely my fault, the game is brilliant. Still, it's depressing. And that leaves me looking for a racing game in which I can't crash and burn both literally and figuratively.

A few weeks ago Camel Up appeared at the Myriad Games game night. Camel Up is a camel racing game and it comes with a colorful board, amusing cards, a pyramid that dispenses dice and a set of solid wooden camels. In one sense even if the game was terrible the components looked fun to play with! Happily the game is great fun. And the components Are fun to play with as well.

In Camel Up a set of camels race around a board in a series of phases, or "legs." In each leg the players bet on which camel will be in the lead. You can bet on several camels but you lose points for each incorrect bet. During the game you can also bet on which camel will be the overall winner and the overall loser. As above, you could bet on several winning or losing but each wrong bet loses you points. Further, the first right bet wins more points that bets made later in the game. And that's the central dynamic of Camel Up- you want to make guesses early but you also want to be accurate and it's hard to be both.

Big Hefty Components
The movement system of Camel Up is what make the betting "educated" rather than random. Each camel moves once per leg. There are five camels. They move in random order and one, two, or three spaces on the track, also rolled randomly. You can imagine that it's going to be harder to guess which will be in the lead when only one has moved and easier when four have moved. The overall movement system is dead simple in principal but leads to a lot of calculation and guesswork during the game.

Camel Up is simple but very exciting. The camels move on their own, your job as a player is just to calculate which will be in the lead. There's a lot of plotting and planning and then also moments of surprise as your plans fall apart over an odd die roll. It's a great game for people who like a mix of surprises and planning. Kids could play it easily enough and non-gamers should like it too.

Vehicle Fun Part One

My friend John and I are in the midst of a Chain of Command campaign set in Normandy and I've been slowly adding to my forces. John started in 1/72 scale and amassed a huge collection of great looking scenery so I went along and started up a whole new scale to collect.

Having set up a decent base of figures I turned to vehicles. There seem to be a few choices to work with. There are a number of "toy soldier" style manufacturers, a huge number of "plastic model" style sources, and finally die cast vehicles. I picked up some Plastic Soldier Company tanks, some Armourcast vehicles, and then looked for some 1/72 plastic models. I needed some late war Normandy gear but also some armor suitable for the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled into Hobbies With a Twist in Concord, New Hampshire, and found a huge pile of 1/72 obscure Russian early war vehicles. On sale!

The immediate and obvious drawback to eastern European plastic models is that the engineers have excessive confidence in my ability to manipulate and glue tiny 2mm bits and bobs. Does the tank have a knob of some sort? Then clearly it needs to be modeled! But once my initial dismay at the array of tiny soft plastic pieces dissipated I was struck by how easily the model fell together. The fit was smooth and the instructions generally clear. I needed to scratch build one section that was ruined through my doing, and I made a machine gun barrel out of syringe because the plastic barrel would have a lifespan of minutes. Otherwise the model was a real pleasure to assemble.

Early War Wunder Weapon
I'm working on another Soviet flame tank by the same manufacturer. It's going even better than the first. Once the initial tiny piece shock goes away these kits are great fun.

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

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.