Monday, March 19, 2018

Learning to Sculpt

I've been working on some homebrew rules and reached the point where my ad-hoc collections of stand-in miniatures aren't cutting it anymore. I have some specific ideas for the various figures I'll need, and don't really see anything that matches my vision available on the marketplace. I've spent hours combing through obscure figure lines, or working out the costs of converting something usable from a variety of parts, but figured if I'm going to put this much effort into this project, I might as well sculpt and cast exactly what I want. Really, how hard could it be?

I've dabbled with green stuff sculpting as well as metal casting years ago, but the results never seemed worth the amount of work my amateur efforts required. I've always felt more comfortable with a mouse and keyboard, and seeing the success of other vendors translating 3D digital designs into 3D prints and final metal castings, I decided to see if I could use a similar workflow for my own figures.

I downloaded Sculptris, a free, bare-bones version of Zbrush. Each day I spent an hour or two poking at the interface, trying to learn how to sculpt.

If only I were sculpting this guy!

Day 1:
Most of my first day was spent just learning the interface and the various ways of sculpting digital clay. This head was by no means a successful effort, but the tool itself was a lot of fun to use.

A face only a mother could love.

Day 2: To force myself to practice as much as possible, I decided to scrap each day's work. On day 2 I pulled this smiling, Buddha-like fellow out of the clay. He even had ears! His brow is too large, cranium too small, and there's a host of other anatomical issues, but it was progress!

Yul Brynner, Westworld (1973)

Day 3: I continued to study anatomy of the head and learn how to translate features into a 3D form on day 3. I like strong jaws and sharp cheek bones on heroic miniature figures (which are easier to pick out with highlights). This model's ears were a disaster though, and I wound up scrapping this head pretty quickly.

He's got a bit of a Neanderthal look to 'im.

Day 4: Ok! Still lots of issues with anatomy and scale, but I spent extra time on the nose and mouth, and was beginning to feel more comfortable with the sculpting tools rather than fighting against them.

Starting to look human

Day 5: Finally! Still issues with proportions and anatomy, but this was the first model where I could see an end state that wasn't completely embarrassing. Rather than deleting the head I picked it up again the next day to continue working.


Day 6: Still some issues, but I was pretty excited with the sculpt at this stage. Working digitally, it's hard to tell how the model's subtle details are going to translate to a physical object only 6mm high,  so I uploaded the model to Shapeways to output a few test prints.

The test prints after priming. So tiny the camera had trouble focusing.

I printed up two different materials to see how they fared (frosted extreme detail and black Hi-Def Acrylate if you are curious). I used some fine grit sandpaper to remove the VERY subtle print lines and gave them a primer coat of gray to compare them. Wow! So cool! They turned out a bit underscale since my measurements were made in haste, and their features need to be a bit more exaggerated for wargame figures, but overall I'm encouraged by the outcome. I've been soaking in all the Zbrush YouTube tutorials I can find and attempting to learn what I can about casting in preparation for an producing an actual figure. I know I'll need to bring in professional partners at some point, I'd like to see how much I can handle on my own before bringing in the pros.

Hope you enjoyed checking out my first fumbling attempts at sculpting. I have a lot to learn, so if you have any tips or contacts feel free to share them in the comments!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Making Explosion Markers

I love a good spectacle, and nothing catches the eye like an over-the-top Michael Bay style fireball. I needed a few good explosions for the game I'm tinkering with, so took a shot at creating a few explosion markers of my own. The clump foliage method seemed to produce pretty wicked results, which I attempted to replicate for my own wargame tables.

I used an mdf base, drilled some holes and glued kabob skewers into them.

I added foil, sand and wall filler to the base to build up a crater from which the fireball would be erupting.

Using a liberal amount of hot glue and various shades of fall clump foliage, I affixed the foam to the skewers, filling out the central base area with additional polyfill stuffing. I drenched the completed explosions in Woodland Scenics scenic cement to fuse everything together (I tried watered down white glue, but didn't feel they results were as robust as the scenic cement).

I used craft paint to ease the transition between colors, then hit the whole thing with black spray from above. A bit of gray drybrushing and basing, and they were done.

The whole process wasn't too difficult and these markers have already proven useful in our playtesting. Give it a try, they're not too tricky!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sci-Fi Civilians from Astropolis and Colony 87 Kickstarters

I've had these civilian figures from the Astropolis and Colony 87 kickstarter primed and sitting on my painting shelf for years, another monument to a stalled project. I've been working diligently on some homebrew rules which require civilians as an integral part of the gameplay rather than just window dressing. I'm not sure if I wrote the rules to motivate myself to get these civilians done, or wrote rules that just happened to require civilians, but in any case it did the trick. I can check off another seven figures from the depths of the lead pile.

Both kickstarters created miniatures that would fit in well with the Rogue Trader universe, my first love in sci-fi wargaming and a unique atmosphere that I think later editions of Warhammer 40K lost. While the sculpting style is different between them, they both draw from the weird mix of medieval, Asian, post apocalyptic and sci-fi sources that inspired Rogue Trader and all feel like they belong to a single world.

I love them all, as each figure is full of character, adorned with details that evoke a suggested history and universe and are a treat to paint. Both kickstarters have spawned "sequels" (from which additional members have been added to my lead pile) and I'm optimistic that future kickstarters will be just as good.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rigging a 28mm Sloop for Blood and Plunder

One of my reasons for backing the Blood and Plunder Kickstarter was the chance to build and rig a tall ship, complete with sails and rigging. I've built plenty of model planes, tanks and vehicles as stand alone kits or wargame models, but I've always been too intimidated to tackle a classic tall ship. The Kickstarter seemed to be my opportunity to check an item off my hobby bucket list. Besides, it was going to be a stripped down wargame version with simplified rigging, how hard could it be? How little I knew about how little I knew about ships.

Follow along as I blunder my way through ship rigging and maybe pick up a few tips, all after the jump.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Wrap Up

Another year draws to a close, and as usual I like to reflect on what I've accomplished over the last 12 months and set a course for the future.

I painted up quite a bit during the early months of the year, largely in part to my participation in the Analogue Painting Challenge:
  • 106 foot
  • 22 tiny Armada ships
But in March my interests shifted from painting models from the two dozen half started projects I'm "working on" to pulling together few projects towards completion. With enough Blood and Plunder figures finished to try some games, I knocked together some jungle terrain for our weekly pirate games. I also managed to make it to several games hosted by Joe (of Scrum in Miniature), a fresh faced neophyte to the world of wargaming who has taken to it like a duck to water. Though my painting slowed this year, between my Monday night group, the seasonal games with Joe and various attendance to various conventions I've played far more wargames in the last 12 months than any previous year

I also began working on a tabletop wargame system of my own, a process that has taken more time and effort than I had initially anticipated but I'm hoping to pull together into a finished product, even if it's for my own gratification.

Nearly done!
Despite not making the cut for this years Analogue Painting Challenge (grumble grumble), I'm still going to participate "on my own." I have a ton of figures primed and ready to paint, which will keep me occupied over the cold winter months. Next year I'm looking forward to completing my Blood and Plunder ships so we can move our pirate battles from the beaches to the high seas where they belong. My Monday group is already excitedly planning to take the plunge into Star Wars Legion, while Joe will be hosting a more regular series of game days. In all, 2018 looks to be chock-a-block full of dice rolling and mini-painting. Here's hoping we all survive it!

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Dragon Rampant: The Battle of Four Armies

As my post Thanksgiving turkey coma subsided, I was able to roll my mashed potato filled carcass to my friend Joe's place for a four player Dragon Rampant bash. Join me after the jump for the details.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Holiday Game and Geek Sales - Black Friday 2018

It's the annual run up to the holidays, kicking off with the shopping frenzy just after Thanksgiving.  Black Friday. You know the drill: You've got gifts to buy for the lovable geeks in your life, maybe for a friend, spouse or child (or let's be honest, maybe picking up a little something for yourself).

I've got some ideas for you below, and I've rounded up all of the wargaming Black Friday/Holiday special offers I could find as well. Settle in with your eggnog and let's get started with a little digital window shopping.

Oathmark: The new Oathmark fantasy miniatures from North Star / Osprey have been rolling out, with dwarves available now and goblins shipping soon (preorders for the goblins are available until Dec. 6th, with a chance those in Europe and the UK getting the goblins by Christmas). Check out the "skirmish" special offer, one box of dwarves, one box of goblins and some limited edition metal figures for a low price. I really love the design of these goblins; departing from the GW-influenced gorilla on steroids greenskins. The dwarves also avoid the "beard with feet" silhouette that has become the default look of the stubby blokes from many vendors.

Blood and Plunder: Swashbuckling historic pirates duking it out over land and sea has been our latest passion at the game store. I've painted up my Spanish, am planning on tackling their frigate and sloop this winter, and have additional cavalry and artillery reinforcements on the way. Play is fast and intuitive, and uses and clever card based initiative to make each turn unpredictable. Even if you don't pick up the rules or figures, you have to check out the beautiful ships, useful in 17th and 18th century or even medieval-ish fantasy games that need some brilliant sea vessels to fill the ports and docks of the trade town.

The Wizard's Tower: Tabletop World doesn't make game terrain, they make art. Their resin buildings are exceptionally detailed, elevate any game in which they appear, and put all other terrain vendors to shame. Of course, they have a price to match, but they're worth every penny. This year's latest release is the Wizard's Tower, an imposing structure that could be the focus of an entire game night with the forces of evil assaulting the fortress tower of the noble sorcerer and his outnumbered allies. Tabletop World is running a special as well, with free buildings thrown in for orders of varying sizes.

Pandemic Legacy: This is THE game in my house, adored by all three members of my family. We recently wrapped up Season 1 after playing it for the last few years and are eagerly awaiting the newly released Season 2. Highly recommended!

$5 Off Any Book ($20 or more) at Amazon: Just use GIFTBOOK17 at checkout. Maybe Dracula's America? How about the Frostrgrave supplement Maze of the Minotaur? There's plenty of non-wargaming books I'm sure will make great surprises under the tree like Star Wars: the Blueprints (great as reference for building terrain for the new Star Wars: Legion), the recently released biography of Ulysses S. Grant, the Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, or go all out with the collected Star Wars Art of Ralph McQuarrie.

Game of Thrones Season 1-6: You must have that friend who can't or won't subscribe to HBO, or fell behind on Game of Thrones and never caught up, or absolutely needs to watch the entire series from the beginning. The Blu-Rays for seasons 1-6 are on sale for 70 bucks on Amazon, an all time low price. It's a steal.

Battlefront II: There's been a lot of controversy around the release of the latest installment of the Star Wars shooter franchise, with many critics labeling Battlefront a "pay to win" title. Personally, it doesn't matter to me. I'm no where good enough to realize that my hapless stormtrooper avatar is being obliterated by a 14 year old with mom's credit card, or a 14 year old with superior reflexes. I enjoyed my time running around Battlefront I and experiencing my favorite movies from the inside, I can't imagine this larger and improved game won't deliver a similar time.

Roomba: Wait, what? How is this a game or geek gift. Guys, it's a robot. That actually does work. I mean, how much did the mouse droid actually accomplish on the Death Star? It delivered emails. Stupid. Roomba could kick the mouse droid's rear. Amazon has the 690 knocked down to $275. I love my Roomba. Both of them. You should get one.

Obscure Novelty Shirts: I nearly forgot to hawk my own swag. I've been experimenting with t-shirt design lately, creating shirts for my own amusement. Maybe you're also an ironic fan of old school anti-D&D screeds? or you really dig space helmeted undead astronauts? I admit, they're not for everyone, but maybe there's a special weirdo in your life who would like one?

Wargame Deals

Wargame vendors have also been publishing special offers. To keep everything straight, I've collated them into the list below (in no particular order).

Firelock Games

Starts: Now
Ends: Monday, November 27

  • 20% Off: with promo code jolly17


Starts: Now
Ends: January 5th, 2018
  • Buy 8, get 2 free: Buy any 8 standard £12 packs and get an additional 2 free.
  • Buy 16, get 6 free: Buy any 8 standard £12 packs and get an additional 2 free.
     List the codes of the free packs in the comments box when you place your order.

The War Store

Starts: Late Wednesday Night (Thursday the 23rd at 12:01 am)
Ends: Monday the 27th 11:59 PM
  • Discount code BF17: 5% off your order
  • Code PIPSHIP: Free shipping on Privateer Press orders of $100 or more
  • Code BATTLESHIP: Free shipping on Battlefront orders of $100 or more
  • Code GWSHIP: Free shipping on Games Workshop orders of $250 or more
  • Free Stuff: Sprues, paints, mini rulebooks and more

Gripping Beast

Starts: Now
Ends: ?
  • Festive Fun Blister: Themed blister containg limited edition fig, assorted foot. £20 worth of goodies
  • Saga: Version 1 rules are 1/2 price in preparation for Version II

Warlord Games

Starts: Now
Ends: ?
  • Tank Platoons: Selected tanks are 1/3 off.
  • Resin Vehicles: Buy 2, get one free
  • Figures: Buy 4, get 1 free
  • Gates of Antares: Buy 2 boxes, get 1 free
  • Dr. Who: Buy 2 boxes, get 1 free
  • Free Shipping: For orders over £50 / $30

Tabletop World

Starts: Now
Ends: December 31
Ships from Croatia

  • Free buildings: The bigger the order, the better the freebie
  • Free shipping: on orders greater than 250 Eur
Starts: Now
Ends: 9 AM Monday the 27th
  • Free Shipping: on orders over £25, €35 or $40
  • Hourly Deals on Friday: Check the site and social media. Highlights include 200 goblins for £69.99, 80 Enforcers for £39.99, etc. 
  • Mega Deals: Including Warpath Mega Force of your choice plus the rulebook collection for just £74.99, 100 Marauders for £39.99, Mars Attacks Stompy Robots finally make their return for £14.99, more
Starts: Now
Ends: Monday, November 27
  • Free Shipping: on orders over £15
  • New Releases: new releases all weekend.
  • Digital Rulebooks: Monday the 27th digital download deal
  • Combine orders with Ion Age too!
Starts: Now
Ends: Monday, November 27
  • Free Shipping: on orders over £15
  • New Releases: new releases all weekend.
  • Digital Rulebooks: Monday the 27th digital download deal
  • Combine orders with Alternative Armies too!
Starts: Now
Ends: December 20
Ships from Italy
  • 20% Off: Orders over €50.00
  • 25% Off: Orders over €130.00
Starts: Now
Ends: December 17
  • 15% Off: Lots of small scale sci-fi
Starts: Now
Ends: ?
Ships from Netherlands

  • Discount code: black im for 25% off Team Yankee, Tanks, Bolt Action, Achtung Cthulhu, Konflict '47
Starts: Now
Ends: Friday, Dec. 1st
  • 20% off all items
Starts: Now
Ends: November 27
15mm fantasy figures
  • 25% all orders
  • Free Shipping: on orders over  $75
  • Free werewolf miniature with every order

I'll try to keep the list of wargame special offers up to date all weekend, so if you come across a great deal let me know and I'll update this post.