Friday, February 5, 2016

Never Paint Alone - A Podcast Recommendation

In The Garage
The best time for painting - at least for middle-aged family men for whom this hobby is at the bottom of a long, long list of things to do - is that magic hour between seeing the kids off to bed and when days tribulations finally catch up to you.  Hopefully, that's a quiet hour of solitude, so it's nice to have a little something to keep you company, whether it be movies, books on tape*, a little music, whatever helps the mind stay as busy as your hands.

One of my more recent additions is a podcast made just for guys like me, and if you're reading this, probably for guys like you.  In The Garage  is pretty much two guys who sit around for an hour talking about 15mm scale miniature wargaming.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dungeon Construction - Paint on the Walls

Watching Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a fun, if trying*, way to pass time while slapping paint around on the tiles for Castle Meatgrinder.  The tiles were spraypainted earlier in the day, with some trepidation.  

*Fun spy flick, but a mistake to put on a movie with that many subtitles in it while you try to paint something.

Worried for nothing.  The craft store sells a nice foam-safe spray paint in a dark gray.  After spraying these boards, you can dust them with a black and light gray for an easy mottling effect.  The boards were ready for use, at that point, but I slapped down some brown and gray on the floors, too, to add even more texture.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dungeoneering Tiles, Take Two

When last we met, I file-thirteened a pile of half-finished terrain consisting of a bunch of shoddy dungeon work.  This time out, I built a dungeon using my preferred materials, foamcore and balsa wood.  This time around, I used foamcore for the bases and balsa wood for the 'walls'.  The balsa is straight and very easy to work with.  So easy, that I ran out of it quick and had to halt work for a few days while I ran out and picked up more of it.  The photos below show just a few of the three-inch square tiles constructed to date.  I also have a small number of six- and nine-inch rooms to add to the mix as well.

Now, I'm not sure that this is going to work out well.  Everyone tells me that foamcore warps like the devil when you paint it, but that's never been an issue for me before, so we're going to give it the old college try. If it doesn't problem, that just means I get start over, and that means I get to build more stuff.  It's my own little Xanatos gambit.

Like the tiles, my second round of doors turned out better, too.  This version was constructed entirely out of popsicle sticks, which give it a lot more rigidity.  The base is still too light, though, so every time you open the door, the whole thing tips over just a teeny bit (one of the virtues of working in 15mm scale) and the door winds up acting as a kickstand.  It's not too egregious, though, so we'll live with it.

As you can see, they are still a little too big, but that adds to the alien-terrain feeling.  And hey, ogres, giants, and dragons gotta squeeze through those things, too, you know!

The next step, painting, will be make-or-break it.  I plan to base these things in dark gray spray paint, and even though I've got something designed for use with styrofoam, you never know until you pull the trigger.  If the painting goes well, we've got a new dungeon tile system.  Better yet, and I have some thoughts on how to make this system even more flexible in ways that I haven't seen done before.  Stay tuned.

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Last month was my best month ever for hits on this blog.  Thank you all for stopping by the old Abox residence.  You folks are the best motivation evar! 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Black Ops Battle Photos

The last Black Ops battle fought in the Abox house pitted a group of Prang! trying to capture and contain a force of Octopods.  This time around we switched the sides.
The Prang! started out in the center of the board, with the Octopods on the outskirts.  It didn't go well for the Octopods because we did the points backwards.  Halfway through the lopsided victory we realized that we didn't account for the rule that gives the guys escaping two-thirds the points of the guys trying to stop them.  When the guys escaping have the extra 25 points worth of troops, it turns into a steamroller.

Four small squads of Octopods put up a good fight...

Even seizing the high ground...

But the Prang! made straight for the nearest exit point...

Leaving a sacrificial two-man fireteam behind to slow down pursuers.

The pair met a grisly end, but..

...their sacrifice was not in vain and their names and heroism will be sung down through the generations.  They bought enough time for the Prang! to move the rest of the force off-board.  Six professionals including a leader and heavy can easily steam roll two fanatics even if they are backed by their leader.  Even considering the extra points they brought to the table, the Prang! walked away with this one - both figuratively and literally.

On a side note, this has been the best month ever for traffic on this blog.  Thank you all for swinging by the Box - the more you guys look, the more I want to show.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


The Amazon stork finally delivered my latest rules baby, and I couldn't be a prouder papa.  

I've been on the lookout for a decent set of medieval rules for use with my fantasy figures, and bought these largely on the strength of Black Ops.  Much as I love Dumas' two masterworks, and all the film adaptions of them (yes, even that version of the Three Musketeers,) this period never really floated my wargaming boat.  The reviews of Osprey's Ronin, another genre that holds no interest, indicated that the rules had a lot to offer.  That plus the cheap early-order price were too much for me to resist.

I haven't had them for 12 hours yet, but I've read them through, and my mind is already racing with anticipation.  All I need to do now is finish the dungeon terrain, paint 60+ miniatures, and whip up or steal a decent cheat sheet and roster.  This really is a hobby for patient people, innit?

I'll have a detailed review written up shortly.  If things go as planned it will be up at the Castalia House blog some time next week.  They don't do a whole lot of miniature wargaming over there - their gaming posts are geared more for RPGs and hex and chit wargaming, but the editor as agreed to let me play in their yard for a bit.  It's recommended reading for tabletop gaming dilettantes of all kinds.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Learning Process

This new fantasy terrain is proving to be more difficult than expected.  My goal is to put something together along the lines of the The DMs Craft, but it ain't as easy as it looks.  For one thing, he works in the big 28 scale, where my stuff is built in God's Own 15mm scale.  So everything is that much more fiddly.  For another thing, I have a much higher bar for acceptable quality than he does.  That's not to say that his stuff looks bad, just that my initial fumblings don't reach his level, and thus won't reach my table.

Here, take a look at my first attempts at a simple pair of openable doors.  Heavy cardstock just doesn't have enough heft to support swinging doors, and frays much to easily.

They are too big.  That might work given that my dungeons are mythic underworlds where the normal rules don't apply, but the tattered ends of the strips, and the fact they tip over when opened?  That just won't cut it on my table.  So these shoddy doors went right into the circular file.

Likewise, with the tiles themselves.  The picture (shown a few weeks back) gives an idea of how rough my attempt at cheap construction looks:
The towers aren't round, the flat edges don't line up, and you can't see it, but the corrugation shows through the cardboard even before painting.  That's only going to get worse.

Unacceptable.  Castle, meet the circular file.

That's okay, a night spent learning what doesn't work has some value.  This time out, for example, I learned not to craft tiny little features a few hours after grouting a tile wall.  My fingertips are calloused and throbbing, not ideal for fiddly work.  Rome wasn't built in a day, and we've got all year to figure this thing out.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Castle Meatgrinder!

At this point I don't know if Castle Meatgrinder! is the title of my next megadungeon, or just the working title for a fantasy terrain for tabletop skirmishing.

In D&D terms it will be one of those spooky old castle ruins on the hill where a crazed wizard conducted diabolic experiments, unleashed unspeakable horrors from the realms of pure chaos, and that have been over-run with hordes of filthy humanoids.  And all with plenty of gold to keep the desperate and greedy coming back for more.  And that's just the ground floor - you should see what the basement holds!

Seems legit
In skirmish gaming terms, we're shooting for terrain that can cover a decent sized table with plenty of avenues for approach and ambush, as well as wide open spaces suitable for missile fire and maneuver.   In all likelihood I expect to use it for both D&D and for Osprey's En Garde! rules (when they arrive) or even some Song of Blades and Heroes (which I really need to revisit some time).

Either way, it's going to be a sprawling and flexible system that allows for furniture, doorways, traps, multi-level rooms, and the potential for slaughterhouse levels of rended flesh.  Hence the name.  For figures, I've got cultists, pig-faced orcs, frogmen, undead, and a handful of the sorts of strange and bizarre creatures one is likely to meet in the Mythic Underworld.  I may even be able to tap into my 10mm collection to throw some surprises at the wary and unwary alike.

Now I've looked at a few different systems, and after struggling through the Big Box Blues, decided to build 2.5d Dungeon Tiles as popularized by the CraftyDM (YouTube Channel) and DMscotty.  As with all things wargamey, we'll put our own unique spin on it, though.