Scratch building Wild West structures

A couple weeks ago I posted pictures of a finished scratch-built building for my Wild West minis. It was a simple, one-story business type building. Nothing fancy. I posted the pics on a Wild West Facebook page, and one of the gents there asked if I had a tutorial on the build. Well, I didn’t. I don’t do anything special or unique. My builds tend to be pretty simple. Occasionally I venture into the stupidly complicated, but not often. Most of what I know is from watching YouTube tutorials from Black Magic Craft, Real Terrain Hobbies, Luke’s APS (Geek Gaming), Eric’s Hobby Workshop, Luke Towan and a few others. Those guys are WAY better at terrain building than I ever hope to be. So if you need a good place to start, go watch their videos.

But that guy asked nicely, and I was sort of flattered that he thought my building was interesting enough to want to know more. So here goes.

The materials are balsa and basswood strips, milled basswood form Northeastern Scale Lumber, and basswood sheet. Various thicknesses were used. I mostly eyeball parts and select a piece of strip wood that looks right. So go buy a bunch of basswood strips and go to town! The roof is a dense paperboard from Hobby Lobby. You could as easily use cereal box card, plasticard, or that dense card on the back of legal pads. I have used all of them to good effect.

With materials gathered, I set out a cutting mat, a hobby knife, a utility knife with an extendable blade, a couple metal squares with measurements etched in, some small clamps, wood glue (Elmer’s brand, but any will do) and a pencil with a sharp point.

I started with the milled basswood clapboard siding. I bought the sheets from Northeastern Scale models Clapboard Siding in the following board spacings:1/8, 3/16, and 1/4. 1/8th is perfect. The 3/16th is ok, but you may find the boards a bit wide for your taste. The 1/4th is far too large for 28mm models. The original model and the one I built for this tutorial both use 1/8th.

Whenever I start a scratch build, I lay the base material out and start imagining what I might build. I usually have a specific building in mind, and can decide how many stories the building will be. I keep a model handy to use to mark doors and windows. After deciding on a width, I start cutting. Once I have enough pieces for the front face, I start to mark openings.  I sketch lines on the flat side of the clapboard and mark out the pieces to cut out. Carefully cutting the openings out, left me with the first wall.

Since this is a two-story building, I need to connect the two pieces that will give me enough height. The thin 3/16 wood doesn’t have enough edge surface to make a solid glue joint, so bracing is required. I used square basswood strip. Using a chopper from Micro Mark, I cut the pieces to length and glue them in place. Liberally applying clamps to hold the parts together until the glue dries.

While the front is drying, I started on the sides. I wanted a flat roof with some slope for rain runoff, and again the stock piece wasn’t tall enough for the two-story walls. More creative cutting gave me the pair of pieces for each side wall. The rear wall was basically the same, cut to width, then add a small section to build up height.

I don’t have enough small spring clamps to glue all the pieces at once, which meant I was done for the night. The next day I glued up the side walls, returning as possible to glue another wall until all four were done. More window and door marks were penciled in, and the openings cut out.

At this stage, you will have to decide if you want the second story to be playable. One way to do this is to make each story a separate unit, which I have not done before. Most, if not all, of the mdf kits are built this way. Each story is a separate unit. I added supports along the four walls for a floor that I will add later. A good craftsman would measure carefully and make sure each support is at the same level. I eyeball them in place after using a based mini to set the front wall support. With the supports glued in place, I can add in windows.

I am in the middle of designing some basic window units to 3d print (there are files available online, but i haven’t bought them) but these are not done yet. For this build I constructed basic windows from strip wood measured, cut, and glued in place. This probably my least favorite part of scratch-building. It is tedious and repetitive. And very fiddly. Once all the window frames are in place, I begin to assemble the building.

I use a gluing jig to help square the walls. Made of steel and supplied with magnetic blocks, I can square the walls while the glue dries. This is very helpful, but not necessary for construction. With careful clamping, the structure can be glued square without a jig.

Once all four walls were glued together, I realized I had made a mistake on measuring the rear wall, and it was wider than the front once assembled. Luckily, I was able to carefully separate the glued edges, trim the side and reattach it. I get a bit rushed at times, and measure less carefully than I should.

Using a sheet of basswood, I measured and cut out the first floor. Cut to shape, I then used a sharp pencil to scribe in boards. Using a steel rule, I pressed firmly into the wood leaving indented lines making each long board. Then I marked perpendicular lines to divide the lengthwise boards into shorter individual boards. If you are planning to leave the floor unpainted, I would use a pointed metal tool of some sort to scribe the lines, instead of a pencil. I am planning to paint this floor, so the pencil lines don’t bother me. I will make the second floor in a similar fashion, the real trick is making it fit in place, but still be removable to get to the first floor.

At this point I realized I made the same mistake I have made on several other scratch-built western buildings. I failed to account for a foundation. While smaller buildings might be built with a small, or no foundation, a more substantial building like this will be built to last, and use the boardwalk connecting the shops and businesses on Main Street. Pulling some bigger square basswood pieces out of my stash, I measured and cut, and glued together a base for the building, and left the front open to add in supports for the porch/ boardwalk.

The roof is the last bit. After cutting piece of heavy card, or plastic sheet, to size, I may or may not add way too much detail to the roof. Rafters and joists are so unnecessary, but there you go. One building had standing seam metal simulated with Evergreen Scale Models plastic sheet. I sprayed that with a metallic silver to represent a very new building. Both standing seam and corrugated metal are appropriate roof materials for the wild west era. As are cedar shingles. Check out TheTerrainTutor’s video here: Miniature Roofing for making real wood shingles. This is a great one for super detail. Start at the 6:20 mark and watch Mel craft wood shingles. Tar paper and canvas are two other alternatives. I have used heavy construction paper cut into strips to represent tar paper, both with and without battens.

Standing seam roofing

I was trying to decide what to do to add detail to the windows when I decided to give plastic canvas, or granny grate, a try. Its that plastic grid material used for crafting. I cut some pieces to fit the open windows, and it gives a decent multi-pane effect to the window openings. And at a lot less effort than cutting and gluing dozens of tiny wood parts. Is it perfect? No. Is it totally appropriate for gaming terrain, and a huge time-saver? You bet.

The completed building

With assembly finished, it is time to paint! I have used a spray primer on a couple of my builds, and I have also painted directly on the bare wood. I think the paint covers better over a primer coat, but this is a personal decision. Using cheaper craft acrylics from the hobby or craft store, I pick out a random color and brush it on. A couple coats, if necessary. I paint the trim in a nice contrast color, and add signs created and printed on the computer. I haven’t painted this one, though, as I can’t decide what it is yet.

At Historicon, I realized why I haven’t liked the paint jobs on the buildings I have made. Not enough weathering. The paint is too flat. At one of the booths in the vendor hall they had a small western layout to showcase Gunfighter’s Ball. All the buildings were heavily weathered, toning down the base colors. And they looked great. More weathering! Using a light tan, or grey, or even off white, drybrush the entire building until you are happy with how it looks. Adding a dirt color splashed up low on the walls will enhance weathering and realism.

With the shell constructed, detailed, and painted, the interior is up to the individual. Personally, I waste too much time detailing the interiors with printed wall papers and wood floors I have collected from various doll house sites online. Printed in color, cut to size, and glued in place, these wall and floor coverings look great, but are unnecessary unless you play inside your buildings.  

There are plenty of interior detail parts available to spruce up those interiors. Bars and pianos, poker tables and players, billiards tables, stoves, tables and chairs are all available in metal and resin. This is very much individual taste. Needed to play the game? Not really. Fantastic set dressings? Absolutely. I have a few pieces I picked up at Historicon to paint up and add to my collection.

While I was waiting for assemblies for dry, I was busy with other small, or continuing, side projects. I assembled another 4Ground mdf kit, Harper’s Dry Goods. It’s a neat little kit of a false-front building with a tent structure. I also printed a roller guide for my 3d printer. The filament I use is quite squeaky as it enters the extruder, and this roller straightens the angle into the extruder and eliminates the noise. 3d printing parts for 3d printers. Wild. I also have been printing the dozens of parts necessary to build an alchemists guild tower from a Printable Scenery Kickstarter. Too busy.

And there you have it. Borderguy’s steps to building your own Wild West buildings. I hope this gives you some ideas and tips so you can start crafting your very own western town. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments section and I will be happy to answer them.

Historicon 2021

One of the biggest joys of my year is getting to attend Fall In!, or as in the case this year, Historicon. Last year was a complete bust for conventions, and here in Michigan, the small local cons got called off for C19 earlier this year. Fall In! was my last hope. At some point HMGS changed the name/moved Historicon to the November dates and expanded the late fall convention from three to four days. No complaints from me on getting an extra day of gaming. HMGS cons always have some gaming on Sunday mornings, but since I have an eight-hour drive home, I usually skip them. Two or three very long days and late nights leaves me a bit worn out, and I need a little extra sleep before I tackle the winding and hilly highway across Pennsylvania, USA.

With the official change to Historicon, the con was a Thursday through Sunday con. Check in Wednesday night, play hard for three days. This year they allowed pre-registering for all the games you can fit in, versus only one per day as in previous years. A late change mandating masks for all games saw a slew of games cancelled as GMs choose not to attend, which left a big hole on day one for me and my family. That ended up being fortuitous, as I shall mention in a sec.

And yes, you read right, I said Family. I attended Fall In! once or twice by myself before bringing my son along. After a few years of him being my gaming buddy for the weekend, he was off to college, and a big test for my daughter the same weekend meant she had to bail last minute in 2018. In 2019 my dad and my daughter attended. We had a fantastic time. My daughter got to revel in glory as a well-known Michigan gamer with the Triumph and Washington Grand Company gamers (see this article for why FlintCon 2019 ). And we played in some great games.

This year, my son was on break from college after a mission for our church, my daughter was coming no matter what test was in the way, and my wife decided to tag along since that would make it a real family trip. Of course, having the CFO along really puts a damper on spending sprees in the dealer hall…

The ride over was uneventful, save my son asking a couple times “do you hear that noise?”, which is never a good sign in a car. By the time we got to King of Prussia, PA, there was no way NOT to miss the noise… Bearings or brakes were the only possible issues, and neither was good the night before a con.

We checked in without a problem, then found our first couple game rooms. The convention was held at Valley Forge Casino, and is quite spread out over three levels of the convention center. We had been here in 2019, so I knew my way around, sort of. All sorted to start the next day, we headed to our motel.

A very early start the next morning saw me first in line as a local dealership’s service department was opening. I explained/pled/begged for a quick resolution to our repair needs. They didn’t have any loaners for me, but the service manager took me to a rental car lot that claimed to have a car on the phone, yet didn’t on site, and then to my motel. Carless at this point, we used Uber for the first time and were picked up by a nice chap originally from Colombia. Bet he was surprised to have two of us spend the 20-minute ride conversing with him in Spanish! Arriving on site with not much time to spare, we jumped into our first game.

Now, I cannot tell a lie. I get super geeked when a con rolls around. I speed walk between game rooms. I can’t stop smiling. I fidget. I take pictures, or stop to “oooh!’ at a great table. I love the whole atmosphere of a game convention and the energy at the event. My family thinks it is hilarious and points out all my indicators. Thanks for noticing. Geez.

We started the con with a fast and furious game of Wings of Glory put on by the esteemed Peter Landry. I have played in one of Peter’s games the last four conventions, and they have never failed to be a rousing success. Many of the players in his games are friends or fans of the WoG rules, and show up all weekend long to play, his games and scenarios are that good. This game was a 1/144 scale balloon busting game above the Verdun battlefield. Peter has a fantastic photo map as a gaming surface hat adds richly to the experience. We were flying Nieuport N16s and 17s vs Halberstadt DIIs, Fokker DIIs and DIIIs. My kids had to face off against us, so it was French parents versus German kids (plus other players), with two beautiful balloon models as targets. There was tons of carnage and planes going down in flames. My luck? I took an engine hit that limited my performance and no one had the common courtesy to shoot me down so I could get a new plane! In the end, both balloons went down for a French, a very pyrrhic victory. Our family enjoys WoG as a game, and I have a slew of planes at home. Though we don’t play enough!

During this game I received a call from the dealership to inform me that my car was already fixed. Happy day. The cancellation of our two next games meant we had time to Uber to the dealership to pick up our car, get lunch offsite, and get back to before our next game. Weekend saved by the service department at Patriot Chevrolet!

We also had a little time to explore a major site in U.S. history. I will confess, I never put two and two together. Valley Forge Casino, Valley Forge National Park as in THE Valley Forge from the American Revolution and the defining winter of the Continental Army. Yeah, THAT Valley Forge. It is nearly at the casino. Maybe a mile separates the two sites. We checked out the visitor center, though despite masking requirements, all the exhibits you don’t even tough were closed. I want to comment on the stupidity of that, and the people who make decisions like that… What a sad world we live in.

The rest of the park is open for exploring, and there is a driving tour with a phone number you can call to get information on different points of interest. We got out and walked around a couple times, though sites like Washington’s HQ and chapel are closed.  It is a beautiful park. Larger than I expected, and much has been kept in its natural state. The trench works along one ridgeline are still visible despite the many years that have passed. There are a number of the small log cabins the soldiers built to survive the winter scattered around the place, as well as individual monuments to particular sites or individuals.

The entire site was full of people out walking, and some very happy dogs strolling with their humans. It was pretty cool, with a brisk wind blowing, but there were dozens of people of all ages walking, running, taking pictures, and enjoying the serenity of the place. Well worth the time we spent there. My wife pointed out that we had driven through the site twice already, as the route to our motel cut right across the park. I’m really observant at times…

Back at the convention, our event cancellations meant we were scrambling for an afternoon/evening game for three of us. My son had decided to go solo in a World War Two Mediterranean small coastal patrol boat game. The rules were in a Too Fat Lardies magazine some years ago. It used 1/300 scale boats (same as Warlord’s Cruel Seas) to fight out small boat battles. The allies managed a victory, my son commanding a Fairmile D motor patrol boat in a convoy attack. My son liked it so much, that he was looking for 3d files to print when we got home. And then went to town learning how to slice files, use a resin and FDM printer to bang out around a dozen ships for less than $10USD in files, resin, and filament. The GM sent him the rules, and he is about to paint his very own fleets of Fairmile, Vosper, and Schnell boots. Along with several targets, err, freighters and tankers.

While he was busy with small boat combat, the other three managed to snag the last three tickets to a Limeys and Slimeys Age of Pirates game. Staged in glorious 28mm with great ship models and loads of crew, a lone British frigate was on the hunt for pirates, while six pirate/Turk vessels had to decide to fight the biggest ship in the area (the British vessel) or go for a sultan’s horde of gold in a Turk fleet. My daughter and wife were pirates and made a bee-line to wipe me out. My daughter had two small 4-gun vessels, and while I pummeled one into matchsticks, her swarm of pirates gleefully captured my ship and sailed off to plunder more. Out of the game by turn four, I watched further mayhem unfold. Two of the Turk vessels (a father and young son) hung wide and waited for the rest of the ships to weaken themselves before entering the fray. Eventually the gold was seized by one of the pirate crews after a good walloping (and a rare failure of kid dice) of the sultan’s vessel. At least three ships were sunk. Another in flames, and a motley crew of Slimeys sailed into the sunset with a fortune in gold. Another successful game enjoyed by all.

Retiring for the night, we made a pitstop at a grocery store to stock up for our breakfasts, since the “continental breakfast” at the motel was sad mini muffins and Pop Tarts, plus a gallon jug of milk to share… Eww.

Our first game on Friday was the Battle of Marathon played in 28mm using the Triumph rules from Washington Grand Company. Rod Cain, a fellow Michigander, was GM and having played in his games before, I knew to expect a spectacle. And we were not disappointed. Fantastically painted miniatures, all arrayed in battle glory, were waiting for us. My family jumped onto the Persian side, and picked our commands. My wife was registered for all the games, even though she isn’t really into minis gaming. A good sport, she rolled dice and pushed models all week with us. Though, she does think I might be insane for trying to schedule 4 games a day from 9am to 11pm or later.

This game was very back and forth for a few turns, with push backs being more common than casualties. Then the dice went sour for both my daughter and me. We couldn’t roll a six to save the day. My son is a merciless competitor, and hates to lose, so even as his center command decimated the Athenian troops, the wings were falling too fast. Which he continued to point out. All. Week. Long.

By the end of the allotted time, my command had fled the field. My daughter’s wing was about a single stand away from fleeing, though she had fought back brilliantly and nearly destroyed her opponent as well. The Athenians and their allies were declared winners, Ron thanked my daughter for “making his friend cry at losing the Battle of Hastings” two years before, and presented her with Triumph range markers as a prize. It was a fantastic game! The dice were not in my favor, but it was a great start to day two. Triumph is a fairly easy set of rules to grasp, and we often play it at cons, as well as at home where I have early Germans and Roman armies.

Our next game had all four of us at the same table again. Enjoying a game of Anno Domini, it is a 28mm game set in 1666 in an alternate history where Emperor Leopold I is dead, and many factions have claimants for the throne. Many characters from literature are in this game (available as a board game) featuring the protagonists of Sienkiewicz’s Trilogy and the musketeers from the novels of Alexander Dumas. In this learning game, each player had a pair of minis armed with swords and pistols, or hammers, or even a musket. The goal was to discover a letter of intrigue that could be used to blackmail one of the claimants to the throne. They are playing each scenario as part of a linked campaign throughout the weekend, and successes and failures add up. There were three agents on the board and Richelieu himself was looking to recover the letter from his agent to hasten its progress. My son took the Polish contingent, my daughter and I had Hungarians, while my wife had a French team. Everyone headed towards the three agents, getting caught up in fisticuffs and firefights right from the beginning.  Richelieu was lucky enough to run into D’Artagnan early on, and was taken out of the game. The letter was recovered, then taken by my son’s Poles. A spate of shots and sword fights led to the town guard showing up to try and arrest everyone, and the games was called.

Exciting, tense, frustrating, and a blast to play. My wife was a fan, but not of the price of the board game. While this game was played in 3D, with beautiful resin buildings and metal mins, it is sold as a board game with card tiles for a play surface and plastic or metal minis. Available here: (Anno Domini), it is on my short list of future purchases. I enjoy the swashbuckling combat and narrative play.

We had done a quick run through the dealer hall before this game, and I left my bag of goodies at this table. Like an idiot. And I didn’t realize it until after our next game… Luckily the Anno domini GM Karl Shanstrom took my bag to the HMGS HQ, and I was able to recover my purchases. Karl, you are THE MAN!

Small haul. The vendor I needed to visit the most didn’t come this year.

Game #3 saw mom and dad split form the kids. The kids went to play a game of Space Hulk, and enjoyed the usual frustrations of terminators fighting hordes of gene stealers in the cold of space. My son remarked after that the scenario was not very well balanced, and quite frustrating for most of the game for the Space Marine players. At the end though, short on time, the two sides agreed to a single combat between leaders to decide the winner, and the terminators pulled it off.

While the kids were off doing their thing, my wife and I were looking for an American Civil War game. The table where it was supposed to be was mostly bare, with a wide river at one side. But nothing was set up. At game time, the game master Roxanne Patton showed up, and explained the original game was cancelled due to the minis still being in Sri Lanka at Fernando Enterprises being painted. A game swap for the river crossing scene from the movie Major Dundee with U.S. troops facing off against French lancers was ready if we wanted to try that. Since most everything else was full or already started, we went at it. The models were 28mm, well-painted, and ready to deploy.  My wife took the U.S. cavalry troops, and I took the French. The US. troops were set up on the wrong (south side) of the Rio Grande River, while the French were on the U.S. side (northern bank). One scenario plot we kind of forgot at first was that once a French unit was destroyed, it was redeployed as a fresh unit BEHIND the U.S troops. The French troops had no firearms, and couldn’t cross the river until they took casualties, and the U.S. troops needed to get certain characters and units off the north side of the river to win. The cavalry troopers stood firm and started a withering barrage on the French troops. Once the French horsemen reappeared on the far south edge of the board, it forced my wife to start moving her troops north.

This game was a real nail biter. The rifles fire worn down the French units, but I maintained a numerical superiority through the whole game. She held several units form, while punching a gaping hole in the French center. Her troops mounted up and behind pushing hard to get north. In quick succession several named characters and the cannon made it off the board. It was down to the flag being nearly caught, and a single card flip to determine if it escaped. Movie climax finish. Black card, French lancers catch the flag. The card came up red and the flag made it out of charge distance and was safe to flee the next turn. Perfect finish to a great game.

The last game of the night was a Wings of Glory WW2 game, early war to be exact. The German attacks on the Meuse depended on bridges to keep their momentum, and French command has sent bombers to destroy the bridges and slow the German attack. Me109s flew circles around the Warhawks and other (I forget what they were) French planes. It was pretty ugly. The slower French planes had a tough time getting into position to attack the Germans. Kids took German planes, while my wife and I flew for the French. This was the first time any of my family had played with altitude rules, so there was a bit of a learning curve for us. My kids got it quickly, though, and they went to town on the slower French planes, and especially the bombers. My son ended up being the highest scoring German pilot and won a prize model. He was at least 17 points ahead of the nearest other German player, for a pretty dominating win.

Lots of people stopped by to comment on the early war action, and French planes, in the scenario. Once again, Peter pulled off a fantastic game. I really see why people aren’t afraid to schedule nothing but his games all weekend, they are that much fun.

Day three started bright and early, and rainy. I was pretty soaked after dropping off my family under the entrance roof. But never mind, we had games to play! And a long day, at that. Four games scheduled, barely time to find food between them.

One of the games I HAD to play started the day. It was a game of Feudal Patrol set up by my blog buddy Mark Morin. I have watched him paint the minis and build the terrain for this game over the last 18 months on his blog (https://markamorin.com/) and was really looking forward to playing in this game. He had to cancel a game the night before and I was able to get in contact with him to verify this game was still on, so that made my weekend.

This game was Aztecs v Spaniards the morning before La Noche Triste (literally The Sad Night, Night of Sorrows), titled Cortes’ Causeway Escape Attempt. The Spaniards are besieged in Tenochtitlan and have constructed some crude war wagons to aid in their escape. Tlaxcalan allies are attempting to break though some Aztec holding units, while other Aztec warbands are descending on the Spanish redoubt.

This was my first time playing Feudal Patrol, as it was for my opponent. We quickly caught on to key concepts, including the combat cards that are used for everything from die rolls, to morale, to flight distances. The game quickly devolved into two separate actions. The Aztecs assaulting the main Spanish encampment, and the Tlaxcalans attempting to break into the city to aid their Spanish allies.

The Tlaxcalans had a unit of what I quickly termed machinegun archers, as they loosed a hail of arrows that sent one of my toughest units packing. That unit took two or three turns to stop fleeing and attempt to reorganize.

We did misunderstand a part of melee combat in that units always separated after combat, and we left them stuck in until Buck Surdu, the rules author, stopped by to watch a round of combat. Despite a misunderstanding, we had great fun pummeling each other’s warbands at the far end of the table. The Aztecs captured the Banner of Cortez, worth a ton of victory points, and managed to capture and drag off about nine poor souls for sacrifice. A major victory for the Aztecs.

This game was fantastic. The minis were beyond beautiful. The Eagle and Jaguar warriors in their intricate pattered uniforms, the Spaniards in breastplate and helmet, war dogs, Mesoamerican architecture, and even lily pads in the lagoons made for a real spectacle of a game. How the GM didn’t win an award for that game, I will never know.  It was a highlight of my weekend. Meeting Mark was icing on a great game and con experience.

While I was playing that game (alone, my wife took one look at the combat cards and said “Nope!”) my kids were in an ACW game, Gettysburg, Day 2. Well, they started in it. I wish I had been with them. Because what happened to them was uncalled for, and I will call out the GM by name for his poor behavior. He saw two “kids” and was in a huff that they dared show up for his game. Mind you, my son is 21, and has been attending cons since he was 14, and my daughter is 17 and also been attending cons since age 14, and both play tons of games at home. Nonetheless, Mr. Fratt saw kids, and relegated them to a tiny command, then never let them do anything with their assigned units. Any time my son tried to do anything he would say “that wasn’t historical” or “that unit wouldn’t do that” and stopped them from having any real participation in the game. This is the first time this has occurred at Fall In!/Historicon. And my son has played a number of games solo, and never had an issue. Mr. Fratt, you aren’t cool, and we will never play one of your games.

My son, being much like his dad, had enough after a couple rounds of being denied a part in the game, and they left and went to find another game. Good for them. He came and found me and told me what happened and where they ended up.

And they ended up in a game my wife could join them in, a game of Aerodrome 1.1, a 1/72 game of WW1 aerial combat. We have seen this game con after con with its cool, but complex-looking control stand. Apparently, it is not complex at all, but simply great fun! They were all smiles and jokes about shooting enemies and allies alike (there are friendly fire rules for misses) and winged mayhem. There is even a great prize in this game, actual wings awarded for combat victory! Both kids came away with wings, and my wife nearly earned her own. There is an ongoing list of victories and pilots continue to build their records over the years. One lady made her 100th kill just before I showed up to see them finish out their game. Mr. Kubiak is a class act, and saved the afternoon for my kids. Thank you, sir, you are a gentleman.

Next on the schedule was another split for us. My son and I headed off to finally try Carnage and Glory in the ACW, while my wife and daughter went to play Plastic Pirates.

The pirates game used Legos and was really for kids, but they needed players for the few kids that showed up, so they played and had a good time. Silly, fun, and easy to grasp, they had a good relaxing game.

We enjoyed a game on a beautiful table with beautiful miniatures and finally played the computer moderated rules of Carnage and Glory.  We refought the Battle of Bull Run (1st Manassas), the afternoon actions at Henry House Hill. In this ruleset, you declare actions for units to gamemaster at a laptop. Each unit has a numerical code along with the normal name and commander. The number is used by the computer to calculate movement, firing success, morale and exhaustion levels. Measure distance then tell the GM that unit #1 is shooting at unit #2, and unit #2 is behind a stone wall. The computer accounts for weapon type, range, cover and other factors and gives combat results.

The computer can track much more information, much faster, that you could otherwise. My only complaint is that units don’t ever get markers. Until stands are removed, you can’t tell who is taking casualties. While there is some merit to that in that your opponent doesn’t know the current state of a unit, I’m of the mind that you would be able to tell that a unit is diminished from casualties or fleeing troops. However, maybe I am wrong. And in the heat of battle, with smoke covering the field, these rules give a better fog of war than any other method.

Regardless, the battle was a lot of fun. Pushing beautiful models around in one of our favorite eras was another highlight game. Our opponents were quite gracious in their patience with the three newbies on the Union side. The Union had battered several Confederate regiments, and sent them off the chill crest, but grey reinforcements were pouring onto the battlefield and the Union attacking brigades were nearly spent. Another couple of turns and those tired units would be retreating back down the hill.  A winning game with a great GM, Joe Dupre.

The last game of the convention was yet another special one. We have tried to get into a Peter Panzeri (yes, THAT Peter Panzeri) game every con since we first discovered his grand, epic games. He has a whole room reserved for his grand setups. 12-30 players show up for games from all eras, and none leave disappointed. This year’s last game was titled The Greatest Airborne Operation in History. We had a discussion before picking sides and jumping into battle. Was it Neptune? No, there was no beach or sea, and the river and bridges were all wrong. Varsity? The Rhine crossing? No, there were no built-up areas. Market Garden? Nope, only one river and too many roads. Crete? No, there wasn’t an airfield on the board. People kept guessing, then it hit me. Eben-Emael. The river wasn’t a river at all, but was the Albert Canal. The big hump area was the fortress itself. Of course, as I realized what battle it was, Mr. Panzeri was announcing it, so I couldn’t shout out the answer!

There was a large group of friends that signed up together, so they took the German side. My family and a couple others took the Belgians. My son was part of the fort defenders, my wife and daughter took bridge protection companies and small entrenched units, and I played the role of a battalion commander, and artillery unit.

My daughter was able to successfully destroy her bridge after the assaulting troops attacked the wrong bunker initially. The Belgians had to “wake up” to alertness before blowing bridges, then had to have command pips to issue the command. D6s were rolled at the start of each turn for command points. Due to poor comms, requesting artillery fire for the Belgians took two pips for each request. Fortunately, I rolled 5s and 6s all game and could hand off command pips to subordinate units.

The bridge my wife was holding was a bitter fight. Initially she pushed the Germans off with her troops in bunkers. The Germans concentrated on one, and finally took it out. But again, it was the wrong bunker and she was able to blow the bridge. Down to a single team manning a machine gun, she passed command to me and took over the armored column heading on as reinforcements.

My daughter got a little frustrated as the German armor, now trapped on the wrong side of the canal, proceeded to shoot the crap out of her entrenched troops. Her AT wasn’t enough to knock out the German armor, and she was getting frustrated. It’s hard sometimes, to see a gamer feel like they are losing bad, when in reality there is no way they can achieve conventional victory. In blowing the two bridges, our sector had already achieved a monumental victory.  She didn’t grasp that at the time, and was just watching ‘her’ troops melt away, and she was frustrated. My artillery disrupted the Germans, but wasn’t heavy enough, or enough gun tubes, to stop their fire against the poor Belgians.

The German players concentrated their gliders atop the fortress, and beat the tar out of the turrets there. Then it was a game of whack-a-mole with Belgian troops popping up to harass and fire on the Germans who quickly ran out of supplies, especially shaped-charges. My son was bummed they lost some many turrets and didn’t support the bigger battle, but he decimated the glider troops.

Which reminds me, the Germans rolled exceptionally well for all their gliders. Every single glider made it into Belgium, and only one had a hard landing. Then most landed right on target which meant fast assaults on unsuspecting troops those first couple rounds.

With one bridge seized, and all the fortress guns silenced, it was only a matter of time before the Germans bridged the canal and slowly flooded the plain with armor, but we here much more successful than the historical outcome, so we pulled off a win! And we learned a great deal more about the operation and battle. Which is part of the point, right?

And then it was over. The long drive home. The reveling in my new goodies. The recap, a couple weeks later. And the plan for next year. I am defiantly going again.

Progress of sorts

Days turn into week. Weeks into months. Time passes and I write nothing on this blog, does that mean I am not a blogger?

Like most people, I’ve been busy. It wasn’t until I was a at Historicon 2021 and a fellow blogger I met for the first time in Real LifeTM and he said “You haven’t blogged in FOREVER” that it hit me. It has been forever. I stand in awe of the people who can write week after week all year long. Even if it is just hobby progress (which I don’t have much to report) they still create regular posts to awe, inspire, shame and report.

I’ll admit, at times I get a little discouraged. Some people read 1,000 pages a week. Or paint two dozen models a week. Or pump out a whole table’s worth of terrain a month. I go weeks without painting anything. I haven’t read a book in three or four weeks. I haven’t even 3D printed anything. Though both printers were down for repairs I was dreading to attempt. I’m 50% of the way through that. The resin printer is back running, busily churning out 1/300 coastal patrol craft since we returned from Historicon 2021. The filament printer is down still, awaiting a part to fix the hot end after I had… An incident. Thermal runaway is real, my friends. You have been warned.

All is not lost, though. I did a few things for my hobbies since I last wrote. In the four and a half months since I wrote about Sallah, I managed to finish 30 Dark Angels shoulder pads (fiddly little bastards to paint separately…), the Chapter Banner bearer, one of those creepy Watchers in the Dark, three Rhinos, a Razorback, the anti-aircraft Hunter/Stalker (curiously GW made this kit easily swappable between variants, so it can have either armament), a Dread Wing dreadnaught, three Land Speeders and a Land Speeder Vengeance for my son’s Dark Angels. And finally put basing materials on all 70+ models with a base. For my own collections, I finished (finally) my YT-1300 scratch build for X-Wing, and painted it. The skull I showed a while back is done, as well, as a new dice bowl for DnD games. I managed to build and prime 69 models before my July deployment. Those followed me to Texas and all got painted while I was there. These were all Empire models, a mix of GW plastics, Foundry metals, and 3D printed resin models. In this picture, it looks like 7 separate units. In reality its three complete units, the last models of three others, and the start of one more unit. Seems like I only paint consistently while I am gone!

Newest Empire troops

If you made it this far, here are some details.

For the past three or four years I have been painting a Dark Angels army (Warhammer 40K) for my son. Even though I had a pair of fully painted 40K armies, and I invited him to use them with his friends*, he waited until his senior year to play. And he wanted his own army. So, of course I bought him one and painted it at his request. And kept expanding it…

When I was in college and actively playing 40K I wanted a fully mechanized Space Marine army. How cool would it be for a column of armored vehicles to all roll onto the table and disgorge the Emperor’s Finest? Finances at the time did not allow me to realize that dream. Then I stopped playing 40K, so I never did. Finances have changed, and this time around it was gonna be all armor, all the time. I need to write up a post about the whole army, and take some army pics now that nearly everything is done.

These vehicles make up some of the last I needed built for the army. Three Rhino Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), a Razorback (think U.S. Bradley or British Warrior troop carriers), a mobile anti-aircraft gun system (with two variant weapons systems), a Dreadnaught (big robot thing with guns) and a quartet of Land Speeder flyers. Even though all these models are for one army, you might wonder why they are painted in three different paint schemes. The Dark Angles have a pair of companies that are unique in deployment and equipment. The standard Dark Angels wear a dark green armor. The First Company, or Death Wing, is an honor guard/veterans’ company and is a bleached bone color. The reasons depend on which book or codex you read, but it is intended as an honor marking. The Second Company, or Raven Wing, is midnight black and are a fast attack force mounted on bikes and flyers.

Well, I couldn’t just build and paint a small force for him. No. He needed a really big army. Something to instill fear in other players. And enough models to show up as any one of three army variants. What can I say? I spoil him. I’ll post more in another article, but for now know there are models from all parts of the Dark Angels.

The basing was done with a red sand and rock mix from Geek Gaming (formerly Luke’s APS). If you haven’t tried their basing mixes, you should. Fantastic stuff. If you are in England buy direct, in the US from GeekgamingUSA (through Footsore). The dye in it is strong enough that I used soft brush in the mix to weather the tracks and armor plates on the DA vehicles.

My Empire army for Warhammer Fantasy Battles (WFB) is slowly growing. It’s part of a much larger, very long-term project for WFB. Unfortunately, my favorite models for the Empire are now longer in production. I spend a bit of time cruising evil bay and other secondary sales sites hunting for more at a price I feel is reasonable.**

Unreasonably expensive model… To some.

3D printing will/has changed that for me though. I have files that will let me print models that are very reasonable stand ins for the GW models I love. All for pennies a model. In fact, some of these freshly painted modes are 3D printed. And only a hardcore GW fan could recognize them.

Warhammer armies, as they are in most games, are built out of units of models. Anywhere from 1 to 100 individual models makes up a unit. Generally, the models are all painted in a uniform of some sort. From being nearly identical in clothing colors and items, to perhaps having a unifying-colored item like a feather or sash, large units can get tedious to paint. The same colors, in the same places, over and over and over. Even though I find a much different challenge in painting unique models (deciding what color for each item is HARD!), its more liberating in that I can put a color on my palette and decide on each model if or where it gets that particular color. Repeat until finished.

WFB units tend to be very similar models all wearing a uniform in uniform colors. It. Gets. Tedious. Even if the uniforms are halved or quartered like many renaissance uniforms were. The light blue and white models pictured are the last eight of a unit of 48 that has taken me about a year to paint. I painted the first 16 at once, and it nearly broke me mentally. Those Middenheimers are done. Finally. They are built from 6th edition Empire spearmen and will eventually have some shields from Fire Forge games with a wolf head emblem that I prefer to the lion emblem on the original shields.

I also painted these 6 models armed with missile weapons. They are the last models for a unit of militia. Yay! Another unit finished! The militia kit is one of my favorite kits GW ever produced. It was so useful and had so many possibilities for weapons. I think some of the kits from the Frostgrave line are the spiritual successor to that great kit. I need to pick up a box and see how they mesh with GW models.

These eight fellows are Foundry metals from their 16th Century Renaissance line. Specifically, the Armoured Landsknechts at the ready. While a bit thinner than GW models, I feel like they fit well. I painted mine as Tilean mercenary pike, a Dogs of War (DoW) unit from 5th edition. They could also be used as Talabecland state troops as the colors are similar. Pike are only available to DoW units, and I think pike are cool, so these eight models are the first of a unit of at least 24.

The next unit is a solid block of spearmen using the same base model used for the Middenheim spear block. These are representing Reikland. White is the official color for uniforms from Reikland, but I wanted a more worn, dirty look. Since these are primarily prime, shade, highlight (since the primer is the base color) I was able to paint the whole unit in one go. The banner bearer is still WIP on my painting desk, but the unit is primarily done.

These hand gunners are painted in Altdorf colors. The red and dark blue is a great look. If I painted another Empire army, it would probably be in this scheme. These models are more 6th edition models. When I can’t find these anymore, I will be very sad, since I haven’t found a model, I like to replace them.

This cannon will be crewed by some Nuln crew I painted earlier in the year. This makes great cannon number three, which it seems, is not sporting? I saw a couple random posts online and rules for a campaign that heavily penalized Empire players for taking more than one cannon. No worries, I don’t play other gamers with this army, so I can have my gun line without apparently inciting nerd rage.  I also painted a metal GW master engineer model I snagged off the interwebs to support the cannons.

It appears i need to paint the barrel interior…

The last unit from that marathon painting month (for me) is a unit of hammer armed troops. While not a specific weapon allowed by WFB, MY army is from Middenland, the land of beards, manly men and hammers. I used a very old box of GW 5th Edition State Troops augmented by 3d printed models to build this unit of 15 “Hammers of Ulric” as a special unit. They need their shields attached, but at least these shields are actually painted.

I am by no means an accomplished painter. I do a base coat, highlight, shade wash, second highlight generally on all my models. Sometimes I add a couple more highlights, or use inks to wash/shade certain things. There are far better tutorials out there, but if any of you have specific questions on how I painted particular models, ask and I will let you know specifics. Nearly all colors are Vallejo. I use Army Painter primer sprays in Angel Green, Matt White or Skeleton Bone, or a Rustoleum 2x black or light grey as primers. I did use Citadel Talassar Blue Contrast paint on the Middenheim spearmen. Army Painter shade tones are my go-to shades, I use Soft Tone and Strong Tone on nearly every model I paint. On leather and wood, I will use Vallejo Sepia or Brown inks for shading, as the pigment load is very heavy and it works like a stain. I use watered down Sepia Ink for shading faces and hands.

As far as I can recall, the only other model I built was a scratch built Wild West building. Using milled basswood, basswood strip, balsa strip and heavy card I sat down one evening and started cutting. I showed a pic on a Face Book group for Wild West gaming and a tutorial was requested, so I need to work that up, take more pictures, and write another article. It’s a simple model, but I like it.

And this guy. Slowly coming together. A dice bowl for DnD. Take a dice from Mr. Skull… If you dare!

I guess that’s it. The tutorial or a report on Historicon 2021 will be up next. Since both are fresh in my head, there won’t be as along a wait between articles.

Happy creating and gaming!

BG out

*All my models are fair use for my kids. I can fix/repaint/repair/replace models. I only get my kids at home for 18 years.

**A topic for yet another post. I once felt anything over $1.50 was too much for a used model. I may have spent $55 for one 28mm mounted model recently…