Distractions and Repainting X-Wing ships

Summer is nearly over in the States, and again, my production has been sparse. I have a good excuse, the same one many of you in blog land have. Real Life.

It is a shame the Real Life can’t conspire to paint our models, or finish that terrain piece. Or pieces. I have many in various stages of progress that Real Life could finish any time it wanted to, I won’t complain. This Real Life event has kept me away from my painting desk, my terrain table (spoiled, I know!) or gaming. I’ve been preoccupied and busy, and haven’t done a whole lot.

Not that most of you care about the why, but here it is anyways. My Princess is heading off to college/university this week, and so I have not had the mojo to sequester myself in the basement when we could be making memories. I did this four years ago with my son, and it was tough. He was my soccer fan, shooting, 40K, Bolt Action companion. And now the other half of my kiddos is heading out.

Mornings have been full of Star Wars Rebels and The Bad Batch, and lots of discussions on characters, ships, plots and future stories in our favorite galaxy far, far away. She gets Star Wars, and knows as much if not more, than I do. She has a phenomenal memory for characters and traits and plots. So, we sit and watch and I complain because I am not to the end yet, and she smirks because she is all caught up and knows what comes next. We laugh, and sometimes cry, miss characters lost, futures that won’t be, and all of the story that is Star Wars. Time well spent.

Evenings have been spent watching Supernatural and sharing Daredevil (the tv series) with her and my wife. Or rewatching favorite movies. After watching Revenge of the Sith my wife looked over at us and said “you know you talked through the entire movie, right?

Of course, we did. We talked about Anakin and Padme, and Obi-wan and Satine. And Corky. And Mandalorians, Mandalore, The Scouring and how it fits into the timeline. We discussed who was where and when. She kept trying to figure out Clone commanders and lamenting the death of all of her favorite clones. Fives will never be forgotten. We enjoyed Yoda in all his saber-flashing glory. Of Anakin’s fall. Hope lost. Sadness. Misery. And the twins. All of it.

And every day that passed brought me closer to the day I’ll help her set up her dorm room, and make the 1600-mile trek home. Without my Star Wars and DnD buddy. Watching Andor will not be the same. Nor will watching whatever is next. She is a next-level fan and very few around me can match her knowledge and enthusiasm.

No one really warns you about this when you have kids. Eighteen years is a long time in the future, right?

Hardly enough time at all.

College. Post grad work. Marriage. A job. She has so many things to look forward to, and her future is incredibly bright.

Mine is just a little dimmer without her light on the couch next to me whenever we want to put on a bit of Star Wars. And it is gonna be hard to deal with.

She is a busy kid, and there were times when I did have a few minutes to myself. I did get a couple things done. Mostly a couple repaints of ships for the game X-Wing. I found a YouTube channel by a chap named Jay Adan. He repaints X-Wing ships, and does a fine job of it. Two of his videos inspired me to make my own attempts. I ordered a couple used (i.e., cheap) ships off eBay or used model sites and got tucked in. Here are the results.

First is a partial repaint of a TIE Phantom. In the game of X-Wing, the Phantom has the ability to cloak and disappear. Nasty little surprise when it happens. This paint is as it begins to cloak. Painting black over the area to cloak, then some electrical/cloaking effects. Finally, I added a bit of the starfield that shows through the cloaked machine. It was pretty quick to do, and ended up way better than I expected.

Second was a set of standard TiEs painted in a black scheme. Mr. Adan used a mask to make the white Imperial symbol. And he used an airbrush. I used neither. I rattle-canned the model black with Testor’s black spray, then applied white decals I found on eBay, before some dry brushing, highlights, and detail work. While Mr. Adan did a single TIE, I went a step further and painted a wingman. In fact, I picked up several more TiEs and a Devastator to paint in the same scheme. Then I can field a unique squadron in a custom paintjob. I think the effect will be quite stunning when the group is finished.

The last ship is a Y-Wing that came originally in the Scum faction paint scheme from the Most Wanted box. The ship was mostly a light cream of tan with some parts in a coppery color. I added a blue over parts, repainted the astromech, and used a dark wash to dirty it up. Y-Wings are all over the place on the secondary marked and I wanted one that looked cobbled together from the wreckage of two or three ships.  It looks the part.

Lastly, I dug out a wild west bank I started ages ago. I crafted a base from a floor tile, and started adding a wood floor and the boardwalk around the building. I didn’t get far on this project, and look to finally get this one completed sometime next month.

That’s it for this update. Not a lot of hobby time, but as much daddy-daughter time as I could fit it.

But not nearly enough…

Sad BG out

How to start? Or where to begin? It sure is a big hobby!

As a gamer, I often find my self as an Army of One. Out of all my co-workers (50+ in my office) I am the only miniatures gamer, and one of very few that play any board games at all. I deal with the usual jokes and silliness. My Hasbro Black Series figs are referred to as “dolls” by one guy. I play with kid’s toys. My fellow gamers are “those” guys. You know the ones; the unwashed, uncouth, basement dwellers. All the same stuff I am sure many of you have dealt with at some time.

My two brothers are the same. Neither really has a hobby, and they think it is funny to make jokes about my “shiny” as they refer to my unpainted models. Since they are not gamer, they were blown away by my total models owned. Especially by the number in the Lead Mountain, or The Boxes of Despair, as I refer to them.

It’s mostly in good humor, but still, it gets old. I’ve had decent conversations explaining war games in general, and the games I play in particular, with my direct unit. Because we spend 8-10 hours a day together in very close quarters and we’ve pretty much covered everything. None have really showed any interest. One guy asked about board games a few years back. Games with a military/war theme that would be suitable for a ten-yar-old. I gave him a couple options, and every time I followed up, he replied with “he hadn’t gotten any yet”.

My “gaming buddies” are all of you. The guys and gals that read my blog, post on the forums I frequent, or right blogs of your own. You are the ones who get it. Collecting your own stuff. The ones who buy more models than they paint, and collect rules like somewhere out there is the perfect set. My peeps.

We have a collective vocabulary and a shared knowledge base. Unless you play a single game, or ruleset, you all know that there are literally thousands of rule sets floating around. Starting with eponymous Little Wars, to whatever ruleset is being published the week I publish this, to whatever week you read this into infinity, rules abound. Those in the hobby know and understand it. Those outside the hobby have no idea.

It comes as a surprise, I am sure, when they ask a simple question like “what rules should I use if I wanted to start wargaming?” Three weeks later, when you finish discussing the various eras of warfare and how to divide them, they have lost interest completely…

Honestly, where do we start?

I’ve briefly alluded to some of the eras in warfare that have rules or army lists in this post (the eras I game post link), so I won’t delve into it again. It does create issues though, when someone asks about wargaming. I had this problem today when the guy who asked about board games asked for a set of rules he called “Wargaming 101” and specifically mentioned battles from Thermopylae to Gettysburg.

Well. Hmmm. How do I break it down that no one set of rules is capable of doing that? 2300+ years of history, innovation, tactical changes, and weapons development means that a pike-armed phalanx and a skirmish line armed with repeating rifles are very, very different. While I supposed you could have some very basic rules to cover that wide of a span, it is the differences in units that makes war gaming so great. Otherwise, play checkers.

I answered my friend. He is recently retired, and has way more free time than I do. I suppose he is looking for a hobby, and the world needs more wargamers, not less, so I did my best to help. I gave some options and opinions of the same. My real knowledge is limited to the ten or so rulesets I play most. I am familiar with about probably ten times that number. And have heard of double that. Reading his question, my brain started sorting through what I know.

Plenty of gamers will yell out “you told him about DBA, right?” Which technically, I did. By telling him that Triumph! is the playable successor. We all have our opinions; I don’t care for DBA. Sue me.

I mentioned the Osprey Wargaming Series to start, specifically Lion Rampant.  I like the small rulebooks and narrow focus of this series. Handing someone a book the size of the 9th Ed Warhammer 40K book is almost a surefire way to get them to NOT play wargames. There is literally a 300-page difference between 9th Ed 40K and any rules in the Osprey series.  And the former still needs a pair of army books to really play the game.

Granted, one is sci-fi and the other is medieval, but you understand the dilemma. How to we get a totally newbie over the initial hump and on the slide into wargaming madness?

My recommendations to him were Field of Glory, several from the Osprey Series, Triumph!, the Fire & Fury rules (both Brigade and Regimental) and Black Powder. The real problem is the timespan. None of these will work for that entire timeline. I think a minimum would be four rules. One for Ancients, one for Dark Ages, one for Medieval, and a last for the American Civil War. Unless he is interested in Napoleonics battles, too, then, well, he needs more rules.

What about all of you? If someone asked you the same question, what would your answer be, and what are your favorite rules for these various eras?

For me, these are my current rules:

Ancients: Triumph! I like the vast array of army lists, the simplicity of play, and the guys that play it. I’ve had great fun recreating battles from the Battle of Marathon, to the battle of Hastings.

Dark Ages: Saga I like the warband feel, and the unique traits off the battle boards. Plus, cool dice. Everyone loves cool dice.

Medieval: Lion/Dragon Rampant Easy to read and learn, fast-paced, and really open to include any units you want, I can use my Warhammer Fantasy models with these rules without tossing a monstrosity of a rulebook at my opponent.

Black powder era: Muskets & Tomahawks for skirmish battles. Fire & Fury for ACW. M&T is so cinematic and cool. This evocative set uses cool scenarios and side plots to create really interesting games. The F&F rules allow regimental to brigade level gaming in the ACW.

Anyone of you who has read before know I also game fantasy, WW2 and various sci-fi. He didn’t ask about those, but I’ll list my current favs just for completion’s sake:

Fantasy: Warhammer Fantasy Battles AND Dragon Rampant. I’m still torn between the two. It is the unique units in WFB that makes the game both cool, and overburdened with special rules. DR really streamlines the unit and weapon choices. I need to bust out a couple armies and give DR a go.

WW2: Bolt Action (plus our house rules) and Chain of Command. I’ve written before about how I WANT to love CoC, but there are certain aspects I just don’t care for. I think I will end up with a hybrid of the two, picking parts I like from both.

Sci-Fi: 40K will always be my first gaming love, but I haven’t played it in years. Kill Team has piqued my interest, though, and I might get into it. Mostly I play Star Wars using X-Wing and Armada. Ground combat in the galaxy far, far away isn’t my thing, but space combat is so much fun.

My friend hasn’t taken me up my lunch offer yet. I think he knows lunch would turn into dinner, and the sun would set before I even got to the Black Powder era in rules discussions. He wants to dip his toe, not leap into the fire. I can’t say I blame him for caution, since this path can lead to madness.

A quick peek at what I’ve been up to on the terrain front. A couple sign posts/ message boards, and a ruined tower for fantasy gaming. The signs are from basswood and balsa, with mdf bases I scavenged from the last mdf kit I built. I forgot to take any in progress pics of the tower. It was built stone by stone from XPS bricks/blocks I cut on my Proxxon hotwire cutter. I used Alene’s Tacky glue instead of hot glue (hate the strings) so this took a while. I could only get two rows on at a time before they would slip out of position if I tried to add more layers.

I finally finished this kit from 4Ground. Harper’s Dry goods. I have another copy of this kit already, so i modified the front face, cutting a different profile on the top and hiding the cuts with profile boards. My western town is coming along nicely. Mostly I need to finalize signs and get them printed and installed.

Not sure why the door looks broken. I wonder if I messed it up finishing the tarp?

That’s it for this update. There are few models painted, but no pics yet. With end-of-the year stuff of my daughter, my free time has been limited. June is gonna be worse. If I can finish even one small project, it will be a miracle.

See ya next time!


Crafting, Creating and Finding Cool Stuff

One of the things I have enjoyed about getting back into D&D has been collecting and crafting various game aids. While none of these are essential for gaming, they all add to the immersion and fun. This article will show off the various items I have found, as well as the first items I crafted myself for our games. And for the guys over on TheMiniaturesPage asking about minis, these are the only 2 minis I have painted as D&D minis. Bother were entered into a local painting competition at Our House Games. A Death Knight and a Dwarven Cleric.

A couple years ago, before we started playing D&D, I found a wood worker online who made cool dice trays. They are square, with cork leather bottoms, and came in a variety of woods, finishes, and cork colors. Unfortunately, this guy seems to have stopped trading, which is a bummer, because I wanted one or two more of his dice trays.

This is the one I bought. Called ‘The Dark Hunt” it is a dark wood with a grey cork. Dice roll so great here. Not super loud, but enough clatter off the edges to know you are rolling dice. There were other super cool color combos, but alas, Iron Archer Gamecraft seems to have slipped away into the ether.

Looking for more custom options, a guy I met on Facebook crafted a trio of dice bowls for me from various woods. These went to my son and his gaming buddies. I may have mentioned these before, but for completeness and for those that are new to the blog, I am sharing them again. My son and his buddies play a lot of 40K, so these were crafted to include the icon of their favorite army. Dark Angels, Necrons and Blood Angels.  They turned out amazing, and all three get plenty of use. The DA bowl was often on the table while we played D&D as a secondary dice tray/bowl.

While waiting for my buddy to turn more bowls, I found a really cool dice tray made of leather on Etsy. My daughter plays with another group as well as our family games, and travels to play with her other group. When I found this portable tray, I knew I had to get it for her. It’s a perfect tray for D&D. Portable, leather, and rolls up like a scroll case. It just looks like it belongs in a fantasy RPG. You can find it here:

In all the games I’ve played that used dice of some sort, I always utilized a time-out for bad dice. Sit it aside, or load it back in the box until next week. Heck, I’ve even launched a really bad die out the side door of a game store. Said door opened onto a road so that bad die could end its useless existence. Way too many 1s on that little turd. While playing 40K I all-too-often simply bought a new box of D6s to continue a game. My dice rolling is notoriously bad, and I needed something better for D&D. Besides, a nice set of polyhedral dice isn’t something to throw away. I needed a dice jail. A real dice jail. Which I also found on Etsy. Now this was before I had a 3D printer, and the jails I picked up are most defiantly 3D printed. Still, for anyone sans printer, this is a viable option. While this is what I bought here: there are other options out there. I like these because they are portable, so I have two, one for home games and one my daughter takes on her itinerant gaming journeys. Bad dice beware, we have a place for you.

Since I was the only one familiar with the Forgotten Realms, I found a high-resolution image of the Sword Coast the WOTC has here and had it printed and laminated. I think I printed it 24”x36”, so it is good size. I have bought a few Mike Schley maps (he produces official Wizards of the Coast art) and had those printed larger as well. I find it helpful to have a bigger map than what is included in the adventure modules. You can find Mike’s amazing art here.

While perusing one of the many gaming-related groups and Facebook pages I am part of, I saw someone who had a skull they used for bloodies coins in a one-shot game. The coins were bought with real cash that was donated to a charity after the game. The coins were purchased and used to roll with advantage during the game. In D&D, rolling with advantage means you roll two d20s for an attack or save and use the higher roll. Pretty nifty. However, in that game, every coin bought and used gave the DM a coin to spend on advantage for the bad guys. In the review he wrote, the players loved it. The skull was a plastic Halloween decoration he opened up and then covered with craft paper to give it the look of being covered in desiccated skin. A little grewsome. A lot cool. And I knew I needed on. I’ve gone over it before on this blog, so here is one quick picture of my skull that holds what I call ‘coins of destiny’ that work in a similar fashion. Use them at your own risk.

Skulley the skull bowl

Which reminds me, I bought these coins off Amazon to fill my skull with: here

Heavy, with a shiny gold tone, they work great for my need. There is another pack from the same company that has small denomination coins. Kind of cool for a game prop.

After more than a few gaming sessions, we noticed the hit point section of the character sheets were getting worn through from erasing. While I guess we could just print new sheets, I like the look of a well-used form at the table. Thinking about it some, I decided to get some small game diary books for them to use. They could make notes of important NPCs, traps, code words, or whatever they needed, and also keep track of HPs in the book. There are very nice examples on Etsy, but I wanted something a little less expensive, and home crafted.

Heading to my local craft store, Hobby Lobby, I perused the aisles looking for something that would work. I found small drawing books, blank pages of a cream white heavy paper. A three pack was only like $10 regular price, on sale for $5 I believe. Then I picked up two sheets of dyed and finished leather (also on sale), some rivets and buckles. Then a second trip was in order for a bit more leather to actually make the straps for closures. Doing this on the cheap meant I did not buy the cobra or python or caiman skins. As cool as those were, using fancy leather would have priced this craft into “just buy one off Etsy”. Which defeats the whole crafting for gaming idea.

Adding a can of 3M 77 spray adhesive, I was all set. The leather was nearly a perfect fit. Though it could have been slightly bigger, to give more overlap and get better glue adhesion. Not only was I going cheap on this, I was lazy, too. No fancy stitching for this guy. Let’s just glue the leather to the books. I laid the book on the leather, centered it, and marked the edges with a scratch awl.

 After some consideration on corners (I didn’t do well, so figure this out yourself. It can’t be any worse than mine were…) I made some cuts and then sprayed the leather with the 3M spray. Be careful! It sticks really, really well… Lay the book along the marks, and press into place. I overlapped the edges and used the smooth end of a screwdriver to burnish them over. See? Cheap. There is a nifty tool for burnishing/rolling edges of leather that I chose not to buy.

With the leather stuck to the covers, I pulled out a leather hole punch from my son’s leather working tools. This is a pretty invaluable tool, though rather expensive. I used the smallest punch to put four holes in both front and back covers, then set the smallest rivets I had. I did use the offcuts to make backers for the rivets since the sketchbooks have paper covers. I figured this would give a little more strength.

With the leather on, and rivets set, it was time to figure out the buckles. I laid them out and decided which buckle to use with which book. One has two straps, the other has one. The extra leather I picked up to make the straps with was a cheap pack of dyed scraps. Next time I am spending a little more to get the right colors. These are a trial run, and really designed to be disposable at some point. After cutting the straps out, I punched some more holes using the awl for some, since the hole punch didn’t reach. Setting more rivets attached the straps and the buckles.

While these are by no means perfect, they look a little better than plain notebooks. Hobby Lobby here in the States has several drawing books with leather covers. If you are looking for something that is less work and don’t mind the expense, they are definitely an option. Or search Etsy, there are plenty there.

For a one shot I ran for my daughter’s group, I created some healing potions. I had seen these on Etsy and other places, but I needed 10 or so, and that made buying them cost prohibitive. For a while I thought I was going to have to give up on the idea because I couldn’t find inexpensive d4s. In D&D, a healing potion allows you to roll a number of d4s to regain hit points. My plan was to put two to ten d4s in each bottle, enough to roll for a healing, greater healing and superior healing or supreme healing potions. The bottles I found (I was on a time crunch) didn’t allow 10 d4s to fit. I also found some corks to cork the bottles with, though as purchased from Michael’s the bottles had a plastic lid covered with a cute little piece of fabric tied on. I can’t link the bottles, since they don’t appear on the Michael’s site. The dice had to be ordered online because Chessex dice (the ones I love) were just too much for something I was giving away. eBay had a 50 pack for around $10 shipped. ($13 now, I just ordered more.) These were a big hit, all of the kids thought they were cool, and were surprised they got to keep them.

The last items are some in game items. I was reading on a D&D website called The Alexandrian and was browsing all his tips for dungeon masters. One of the things he does is makes printed “books” to give his players when they encounter in game books. Instead of saying “you found a book” and proceeding to describe it and what it might have in it, he hands over a printed book. It sounded cool, so I browsed the net for some suitable book covers and other art. I spent some time in Paint 3D (I think) and made the covers into a two-cover spread, filling as much of a page as I could. If there were words or unusable marks on (watermarks mostly) I used one of the tools in the program to cover the markings with a swatch of the cover. These are not perfect by any means, and I can’t link for copyright reasons, but I hope you get the idea. Then I went through the adventure we were on and looked through it for any books they might find. Creating these, and a couple more, I did some brief writeups in a word document. Making them two columns in landscape mode, I was able to craft simple books. If I needed more pages, I made those as a separate document. I have access to a color printer, so I played around with ink colors and fonts, and drew some crude sketch maps.

If you do your own, go wild. Provide as much or as little info as you want. In one book, I told them it was written in an unknown language, and only listed the few things they could read. I prepared another page of the info they can find if they get the book deciphered. This is actually kind of fun, and gave me a nice outlet for writing and dreaming.

With everything ready, I bought some heavy linen paper to print these on. I laid them out and did a couple test prints on plain paper to make sure orientation was correct. Then I loaded up the fancy paper and went to town. After printing, I trimmed the paper back to the printed book covers and folded them into books. Cool little player props. Now then can reference their own discoveries and I can give them info that they have to actually read to find out versus me dumping info on them. I have plans for lots more, including the spell books of wizards they take on, and scrolls they find.

So that’s it. They player aids and props I have bought or created so far. Not everyone cares. Some people love it. I’ll probably make more stuff. A chainmail dice bag is absolutely on the to-do list. I think I want a couple ornate candlesticks to put some LED candles on for atmosphere. Anything to put us in the mood to cause carnage somewhere on the Sword Coast south of Waterdeep.

I’ll leave you with this video of the coolest DM’s screen ever being created from wood and silver wire and magnets. A thing of beauty. If any of you are looking for a gift for me for any reason whatsoever, a screen from Wyrmwood would hit the ticket.

Have you crafted or created anything for your gaming? Let me know in the comments what you have created, I am always looking for new inspiration.

BG the DM out