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!


A Campaign World in D&D

When I stopped play Dungeons & Dragons around 1991, I left it all behind for many years, including my favorite campaign setting. I didn’t read any novels. I didn’t flip through books at the local game store. There wasn’t any internet to follow a labyrinthian wiki full of info pulled from 35 years of published material. The Forgotten Realms, at least for me, was stuck in 1357 Dale Reckoning (DR). With great fondness, I remembered devouring the campaign books from the legendary Grey Box and pouring over the impressive maps that were included.

When I next stepped foot into the Realms, I was smashed with great confusion and felt quite lost. It was about five years on and I was in the Army. One of my buddies had a book set in the Realms called Spellfire which I borrowed. Written by the actual creator of the Forgotten Realms setting, I found the book to be awful[1]. To be fair, every book this particular buddy had was awful, but Spellfire was a particularly bad book. Save Elminster, nothing was really familiar. I won’t go into details, but my fond memories were somewhat damaged. I stayed away for a few more years, though I occasionally dug the Grey Box out of storage to flip pages and read a bit.

A few years later I found a book called Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad. If Spellfire confused me, this book sent me reeling. Gods walking the land? Deities murdered? The Spellplague? What in Ed’s mindless wanderings was going on?

I get that timelines must continue, and no setting should stagnant in a single year. This though? Wow. It was a bit too much. I admit to laziness. I didn’t read a few more books. Or pay attention that Crucible was actually the 5th book in a series. What I did read was enough to cause me to protect my fond memories, and try to keep them untarnished by what I perceived as garbage. I wasn’t playing D&D anyways, so I didn’t need to catch up. I was busy enough diving into Warhammer (Fantasy and 40K) and then into historical wargaming. Plus, I didn’t know a soul that even played an RPG.

Through a few moves, college, marriage, and kids, I had a box of D&D books and boxed sets carefully stashed. It followed me everywhere. Generally, it sat in a storage unit, since my college and first married apartments were so small. Eventually I had room to finally bring that precious box home. Sometime around 2004 (best guess) a 40K buddy from Utah offered to buy a bunch of game stuff I wasn’t using. And like an idiot, I sold him most of my D&D books. I held onto the Grey Box, a Forgotten Realms book from 2nd Ed, and the Ravenloft module. About six months later, I deeply regretted the sale, even though I still wasn’t playing. Over the next few years I repurchased a couple of the books I enjoyed the most including the Complete Fighter’s Manual and the Castle Guide.

Sometime after 2007 I was the youth group leader at my church and several of the teen boys played D&D. They were playing D&D 3.5, even though 4th Ed had been released. They invited me to join their campaign, but a busy job and two young children kept me out. Plus, when we chatted about the game, there were bits of 3.5 that I didn’t care for. It seemed a bit confusing, there were too many rule books, and it didn’t feel right to me. I was listening to a D&D podcast at the time, whose name has slipped into the abyss of my brain[2], that used 3.5 rules. Even listening to others play, there were bits about the rules that I didn’t like. To be honest, though, I can’t remember exactly what turned my off to 3rd and 3.5 editions. I just didn’t like the feel.

As I have mentioned, when my son was about 12 or 13, I bought the 2nd Ed Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Player’s Handbook, and a semi-complete Monstrous Compendium. I offered to DM for him and his friends, but he turned me down. I found the Drunks & Dragons D&D podcast by then, and was listening to that. Plus, one or two others. Also lost to my useless brain. I can remember 80s songs and artists like nothing. Podcasts I really enjoyed? Nope.

When my finally decided to play, urged on by two friends at school, 5th Edition was in full swing. He asked for the Player’s handbook and dice, which I was super happy to buy despite the steep increase in prices since I last bought D&D books retail. I paged through the PH and was pretty excited by the layout, character design and options, and the game play. 5th Ed seemed solid, and given a chance, I would definitely play. He got a few more books, including the awesome Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and a DMs guide.

 It was several more years before I got a chance to play, as I have written about previously. When I did, I headed straight back to the Forgotten Realms. There was no question, I loved the Realms, and if I played, it was going to be there. Obviously Wizards of the Coast are also fans of the Realms, as nearly every adventure module is set in the Realms. Even when my son picked Ghosts of Saltmarsh as the campaign we would play as a family, I ported the adventures over to the Realms. For those not in the know, the adventures in GoS are classic adventures from previous editions. And, if I am not mistaken, all set in the world of Greyhawk. My D&D is in the Forgotten Realms, and always will be.

Before any fans of Greyhawk get nasty, I did actually own the Greyhawk box many moons ago. I did read about that setting, but it wasn’t for me. I sold the box to my gaming buddy, and did not regret it. I know, its the founding campaign setting for D&D, I just like the Realms more.

Looking at the timeline for D&D, I found that we had leapt over a hundred years into the future. It took a bit of research to catch up, mostly on the humongous Forgotten Realms wiki here. Many kind souls and fans of the Realms have copied page after page from many campaign books, modules, and novels. Doing research for my campaign, I spent a lot of time deep diving through that wiki. Many references came from the 3rd and 4th Ed campaign guides to the Realms, and after much though, I finally ordered both of those. Prices were kinda stupid for the 4th Ed book, until I realized I could buy it Print-On-Demand from DriveThruRPG. Brand new, for much less than good condition used books. I found a decent price on the 3rd Ed book a bit later, and now I have the full set, 1st through 5th (if you count the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide). Flipping through the 3rd Ed book, I am sure glad I skipped that edition. They type font is tiny, and pretty hard to read. Maybe its my age, but that type font and size was poorly chosen.

I will use all the books I have to continue to flesh out my campaign. I will use names from all the books for NPCs, and will definitely create descendants from important individuals from the past 150 years or so. This is world-building on a scale I can’t compete with on my own. Ed Greenwood is one of the top world builders in my opinion. Only Tolkien does it better. There is detail stacked on detail. Certain regions have far more information that other areas, but there is so much to use. I fan boy over the Forgotten Realms, and I am not ashamed.

Our current campaign takes place in and around Daggerford on the Sword Coast. From the small village of Oakdale, to the ducal seat in Daggerford, and out to the coast past the tiny hamlet of Bludhom, the Four, and an occasional friend or two, roam through an area I am attempting to detail and populate. Twenty-two of the villages and hamlets have at least the number of buildings and residents, the principal products, and any important NPCs detailed. So far, my players haven’t really explored the area, as their services have been in constant demand. Another few weeks of campaigning, and they should earn themselves a few days’ rest.

A blog is no place to go into great detail about the Forgotten Realms. Suffice it to say that it is a vast continent of blistering sand deserts, frozen tundra, soaring mountains and trackless seas. And decades of gaming to be had. Now that I have shared my favorite place to play D&D, what is yours? The Realms are not the only place to be published, and by far are not the only place to be created by Dungeon Masters around our own campaign world. Share your favorites in the comments, I am always interested in the worlds people play in.

BG out

[1] The other terrible series I borrowed was the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy based on the Star Wars universe. It was literally so bad I didn’t read another SW book for more than a decade.

[2] I listened to 200+ episodes of that podcast, and it really bothers me that I can’t remember what it was. I can’t even remember the players or characters anymore. I don’t recall any head trauma that would have led to completely losing nearly every memory of that podcast, but maybe I don’t remember the injury either. I downloaded the podcast and used a Sansa Fuse mp3 player to listen to it at work. I was listening to the What Would Patton Do podcast at the same time. Which I distinctly remember. Seriously, it bothers me that I can’t remember…