Sunday, 29 July 2012

What I did on my holiday...

Traveling Light

Every summer, we try to take our young family away for one or two week's holiday.  There have been one or two times where this didn't happen, typically because of great uncertainty over job security and the consequent reluctance to spend any money.  However, this wasn't such a year and we've just returned from 2 excellent weeks vacation in Dumfries and Galloway.

I've always tried to take some model-making stuff with me on long holidays.  There's always some quiet time at some point in the day - maybe after the children are in bed in the evening or perhaps after breakfast but before going out for the day.  I like to make use of these interludes to keep up my hobby.

In the past, I've taken primed miniatures and paints, but this hasn't worked very well.  The long(ish) drying times mean that the setup cannot be moved quickly, the models are difficult to pack safely and taking a small range of paints means that I always find I'm missing one that I really need.  Instead, I've taken to building card vehicles for ATZ or similar games.

The Model Pack

So, here's my holiday model-making travel setup.  It all fits in an A4 box that was designed for scrapbooking.  Actually, I use a lot of these boxes (and their A5, A6 and "peel off sticker box" cousins) for storing models as well, but that's not really relevant right now.

On the way out, the kit holds the tools I'll need.  Most important are the knife, steel ruler, scribe and glue.  A few clamps can be useful and a black marker or felt pen for edging is pretty much essential too.  I've also included some offcuts of foamcore, to use as stiffeners for vehicles with large, flat sides or underbellies.

Finally, I include a number of card sheets with the desired models printed on them.  Obviously these need to be prepared before leaving on holiday, but that's not too onerous a task.

The Models

This year I thought that I'd build some military vehicles from the Ebbles' "Convoy" and "Patrol" sets (the contents of the latter now appear to be sold separately as the APV and GPV).  These have been on my wish list for some time as they would be useful for playing any of the military scenarios from ATZ: Haven.  I also took a small assortment of models from the old Mayhem vehicle collection and other WorldWorks kits.

So, how did it go?  I started by carefully cutting out the first sheet for one of the Convoy trucks.  Immediately I discovered that I hadn't measured the foamcore offcuts I had with me; all were too narrow for this big boy.  Argh!  Bang goes my idea for building all the transport vehicles I had intended...

Next up was a sheet with 3 motorcycles on it.  These are large touring bikes, I think, rather than trail bikes or mopeds.  The builds were surprisingly straightforward, if a little tedious due to the number of pieces for each bike and the small size of the components.  A bonus was that the chassis is exactly the right size to be wrapped around a small piece of 5mm foamcore for extra rigidity.  Surely this is just fortuitous; WorldWorks would never have thought to design it that way - or would they?  My respect for those guys is always growing.

The custom-painted compact car was an easy model to make.  I've done a number of the same shape before in different colours and the only real trick is to cut the front of the vehicle from the body and glue it on separately (otherwise it doesn't fit as well as it might).  Perfect for the aspiring boy racer.

The van is one of the easiest WorldWorks vehicles to make (only the bus is simpler, I think), although the finished model looks a bit small when compared with the WWG cars.  This one is in the livery of some touring troupe of do-gooders called the "B team".  Anyone ever heard of them?

Last year (or maybe the year before that) I printed a sheet containing a black and a white sedan, but never got round to building them.  This year I thought I should do so.  Now, the WorldWorks sedans are a bit pidgeon-toed if built "out of the box", as the wheels align with the slopes at the front and rear of the bodywork.  In all apart from my first 2 or 3 builds of this kit, I've made some adaptations to allow all the wheels to sit parallel with each other.
This modification does require the use of fully-round wheels rather than the half-round ones that come by default.  Somewhere I have an entire A4 sheet of such wheels, edited from the original by doubling the length of the tread on the tyre and adding a full second side.  This sheet should supply more sedan wheels than I'm ever likely to need - but I forgot to include it in the holiday pack.  So for now, these cars have no wheels.

Finally, here are a couple of the Ebbles' GPVs.  These are very frustrating models.  They mostly fit together very well, but I hate the wheel arches!  The first GPV I made from the bottom up; the wheel arches were fitted into the body shell before the front and back of the vehicle were attached.  This was a bit fiddly and I wasn't entirely happy with it.

For the second GPV, I changed my approach and fitted the wheel arches, the front and the back panels to the upper body before attaching the underside.  Big mistake!  It proved impossible to glue the bottom of this model neatly and the whole construction is warped considerably (one corner of the underside is maybe 2 or 3mm higher than the other three).  Careful placement of the wheels means that an observer probably won't be able to tell, unless they turn the model over and look at its belly.  Still, I know - and now so do you.

Returning Home

The model box was padded with some spare socks to stop everything rattling about for the return journey, so it all arrived safely.  I'm not sure that I'd want to take my travel pack with me if I was flying, though.  Even if the constructed kits didn't get damaged with rough handling, the sharp knife and bottle of liquid might just make airport security a bit too interested.  Still, for a car journey this works just fine and I made up some useful models for which I wouldn't have found time otherwise.

There's another part to the sorry tale of the military vehicles.  On my return home, I compared my 2 new GPVs against the 2 I had already made.  As you can see from the picture above, the earlier one is in a different colour scheme from the recently-built model.  Which means that my existing 2 GPVs and 1 APV are not the same as all the Convoy and Patrol stuff I printed out just before my holiday.  I should have checked first.  Bother.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

What's in the Box? Cargoes for Starships.


The Free Trader "Peregrine"
A few months ago, I described someone else's idea for adding colour to Full Thrust or similar games that involve miniature starships: Damage Control to the Disco Lounge.  The table presented there adds "non-critical" damage to spacecraft and this gives the players something of a feel for the lifestyles of the crews under their command, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek!
This is all very well for military ships, but it doesn't work for civilian vessels; too many of the non-critical hits aren't really appropriate.  In most of the games of Full Thrust I have played, freighters have been simple targets without any real sense of personality.  This article attempts to redress the balance.


Every freighter or passenger ship will have space - probably a lot of space - allocated to its cargo.  By the way, I'm not intending to suggest anything pejorative by describing passengers as "cargo"; it's just a convenient term to cover all things that are transported from one place to another.  In Full Thrust, this cargo space is typically divided into 4 or fewer holds ("H" in the Ship Status Display above) or passenger areas ("P").
If the game scenario dictates what the freighter or starliner is carrying then that's simple and the rest of this article will be irrelevant.  However in most games this will not be the case, especially if your playing style is anything like mine.  So what is the merchantman carrying?  Just roll on the appropriate table below to find out!
Firstly, a few notes:
  • It would be tedious to dice for cargoes before a game if there are many vessels involved (convoy, anyone?).  Instead, I roll for the cargo type when/if each hold is destroyed.
  • How do I roll on a table with 17 choices?  Just use a d20 and re-roll any result of 18 or more.  Or pick numbered chits from a cup.  Or invent some more cargoes of your own until the number matches a dice that you do have!
  • I generally assume that a freighter is fully loaded and therefore every hold or passenger deck is occupied.  After all, the owners won't like the idea of the ship traveling empty or partially laden; it's not cost-effective!  If you believe differently then it's easy enough to assign a probability to each hold that it does indeed contain stuff, rather than being empty.
  • A large starship (especially a bulk freighter!) may be carrying the same cargo in all of its holds.  Smaller ships are perhaps more likely to have mixed cargoes, with a different load in each hold.  Again, you'll have to decide for yourself how to model this.

 General Freight

The medium freighter "Lady Godiva"
  1. Agricultural machinery
  2. Soft toys for orphans
  3. Counterfeit Romulan ale
  4. Recreational robots
  5. Wallpaper
  6. Lawnmowers
  7. Desk lamps
  8. Prefab buildings
  9. Tennis balls
  10. Luxury foods
  11. Live square-pigs
  12. Antique books
  13. Tropical survival kits
  14. Rope
  15. Domestic cleaning products
  16. Personal grooming equipment
  17. Medicines
  18. Self-sealing stem bolts

Bulk Freight

The Bulk Freighter: "Empress of Orion"
  1. Ore
  2. Petrochemicals
  3. Refined metal
  4. Grain
  5. Water
  6. Chemicals
  7. Fruit juice
  8. Flour
  9. Coal
  10. Dilithium ore
  11. Wood chips
  12. Cement
  13. Scrap metal
  14. Soy beans
  15. Fertiliser
  16. Gravel


The Starliner "Pride of the Orient"
  1. Tourists
  2. Troops
  3. Convicts
  4. Refugees
  5. Migrants
  6. Political delegation
  7. Businessmen
  8. Theatre troupe
  9. Pilgrims
  10. Slaves/Indentured Workers


Knowing what cargo was destroyed doesn't alter the balance of a game in any way.  However, it certainly helps to flesh out the story.  So, a convoy is attacked - but why are the merchantmen carrying luxury foods?  Is this part of a regular trade run to a well-off world?  Or is it a perk for the despotic warders on a grim prison moon?
If you wish to take this further then you could assign values to each type of cargo, to see how significant the loss is to the owner (beyond the cost of the ships themselves, of course).  Of course, you'll have to decide whether that Political Delegation is a group of corrupt senators on a jaunt (low value?) or whether it's a commission of inquiry sent to investigate wrongdoing in a remote colony (high value?).  Good luck!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Army Showcase: Egyptologists


If you're looking for Pulp entertainment at the movies, there are few films of the genre better known or more entertaining than Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy (1999 version) or their assorted sequels.  There are a number of very nice miniatures available with which to represent this type of action; this article documents my collection.



The Adventurers

These figures are all from Blue Moon Manufacturing's "Things that go bump in the night" range (specifically BMM103 BOX 4 "I JUST DON'T FEEL MY AGE").  They are clearly tomb robbers archaeologists from the 1920s or 1930s.  From left to right:
  • Marion Allen has a torch and a revolver; perfect for exploring monster-infested tombs.
  • Idaho Smith also has a torch and revolver.  No bullwhip, mind - that would be a bit too derivative, wouldn't it now?
  • Henry Orme holds a compass in one hand and a rifle in the other.  Perhaps he's surveying the ground for hidden tombs?  Or looking for lost diamond mines?
  • Evie Grant has a lantern and a book (presumably a tome of forbidden knowledge of some sort.  Or a tourist guide).

The Hunters

A slightly different trio now:
  • Rupert is obviously posh, but it's unclear whether he's another tomb raider or whether he's just in Africa to amuse himself by hunting.  This is another figure from Blue Moon's BMM103 set.
  • Henry Morton and Lady Constance are both dressed in clothes that are faded and torn.  I suspect they set off touring and became stranded at some remote oasis, where they've been living since.  These two miniatures are from Brigade Games (the U.S. company, not to be confused with the U.K's Brigade Models).



 The Diggers

What would an Egyptian adventure be without a bunch of labourers, either to help the bad guys unearth some evil artifact or to die horribly whilst serving the good guys?  Here is my crew: most of them are from Westwind Production's "Gothic Horror" range, though the one 4th from the left (with the odd base) is also from the same Blue Moon BMM103 set as before.

The Bystanders

As you may have gathered by now, the BMM103 boxed set has much of what one needs to run a scenario based on "The Mummy".  Here are another 3 figures from it: a shifty passer-by (thief? spy? pedlar?), a policeman and a terrified, fleeing citizen.


Bad Guys


This is a bunch of ruffians, if ever I saw!  They are obviously not nice guys, but they are versatile enough to play the part of cultists, slavers, hired muscle or just a generic band of brigands as needed.  They recently appeared in this role in day 3 of the Klingon holiday!  The models are mostly from West Wind Productions, though once again there's an interloper.  The 1st figure is from Blue Moon Manufacturing instead...



There's something missing from the above, isn't there?  Ah, I know!  There's no Mummy!  Or Nazis!  I really need a bit more opposition for the good guys; it's all very well to have the minions, but where are the bosses?  Now I'm feeling that this is all incomplete and I'll need to buy and paint some more figures.  As if I didn't have enough to do already!  Bah!
To top it all, I managed to drop this box of miniatures as I was returning them to storage after taking the above photographs.  There are few things more heartbreaking than to see models over which you have spent a lot of effort just piled in a heap on the floor.  I estimate that 2/3 of them had at least some minor paint chips that needed touching up.  At least none were damaged further than that!


Thursday, 5 July 2012

ATZ Event Cards: Part 3

What's Gone Before

Original card style
Just under a month ago, I outlined a project of mine: to create a deck of 54 random event cards for All Things Zombie (ATZ) here.

I posted a brief update a few days later here.  Since then I've done some more work and even though the project is still far from complete, I thought you might like a further progress report.  I'd be most interested in any feedback on either the content or the style of the cards I've designed so far!
Current card style

The Plan

So, here's what I intend to do: if I can design 54 different cards then I can have them made by Artscow or a similar service.  Professionally-printed cards are far better quality than the ones I've made for myself on a home printer!  Why 54?  A standard deck of playing cards is made up of 4 suits of 13 cards and 2 jokers.  (4 * 13) + 2 = 54.

There are several elements to this plan; all need to be completed in order for me to receive a nice, new deck of ATZ event cards:
  1. Create a template design for the cards.  After my earlier posts, there were some good suggestions and examples of several styles for character cards.  These were often based on "Magic: the Gathering" (MtG); indeed I soon discovered that there is a minor industry in producing card editors for this game!  However, although the design templates were a great deal better than my version-1 cards, none of the editors I tried had the flexibility I needed.
    So as to have complete control over the process, I've created a PowerPoint file for my cards.  This document has a master layout that describes a blank slide; all I need to do when creating a card is to add a new slide and fill in the blanks.  When I'm done, the whole document can be "saved as" PNG files in a single action.
  2. Collect 54 random events for ATZ!  As you can see if you download the PowerPoint file (here, if I've not made a mistake), I have 44 cards so far, plus a possible back for the deck.  Of these cards, 18 are lifted from the original ATZ rules, though there are a few changes to the wording.  Some of the remaining cards are complete and most of the remainder just want a picture.  One or two of the latest cards are simple titles at the moment; I haven't yet come up with game rules for them.
    Note that most of the cards I am proposing have not been tried in a real game of ATZ; it is entirely possible that some of them are confusing or even unworkable!
  3. Upload all the cards to Artscow and pay them to print the deck.  This shouldn't be a problem; I've used them before to print my Fate deck for The Rules with No Name (see The Shootout at Big Whiskey for a picture of some of those cards).  As long as the images uploaded are at least 750x1050 pixels in size (and in that exact proportion of 1:1.4) then it's a relatively simple matter to create such a project.  If the image proportions are different then it's more complicated - but I knew that already and ensured that my PowerPoint template has the correct aspect ratio.


Right now, I'm working on Part 2; it's more than 50% complete.   I still need 10 more complete unique random events, plus the descriptions for one or two more and the pictures for 20 or so partially-complete cards.  But I'm getting there...

For anyone who would like to review my work so far (please do!), the PowerPoint document can be downloaded here.

Before anyone asks: yes, I have thought about whether my deck could be made available for others to purchase from Artscow.  In principle I would be very happy to permit this, but it might depend on the copyright holders.  I'm not a lawyer, but both the original ATZ event descriptions and the various images I'm using are not my own creations.  Is anyone reading this an expert on copyright law and able to advise?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

What's on the Workbench: July 2012

 The Mess

I've not been doing much painting recently and stuff is beginning to pile up on my workbench.  It really needs to be tidied up properly, but I haven't managed to muster enough enthusiasm for that.  How many of us are scrupulously tidy and how many let things get out of hand?  I don't know, but this is a snapshot of the items on which I'm working just now.

Here's a large collection of undercoated figures, with flesh and eyes painted.
  • At the front are 10 Neanderthals from Primaeval Designs.  These are destined for use with "Adventures in the Lost Lands", possibly as player characters but more likely as encounters.
  • Behind are a couple of dozen Dark Age Scots from Gripping Beast.  They are part of my starter collection for the Saga rules.  I finished their Viking opponents some months ago, but cannot play the game until the Scots are ready too.
  • Finally, there are 3 Reaper townsfolk on the left; the "jock, chick and nerd" pack from their Chronoscope range.
 Moving along, here's a very recent purchase: a couple of large "not-Klingon" starships from Studio Bergstrom.   I've wanted these for some time, to help flesh out my small fleet of medium-sized "Klingon" ships from Irregular Miniatures.  One of the latter can be seen at the rear right, for colour reference.

Behind the Klingon ships we have some more Reaper figures.
  • Tarzan is at the front (actually the figure is only identified as the "Lord of the Jungle", but we all know who it really is, don't we?).
  • Beside him is a finished model that I haven't yet put away: "Edna the crazy cat lady".  She will be one of the inhabitants of the "Golden Hills" sheltered housing complex in my ATZ campaign; the action is bound to reach that retirement village soon.
  • A pair of children (modern) are at the back.
 The back of the workbench has a mixture of part-completed stuff on which I haven't worked for some time.  It's a real medley; there are several Golgo Island characters, 3 of the 4 Foundry A-team members (I don't have the 4th), a bunch of Mega Minis medieval civilians (for a Robin Hood game or as spectators for a joust).  Also some 6mm French Napoleonic infantry from Ros and Heroics; these are actually finished but have been brought out of storage to act as a colour reference for more of the same.

To the left of the workspace (on top of my paints) are 2 completed cottages for the "Golden Hills" retirement complex.  These are from Stoelzel's Structures, though I have scaled them down to have 6" walls.  I've also added my own wallpaper and flooring and some furniture from various WorldWorks kits, as I found the accessories that came with the kit a bit mixed in quality and scale.

In front of the completed cottages is a part-built one (this is number 3 of the 4 that I plan to make).  The house doesn't have its chimney stack or any of its interior walls (or even the interior windows and doors to correspond with the exterior ones).  However, you can clearly see the different flooring and wallpaper for the 3 rooms it will have.

Finally, behind the cottages are some prehistoric mammals from Primaeval Designs.  There are 2 mammoths, 1 elasmotherium and a bison.  These are so simple to paint that I really should finish them off soon!


So there you have it: what's on Hugh's workbench at the start of July 2012  If I do this again in maybe 3 or 6 months, it'll be telling to see which models haven't progressed any.  I'm sure that some of the stuff near the back hasn't been touched for several years.  Ah, I can't be the only person in the world with good intentions - but all too many real-world distractions!