Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Small Scale Woods Terrain Tutorial

As promised, here is a tutorial of how I made the woods terrain pieces for the FPW game. The idea is not original, of course, but I hope it will help gamers who are looking for a step-by-step tutorial.

There are three parts to the terrain piece: the trunks, the canopy, and the foliage.

For canopy I chose to go the easy way and got a pack of Woodland Scenics tree armatures, which are of course expensive but become more affordable if you buy the bulk pack that is not pre-assembled with foliage glued on. It has the advantage of being brown to begin with, and having ready-made bases.

I made the mistake of buying armatures that are too all for mt needs. When cut off at the height I wanted (about an inch) there are not many branches showing. I compensated by gluing the upper part of the armature to the base instead.

For the canopy I used black mounting board. It is important to use black (or at least a dark coloured) mounting board as the coverage with the foliage will not be complete, and any white or light colour, including those on the edge of the mounting board, will show through if not covered.

I cut our various roughly oval or round shapes.

Using hot glue, I then glued the trunks to the bottom of the canopy. I figured I need around eight trunks for a large-sized piece to look convincing. Note the black edge of the card.

Then comes the foliage. Again, I turned to Woodland Scenics. You want the Foliage Clusters and not the looser types of clump foliage. These are denser and can be applied in large pieces, making the next step much easier. I used two colours to give a more natural look.

Using hot glue, I glued patches of the foliage to the top of the canopy piece, making sure that I cover the edges of the piece too.

And here is the finished product, with a base of 10mm Prussian infantry posing next to it.

At this scale the terrain will work with 6mm, 10mm, 15mm, and at a stretch even 20mm.

I hope to post a tutorial on how I made islands for the WW2 Pacific theatre naval project Martin has started. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 18, 2017

WWII naval action off Guadalcanal

On Sunday I hosted a game for FG, Wahj and Arjun where we did a WWII naval scenario off Cape Esperance, Guadalcanal and I now have the pleasure of providing my first contribution to this blog. We used Victory at Sea rules with it's scenario with some slight amendments in the form of a slightly reduced US fleet size but which still outnumbered the Japanese. I had always been enthralled with GHQ's 1/2400 naval miniatures and had always wanted to field a game with them so this game was some time in planning. This was also a good opportunity to see how the rules played out.

This scenario is of both US and Japanese fleets consisting a mix of cruisers and destroyers  setting out to clear opposing forces off Cape Esperance at Guadalcanal with Wahj and FG commanding the Japanese forces and Arjun and myself, the US. The Japanese fleet started in the south easterly heading (bottom of picture) with the US heading in a westerly heading. 

The opposing fleet on a collision course with destiny (looking  east)

Lead elements of the Japanese fleet: Kagero class destroyer (front) and a Furutaka class cruiser (back) passing some rain squalls.  

Lead elements of the US fleet with a New Orleans class cruiser in the lead.

With the Japanese team winning the initiative, they opted to diverge their fleet into two separate flanks, turning port and starboard outwards, which was followed on by the US commanders in multi-turn moves between both forces. No one wanted to be caught at full beam between two enemy ships!

The opposing fleets diverge to the flanks (looking west).

The fleet maneuvers consisted of Arjun performing a dicey slice through maneuver, perhaps in an attempt to awe the Japanese with his brilliant seamanship. I attempted to bring up the rear elements by ordering full flank speed to narrow the distance and bring the guns into range. 

The "hard to achieve" slice through manoeuvre they don't teach you at the Naval Academy.

The Japanese however were not having any of it. With them gaining the initiative again, they opted to teach the American dogs a lesson with an opening salvo. 

The smoke screen
A lead Kagero class destroyer on the port (left) flank commanded by Wahj also created smoke as part of a special action to screen her accompanying vessel. The engagement ensued into a slugfest with both forces trading surface volleys that at best, created some token damage and at worst, caused a thorough drenching of a few chagrinned sailors sun tanning on deck.


The Japanese then turned the tide when FG and Wahj brought their superior torpedoes into play. With their high attack and damage dice numbers they soon made short work of two US cruisers which were sunk in quick succession only for the loss of one Japanese destroyer which honourably gave its life for providing screening protection.

With the lost of the two cruisers, the US commanders, after concluding that the loss of a third cruiser was unacceptable and that Cape Esperance was not sufficiently safe anymore, beat a hasty retreat to the South East. It was unanimously agreed that the Marines on the island's air strip had the right stuff to endure yet another day of Japanese naval bombardment (Marines! You Can Do It!). An after action report discussion yielded a couple of observations.
1. The US fleet was not using the destroyers effectively as a screening force.
2. The US fleet did not perform any evasive actions allowed under the movement phase to mitigate the torpedo risk.
3. The US destroyers could have used smoke to effectively screen the cruisers.
4. The US destroyers should have utilised its "agile" special trait to maneuver close enough for a torpedo shot. In hindsight since this was a one shot weapon, we were probably waiting for the right moment. 
5. The US fleet despite its slight numerical advantage were outgunned at close range.
6. I will probably end up making some appropriate torpedo markers 
Nevertheless this first run was enough to give me some familiarity of the gameplay and will add to my understanding when I go through the rules again.  With the conclusion of the tabletop hostilities, the opposing commanders adjourned to the sitting room to continue with our beer and to discuss various topics such as the World of Warships online game, our fitness and dietary regimes, Aamir Khan, Ryan Gosling as Young Hercules, "You messed with the wrong guy" genre movies and how to avoid corporate tax by declaring your company as a charitable organisation.


Saturday, December 09, 2017

10mm Franco-Prussian War terrain

While I haven't do doing much wargaming this past year, I have been making purchases and making terrain for wargaming. What you see in the photo above is the result.

The playing surface is a 6' x 4' mat from Deep Cut Studios, with 15cm grids. I chose this primarily to use with the To The Last Gaiter Button rules, but also with the hope of finding a set of grid-based Napoleonic rules to use - if you have any suggestion, do let me know in the comments!

The woods are made using Woodland Scenics tree trunks and clump foliage, hot glued to black mounting board. I will post a tutorial on how I made these another day.

The village/town pieces are made using the buildings from Perry Miniatures' Travel Battle game, which are sold separately in sprues - they are closer to 6mm in scale, but look effective with 10mm figurines too. They are based on pre-textured paper, again from Woodland Scenics, which was glued to plasti-cards for sturdiness.

The swamps are just green transparencies cut into irregular shapes, with tufts applied.

Elevation is created by placing books under the mat.

Last but not least, the figurines were previously unceremoniously dumped into tins after our campaign several years back - I magnetised their bases and organised them into tins according to nationality and type.

We are ready for some FPW games.

A closer view, showing the comparative scales of the figurines and the buildings.

A low-angle view, showing the ridge created by books.

A closer view of a swamp terrain piece. I like how the 'grass' is darker nearer its bottom.

I need a lot of woods terrain pieces, I think; but while I was making more just now I cut my finger badly, which means no more handicraft for the weekend.

The fact that books have to be placed under the mat to create elevation means that the table cannot be set up in advance - in TTLGB the players spend points to place terrain as part of the game, which means less playing time. To overcome this I think I will instead play through the scenarios provided in the 1870 Grand Tactical Rules book.

The FPW was one of the 'bucket list' periods I just had to play, and I spent quite a bit to have them painted, so I am pretty happy that the new products on the market (the gridded mats from Deep Cut Studios, presumably created for To the Strongest!, and the Perry Travel Battle buildings created just for their game) made it easier for me to revisit the period with better-looking terrain.

Now I can only hope that Plastic Soldier Company release some Arabs and Turks under their Great War system so I can do my other bucket list period: The Arab Revolt...

Monday, December 04, 2017

Ogre and nostalgia weekend

Fg, wahj, Martin and I managed to get together on Sunday for a game. It's been quite a while since we all managed to meet up, so we wanted to play something light - the aim of the session was more to catch up than to play, after all.

Fg dug up the Ogre box set he backed several years back. Wahj and I played the game countless times back in the 80s, so we thought it would be easy to pick the rules up again. We took the conventional forces and tried to stop the two Mk III Ogres commanded by fg and Martin (the 'God of War' and the 'Dog of Raw', respectively). Our brilliantly set-up howitzer defence managed to score all of one hit on the Ogres during the course of the game, before they we crushed by the threads of the behemoths.

The game was archetypally 80s, down to the type of units represented in the game - they all had a very 'Cold War' feel to them (well, except for the Ogres...).

The game was short, and much of the session was spent watching YouTube videos of Singapore from the 80s (there are surprisingly quite a number of videos of street scenes of Singapore taken by both tourists and public transport geeks), listening to 80s music, talking about fitness (if you remember the 80s, then you are at the age when health and fitness should concern you), eating chips and drinking mead and unsweetened decaffeinated iced tea (it's a cheat day for all of us), giving of gifts (of books and mooncake tins), and sharing what's been going on in our lives in the past few months.

Gaming-wise it wasn't a very "productive" afternoon, but it was a lot of fun. I guess the older you get, the more you appreciate friends, games, and music from your youth.

Martin has promised us a naval game at his place in two weeks, which gave me the impetus to continue work on the Brigade Models harbour terrain which I bought many years back but never completed work on. My original plan of recreating the island fortress of Kusadasi proved too ambitious for my modeling skills, and I have settled for a more modest harbour guarded by a fort, modeled loosely on Sigacik, which I had the chance to visit a few years ago.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Lone Wolf

I apologise to my readers for the long absence, but these days most of my gaming is RPGing, which isn't really a gaming form which I think translates well to a blog format.

Specifically, I have been running a Lone Wolf Adventure Game campaign since October. The campaign has been in the works since I learned the news of Joe Dever's death last year, and it was my plan to commemorate the first anniversary of his death by keeping the Lone Wolf legacy alive.

Even though I did not play through all (or indeed many) of the original gamebook series, the richness and depth of the whole setting - Kai lords, the Darklords, Magnamund with its many nations and varied geography - were an inspiration to me as a young gamemaster. Over the years I have returned to and set my campaign in Magnamund - it is a testament to the popularity of the works of Joe Dever that the setting has incarnated in several forms after the original gamebook series.

The latest official version of the Lone Wolf RPG is Cubicle 7's Lone Wolf Adventure Game, which I am using for my current campaign. The rules follow those of the original gamebooks system closely, and are therefore a little simplistic compared to the other popular fantasy RPG systems. The combat system is also likewise simplistic, and in some ways flawed (with the correct traits, a character in plate armour and holding a great shield is virtually invulnerable), but can be epic, with a few mooks falling to the heroes every combat round.

But what makes Lone Wolf special is not the rules, but the narrative. Everything was unashamedly epic. Our hero traveled vast distances to exotic realms on his quests, meeting allies and enemies with very different powers from those of the Kai, and of course, the fate of the whole world rested on the outcomes of his every action.

As a game master, I can only hope that my campaign gives my players an experience that approaches that I had playing the gamebooks as a teenager.

Thank you, Mr Dever.

Friday, October 13, 2017

(Not) Dice of Rolling

One of the problems when playing a game that requires polyhedral dice (i.e. most RPGs) with newbies is that they often have difficulty telling the dice apart - the d8 and d10 especially.

This isn't helped by the fact that almost all polyhedral dice are sold in sets of identical colour, so you can't just say: roll the green die or whatever.

Also, these sets are usually sold in sets of one die of each type, which can be a bother if you need more of one type but not the others.

The solution to this is obvious in retrospect, but as with most great inventions someone had to be the first to do it. That someone is Dice of Rolling.

The original Dice of Rolling set comes with 29 dice in a custom dice bag. I had considered getting a set but unfortunately they do not ship outside the US.

Well, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... I decided to make my own set with The Dice Shop Online's range of polyhedrals. My configuration is different from the original (which is designed for D&D 5E), and is tailored with the game systems that I run in mind.

I designed the set to be split into two equal sets (minus the d00, which is usually only used by the GM or on special occasions like rolling on tables), which when shared one set per two players be sufficient for a group of four.

Each set will have at least one of each type of die. The extra d6 are for Savage Worlds, where all player characters roll a d6 "Wild Die" with their trait tests and attack rolls, and also for Dragon Age, where rolls are made with 3d6, one of which (the Dragon Die) has to be a different colour from the other two, hence the orange and red dice.

The extra d10s are for Dragon Warriors, where magical attacks and evasion are rolled with 2d10 instead of d20; they are green because in the Lone Wolf Adventure Game only d10s are used, and green is the colour of the Kai!

The d12 is of course the step-child of the polyhedrals, and as I do not GM D&D 5E, I have no need for two d20 per set.

Now granted these are not Gamescience dice - doing the above in Gamescience will cost at least double of what I have spent here - but I am planning to use them for convention games, where precision isn't as important. My mistake here is that I should have made another set of dice for my own use, so I could have a set just for conventions and not have to pack my dice each time I want to run a game. Well, maybe as GM I should have the ethical duty of using Gamescience dice all the time...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cardboard medieval town

A few weeks ago I was looking to buy something for my RPG use and I found it on the eBay store of a Russian seller. He also carried an extensive range of cardboard buildings; I have previously bought a few of the Eastern European buildings from the 1/87 range for my WW2 project and was quite impressed by the design and look of the buildings, so I decided to buy a pack of their 1/72 medieval walls in case I ever needed some for a siege scenario for my RPG or wargaming.

After I assembled the wall pack, I was blown away. The sections are designed to articulate with each other like plate armour to allow the user to form curved wall sections. I wanted more. I bought nine more packs, all of which I assembled over the weekend. The result is the scene above.

The buildings have a generic Western European look, and are closer to 25mm than 28mm. This means that if you plan to use them for wargaming, they will look good and serve well as markers for built-up areas, but their interiors are too small to fight in. I think they will be useful in a skirmish game, where the distinct character of each building can be used as part of the victory conditions - for example, one player may be required to steal a horse from the stables, while another has to take the relic kept in the chapel.

The card is thick, fully coloured on both sides, and in some cases also embossed to give texture. Windows and archways punch out, and doors are hinged. Some additional bits like carts are also provided, as are 2D cardboard figures.

Stables shown with HO scale horses.

The smithy comes with a cardboard anvil and bucket of water!

Some of the buildings feature walls or roofs that can be opened to display the interior - as you can see, the details on the inside can be quite stunning.

Here are a couple of shots of the inside of the walls. As you can see, there is a parapet when you can place figurines.

I also would like to draw attention to the Deep Cut Studio mat which I bought through Big Red Bat. This is the Plans design with 20cm grid, which I bought to use with the To the Last Gaiter Button FPW rules. The grids are inconspicuous enough for the mat to be used for other games, and I think this will become my default gaming mat over the flocked grass mat I have been using for years.

The only down side to all this is that once assembled they take up a lot of storage space. I may have to seriously consider taking them down and packing them flat if I don't plan to use them for a while...

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Recreating the Dragon Warriors cover in miniatures

Dragon Warriors was the first full-fledged RPG I GM'd, and when it was re-released in a hardcover in 2009, I bought a copy and started GMing more or less regularly for a while.

The cover art was by Jon Hodgson, and featured four adventurers from the four original character classes in the game: Knight, Barbarian, Mystic, and Sorcerer.

Art by Jon Hodgson
The cover is also an Easter egg/tribute to the cover of the original paperback version of the book - as you can see the knight from the original book didn't get further into the dungeon...

The new cover art is a better fit for the mood of the game.

When I bought a fighter figure for my Lone Wolf game, I noticed that he bore a resemblance to the knight on the cover art. This gave me an idea and after some googling I decided I would try to recreate the party on the cover in miniatures.

This was what I started with.

The knight figure is less heavily-armoured than the cover version, but the flipped-up visor and his face were a good match and I wasn't prepared to do any heavy conversion like a body-swap. I had to replace his round shield with a plastic heater shield.

The barbarian figure is from Northstar's Frostgrave range and came in a pack with a thief figure (not-Fafhrd and not-Gray Mouser). The dress isn't a 100% match, but at least he wears a top - most 28mm barbarian figures are topless and wield a two-handed axe. I had to give his some facial hair with putty - it's amazing how much manlier it made him. I also had to give him bigger shoes - the original figure had tiny feet. The arm band matches that of the art and is a bonus.

The mystic figure is also from Reaper - I had to restyle his hair to a more bowl-cut look of the original guy. The sorcerer is also from Reaper, and did not require any conversion.

This was what I ended up with.

I think they will make a nice pregenerated party for a convention game.