Monday, June 29, 2015

The Dogs & The Dust Sci-Fi Playtest

Last Month, the club gathered for another playtest of "The Dogs and the Dust," a new sci-fi ruleset under development by fellow club member Mattias. Unfortunately, I forgot to take enough pictures, but this report should give you an idea of what went down.

Game 1
On this field, Mike C. and I fought a battle between his space marines and my ragtag mercenaries (figures provided by Mattias). Three objectives were scattered across the center of the table. The mercs managed to get some of their forces to close in quickly on the objectives.

However, the space marines' slow and steady advance proved to be a wise decision.

Despite concentrated fire, the mercs failed to take down a single marine.

The mercs had some fearsome and powerful creatures on their side, but when it came to blows, the power-armored marines wiped the floors with the undisciplined upstarts.

The mercs were quickly routed and fled without being in serious contention for even one objective. Last time we played TD&TD, ranged combat was very deadly. This time Mattias had tweaked the rules in favor of armor and close combat. The result seemed to move a bit too far in that direction, but the core mechanics of activation and combat was still very solid.

Though the summer campaign might delay it, I think I can speak for most of us in saying that we're looking forward to seeing where Mattias takes the rules next.

Game 2 
On the second table, Michael S.' Rebel 69th Liberators fought a battle with Kevin's Inquisitorial warband. Kevin may have been the new guy at the table, but he showed up with an understanding of the rules that put us all to shame!

Michael opted to write up their battle report in a narrative style. As with my game I unfortunately fell down on the picture taking, but it was a dramatic game. Read on!

Svetlana's 69th Liberators
Colonel ‘Iron Bra’ Svetlana, leader of her unit Svetlana's 69th Liberators, sensed someone or something approaching her command post. She sent members of her traitor legion out to investigate. Her bodyguard Zork Dead Dog went along with other members of her Company Command Squad and one of her veteran troop squads to investigate.

Zork and some warriors went to the right, and Svetlana led the others to the left, holding back just a little as reinforcements. The squad with Zork was also given the objective of going to the top of a tall building a block down to see that was coming and have a good spot to shoot from. 

After going a short distance, they ran into what appeared to be an inquisitorial warband, and they engaged in an exchange of gun fire. 

Zork went into the street in front of the objective and fired some shots. He was than charged by one of the enemy who fought him hand to hand. Even though Zork’s opponent was smaller than him, he seemed to easily match Zork’s strength. Maybe he was a mutant? A couple of more warriors charged in to help, but couldn’t stop the enemy. 

A couple of Svetlana’s warriors gained the objective of the roof. As one kept an eye on the alley behind the building, another went to the front of the building and stated to shoot into the advancing enemy. One opponent was hit about four times, but another enemy went to his aid and seemed to cure the wounds. Possibly psychic powers were at work. 

Some of Svetlana’s veteran troop squad went to the left and engaged in a firefight. During this engagement, three of her warriors fell, including the beastman. After a while both forces disengaged, leaving Svetlana to review the condition of her warriors.

Hope you enjoyed these two battle reports. We're enjoying The Dogs & The Dust and are looking forward to our next opportunity to play it.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dragons Don't Share, But Mike Does!

After three posts about my latest sci-fi terrain, I've got a change of pace today with some fantasy terrain. This batch of ruins is from Reaper's Dragons Don't Share diorama set, which includes these ruins, a very large dragon and six adventurers.

Fellow club member Mike wanted the figures but gave me the ruins, so I wanted to honor his gift by getting this project done right away before it had a chance to fall into the bottomless bin of "upcoming projects." It's a pretty impressive terrain piece -- quite flexible, though that's not always a good thing. The physical material (Reaper's "Bones" PVC plastic) was warped, even it was hard to correct the warp even after soaking it in boiling water and adjusting the shape (the common solution for bent Bones). So I glued it to some hardboard.

Each piece of this kit meets up with the others like a puzzle, so I kept the bases the same size as the terrain sections.

I wanted to add a bit more grit to the surfaces, so after covering it in black gesso, I sprinkled a bit of sand while it was still wet. I flicked some on the sides of some of the walls too. For fast paint jobs that rely on drybrushing, I think more texture is better. You can see some of that here on the largest of the two stair pieces.

Here are the large and small stairs together.

After that, I started with a basecoat of ruddy dark brown, followed by a wet overbrush with Terra Cotta, a drybrush of Trail Tan and a very light drybrush of Bamboo. Except for the mystery red brick color, these were all Delta Ceramcoat craft paints.

I finished it off with patches of ground cover from a static grass mix and some moss from sawdust-based flock. I'm not totally happy with the greenery.

It looks OK, but there are some shaded spots (notably under the large stair section) where I should have left the ground cover off. It may be time to invest in one of those tools that makes the static grass stand up properly.

Of note: the tower section is actually two parts. The interior of the bottom section is nicely detailed even where it meets the top. As a bonus, the top of the tower looks pretty good placed separately on the ground.

All in all, I think Reaper has a fantastic terrain set here. Even those who are critical of the Bones material for smaller minis tend to agree that it's a good material for larger pieces. That is not to say it's perfect, but gluing it to a base helps a lot, and a bit of sand adds some of the grit that PVC terrain may lack.

I really hope they make this kit available in separate pieces. The current package is $75, which is a bit steep for someone who just wants the terrain. Though I will mostly use it for fantasy (Weathertop, perhaps?) it's very versatile. It could easily see use in steampunk settings, virtually any historical European conflict and -- despite its lack of skulls -- this kit wouldn't even be out-of place in the 41st millenium.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More Toybashing: Creepy Crawlers and an Egg Box

I'm back with two more pieces of sci-fi terrain made from old toys and cast-off junk. These started life as a "Creepy Crawlers" molding station and a vintage refrigerator egg box that Josh gave me.
For the egg box, I flipped it over and used the lid as the roof. I used a bunch of Rokenbok pieces both as supports and as flat sections for the floors.

I added some plastic slabs on the sides and roof, plus a few bits from the Pegasus Chemical Plant kit. This kit has become hard to find in the USA and I highly recommend buying it if you can find it. I use pieces from the kit on almost every terrain piece I make.

The end pieces are plastic doors are upgrade pieces from the Sedition Wars game. The ladders are cut from pieces of toy Power City train track.

Here's a look at the original Creepy Crawlers kit. I don't have any in-progress pics of the Creepy Crawlers piece, but here's what it was made from.

I separated the toy from its base to shrink the footprint a bit, then rebuilt it into a sort of forge.

I covered up many of the screw holes with either plaster or round bits of plastic punched from blister pack plastic with a standard paper hole punch.

Except for a small grate and a few other pieces, almost all the added bits are from Mantic Battlezone accessory sprues. This thing just screams Necromunda to me. Though it's finished, I feel that I need to build some kind of gondola or reservoir to hold whatever it dumps out of its bucket.

The egg box building doesn't have quite the same Necromunda look, but it's a nice piece that is perhaps a bit more futuristic. It looks to me like some sort of chemical storage facility.

The simple orange, green and gray scheme has some nice contrasts.

I really like these Sedition Wars doorway bits, though I wish I'd chosen a color other than aluminum, which looks an awful lot like the grey walls after a couple washes and a dusty tan drybrush.

The bit in the middle is a hatch that lines up with a ladder from the 2nd level. The roof looks good enough, but perhaps I should have done something to split up the one-piece look of the lid.

Overall, the egg box building has a very unique look that sets it apart from the rest of my collection. I particularly like the way miniatures can be on a second level elevation and still have overhead cover. Now that I'm occasionally playing Necromunda, I'm thinking a lot more about multilevel terrain and cover. Both of these pieces are well in that vein.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rokenbok Terrain Bonanza

A week ago I was at my local resale shop when I came across a Rokenbok Monorail Start Set.

It lacked the train and many of the other small elements, but the other large elements -- a ball elevator and storage tank -- that intrigued me most.

For those who don't know, Rokenbok is a building system based around mostly cubed construction elements and radio controlled items such as trucks, monorails and other motorized features. Despite having other projects in the pipeline, as soon as I got home I broke out my tools and glue and started building.

First off the assembly line was this Storage Tank.

It is mostly stock pieces, except for the addition of a grating on top cut from circular cross stitch mesh (which is an excellent way to add industrial-looking floors to any round item). I also added some corrugated floors over the downspouts (not pictured).

The second item is the Ball Elevator, originally intended to lift plastic balls up into the storage tank. After cutting away the power cords, I removed the rubber conveyor belt and glued in some lift sections. A bit of cutting enlarged the top spout enough to fit miniatures up there.

A couple of small bits from the Pegasus Chemical Plant kit were added. The cavity in the back for the power cord is perfectly sized for 28mm figures.

Both terrain pieces were undercoated with ruddy brown Kryon spray primer. Then I added a wet overbrushed color layer, followed by a brown wash and a light tan drybrush to dust everything up.

The inner areas of the elevator also got some heavy ballast using the concrete topper mix that I've been trying out. It's concrete mixed with a nice variety of gravel and sand. The concrete portion isn't as gritty as plain sand (which takes a drybrush extremely well), but it looks like soil when painted, and the mix of gravel sizes is great.

Here's what they look like with paint. Adding pieces of corrugated cardboard turns the downspouts into useable area and makes the entire second story of the tank much more useable. If you don't have any corrugated cardboard on hand, just grab a few Starbucks drink sleeves.

Looks like I forgot to include a ladder up to the top though...

The elevator makes both a very fortified position and a means to access higher sections of a multilayer terrain layout. This bad boy is tall!

Though it looks plain blue in the picture, the paint is actually a really nice blue-green color.

The bucket sections are close enough to avoid disrupting movement in most gaming rulesets.

These were on the table for last weeks game, and they looked great. I'm especially keen to see them as part of a Necromunda layout. The square supports that make up most of the Rokenobok system run the risk of looking a bit similar if used to much, but they have a nice futuristic look, and I'll be using these parts in future constructions.

Lastly Rokenbok toys are a bit too expensive to buy at retail just for terrain purposes (this set cost almost $200 in stores!), but I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for them at the resale shop.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Monday, June 8, 2015

Dust Tenements + Mantic Battlezones = Cyberpunk City

After building a set of seven urban buildings based on the Dust Tactics Warzone Tenements, I felt that I had nearly exhausted the possibilities of this kit. But once I got my hands on a batch of Mantic Battlezone sprues -- which are packed with nice detail, but can often result in modular, samey-looking structures -- I decided to put the two batches together and see what I could come up with.

The result was a pair of buildings with a striking near-future cyberpunk look blending early 20th century architecture with futuristic elements. These buildings used Dust Tenement pieces for the main structure, with a few Mantic Battlezone panels and parts mixed in. The Battlezone panels are just a bit shorter than the Dust Tenement walls, but a piece of Plastruct I-Beam fills the gap nicely.

The medium-sized hatches are Pegasus Platformer and Hexagon pieces. I used a wide variety of other smaller bits as well. This first building is a bit residential in character.

Battlezone pieces provide some nice street level detail. The door piece easily scores and snaps apart. I then glued it in to imply a door that's only partially up.

On the back, I used some the Battlezone panels for a balcony. I created a double-doorway section for the balcony by cutting the bottom out of the double-window battlezone panel while retaining the center beam. It's a simple and very useful modification, since Battlezone sets only seem to come with few doorways.

The roof is a piece of adhesive floor tile with some food pouch caps and a few other details.

For the second building, I wanted to give the appearance of some kind of business The front has another modified Battlezone double-window panel for an entrance.

On the sides I've used medical specimen cases to screen the lower windows, plus guardrails from the Pegasus Hobbies Hexagon kit to bar the upper windows.

Note that this building doesn't use any tenement corner pieces -- I ran out of them. However, by clipping away the tab side of the small wall and part of the inner section of the large wall, I was able to make the two wall sections mate nicely to form a corner.

The roof is a Dust Tactics Quonset Hut adorned with various Battlezone bits. The sign is bottom-side-out standard Battlezone half-panel with some of the detailing picked out in neon yellow/green paint.

A balcony made from Battlezone pieces allows one to use the Dust Quonset Hut door panel, which actually opens and closes.

The rear is very similar to the front, but I set back one of the Deadzone panels to suggest a garage entrance.

So there you have it, some cyberpunk structures to adorn a gritty futuristic city. Who knows -- there might be a replicant hiding behind those bulkheads?!

These turned out even better than I had expected, but I probably won't be making more. I don't have many Tenement parts left and with nine buildings based on Warzone Tenement parts finished already, I've got more than enough. Keep watching the blog, though, as I've got two more terrain posts coming soon packed with grimy industrial goodness!

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Railroad Cars for Wargaming Terrain

(Note: Although this is a wargaming blog, I've endeavored to make this review useful to O-gauge railroad enthusiasts as well. If your interest is solely railroading, just skim the pictures in Part I, and then scroll down to Part II of the review.)

1- Railroad cars for Wargaming Scenery 
Many 28mm wargamers use O-scale buildings in their terrain setups, but what about the traincars themselves? Whether historical gaming or post-apocalypse zombie settings (Terminus anyone…), trains are an excellent and evocative subject for wargaming terrain.

As well as looking cool, they can provide excellent cover and line-of-sight blockage. So what's holding wargamers back? My guess is that it's money. O-gauge railroading is an expensive hobby. However, it doesn't have to be this way. There are a few quality budget lines of railcars from companies such as Lionel and the Railking sub-brand of MTH.

The focus of this review, however is Menards. That's right: for a number of years, the home improvement chain Menards has been in the O-gauge railway business. They even have a section of their website accurately called O-Gauge Train Stuff.

Of particular interest to wargamers, they have quite a few pre-weathered boxcars for $25!

That's a pretty good deal for 10x2x4 chunk of pre-painted blocking terrain. They're even sequentially numbered, so if you buy several they won't have the same ID numbers!

Menards also has quite a line of pre-painted O-scale buildings, some of which are quite affordable. On the budget end, we find the focus of this review: the basic flatcar, which retails for only $8 and comes in 4 versions.

Individually, they are only available in-store, but the web listing will let you search local stores. I found a batch in a store near me and was able to pick up five. Be sure to call ahead to check stock and ask the employees. Sometimes they are hidden away in the "Off-Season" section, which at my Menards was up a nearly hidden stairway behind pallets of warehoused summer furniture.

Anyhow, the basic flatcar is still tall enough to provide heavy cover for infantry and has holes for stakes or tie-downs so you can put whatever load you want on it, from U.S. Army tanks to spaceship sections.

The holes in the top are the same size as standard zip-ties for easy tie-downs. Also, one could easily chop the wheels off and have a great looking Necromunda style walkway!

I'm looking forward to adding this to my railway-themed terrain, which right now consists of an elevated train station and some second hand three-rail track propped up on top of other scenery.

2 - Railway-centric Review of the Menards Flatcar
Now, here's some additional information for those interested in the railroading details of this car, or those who want their wargames terrain to move. What we have here is a very basic plastic car with some nice features and a few metal parts. According to the "O-Gauge Railroading Online Forum," they are being produced by the Golden Wheel Die Casting Company of China. As noted previously, they come in four colors, each with a specific line: Milwaukee Road, SOO, C&NW and BN.

Quality and function is essentially what one might expect as part of a current "ready-to-run" set. This is not an indictment, just an observation. It's certainly better than many of the all-plastic budget train cars of the past, which had one-piece trucks/couplers and plastic wheels. As seen in previous pictures, the top side has moderate detail. If the slats on top are supposed to be wood, there is no grain to be seen.

Here are pictures of Menards (left), Lionel and MTH trucks side by side. The Lionel car is from The Scout 2010 RTR set, and the MTH is from a 2004 Spongebob RTR set.

The trucks are mostly plastic with metal wheels painted in a grey metallic paint (compared to the matte grey finish of the other brands). The couplers are functional in the same way as Lionel and seem to interlock and release well with both.

The wheels vary in smoothness, with some spinning freely and some only making a few revolutions before stopping. I assume a bit of lubricant would have them all spinning well. Note that the Lionel and Menards trucks are nearly identical, except that the Lionel wheels are a bit more precision made.

The lack of even basic undercarriage detail is a bit surprising also since it probably wouldn't have taken much effort to mold a basic frame under there. Our O-gauge layout only comes out at Christmas, so I've not had a chance to run these with an engine, but overall I'm rather impressed. I don't have the cash flow for full-tilt O-gauge railroading, and this might be the least expensive O-gauge car currently produced. I hope it's not the last of it's kind. I'd love to see what other affordable rolling stock they could come up with. Perhaps something akin to the cheap all-plastic cars of the past, but with the metal wheels and functioning couplers that these flatcars have.

Though I'm primarily a wargamer, I do dabble in a bit of Christmas railroading. These flatcars and the other Menards train items seem equally well-suited for both. Railroaders have access to budget-priced, new-production cars with full functionality, and wargamers can add railway terrain to their tables at a price that competes with purpose-built wargaming terrain. Menards, you have our attention.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member