Monday, April 13, 2015

Small-Scale Building Commissions

I recently completed my first small-scale commission work. Two different customers both requested 6mm buildings. The finished structures below borrow shamelessly from Sean Patten's inspiring Gundam terrain, and like his, they are based around cassette tape cases with a variety of added bits.

As I don't have any 6mm miniatures, I've used 10mm rebased Mechwarrior units for scale purposes. Except for a few very small ground doors, I think these pieces will work equally well in either scale.

These first two are a pair of Mars Colony themed buildings. The quonset-style roofs were a surprise resale find and are from the "Robotix" line of toys.

I only got one picture of this one, but it's pretty symmetrical anyway.

These next three are more traditional urban-industrial style buildings. These are more directly based on the Ironhands style of Gundam buildings. This customer is working on a Gundam game project of his own.

Small Warehouse 

Medium Factory 

Large Repair Center 

Small-scale building was a bit of a switch for me from the 28mm stuff that I usually make. Extensive fine detail at this scale isn't really doable without a massive investment of time and bits, so it becomes a matter of viewing the building at arms length and deciding what details will make the structure "pop" on the table. I'm still working on the balance between contrasting colors, but I think I'm getting to a method that produces pretty solid results.

I'm fairly new to commission work, but I can build/paint more of these on request. The starting price is $15 + shipping for a building the size of the white structure and goes up from there based on size and individual requests. Of course larger and other scale buildings (28mm, etc…) can be done as well.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fully Painted: Barbarians of Frostvale

I'm slowly developing bits and pieces of Frostvale, my homebrew fantasy setting, which will exist alongside our club campaign world to create fun options for scenarios and crossover games. The setting represents my fantasy ideal -- a windswept, Scandinavian-inspired land of teetering mountains, dark forests, mysterious runestones, benighted dungeons, tumbledown ruins, overgrown altars, lonely watchtowers, hardscrabble villages and plenty of unexplored wilderness.

This is the land of Frostvale. Most of my existing warbands will figure into this setting -- some, like the Cursed Riders of Frostvale, hail from these hard lands and wear their allegiance like a badge of honor. Others are merely exploring Frostvale to plunder the abandoned keeps and ancient barrows that dot the hilly uplands.

My newest addition to the world of Frostvale is not really a warband per se ,.. rather, it is a collection of barbarians from the countless hill tribes that occupy the foothills of the Blue-Rime Mountains. They can ally with other warbands seeking additional muscle, or occasionally they will sweep down from the foothills and raid the frontier villages in the valleys below.

I have been wanting to try painting up some ridiculously muscled dudes for quite some time, and half-naked barbarians seemed like the perfect excuse to do so.

I tried some blending and shading techniques with these guys to really accentuate the insane muscle sculpting. I'm pretty pleased with how it came out, but of course there's always room for improvement.

Perhaps most importantly, I didn't use the magic dip on these guys (as I typically do for figures with lots of skin and earth tones). I also based them on 30mm round lipped bases to set them apart from most of the rest of  my fantasy stuff, which is based on 25mm round bases.

The terrain piece is a small rocky forest that I completed recently. It represents a pretty good aesthetic for Frostvale ... lots of exposed boulders and scrubby vegetation.

I have a few more barbarians to paint before the warband is complete. Keep your eyes peeled for a future installment!

-- Patrick, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Friday, April 10, 2015

Adepticon 2015: Fistful of Seamen and the Adventure of HMS Titan's Uranus

At Adepticon Tim and I participated in the Saturday night edition of this massive, colorfully-named "Fistful of Seamen" (FoS) swashbuckling and sailing game.

Easily the largest game I've ever been a part of, this massive game spanned a half-dozen tables, a few dozen ships and what appeared to be 50-plus participants.

We had spoken with some of the gamemasters (all of whom appeared in suitable pirate garb) and looked at the terrain ahead of time, but our participation nearly didn't happen. Tickets were sold out, so we hung around the table as the event began and learned what we could. Nations in the game included the French, Dutch, English and Spanish. Players might be military, traders, privateers or pirates depending on what boat they selected. The number of ships available was dizzying.

Luckily, captains who had participated the previous evening were allowed to select "First Mates" from the unwashed masses. Admiral D. was kind enough to pick Tim and me, and we joined him as crew on the HMS Titan's Uranus (I kid you not) hereafter referred to as the Titan. This massive 5-master was the crown of the English fleet and the largest ship in the game.

To attempt to report on the entire game would have been madness, but the beauty of FoS is that each ship essentially plays out its own adventure as it interacts with the other players and the various features of the game. So we'll just follow the Titan's adventures.

As soon as the game began, we left the English port and began to sail across the board escorting a trio of smaller schooners and traders. No sooner had we reached the open sea then we were set upon by the Marseille. The vessel was the pride of the French navy and nearly matched our own size.

We bravely placed ourselves between the raider and our charges, allowing them to slip away. Despite it being a time of peace, the brash French captain declared that we mush strike colors, raise the French flag and join his fleet. We replied with appropriate scorn and righteous indignation.

The ships closed quickly and brutal deck-to-deck combat ensued. After taking a significant casualties, our crew surrendered. Admiral D. was taken onto the Marseille, and the first mate of the Marseille became our new captain. Under her command, we sailed on to the French island for repairs and re-crewing, but upon arrival a surprise was waiting for us.

As we sailed into the port, the French Governor immediately stated his intention to seize or destroy our ship. As we had been taken in a time of peace, its seizure was considered an act of piracy. Seeking to avoid a diplomatic incident, the Governor was prepared to try the entire crew as pirates.

We begged the Governor's favor and explained that we had been brought under duress and would willingly hand over the rebel French captain. The Governor agreed. I dueled our French captain for command and she was defeated. We handed her over to the Governor to be hung for piracy and bringing dishonor to the name of France. Though given no refit, we were encouraged to raise our original English flag and leave the island post-haste.

Thus we found ourselves somehow in command of one of the most fearsome ships on the sea. We set off again across the sea, heading back toward the English island. Spain had recently declared war on the English and on the way, we briefly skirmished with a Spanish galleon.

However, our swifter craft safely made it home in time to leisurely watch the papist galleon be mercilessly raked by the English island's artillery.

Having feared us lost, the Governor listened with rapt attention to our tale of battle, capture and return. After hearing our tale he heartily congratulated us and awarded us promotions in honor (the currency of the game for military units) and titles to lands.

Following a full refit and with a full crew we set out again on the open sea. A minor skirmish with some pirates ensued. We were not capable of pursuing them into rocky shoals, so after a blistering broadside to demonstrate the seriousness of our position, we extorted a minor fee and let them go.

Returning to the French port again in peacetime, we paid some coin to learn the local news (the game allows for "buying" a random game event) and discovered that the Kraken had been sighted! With this disturbing news, we returned to blue water only to be set upon the feared and neigh-invincible Ghost Ship.

We reluctantly paid the Ghost Ship's tax and gave a tithe of his crew as souls to the feed the spectral vessel's terrible appetites. There was not time to ruminate on the fate of those poor devils, however. No sooner had we left the unholy vessel than we came across the Kraken!

Fortunately for us, the legendary beast proved to not be as fearsome as its reputation. A few volleys set the monster back on its heels long enough for the Titan to sail away.

With our tour coming to an end (the game was nearing it's completion), the Titan at last returned to the English island to exchange the last of our deeds and gold into honor and lands.

Our experience with FoS was a real pleasure. The ruleset was concise, and a dozen GMs were present to assist in combat resolution and clear up whatever complications might arise. I'm not usually a fan of systems that require writing down one's commands in advance, but I greatly enjoyed FoS's mechanics which required each captain to make two moves ahead during each turn. Tim thinks we could play it out with his small scale Uncharted Seas ships.

The ruleset as a whole seems to target fun as the highest priority, and it paid off handsomely. Though we supposedly had the most fearsome ship on the sea, brief contact with other captains showed that every ship seemed to be made to excel in a specific manner, such that no player's fun was handicapped by their vessel and some rather unassuming vessels were quite fearsome.

If the cheers at the post-game debrief were any indication, I suspect that every captain in the game could tell a tale as dramatic as ours.

All in all, an excellent participation game and one that I would be pleased to play again. Most interestingly, this has created a small spark of interest in swashbuckling games, a genre I've never been interested in before. Definitely not something on my immediate radar, and certainly not an undertaking of this size, but maybe someday when I'm in need of a new gaming project I'll turn my eyes to the high seas.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mech Attack Playtest: Flyers, Jump Jets and Fisticuffs!

Recently we gathered at Karl’s house to for our regular gaming session. While Karl and Tim spent the evening learning Saga, Mattias, Michael, and I chose Mech Attack. Unlike the 28mm monster game we typically run at conventions, this game was set at 10mm and took up considerably less space. We also tried out a playtest version of the latest ruleset which includes aircraft, melee combat, and jump-jet mechs.

Michael picked a force of just three big, powerful mechs. I took two mechs and three tanks, while Mattias grabbed a bit of everything, including a plane and a jump-jet mech with fists for punching.

The first turn was mostly spent getting into position as we dodged through a modern city. We had no real objectives beyond the destruction of our foes. The long-range firing proved relatively ineffective as we jockeyed for position.

While Mattias and Michael exchanged long-range fire with their two heavies, I ran most of my mechs and tanks straight at Mattias. One of my tanks held off Michael on my flank, but proved completely
outmatched against his small mech.

What happens when a plane fights a mech at close range? We found out a few turns in, when both the airplane and the close combat mech with jump jets got to prove themselves.

The plane dropped down to attack one of Michael’s heavy mechs in the rear, but did not accomplish much more than scratching the paint. All the mech had to do was turn around and blast away for two turns before the plane was gone. The close combat mech also proved relatively useless, spending the entire game punching one of my tanks. We all agreed that if that mech had been a medium or a heavy it would have done far more damage.

As the game continued, Mattias’s force crumbled between Michael and me. He was forced into a fighting withdrawal and probably would have made it off the board if the game hadn’t ended when it did.

My medium mech survived an incredible amount of punishment and by the end had only three boxes of armor left out of the 50 or 60 it started with. My heavy mech was battered by Michael's two big mechs and ended up a burning wreck. My tanks proved fairly useless and I don’t think I’ll use them very often in the future. We all had fun trying out the new, revised playtest rules for Mech Attack and I will certainly purchase them when they become available.

-- Mike C., Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mech Attack at Adepticon 2015

Earlier this month, Tim and I had the opportunity to run Mech Attack at Adepticon. Though we didn't have anyone sign up for the game ahead of time, we were able to acquire enough passers-by to run a good four-player game.

The scenario and objectives were nearly identical to the game we ran at last year's Little Wars convention, with the attackers on a punitive raid to earn points by destroying the defending teams' bunkers. Each bunker's type and points value was hidden from the defender until it was destroyed. The defenders' goal was to keep the attackers from reaching their objective by the end of the game time.

The main difference between this year's game and last year's game was the quality of the terrain and mechs. Last year's plastic crate buildings had all been replaced with more detailed model buildings.

Twelve new mech models made their convention debut at this game, a few of which are pictured above. Tim brought five massive Zaku, their green paint schemes fitting well with the attacking forces. I brought three Kryomek Striders, three plastic mechs and a rebased prepainted Mechwarrior die-cast Legionnaire.

The scenario background was as follows. In 2366, the occupying forces of the United Colonies were in full retreat. The tide had turned and they were being driven off the planet Melk-3 by a well-organized rebel advance. The vital hub city of Borschtegrad in St. Martin's Parish was the scene of some of the bloodiest mech vs. mech combat in the campaign. There, the retreating UC forces halted their withdrawal for two days and unleashed the Ventauran Legion in brutal punitive raids. Their aim: to cause as much damage as possible to one of the planet's most important industrial centers.

Thus explained, each player chose three mechs and the battle began. The UC forces (in green) advance from the western countryside into the city.

After the opening moves, the Melk-3 rebel forces (in gray) sent two mechs on patrol into the heart of the city.

The tan bunkers are all visible toward the defender's table edge. The rebel forces quickly moved through the city to protect the most westward bunker.

The UC forces quickly reached the first bunker and began to fire on it.

Making use of the dense neighborhoods, the defenders rushed to trap the attackers in a crossfire.

On the north side, the rebels hunkered down... three UC mechs attempt to rush the flank.

The advance is slowed, but only for a moment. The combined firepower of three heavy mechs ripped apart the defending heavy mech and shortly after destroy the bunker. It was an ammo dump! The bunker exploded and did minor damage to the green behemoths.

The advance continued.

Returning to the south side, the UC continued to pour fire into their targeted bunker.

It was eventually destroyed, and the UC attackers discovered that it was a rebel comm center! In the confusion, the attackers make an additional advance (one free move). However, the Melk rebels exact a high price.

Tactical use of crossfire and flanking destroyed the attackers' southern front completely, and the defenders turned their attention to the north side of the city. The defenders took up positions...

…and prepared to sell their lives dearly...

But it was not to be. They slowed the UC advance and managed to protect their city long enough for reinforcements to arrive. The surviving UC mech were in full retreat and the battle is over.

The game was up and we called time. The UC had lost half their force, and the two bunkers they had destroyed had not netted them enough points to claim victory. Though they had lost two mechs of their own, it was a solid win for the defenders. And with that, it was time to pack up the mechs and see the rest of the convention.

I was very pleased with the battle. We had built the game to support eight players running two mechs each, but two players per side running three mechs worked very well.

As always, Mech Attack proved itself to be a system that gives a really fun game. It is easy to teach, with enough detail to keep the players interested but streamlined to keep play moving fast. In my previous post, I discussed my overall experience as a first-time Adepticon game master. Suffice it to say it was an excellent experience and I plan to run a game -- probably Mech Attack -- at next year's convention.

-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames