Saturday, October 30, 2010

The terraforming process

As you may know, I'm running a Galactic Knights game at Millennium Con.  It's a planetary invasion scenario, so I needed something on the table to represent Regulus IV.  After I blogged about the completed project, people have asked me how I went about painting it.  Here's the shorthand version of how I detailed my planet:

Step 0: Dry Foam Hemisphere

Step 8: Planet

For the longer version of how I did it, see after the jump:

Steps 1-7: ???????

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October HotT Tournament

We had a light turnout for our quarterly Hordes of the Things tournament this week, just five players counting yours truly.  We met up at Dragon's Lair-San Antonio on Saturday for a 24 AP tournament.

Johnny, who has enough Romans to conquer Gaul, decided to play with an all-mounted force.  He took on Brian's Mouse Guard army:

Chip brought his toolbox full of miniatures--unfortunately, they were his 15mm armies, and we were playing 28mm.  Luckily, after a night of gluing in the wake of the Gread Lead Avalanche of 2010, I had reassembled all my armies and brought them to the store in case anyone needed a loaner army.  Chip borrowed my fire giants army and played his first game against me and my skeletons:

Although I have trouble winning with the fire giants, Chip proved the fault was with the commander and not the troops.  He cheated by using smart deployment and superior tactics, and quickly brought his beasts and a behemoth around my flank.  The main force of my army was unable to reach them in time, and my Magician couldn't frighten off the behemoth.  After an unsuccessful attempt with the beasts, Chip used the behemoth to take my stronghold:

For my next game, I faced off against Mark's Empire troops.  This was the first game I played in which my magician had another magician opposing him.  The Empire spell caster didn't even try to ensorcell my necromancer, however.  There was no need--I kept trying and failing to zap his hero general, and eventually rolled a second '1,' frogging myself and losing the game.

Meanwhile, on the other board, Brian's mice took on the fire giants, eventually bringing them down:

I just like the size difference between the fire giant behemoths and the Mouse Guard blades in this photo.  Although the behemoth is facing to the mice's right, it's because the two fire giants are too big to sit side-by-side facing the same direction, and it's considered facing forward:

Next game, I battled Johnny's Romans, which consisted of a lot of riders, a few knights, one stand of beasts, and a hero general.  I wore him down and won on points:

Meanwhile, on the other board, Brian took on Mark.  I can't remember who won this game:

My final game was against Brian's Mouse Guard.  We battled back and forth till time ran out, so it was a draw.  However, Brian destroyed more of my elements than I did of his.  Below, you can see my lurker spring up in an unsuccessful attack on his sneaker:

Chip took on Johnny in their final game.  Johnny said afterward he's going back to his traditional Roman force, which is mainly foot units.

Brian ended up winning the tournament.  I came in pretty far down--if Mark hadn't missed two games because he sat out the first round and had to leave early, he would have beat me on points.  It was a long day, but I got in a lot of gaming, so it counts as a win in my book.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Starfleet Wars 100mm figures

Historical note: A few years ago, I found an interesting auction on ebay: a series of figures of each of the five races in Starfleet Wars.  The seller had lead miniatures from Superior Models, (makers of the ships for Starfleet Wars) of a Terran, Aquarian, Avarian, Entomalian, and Carnivoran.  They were priced a little out of my range, but I thought it was interesting.  Oh, and they were all about 4-and-a-half inches tall.  I posted something to the Galactic Knights mailing list, and a couple of people remembered these figures when they came out.

Turns out the sculpts were by Ron Spicer, the artist who designed the spaceships for the game and drew the illustrations in the Observer's Directory & Identification Manual.  This publication, in turn, had drawing of each of the five races.  I'm guessing the pictures in the Manual came from or served as his concept sketches for the figs.

Judging from that long-ago auction, and the fact that I hadn't seen them since, I figured these models were long out of production.  I was pleased, then, to find at least some of them still available.

Perth Pewter evidently took up the mantle (or was spun off) from Superior and kept casting the 100mm figures, as well as versions of some of the larger Starfleet Wars ships, for the collectables market.  I didn't find any Starfleet Wars merchandise on Perth Pewter's website, but Armik's Fine Collectables still has some in stock.

You can find the Terran, Carnivoran, Avarian, and Aquarian figures at Armik's (but I didn't see an Entomalian).  In addition, they sell some of the old range of spaceships--mostly dreadnoughts and larger--but it looks like they're cast with bases attached--and the bases have some funky shapes, as you can see.  It looks like they're selling these as pewter collectables, instead of toys to game with.  According to the website, they're limited to the stock on hand, so if you want some of these figures, better get over there pretty quickly.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Terraforming complete!

I spent the afternoon and evening getting my planet (Regulus IV, for my MilCon game) to look like an actual planet instead of a styrofoam hemisphere, and I'm done!  At first I was worried that it looked more like a desktop globe than a planet, but after following my wife's suggestion of adding clouds over the ocean, it seemed to bring the piece to life.  It's pictured abouve with a couple of destroyers and small transports in orbit.

I took plenty of pics during the terraforming process, and I will post those later, as blogger doesn't seem to want to let me upload any more photos right now.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MilCon scenario playtest

OK, it took a whole week, but I finally got around to posting the playtest of my Galactic Knights scenario for Millennium Con.  I took my game to Dragon's Lair in San Antonio last Tuesday for the Lone Star Historical Miniatures weekly get-together.

Although the scenario is designed for eight players, I was only able to talk two gamers into taking it for a spin (my thanks to playtesters John and Mark).  I had each playtester double up on ships, so we had the equivalent of four players' worth of minis on the table (half what I had planned for) and four transports to fight over.  I also put my planet (still unpainted) out as an objective with four defense installations (I forgot the pushpins, so I used pieces of paper to mark them) strung along the equator.


The defenders started out orbiting the planet as the invasion force came in from one of the close edges of the map.  The attackers' main goal was to land the transports and get as much cargo (troops and armor) on the planet as possible.  The defenders' goal was to prevent this.

The defenders broke from orbit, and everybody launched fighters.  While the attackers launched their strike fighters, the defenders launched their interceptors, and took out most of the oncoming attack fighters.

The forces then closed to short range, and the particle beams flew.  The defender took out the engines on one of the transports, leaving it on a collision course with the planet.  However, the attackers' superior size and numbers started to take a toll on the defenders.

The defenders finished off the drifting transport and concentrated on the next one in line.  By this time, fire from the attackers' ships and fighters had taken out the defenders' battlecruiser.

The defenders finished off the second transport, but got eaten up by the attackers' batteries.

At the end of two turns, my playtesters had to take off.  Although the defenders had vaporized two transports, the other two were intact.  Meanwhile, the defenders had lost their capital ship and were about to lose two cruisers.  The attackers ships had taken moderate to light damage, but they still had to worry about the planetary defenses, which they could only attack from orbit.  Alas, at that point the game ended.

I probably need to give the defenders more ships and less planetary defenses, to keep things interesting up above.  I'm also thinking about reducing the size of the ships, so they go "boom" more quickly and the scenario plays faster.  The playtesters gave me some valuable suggestions.  I'm glad I playtested this before the con.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Completed Transports

So I finished painting the remaining transports for my convention game.  I used my standard three-color drybrush method, which really brings out the detail on these old Stardate: 3000 miniatures.  I like these designs because they have a lot of detail, yet a wholly distinct style as compared to Galactic Knights minis.

 At left is what was originally a Perseus-class light cruiser; its weapons have been stripped and replaced with cargo modules.
This slightly larger ship was an Orion-class heavy cruiser in its previous life.  What appear to be weapons at the bow are actually cargo manipulators.
This vessel was once an Auriga-class fleet support ship, expanded with the hulls of two Draco-class destroyers to make the largest transport in this squadron.  

Bonus ships:  I haven't identified these minis, but as they're too small for mass cargo transport, I plan to use them as shuttles or scenario objectives in future games.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Artist: John Harris

If you've looked through the science fiction section of your local bookstore anytime in the past few decades, you've probably seen at least one painting by British artist John Harris.  As noted in his biography, this illustrator has worked in advertising, taken a commission from NASA, and painted dozens of SF book covers.

Not only does Harris's art spur the imagination; it also conveys a sense of great size and distance.  This theme runs through many of his works, and lent the title to a series of paintings known as Mass

While this project never saw printed form, many of the paintings (as well as illustrations from his many other projects over the years) appeared in the art collection Mass: The Art of John Harris.  I was fortunate enough to stumble across several years ago; the paintings are even better on the printed page.  Unfortunately, the only print collection of his works is out of print.  As noted in the link above, however, Mass can be found used on Amazon.

For more on Harris, see this article on Astrona Space and Astronomical Art Journal.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Through clumsiness, lack of attention, and general stupidity, last night I knocked the box containing all of my Hordes of the Things armies off the box on which it was sitting onto the floor.  It made a horrible crunching sound.  When I realized what I'd done, I let loose a long yell, then turned the air blue with my cursing for several minutes afterward. 

After apologizing to my wife for the language that sent her into another room, I surveyed the damage.  Nearly every element in my 48-point 40K Imperial Guard army had lost one or more figures, and about half of my Fire Giant army needs to be glued back to its base.  I also need to fix a couple of stands in my Skeleton army.  I haven't looked at my spider horde army, but since it's made up of dollar store toys and has already endured one fall from a great height, I'm not too worried about the arachnids. 
Luckily, none of my strongholds were damaged, nor were the airboat and flyers for my 40K army, which were stored in a foam-lined box.  I'll need to go to the store for a new tube of Gorilla Glue, but all in all, the damage could have been a lot worse.  Looks like I've got some gluing to do this afternoon...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Work in progress: Transports

My scenario for Millennium Con calls for transport ships as well as combat vessels.  Although I already have some cargo carriers I plan to use, I needed a few more.  The ships you see above will join my transport fleet.

The ships in this picture are Stardate: 3000 miniatures from Valiant Enterprises that I acquired secondhand sometime back.  I'm not too sure exactly which craft these models are--when stripping the previous paint job, a lot (but not all) of the pieces came apart.  I tried to put them back together according to the instructions, but there are some spare and/or missing parts, so I also went by how good things looked.  I know these are all Federation ships, and I think they are (or were) a cruiser, heavy cruiser, and escort cruiser.  Their design (and future paint job) means they will fit in well with my other cargo transports.

Interesting trivia:  The designer of these minis used HO scale train parts for some of the starship components--for example, the circular part (what I call the command section) is from the boiler front of a steam locomotive.

UPDATE:  Virtualscratchbuilder was kind enough to identify these ships in this thread over at The Miniatures Page.  Quoth he: "What you have there is a Perseus-class light cruiser (upper), Orion-class heavy cruiser (middle) and a kitbash using two Draco-class destroyers and an Auriga-class fleet support ship."  Thanks, VSB!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Checking in with the 523rd

I didn't think I would be doing another War Rocket post so soon, but I stumbled across a blog I just had to share.  (Don't worry, Galactic Knights; I'll return to you soon, I promise!)

Sagan's Sideshow: 523rd Survey Squadron provides fan fiction, photos, backstory, and a table of organization for the Galacteers (one of the four factions in the WR rulebook).  There's also a post of various paint schemes for Galacteer squadrons with just-as-colorful names like the Killer Bees, Fire Hunters, and Happy Gals.  This blog looks like it will be a great source for War Rocket fans.

The blog's author, Evilcartoonist, also has another miniatures-focused blog, Carmen's Fun Painty Time!  Give them both a look; you'll probably find something you like.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More War Rocket

After the Hordes of the Things game ended Tuesday night, Brian broke out the retro sci-fi space combat game War Rocket.  I had brought my space hex mat, as well as the planet I'm working on; and Brian, Brooks, John, and I played a four-way game.

(A quick note on the planet: I should have kept looking for a white styrofoam hemisphere, as the green foam piece I bought seemed to crumble easily whenever it got touched and leave dust everywhere, including on the felt mat.)

Some rocks from the landscaping in the parking lot made a quick asteroid field (which provides cover for any ships inside it), while the planet served to block line of sight. 

War Rocket ships come in four sizes (from smallest to largest: Class I through Class IV).  Since Brian hasn't obtained any of the Class III or Class IV vessels, we used one of my Terran cruisers from Galactic Knights as a proxy for an Imperial Class III.
 I took a squadron of Valkeeri, the female warriors of this setting: two Class IIs and four Class Is (pictured at left).  Brian once again piloted the saucer ships of the Zenithians, while John played the Imperials and Brooks took the Galacteers.  We used another GK ship (an Avarian cruiser) to serve as an alien derelict, the objective of the scenario.  I was the first to get my ships next to the deserted craft, which earned me points but made me a target.

At the end of the game, I had taken out a couple of the other players' ships, but the Galacteers (which are really, really fast) ended up disabling all my spacecraft.  Fun game, and it was nice to use some of my space gaming accessories.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

HotT night recap

Last Tuesday, the San Antonio chapter of Lone Star Historical Miniatures met up at Dragon's Lair for its weekly gaming get-together.  Once again, I was too late to join in the game, but I took pictures of an exciting 3-on-3 Hordes of the Things matchup:  Grant with his JLA army and Chip and John with John's AT-43 Therians vs. Brian's Mouse Guard, Mark's Empire, and Ralph's Amazons.  Again, sorry about the quality of the photos, but I forgot my camera and had to use my phone to take pictures.

The game was in full swing when I got there, with the JLA, led by the Flash (Hero general) and Superman and Supergirl (Aerial Hero) moving quickly into combat.  The table quickly turned against the superheroes, however--an Empire magician ensorcelled Supes (who, after all, is vulnerable to magic), and the Flash fell in combat.  With their general gone and a poor PIPs roll by Grant the next bound, the army was in disarray and started fleeing the field.

By this time, however, the Therians had closed on the Empire and Amazons, who couldn't muster the six PIPs to get their dragon into the battle.  The tide began to turn as the aliens joined the combat.  The medieval troops and the women began to fall to the Therians, while on the other side of the board, nearly all the Justice League had fled the table.

However, as happens in HotT, the tide turned once more:  Grant rolled a six for PIPs, meaning Superman emerged from his magical prison right at the enemy stronghold (which the Empire had borrowed from a certain Doctor).  By expending the six PIPs on desorcelling his hero, Grant had no PIPs to keep any more of the JLA elements on the board.  That was all he needed, however, as the Aerial Hero, aided by a Therian (Knight) captured the stronghold and won the game for the JLA and their alien allies.  This was an exciting match, and it shows how a player's fortunes can wax and wane during the course of a single game of HotT.