Monday, December 30, 2013

Settlers of America: Trails to Rails

Not a picture from our game
Right before Christmas, we visited my wife's cousins for a couple days, and we played Settlers of America: Trails to Rails, and shockingly I won!  We played with the maximum of four players on the default map, and all players were seasoned Catan veterans.

Trails to Rails is an interesting variant of the regular Settlers of Catan, wherein you have a fixed USA map, and have to spread across it and build a rail network to win. It introduces gold, settlers, trains, resource depletion, and a few other changes to the basic game to make it more thematic (and challenging).  Aside from changing the victory requirements from abstract points gained in a few different ways to delivery of fixed numbers of goods, the game also removes victory points gained from cards, which reduces the number of ways to win the game; you must deliver the correct number of goods.

The reduction in victory routes is somewhat of a drawback, and another is that the game is somewhat slower (partly due to being a larger map) particularly in the middle section of the game where every turn is "more of the same".  It took over 3 hours to play our first game, and we figured that it would not have been much faster for a second run though.  Coupled with the 3-4 game players, it may mean that this games does not get at much rotation as it might otherwise.  It was fun though, and felt more "strategic" as the rail race aspect meant that we were looking across the map to see which western territories would be key.

We also got a game and a half of 7 Wonders in, one where I was trounced, and one where we had to pick the game up after the first round.  Still an interesting game, and we gave it to the cousins for Christmas, so I am sure to never win again...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Burning Paradise

The last week or so I have been working my way through Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson, an author previously unknown to me.  The premise of the book is the main draw here, as the actual story is more than a little depressing: The history of humanity has been shaped by an extra-terrestrial entity dwelling in the upper ranges of the atmosphere, which edits electronic signals to make humanity more peaceable.  Consequentially, there is no war after the Great War ends in a truce, technology stagnates, and the world slowly lurches its way along in a sort of quasi Edwardian/Progressive path of progress to 2015 where the story begins.  The characters are survivors of the correspondence society which figured out the existence of the ET, and was attacked by green goo filled human simulacrums driven by the ET in 2007, and now, it appears that the ET is sending the sims on attack again.

The book does have some interesting ideas on what it means to be hyper-aware but not conscious, and the book within the book, The Fisherman and the Spider, has some interesting thoughts on this, using the biological research of the in book author to draw some conclusions about the ET.

The world posited would also make for some interesting gaming scenarios, as you have 1914 map lines into the 1950s, and only low level conflict is allowed by the ET, so military development is highly retarded.  Consequently you could make great use of inter-war miniatures for battles in the Sudetenland, or the multi-decade Russian civil war etc. Empress miniatures has a great selection of figures for that sort of fighting, from both their own lines, and those they distribute.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Figure Fanatic Giveaway

Lief, over at the Figure Fanatic blog is giving away some miniatures and models in honor of his 200th post. Usual rule apply, must be a follower, comment on the post etc, so get on over and dilute my chances of winning... wait a tick, why am I telling you about this?

In other news, the holiday weekend is nearly upon us, and I will be away from the blog soon, but hope to have some great presents and hopefully some gaming to talk about when I return.  I have been too busy to paint lately, but hope to have some time for it soon.


Last night I had a most disturbing dream, part of which was the following: A young woman in a red dress was writing on a wooden floor in blood, using the nail of the big toe of her deformed right foot.  The blood, which is dripping down her leg, is marking out some sort of spell that she writes almost unconsciously as she moves about the room.

Seems like this would have use in a more creepy D&D game, or WFRP, as to me at least, it is the sort of image that sticks with you for a while.  Is she a witch?  Is she being used by dark forces?  Whence comes the blood (it was not hers)?  Is the spell something that needs to be interrupted, or would there be dire consequences if it is?

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Close Run Thing

Picture from Amazon
This weekend I finished reading A Close Run Thing, by Allan Mallison. Acquired thanks to the local library, it is a Napoleonic historical novel, which introduces the character of Coronet Mathew Hervey of the 6th Light Dragoons.  Hervey is a young man of somewhat limited means in the times of purchase (a system where officers bought their rank in the regiment).  The book opens in the waining days of the French Empire, as Wellington's army crosses into France, and the Emperor abdicates.  Hervey is then posted to Ireland, and returns to the Continent for the battle of Waterloo.

I was originally fairly taken by this book, and was preparing to write a positive review; however, I quickly realized that unlike, say Sharpe or Hornblower, Hervey has no flaws, other than a naive blindness to the motives of others.  In addition to processing no flaws, young Hervey marries into wealth, is the best horseman in his regiment, the best with a saber, knows horses better than the regimental vet, has the best batsman, the best sergeant, speaks French "like a native", has German, Latin, and Greek, can impressively debate strategy with Wellington, is an amazing shot with his amazing breach loading carbine, falls into money whenever required, and very fortuitous in his acquaintances.  There are more attributes, but you get the point. Hopefully this is rectified in later books (of which there are many), but by the end of this one I was ready for it to end, and have little to no desire to continue on with the rest.

In addition to flaws in writing, the book has a few factual errors. For example, much is made of a passage from Pride and Prejudice, and the book is attributed to Jane Austen, when in fact the book was published anonymously and Ms. Austen was not identified as the author until after her death in 1817.  Mr. Mallison also calls a flintlock "a firelock" many times in the book, when that term is usually reserved for a matchlock.

Flaws and annoyances aside, there are some interesting parts of this book, and there is certainly a lack of description of cavalry action in novels, so that aspect is welcome.  All in all though it is hard to recommend this book unless you really like your protagonists to be practically perfect in every way.

Here is a link to some reproduction light dragoon weapons, so you can get a feel for what the author tosses around.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Early Christmas Gift - Silhouette Cameo

The wife and I decided to buy ourselves an early joint Christmas present, and got a Silhouette Cameo, which is a computer controlled cutting tool.  The vector file driven tool can cut 12"x12" paper (or smaller) into as intricate a shape as you desire.  The idea is to use it for crafty stuff, as well as wargaming purposes. 

The image above is our first test cut, consisting of the obligatory "Hello World", and a complicated sled/pine branch image.  This was cut on ordinary printer paper, and took less than two minutes to complete, the blade leaping back and forth faster than you would imagine for the tiny cuts in the pine branch. There are some tears from moving too quickly, but you can see the potential.

Ideas I have had for this:
  • Game Templates
  • Counters
  • Spray Paint Masking
  • Card stock kits
  • Terrain
  • Labels
  • Prototyping
  • Geomorphic maps
I am also keen to try it on thicker material suck as cereal packet cardboard, chipboard, and styrene.  Some other users have had some good success with those, and once you move from 100lb card stock to thicker materials there is real potential for building completed models that can withstand the rigors of the table top. 

So lots of fun experimentation to come with this one, and if you have any ideas, let me know.

Friday, December 6, 2013

OSR Blog Roll Call

Dyvers, a blog writen by Charles Akins, has an interesting post called The Great Blog Roll Call, which has a listing of OSR and OSR related blogs, and importantly, has a bit that sumerizes each blog with a listing of how frequently it updates.

A "randomly selected" example:
  • Lasgunpacker A war gaming blog that focuses mostly on Games Workshop materials. Well written and often filled with valuable advice on painting and game play. Updates: About six times a month
Which reminds me, I really need to post about the Pathfinder game I have been playing in, and about the Roll20 platform we have been using to play it.

Anyway, you should look over this list, and read some new blogs, and recomend those that you like that are not on the list to improve its value as a tool.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dark Elves III

As you might recall, I have been talking about a Warhammer Dark Elf army, and its costs.  Well, for $170 MSRP and $136 retail, you can now get what appears to be a replacement for the old battalion boxes.

Picture from

The box gives you 20 corsairs, 20 Dark Elf Warriors with swords/spears or repeating crossbows, the new cold one chariot, 5 cold one knights, and a corsair lord that could be decent with some work.  As well as a couple of spare beast masters from the chariot. Individual retail cost of the lot would be $212, so quite a savings when buying this way.  Whether or not this helps you build an army is a different question, as even two of these boxes at a discount would be at least $260 and the army would lack any light cavalry, monsters, or magical support.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On Army Painting

I was supposed to post this after my Tau painting weekend, but time gets away from us all.

Here are my thoughts on painting a large chunk of an army in one go, which in this case was a short platoon, but could also have been a large-ish regiment, or a full skirmish warband (provided that the colors are restricted).

First, better lighting is needed, particularly when removing mold lines.  Failure to remove all the mold lines will be annoying when the project is closer to completion, so better to spend the time up front and do it right, and it will be easier with better lighting.

Second, get some proper seating, and if you are going to be sitting for 7+ hours as I was during the primary painting session, then you need to mix it up a bit. My back was sore afterwards, and I spent part of the time sitting on a yoga ball to help mitigate this.  Proper Posture Prevents Pain!

Third, proper base coat planning will save time.  Had I used the main armor color as the base coat for the whole miniature, it would have saved a couple of hours of time.  I could certainly have found a flat olive green for this project, and at Walmart or similar it would have been pretty cheap too.

Fourth, and this is something I knew but did not take advantage of, spray coats of primer and/or base coats will save time over brushing.  I brushed gesso on the figures, and it took some extra time and is slightly thicker than spray paint would have been.

Fifth, it is faster to paint by part than it is to paint by color.  By this I mean that painting a single color on all left legs and then right legs and so on is faster than painting all of the parts that use a certain color, and helps to prevent forgetting to paint the hoof of the left leg on a certain miniature or something.

No painting progress lately, as we had Thanksgiving/family/illnesses to get in the way, but I did get in a game of 7 Wonders, and spent a happy 20 minutes fitting together another random Inquisitor warband figure.