Friday, October 7, 2022

BattleTech: A Descent into Madness

 As fellow gamers, I know that you will understand how thin the line between "interest" and "obsession" can be.  I hope that you read the below as a cautionary tale, and take pity on the madness of your fellow gamer. 

Step 1 Buy a gift for a friend and his son.

My friend and his son have birthdays in the same week, and since he is an old school gamer, and his son is detail obsessed kid with a ton of time on his hands, I thought that they were well suited for a Battletech beginner boxed set.  This box comes with some basic rules, a couple of miniature robots (1-/250-1/300 scale), and other ephemera needed to play a few introduction games. Pretty good little box for $20. 

If you are not familiar with Battletech, it is a game of detailed robot combat, set about a thousand years in a dark age feudal future, where MechWarriors are the knights tromping about the galaxy.  Rules are little changed from the mid 80s, so hex based, very detailed, and with a number of additional books you can get to make them even more detailed.  Want to know the salary and healthcare benefits of the guy who fixes the left leg of the robot between battles?  You can!   And probably roleplay out the interaction when you cut his salary and threaten him with deportation if he does not keep up his job too. 

Step 2 Realize that I have some miniatures that could play with them

Long ago, I started on building a few 6mm armies for combat using Dirtside.  I bought a couple of metal Battletech figures from Ironwind, and then stuffed them in a box.  Recalling this, I dug out that box and looked at some pristine figures, still in blister after 16+ years.  Not unusual in this house, but in this case it paid off. 

Step 3 Remember that you have a 3D printer, and print some bases for the miniatures

The metal figures do not come with bases, and their integral bases are small and narrow, so not very useful for trying to stand up the figures.  I knocked out a basic 30mm hex base in Tinkercad, and printed a few of them. 



Step 4 Print some terrain for the gift

$20 seems sort of paltry for a gift for two people (even if it is the entry into a whole universe of fun!), so why not put that printer to work, and make a few trees and buildings to jazz up that starter set a bit?


Then my kid pointed out that more trees were needed to fill up the map, and I did not print any hills... so that part is still ongoing. 

Step 5 Print a few extra figures

Once I got a bit more into the lore, I realized that my metal mechs are out of period for the primary era of the game (3025).  Sort of like fighting a Great War Mark IV with an Abrams.  So I looked on thingiverse, and lo and behold there are Battletech figures on there.  Like a lot of figures.  So I selected a few likely sorts and printed them out.  At 3-6 hours each, printing is sort of a commitment, but not very much because what else is my printer doing, and they cost like $0.50 each. 

Shoddy primed picture of a Stinger, Whitworth, Hermes I, Assassin, Phoenix Hawk, and an Orion

Step 6 Start reading Sarna.net

Like Wikipedia, but for the Battletech universe.  Did you know that each mech, of which there are hundreds, has many variants each? Each with their own fictional history, manufacturers of parts, and canonical appearances?   Did you know that you can look at each planet of the galaxy and track its political affiliation and those of nearby systems with maps? Sarna is dangerous for obsessive nerds.  Many hours were lost. 

Step 7 Obsessively reread the Battle reports of 1000 Foot General    

Over at 1000 Foot General, John played a series of Battletech games in a campaign with his kid, and they are awesome.  He also has some house rules to smooth out the game play and campaign a bit, so that not every game devolves into last man standing bloodbaths.  Just some of them. 

Step 8 Print more figures

The danger of reading Sarna and learning about all of the cool mechs that exist, and reading 1000 Foot General, and seeing different mech types do cool stuff is that you then start to want more mechs...

Commando, Locust, Shadow Hawk, and a Jenner

Step 9 Make a few digital kitbash conversions

JVN-10A
Remember how in step 6 I mentioned that there are a lot of variants?  Well some are more complicated, but others are basically weapon swaps, like this Javelin-10A above, which trades out two short range missile launchers for one large long range one.  I took two models of the Javelin, cut the arms off (digitally) and reposed them, re-sculpted the chest plate, and then dropped in the larger long range missile launcher.  I also made a ruined base for the robot to stand on, because why not?

Step 10 Obsessively collect all the STLs available to the point that you have to make a spreadsheet to track everything

Currently 64 variants deep, not counting pose variants for common 'mechs. Still looking for good models for ~17 more.

Step 11 Make the spreadsheet more complicated

Now with alternate era mechs, more variants, tonnage, battlefield role and more information...

Step 12 Consider digitally sculpting missing figures

Can not find a good Panther Mech?  Well, it sort of looks like a Wolfhound with more armor and a different gun...

...still not have played a game

I do have some painted figures though! 

At 30-60mm tall, they paint up fast. 

Metal Cerberus assault Mech

Printed Javelin-10 light Mech
More madness to come.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Klingon Armada - Second Game

Sunday I got together with Stew again for another game of Klingon Armada, the Armada system adaption of Federation Commander, itself a spinoff/simplification of StarFleet Battles.  Stew hosted again, and this time we had the pleasure of breaking in his brand new hexed star mat, which was absolutely perfect for the game. 

Since this was our second game, we thought we could throw some more ships around, so I switched out a D6 for a D7, and added a D7C and a second F5.  The D7C, one of the D7s and both of the F5s were newly painted for this game.


For the Federation I kept the fleet the same, but added a Dreadnaught.   The Dreadnaught is pretty beefy, and has a ton of power/weapons.  As such it rings in at over 400 points! 

As you might expect, we got pretty excited as the game went on, so I did not take very many pictures, but I did manage to capture a few.

This first picture is of the early game, where the cruisers in the center are exchanging long range fire with mostly the dreadnaught.  Look at that game mat!  

This next picture is a bit later when the Federation dreadnaught, battle cruiser, and heavy cruiser all come in to pound the Klingons. 

Cruiser scrum at in the middle of the board with a before....

And after shot.  12 overloaded disruptors did for the flagship of the Federation! 
In the above picture you can see that we figured out what to use drones for... to soak up enemy phasers! 

This last picture is of the end game, where you will note that the Klingons went from having seven ships to five, and the Federation from five to three

We had to end before one side or the other struck their colors, but of course I was going to win.

For those keeping track, it was 50% on newly painted cruisers surviving the game.  The D7C was sent to Sto-vo-kor, while the red-stripe D7 survived with the least damage of all cruisers. 

We both had a great time, and hope to play again... maybe with a third player?

Monday, August 15, 2022

D7 Command Cruiser conversion

Here is a bit of a teaser post, a hasty conversion of a standard D7 (MicroMachines version) to a D7 Command cruiser.  The command cruiser is a cruiser squadron leader, with an extra command deck, better phasers, and a couple more of them. 

I sculpted the extra neck detailing, and the little bit on top of the hanger, but otherwise just dashed this out.  A bit of repainting later, and it was done. 

Lumpy!

Here is what my digitally sculpted version looks like.  Much sharper! 
Smooth!

Comparison to a regular D7.

Next time, will these ships survive a battlefield newly painted?

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Falcon III

The Eldar Falcon tank I started when my wife was out of town over a year ago has been sitting in a nearly finished state on my desk for a while now, and it was really just the base holding me back.

I finally finished it with a bit of weathering power, and here it is. 




Here is the base, where I tried to do too much and had it take much longer than it should have.  In fact with brickwork, ground work, painting, washes, and weathering powders, this probably took about 1/3 of the time it took me to make the whole tank! 

Next up SHOULD be more Eldar, but you never know what will eventually come out here. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Wraithblades

So in my last substantive hobby post, back in February (!), I outline my future plans for the Eldar army, which consisted of doing the basing for the figures I had finished, finishing up the ones which were 80% done, and then painting the figures which I had built and primed.

So naturally instead this happened:


Yes, that is right, I went off the plan, which itself was already off the original plan, and made up this unit of Wraithblades (the choppy version of Wraithguard, which are basically robots piloted by Eldar ghosts).  This version has a large axe and a shield on the left arm, but they could have two swords instead. 

Each of these fine robotic fellows is comprised of a few parts

17 parts each!

Here are some closeups:




I actually painted these fairly quickly, but then got hung up on the bases, as is often the case. 


I went with the same sort of decayed urban zone as the Wraithlord, but then nearly ruined it with some overeager application of weathering powders.  I basically scraped that all off, and here is the result. 

So these turned out nicely, but the kit was sort of a pain.  All the parts of the Wraithlord, but a quarter of the size means that it was less satisfying to build, and the fixed ankles limited possibility.  There are however still two options I do not have, so I suspect there is still the possibility of another kit in my future. 

I have a couple other projects nearing completion, so it should look like I am making progress soon. 

I still have to do all those bases though... 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Excuses

 Lots of excuses as to why I have not posted lately, nor even touched any miniatures at all in the last couple months. (Taxes, Birthdays, selling on Ebay, weather etc.)

Here is a more substantial one: Vision. 

For the last six months or so, I have had difficulty focusing on objects within arms reach... which is to say painting and modeling range.  To manage it I would have to take off my glasses, and without them on bring said object closer and squint at it with one eye.  Naturally this is a fairly limiting practice! 

A couple of weeks ago I got new glasses with progressive lenses, which I have had some difficulties adjusting to.  I think that I am ranged in enough now that I can paint miniatures, although I have been working up to it with some terrain work. 


I do however have a number of projects at the stage where they are nearly ready to post about, so I only need to get my rear in to gear and... do it.   Hopefully before we get into the busy part of the early Summer. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Klingon Armada - Actual play

This weekend I played an actual game for the first time in a long time. 

Stew, of the excellent blog A terrible Loss of Lead and Wealth, had suggested that he was interested in trying out some Star Trek-esque gaming, and we eventually hashed out a time to get together.  As long time readers know, I have been very slowly building up a couple of TOS era forces basically since the blog began.  Despite this long build up, I still needed to prepare for the game, and spent a number of evenings painting up a few more ships and some various tokens and such. I also put together a quick reference sheet, since there is no official one, and printed a play mat.  

Drone/Missile markers of two types
Shuttles

Federation shuttle markings

Newly painted D6 cruiser

Stew had a very lovely set up with shade and three tables that more than accommodated the 3x4 foot mat I printed off at work. He took the perfidious Federation and I took the noble warrior Klingons. 

CB New Jersey Class, CA Constitution Class, DD Saladin Class, FF Burke class

D7 class cruiser, 2 D6 class cruisers, F5 and E4 frigates 

Despite both being bloggers, we were more than a little caught up in the game and I only managed one picture of the game!  

Scene of destruction

Hopefully Stew took more pictures. 

The game played very smoothly, although we both agreed that drones (heavy missiles) seemed a bit pointless, since in the numbers used they hit nothing!  Maybe next time I will have to take a CAG variant to really pump them out.  We also tried out of a few of the more esoteric Trek technologies, but unfortunately my glorious boarding action merely eliminated the redshirts on the New Jersey, and did not capture the ship. 

I had a great time, and Stew said he was hooked, so there ought to be more games in the future. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

New Year, Same project

 Last year, I started on building an Eldar army, something I had long wanted to do.  The intent of this was to "quickly" build up a force to combat my kid's Space Marines.  I had collected the Eldar over a very long time, and with the interest in 8th/9th edition 40k and the kid's new Space Marine army, it seemed like time to get going. 

As it happened, I quickly outpaced the kid as return to in-person school soaked up the available free time.  (free-time that was not spent on Minecraft anyway).  This in turn slowed me down until it came to Dreadtober, where I bashed out a Wraithlord in a month.  I also added to the project with a Falcon, Autarch, and Howling Banshees. 

Here are the original project figures after about a year of work:

Clockwise from the top we have Dire Avengers, Fire Dragons, a Warlock, Rangers, Swooping Hawks, and in the middle we have some Guardians.

Aside from the Dire Avengers, these are largely finished, with just gems and bases to go.  Since I plan to base everything at the same time AND am not 100% sure what I want to do, they have been in this state for a while.  The Dire Avengers need a bit more highlighting and work on the white of the helmet before they are at the same stage as the others. 

Now a logical, and sensible person would have stayed with the army as seen above, finished that, and then moved on to expansions on it (or the 1001 other projects I have piled up on my desk).  Instead, we had some scope creep.
Added to the army above we have a Wraithlord, Falcon, and Wraith Guard.  Bizarrely [or characteristically] these added items were finished before the original.  The Wraithlord is 100% done thanks to Dreadtober, and the Falcon just needs a base and sealer coat.  The Wraithguard only need basing. 

Also added to the army but not yet finished are the Howling Banshees, striking scorpions, and an Autarch. 

So what is next?  Well the 9th edition Eldar Codex is coming out in a month or so, and with it a ton of new kits.  I also have jetbikes, more guardians, more Swooping Hawks, support weapons, and a squad of War Walkers that I could/should add as well.  A Farseer would also be useful...  So plenty more to come, I just need to find the time. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Holidaze

Happy Christmas and New Year to you, dear reader(s).

This year I was able to take off the whole week between Christmas and New Years, which was almost enough to relax, despite the best unmentioned here efforts of 2021 to drag us down right at the end.  

I got some good loot this year as well, and hope you did too. 
Putrid Blightkings, clay shapers, a D&D battle mat flip book, and some figures for a project I am definitely not doing. 

We managed to escape town for a few days to the mountains with the cousins, and I ran the kids through another two sessions of D&D.  Being kids they are a bit easy to distract, and being numerous, they argue about what to do, so we are not that far in the campaign.  They did get to roll dice though, so it was good. 

Flip book in action

Which did not stop me from introducing more side quests, some political intrigue, and to allow them to dual class when they leveled up. 

Aside from the stuff I got personally, we also got some family games, including family favorite Mille Bornes, as well as a few others that the kids got which are not shown here (an escape room puzzle, and a Nancy Drew mystery game).  


The kid also got a combat patrol, dreadnaught, and librarian, so at some point there will be enough marines to viciously slaughter my Eldar.  Of course by the time they are painted, the new Eldar codex and miniatures will be out, so maybe I can regain the upper hand?

Here is to a better 2022 for you and yours. 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Christmas Knotty list

Well, nautical list at least.

Final ship boxed up for display

My dad is a huge fan of the Aubrey-Maturin book series, and since it has been a while since I beat my head against a wall, I thought I would try something new and challenging, like building and rigging a 1/700 ship, and then add a time limit to get something done for a Christmas gift.

The primary ship in the book series is the HMS Surprise, which is a real ship, modified for a longer life in the novels than it had in the real world.  The Surprise was a captured French Corvette, which was re-rated by the British Navy as a sort of frigate, although its service life was short, and it was paid out in 1802.  (the ship in the novels gets another 15 years of service)

I bought the files for the hull to 3d print, and while the files were good, the print was not, and I spent quite a bit of time cleaning up the various strings and bubbles.  I had printed another ship's hull before as a practice, and that one turned out nicely, so it was probably something to do with our "winter" weather (40 degrees F and wet).  During the cleanup I broke off the catsheads.  I also printed a stack of ships boats that I modified from files found on Thingiverse, and added a lantern that I scratch built from a bit of plastic WHFB lance and some wire. 

3d printed ships can have 3d printed masts and sails, but being an idiot, I decided that I would scratch build my own masts and sails.  The masts were made from paper clips, plastic card, and thread.  At this stage I learned that I was literally incapable of tying the knots, and my wife helped by doing those. At least I got to work on my sailor language.  I also made sails from paper, which I painted, cut out, and then drooped on curved surfaces to approximate the billow of the sail. Spars were thinner paper clips and other assorted wire.

Masts finally finished, spars and sails drying

After getting the masts done, it was time to work on rigging the ship.  
I skipped knots completely, and went right to super glue, so it does not bear close inspection. 

I also made a pair of ratting looms in Tinkercad, which were much harder to use than I anticipated, and I had to press gang my wife again for this job. Getting the lines to have enough tension for glue to take hold was difficult. In the end, the ship only got one pair of rattings, rather than the eight or so that it should have. 

Reference materials

I was heavily inspired by A Miniatures Hobby Room, who happened to post a lovely British Frigate build that I saw in the middle of this process.  After crying in the corner for a while, I copied what I could, but fell woefully short. (and that is a smaller ship too!)

This is the largest picture that I took of the "finished" product

I was working on this down to the wire, with the ship being hot-glued into a baseball collectors box (80cm cube) and the box put into the bag about five minutes before we left for Christmas dinner. 

So what did I learn?  That tiny ships are very hard!  No fleets forthcoming from me. If you are planning to something similar, give yourself another week of time, since I think this could have turned out better with a bit more effort.

In the end, my dad did like the ship though, and put it straight away onto his display shelf, where it displaced a Lego helicopter that a grandson made some time ago.  So all is well that ends well.