Sunday, September 23, 2018

Salerno 'Tobacco Factory' - Part 4 - Raising the Roof

When I started this project, I knew it was going to be a lot of work. I had no idea until I was 32 hours into scratch building seven separate roofs from plywood and model railroad polystyrene roof tile sheets exactly how much. Here is the complex with all of the buildings that will be intact during the battle.

The rest of the buildings were destroyed by bombing or direct fire during the battle and will be represented by rubble. Some of the facades shown in the previous post will be part of that rubble. Initially I thought I might have those destroyed buildings represented mostly intact. I changed my mind when I realized how dominating the complex is on the tabletop. Rubble can be seen over and crossed by tanks, buildings cannot. 

Each of the roofs is removable to allow figures to be placed inside the buildings. This is a key mechanic for Iron Cross, and will also be useful for Bolt action.

Close-ups of some of the buildings are below. Still to be done, adding more weathering and battle damage.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Salerno 'Tobacco Factory' - Part 3

Work continues on the Salerno tobacco 'factory' terrain for game day. Completed are the base units for all of the large buildings and two of the smaller wedge-shaped buildings. The rest of the smaller wedge-shaped buildings are placed in un-assembled so I could get a sense of the scale of the piece. It's HUGE. The grey mat is 4' x 6'.

The wedge-shaped buildings each side of the ruined building were completely destroyed in the bombing of the complex. I'm likely to make those more rubble piles, lower in height due to the lighter mass of the shorter buildings. This will also allow armor a point of ingress. The same approach will be taken on the wedge building lower left. Lower right the wedge and large building will also be destroyed rubble. These pieces are still to be created.

Two and a half weeks to go. I'm in full brown alert on this. Moving as quickly as I can. The Mrs. came down to see why she hadn't seen me in days and said, "you're missing all the roofs"...yep, they're on the to-do list! Also on the to-do list is adding battle damage and weathering and making scatter rubble. If push comes to shove, piles of crushed coarse cork may suffice for the latter.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Northern Conspiracy September 2018 Game Night

Last Friday was our club's September game night. I played in Mark D's warm-up game for next month's Salerno Iron Cross game day. You can read more about Mark's gaming on his blog. Mark's battle pits his free French vs. the Germans in a meeting engagement. Mark's terrain, vehicles and figures are beautiful and all painted by Mark himself.

Bob and I were the Germans, Ed and Michael were the French. This game EVERYONE started out with hot dice. Stuff was dying fast. Mortars hit first time, every time.  This photo to the left shows what happens when the dice are this hot and you're daring enough to assume that they'll stay that way. Ed charged a single squad of bazooka-armed French infantry around to the German rear, waded through the hail of defensive fire, blew up a German 8-rad armored car, rallied off all it's hits, then took another run at the Panzer IV which escaped only due to additional defensive fire taken by the heroic French.

Many laughs were had - good fun. Congratulations for a well played game by Michael and Ed. Extra points for style.

Phil ran a game of Gauls vs. Romans using Ralph's Hannibal at the Gates rules. From what I heard this was a back-and-forth game with the Romans having early success and the Gauls surging late once their veteran units got stuck in.

Greg put on a beautiful Great Northern War game, featuring his lovely terrain and beautiful figures (see close-up). This game finished sooner than mine, so I didn't get a proper AAR from it. Apologies!

Mark has another write-up and more photos of this on his blog, My Brave Fusiliers.

Rob and Kevin stopped by to say 'hi' but couldn't stay to game.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Salerno 'Tobacco Factory' - Part 2

More progress on the terrain for October game day. I now have one of each type of large building roughly framed up with interiors still to paint. I have one ruined building 'in the raw' still needed to be painted. Here they are on a 'broken blacktop' Zuzzy Mat that I have dry brushed with earth tones to represent the factory's infield. On it are a sample of the craters that will fill the factory's courtyard.

After finishing for the night last night I realized to my horror, that the smaller wedge-shaped sections are too tall. They should be only a little taller than their (correctly-sized) doorways according to the photos. Fate was smiling on me though. I haven't glued them up so cutting them down should be a simple affair on my Dremel table saw.

Next up, continuing to work on preparing three more 'blanks' of the paint-layered plywood to make the rest of the building frames. Hopefully progress on this will start to approach a fever pace. I'm down to only a few weeks and I'm still only about 20% finished.

For the rubble in the ruined section, I used a base layer of pink construction foam. On top of it are over 100 bricks made by punching out thin craft foam with a square hole punch. With the bricks are various sizes and shapes of grit. I'm hoping when painted this will look enough like a correct pile of building rubble but still allow figures to be placed on it. I still have to make rubble piles for the outside. I'm going to make them out of hot-wired foam and more of the same rubble technique.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Saga Saturday

This past Saturday I hosted a 'Saga day' in my basement at the encouragement of my friend Mike and the rest of the club members who were interested. Having a twelve foot long table I can host three separate Saga tables at one time. With the addition of a pair of folding tables I can have four simultaneous games running.  Saturday we had two people who couldn't make it so the big table was enough space. The official Saga playing areas are marked out using orange masonry string.

On the left table Mike and Dick squared off. Dick was commanding a Milites Christi force and Mike was pushing a Saracan warband. I believe Dick won this table. I'm sorry the battle reports on the neighboring tables are unexciting. Playing a Crusader army for the first time had me more than overwhelmed just trying to play my own game.

 The right table featured Ralph's freshly painted and beautiful Teutonic Knights against Michaels Mutatawwi'a with their awesome and lavish encampment. This was a close affair, but I believe Ralph squeaked out a win mostly thanks to an early elimination of Michael's warlord.
 Here's a close-up of Ralph's Teutonic figures.

My battle was against Greg's freshly painted and also beautiful Spanish. I used a borrowed crusader army loaned to me by Mike. Mike's crusaders had a unit of levy and a unit of pilgrims. The pilgrims are awful soldiers, but with the right encouragement from the battle board, can be made to fight. Losing pilgrims also motivates the rest of your force allowing you extra Saga actions. This encourages you to get the pilgrims stuck in and dead, which I did. Early on they gave one of Greg's hearthguard units all that they could handle driving them from the table. From there on it was all Spanish as Greg's javelin-armed force picked my apart in detail with their hit and move tactics. A push at the end made it a closer affair, but the points total showed that Greg had me going away. His Spanish are a tough army to fight against, particularly when well played, which Greg did quite effectively. Good game Greg!

Hopefully later this fall we'll do some more Saga. For now, it's back to the workshop for me to continue working on the Salerno Tobacco factory terrain for our club's October game day.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Salerno 'Tobacco Factory' - Part 1

This upcoming October I am teaming up with three other Northern Conspirators to host our annual game day. This is typically a large single game, or related tables as part of a campaign. This year we're going to do the Allied invasion of Italy at Salerno. Each of us is taking a key battle during the brief campaign. Having a laser, and wanting to try something new and unique, I have volunteered to do the Salerno 'Tobacco Factory' as the allies called it. In reality it was a complex of warehouses and drying sheds for processing the tobacco grown in the surrounding area.

The Italians called the complex the "Tabacchificio Fioche".  The black and white photo above was taken well after the battle after significant clean up had happened. The rubble and bricks removed presumably for rebuilding efforts elsewhere. To the bottom right of the photo you can see a bridge over a small, but tactically significant river. The factory complex acted as a natural hard point for this key bridge. The British tried to take the complex at least four times and the Americans twice, before the final battle for it secured it permanently for the allies.

This is a modern photo shows the remaining ruins of the complex which have been partially preserved. The key characteristic is the primarily white field with rows of red bricks exposed. Pre-war black and white photos show this pattern to have been part of these buildings construction and not an artifact of wear or damage. To make my tabletop buildings I'd like to replicate at least the theme of this pattern, as much as possible. I've developed some techniques to assist in this using multiple layers of paint and the laser to remove the brick 'strips'. After assembly I'll add battle damage, dirt and grime. Starting with near-pristine patterns will make all the weathering more realistic.

 This is the shell of the first of five large buildings. From the photos they come in two forms, one with tall doors and one with normal doors and ventilation windows. This is the latter. I still have additional applique brick work to add around the openings.

Below is the first of the wedge-shaped smaller buildings. This one is temporarily taped together. I still have to hand-sand the bevels in each panel and cut a base for it before assembly.

This is a close-up of a sample I made to test the laser technique. The middle row near the figure's wrist is what is used on the buildings. The bricks are near scale. The buildings are intentionally under-sized to allow the entire complex to fit on a 6' x 8' table and still allow room around it for maneuver. I didn't want fighting the fight like a Stalingrad battle to be the only option.

I still have a long way to go, but at least the techniques look like they'll work. I also have the majority of the computer CAD work done. Now it's just spending the time to make all the buildings, scratch build seven roofs and weather everything. There's also three ruined buildings to make. More on those soon.....

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Pimp Your Craters - Part Three - Finished

This is part three of Pimp Your Craters. See part one here and part two here.

Step 6 - finish painting by hand: I started off with a two-inch house painting brush and some cheap craft paints in various shades of brown. I followed this up with a one-inch hobby brush with various greys and sand colors using hobby paints streaking the craters from the center out to the edge. I then picked out some rocks and painted them various earth shades and followed up with a detail dry brush in selected areas. A final darkening at the impact point was done with dirty black to give it a scorched look.

I wanted these to look like blasted earth and not part of the moon. To achieve this I tried to stay away from grey as much as possible and stick with a earth palette. I'm pretty happy with this decision, although a bit too much grey still ended up coming through in the end.

I'm counting these as five terrain/misc created in the annual painting totals. Even though they were just re-paints, I put enough time into them for them to count.

Friday, August 17, 2018

"Homemade" Saga Dice

This is a set of "homemade" Saga Ordenstadt dice that I've recently made for myself. I put homemade in quotes, because it's not really fair to say as most people don't have a laser engraver in their home. With maker spaces becoming more common these days, more people do have access to them now. Projects on the laser aren't any harder than painting a figure once you get access to the equipment. Studio Tomahawk, the publisher of Saga, provides the dice graphics for people to make their own dice. As long as they're for your personal use, I believe this is an activity permitted (encouraged?) by the rules publisher.

Earlier I posted a photo sample die that I made. After some corrections to the settings of my laser I believe I have things dialed in nicely. This is a fairly laborious job involving a lot of masking of the dice with painter's tape, laser engraving the pattern onto each face, then removing the masking tape. The latter is particularly labor intensive due to the very tiny bits of tape left in some portions of the pattern. These need to be 'weeded' off each face with a hobby knife, tape, etc. Each die is then washed with water and a soft cloth.

They're not perfect, but they'll roll fair and are serviceable. For armies I just want to try out I make more sets. I did purchase two official dice sets for the armies I intend to play the most. For comparison, the Studio Tomahawk Ordenstadt dice are shown below:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Pimp Your Craters - Part Two

In Pimp Your Craters Part One we left off at step two, having textured the topside of the craters. This is part two.

Step 3 - hide the ugly flange: This step was straight forward. I coated the flanges with PVA glue and added some larger rocks from model railroad talus, and then filled the rest of the area with model railroad medium ballast stones. These photos are after drying overnight.

 Step 4 - prime black: To get a uniform coloring I primed the whole set in matte black primer.
Step 5 - over spray earth brown: This was done using a mix of brown rattle can spray paints. Photographed while this paint was still wet.

Next up in part three, detail painting with brushes by hand.

First units for Saga - Crusader Hearthguards

My friend and fellow Northern Conspirator Mike has been promoting the Saga rule set within the club recently. He's even been hosting some one-on-one and small group games to introduce new players to the rules. It seems that his efforts have paid off as several of us are starting Saga armies to use with the the 'Age of Crusades' era /  source book.

I'm starting off with some generic Crusader units and will probably eventually create enough units to do most of the Christian armies. Later I'll likely want to do some of the Muslim armies to oppose them. Of particular interest are the armies with camels. I've never painted any camel-mounted troops.

These figures are from Gripping Beast and represent two four-figure units of hearthguards. The shield transfers are from Little Big Men Studios. I have some experience building plastic models and prefer water slide decals, sometimes even making my own. LBMS transfers are a hybrid between stick-on and water slide. Applying them may be more intuitive for those without experience using water slide decals, but for me I found them less easy to use. The graphics were sized appropriately for the Gripping Beast figures and the graphics with the exception of one shield so far were very good. The one shield that didn't keep it's detail as well as the rest just looks dirty, which is quite acceptable.

The first unit is Gripping Beast's "military sergeants with hand weapons". They're more uniformly equipped and I believe intended for the Milites Christi warband which explains their uniform equipment. I've kept the equipment regular, but varied the shields which I hope will give them a bit more utility. Eventually I may paint up a full uniform Milites Christi force with matching shields, but for my first units I prefer the flexibility.

These are wonderful figures with great equipment detail. Even the backs of the figures without cloaks have straps and buckles on them. I took some extra time to do a gray highlight on the black cloaks on these. The only complaint I have with these is the photographs on the Gripping Beast website depict these equipped with axes and swords. The weapon hands being separate. My pack only contained hands with swords - no axes.

The second unit is Gripping Beast's "dismounted knights #4". Three of the four of these come with shields detached and hands without weapons. I would have preferred all four match, either all with or all without. The one odd figure looks a bit misplaced among the others. The hands do not come pre-drilled. Not much else to say here, the figures have good detail and painted up quickly.

Saga has a lot of dice. Each army needs eight. Tomahawk Games provides images so you can make your own dice if you like. I purchased a set of Christian and Muslim dice, but the rest I will probably make on my laser engraver. This sample Teutonic die I created to see if making my own would be doable. I need to adjust the laser's settings to get the design etched deeper into the die's surface, but I think the end result will be worth the manual labor or masking and painting the dice. There's something about making your own stuff that's very satisfying.