Learning a New Game

Steve and I had our introductory Chain of Command game last night to get our first taste of the mechanisms. We didn't use any terrain at all, so tactical options were pretty limited — BEF vs. Jerries on the barren open steppes of Dinnertable — but demonstrating tactical brilliance wasn't really the aim of the exercise.

Unfortunately we had to work from the PDF (still waiting for our books to arrive). I hate PDFs for game rules, they suck, especially when they're not bookmarked. I hate not being able to easily flick back and forth through the text. It may be a convenient format to carry stuff around in, but give me a hard-copy, even just a print-out, any day.

Still, it was fun as far as it went. The Patrol Phase mechanism was an interesting way of setting up the initial parameters of the game, and the Command Dice lottery leads to some really interesting (and often frustrating!) choices. There are lots of bits and pieces in the rules, but the fundamentals are simple enough that we were playing along quite smoothly within half an hour — until we hit a new situation and had to find it in the accursed PDF!

From first impressions, I'd say it shows great promise. I think it will likely become our preferred platoon-action game system, with Battlegroup for anything larger.

Char 2C (1:100)

The Char 2C (also known as FCM 2C) was a French super-heavy tank of the Interwar period, and went into service in 1921. I don't believe any of them ever saw action; those that were in service in 1940 when Germany invaded were either abandoned, or were destroyed by aerial bombing while still on the rail-cars waiting to take them to the front.

As such, this is yet another model that is of pretty limited use on the wargames table, but as usual I don't see that as a particular impediment to designing one for 3d printing.

I originally found a model of it on Thingiverse, but the geometry of that model was so bad that I found myself spending more effort on trying to fix it than I would have spent in designing a model of my own. So that's what I did. It's primarily based on drawings in one of George Bradford's books, plus various photographs I found on the internet. This is one of those vehicles that existed in a variety of configurations, so I make no guarantees as to absolute accuracy. However, it does look like what it's meant to be, which is a good start for a wargaming model.

This model is designed at 1:100 scale for 15mm gaming, and it's in several pieces for ease of printing — this image has been assembled digitally. As of writing, I have the last pieces on the printer and, all going well, I should be able to put it together tomorrow morning.




Next Day....




Here's the first test print (0.08mm layers, eSun PLA+), all assembled.

Unfortunately I got some pretty bad under-extrusion on the turrets, and they'll have to be reprinted, but it's done its job to let me know what works and what needs to be addressed.

The main thing (apart from the missing lifting lugs) is that, to ease assembly, it really needs some locating sockets that I can put bits of filament in to make sure the pieces go together in exactly the right place. This was done all by eye, which works, but isn't ideal.

There's a lot of printing in this — all together, for all the components, it took me about 23 hours. The track runs alone took 15 or 16; I split them each in half fore and aft and printed them standing up. I tried a config in Cura where I printed them each in one piece lying down flat on the print bed, and that timed out at about 9.5 hours (probably more like 11, knowing Cura's estimates). However, I find I get better, cleaner surface detail on vertical than horizontal surfaces.

Maggot Golem

A couple of sessions ago, I could have used a Maggot Golem figurine, but didn't have one. It's too late for that particular encounter, but now I do have one, just in case.

I've experimented with Cura's "fuzzy skin" setting, and used the "Cave Lurker" by Arian Croft at https://www.myminifactory.com/object/3d-print-cave-lurker-15mm-scale-58440 as the basis for the figure. I smoothed it all out a bit and decimated it in Blender, since I wouldn't be needing any surface detail at all.

As usual, I've included Sergeant Measureby and his +5mm Spear of Measuring for scale.

Big Gun

BL-20 203mm Tracked Howitzer model by M. Bergman
Figures are 15mm plastic Soviets from PSC


"Oy! There's a sniper in that city block! Just take care of him, will you comrades?"
"OK then, do you know just where he is?"
"No, does it matter?"
"Well, no....."


I've always liked the Soviet 203mm tracked howitzer. It just looks so.... mechanical. I don't know that I'm all that likely to need a model of one for the wargames table any time soon, but the way I see it, that's not an excuse not to print one anyway.

The print is going to need a bit of cleaning up, especially the muzzle which is a bit malformed. Still, it should be reasonably straightforward. And of course I'll need a crew... I'll see what Peter Pig has that I might be able to use. I already have a Voroshilovetz to tow it about the place.

Star-Crossed

Here's a thing I made. Which I'm sure will come in handy. Though I don't quite know for what.

It's a 20mm d6 with stars on three faces and balkenkreuz on the other three.

The STL is downloadable from https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3474568 for anyone who can think of a use for it.

I was thinking that maybe it could be used as a turn initiative randomizer for WWII wargames, but I don't know if that would make for a more enjoyable game, or just a more frustrating one. Or if nothing else, it could just be used as a d2.

T-28

 Here's the Soviet T-28 medium tank that I ballsed up the printing of and had to retrieve.

In the end it turned out OK, but it could certainly be better.

I don't normally time myself when I'm painting things, but in this case I put something on the printer just before I started on this one, and it told me exactly how long I'd been going. So this model's painting, from go to whoa, took me about an hour and a half.

I printed a spare turret as well, with the frame radio aerial.

Radios of any kind were rare in Soviet AFVs of the time (late 1930s to mid-1940s) and probably only the company leader would be likely to have a radio capable of both transmitting and receiving, and troop leaders might only have a receiver. Command by flag signals were still a common thing amongst Soviet tank units at the beginning of WWII. So that means that I'll only really need one radio turret per troop, at maximum.

The Heartbreak of Filament Run-Out






I went to print a 1:100 scale Soviet T-28 medium tank, and as is my habit these days, I split the hull in half fore and aft and printed it in two pieces.

Then I went off to bed, to sleep the sleep of the innocent.

Alas, I had over-estimated the amount of filament left on the reel.

When I got up this morning, this was the horrible sight that greeted me — an incomplete print, with the model's innards immodestly exposed for all to see.

Oh, woe! Dismay!

My first reaction was to just reprint it, but then I thought that I could use the opportunity to try a retrieval strategy of which I had read, but never actually done myself.




It is possible in Cura, the 3d printing slicing software I use, to move the model partially below the level of the virtual print bed. Then only the portion still exposed is processed for printing.

It can be done quite precisely — I could measure the height of the piece I had already printed, and drop the model in Cura by exactly that amount. However, models like this have a lot of surface features that can be used to do it pretty accurately by eye, which is what I did.


I did have to sand the incomplete faces perfectly flat, as they weren't complete layers, but that was easy enough and presented no problems.

In the end, it turned out pretty well, and the repair seams won't be very noticeable at all once I get some paint on to the model.

As an aside, the new grey PLA is about a bajillion times easier to photograph than the white was.

Ice Worm

This is Reaper's Ice Worm, or Remorhaz as it's known in D&D.

I originally meant it to be in pale metallic blues and greens, but I went rather too heavy with the colour and it ended up in this rather tropical palette. Never mind, it will still do for gobbling up PCs wherever it might be located. I might get another though, and see if I can't do a better job.

I painted this a few years ago, and this group of photos is mostly to try out the new backdrop and turntable I made for my light-box.

Mister Blobby

I made this blob-monster some years ago out of a bit of expanding foam gap-filler overflow.

I glued it to a steel washer for stability, and slapped on some paint and washes — et voila! 

An all-purpose amorphous blob, ready to absorb any PCs that get near it.

Plastic Concrete Stuff for the Tabletop

STL came from Thingiverse, but I failed to take note of the author.
I found it with a search for "bunker"


This is an experimental print I did to examine the practicality of FDM 3d printing for simple battlefield emplacements and the like.

This is supposed to be a rooftop flak emplacement for a large dug-in bunker, like some of the ones found on the Atlantic Wall. It's sized for 15mm models. It would not be a very complex modeling task in traditional materials like foam and plaster; I'd say I could probably knock one out in two to four hours, not counting drying times.

The print, even at quite a low resolution (0.2mm layers), took about eleven hours to complete, plus another hour and a half or so for the gun (at a higher resolution). I could thus expect to have made two or three in foam and what-not in that time.

The advantage of printing is that it's pretty much fire-and-forget, as long as nothing goes wrong; I could put one on to print overnight and take it off the printer the next morning when I stumble out of bed, bleary and decrepit. Disadvantages include the fact that every one would be identical, including damage, and there are the visible printing artifacts from the low-rez printing.

I think, in the end, the ease and convenience of printing win out for me, as I'm primarily interested in what are essentially gaming tokens rather than diorama-quality models. I don't mind so much having to wait; after all, it's still quicker than ordering a resin model online and waiting for it to arrive.

Somua S-35 Beutepanzer

This is the WWII French Somua S-35 medium tank, in its configuration after being inducted into German service, where it was designated PzKfw 35-S 739(f).

There wasn't a great deal of difference visually between the French and German versions of the tank; the Germans just chopped off the top of the turret cupola and added a simple two-leaf hatch.

This 1:100 scale model is by Marco Bergman, and printed by me in PLA on my Ender 3.

Where the hell are we?

Labyrinths and mazes are a staple trope of the tabletop (and computer) FRPG (or shooter).

I have a reasonably good sense of direction, but in an environment where I have no environmental input from outside the maze (e.g. the sun) and no clear grid to work with, I get lost pretty easily. I'm pretty good at retracing my steps, and in that sense I don't easily get "lost", but if I'm not walking through a grid-based maze (or building) then it won't be long before I couldn't tell you if I'm facing north, south, east or west.

Even what seems like a perfectly rational grid-based layout could be built to deceive the sense of direction though. I refer you to the path highlighted in pink in this illustration: if each of those corners is just enough out of square so as not to be obvious, someone walking down the meander could easily be turned in a wholly unexpected direction. A RPG party who isn't using precision surveying instruments could be sent off north when they think they're heading east.

In a computer game, this would be easy to achieve. A tabletop game, however, relies on verbal description from the GM, assuming they're not just showing the group the map, which would be particularly lame. We shall not consider such poltroonery.

Back in the Olden Days, our GM(s) tended to describe our path through subterranean caverns and dungeons and things in terms of compass directions — "You walk east for fifty feet, and come to a Y-junction with passages heading off north-east and south east. Which one do you want to take?"

That sort of thing.

That makes description and mapping relatively straightforward, but it has this disadvantage: as soon as he started saying "left" or "right" instead of "north" or "south", we knew that he was up to something tricky, and everything slowed to a crawl as we took all the surveying precautions we could think of.

For that reason, I never describe a dungeonesque environment in terms of the cardinal directions, but only ever relative to the perceptions of the party inside that environment. It's sometimes a bit tricky to keep oriented, but it's worth it to cut out just one avenue of meta-knowledge that might mitigate against proper game immersion.

Monochromery

When I need a miniature for a game real quick, this is the sort of paint job I'll do as a stop-gap. It's a bit more interesting than a pure white plastic blob, and it only takes ten minutes or so.

The process is very simple, but it does rely on having an airbrush:

  1. Base-coat completely in black
  2. Zenithal shading (from above only) in white
  3. Gentle wet-brush in pure white to pull out main highlights
  4. Slap on an overall wash to give it a slight colour tint (in this case, Agrax Earthshade)
  5. Come back in with further pin-washes to accentuate specific points of interest if need be

And that's it. The result is a miniature that looks a bit like aged, patinated ceramic or bone rather than a featureless lump of white.
Note: You could do this without an airbrush, but it would be almost as much trouble as actually doing a proper paint job.

Pack Lizard

This is a model by Miguel Zavala, a pack lizard, alongside Sergeant Measureby for scale. I'm not sure that any lizard, no matter how large, would make a very good pack animal, but that doesn't really matter one whit.

The lizard was printed in PLA at 0.1mm layer height, and it printed almost completely without supports — there were just a few where the tail overhangs the base slightly.

I painted it like the skinks we used to have in our garden where I was growing up in the Bay of Plenty.

Printable Heroes

Click once for a two-sided fold-and-trim figure without background
Click again to get the same figure in black & white line work (colour your own!)
Click on the little silhouette figure above the standee to add or remove a heavy black outline
I have a personal preference for 3d painted miniatures when it comes to tabletop gaming, but they do have their disadvantages. They can be expensive, quite heavy en masse if cast in metal, and troublesome to store or transport. Also, they take quite a bit of work to prepare to a standard that satisfies me — pre-painted miniatures are available, but they're either phenomenally (and justifiably) expensive, or they're pretty crap.

There have been flat card playing tokens around for decades, but they've generally not been of great quality. They used to be called standees, among other things, and I first encountered them as tokens included in board games.

What I'm looking at here are much nicer than those old tokens, though they're essentially the same thing. They come from a site called Printable Heroes, and the person who runs it has a Patreon through which they release new standees on a regular basis.

I have only seen some of the PDFs released for free, so my comments are based mainly on those. The example I present here is the Banderhobb.

There is some information presented on the website about the creature, including in which book, and on what page, you can find the D&D5e stats for it.

On the right are download links. There are multiple options, depending on at what level you're donating to the artist on Patreon. As I mentioned above, I've only seen the free one.

The PDF is a single sheet, on which are five layered standees to be printed and trimmed. There are several configurable output options:

  • Click once on the figure to get a double-sided standee that can be printed and trimmed.
  • Click again on it to get the same layout, but this time in black & white line art, which you could colour yourself if you were so inclined
  • Above each miniature is a small silhouette figure: click on that to add or remove a heavy black outline — useful, as it means you don't have to be absolutely accurate with your folding and trimming.

Basing blanks are also provided on the sheet, and they too are configurable — you can choose one of several different coloured rings, to ease differentiation of individual monsters on the battlefield I assume.

Now, although the standee is double-sided, it isn't two-sided — there's no front and back, just two three-quarter front views.

This isn't really an issue for D&D3e onwards, as figures on a tabletop grid have no facing, but it could be an issue if you actually need to be able to easily distinguish a back and front. You could get around the issue by saying that its "front" is the edge of the standee it's more or less looking towards, and its back would thus be the opposite edge. That's a solution, but it's not ideal to me.

Obviously, having to also draw a back view for every standee would double the workload on the artist, but it would make for a better product, in my view.

It's possible that this is not the situation for the paid products, I don't know.

As far as the art work is concerned — I like it. It hits a good line between detail and simplicity, and it prints well. Much more detail would be largely wasted for the purpose of the figures, and less would start looking a bit too sparse and cartoonish.

These card cut-out standees have many advantages. They're cheap, easy to store and to transport, and they don't need to be painted (unless you want to). I like them a lot.

Later on....


Here's some in the flesh, as it were. My laser printer won't handle card, so they were printed on copy paper and then had a sheet of card sandwiched in the fold when I glued them up. The edges were blackened with a Sharpie marker.

I got steadily slacker and slacker at following the outline of the creature when I was cutting them out, but I don't think it will really matter that much when they're in use.

The 20mm standee stands I just designed in Blender and printed; they have a shallow S-bend so they grip the base of the card figure by tension, and they're glued to 22mm fender washers for stability. I printed them at a pretty low resolution (0.24mm layer height), not only because they print faster that way, but the ridges of the layers also help to grip the standee.

The STL for the base can be downloaded from Thingiverse at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3453434

Bridge Weight Limit — Generic Wargames Rules Fiddling

Bridges could be given a weight limit, which is not revealed to the player(s) until they actually try the bridge out. So maybe they'll be able to get their heavy armour across, or maybe not -- and lose a tank into the bargain.

It would be easiest with an umpire, but it could be done by using a stack of "weight class" chips or cards marked YES or NO, with each card equating to, say, ten tons. You arrange the stack according to the heaviest weight class vehicle on the table, and with NO cards from the level where the bridge will collapse. When you drive a tank over the bridge, you take the appropriate number of cards from the stack and read the last one. If it says YES, you made it. If not... say goodby to that precious tank, and the bridge.

You can add another card to the stack, right at the YES/NO transition, a MAYBE card which gives you a 50/50 die roll to get your vehicle across. So, maybe you'll get your first Tiger over, but what about the next? Or the next? You'll just have to gamble, or find another sturdier crossing point.

It wouldn't be appropriate to give every single type of bridge a weight limit, unless maybe you're habitually playing games with a Maus trundling about the place. I shouldn't imagine that most undamaged rail bridges, for example, would be likely to have any trouble carrying even a heavy tank. However, I am not a civil engineer, so I'm really just pulling this stuff out of my arse.

Depending on how pernickety you wanted to get, the same system could be used with different granularity for different classes of bridge. Each chip/card could, for example, equate to one ton instead of ten for lighter bridges. And the number of MAYBE die-rolling cards could be increased for bridges in poor repair.

The Joy of Two (Dimensions)

Here's tonight's initial game setup — the tiles are cobbled together from FDG's "Ravensfell Sewers" papercraft dungeon tiles set in Photoshop and printed on my laser printer, and the froghemoth in the pool is the one I 3d printed the other day.

I'm always impressed by beautifully built and painted 3d dungeons, but I can't be bothered with them for my own games. Most of the time I just draw on that laminated grid layout (the textured thing underneath the sewerage pool) with dry-erase markers and call it good enough, but from time to time I'll go berserk and make something a bit fancier — like this sewage collection pool.

Grills Gone Wild

This is a piece I designed for my own campaign, for use with 2d dungeon tiles. It could also be used with 3d tiles, but I haven't sized it to fit in with any particular range. It's designed for use with 28mm miniatures.

It prints in two pieces, front and back. If you don't mind printing with slicer supports, you could rotate the two pieces and mash them together in the slicer, and print them as one piece.

STLs are at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3437714

Sewer tile by Fat Dragon Games

Fly Away

One of the PCs in my AD&D/OSRIC campaign has an Ebony Fly, one of the Figurines of Wondrous Power, and I thought that I might get some more Blender 2.80 practice by making a figure to represent him when he's buzzing around on it. He's a cleric of Mother Shipton, a goddess of the Carny Folk, so I've given him a jolly carny hat.

The fly came from Thingiverse, but the figure I made in Daz3d. I thought that might be a short cut to creating a human mannequin, but it really wasn't. I had to do so much to make the Daz3d output usable as an editable Blender object that I really might just as well have built him from scratch in Blender to begin with.

I have the model on the printer at this very moment, and I'll see how it turns out tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed.

Next morning...

The print came out OK I guess, considering my enormous great 0.4mm nozzle, but clearing away the supports was a bit nightmarish and I had to glue three of its feet back on. I think it would be a good idea to chop up the model and print it in two, or even three, parts.

The flight stand is magnetic. I set a flat-headed machine screw into the belly of the fly.






It's a very quick paint-job, but it'll do for the moment.

Then I went and dropped it, and broke off all the feet on its starboard side. So, bugger.

Froggy the Froghemoth



This is the waterline remix I did of Miguel Zavala's froghemoth, along with an old Essex 28mm wargaming figure I call Sergeant Measureby (his spear is painted in 5mm increments).

The sculpting issues I had with it in Blender didn't really affect the FDM print, though they might be a bit more apparent in resin, I don't know.

I have not yet decided whether I'll put it on a water base. Maybe, some day.

Learning a New Game

Steve and I had our introductory Chain of Command  game last night to get our first taste of the mechanisms. We didn't use any terrain...