Monday, February 8, 2016

Digital Modelling (again)

I finally figured out (with the aid of the internet) how to fix the issue that was preventing me from importing the running-gear file, so I could put together this mock-up assembly of all the components.

For 3d printing purposes, the colour is really irrelevant. I thought I'd give it some though, because why not? In the process, I discovered that the turret and sub-turret files really need a bit of refinement. They were my first attempts in Blender, and it does rather show.

Now it's on to 3d printing the thing. I don't have local access to a printer, unfortunately. Even a relatively low-resolution printer would be useful for testing purposes, since the alternative would be to get Shapeways or one of those companies to do it, which would likely end up costing me an arm and a leg before I get a successful product.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Birthday Booty

I had a birthday party last night. The actual birthday was a week ago, but the weather was shitty, and we like to do our partyish socializing out in the back yard around a burning brazier, so we put it off until this weekend.

People brought me much wine, enough to ensure that my liver will suffer terribly.

Steve brought me an expansion to Kittens In A Blender, so we're no longer limited to only four players. Now we're limited to only six players, which is better.

Jo & Bastian brought me a whole bunch of ancient roleplaying miniatures, mostly Ral Partha, but there are some others in there as well. A few of them I already have examples of in my collection, but most are new to me (and I certainly never mind having more than one of a thing).

Now they can all go into a bath of Simple Green for a couple of days to strip off the old paint, ready for new paint.

All in all, I'd rate that birthday a Good Score.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Digital Modelling

Vickers Medium Mk.III c.1930
Back in the far distant past, I got pretty good at writing PovRay scene files in a text editor. Then a graphical front-end for PovRay appeared, called MoRay, and it was really good until it no longer worked with the new version of Windows (Vista), and the guy who originally wrote it lost interest in updating it. I believe he passed it on to the PovRay Foundation, but the last time I tried it, things hadn't really got any better.

Anyway, that was some years ago, and although I've dabbled from time to time I haven't really made the effort to come to grips with newer software.

As may have become apparent, I have an interest in the clunky rolling boilers that passed for AFVs in the inter-war period. Unfortunately, in my preferred gaming scales of 15mm (1:100) and 6mm (1:285 - 1:300), that period is very poorly served by manufacturers. However, now that 3d printing is beginning to mature, and reasonably high resolutions are now becoming available from companies like Shapeways, I thought I might see what I could do about the paucity of tanks from between the World Wars by building some digitally.

Machine-gun sub-turret
My software of choice is Blender, which is both very capable and free. I've tried it out before, when I was looking for a replacement for MoRay, but back then its UI was excruciatingly bad — it had clearly been designed by and for severely autistic engineering nerds, with little or no account taken of the needs or limitations of normal people, and with some truly unique assumptions about what was intuitive. Happily, it has been vastly improved since then. It's still not very straightforward to learn, but it's so much better that it might almost be a different program altogether.
Main turret

I decided to teach myself how to use Blender by building a Vickers Medium Mk.III, which (as far as I know) isn't manufactured by anybody anywhere in either 15mm or 6mm scales. So far, all I've got is the main turret and a front machine-gun turret, but it's a start.

I am learning a lot, but there's a lot more still to learn.


Turret with imported OBJ cupola in place
Here's a bit of progress for the morning.

I separated out the commander's cupola to its own file, and added some detailing to it. Then I exported it from Blender as an OBJ file, and imported it back into the turret file.

I don't know why the imported object is so much brighter than the native Blender stuff; I guess they use different default material settings. I haven't yet delved into any of that; it's not really relevant for the purposes of this particular model, which is 3d printing. However, I'll have to take account of it eventually.

I realised that I'd actually created the  main turret and mg turret at about 1:50 scale, not 1:100, so I had to do some resizing so that all the components would be consistent when I come to put them all together.

This will be about as far as I get today, I think. I've got the main shape of the hull complete, now it's just a case of adding all the bits.

Interestingly, the files size for the MG turret is much larger than for the main turret. I'm wondering if that's because I used UVSpheres instead of IcoSpheres for the rivets? I don't really know.

So far, modelling has been pretty straightforward — it's all primitives really, messed about with to one degree or another with Boolean sculpting. The side frames will be a bit trickier, I think; I might have to investigate some more advanced construction methods.

A little bit more fiddling about before I go to sleep. So many rivets.

February 3rd

Very slow progress today — most of my time was spent flailing about just trying to make that little grab-handle on the front of the driver's cupola. It turned out to be ridiculously simple once I found out how to do it, but the Boolean unions I was originally trying were driving me up the wall.

Apart from that, now the driver's cupola is also covered in rivets, and we have some track guards. It's progress, if slow.

February 4th

I've made a start on the rather complicated running gear, which has been an opportunity to try out importing and extruding SVG curves. It's not an entirely straightforward task, but it's really not terribly difficult either.

I created the form for the framework in CorelDraw, exported it to SVG and it went into Blender without a hitch. For some reason, Blender ignores the scale in the SVG file, and it appears in Blender's stage very, very tiny — it would be easy to assume that the import had failed unless you're prepared for that. You have to zoom right in to find it, and resize it a lot to get it up to its proper size. Also, the origin point for the curves is set way off to the side and needs to be reset. I have no idea why either of these things happen, but it does.

Since the finished model is intended for moulding and casting from a 3d printed master, it meant that I could simplify the framework a bit and make it solid, rather than the sandwich construction the original vehicle had.

Next up, wheels and tracks. That should be interesting. Once I've got this whole side finished, I should be able to just duplicate and mirror the whole thing to get the port side.

Running wheels and return rollers added. The drive sprocket and front idler will be ore candidates for an SVG extrusion I think. They could be built up within Blender, but it would be a chore.

Oh yes, and I'll be needing a track tensioning screw as well.

Well, putting the tracks on was a lot easier than I expected. The Array modifier saved a lot of time and fiddling around, though being able to set an offset value for simple duplications would have been almost as quick, and a bit more flexible as regards individual link rotation — it would have been easier to emulate track sag, for example.

The view from the front...

...and from the rear.

These things start getting a bit complex.

February 8th

I've gone back to the hull for the moment, to add all the clutter on the engine deck.

The exhaust pipes are going to be an interesting learning experience. I'm not really sure how to go about them, though I know that bendy pipes is something Blender can do.

Apart from the pipes, pretty much all that's left to do is the storage boxes that run along the track guards amidships. That and trying to work out what's wrong with my running gear file that makes it unimportable, and how to fix it.

As it turned out, the exhaust pipes were easier to build than I had expected, since I could just build them up from a filled, bevelled bezier curve transformed to a mesh.

On to the last leg. This has proven to be rather an enjoyable project.

The storage boxes have been added, and that is about that for the hull. No doubt there are more bits of detail that could go on, but essentially, it's done.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Vickers Medium Mk.II (1:300 scale)

This is a pretty awful model from Scotia; far below their general standard, which is normally actually not too bad. It's passable as far as profile goes, but it lacks most of the detail of the running gear (I had to paint in the drive wheel from scratch) and it has an odd grain in places that suggest the master was carved out of balsa wood or something. There is serious pitting in several places, especially on the top of the turret.

All this means that my usual painting technique of base colour, dry-brush and ink-wash wouldn't work.Everything had to be painted in from scratch, and details like hatches had to be created from thin air since they didn't exist, or had the merest suggestion, on the model itself. The edges are so soft that highlights had to be painted in to make the model look anything like as boxy as the original vehicle.

Scotia micros are cheap compared with GHQ or C-in-C, but you pay for that and more with the extra work you have to do to finish them.
Note: I thought I'd put these up here before, but couldn't find them when I went looking. So, here they are (possibly again), properly tagged so they can be found again.

Steampunk Cyborg Gorilla

This is another Reaper miniature designed by Jason Wiebe — 80001: Ape-X ($US 3.99).

I think that a gorilla's skin would tend to be blacker than this, but that made it very monochromatic, so I browned it up a bit.

And here it is again, photographed from every angle, just in case you really need to know what it would look like from a rear three-quarter view.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fly Demon

Here's another critter. It's Reaper's 77259: Fly Demon by Kevin Williams ($US 2.79 as of this writing).

I wanted a metallic effect to the blue, which I got, but the end result isn't quite as successful as I would have liked. The miniature would benefit from having its wings replaced with much thinner acetate ones, but of course that would be a lot more fragile. It could also do with a bit more detail modelled into its limbs, to bring out the insectoid articulation a bit more.

All in all, not one of my better efforts, but it will just have to do now.

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's time for some more monster-painting

It's been quite a while since I did any fantasy monster painting, so I pulled this guy out of my endless mountain of unpainted Bones miniatures. It's 77267: Kallaguk, Troll King by Jason Wiebe, and costs about four and a half yankeedolla.

Here he is with the trusty Sergeant Measureby, who tells us that sans-base, our troll king is about 50mm tall from toes to hump. He seems bigger compared to normal human figures though, being so massive.

So far I've just glued him to a big steel washer, done some zenithal shading/highlights with the airbrush, and slapped on a rough brown wash to show me where the detail is. I haven't decided yet what sort of colour scheme to use; I was originally considering crocodilian colours, but that might be a bit drab. I shall ponder some more before I get started properly.

I've started with some ink glazes and a bit of basic dry-brushing, and it seems to be coming together quite nicely.

Now it's just a question of getting stuck into the detail, especially about the face.

I've started giving him a bit of character, painting in the facial details. That's a mighty big tongue he's got there.

There only thing I'm not too fond of with these plastic Bones miniatures is the mould lines. They're a lot harder and more troublesome to get rid of than they are on metal figures. Still, in my view the benefits of the material far outweigh its disadvantages.

And we're done.

Lighting Test

I've put this here for my own reference. I've added a large reflector/diffuser to my lighting stage key light, and I wanted to take some test shots with it in place.

All photos were taken at ASA 100, f8, and with the camera set to auto-exposure. All lights are 24w. cool-white "daylight" fluorescents.

The camera is a Fuji FinePix S6500fd, now getting on for about ten years old.

  1. Ambient light only, approx 1.1 seconds.
  2. Key light only, approx. 1/12 seconds
  3. Key + left fill, approx. 1/20 seconds
  4. Key + left + right fill, approx. 1/30 seconds

Sunday, January 24, 2016

More magnetic basing

One of the things I've come to appreciate about thick bases for micro-scale stuff, besides the fact that it makes handling the elements very much easier, is that the thickness of the base makes it possible to apply identification information to the rear. I print out the labels on my laser printer, and glue them to the base edge with superglue gel.

This magnetic strip is about 1.6mm thick, which is just enough to display 5.5pt text. My old eyes still need glasses to read it, but it's legible. I guess if I were to bevel the rear edge of the base, it would provide more height and thus allow larger text, but this size seems OK.

These figures are GHQ's individual Afrikakorps. Apart from the expense, I do like GHQ's infantry, except for one thing: they mould things like this tripod-mounted MG34  with a filler wall beneath the barrel. I realise that it makes casting in one piece very much easier and more reliable, but I'd rather get the models as two-piece castings for assembly, and not have the ugly wall between the base and the gun barrel..

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Magnetic bases for micro-scale infantry

The mortar team (on the right) are better camouflaged than I thought.
Figures are GHQ Afrika Korps individual infantry.
I like to glue tiny magnets under all my micro-scale vehicles to keep them secure on steel trays in storage and transit, and it has the dual benefit that I can quickly and easily attach them to steel bases, if basing is required.

I've struggled to find an easy way of doing the same for infantry though. I've tried mounting them on sheet metal bases and storing them on sheets of magnetic 'paper', and that does work, but metal bases that are thick enough to handle easily are too heavy to transport easily en masse.

A little while ago though, I picked up some self-adhesive magnetic strip. It's a fairly stiff, slightly soft material that cuts easily, but is firm enough to stay flat in the small pieces needed for basing micros.

The type I found is 12.5mm (½") wide, which is perfect for the basing system I use, and it's cheap too — I think this pack cost me about five bucks. Three metres of tape (one pack) will do me 150 3-5 man infantry bases, or 240 2-man teams. That's pretty good value for money.

I'm keeping my eye out for some wider stuff (20mm wide) for mounting artillery on.

I've just stuck the figures straight to the double-sided tape on one side of the magnetic strip and landscaped over the top of it — I don't know about the longevity of that solution, and it may be necessary to revisit them in the future, but for the moment it's quick and easy, and seems to be holding quite firmly.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Khaki Green #3

I thought, when I was painting the Matilda 1, that my mix of Khaki Green #3 was looking greener and less brown than it used to, and I thought that maybe the green in the mix was staining the other pigments.

However, now that I look at it again next to some older models, I see that that's not so; it's just that previously I'd always painted it with the Dark Green #4 disruptive pattern which makes it look browner by contrast.

Mike Starmer's Khaki Green #3 mix again:
  • 1 part 822 (German Camo Black Brown)
  • 1 part 888 (Olive Grey)
  • 7 parts 921 (English Uniform)
The A13 (left) and A9 (right) are old sculpts from Battlefront; they've both since been re-mastered and considerably improved. They're also now both available as considerably cheaper injection-moulded plastic kits from Zvezda and (I think) Warlord Games Plastic Soldier Company.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Matilda 1 (1:100, Battlefront)

Battlefront sells their model of the Matilda 1 two to a blister, which suits me just fine. It is, as I've mentioned before, one of my favourite early WWII tanks, in spite of not being much good as a tank.

I strengthened the attachment of the skeletal floating running gear by pinning it through the return rollers. I left the pin-heads exposed, but they're not glaringly obvious. It's painted in Vallejo paints, using Mike Starmer's recipe for Khaki Green #3.

I bought some 1:100 scale Matildas from Peter Pig quite some time ago; here's one of them for comparison with the Battlefront offering.

Of the two, I much prefer the one from Battlefront. The detail is better, as is the silhouette of the tank; it requires less work to make presentable, and they end up costing roughly the same, so it's an easy choice to make.

Schneider CA1 (second version)

Here's the second Schneider from the box set I bought a while ago, painted in the outlined four-colour scheme that the French kept right through to WWII.

The first one can be seen here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Card Rack of Catan

Something that always irks me, when playing Settlers of Catan (or any other game of that ilk, really) is that the card piles inevitably end up all over the place, in a complete shambles. So, to ameliorate that issue, I made this card rack.

It's carved out of an old piece of rimu. The card bays are based with some self-adhesive foam sheet.

I'm fairly pleased with the way it turned out.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Boxes of Catan

Having nothing better to do this afternoon, I made myself a little storage box for my Settlers of Catan land and sea tiles.

I'd made one for the 5-6 player expansion pieces a little while ago (you can see it in the top-left of the photo), and I thought then, as I thought this time (too late), that I probably didn't really need to go to all the trouble of making a hexagonal internal cache.

Still, it's done now, and a fancy-schmancy hexagonal hole is definitely both fancier and schmancier than a boring old rectangular one.

I'd really like a cheapish printer with a fairly flat paper path, so that I could print on to heavy card stock. Maybe one day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I'm done.

It's finally been brought home to me, after many years of faffing about and tinkering with system after system, that nobody else is really very enthused about playing the kind of games I want to run, nor, for that matter, running the kind of games I want to play. So, I'm out.

I'm not interested in GMing any more.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Schneider CA1 (1:100 scale)

This is the Schneider CA1 in 1:100 scale, which comes in a pack of two from Battlefront. It's mostly a very simple model to build; just six pieces — the hull, two interchangeable running gear units, two machine guns, and an extension for the girder on the nose.

This last is the problematic bit. For some reason, Battlefront thought it would be a good idea to provide this as an extension to the hull moulding, to be held on by glue with the tiniest, most fragile contact point possible at its base. It would last about five minutes under normal wargame conditions. I replaced that with a piece of plastic angle strip, set into a channel carved out where the original moulded bottom part of the girder was. It's sturdier, and it looks better too, and took about five minutes.

The Hotchkiss machine-guns on this one were a bit misaligned in the mould, but they'll do. They're much better on the other model in the box. They're quite vulnerable to handling damage, but I don't know that there's a great deal that I can do about that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A7V - finished

These are the models from my last post, now in their final form. They are, as expected, very much darker, which is good.

Battlefront's decals are a mixed bag, though tending towards the good. They're not especially well registered, which is problematic for markings like these which should have even white borders. On the other hand, they're very thin and conform well to uneven surfaces (like rivets), and the film is nice and clear and detaches easily from its carrier sheet.

A7V (WiP)

I picked up a box of Battlefront's 1:100 scale German WW1 A7V tanks when they were marked down at my friendly local comic shop, Comics Compulsion. If not for the fact that they were at a sale price, I almost certainly wouldn't have bought them, because Battlefront's stuff is just getting more and more expensive.

There are a few different colour schemes possible for the A7V. It seems like each vehicle was painted quite idiosyncratically. The exact colours used are largely a matter of speculation, but there are enough surviving WW1 German artefacts painted in multi-colour disruptive schemes to be able to make some semi-educated guesses.

Fortunately, I'm not anal enough about it to be too traumatized if it turns out I'm horribly wrong.

I decided to paint them both in the same colours, but with different application methods. The first is painted with freehand airbrush, while the second is airbrushed using blu-tak masks for a harder-edged scheme — each block of colour will be further delineated with a black line around its periphery.

They'll both end up being substantially darkened by washes and weathering, which is really why I took some photos at this stage — so that I can have a before-and-after record.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hit Points For Spell Use

OK, here's my initial plan for hit-point costs for spell-use.

To cast any spell, it costs you (1d6 + spell level) points, which comes off your maximum hit-point total.

Note that point: off your MAXIMUM hit point total. That means that magic use may actually cost you hit-points, but more importantly, it will affect the amount to which you can be cured.
Example: you have 50 hit-points, and you cast three level 3 spells which ends up costing you a total of 20 points. That means that you now effectively have only 30 hit-points. Just like physical damage and fatigue. The difference is that if you then take another 10 points in a fight, and get some magical healing or use one or more of your healing dice, you can't heal up past 30 points — your new Hit-Point Maximum. If you use more magic, your Hit-Point Maximum will drop still further.
Note that if you've taken 10 points of normal damage (to 40hp) and then cast a spell that drops your Hit-Point Maximum to 45hp, you won't immediately lose any more hit-points. It just means that you can't be healed up to your usual 50hp.
If you then cast another spell that drops your Hit-Point Maximum to 39, you'd actually lose that hit-point, because your new Hit-Point Maximum is lower than your current hit-point total.
A spell that requires Concentration to maintain will have to be paid for again if circumstances require a Concentration check (though it doesn't require new verbal, somatic or material components to be expended). If the check fails, you won't lose any hit-points, but of course the spell effect stops.

A Long Rest will return your Hit-Point Maximum back to normal, but nothing else will (unless I make up a spell or magic item or something that will do it).

It's not all bad news though. I'm doing away with spell slots — I think the hit-point cost is limitation enough.

I'll also be designing some magic items that can be used as hit-point sinks (i.e. that can be used to power spells before you have to use up your own precious life force) — probably along the lines of ioun stones and the like — some of which can be recharged, others of which will be disposable items.


I was thinking about what Andrew said about there being no point in ever using a lower-level casting power, apart from the miniscule difference in hp cost, and I think this might answer that:

We return to daily spell-slots as written in the rules, but they are no longer an absolute limitation; they're rather pricing bands or multiples. The casting cost increases if you exceed the number of "safe" slots available, as follows.

Let's say, for example, you have one 4th level slot, two 3rd, three 2nd and 4 1st-level slots.
  • You use up your 4th-level slot, at its standard cost of 1d6+4. If you want to cast a second 4th-level spell, the casting cost rises to 2d6+8. If you want to cast yet another, it rises to 3d6+12, and so on.
  • You have four 1st-level slots available, so the first four level one spells would each cost 1d6+1 to cast. The next four would cost 2d6+2, and the next four would cost 3d6+3.

Is that clear? It does mean that you'd have to go back to keeping track of how many spells you've cast at a given level, but life is a vale of woe, and man is born to suffering as the sparks fly upward.