Saturday, November 21, 2015

Catan — Robber Master

I read an interesting Catan robber variant on boardgame.geek:

The robber, rather than being a passive block on resource production, instead becomes a sneaky mercenary, diverting the resources to its dastardly master (the person who rolled the 7 or played the Soldier).

Whenever the hex's number comes up, the current master of the robber can take the resources into their own hand instead, but must first pay the robber with cards from their hand at a one-for-one ratio.

I'd suggest that the cards should have to be different resources to those being snatched, mainly because that means that the Robber Master can't just keep the robber in place in perpetuity by swapping like for like.

If the master of the robber cannot (or chooses not to) pay the robber in full, it quits in a huff and goes back to the desert.

The only additional equipment required for this variant would be a "Robber Master" token, just so that people don't forget who's benefiting from the little bastard. To which end, I have made this new card to fit in with the "Longest Road" and "Largest Army" cards. (PDF available here).

There was another which is not so much a robber-variant as a robber-replacement:

When you roll a 7 or play a Soldier, you can swap two hex numbers. I'd modify it slightly so that if there are any unexposed numbers, they have to go first — then, when all the number tokens are exposed, you can swap them freely.

In this instance, although people with more than 7 cards would still have to discard down to half, nobody gets to steal anybody else's cards. Just screw with their resource production.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Airfix 1/48th Hurricane

I bought this kit a couple of years ago, but never got around to building it. After doing the 1:72 Bolton-Paul Defiant, I got all enthused and dug it out.

Alas, the experience was not nearly as pleasant as with the smaller-scale kit. The 1:48 Hurricane is not a bad kit by any means, but the Defiant's tooling is so good that it made me forget what normal plastic kits are like. This one has some strange peculiarities, not least in the undercarriage, which a more anal-retentive modeller than I would almost certainly rebuild from scratch. The decals are also nowhere near as good as those on the Defiant; they cracked and silvered all over the place.

Anyway, it's done now, and all I have to do is find somewhere for it to sit where it won't get busted.

Oh, and I see that I've forgotten to paint the red gun-muzzle patches. Maybe later.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Where's the Magic in Magic?

I've spent a lot of time over the years thinking about magic use in fantasy roleplaying games.

The difficulty I have, in system after system, is to make magic magical, and to make it perilous and difficult without becoming uselessly dangerous to the user.

D&D magic, if used by the book, is really rather mundane. It is virtually omnipresent; it might as well be modern or sci-fi technology. At best, it makes the game run like a superhero RPG. The latest iterations of D&D (the 4th and 5th editions) are the most egregious in this respect, with virtually every character class tossing magic around with gay abandon, but it's a feature of the system that has been building right from the beginning back in the '70s.

In the Microlite D20 version of D&D3e, there are no spell slots as such. Spells cost the character Hit-Points to cast. I don't recall the exact ratio, but it's probably 1 hp per spell level. That strikes me as a useful mechanism to control the willy-nilly flinging about of cantrips like Light and such-like.

I'm thinking of instituting a casting cost of, say, 1d6 + 1 hit-point per spell level to cast, and half that (rounded down) for each additional round of maintenance, With the large number of hit-points most characters have in 5th Edition, along with the ease and speed of recovery, I don't think it would be too onerous a price to pay, while still resulting in a noticeable diminishing of resources over time. It would make items for creating spell-like effects a lot more desirable, and perhaps magical energy reserves (like IOUN stones or something) could be added.

This does nothing much to address the mundane omnipresence of magic in D&D, but one thing at a time.

This guy includes in his Generic Adventurer rules just the sort of thing I mean:
"No more memorisation, you know all the spells you know.
To cast a spell, lose maximum HP equal to the spell's level. Maximum as in off the top, not the total. Your total HP will reduce if you max HP drops below it. (this prevents just healing yourself to ignore the difficulty of magic and also allows magic users to not stop casting spell from fear of killing themselves)
If a spell would be unavailable to a magic user of your level (according to default Lamentations rules) it costs double. Example: A level 4 character casting a level 3 spell (not normally available until level 5) would lose 6 max HP when casting it
Your max HP recover after 8 hours rest"
Lamentations characters have far fewer hit-points than D&D5e characters, so I'd stick with the additional d6 hp on casting. I do like the idea that spell-casting wear and tear comes off the character's hit-point maximum rather than their current total. Though I'm not quite sure what he means by "allows magic users to not stop casting spell from fear of killing themselves". I also like the idea of a magic-user being able to cast spells too high for their own level by paying penalty rates, but I think that idea needs a little more attention.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ein Volk, Ein Dungeon, Ein Fuhrer!

"The 6th Panzer Division creates a pincer encirclement here to deal with the infestation of bugbears kobolds and squid-face things, which will open our path to the Holy Grail and TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION!"

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Airfix 1:72 Boulton-Paul Defiant

For the first time in years and years, I felt the urge to build a model aeroplane. As usual, I veered away from the cool 'planes, and went for a bit of a lame duck: the Boulton-Paul Defiant, from 1940.

Airfix have just released a newly-tooled model of this aeroplane, and I have to say that it's the best-engineered plastic model kit I've ever put together. Everything went together like a breeze, and the detailing is excellent for a kit of this scale.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Home-made D4

To fill some empty time today, I made myself a "brazil nut" d4 out of some pink birch and poplar dowel. It seems to be successful as a die, so I shall probably make some more. I've just eyeballed the proportions, and haven't employed any great precision in manufacture, but it seems to roll pretty randomly nevertheless.

It's about 18 x 30 mm. I wouldn't want to go any bigger than that, but it wouldn't hurt to be a bit smaller. That would make manufacturing them trickier though.

I tried out this design too, but it didn't roll as well — it had a tendency to end up lying on one of the curved sides (and thus not showing any of the pip faces), especially when rolled on a soft fabric surface.

Also, the pips are too small and indistinct for easy reading.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Not what I should be doing

There are several things I should be doing today, and none of them are painting another Zvezda 1:100 scale T-35.

However, that's what I've done.

I'm such a rebel.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Walked 25 miles through the snow, uphill both ways....

I was leafing through some really old AD&D character sheets and what-not from my university days, and recalled how liberal we thought our DM was being when he not only let us roll 4d6 (drop lowest) instead of 3d6 for our characteristics, but then even let us rearrange them a bit if we didn't have the minimum requirements to play the class we really, really wanted with the six scores we'd rolled in order.

It seems to me that we didn't usually end up with particularly shitty characters, and some of them lasted a very long time indeed (though with a certain amount of resurrection magic at hand, it has to be said). In point of fact, I think we were beating the statistical curve quite convincingly with our character generation rolls, since there seem to be few characters in the pile without at least one characteristic in the 17-18 range, though that's in part because the DM was pretty liberal with characteristic-enhancing magic items and wishes and such-like. Where the old characters differ, stat-wise, from more recent ones is that most of their characteristics were distinctly average, and some were truly bad.

In contrast, these days most people seem to deem a character pretty much unplayable unless they start with at least one 18, and having any stat under 13 is cause for great complaint and doom-saying. It irks me, somewhat.

I'm not entirely blameless, since I've allowed some pretty liberal stat-rolling methods in the past, and people have become used to being able to pick and choose from a vast pool of above-average potential characters. I need to tighten up on that a bit.

I still think that Ye Olde 3d6-In-Order is a bit savage, but I'm very tempted to go back to 3d6 rolls (instead of 4d6, drop lowest) for my Characteristic Wheel stat generation system.

The thing is, I'm not so much keen on making everyone play a raddled, crippled, hideous moron, as I am on making high characteristics a bit special. At the moment, they're not, and I think that's wrong, and a bit sad.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Functional Generic 15mm Ruin Terrain

15mm figures (Peter Pig and Battlefront) for scale.
I have, among other tools, a scroll-saw. I also have a bunch of 3mm MDF off-cuts. Combine these things, and I get some very quick and easily-built terrain pieces. This experimental corner-ruin took me about ten or fifteen minutes to cut out and glue up, and about the same to paint. A production-line system could pump out a lot of them quite rapidly.

I've built this little piece to be a generic representation of hard cover, rather than a diorama-quality model of a ruined building. I guess it would be the tabletop equivalent of the fake bunkers and what-not they build for paint-ball ranges.

I'm not particularly interested in playing "moving diorama" wargames — not that I'm actually averse to them, and if somebody else is putting in all the effort in to create the terrain, I quite enjoy them. But I myself can't really be bothered. I guess my target, as far as tabletop terrain goes, is somewhere between a completely flat board-game style, and the elaborate, carefully modelled masterpieces that other more motivated gamers like to produce and use. All my modelling efforts go into the troops and vehicles.

 Next Day:

Another day, another ruin. Two storeys of ruination this time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

'Peter Pig' WW1 German 105mm Howitzer

I lost these guys and could not find them. Then I did find them, and painted them, and here they are.

Finding these ones meant that I also found all the others that they were safely stored away with, so some time in the near(ish) future I'll also be painting some German riflemen and machine-guns, and some British machine-guns to even up the odds for the other side as well.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Terrain Flocking Test

'Low Rise' test piece with 15mm German WWII Grenadiers and sabot bases
This may not look like much, but it's been a very useful test piece. I wanted to try out something a bit more interesting than just sprinkling patches of grass flock on a terrain piece, so I got out a whole bunch of different flocks that I've bought or made in the past and started layering them.

I'm pretty happy with the look of the thing in the end; it has a lot more visual appeal than stuff I've done before, and I'll certainly stick with the layering technique for more ambitious terrain projects.
I've also included some 'sabot' bases I made in 2mm MDF on a laser-cutter, with magnetic sheet glued underneath. The bases are designed for use with the Flames of War rules — it's a system I don't much like and seldom play, so I don't want to commit to permanently basing figures for it. I've made sabots with variable numbers of holes and hole layouts so that there will be some visual variation on the table.
Here's the Test Thing against a plain background so it's easier to see.
I buy most of my flock from a local railway modellers' shop rather than from gaming suppliers. It's cheaper, much cheaper, and comes in much larger quantities. I make some from time to time (though generally it's 'dirt' flock rather than grass or foliage) out of MDF dust coloured with acrylics or watercolours. It's easy-peasy, though to be honest I'd probably get just as good results by sieving actual dirt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Whippet, Whippet Good

Back to 15mm / 1:100 scale for these guys. It's Battlefront's Medium Mark A "Whippet" from World War One.

I've painted it in Khaki Green No. 3 — I'm not 100% sure that it's entirely appropriate for WW1 tanks, but colour information for the period is vague at best, and it looks OK to my eye. I've been pretty restrained with the weathering; I'm kind of tired of models of WW1 tanks that look like clods of mud with tracks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

More Micros

1:285 scale Hummel 150mm SPG from GHQ

This is an old model from GHQ. I first saw it featured in an advertisement in Military Modelling or the Airfix Magazine — the tagline was "Fight the Desert War in a small way", and they called attention to the shovel on the left hull rear as an example of their attention to detail.

GHQ's current Hummel model
That would have been about 1973-75 or thereabouts; I don't remember exactly.

It would appear that it has been re-mastered since then — no shovel any more, but even more detail everywhere else.
1:300 Brumbär 150mm assault gun from Heroics & Ros (I think)
These Brumbärs are from Heroics & Ros, I think. They have the H&R style. That would mean they're 1:300 scale.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Arrr, Me Hearties.... It Be A Sturmtiger!

Among the haul I got the other week are three of these, the Sturmtiger super-heavy 380mm assault mortar. Excellent tools for knocking down buildings.

Having taken a closer look at them while stripping off the old paint, it seems pretty likely to me that these are somebody's pirated models. The casting is very crude and blobby, especially around the running gear, but there is evidence of what was once some nice, fine detail, especially on the engine deck. I don't know who the original manufacturer might have been.

Lilliputian Armies: the Spanish

I've made a start on the 1:300 Napoleonics I got a couple of weeks ago. There are a lot still to do, but at least it's a nibble into a fairly hefty pie of teensy-tiny-soldiery goodness. These ones are Spaniards, and there's another battalion or two of Spanish infantry still to come, along with a few squadrons of cavalry, but the bulk of the lot are British — I'd say about three or four times as many as I have Spanish, though I haven't done an exact count.

I've made my dislike of production-line painting abundantly clear in the past, but in this scale you can really churn them out if you set your mind to it. The colour schemes need to be simplified somewhat; there's really no point in painting every cartridge box or bayonet scabbard a new colour as it just ends up looking confusing. You can afford to be a bit impressionistic in this scale.

I ended up basing the guns individually on 20 x 20 mm bases for the sake of flexibility: they'll slot nicely into the corners of a battalion square this way. I don't have enough artillerymen to provide full crews for each gun, so most of them just have three men as a token crew; that's fine, they look OK to my eye. I've only got three limbers, but frankly if I find myself having to gallop more than a third of my guns around the battlefield at any one time, I'm probably in deep trouble.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dice Nostalgia

I started playing roleplaying games in 1981 with some friends from university. We tinkered with various systems — EPT, Traveller, Space Opera, C&S, Runequest, and more — but the system we played the most was AD&D. We played almost every day, for a while.

The only shop in Palmerston North that stocked any D&D stuff at all was Bennett's University Book Shop, and the range of stuff available was pitifully small. They did, however, have a few sets of dice available, and these were the very first non-six-sided dice I ever bought.

The red ones came in a D&D-branded blister, along with a yellow crayon to fill in the numbers with. They're made of some sort of plastic about the hardness and consistency of hard, dry cheese. I don't think the set included any kind of d10, which would explain why I bought the two shown here, a couple of pale blue Gamescience (?) dice. I used them for about six months before getting some much better dice — some more of Lou Zocchi's earlyish products, I think — and the Crumbly Ones went into honourable retirement, which is why they're still identifiable as dice.

Even in the short time they were in use, their edges started crumbling away. I've seen some of the same brand of dice belonging to friends in much, much worse condition — a d20 that has practically been reduced to a sphere, for example.

It's plain how little I ever used the d4 — it still has points.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Chopsticks for Figure Painting

I've finally found something to do with all those disposable chopsticks I'm given every time I get sushi. They're an ideal length and width to use as painting strips, with a couple of surplus-to-requirements MDF bases glued to the ends for stability. They're flattish, though I think after I've painted this bunch, and got them off the strips, I'll give each of them a couple of passes with a plane just to even out the surface a bit more.

6mm figures are very quick and easy to paint, unless you want the sort of pointless detail nobody will ever see unless they bring a magnifying glass to the wargames table. Even so, I find production-line figure painting rather tedious, so I'll be glad when this lot is out of the way.

6mm Spanish - test base

A few of the 6mm H&R Napoleonic Spaniards I got recently were already painted, so I thought I'd make use of them to test out a proposed basing option. Here they are, along with trusty 28mm Sergeant Measureby, for scale.

The base size is 40 x 20 x 3 mm, which lets me mount two ranks, each of two strips of infantry without having to separate them and glue them individually, which is, in this scale, a pain in the arse to be frank. I did consider 20 x 20 mm bases, but most of the time they'd just be more fiddly than they're worth on the wargaming table. 40 x 40 bases were another option, but I'd have to base the troops in at least three, and probably four ranks or else they'd look lost in the middle of a vast plinth. I'd consider 40 x 40 mm bases for units that never go below three or four ranks (pike blocks, for example), but I prefer two-rank basing, which I can stack for attack column formations as needed.

This size base will allow 6 cavalry abreast, and probably two guns to represent a battery, though I may yet go to individual guns on 20 x 20 mm bases..

A 3mm thick base looks pretty massive for figures this small, but it makes the individual bases handleable without having to smush the figures up. These tiny troops are very easy to bend or break at the ankles, so utility triumphs over æsthetics for my purposes. Another advantage of the thicker base is that I can glue printed paper strips with unit information to the back, if I so desire.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Karl Gerät in teensy-tiny scale

Among the stuff I got from the 2015 CWS bring & buy, and the very first piece from that lot to be painted, is this Karl Gerät (lit. "Karl Device") 600mm self-propelled siege mortar in 1:300 scale. It's inscribed beneath with the date 1976, from Ros Miniatures before they combined with Heroics to become Heroics & Ros.

I show it here with a Panzer IV from C-in-C for scale; the tank is 1:285 scale, so there's a bit of a differential, but not too much.

Compared with fancier, more expensive brands like GHQ or C-in-C, the modelling is fairly soft and crude, and certainly showing its age, but it's perfectly acceptable for the wargames table. It could hardly be mistaken for anything else, even with eyes as decrepit as mine. The more recent modelling from H&R is very much better than this old stuff, from what I've seen.

There wasn't a Munitionschlepper in the lot with it, so if I want one I'll either have to buy one or modify a Pz.IV, of which I have a plenitude. I guess it will depend on how enthusiastic I get about it.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

More booty

Another good 6mm haul from the Christchurch Wargaming Society's annual bring-&-buy:
  • A decent army's worth of Napoleonics: British with some Spanish allies/handicaps
  • About 250 assorted WW2 German vehicles and guns, a mixture of H&R, GHQ and C-in-C by the look of them.
There were another couple of trays of assorted stuff that I had to (regretfully) leave behind due to lack of funds. Boo-hoo.

Oh yes, and a little five-dollar book on WW1 fighter aircraft. You can never have too many of those.

Next day.....

I broke down and went back for the stuff I left behind.  had no high hopes that they'd still be there, but it looks like 6mm scale is really unfashionable in these parts nowadays, which is good for me.

There's a bunch of WW2 British stuff there — an odd mix, including Matildas, Crusaders, Churchills, and Comets. Also a tray of assorted aircraft, more or less battered, in both metal and resin. Plus a balsa glider of some description. I've not seen the resin stuff before, and they seem to be in an odd scale (1:350 maybe?) but they'll do fine as gaming pieces.

All in all, I'm really quite happy with my purchases. There's no way I'd be able to buy all this stuff at regular retail prices.