Thousand Suns

 

This just arrived for me from DriveThruRPG today — the Thousand Suns rulebook by Jame Maliszewski. The POD format is (I think) digest-sized, and softcover — I believe you can also order it as a hardcover, but that would just be the softcover glued into a case binding. It might be a little more hard-wearing, maybe.

It's intended for fairly pulpish science fiction / space opera gaming. There is nothing particularly startling about the system; it's a pretty standard target-number skills-based game, using modified 2d12 rolls as the base mechanism. It is built to be about as simple as it's possible to be though, which is all to the good.

It includes, or is built around, a fairly nebulous milieu of Space Empires for players to rampage through. There are a couple of example alien races detailed, as well as a couple of genetically modified human variants (plus standard humans, or Terrans as they're called in the book) which give players enough to be going on with, and which provide templates for GMs to build their own aliens and things. Likewise, there are examples of spaceships and what-not, again enough to jump right in, and to provide guidance for building one's own.

I haven't yet read it through thoroughly, but it seems to me to be a decent enough space opera game, and simple enough to be able to run off the cuff without too much trouble.


There's a little supplementary material available — a book on starships, a star sector description and accompanying adventure, and there's the first issue of an occasional magazine too, called Imperio with an excellent cover by Russ Nicholson and the usual sort of bits and pieces you'd expect in a RPG system mag. Hopefully more will follow, but it's not really necessary; it would be a pretty simple matter for your average GM to create or adapt the material they want for this system.

I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Red Devils — Finished

 

I've finished my first section of 15mm paras, and I'm satisfied enough with them that I can proceed with confidence to do another couple of sections, and some command and support teams.


I'm making an effort these days to actually record what I'm doing with paints and things, so that I don't have to rely on my fairly crappy memory when I come back to a task weeks (or months, or years) later.

One would think, having been trained in this sort of record-keeping at art school, that it would be second nature. But no, my laziness tends to trump things like utility, and I have to keep a stern eye on myself so that I don't piss off Future-Self too much by my lack of consideration.

Red Devils in 15mm

PSC 15mm British Paratroopers

I recently got some 15mm plastic British WWII paratroopers from PSC. This is the first section off my painting desk.

I haven't ever tried painting the paras' Denison smocks in this scale. I do have a vague memory of painting an Airfix 1/32 scale para, probably some time in the early '70s, but I don't remember if it was any good or not. I suspect not.

I'm reasonably happy with how they've turned out. I might do little bit more with them — maybe a bit of highlighting on the trousers, for example — but apart from a bit of base flocking, this is about it for them.

There are always limitations with hard plastic figures, and compromises to be made for castability from rigid metal moulds. However, I think that PSC have done a pretty decent job with these ones.

Perilous Assumptions

D&D RC

D&D CC

I made a semi-fatal error recently, when I used a monster (three of them, in fact) straight out of the D&D Creature Catalogue, intended for use in BECMI D&D, but used instead in my AD&D game.

It was a critter that I'd used in other editions of the game, so I thought I knew pretty well what to expect from it.

What I discovered is that a BECMI monster type stands a good chance of being considerably more powerful than its AD&D equivalent. That's something I was not expecting.

It could have been worse I suppose; I only ended up killing one PC, but another one was drained away to a mere shadow of his former self.

I will have to be more careful in future.

The Soviet Horde is Getting Out Of Hand

 

When I went to chuck my recently-completed T-70 into its box with all its friends, I suddenly realised that I'd accidentally amassed a fairly respectable amount of early-war Soviet kit.

That's mainly due to poor impulse control: if I see a whole bunch of T-34s on sale for very cheap, I just can't help but grab them, just in case.

The T-35, SMK and T-28 models I did because I'm fond of the ridiculous land-dreadnought designs of the 1930s, and pandering to that fondness got a lot easier when I got myself my 3d printer. The T-35s are from Zvezda, but the others (apart from one very old Battlefront T-28) are all printed.

The trouble I have with turning all this clutter into a usable wargaming army is that I don't much enjoy painting and basing infantry, and the Russians need a lot of infantry.

Then again, I just got a copy of What a Tanker from the Lardies, which is pretty much World of Tanks for the tabletop, so I guess I could start using them for that.

Easy Wood Grain

These are bits from a very old 1/24 scale SPAD XIII that I started detailing, and never got around to finishing.

The plywood shelf below the cockpit coaming is the focus here: it's just a flat piece of plastic card with wood grain painted on.

I base coated it in a sandy tan to begin with, and then laid on some oil paint, thinned with linseed oil. I think, from memory, it was burnt umber, or maybe VanDyck brown.

When I had a reasonably complete, but thin, layer of oil paint, I created the grain by dragging across it with an old ragged stiff brush. You want to do this in one pass if you can; if you go back over an area that has already been done, it will probably just mess it up and you'll have to start again.

You can achieve a similar effect with acrylics, mixed with enough medium to make it translucent, but I found that it tends to dry too fast. It might be more successful if used with a retarder, but I haven't tried.

Oiling Up

This is a 3d-printed 1:100 scale T-70, printed on my Ender 3 from a (slightly changed) model by M. Bergman.

It's the first time I've tried using oil paints for pin-washes and streaking, and I think I like the process. The extended working and cleanup time is a boon, and the solvent (white spirit) wicks quickly and easily along creases and crevices.

The base colour is Vallejo's ModelAir Soviet 4B0 sprayed over black and white pre-shading.

I've only used one oil colour on this — raw umber. I've seen other modellers using spots of several colours for surface streaking, but that tends to be in larger scales (1/48 or 1/35), and this model is very tiny. I think a multi-toned streaking effect would get overdone very, very quickly.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it so far. It could, no doubt, be done better, but that will come with experience. Now, on with all the detail painting.


And all done.

For someone with no intention of building a Soviet wargames army, I sure do have a lot of Soviet kit.

Burford-Kegresse, revisited





I have been redesigning my Burford-Kegresse to make it manageable for home FDM printing.

The Burford-Kegresse was an armoured half-tracked vehicle, used as a machine-gun carrier mounting a pair of .303 Vickers guns on a Scarf ring mount, as shown here, or as an unarmed personnel carrier.


It was in service with the British army from the mid to late 1920s, about the same time as the Birch Gun.

The British didn't use either half-tracks or self-propelled artillery again until WWII.

I've uploaded a couple of versions for 3d printing to wargaming3d.com


Zvezda 1:100 M3 Lee

Battlegroup: Pacific has hove into view over the horizon, and though it will likely be a couple of months before my own copy arrives out here in the back of beyond, I'm planning ahead.

Out in the Far East, the Brits made good use of the M3, which remained competitive there against the Japanese opposition long after it became an obsolescent death-trap against the Germans in North Africa. In the desert, the Grant version was preeminent, but in Burma the Lee was more common (though most often — but not always — with the turret MG cupola removed).

I have digital models of both the Grant and the Lee, and I will print some, but that takes ages. So I picked up this 1:100 (15mm) Zvezda kit of the Lee. It's not bad, for the price (about $9 in NZ).

It all went together without any issues. I had to fill a gap around the turret cupola, and there are a couple of other spots that a perfectionist would probably want to fill, but I suspect they'll be largely invisible after it's been painted.

It lacks the track guards that were often used on British vehicles, and the 75mm gun has the counterweight modelled on the end of the barrel. It would be a simple matter to trim it off, and I don't think the shortening of the barrel would be noticeable, but I think I'll leave it there.

I've never modelled any vehicles for the war in the Far East, so this will be a new painting adventure for me.

Green Devil Face

This is a dungeon dressing piece from Fat Dragon Games, and also a feature of that classic megadeathkill dungeon module, The Tomb of Horrors. I can't remember if it was actually named as such in the module, but I've always known it as the Green Devil Face.

Because I am incredibly slack about tuning and maintaining my 3d printer, I tend to get a lot of stringing and zits on my prints these days, and this is no exception. However, in this instance I don't really mind so much, since it's supposed to be an ancient dungeon thingummy, so a certain amount of cud and cruft is to be expected.

I really should get on to tuning that printer though.

Autoblinda 40/41


I printed and painted these some time ago, but I seem to have neglected to display them to the outside world, so here they are. They're Italian WWII Autoblinda 40 and 41 armoured cars (the AB40 is on the left, with two MG in the turret).

The digital models come from TigerAce1945 on Thingiverse.

Glue For Soft Plastics

1/72 polyethylene cannon — Airfix in front, unknown manufacturer behind.

Selleys AllPlasticFix
The soft polyethylene plastics used by Airfix, Revell, and the like for their 1/72 figure ranges are notoriously terrible to glue. Almost nothing will bond with them, and up until relatively recently the only practical method of gluing pieces in that material together was to effectively encapsulate them with PVA or epoxy or the like.

However, a few years ago this product appeared on the market from Selleys: a two-stage primer and glue system which will attach one piece of polyethylene to another (or to other materials) without needing unsightly globs of gunk everywhere.

It comes with a felt pen primer, which is scrubbed over the area to be cemented, and which prepares the surfaces for the second stage, a clear viscous liquid cement. The joint grabs quite quickly — I usually allow about ten seconds, but depending on circumstance it could be anywhere from 2 to 30 seconds.

Once the glue sets, the join is very strong. I've done head-swaps on 1/72 figures using this stuff, and then shaken the figure violently by its head without getting any separation.

It's not amazingly cheap; here in New Zealand I pay about $NZ12 for a pack, but that's not a great deal more than a good quality cyanoacrylate in the same sort of quantity. It does seem to have a fairly limited shelf life once opened, so it would be a good idea to have your gluing project all set up and ready to go en masse, rather than relying on having the glue remain effective a month or two later.

Paint Rage! Aaaaaaaaagh!


This is something that really gets on my tits. A named colour in two paint ranges by the same manufacturer with entirely different hues.

I'd like to think that I could spray a model in VMA Middlestone, and then if need be, touch it up with VMC Middlestone, and I don't think that's too high a bar to set. This is just shoddy laziness.

Napoleonic British Artillery

Airfix

HaT

I've just been sent some Airfix Royal Horse Artillery by a kindly soul, so that my Napoleonic Brits can have some guns to support them.

Here they are, compared with some HaT Rocket troops, who wore the same Light Dragoon uniforms.
The Airfix figures are smaller than the HaT models: the most upright of them is 25mm from the soles of his boots to the top of his crest, whereas a comparable HaT figure is 27mm. The Airfix figures are better detailed than the HaT, with crisper frogging, and some detail showing on the helmet band and cuffs. The crests of the Airfix helmets are also more 'woolly' looking, whereas the HaT crests are quite smooth.

Chieftain AVLB (1:150)

My friend Steve has recently become the proud owner of a Creality resin printer, and one of the things he printed is the hull of this 1:150 scale Chieftain AVLB (bridgelayer). Then he gave it to me, which was very nice of him.

I printed the bridge myself on my Ender 3, after adding some treads to the top surfaces which were missing from the original STL. The bridge is detachable from the hull, and one of these days I'll also print a deployed version of it.

Zvezda Maus (repaint)

I bought this 1:100 scale Maus a while ago, mainly out of nostalgia since it was one of the first things I ever attempted (and failed) to scratch-build when I was a lad. I painted it at first in a wholly spurious splinter pattern, but I found I didn't much like that, so I repainted it.

The decals are from an old Battlefront 1:100 kit, and they're pretty crappy as far as registration goes.

It's highly unlikely that a Maus will ever turn up on my wargames table, except maybe as a trophy objective. Still, you never know.





New Photo Backdrop

I made a new photo backdrop to go in my little 3d printed sweep clips. I wanted something that would provide a bit of textural interest without adding any colour or overwhelming the subject.

I painted it in Krita using some of its watercolour brushes, and then desaturated it completely to remove any colour cast. Unfortunately, I can only print A4 on my laser; if I want anything bigger than that I will have to go to a print bureau and pay an arm and a leg for it.

The model is a Zvezda 1:100 scale Maus that I'm in the process of painting.

D&D RC P.O.D.

P.O.D. reprint on left, original printing on the right.
My Print-on-Demand copy of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia of 1991 has finally arrived from DriveThruRPG, after the first one they shipped disappeared into the postal aether.

It's my favourite iteration of the pre-d20 System D&D, and I'm pretty happy with it overall.

The paper they've used is thicker, whiter, and more matte than the stock used in the original printing, which is more like the thin, flimsy, shiny stuff they used for AD&D2e, and I very much prefer the new paper.

Feel the thickness!
 As a result, the book is about a third again thicker than the original, though the page count is identical.

The covers overhang the page area more too. Whether this is beneficial, or neutral, or problematic, I suppose only time will tell.

The binding is just a perfect glue-binding stuck into hard covers, so it's unlikely to be as long-lasting as the saddle-stitched signature-bound original. On the other hand, it was only about twenty-five yankeebucks, so you can only expect so much.

Incidentally, the sticker price on the back cover of the original was $24.95 U.S., so this reprint is about the same price as the original was back in '91.


Inside, the matte paper is a bit easier on the eyes, I find. The green accent colour used throughout is a lot paler than in the original, but it's still adequate for delineating table rows, which is its main job. The images have been replicated well; they're pretty much all black-&-white line art, so there's nothing particularly tricky there — though they do seem a bit crisper and cleaner than the examples in the companion Creature Catalog volume, which I also bought in P.O.D. (softcover) a couple of years ago. The text is all clean and readable.

In the back of the book there are some full-colour maps; these are all a bit softer and fuzzier than the originals, but not so much that they're not perfectly usable.

All in all, I'd call it good value for money.

Admin Increases

Due to a relatively sudden up-tick in the amount of spam appearing in the comments, I've decided to turn comment moderation on. It's a faff, but since Blogger has no way (that I've found) of blocking persistent spammers from commenting, I'll either have to wear the extra effort or else turn off commenting altogether.

The 91st of Foot (sort of, nearly)

I'm slogging along with my Peninsular War rosbifs, and making heavy going of it too. However, I'm very nearly done with my very first Black Powder battalion, with just the Light Company to finish for the left of the line. Even at this level of painting, they're taking forever — I don't seem to be able to just sit and paint for hour after hour as I used to.

The colours came from the WarFlags site, printed and over-painted, and I chose the 91st simply because their regimental colour matches the facing colour I'd already started painting. I don't actually know anything about the regiment beyond its existence, and to be honest, I don't really care that much. At this point, a generic British formation is all I'm after.
Note: I am informed that the 91st was actually a Scottish regiment, originally the 98th Argyllshire Highlanders, who wore kilts up until about 1809 (?)  Fortunately that's before my chosen period, just. But in any case, hopefully nobody too knowledgeable will look too closely.

These figures are all from a single box of HäT plastic 1/72 figures, which are the only cheap plastic ones I've found that wear the pre-Waterloo stovepipe shako. That's why part of the battalion are standing at shoulder arms, while the rest are marching merrily along — there aren't enough figures of either type in one box to do a whole battalion.

The situation is easier with the Strelets boxes, as each of their sprues are entirely of one type of figure, with a few minor differences so that the bases don't all look like robot-clones marching in lock-step. However, the Strelets sets are all in the later Belgic shako, and there are only half the number of figures per box (at the same price as the HäT box) — roughly enough for one battalion per box, with a few spares. The Strelets plastic feels a bit greasier than HäT's; hopefully after a good scrubbing in detergent the paint won't just fall off them.

I'll add a couple of 95th Riflemen on detachment to the Light Company, in homage to Sharpe, which I'm currently rewatching for the umpteenth time. I haven't yet decided how I'm going to base the Lights; whether to base them individually, and make a sabot for when they're in the line, whether to just put them on a 6-figure base like all the others, or to split the difference and put them on two 3-figure bases.

A bit later...

I decided to base my Light Bobs individually, and make 3d printed three-figure sabots for them.

The plastic figures are mounted on 12.5mm (½ inch) steel washers, and there are 5x1mm magnets inset in the bottom of each socket in the sabot base.

This way I can scatter them individually if they're out in skirmish order, or if I'm feeling lazy I can just leave them in their sabots.



Here are the two sabots alongside the other six-figure bases in a 3d printed half-battalion movement tray. Only the front rank of the Lights are painted as yet; the guys at the back are still in their black primer.

Next morning...

And this battalion is done. Now, on to the next, which I think will be kilted Scots, just to torture myself a bit. I need four battalions of foot for a complete Black Powder army; I expect I will be both ancient and irretrievably insane by the time I finish them all.


I've got a box of Strelets Highlanders in Attack primed with black gesso, ready to be painted. I've painted tartan before (see this old post) but never in this scale, and only on individual figures, not as a production line.

Napoleonics II: The Revengening



These Strelets 1/72 Napoleonic British just arrived on my doorstep this morning, so that's the foot component of my Black Powder Brits taken care of. Still got to get horse and guns, but first things first.

I'm mounting them at six to a 40x40mm base, so each box is roughly one battalion, with a few spares.

In truth, I'm really more interested in the Peninsular War than the 100 Days period, but the only stovepipe-wearing cheap plastic 1/72 Brits I've found are one set from HaT, and though I like them as figures, there are fewer useful poses per box in the HaT set than in the Strelets boxes. I'll just have to live with the embarrassment of presenting grey trousers and Belgic shakos on the field of Talavera.




Later....

I had to go into town for another reason, so I stopped by our local model shop and picked up some packs of Italerei Napoleonics.

These are the 95th Rifles, the Greenjackets. They'll need their swords trimmed off all their rifles, as they seldom used them as bayonets.



Here we have the 11th Hussars



And these are the Scots Greys.

That'll see me sorted for cavalry for a while, though I don't have any lancers.

4.5cm PaK (t) auf R-35 (f)

 I whipped this up mostly out of digital bits and pieces I had left over from other Blender projects.

It's a German hodge-podge of a Czech 45mm gun on a French R-35 chassis. The Germans made and used quite a few of these, right up until the war's end. From memory, there were about 135 of them.

The model is designed at 1:100 scale, as is my usual practice, for 15mm gaming. I didn't have any reference for the interior, so it's a bit barren in there — however, once I get a couple of crewmen in there I think it will look okay.

Hull

Fighting compartment
I exported the Blender model to two separate STLs, one for the hull and running gear, and another for the fighting compartment.

I find this gives me the easiest print to clean up, and it makes for a relatively easy print to support as I don't have to worry about any tricky supports forming inside the crew compartment.

3d Printer Upgrade — X-axis Belt Tensioner




Some time ago, when I was having issues with layer shifting and was flailing about for a fix, I bought a pair of belt tensioners for my Ender 3. I can't remember exactly where they came from (they came via Amazon), but they were pretty cheap — about ten or fifteen bucks each.

There are designs available on Thingiverse that can be 3d printed, but I prefer things like this to be made of aluminium and steel rather than plastic.

This is the one for the X-axis, and I've only just got around to actually installing it — I resolved my layer shifting issue, so there was no urgent need to change anything else, and I'm generally reluctant to fix things that aren't broken. It was not a big job, but it was pretty fiddly, and they came without any sort of instructions or drawings, so there was a certain amount of trial and error involved in installation.

I've done a small test print, and all seems well, so I suppose now I should go ahead and install the one for the Y-axis. And, looking at the photo, maybe I should give the printer a dust and wipe down from time to time too.

These things aren't strictly necessary for the Ender 3, but the belt rollers that come with the base machine aren't the best and have fairly obviously been designed for cheapness rather than efficiency or ease of use. These ones should, in theory, be less likely to rack the belt to one side or the other, as well as making it easier to maintain a decent tension thanks to the thumbscrew adjustment.

Later...

I also bought a Y-axis tensioner, which turned out to be designed for the Ender 3 Pro, which uses a different size of aluminium extrusion. Doh!

It took a bit of modifying, but I got it working.

I printed a pair of spacer blocks, and bought some longer M4 machine screws for the rail anchors.

The roller sits up higher than the original Ender 3 one, which means that the belt gets dragged across the sharp edge of the aluminium extrusion — I fixed that issue by adding a spacer-roller from bits out of my old Meccano set. It's a bit clunky-looking, but it seems to work.

Pz35(t) Artillerie Schlepper (15mm)

The Germans in WWII were very good at modifying obsolete equipment to wring the very last drop of service from them.

The Pz35(t) was a Czech design they nicked when they invaded in March of 1939, though it was already obsolescent by then. It was used as a light reconnaissance tank for a while, and a number of them (in the mid 40s I think, I'm not sure exactly how many) were converted into artillery tractors like this one.

It's not the sort of model that's likely to appear much on the wargames table; they would have been with the heavy artillery quite a long way behind the lines, unless something had gone very wrong. Still, you never know.

This is a 1:100 model by the prolific Mr. Bergman. I've refined the rivet and canvas detail, and added a bit of detail to the tracks. There were multiple issues with the original mesh in the form of non-manifold edges galore, enough to completely choke 3d Builder's and NetFabb's automated repair systems, but fortunately Cura just blithely ignored them and sliced it anyway.

Aperture

These two photos were taken at the same time, with identical lighting and zoom, and both from a tripod and using the camera's timer to eliminate camera-shake. Both were focused on the same point on the model. The only thing that changed between them was the lens aperture.

On the left, the aperture was f22, on the right, f5.6.

Each of them has their benefits.

The smaller aperture (f22) increases the image's depth of field, so every part of the model is in focus. The background texture is also better defined. The exposure time is long, so a tripod is absolutely necessary.

the larger aperture (f5.6) reduces the depth of field, so the background is significantly out of focus — this has the benefit of separating the model from its background, and the fact that his left hand is also slightly out of focus gives the figure a bit more of a sense of depth. Exposure time was significantly shorter, but still long enough to make tripod use advisable.

The miniature is from Reaper; I think it's a swamp-troll or something.

DM Screen — slow progress

I've been doing a bit more work on my AD&D/OSRIC DM screen, and it's almost ready for prime time. However, I have a great huge gaping hole on sheet #4 that I am entirely without inspiration as what to fill it with.

There's some spare space on sheet #1 as well, but I'm less concerned with that. If there's an emergency need, I'll put something there, otherwise I probably won't bother.

Later....



I've about finished, I think. There are still a couple of lacunae, but I can fill them if I really find something useful, or else maybe just with some graphics.

Later again....

I've added an alternative last panel that includes THAC0 (for descending AC) and Attack Bonuses (for ascending AC) in place of the Aerial Agility Class and Unnatural Aging information.

The PDF can be seen here, assuming I've configured the Google Drive link correctly — it's under 2 MB.

Inconsistency

As I've mentioned before, I really do not enjoy production-line painting, so I tend to paint models, and often figures too, one at a time.

However, a significant problem with that is that I'm terrible at maintaining consistency in my painting from session to session. These are three 1:100 (15mm) A10 Cruiser Mk.II, each painted at a different time, and each one completely different in appearance to either of the others.

The one on the left is from PSC, the other two are 3d printed.

Floating Cyclops Head Thing

 I had a bit of a hiccup with my computer recently, and since I had to get it fixed anyway, I thought I'd take the opportunity to upgrade its seven or eight year old graphics card. This thing is the result of the first bout of testing of the new card, which has certainly made a huge difference in sculpting performance in Blender — it started out as a cube subdivided and MultiResolutioned to about 6.5 million faces, and the card handled an object of that complexity without blinking.

I had no plan or purpose for this when I started modeling it, and that does show a bit. However, it's now a Thing, and I've 3d printed one and painted it. The spearman is an old Essex figure; his spear is marked in 5mm increments.

The STL can be downloaded (free) from https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4481578