Friday, July 7, 2017

Klingon D7 Battlecruisers for Star Fleet Battles

I completed three Klingon D7 battlecruisers for use in Star Fleet Battles.  These are the Lou Zocchi models, conveniently cast in a single piece.  I used Vallejo 964 Field Blue as the base hull color and painted them according to my old Starline 2200 instruction sheets.  The Decals are from Jupiter IV, are very nice quality and easy to use, but unfortunately that dark hull color dulls them down considerably.



In addition to the D7s, I finish some F5 frigates from Amarillo Design Bureau.



This gives me eleven Klingon ships, plus I have 24 fighters in process.  My Klingon fleet is expanding, but still needs some help.

I have a CV on the paint table, but my old Klingon (and Kzinti) miniatures which I stripped the paint off of have some lead rot, and appear to be a lost cause.  It is odd, as the miniatures were purchased years apart, but only the Klingons and Kzintis suffer from the problem.  The Feds, Gorn, Orion, and Lyran ships bought over the same span do not have it. A shame as the two C8s, Tug, 3 D7s, and F5 would have gone a long way to bolster my Klingons.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

SFB - The General War: More Preparations

Well we got together over the holiday weekend, hashed out most of the details of our campaign rules, and generally got all of our ducks lined up for war.  The campaign rules are pretty simple, basically governing fleet construction, simple economics in association with construction, and whatever loose ends that we could think of.

When we did this in the mid-1980s, we didn't use a historical timeline, we just started the war full blown with all races ready to go and with technology set at about Y180.  This time we are sticking to a more historical timeline, starting with the Lyran and Kzinti empires in Y168.  Rules for fighters, PFs, evolving drone technology, etc will phase in as time passes in the game.

We rolled dice to decide who played what races, and I will be the bad guys, playing the Lyran/Klingon/Romulan/Orion Pirate fleets.  Craig will run the Hydran/Kzinit/Federation/Gorn forces.  We are old school SFB players, and decided to go with our early 1980s roots for STB, so no ISC, or other "newcomers" in this war.

I expect that we will start lighting up space in September.

Games will be played with miniatures, when we can, and counters, when we don't have the miniatures. 

Also, I will set up a Star Fleet Battles page on my blog soon, which will contain a chronological list of updates following the progress of the war. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Painting Star Trek: The Original Series Federation Starships

Even before my first experience with Star Fleet Battles, I wanted to play the game with miniatures.  Thirty-five years later, I've finally gotten serious about doing so, and one of the first questions to be answered was what color to paint the Enterprise and the Federation fleet.

My earliest memories of the original run of Star Trek are in various shades of gray.  It wasn't until the early 1970s, when we got a color television, that I discovered the colorful universe in which the Enterprise journeyed.

My impression of the enterprise was that it was a light bluish to greenish gray, not unlike the plastic used in one of the older model kits of the Enterprise. My older SFB Star Line Federation ships were cast in a light gray plastic that somehow seemed right to me also.  Maybe only from nostalgic memory of those early games. Then there was the white finish of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Perplexed, I started to research the issue.  I watched episodes of the series (both original and CGI enhanced), surprised at how dark the ship's skin appeared in some scenes and at how it morphed from grey to bluish to greenish to an off-white at times, all the time realizing that I had really come to think of Federation ships as being white or near white as depicted in the movies.

Eventually, I decided to go with the Enterprise's color in TOS, and arrived at this page in my search to identified the true color of the chameleon Enterprise.  Readily accepting the discussion presented in Mr. Newitt's article, I now had to match the Walmart Concrete color with something that I could wipe all over starship models without totally obliterating the fine detail on the plastic castings. 

Originally, my hope was to spray the models with a base hull coat, do a little high-lighting with a brush, detail paint and apply decals. I figured that this would be fast and allow for a consistent finish.  After putting forth a significant search for a spray paint, I found some options from Dick Blick art supplies, but had some concern over the thickness of the paint, and my ability to apply it evenly to such small models.

So, I regrouped and decided to go with a brush paint that I could easily get, and matched the Vallejo online color chart to the sample provided by Mr. Newitt.  I ended up settling on Vallejo Model Color 971 Green-Grey as the basic hull color.  To be honest, I felt that it was a little light, and maybe not greenish enough, but I figured that being a touch too light would be fine on such small scale models.  And, I would just have to suck up the lack of greenish.

A side consideration was that I had decided to go with Vallejo 886Grey-Green as the base for my Romulans,  had painted a couple of ships this color already, and wanted the Federation ships to contrast the Romulans, so a little less dark and less green was okay.   Vallejo  971 Green Grey it would be for the Federation.

I assembled my recent acquisitions from Origins Gamefair, sprayed them with gray primer (should have used white, and found that I could in fact spray the little beasts with a pretty even coat), and began to apply my color choice with a brush.  Due to the transparency of the paint, and the gray primer, it required three coats to get pretty solid coverage.  Here are a few of pics of the models with the base hull color applied, detail painted using the restored Enterprise model at the Smithsonian, and a combination of Game Science (DNs and Tug)  and  Jupiter IV Decals (CAs). 

 
 
 
 
Note the difference in size between the Game Science decals on the Dreadnought
in the foreground, and the Jupiter IV decals on the Heavy Cruiser behind.
 
Ironically, the hull color appears very light and white here, but is darker and more
grey in person.  I'll have to take some more natural photos a little later,
unfortunately, I'm not set up to do that right now. 

Despite the fact that they are not first class jobs by any stretch of the imagination, I am relatively happy with the effort. 

Particularly when compared with my work from 1982 below.

The old CA from 1982 to the left painted per the Starline 2200 instructions at the
time, and the new one to the right based on TOS.  Again, barely any difference
in the hull color in this photo, but they are in fact notably different.


The next group of Federation ships, frigates and an NCL from Amarillo Design Bureau are on the paint table now.


So that's how my 35 year quest to paint the Federation fleet stands at the moment.


UPDATE:  Here are a couple more photos to better show the hull color of the newly painted models using Vallejo 971 Green Grey acrylic paint:

 

Once my case of flat spray arrives, I'll give them a blast to better hide those decal edges. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Star Fleet Battles: The General War

A few times a year, I manage to get together with an old friend from my original gaming group and play a game.  During a visit a month ago, we were playing a game of Star Fleet Battles as we had been doing with more frequency in recent visits, and he suggested that we should set up a campaign, rather than just play one off scenarios. It took about a second and a half to talk me into it, and I suggested that we play The General War again.

The General War is a galactic conflict involving all of the major races from the Star Fleet Battles version of the Star Trek universe.  It lasts 18 years, starting in the game timeline of Y168 and ending in Y185 (were "Y" stands for "Year", I don't remember what the corresponding years in "AD" terms is).

We played The General War more than 30 years ago, using our own set of campaign rules and elements of the board game Federation Space.  In that iteration of the war, we had a different player for each race, with the result being that the Klingon Empire fell in the minimum number of turns. 

The fatal blow came at the hands of Kzintis, who built a huge task force with most of their fleet, and bull-rushed the Klingon capitol.  From my perspective as the Romulan player, it was a tremendous letdown, as I was having success along the Federation border, and had a monumental game against the Gorns, where I lost a starbase, but broke the Gorn fleet, which tried a similar tactic as the Kzintis.  In the case of the Gorn, the cost of the taking the starbase was about 35 ships lost. Ahhh, the good old days.

Anyway, back to the present.  So we are going to try it again, this time with only two players.  In this version of the war, we will be using elements of the 2000 version of Federation and Empire for the campaign system.  As last time, we will be using our own campaign system, which we will finish re-creating over the holiday weekend.

 

Though I've been working on miniatures for SFB over the last year, I expect that the majority of our games will be played using cardboard counters.  Last time that we played, we had a 4' x 8' table covered in hex shaped tiles, this time we will be doing away with hexes, as we realized some years ago, that we just don't really need them to play.  Movement and ranging will be done using inches, instead of the traditional hexes. 

For the battles, mostly we will be using ships and rules from the original boxed version of SFB and the three expansions, with a smattering of newer rules and ships from the Commander's edition rulebooks, Captain's Logs, etc.  To speed up games, we will not be using ECM and ECCM.  Once we have everything set up, we will roll a die to decide which side each of us plays.

I'm not sure if I will post after action reports about each battle, as I find AARs about board games to be infinitely less appealing than for miniatures games, but I will post here about the general progress of the campaign in some form.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Mesa (Part 1 of 2)

I have a number of ideas for post apocalypse scenarios involving a small mesa-like formation, and set out to build such a critter.  I spent some time searching online photos and made notes about what features I needed to incorporate in the build.  After much scribbling of ideas and rough plans, I decided to build a piece that blended with my old terrain inspired by Goblin Valley in Utah.

I loosely settled on a very upright design roughly 16"L x 10"W x 14 high and cut rectangles of foam to fill out the shape with a hobby knife and steel straight edge.

 
In keeping with the style of my Goblin Valley terrain, the foam was glued up into blocks for shaping of each type of strata.  I glued the foam pieces together with 3M Styrofoam spray adhesive.  This sprays out in a relatively thick sort of figure-eight pattern and results in almost no over spray.  It is also much faster and/or less hassle, than any other method I know of for gluing foam.


Next stage was to begin shaping the foam.  I drew a 2 inch square grid on the top layer of foam to transfer the basic design shape onto the foam, then rough cut the profile with a hack saw blade.  I decided to rough out the shape, using a surform tool and my old metal sanding sticks.

 
 
 
 
With the top layer roughed into shape, I transferred a profile of the top onto the next layer, and roughed out that shape using the same tools as above.  This was repeated for the lower two layers as well.
 
 

I now came back to the second layer and began shaping it.  This layer took some time to shape, as it involved the most detail.  Rough removal of foam was done with the surform tool, while finer removal was completed with the sanding sticks.  Additionally, crevices were cut into the layers using an older Foam Factory "pen".



As I was shaping the second layer, I started to consider if the standing height of the Mesa was too upright for the table top.  I decided for the time being to continue the detailing of the second layer, and let the piece take a little more shape, but was considering removing as much as three inches of foam layers from the second and third layers.

Shaping the third layer mostly involved using curved sanding sticks and the Foam Factory stylus/pen to add a little more texture to it's contrasting shape.


The last or bottom layer was essentially a sloped "moat" of eroded and pulverized rubble that had fallen from the mesa over the centuries.  This was mostly shaped with the hacksaw blade and surform tool.

Once the general shaping of the layers was complete, it was time to clean up and add extra details to the layers.  This was accomplished with a little bit of milling with a Dremel, and a lot of sanding with 150-180 grit paper (and small orbital sander where possible), and a coarse Squadron sanding stick.  I added a little more crevice detail with the Foam Factory tool, and cleaned it up with a little sanding.


The last stage of foam-work was to create the rocky "goblins" for the top of the formation.  These were cut from scraps of foam, and shaped with the various tools described above. 

 The top layer was conceived to be favorable for a defensible position or residence for a small group or even single individual.  So the rock formations were shaped with this in mind.  Joints in the foam, divots, and other blemishes were filled with one-step or light weight spackle.

 
 
 
All of these layers were designed with the idea that they can be separated and used independently or with the deletion of a layer if need be.  Again, this is in keeping with my older terrain pieces.

Once all of the remaining stone work was shaped, it was time to prime and paint.  Primer is more of just adding a protective layer to the foam, using a thick artists acrylic paste; it this case from Golden.  Then paint with artists acrylic colors to match my old terrain pieces.  The color ended up a touch off, but there is 14 years between the first pieces and the last, so I'm not too unhappy with the results.

 
 
 

Below you can see each of the modules separated from one another.  This allows some variation in how the terrain can be used on the tabletop, as well as, a little more ease of handling for storage.


Below you can see two of the new pieces flanking one of the original goblin valley pieces. Despite the differences in the paint, the final products are very similar.


Part 2 of the Mesa will deal with the post-apocalypse residence and adaptations to the mesa.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

One Color to Paint Them All

This morning I sat down to paint a terrain piece, hoping  to match others originally made 15 years ago.  As I stood at my work table adding a little burnt sienna, a little white, a little burnt umber, and back to the sienna again; I considered the futility of matching my paint from so long ago.

I remember an instance, somewhere around 1993, looking at my 1/285 Soviet T-72s and T-80s setting in their tray, in a wide variety of greens, and being surprised at the variety in their color.  They had all been painted over a period of eleven years with Model Master Medium Green.  Yet, there they were glistening in 20 different shades, varying widely from lightest to darkest.  I also remember thinking, "Wow, their quality control stinks."

A few T64s left over from the same era as those T72s mentioned above,
 all painted with different bottles of MM Medium Green.

As I continued to mix my terrain paint, adding a few drops of this and that to match the little bit of paint left from all of those years ago, I also considered more recent variations in the Vallejo paints that have largely replaced my model master paints.  I imagine that color matching is better now than 35 years ago, and even though my custom mix today was much closer than those Model Master greens, and even those more recent Vallejo tans, there I was moving to first class on the crazy train, because my new mix was just a touch different from the old.

The old terrain color (left) and the new color (right).
They actually looked closer without the flash.

The magnitude of my silliness finally occurred to me, so I just sat down and started painting.  I'm feeling better now.  And my terrain is even one step closer to done.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Too Much and Not Enough? - Lamenting All the Games that I will Never Play

Once again, I struggle with the fact that I won't live long enough and don't have the space to complete all of the gaming periods and projects that are currently have on my to-do list.  I'm to the point, where it is really hard to accept that will never complete some of my current projects.

As I sat here this morning, arguing with myself about which gaming periods and projects to shave from my to-do list, the thought occurred tome," Just how many periods would I like to play?"  So I decided to make a "quick" list of all of the things that I would really like to game in miniature.

As I started to make the list, I excluded those things such as The Great War, and Franco-Prussian War that I am interested in gaming, but for which I don't  feel the excitement about researching and/or building the terrain and armies.

Anyway, to distract myself from dealing with the problem at hand, I came up with some numbers.  There is some repetition, where periods are represented more than once, in different scales, and some armies overlap into multiple periods/offensives/operations, but here are the numbers:

76 Periods
532 Armies and factions
106,200 Miniatures
24 Sets of basic Modular Terrain
41 Sets of Buildings and Terrain Details

Even if I had won the lottery in high school, or discovered that I was Howard Hugh's lost love child, I never had a chance.  Given that I insist on painting all of my own figures (and even making a few of them), write most of my own rules, and scratch-build almost all of my own terrain, I figure that I would need three lifetimes, free of work and family to get it all done.

Oh well, a moment of whimsy is over, back to the chopping block...