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...

Monday, April 24, 2017

AAR25: War in Mugabia, Air Battle at Objective B5 - Part1

As the Uwandan forces prepared to crossed into Mugabia at objective B5, 6xF5As offered air cover against the Mugabian air force.  Initially, the only resistance that could be offered was by three Mig15s, which were ordered to attack Uwandan aircraft if present, and ground targets if not.

Objective B5 is a town just across the border and river 
about three quarters of the way up the map.

The Air Battle at Objective B5: Part1

The F5As were aware of the Mig15s early on, due to ground radar and radio traffic, and were ordered to hunt them down.  The F5s broke into three groups, the first of 2x F5s would be the bait to gain the attention of the Migs, while the second group of 2x F5s took a high northern circuitous route to hopefully gain unnoticed advantage over the Migs.  The last pair of F5s maintained cover over the objective, in case more Mugabian aircraft arrived (it was believed that 4x F5s were enough to deal with the Mig15s).

The F5s in the foreground are  actually 2 "sticks" or about 9000
feet above the Migs (middle group) to the left.  The Migs in turn are
one stick above the F5s farthest from the camera.
Despite the F5s being warned of the Mig15s by ground radar and  radio traffic, the Migs managed to spot the two F5s playing bait first at around four miles out, and at roughly the same altitude as the Migs.   Meanwhile, the Migs chose to climb as they closed on their prey their.  The Migs failed to spot the high flying F5s.

The F5s finally spotted the Migs at about three miles and continued to fly straight and level until about two miles out.  During this the other two F5s at higher altitude had also seen the Migs and continued to close at higher altitude.

The bait began to dive, and so did the Migs.  As both the Migs and F5s cruise speed were similar, the F5s were able to outpace the Migs, making it hard for them to lose enough altitude to get into range.  For the most part, he Migs were too high and too slow to take advantage of their position.  Ironically, the other pair of F5s found themselves in a similar situation, having started their descent too late, they allowed the Migs below to just get within range of the bait F5s, while still being too high to fire on the Migs. 

The Migs are diving and will wing-over to move into position behind the F5s. 
They are still almost 5,000 feet, slightly more than one altitude stick, above the F5s. 

The Bait F5s were more than a little worried, when they began to take shots from the Migs.  But despite one shot finding its mark, the bait suffered no damage, and eventually, the other pair of F5s both managed to fire a Sidewinder each at the Migs.

Just before the Migs performed a wingover, moving into position to fire
at the F5s beneath them.  And, exposing there rear to the F5s nearer the camera.

In all seven shots from the Migs yielded no damage to the F5s, which had pulled out of gun range of the Migs, so the Migs broke off  the engagement with intension of going home to get reloaded.  About this time, one of the Migs finally noticed the inbound missiles, and all three Migs broke into hard turns.

Missiles just before impact, killing two of the Migs.

Both missiles were forces to test to see if they maintained lock on, both did, and in an instant, there were two fireballs in the sky, no pilots were seen to bail out.

The four F5s had been drawn south and east of the objective, and decided to return to the objective to cover the Uwandan advance.  For the time being, Uwanda had air superiority, and their ground attack aircraft were free to attack Mugabian targets.


A hopeless mission for the Mig15s, though they did manage to delay Uwanda's ground attack aircraft for a few minutes, but were out-numbered, and over matched by the F5s.  The remaining Mig15 was too low and the F5s were too far out of position to pursue, and it only had a single burst of ammo left for its guns.  It was successful in its choice to go home.

I still can't get over how hard it is to line up shots and then get lock-on with the early AAMs. I am also considering doubling the "ground" scale in the game to spread out the stands during the dogfight.  It gets very busy in the furball.

Sorry about the terrible photos and relatively bland game, but needed to resolve this before the next ground battle, which is very different from the last.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Armaments in Miniature 15mm (1/100) CH47A (late) Chinook

On Monday, I  received two Armaments in Miniature 15mm (1/100) CH47A (late) resin models in the mail.  Excited, I quickly opened the box, excavated the packing material, and found the two CH47 models.  I was amazed, though I should have known to expect nothing less than amazing.  These are simply beautiful models.  They came as a cast fuselage, and two sprues with rear ramp, landing gear, rotors, etc.

I haven't had time to do any assembly, but as I haven't seen much about these on any of the forums, thought I'd share some photos.

Though it doesn't show up well in the photos, the panel lines
 and side windows and present and obvious if seen in person.

The resin is flawlessly cast, with absolutely no bubbles, and detail is outstanding.  At $21 each, these models are less than half of the price of the only other 1/100 CH47 model that I have seen, which is rarely available on Ebay.

AIM offers the model in early and late versions at $19.00 and $21.00.  Ordering was simple and fast, delivery time was less than a week.  An outstanding model and an outstanding value.  You know you that you need one...or two... 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

New Arrivals 4-9-17

Haven't been doing much for the last couple of months, other than working, but I have had some items come in over that time, with each purchase being my first with the respective companies.

The first order was for 15mm hex bases from Minairons.  These are made per order, so there was a just a slight delay in getting them to the US from Spain, but was still a relatively short ordering cycle.  The bases are as described, priced very affordably, and perfect for my application.  They will allow me to individually mount my fighters for Star Fleet Battles.  Overall the experience was exceptionally good, and I would highly recommend them.

Toad King Castings
This company was recommended to me after in response to a request for 28mm skulls on TMP.   I was looking for some bits to scatter amongst my post-apoc terrain.  Toad King Castings offered outstanding service, with easy ordering, spectacular product (all resin castings), and fast shipping.  Again, a highly recommended company.  I ended up ordering a bag of skulls (which includes quite a variety of different castings), and a pack of  bones debris.  He also threw in a very nice resin chest with the skulls.


Amarillo Design Bureau
Despite having played Star Fleet Battles since the early 1980s, this is my first order with the current owner of the game system, Amarillo Design Bureau.  I ordered a selection of star ships including Federation, Klingon, Romulan, and Kzinti.  The ordering process was very smooth, with fantastic comms and exceedingly fast delivery.  The models are all metal and were generally very nice, with castings simplified from some of the originals forms from back in the day (particularly nice for the Kzinti ships, which used to have lots of little breakable bits).  Most of the castings were quite good, though a couple looked to suffer from some mold ware. 

The Federation Frigates, NCL and CVS have particularly nice detailing, and will stand up well with my older plastic Federation castings.  The Romulan Destroyer variants are very high quality castings, and the Kzini Cruiser and FF are well detailed and as mentioned above much simpler than the older castings.  The Klingon F5s are a different model from the original all those years ago, but similarly sized, and nice models, though the mold had some wear, resulting in some shmootz hanging off of the back of the castings around the impulse engines and shuttle bay area.  Nothing catastrophic, but they do require a little attention.  The Klingon CVS was probably the only real let-down among the 13 castings, as the upper surfaces of the hull with the shoulder phasers extending to the "wings" were a bit rough, kind of "pebbly".  This will require some attention with file and putty, and I may have to re-create the phasers and a little raised detail in the area.  Overall though, I am happy with the models, and service was fantastic.

Klingon CVS and F5s
Two of the F5s have been trimmed, the model to
the right still has flash on the rear of the hull.
Federation FFs, NCL (top) and CVS (in pieces).
Kzinti heavy battle Cruiser and Frigate
Romulan Battlehawk and Skyhawk.

Monday, March 27, 2017

15mm Actions in Afghanistan

My first game of the year was kind of an odd critter.  First, I found myself playing a conflict that I have generally avoided on the table top, the US war in Afghanistan.  Second, the game was played against a veteran of the war in Iraq.  And third, it was his first miniatures game or wargame of any type.  Oh, and as it turned out, we played three games.


The first scenario was fairly simple, if improbable, involving a broke-down Humvee, who's crew tries to hold out until relief can come and whisk them away.  The idea was to keep the scenario small to act as a learning tool for the game process and rules. As it turned out, the newbie caught on quickly, and the scenario played out equally fast.

As the American player had never played or even seen a miniature wargame before, I offered an overview of the rules mechanics for my home-brew rules, and tried to explain the process enough that he felt almost ready to begin.  My rules are very free-flowing, with very short turns.  Basically, I just told him to do what he would do in the real world, and I'd explain how it translated to the table top as we went.

A pre-game view of the table, looking towards the point of US entry.

The American player had a single Humvee and five man crew, that broke down some distance from an Afghan village.  They called in for assistance, and the dice dictated that help would arrive after a "short "time.

I played the Afghan insurgents, which I have to admit felt a little odd, receiving 11 fighters per the die roll. As luck would have it, all with AKs, no MGs or RPGs.

The American player, a veteran of the US Army, and of service in Iraq, fell back on his real world training, setting up a defensive perimeter with his crew, explaining his troops actions, intent and fields of responsibility and fire.

My Afghans took a few turns to respond, moving slowly at first, and then more aggressively.  Rules of engagement dictated that the Americans could only fire if attacked, and I watched the American player tense up, not really knowing what to expect, as the distance closed.

My Afghans finally opened fire, with the Americans returning fire. After a couple of very intense turns,  the Americans took a casualty, but managed to inflict about a half dozen on my Afghans.  Ma Deuce and the M249 did their job, resulting in a morale failure on the Afghan part, and a withdrawal.

The Humvee broke-down in the road with US troops adjacent and in the nearest
 ruined walls.  Afghans are at the bend in the stream (one casualty lays in the stream),
in the ruined walls to the front of the Americans, and near the bend of the wall
nearest the town.

The American player followed his training, and rather than stretching out his force in pursuit of my straggling Afghans, as many gamers would, said that he would secure his perimeter and get attention to his wounded soldier. 

The relief would arrive in about two minutes time. The Americans survived, inflicting six KIA at the cost of one moderate wound.  The scenario had been won; he was ready for the next battle.

Despite the small size of the scenario, I really hadn't expected the game to go so fast, and I wasn't sure that he would like it enough to want to game again.

We had a little after-action discussion, and decided to do a little larger action in the second run.  The American player suggested a column of Humvees going to the village and sweep it of unfriendly forces. 

The American force consisted of four Humvees with a mix of M2, M240, and Mk19s and their crews.  The Afghans received 21 fighters via the blessing of the holy dice.  I also rolled the dice, 50/50 that the Afghans would ambush the column v. occupy the town.  Ambush it was.

So, Americans entered from the table edge, and quickly sighted part of my Afghan force hiding the stream bed to the American right.  Surprised at the close proximity of the Afghans, the Americans swung their turrets around, and continued to roll at speed through the Ambush zone.  This forced my Afghans to open up early, with my two RPGs luckily hitting the trailing two Humvees. 

One RPG hit the turret, taking out the M2 and gunner immediately, the other hit the passenger compartment of the Humvee, causing only one significant wound. The gunner on the Mk19, successfully took out three Afghans right away, including my only MG and one of my RPGs.

A view of the second battle, on the movement phase of the
 turn after firing started.  The two rear Humvees hit, and the
first three Afghan casualties suffered.

Again, the American player relied on his real world experience and training, maneuvering the lead Humvees around in their reaction. 

On the next turn the Afghans could cause only a single wound to the Americans, and began taking a beating from the three heavy weapons on the Humvees, and their crews.  After about a minute of intense short range fire, the Americans went from the fear of the unknown, shock of the Ambush, and loss of two Humvees, to hitting 18 of my 21 insurgents despite their cover.  It was wicked.

The No.2 Humvee has circled back to help protect casualties,
while the No.1 Humvee is out of view to the left dicing up my Afghans.

The scenario ended with my three survivors leaving their many wounded comrades to bleed out in the stream bed, while the Americans secured their perimeter and tended to their casualties.

The scenario over, Afghan casualties litter the stream,
while the three survivors run away.

Again, the scenario ended quickly, and after a brief discussion, we decided to play a third game.

The third scenario was larger yet, and reversed our rolls somewhat.  I added a little more foliage to the table, and the Americans would provide security in the village for a meeting with some local leaders.  The American player would have three Humvees and crews, and 17 local friendlies.  My attacking force would consist of 46 (per the dice) insurgents, including four RPGs and a couple of MGs.

Scenario 3; the same map with a little extra foliage.

The American player established the house in which the meeting would take place, and set up his defenses.  My insurgents advanced from the far edge of the board.   We probably could have just had me set up several moves into the table, but I wanted to give the newbie a chance to go through the sighting process, and gain an appreciation for how the foliage and clutter on the table impacted line of sight, relative to the bird's eye view we have as gamers looking down at the table.  For all of these games, we were using periscopes to establish LOS of for the figs.

A couple of views showing the initial deployment of friendly
forces protecting the village.

I decided to move most of my force up the Afghan left side, with about a squad worth of fighters advancing along the stream bed.  My hope was to get the large force into the village and overwhelm the enemy with numbers at close range.  The smaller force on the on the right would be used to simply hold American forces in position, and allow me to gain a big numerical advantage on the left.

My insurgents advancing in the stream bed.

Ever notice how plans seldom work out as planned?

Slowly, my defenders of the faith advanced on the village.  In time, they were sighted by the locals and the fracas began.  Like the real world, a lot of ammo was expended with few rounds finding their targets. 

As the turns passed, more insurgents joined in, and a nasty firefight developed on the left side of the village.   Despite gaining the numerical superiority that I desired, my ineptitude went on display, and his well placed Humvee with M2, and few friendly Afghans took a heavy toll on my force. 

The battle begins to take shape on the Afghan left.

On the right, the plan sort of worked for awhile, with both Afghan insurgent and US/friendly forces either being blind or firing blanks.  A lot of shots resulted in remarkably few casualties, but in time, protected by superior cover, the Allied force started to pick off my guys in the stream bed. 

The Afghan group on the right, kept the Allied forces honest for
 awhile, but just couldn't hit anything.

After the second game, the American player was quite concerned about RPGs, but the third game showed how fickle they and the dice could be, with my first three, relatively short ranged, high probability shots all missing.

In time the RPGs did take out a couple of the Humvees, and many of the Allied force (though I think only three Americans) fell to fire, but again the insurgents couldn't mass enough fire fast enough, and took a pounding.  Despite good morale/leadership rolls for several turns, the Afghans finally broke and being in such close quarters, my remaining 10 or so leaderless fighters surrendered to the Americans.

I think the allied side had about 13 casualties, pretty heavy at around 40%, but only two confirmed KIA that I can remember. They probably would have been another half 4-6 KIA amongst the friendlies, though we didn't have need to work that out.  The insurgents took 36 casualties, with many having the misfortune of being cut up by .50 cals, or otherwise spending a lot of time bleeding out, before they might have received any help from the Americans.

Expensive maybe, but the Americans and their allies had their third victory of the day, stopping the attack, and successfully protecting the Afghan leaders.

So in the end, I got my butt handed to me three times in one day by a newbie, and more importantly, I think the hobby has a new convert.  Sorry the photos don't follow the action better, but I was using my phone, and ended up with a lot of blurry and pixelated photos.