Sunday, May 20, 2012

Border Crossing Part 2: Compound Completed

This weekend, I had planned to have a sci-fi skirmish game. Although my order of starship crew from Splintered Light Miniatures came in, I didn't get beyond priming them. I did, however, get a big chunk of my border crossing done, namely the compound that has the customs office and watchtower.  In the previous post, I had completed the two structures (custom's house and watchtower), and I build the fence. I then painted the fence and lightly painted the base:

As I said in the previous post, I wanted a chain link fence, but settled for this. I then added barbwire around the top of the fence:

I made them by coiling very thin wire around a small drill bit and then trimming it to size. The big pain was gluing it to the top of the fence. Most of the time, more stuperglue was on my fingers than on the fence! The results ain't pretty, but it will due fine at a distance. Once done, I finished the ground cover by adding some fine-grit acrylic paste. I just dabbed it here and there. Once dry, I painted most of the ground brown and a path sandstone.  I then mixed up a little black paint with some Future floor finish and painted both the ground and the fence. Finally, I painted the ground with some flat finish and added a little flocking here and there.

Once all was dry, I glued the house and watchtower to the base:

The custom's office is now open for business:

WW2 Germans pay a call on the custom's office

Stay tuned for part 3. I hope to finish things up with a small guard house complete with gate.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Computer-Moderated Gaming

I started working on my annual PDP (Professional Development Program). It’s a long and dull report on what wonderful things I’ve done over the school year and what I hope to accomplish during the upcoming school year…my thoughts, hopes and dreams for a brighter academic future. Or at least the future my want me to have. Naturally, my attention wandered to the internet, where I read a short post on the Solo Nexus blog concerning gaming apps. That got me wondering once again, why haven’t computer-moderated games ever took off? There seems to be only a handful companies that make them, and there is relatively few postings on the Computer Moderated Rules message board on The Miniatures Page. Fort purposes of discussion, I am using TMP’s definition that is: any software that aids miniature wargaming. I am not including rules that are in PDF format.

During my wargaming career, which spans from about 1976 to Present, I’ve encountered computer-moderated gaming (CMG) twice. First, and probably the most extensive use, was at a small gaming convention at the University of Kansas back in 1997. Some Army officers from Fort Leavenworth (its more than just a federal prison, folks) came up with this really cool fantasy CMG and were beta-testing it at the convention. It worked for land, naval, and skirmish combat. Not only did it resolve combat, but kept track of units in terms of casualties and morale. I got to play the land massed battle and the naval battle games. They seemed to work really well. Even though I didn’t always get the results I wanted, it didn’t bother me that I didn’t get to roll any dice. The second time was while playing a game of Warhammer 40K. My opponent had an app on his iPhone that had all of the stats for various troop types. He was able to download those stats that we needed for the game, which sped up having to look for them in a book. He also had a dice rolling app, which didn't seem to be any speedier than physically rolling dice.

Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of making my own computer moderated game rules, but my programming knowledge is still stuck back in the days of Fortran and Basic, and I was never any good at it. I've tried to enlist my wife, who does those programming sorts of things, but she never seemed particularly enthusiastic about it. Recently, at a local bookstore, I saw a book in the computer section on how to make your own computer fantasy role-playing games using Visual Basic. It was aimed at teenagers. My problem is that I am a Mac person and there does not seem to be a lot of readily available (and free) languages out there for Macs.

I thought up of some possible reasons why CMG has never really caught on:

1. Rules designers and computer programmers* are not mutually inclusive.

2. It does take a lot of time to design and program* something. Development tools like Visual Basic probably speed things up a lot, but its still a lot of work. I imagine it would be like making a large database program.

3. Time is money. Paying someone to develop a computer program* would probably be too expensive for most rule designers. Revenues from the rules may not pay for the programmer.

4. Its probably much more difficult to edit or modify newer editions of a set of rules if they are a computer version rather than a written version.

Any thoughts on this? If you had a choice between a set of rules that were exclusively a computer application, or in a book, and both cost about the same, which would you pick?

*I know that we no longer use the term "programmer," and I know they are no longer called "computer programs," nor do we use the verb "to program," but the last time I took a computer science course was back in 1987 when terms like these where used. So shoot me, I'm techno-terminologically challenged!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Border Crossing Part 1: Border Guard Compound

I have been trying to come up with a border crossing between Southern Chalupastan the Federal Republic of Gambusia. This is an area of heavy rebel activities, and I wanted a border checkpoint that is somewhat fortified. Google was not much help in terms of what such a border crossing would look like, so I decided to wing it.  Here is my work in progress.

At first I wanted a solid wall compound, but I decided to go with a fence. I wanted a chain link fence. I couldn't figure out how to make a convincing one in 1/300 scale so I settled with this:

Some Irregular figures are shown for scale. The fence is made with a plastic mesh used for embroidery or something like that. I glued them to a piece of a left-over paint stirring stick. I sanded down the edges and then cut grooves along the four sides to hold the mesh better.

Within the fence will be the customs office and a watchtower:

The house was a quickie-build out of cardstock. The watchtower is from C in C. Its a nice model complete with a ladder and sandbags, but it was sort of bear putting it together and is not exactly level!   This is how they will look inside the fence:

 Not a lot of room, but I didn't want a large complex.  The nice thing about the fence is that you can see the house a little better than if it was a solid wall.

Shortly after I glued together the fence, the helpful folks over at the Angel Barracks forum for 6mm wargaming pointed out that N-scale, photo-etched chain-linked fences are available....D'oh! Well, FYI if I build another fenced in compound.

In the next installment(s) of this project, I will paint the fence, put in the ground and then work on a smaller, roadside guardhouse with a gate.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Crew of the Invidia

From left to right: Kali, Bart, Glud, Lady Goo Goo, and XRT-93

I've been putting together a game using Street Fight skirmish rules, which you can get for free from the Lady Goo Goo was last seen fighting off xenomorphs who were attacking Yogurt Town. It hard to believe that was almost a year ago! I decided she was the captain of the star freighter, Invidia. Her crew members are Kali the shuttle pilot, Bart the navigator, Glud the ship's "heavy," and XRT-93 the engineer. I am in the process of working up a rival gang.