Thursday, December 5, 2013

Some Day, I'll Build This

I have not posted in ages. In fact, I hadn't even thought much about my blog until Monday, when my friend and fellow gamer, Will, happened to mention it. I've been very busy with work and family since my last real project update post. Plus an unexpected and unpleasant incident occurred a month ago. It was in the form of the dismissal of one of the faculty members in my department. As department head, I've had to scramble to take up much of the slack. I am now teaching one more course, I had to find two last-minute adjuncts to fill the other two courses, and I now find my self have 20 more student advisees than I had before.  Let's just say I've had zero time for anything. Let's just say I am approaching major burn out. Fortunately, the semester is just about over!

I was cleaning up my office yesterday and found these plans I had made under a pile of papers:

It is for the Brazilian U-17 river monitor named the Parnaiba.

Source: Wikipedia

Its the oldest active warship, if you don't count some sailing ships that are still officially commissioned like the HMS Victory. Its undergone some modifications over its 75 years of service, including the addition of a helicopter landing pad.

I am not sure if my plans are 100% accurate. Its based on the few pictures I could find, plus a drawing from Therefore, there was a lot of guessing going on.

I plan to use built one or maybe two for the Southern Chalupastan navy. One, I plan to build as is; the other, I will probably upgrade its main gun. Currently, its sporting a WWII vintage 3" gun, but I might try for a more modern rapid-fire weapon.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Big Improvement in Rapid Prototyping

The SteelonSand Blog recently reported that the War Times Journal website is now selling pre-dreadnought ships made from rapid prototyping. He has a good review and states that they are far superior than what you get from Shapeways. I am not sure what WTJ's process is for making them, but seems like a huge step above what I've purchased so far from Shapeways. I looked at the prices and they seem competitive compared to Shapeways. This being said, I don't blame the vendors who create the models at Shapeways. From the little correspondence I've had with some of the vendors, they don't seem to have a lot of input into the production of their work. For example, I've order some microarmor and was told that it couldn't printed. I contacted the vendor and he was more perplexed than I. Apparently, they go back and forth on whether or not a particular model can be printed or not.

These new minis make me VERY tempted to venture forth into the pre-dread waters!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chinese/Asian Cucumber Pickles

Lately, I've been obsessed with canning and pickling things. To say that I love anything pickled is an understatement. I have yet to try pickled meats, but I have eaten pickled eggs, and I enjoy just about any vegetable that is pickled. I only recently inherited my mother's canning equipment, so I have not started on that, but I've been doing a lot of refrigerator pickles. They don't last as long, but they are simple to make and you don't have to worry so much about contamination if you can them improperly.

There are a lot of pickled veggies in Asian cuisine. The thing that makes Asian pickles stand out from most western pickles is that they tend to go beyond just sour or sweet of our pickles. They like to add stronger flavors to them.  So, I give you my recipe for Chinese pickled cucumbers. This is mishmash of various recipes I have found. They are pretty simple to make, and taste better the longer you leave them in the fridge. Remember, the measurements of ingredients are estimates.

•  5 to 8 pickling cucumbers also known as Gherkins (Cucumis anguria)
•  2 to 3 carrots
•  2 cloves garlic
•  1/2 Cup Vinegar
•  2 Tbs soy sauce
•  2 Tsp salt
•  1 Tbs sugar
•  1 Tsp pepper
•  1 Tsp sesame oil (optional)
•  1 Tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Clean your cucumbers and peel your carrots. Cut the cucs in half longways and gently scrape out the seeds with a small spoon. You probably can leave them in, but I just clean them out. Gherkin skins are so thin, I don't bother removing them. Slice the cucs into strips. If the cuc is rather long (>4"), cut in half. For the carrots, julienne them. There are a number of techniques of doing this that can be found on the internet, but I learned from my mother-in-law.

Cut the carrot obliquely, at a low an angle as possible (1).  This will give you thin, oval disks of carrot (2). Then using the oval disks of carrot, cut the carrot into strips (3). I have one of those mandolin cutters, but I found I waste a lot of carrot using it. I suppose you could shed it, but that is too thin.

Salting the veggies--
I have found that if you just dump the cucs and carrots into you vinegar mixture, they don't absorb the flavors much. So, I use a technique that I've seen used for making cole slaw with cabbage. Take your sliced cucs and carrots, mix with the 2 tsp of salt, and put them in a colander for about an hour or so. The water will come out of them and will more readily absorb the vinegar. They will also tend to be a little crunchier. I've never done this with the garlic, but it might work well with that. As a result of this, there is no need to add additional salt.

Making the vinegar mixture--
While waiting for the salting veggies, put all remaining ingredients, except for the garlic, into a small sauce pan and boil for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar.

Putting the whole thing together--
Gently press down on the veggies in the colander to squeeze out some of the water. Then put the veggies, including the garlic, and the vinegar mixture into a plastic container and seal. Once a day, I shake them up just to redistribute them. In about three days, they should be ready, as I said, they are even better if you let them sit a little longer.

I've make some variations on them that give them slightly different flavors:
Vinegar: Normally, I used either the white or apple vinegar, but I've also used a 70/30 mixture of rice vinegar to white. Rice vinegar is not as strong and give a subtle sweet flavor to it.
Sugar: I've substituted light brown sugar to table sugar. Try it, to see if you like it.
Ginger: I've added minced fresh ginger and that gives it a nice kick to it.
Garlic: just throwing in the cloves does not give off much of a garlic flavor, so recently, I've added a third clove that I've pressed and thrown in to the mix.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Amazon Cavalry

I got a chance to do a little painting last night and finished these up. They are Lonegunman Games amazon cavalry mounted on Essex unarmored horses. Lonegunman bought up the Armies of Arcana line of fantasy miniatures. Originally, the mounted warriors had panthers for mounts. Panthers as mounts never appealed to me, so I was glad to find that Lonegunman sold the riders and the panthers separately. I have about a zillion Essex horses that I have collected over the years, so why not use them. A little modification was needed for a better fit between horse and rider, but it worked out fairly well. Also, I needed to bend the sword-bearing arms so that that all three could fit on the base. The rider on the far left has her arm in its original position. These were sort of a test paint. I have some more primed and am in the process of modifying one rider to hold a standard instead of her sword.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Static Grass Blues

I hate static grass.

In theory, it would be so cool looking...grass standing up. In 1/300 scale, it would be like tall grasses.  My prone machine gunners could hide behind it. It would add some nice variation to my 15mm figure stands.

The problem is that very time I apply it, it always ends up like its been flattened with a steamroller. I've tried blowing in it, poking it with a tooth pick, and even tried holding the base upside down and tossing the stuff upward. Nothing has worked. It always looks like a pile of grass. I have a big container of this stuff taking up room on my workbench. I look at it and think, "wouldn't it be great to use this stuff." Then I reach for the flock.

I have scoured the internet for answers. There have been many suggestions, but I have yet to try them. Plus some of them seem to be variations on what I've tried already, so I am rather dubious of the results.  I remember one of them had a nice technique to make your own tuffs of grass, but you need a static grass applicator.

It was recommended to me to get a static grass applicator. These will definitely do the job.  I'm sorry, I am not paying $200 for some fancy machine that I will only use occasionally. There are the $40 "electric fly-swatter" applicators. These are still a little pricey. There are instructions to build your own on the internet, but I am not handy with an electric soldering iron. That leads me to the last alternative that was recommended to me. The Noch 08100 squeeze bottle applicator. Yes, I am naming names here. It looks like an 8 oz. rubber bottle. You put the grass in and shake it up. The grass builds up a static charge rubbing against the sides of the bottle, and then puff it out where it will hit the glue standing up. Sounds great! It can't be all that expensive. Even if it doesn't really work, I won't be out of a lot of money. However, there is a problem: almost no one in the USA sells them! I found five online hobby shops that sell them, but they are in the UK, Germany, Italy, and even Finland. They are about £4 in the United Kingdom, which equals about $6 US; however, I have the feeling that the shipping would be more than what I pay for it.  So, is there some sort of embargo in the USA on the Noch 08100? Are they being sold to foreign powers and terrorist groups that we oppose? Can they be used for nefarious purposes other than to happily deploy static grass?

Now, remember I said almost no one in the good old USA sells them.  I found that sells them through a third party vendor. "Great!" I thought. The price in bold print stated little over $6. "Wonderful!" I thought even louder. Then, I saw, in not-so-bold type, Shipping & Handling: $16... WHAT!?!?
You've got to be kidding! Does a specially-trained Golden Eagle carry it to me in its talons? What are these people thinking? I'm sorry, but that is nuts, just nuts. The customer reviews went on and on about great service and great shipping. Huh? They must be millionaires to throw away that much on shipping.

This leads me to another somewhat-related rant: shipping and handling. Fortunately, pretty much every wargaming company uses the good old US Postal Service, or the postal service of their national origin. In the US, the postage is more-or-less a fixed price unless you are ordering 10 tons of lead. Not so with art supply companies. I have nothing against FedEx and UPS, but but paying 3 times or more for shipping for an item is not worth it. Case in point: I used to use technical drawing pens to illustrate my fossil specimens. These pens ain't cheap ($15 to $25, depending on the pen nib), but they are about the size and weight of a fine-point marker.  I remember an nationally known art supply store wanting to charge $25 for shipping. Why? Part of it was because I live in the middle of nowhere (I lived in Zone 7 or something like that), but the main reason was that the pen cost $20. No, there was no insurance to this order, they just decided to charge that much to ship it via a delivery service. Come on! You could put it in an envelope, sick a stamp or two on it, and off it goes! Every online art supply company, even those that claim they are discount ones, stick you with outrageous shipping costs.

So, will I pay $22 for a small rubber bottle that I don't even know will do what I want it to do? Eh, no. I will find my own bottle and give that a try first. It will be a long time before I pay that much for a domestic purchase. I might as well order it from Europe. The overseas postage might be a little cheaper. I might even buy my own bug zapper and try my hand at making one.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

More Painted Minis

I managed to finish some more miniatures that I started in March. I wouldn't call what I did multitasking, but I went back and forth between scale and genres during each painting session. Some were ones that I had started awhile ago and never finished. As usual, forgive my crappy photography.

I finished up more of my Splintered Light Orcs, but didn't finish the command, so no new photos of them, yet.

First up is Khurasan Miniatures DIMOG Amoursuit Mk 1, or is it Mk 2? I don't know. I bought it a long time ago, I can't tell the difference based on their website pictures. This is the miniature where I lost the driver's door, but my aunt-in-law's granddaughter found it. I went with the autocannon and  missile launcher configuration. The missile launcher really looks more like a big recoilless rifle:

You probably can't tell, but in addition to using the old Future floor wax and black ink wash, I also gave its lower end a wash using brown. For highlighting, I did some with silver to simulate wear and tear on it. Its mounted on a large washer.The barrel of the autocannon is very bendy. I am not sure how long it will last before breaking.

Next up, a 15mm Mastodon with howdah:

 I can't remember who made it. I want to say its an old Grenadier, but I am not sure. They came with some dudes to put in the howdah; one archer and one spearman. I have to figure out what fantasy army this guy belongs to.  I am not quite finished with it. I still need to paint the shields that are on the howdah and put him on a base.

Last, but not least, some microarmor.
First, is an tractor-trailer from Shapeways:

The number of shops that make micro scale figures on Shapeways seems to be growing. I can't remember who specifically made this. Shapeways, IMHO has a lousy website. I find it hard to find things, or to go back to specific shops that I liked.  So far, I have purchased a few items, mostly aircraft. I have yet to be impressed my miniatures made by 3D printing. Its not so much the detail, or lack of it, but I don't like that fuzzy texture (frosted ultra-detail) that I get on a lot of models. Plus, I think the price is still too high, especially for the quality. I didn't bother to prime this truck. Normally, I would have given it a wash, but the fuzzy texture would really show up on it.

Next, is another in my line of technicals:

I have not painted it yet because I want to use a spray-on primer, and its that its been raining more often than not. High humidity/rain and outdoor aerosol spraying is not a good combination. I can't remember who made the truck, but the gun is a WW2 German 20mm Flakvierling 38 made by Heroics & Ros. I would prefer a Soviet ZPU-4 Quad 14.5mm AA gun, but I've read on Micro Armour Mayhem that GHQ's model is awful to build, plus I don't feel like paying $10 for it. Scotia-Grendel has one, but its HUGE! It would definitely not fit on this tiny truck.  I have three more of these little trucks of unknown origin. Heroics & Ros does make a reasonable ZPU-23 that I have put on another truck. I will probably stick one on one of these little trucks.

Last, is a WW2 BK1125 Soviet armored gunboat:

This is also made by Heroics & Ros. It is a pretty simple model. As part of the Northern Chalupistan river fleet, I plan to modernize it. I will build a tripod mast to hold a radar dish, but I am not clear what else I will do to it. The small machine gun turrets will probably go. I will keep the T-34 turret. I tried fitting some other spare turrets, but they were too long in the back and rammed into the pilot house.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quick Update

A million things have kept me from doing much of anything hobby-wise. This is mainly due to a major spring cleaning effort at home followed by lots of dull, mind-numbing administrative duties at work (not to mention a chronic pain-in-the-@ss colleague). None the less, I've managed to do a few things, at least on paper.  Sorry, no pictures now but will do so when I report on these projects later.

1. Managed to paint up more Splintered Light orcs. Thanks to severe allergies at night, I've managed to get some painting done while waiting for the anti-histamines to kick in. I'll show them off when I have them based. Splintered Light has just come out with some 15mm adventurers that look great, as well has more orcs on dire-hyenas.

2. Started planning/designing a hacienda in 1/300 scale. That's been a difficult ongoing task. They are a million different styles and the style I am interested in are very hard to visualize. As best I can put it, they are like a bunch of different buildings that have been attached together. I think I've managed to draw up some sketches and plans for what I want it to look like.

3. Boat building is back in the works. In a previous post, I decided that 1/300 river boats weren't a priority, but there were a couple of posts on TMP about a building material called Sintra that got me interested. It seems to be foam core consisting only of the core. Its supposed to be pretty strong and comes in ridiculously thin sheets. I ordered 3mm thick sheets but they even have sheets 1mm (!) in thickness. The cost itself isn't too bad, but the companies that sell it ship by UPS, which really jacks up the cost. I have already worked up plans for the Brazilian river monitor Parnaíba, which is the oldest active warship in the world, being commissioned in 1938. I've drawn up the plans based on the few photographs of the ship that are out there. In addition to the Sintra, I bit the bullet and ordered some brass guns that ship modellers use to improve their models. There are none for 1/300 scale, but I bought some 5" guns at 1/350 scale that will hopefully be small enough to look like  3" guns in 1/300 scale.  If it turns out well, I will build a second one and maybe sell it...maybe.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Blank Dice

I've always like warships of the pre-dreadnought age. When I was in elementary school, I read all I could about the Spanish-American war. I had a great-grandfather who was in the Russian Navy during the Russo-Japanese War. My favorite piece in Monopoly still is the battleship. There is something about those ship designs...

As I said in my previous post, Bob Cordrey modified his naval rules to use conventional 6-sided dice. Silly me, I didn't know this until I ordered some blank dice. Oh well. Now I have a whole mess of blank dice.

I bought them from Blank Dice. Its a UK company. They have a whole mess of different colors. I have since found that I could get them from a whole bunch of other places on line, including, but hey, this company was recommended on TMP. The prices didn't seem to be too bad, but I'll be honest, I don't remember how much I paid. They shipped pretty fast, too. Not EM-4 Miniatures fast, where they have packed up and shipped out your order before you even know what you wanted, but still pretty fast.

Blank 6D's from
They are indented to insert stickers. They don't sell the the stickers but have free pdf templates that I assume are properly sized.

Size comparison with US Quarter
 They seem to have a proper heft to them. You know what I mean...the difference between the crappy dice set you got in the D&D starter set in the 70s, and a pair of dice you use for craps at a casino. That was one of the things I was worried about. I thought they might be very light.

What am I going to do with them? I have not decided yet. My daughter has already asked me what I have planned for them, so I better think of something quick!

I want to thank my friend Karin at the college where I teach for taking the pictures for me with her camera phone.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

OMG, This is Fantastic!

I've been tinkering with the idea playing some games of Bob Cordrey's The Portable Naval Wargame, formally known as Memoir of Battle at Sea. Had I paid more attention to his updates, I would not have ordered the blank dice originally needed for these rules. He made some minor changes that included using standard dice rather than color-coded dice. Based on my read of them, they are a simple (but not simplistic) set of rules that emphasizes playability and a fast game, but seems to have a good degree of flavor for pre-dreadnought and dreadnought naval battles.  I have not been able to give them a try (big surprise there), until now....

...anyway, from Bob's site, I found that another site, Three by Two Tactics, has taken his game and made a virtual board game for it (see here). Its not an online game.  You do need to have the rules handy, but it allows you to run games and test the rules without investing in physical miniatures. Plus you can play it in your office...when you are trying to grade final exams.

Bob's rules are free, and its free to run the game board. Another plus is that it runs on Macs as well as PCs. That's a big plus for me! Give them a try.

Now, back to grading (cue "Volga Boatmen").

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

FYI: New Discussion Group on Google+ for 15mm Fantasy Gaming

Over at TMP, there was an invite to join a 15mm fantasy figure discussion group on Google+.  A number of years ago, I joined the 15mm fantasy group on Yahoo! It petered out not long after it started. It is still active, but barely. Hopefully, this one will generate more interest than the Yahoo! group did.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

March Paint Fest

Sorry for the lack of gaming-related posts. Work and home life has been crazy. At least things at work will calm down once the semester is over in a few weeks. Back in March, I realized that I needed to address the HUGE backlog of unpainted fantasy figures that have been piling up. So, I made an attempt to put a tiny dent in the pile. I started with the most recent purchases first, and have been slowly working backwards.

Splintered Light Miniatures Kobold Command

Splintered Light Miniatures Orcs
I painted more, but I didn't want to photograph them until I've based them. I'm bad about painting a batch but not basing them. In my view, they are not officially done until they are on a base.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ants Climbing Trees

Ah, I got your attention! Nope, I have not gone to new depths in 1/300 scenery and modeled some ants climbing up trees. Its just another Chinese recipe. You won't find Ants Climbing Trees (ACT, for short) at your typical Chinese restaurant. None the less, its a very good dish. Originally, my wife taught me how to cook it, but I have exceeded the Master!  My daughter loves it and I have gotten a thumb up from my mother-in-law.

It is a Szechuan dish using mung bean noodles, also known as bean thread noodles or Chinese vermicelli. These are very thin, almost transparent, dry noodles that are usually wrapped up into small bundles. They have no flavor to them, but soak up the flavors of whatever they are added to. They used to be dirt cheap at Asian grocery stores, but I've noticed a rather steep increase in price lately and a decrease in the amount of noodles that come in the package. Recently, I've seen them sold in the Asian section of Walmart, for a higher price, of course.

Nowadays, you can find this recipe on the internet, but closest who comes to the recipe I know is Emeril Lagasse's. Why is it called Ants Climbing Trees? Its because the meat will stick to the noodles, looking like ants on branches. Onto the ingredients...remember from the last food post, I don't really measure anything, particularly the spices, so, the numbers below are rough estimates.

• 1/2 pound of ground pork
• 3-4 packages of brean thread noodles [1]
• 3 green onions, well chopped
• 2 slices ginger root, minced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tablespoon Szechuan bean paste [2]
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 teaspoon white pepper
• 1 can of chicken stock
• 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil

[1] This is an estimate, as I said the amount you get lately in packages is smaller than in the past. I use as many packs as it takes to make about 2 1/2 cups wet.

[2] Szechuan bean paste can be sweet or hot. Sweet doesn't seem to be all that sweet, and I have not found the hot to be overly hot. As an interesting substitute, I often use Korean fermented soy bean paste. It gives a nice little sharp bite to the dish!

Soak your noodles in a large bowl of cold water.  As they start to soften, use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut them into smaller lengths. Soaking them for about 1/2 hour should be sufficient.

In a wok or a deep frying pan, heat up oil until its sizzling. Add the garlic, ginger, and about half the green onions. Quickly fry them, but avoid burning them, no more than a minute, Then add your ground pork to brown. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the meat into small crumbs. You don't want fats ants on your branches!

As the meat is browning, add the the bean paste, soy sauce, sugar, and white pepper, mixing it in well with the meat. You will have mixed well if the meat gets darkened by the bean paste and soy sauce.

Lower the heat. Remove the noodles from the water and add to the wok. Be sure to constantly toss the mean and noodle mixture. The liquid from the noodles will evaporate quickly and if you don't keep turning them, they will burn to the bottom of the pan or wok. 

After a few stirs of the meat and noodles, add the can of chicken stock small amounts at a time. It will initially look very soupy, but the stock will quickly soak into the noodles. Again, keep tossing the mixture, or the noodles will stick to the bottom of the pan. It should only take about 2 to 3 minutes for the soup to evaporate. While it still looks slightly watery, remove it from the heat. The stock will continue to absorb and evaporate. You don't want it too dry. 

Give it one more toss and then put into a bowl or deep-sided serving plate. Before serving, I take two forks and pry apart the noodles. They seem to have more starch in them than what they look in the beginning and you may end up with this big blob of meat and noodles, but they will separate out very easily using the two forks. Add the remaining green onions as a garnish. 

I hope you enjoy this dish. It may seem complicated, but it really isn't. As I said in note 2, I use Korean bean paste, which has a sharper flavor than Chinese bean paste. My family seems to like it that way. I am not sure what you can use as a substitute for any of the bean pastes. You can always order bean paste on line. You don't use a whole lot, but if you refrigerate it in an air-tight container, it should keep for a long time. I suippose you can freeze it, too. The Korean stuff comes in a big tub. We've used it for over a year and it has not spoiled in the frig.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Very Short Solo Dungeon Adventure

A few weeks ago, I went up to Chicago to drop off my mother-in-law at O’Hare airport. It was time for her to go back to China. We went up a few days early, so that the drive would not be so tiresome. Other than passing the time with my mother, going through more of my father’s work-working tools, there was much to do late at night.

I have been following Tabletop Diversions and Solo Nexus blogs. Both do a lot of solo role-playing games using several systems. Danjou's Hand (Tabletop Diversions) has his own home made dungeon generator. I decided to give a solo dungeon crawl a try. So, after my semi-annual pilgrimage to Games Plus in Mt. Prospect, IL to buy some dice (you can never have enough dice), I had me a game that night.

For this solo game, I used Basic Fantasy RPG (2nd Edition), and No Budget No Frills Pencil and Paper Dungeon Generator (version 4.1) from Tabletop Diversions blog. I really liked the characters I rolled up, especially the magic-user/thief. Unfortunately, they came to a short end.

The Adventure
At a border village of Turonia, three adventures meet in a small, dingy tavern:

Zor the Bastard (Str: 18 Int: 12 Wis: 14 Dex: 13 Con: 13 Crs: 11). The son of a Bruin warrior and a captured Turonian peasant woman, he was shunned by the Bruin tribe where he was born. None the less, Zor became a skilled fighter. When he was able to, he escaped his village. Since then,Zor roamed the northern lands seeking wealth and a way to escape the legacy of his upbringing. He wears a chain mail shirt (sleeveless, of course), and uses a long sword and dagger.

Syllabatar, the magic-user thief (Str: 16 Int: 17 Wis: 7 Dex: 16 Con: 15 Crs: 14). Syllabatar came from the cities of the far south. Expelled from a school of the magical arts because of his carousing and gambling, he turned to thievery for which he found quite profitable. Over time, however, he found himself in the northern wastes and nearly penniless. A winning hand in cards provided him a map to a long abandoned barrow of the dreaded and mysterious Gaels. Other than a cloak, he has no armor. He carries a short sword and two daggers.

Brother Murg (Str: 12 Int: 6 Wis: 15 Dex: 9 Con: 5 Crs: 8). A defrocked priest, Murg has joined with various mercenary bands as their chaplain and healer. He was expelled by his last mercenary company after having drunken brawl with the son of a wealthy employer. Down on his luck, he was desperate to find employment. Murg wears leather armor and has a shield. He uses a mace.

Syllabatar managed to recruit Zor and Murg after a few cheap drinks and tales of fabulous wealth. The next day they set out to find the barrow. Murg’s low constitution means he had a bad hangover. It was several hours of hiking, beyond the borders of the village, but no encounters occurred. They made camp outside of what looked like a small hill with a stone embankment on one side. The night passed uneventfully. The next morning they prepared to enter the barrow. The map had some ruins on it. Syllabatar speaks them and a door swings open from the face of the embankment. The three light torches and enter. They find themselves in a small room. The air is damp and musty. In the middle of it is a 6’ high stele of polished rock. Glowing ruins are engraved on it. Syllabatar reads them and finds it’s a spell of enfeeblement.  He immediately orders the others to avert their gaze. They do, and the spell fails to take hold of them. A single door is on the right side of the room. It is locked and Syllabatar finds that it is trapped. He fails to remove it, and it goes off! A flash of light goes off and they are temporarily blinded. In time they recover, fortunately without any incidents.

This second room longer than the previous one. There are four skeletons lying on the floor. In the middle of the room is a small chest. They look over the skeletons. They clearly have been dead for a long time. Little remains of them but some tattered rags that were their clothes.  Syllabatar inspects the chest. There are no traps but it is locked. He picks the lock. Inside is a large green emerald! They take the gem. There are two doors: one directly across the room another, to the right of them. They choose the door on the right.

The door opens and leads to a short hallway. There is a T-intersection, at which they decide to go left. That was their doom! The hall made a right turn where five Orcs jump them. With a single blow, the largest Orc takes down Zor before he can even react. Syllabatar is slightly wounded by the second largest Orc. Only Murg manages to fend off the first blows by the remaining Orcs. Syllabatar manages to caste a magic missile spell. It knocks out the second largest Orc. Merg smashes one of the smaller Orcs with his mace and tries to get at Zor to heal him, but is just not close enough. Syllabatar just manages to draw his short sword and wounds another Orc. However, his dexterity was not enough to avoid the large cleaver of a scimitar of the largest Orc. Syllabatar goes down in a pool of blood. Merge realizes that there is no way get can get to his companions. He could run and live to fight another day, but decided to fight on and leave his life in the hands of his god. Despite getting another hit in on an Orc, he is overwhelmed and goes down. His prayers were the last words he uttered.

 Post-mortem analysis
 I had hoped the game would last a little longer, but c’est la vie. My adventurers died a quick death despite the fact that I threw them two bones at the beginning. I gave them very generous saving throws on both the magic stele in the first room and the trap on the door leading to the second room. BTW, I made these two traps up on the spot. The random dungeon generator just determines if something you encounter is a monster, trap, something unusual, or empty. I rolled “something unusual” for the first room and a trap for the door. What lost it for the boys was the number of Orcs that attacked them and that they got the first blow. I sort of expected the party to survive the encounter, but they didn’t. Poor Zor didn’t have a chance!

Basic Fantasy RPG is essentially old Advanced D&D that you can download for free. It would seem that Labyrinth Lord is also old AD&D, also free. I have not compared these two systems, but something tells me there isn’t much difference between the two. One thing I will change for my games is how spells work. I've never liked how they worked in D&D, at least in earlier additions. Years ago, I played a computer game called Diablo, which was a dungeon crawl. I liked how they did magic. Both magic users and clerics had "mana" that acted as a magical energy pool. More powerful spells drained you of more mana than weaker spells.

The No Budget No Frills Pencil and Paper Dungeon Generator worked well, but I think I will make some modifications and detail it up, so to speak, especially regarding encounters. For more detail, I referred to one of the sections in Basic Fantasy, but it would be faster if its was all in the Dungeon Generator.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Holding the Line on Purchases

At New Years time, I made myself a pledge that I would not order anything new for at least two months. It really hit hard about two weeks ago, when I realized what a mound of unpainted lead I had accumulated. Based on the little time I have available, I would say that I have enough to keep me busy painting for a year, if not more. Plus, things are a little financially tight in my household since my wife started a new job that pays a lot less than her old one. The new job is a blessing; she could still be looking for one, but our health insurance has taken a big hit. This is not helpful when you have a one-year old.

So far, I have made good on my pledge. I have not ordered a single thing since the start of the new year. This is in spite of the fact that there is a whole lot of new stuff coming out, especially in the world of 15mm sci-fi. The last item I received was a game called "Arm Weapons and Climb Solo" by Assault Publishing, which has 1/600 aircraft in it. I had ordered it back in late December (it was on sale), got it in early January.

I have made a pledge to myself. I won't buy any more mini's or rules for that matter, until I get though about 15% of my total pile of unpainted miniatures. Currently, I am working on a bunch of Splintered Light orcs, and then plan on starting all of those really nice Copplestone Casting's barbarians and northmen. As far as microarmor, I think that I need for my Gambusian campaign is painted. For sci-fi, I just finished up some Rebel Mini's troopers that I had started awhile ago. I will hold off on any other sci-fi until I can figure out the various factions involved for that game.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Had to Change My E-mail Address

Kind of annoying, but I can sort of see why they wanted me to do so.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tropical Volcano

Some pictures of my daughter's science project. Its the old paper-mache volcano with lava courtesy of vinegar and baking soda. We made it more interesting by adding a Polynesian village, complete with Tiki totem. My daughter really hoped that the lava would hit the village. However, it stopped just short of the buildings closest to volcano. A coincidence? Or maybe it was the protection of the Tiki god!

Volcano with unsuspecting village

Close up of village

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Greetings From Gambusia

In the early 80s, Northern Chalupistan, Southern Chalupastan, and the Federal Republic of Gambusia formed a trilateral commission to promote tourism. It failed miserably due to infighting. The above is a vintage postcard from that time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I Have a Plan...

No, I'm not going to build a large wooden rabbit with wheels. I do, however, have a new project for the new year.  I plan on  running some super-small test games, hopefully with Will but solo if I must, to compare the various modern combat rules that I've currently accumulated. To make a final call on what I am going to use for my fictional campaign.

You're probably saying, "well, duh...haven't you done that already?"

I will then answer, ", I haven't," and then proceed to whine to you that I have not had time to do so. 

I've probably read most if not all of them at least 100 times already, but that is not the same at play-testing them. Here is my revised list that I mentioned in a previous post. These are in no particular order of preference. Some were not on the original list, but are now back on the table, some are new contenders.

• Fist-Full-of-TOWs 3

• Cold War Commander

• Modern Spearhead

• Pz8 1975-2010

• AK-47


• Combat Cards

• Command Decision: Test of Battle

• Flames of War

I will start with the rules that are am most familiar with (FFT3 and CWC), and then go from there. I might skip AK-47 because I've already had a game with them and have formed somewhat of an initial opinion.

You may notice the last two are WW2 rules. A number of folks have made home rules and stats for a modern version of CD:ToB, and there is some modern stuff out there for FOW, mainly if I stick to their Vietnam gamebook. My plan is to post the results of these games on my blog.

Any comments or suggestions on the size and composition of the games would be greatly appreciated!