Cold War Project

Samaritan ambulance and Sultan command vehicle
When I made my order at Heroics & Ros for my BAOR force, I inadvertently did a double-order for my FV432 APCs, and the FV105 Sultan command vehicle.

As it turns out, that's not a tragedy. Better to have too many APCs than too few, and it means that one of the Sultans can be turned into a Samaritan battlefield ambulance.


Magnetizing

As part of the preparation I give to all my 6mm models, I glue small rare-earth magnets to their undersides.

This is for several reasons, but primarily to ease transport and storage: I can keep the models in small steel tins, like old cigarette tins or the like, and they don't rattle around in there and knock all the paint off. The magnets also mean that if I need the vehicles to be based for any reason, I can just  glue a small piece of thin steel sheet to the base and pop the vehicles on or off as required. And finally, it makes handling the models easier when I'm painting them — I use fairly large bolts as painting holders, and the magnetized models just cling to them.

The magnets are attached with 5-minute epoxy. That green stuff in the photograph is a thin silicon rubber baking sheet that I've cut up, with a steel ruler underneath that the magnets are clinging to. I put a blob of glue on the underside of the model and then put it over the magnet; this ensures that the magnet is flush with the very bottom of the model's wheels or tracks.

The magnets are invisible behind tracks, but not so much for wheeled vehicles like these 1 tonne Landrovers. However, when I'm priming, I paint the undersides black, and then on the tabletop the magnets aren't really noticeable unless you really look closely.

I bought the magnets in bulk from China, and they were very cheap. The size I use mostly for 6mm vehicles is 3mm x 1.4mm, but I also have a stash of 3mm x 1mm for very low-slung models.

Uncharted Cold War Waters

Well, maybe not uncharted, as such, but certainly unfamiliar to me.

The appearance of a 1980s Cold War variant for the Battlegroup rules has encouraged me to spend some of my Paypal loot on a BAOR force in 1/300 from Heroics & Ros. The early- to mid-1980s is very slightly later than when I did my own army training (1979-80), but I'm pretty much totally unfamiliar with the equipment of the period. I didn't really take any notice of anything not directly relevant to me as a humble rifleman.

That means that before anything else, I'm going to have to go through all of these plastic bags and see if I can match up the serial numbers with the equipment models. If it was a WWII army from virtually any of the combatants, that would be a doddle, but it's going to be a bit of a grind since I barely know a Lynx from a Sultan from a Ferret. I'm pretty sure I can reliably identify the Chieftain models though, which is a start.

Even though the period I'm looking at is 35 years ago now, it all feels a bit fresh and new to me because I am so ignorant. It's almost like starting wargaming again.

By the way, the new Heroics & Ros infantry sculpts really are superb. It's just a pity my eyesight is so shitty these days.

Some of the new infantry

Later...

This is a 3-man Milan ATGM team, painted up and mounted on a 22mm washer. I have to say, painting DPM camo gear in this scale is a bit tricky.

New on top, old below.
The photo to the right compares the new (top) infantry sculpts with the old (below). The new ones include considerably more detail — I can discern helmet camo, webbing straps, and a recognisable SLR — and they're a bit bigger than the old ones too.

The old sculpts are perfectly fine as gaming tokens though. The figures have the right number of limbs, the weapon load-out is distinguishable, and if you don't care so much about detail, they're a lot more cost-effective.

Bog End

Figures are 15mm WW1 British staff officers from Peter Pig.
This terrain piece is somewhat experimental, inasmuch as I wanted to try out using very cheap (and pretty terrible) 5-minute epoxy resin for the water effects. I wanted something to go at one end of my river pieces (here and here), so they don't necessarily have to go from edge to edge of the table. The water doesn't match those pieces though, so that may not be a goer — I'll just have to see how much the difference scrapes on my nerves when the pieces are actually in play.

The no-name epoxy I used was some I found on a clearance rack at a local hardware chain store, for about three bucks per 50ml syringe. At that price, I figured I wasn't risking much except my time if it didn't work. I mixed it along with about 5-10ml of acetone to thin it, and I added some sepia acrylic ink — far too much, as it turned out — to colour it.

The results are as you see, only partially successful. With the acetone and ink added, it took a lot longer to cure than it said on the label, but that was a good thing as it gave me more working time to nudge it into all the nooks and crannies. In very shallow areas, close up against the flocking, it has greyed out somewhat. I suspect that's because the PVA I used to seal the flock wasn't fully dry, and some of it has migrated into the epoxy. It's not a tragedy for this piece, because it just looks like muddy, swampy muck, but it would have been problematic if I'd needed clear water throughout.

Whether it was because of the additives or not I don't know, but when it cured, this epoxy developed a waxy bloom that had to be wiped off. I was a bit relieved when I found that it could be wiped off.

The epoxy has one advantage over the polyester casting resin I've used, and that is that it doesn't smell, but that's it's only advantage. It is much thicker, and really does need the addition of acetone to make it usable at all, and it creates a pronounced meniscus as it cures. It doesn't create the slight surface ripple that the polyester does, so it doesn't look as convincingly liquid.

Fight the Desert War in a Small Way.....

....was the tagline for a bunch of ancient ads for GHQ 1/285 miniatures that appeared in magazines like Military Modelling in the '70s.

British 2 pounder anti-tank platoon (figures from Heroics & Ros)
I usually play 1940-ish Battle-of-France-ish games in 15mm, using the Battlegroup rules. However, I'd like to play in other theatres from time to time.

Since retooling for a new area of operations in 15mm would be quite expensive, and because I already own a whole lot of 1/300 and 1/285 scale WWII miniatures, both painted and unpainted, it seems sensible to make use of them to fill out the models I need to play these other theatres. If I find I'm becoming particularly attached to one or the other, I can always then start to build larger scale models for it.

The first alternate theatre I'm looking at is North Africa, c.1941. That means Caunter-pattern camouflage, which I can't say I really enjoy painting, but at least it's easier in 6mm than in a larger scale.

Cyclopaedia

The D&D Rules Cyclopaedia is now available again, in soft or hard covers, this time as a Print-On-Demand book. The softcover is about $US25, and the hardcover is about $US30, plus postage and what-not. I'm very tempted to buy a copy, but it would be a frivolous waste of my money since I don't even get any use out of the original copy I have, and postage to NZ would likely double the cost.

I think this was possibly the best version of D&D ever released. It is complete in one volume, so there's just the one book to carry around.

Advancement for characters runs up to 36th level, though no character in any campaign I've ever run or played in has even come close to those exalted heights: my highest-level character ever is Sir Fnord the Pretty Gosh-Darned Neat (some very old character sheets here) at a majestic 13th level, and that's after nearly forty years of (increasingly infrequent) play.

It includes all the critters a DM really needs, though it never hurts to have more up one's sleeve just to mess with those annoying players who have memorized all the standard monsters capabilities and weaknesses. Fortunately, it's pathetically easy to use the multitudinous AD&D/OSRIC bestiaries that have been produced with it; they hardly need massaging at all.

The beauty of this version of the game is that it is an excellent combination of completeness and freedom. It provides the supportive framework that can allow one to go berserk with invention without having to mess with the muscles and bones of the system; it is far less restrictive than AD&D or later versions. However, it is thorough enough to fully support players and DMs who aren't (yet) comfortable enough to diverge far from the beaten path.

Regrettably, I hardly even knew that B/X D&D existed when I first started playing in Palmerston North in '81, and even if I had, I would probably have turned my nose up at it, because we played ADVANCED D&D, not that baby "Basic" stuff. I was an ignorant idiot.

Why Infravision Sucks

Infravision, as it's described in AD&D and the like, is just a terrible idea, conceptually speaking.

For a start, let's look at its limited range. Most creatures with infravision can see with it out to 60', but why? Why does it stop? If it's a sense that distinguishes temperature gradients as a visual signal, then a man (or a dog, or a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast) standing at 50' and one standing at 70' should be pretty much equally visible.

The range limitation only makes sense — barely — if the sense is based on receiving a reflected signal from some sort of active emitter, like early night-vision equipment that used an infrared lamp and an IR-sensitive receiver. But where does the IR beam come from, in a creature with infravision? From its eyes? In which case, what's it using to see with? If it is coming from the eyes, then they'd be glowing like flashlights to any other creature with infravision, and they'd blind each other if they looked each other in the face.

Which brings us to another point: warm-blooded creatures are warm. If such a creature had IR receptors in its eyes, those receptors would be surrounded by a body-temperature bath. It would be like trying to see clearly with a light-bulb right next to your eyes — it might not blind you completely, but it will certainly impair your visual acuity.

For infravision to be sensitive enough to be able to distinguish an individual's facial features, the hot eye-bath would be crippling, making the whole sense mostly useless. Assuming the sense existed at all, at best it would be able to make out gross forms, maybe silhouettes, and if you were trying to navigate an area of a more or less constant ambient temperature, you'd be walking into walls and tripping over furniture a lot.

I don't expect D&D to strictly adhere to the laws of physics, but if it's going to pay lip-service to them, it could at least try not to be so blatantly egregious in its hand-waving.

Later editions of the game dumped infravision completely and just used a pretty-much undefined, maybe magical, thing called Darkvision. I don't really recall ever reading anything that tried to explain how it works at all, which is, I think, an improvement over the clusterfuck that is D&D infravision.

Note: I'm doing away with infravision in my AD&D campaign. Nobody gets it. I'll give those creatures that currently have it an enhanced ability to see in dim light, but they'll see like a cat, not like an Advanced Optics Night Vision Apparatus. I'll keep the Infravision spell though, because that's a magical effect and requires no more handwaving than saying "it's magic". 
Also: Why the hell should halflings have infravision anyway? They're basically meant to be short fat jolly rural rustic English peasants. Screw them.

Bog #01

Here's the first piece of bog terrain finished.

I originally intended to use a 5-minute epoxy and acetone mix for the water, but I can no longer find really cheap and nasty epoxy — I used to be able to get 40ml syringes for just a couple of bucks, but now the cheapest ones I could find are closer to ten. So, instead I used polyester casting resin, which costs about thirty bucks for a 250ml can.

There are down-sides to using the polyester:

  • First, it stinks to high heaven while it's curing.
  • Second, the disposable plastic cups I used for mixing are dissolved by it — I had to do a rapid transfer into another vessel before it ended up all over everything.
  • Third, it's very, very clear, which would normally be a good thing, but for this purpose it could have done with being a bit more murky. I added some colouring, but not quite enough, so the water looks more lake-ish than boggy.
  • Fourth, it's quite a bit thicker than water, so the meniscus is more pronounced, and it takes a bit of persuasion to flow into all the nooks and crannies. However, I was pretty much expecting that and I'm not heartbroken by it.

The vehicle in the picture is my 3d-printed 1/100 scale Burford-Kegresse machine-gun carrier.

Bog Terrain - WiP

These pieces are going to be sodden boggy bits of land. They're each about 300mm x 250mm, on a 3mm MDF base, and the groundwork is built up from SculptaMold coloured with acrylic house paint. It all needs to be painted and flocked and what-not yet; I'll give it a day or so to dry out first though.

The one on the right is intended to go on the end of one of my river pieces, while the left-hand one is a standalone piece. I haven't made a final decision yet, but I'm leaning towards using pourable epoxy for the water effects instead of the gloss acrylic medium I used on the river pieces.

Turning Circle Templates

Turning Circle Templates — approx 35KB PDF (A4, 210x297mm).

These are designed for use in aerial dogfight games, but I guess they could also be used in naval games, or sci-fi Road Warrior scenarios as well. I was originally going to get them laser-cut, but that proved to be too expensive, so I just glued the print-out to cardboard and cut them out myself.

Each block is about an inch long. I use 1/300 scale aeroplanes for my WW1 dogfight games, and they work well for that scale. They're OK for 1/144 as well, but for larger scales you might want to scale up the templates as well.

E.H.P.

Here's another Bones Kickstarter figure.

I don't know what the SKU is for this one, or even if it's for sale yet — it takes quite a while for the Kickstarter figures to filter through to the online shop.

I like it mainly for the over-the-top shield. I have a weakness for that sort of thing, probably from early exposure to the old Warhammer stuff back in the day.

For those unfamiliar with the term: E.H.P. stands for Evil High Priest. I don't know if it's still used, but it was common shorthand back in the distant primeval past.

Halfling

The newest character in my AD&D campaign is Oswalt Tenpenny, a halfling fighter-thief. So, I thought I'd better hunt out a halfling figure and paint it up. This is a plastic Reaper Bones miniature, but I have no idea what the SKU is.

As it turns out, Steve (the player) already has a halfling figure of his own, but never mind. I'm sure this one will come in handy one day.

Ford Trekker DUF 1940 (1:285)

Back to the 3d-printing mines again, and this time I've designed a 1:285 scale Ford DAF Trekker, used by the Dutch (and then the Germans) as a light anti-tank gun tractor and utility vehicle.

It came in various configurations, with two or three bench seats and a large or small trunk, and several different styles of engine grille. This is one of the 1940 models.

The single model is available from http://shpws.me/Ppur, and a much more cost-effective sprue of six is available at http://shpws.me/Ppxl

I don't usually start my designing in 1:285, I usually build the base model in 1:100 and then re-scale and re-design from that base. This was a special case though, as it was specifically a 6mm request.

SculptaMold Terrain Pieces

These are the finished test pieces I made using SculptaMold as the primary landscaping material. All the finishing is via my usual flocking and what-not, so they don't look appreciably different to any other pieces I've made — which is a good thing, I guess.

It's not a perfect landscaping material, but it does have many virtues, and on balance I think I quite like it.

More terrain-making, and a new material

I'm trying out another river segment, built in pretty much the same way as my first one, but this time I'm using a a material that is new to me, SculptaMold from Amaco. I saw it used on Luke's APS on Youtube and liked the look of it, so I popped down and bought a bag from Gordon Harris art supplies. It cost me about twenty-two bucks for about 1.3 kg, which should be enough to do a reasonable amount of terrain. It would probably get a bit pricey if you wanted to build a whole table, but for my purposes it's OK.

It's a plaster and paper (?) fibre mix; I don't know if there's anything else in there. Depending on the amount of water you use it can be mixed to a cottage cheese-like paste, as I've used it here, or to a more liquid slurry that can be cast in rubber moulds. It sets up more slowly than plain plaster; by the time I'd finished laying out the river banks and setting in all the gravel, it was still quite workable, so I slapped together a little rocky outcrop on a plastic cutting board, using some bits of pine bark and the left-over goop from the river banks. I wasn't really keeping track of time, but I'd guess that you probably have 15 to 20 minutes of working time, which is plenty for most things.

When it's wet, it retains a quite knobbly cottage cheese texture, which is fine if it's going to be under flock and stuff. If you want a smoother finish though, just leave it for about another ten minutes or quarter of an hour to stiffen up a bit, and then it can be smoothed with wet fingers or modelling tools, or just with a wet soft brush.

It's early days yet, but at first acquaintance I think I'm going to like it.

Later...

OK, so here are the two pieces, painted but not yet flocked and vegetated.

The SculptaMold takes longer to set fully than I'd assumed from Luke's video, but I have a little toaster-oven, and an hour or so in that at its lowest heat got everything set solid.

Something that this stuff has in common with regular plaster is that it's bright, bright white. I think it would be a good idea to add some ink or paint or something to the mixing water, to stain it it right through. That way, any pin-pricks of white left behind after painting will be avoided.

The river banks have been left just as the stuff goes on wet, and you can see that it has quite a knobbly texture. The SculptaMold on the little rocky outcrop was smoothed a bit with wet fingers after it had stiffened up, but not set fully, and it's a lot smoother where I did that. It looks a bit rugged in this photo, because the bark pieces forming the cliff face are facing the camera.

Painting the knoll has revealed that, though definitely tougher than regular plaster, SculptaMold terrain will still definitely need to be on a protective base of some sort. The edges are vulnerable to crumbling under handling otherwise, and as I haven't tinted it, any breakages are pretty obvious, being glaring white.

River terrain — test piece

Something that's missing from my gaming terrain collection are bodies of water, so I thought I'd better make some. Unlike roads, a river can't really just start or stop in the middle of the board, so I'll need enough pieces to cover about a two and a half metre length, enough to go from end to end of my table.

This is the test piece, trying out methods and colours. Overall, I'm pretty happy with it, but I feel that it's lacking something and I'm not quite sure what it is. Perhaps it's that everything is quite even in height, so there's no drama of composition.

The base is 3mm MDF, sealed with black spray primer, and the banks were built up with Das air-drying clay. The rocks are just bits of gravel. The grass is several colours of sawdust flock, and the taller vegetation is foam clump foliage.

The water itself is just three or four coats of acrylic gloss medium brushed over paint, with various depths indicated by lighter or darker tones. I didn't want a perfectly smooth surface, so it's just been brushed with a narrowish brush to indicate the flow of the water. I haven't added any indications of the direction of flow, such as ripple trails off the rocks, because I want to be able to flip the modules end-for-end to maximise flexibility of use.

The ends are 100mm wide, and this piece is about 350mm long.

Gelatinous Cube

Here's Reaper's translucent Bones 77305 Gelatinous Cube. Being translucent, it's a bit of a tricky thing to photograph.  I haven't put any paint on the cube itself at all; I've seen some translucent figures that have been tinted in various ways in an attempt to bring out the detail, but in my opinion the results are seldom successful.
It comes in three parts; two for cube itself, which I joined with clear silicon sealer, and one for what is supposed to be the contents of its last meal, a rather nice pile of skeletonized adventurers and their gear.

The hapless adventurers are supposed to form the base of the creature, but they're completely wasted as a model that way, as once they're inside the thing they can only be made out as a blurry, formless blob.

So instead, I've kept them separate, and they'll come in useful as dungeon dressing. A pile of skeletonized corpses will always come in handy.

PSC A9 CS (15mm) — first look

Following on from my initial look at the PSC 15mm (1:100) A9/A10 pack, here's the close support version of the A9, mounting the 3" howitzer instead of the 2 pounder anti-tank gun.

It goes together a bit more easily than the A10, as there's less to do with the hull superstructure.

The only issue I found with the A9 construction is that the socket for the starboard MG turret is too close to the driver's barbette, so it gets canted a bit to the right. It's easy enough to fix though; all you have to do is either shave a bit off the port side of the turret, or (more easily) carve out the starboard side of the socket a bit. If having a rotatable MG turret is important to you, you'll probably have to do the former, but I glue mine in place, so enlarging the socket was the easier option.

A New Adventure Begins...

After a bit of a break from DMing, I've started back with a new adventure for our lovable bunch of rapscallions....

The Seven Brides of Vecna*


The session logs are at http://mojobob.com/roleplay/campaign/eyeless05BridesOfVecna.html

The first episode is related here. It.... did not go as smoothly as it might have.

* Seven Brides For Seven Liches will be a title for another time, but that could be a good adventure hook too.

Bases Galore

These just arrived for me today — a box full of laser-cut MDF sabot bases, from a guy I know only as Catweazle, in Australia. I sent him some vector files for cutting the bases, and he sent me this lot in return. Score!

I haven't sorted them yet, but I imagine that this should be as many bases as I'm likely to need any time in the foreseeable future, unless I really go berserk and start playing gigantic mega-games.

PSC A9/A10 Cruiser (15mm) — WiP

 Some new toys arrived for me today from PSC, two boxes of 15mm (1:100) tank kits. I got some Stuart "Honeys", for future use when I get around to building up my Western desert forces a bit, and this one, the A9 or A10 cruiser, to pad out my B.E.F. force.

I already have a troop of A9, so this box will go to making me a troop of A10 gun tanks, and one each of an A9 and A10 CS (close support) tank.

Options
The sprues provide optional parts to complete  five variants: hulls for European or desert versions of the A9 or A10, and turrets for gun tanks of various marks (distinguishable by the different gun mantlets) or the close support tanks mounting the 3" howitzer.

Note that the hull tops for the desert variants have symmetrical track guards, which wasn't the case on the original vehicles — they were actually deeper on the port side than the starboard to accommodate the vehicle's cooling system. If that sort of detail is important to you, you'll have to do a bit of trimming.

Regrettably there aren't enough running gear pieces to build more than one tank from each sprue, nor enough turret components to be able to just make a spare CS turret. Still, I can't really utterly condemn PSC for that. At about twenty quid for five tank models, they're already pretty good value for money.

Instructions
Construction is pretty straightforward, though instructions are provided for only one variant — the A10 Mk.IIa for the European theatre. You'll just have to guess and hope for the others. The main thing is to make sure you're actually getting the right parts off the sprue for the variant you want to build, and with so many optional pieces it pays to double-check. The colour-coded layout shown on the other side of the instructions is useful for this.

The instructions given are very simplistic, but adequate (for the single tank variant shown) except for one part: Step 3 (highlighted here in yellow). DON'T DO THIS. Go straight to Step 4. It might be possible to force the running gear into place after the top and bottom hull pieces are glued without breaking something, but I doubt it.

I wasn't timing myself, but I'd guess that putting this first one together took me about half an hour.

Cold War Project

Samaritan ambulance and Sultan command vehicle When I made my order at Heroics & Ros for my BAOR force, I inadvertently did a double...