Saturday, December 25, 2010

Looking Back While Moving Forward

Hello everyone and welcome to a retrospectively foresightful Dispatch!

First and foremost, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I hope that your holiday season is full of good friends and great times!

With one year drawing to a close and another beginning, I thought I would take a look at the year past and share some of the things that I'm planning for the Dispatch in the coming months.

The beginning of this year was a desolate wasteland in gaming for me. Changes at work basically made it impossible for me to get any gaming in for months, but now the drought is over! More changes at work have freed me up for gaming again and I'm already taking advantage of it. Right now the focus of my gaming group is on Monsterpocalypse but there are a few other games that I want to bring to the table and I'll be sure to write about them here. That means more battle reports, possibly some game reviews, and more.

In addition to more gaming in the new year, I am also going to make a few changes to the blog. I am going to update and expand some of the older Audio Noise segments and I also want to take a closer look at gaming here in Sin City. There are a few pretty good gaming stores around town not to mention several conventions and games days throughout the year but most of that is hidden behind the glitz of the Strip. Let me tell you, there is definitely more to gaming in Vegas than what you find in the casinos.

I'm also going to put up running totals for the year of minis bought and painted, terrain made, and games played, an idea that I'm taking from another blog, Mik's Minis (if you haven't heard of it, check it out!). Personally I really like this idea as I think it will help keep the gaming and painting blahs away, not to mention I'm interested in seeing what my numbers are like. A little silly? Perhaps, but anything that motivates you in the hobby is a good thing in my book.

That's about all for now so I'm going to get going and enjoy my Christmas. Merry Christmas to all of you and I'll see you in the New Year! Until next time...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bring Out Yer Dead! Bring Out Yer Dead!

Hello everyone and welcome to a very grave installment of the Dispatch.

For this one, we are going to look at a graveyard and someone that might just call it home. So without further ado, let's get to it but make sure that you're quiet. After all, you don't want to wake the dead, right?

I Can Really Dig This Place
Another Malifaux Terrain Project

Another piece of special terrain that I wanted to make for Torments Reach is the graveyard. After all, you can't have a western town without a graveyard, right? In the Malifaux rulebook, they define a graveyard as a piece of terrain covering at least 3"x3". For mine, I decided to go a little larger as it is supposed to be a piece that models can interact with so there's no point in making it too small IMO. So first things first, we need a base. A few quick (and noisy) cuts with my handy Skil saw and voila! Instant MDF base!

Next comes adding a little bit of depth to the graves. It you think of most movies, they always show graves as these raised up section of ground by the marker. Makes sense if you think about it as they did stick something in the hole that would displace some of the dirt. To create a similar effect with my graveyard I grabbed some corrugated cardboard, cut it into roughly man-sized rectangles, and hot glued them onto my MDF base.

Next came the grave markers. There are a number of different ways to do this. There are companies out there that make resin or metal tombstones, not to mention the plaster casts that you can get from Hirst Arts. All of these are well and good but there's two problems that I have with them. Number 1: I don't own any of them already. Number 2: I'm cheap. Instead I decided to make my own markers out of some basswood that I had floating around.

In all honesty, I also prefer how this method looks compared to the other options. If you think about it, I am trying to make a frontier town. Why would they spend the time and expense to ship in stone grave markers? Save your money for the living, the dead won't mind.

Now that you have the markers, it's time to attach them. Liberal amounts of hot glue was the route that I choose so that I wouldn't have to worry about any of them popping off in the middle of a game.

With those little details added, its time to start making it look like terrain. Dump on the glue, pour on the sand, and come back tomorrow!

Once the glue is dry, paint it up with some brown paint, dry brush it with a lighter shade, and add some flock or static grass (whichever suits your fancy). And there you have it!

Not bad for a first attempt at making a graveyard in my opinion, though I think I'll do things a little different for the second one (Remember the first pic? After all, you can't have enough graveyards!). With this one I think that the graves and the pile of dirt are too angular so I'll have to see what I can do to fix that but we'll look at that another time.

Honey, I Thought You Said We Were Having Goulash For Dinner!
Taking A Closer Look At Mantic Games Ghoul Miniatures

For those of you who might not have heard of them, Mantic Games is a fairly new miniature company from England that makes plastic fantasy figures. Basically, think along similar lines to that other mini company across the pond but a lot less expensive. Take one of the most versatile and popular minis you can find out there nowadays, the zombie. The other company charges $35 for twenty multi-part plastic models while Mantic give you thirty for the same price. This is all well and good but just what do these minis look like? For that much less it seems like they would probably take a hit in the quality department. I've always wanted to take a look at them "in the flesh" but never had the chance until I found a promo on the Mantic website.

"Sign up for the Mantic newsletter and an English online store newsletter and receive a sprue of two ghouls for free." That sounds like a heck of a good price to me so I signed up... and then never heard anything. Months went by but I never looked into what had happened. Personally, I figured that there must have been some loophole that I fell into for being international. No worries either way really.

Then I received this package in the mail in the beginning of November. The crazy thing is check out the date that it was shipped!

Six and a half months later and they actually arrive. Talk about crazy! Not that I'm complaining about getting free stuff, it just cracks me up that it took that long. So what do these things actually look like...

As you can see on the sprue, there are two different bodies that you can mix and match the torsos and legs, plus several heads and hand options. Some variety like that is always a plus in my book as it means that you can make a whole unit and not have them looking like gingerbread men straight out of the cookie cutter. The heads, bodies, and legs are all attached with recesses instead of a flat join which I like as well. It seems like this gives a slightly stronger connection over a flat seem. The hands are a different story though. To swap out for the knife or cleaver hand, you need to cut off the current hand and stick the new on onto the flat stump that is left behind. Personally this makes me wonder about durability especially because the proportions on these figures seem to be much closer to realistic instead of the usual heroic. Then again, if you get a even join there you shouldn't have too much trouble as long as you're not throwing the things around between games.

The only other concern for me was the size. At first glance, these minis seem to be a little on the small side as you can see here.

The thing to remember is that these guys are seriously hunched over like they are running forward, which you can definitely see when you turn them to the side.

If he were actually standing up straight he'd probably be close to Sonnia in height which is saying something as Wyrd minis tend to be larger than the norm.

Overall, I have to say that I'm really impressed by Mantic. Not only is detail very crisp but there was almost nothing for me to clean up before I started gluing these guys together. It's worth keeping in mind that the proportions on these figures is more realistic than you normally find but that doesn't strike me as a bad thing, just something to be aware of. They are also continually expanding on their current lines and adding more as well. Currently Mantic produces undead, elves, and dwarves and there are more in the works even now so there's almost something for everyone out there. Combine all of this with their high quality and exceptionally affordable price point and you definitely have a winning combination. If you are looking to make a fantasy army, you should definitely check them out.

Parting Shot...

And there's another one in the books! Thanks for checking out the blog and as always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to either leave them right here on the blog or you can email me at SinCitySnowman@gmail.com. Plus you can now follow the Dispatch on Facebook by clicking on the like button to the right. Until next time...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Can't See The Forest For The Trees

Hello and welcome to a craft issue of the Dispatch!

After looking at some of the older posts that I'd started and never completed, I found this one about... wait for it... trees! Yes, that's right. The most basic of all terrain pieces, the forest. You find them everywhere but making a good one can be a real pain in the butt. I found an extremely cheap, effective, and not too shabby looking alternative so without further ado, let's head for the trees!

From The Workbench
Looking for the Forest with the Trees

One of the most common pieces of terrain that you see in the real world is also one of the most troublesome to recreate in a game. When you build a forest terrain piece, one of the hardest things is making sure that you can still maneuver miniatures around the trees which not always the easiest thing to do. In fact, I think that one of the more common ways to represent forests is to just use some felt on the table. A quick and easy solution to the problem but visually it is kind of lackluster. Having played several games on some pretty barren tables back when we were getting Warmachine started at Battlezone Comics back in the beginning of 2009, I decided to tackle the forest problem to see if I could find a quick and inexpensive solution to the problem. The first thing I did was hit the craft store.

All of the Michael's store have a section of the store dedicated to fake plants and flowers, and this was where I went to see what I could find. The big problem with this is of course the scale. The plants at Michael's are life size while 28mm mini games are not (thank God 'cause that would make painting them a real pain!). After digging around the greenery, I managed to find these small plants in one of the aisles.

The leaves are out of scale with the minis but small enough that it looked like it would work. The stem was also kind of thin compared to what you would expect to see in the "real world" but since I wanted to make sure that there was room to maneuver, it seemed like this might work out nicely. Now I had a tree, so now it was time to find a base.

I had thought about cutting some MDF into templates but I actually had a quicker and cheaper solution laying around; CDs. Back in the day, companies like AOL used to send out CDs on a what seemed like a monthly if not weekly basis. While this doesn't happen nowadays, it is still easy to get a hold of these for a dirt cheap price making them a quick and easy solution. The problem with them can be getting things to stick to that shiny, smooth plastic surface. The solution that I decided to use was sandpaper to rough things up a bit. Once this was done, it is time to get the "tree" ready to be "planted".

Using a pair of wire cutters, I cut up the length of the stem of the plant so that you split it in half. Rotate the plant and then cut the stem in half again. This will split the base of the so that there are four separate pieces that you can fold out as you can see below.

Once this is done, it is time to break out the hot glue gun so that you can attach the plant to the CD. Once it is nice and hot, apply a liberal amount of glue around the opening on the CD and stick the plant into this glue. Be careful of any glue that comes through the hole; you don't want to burn yourself or accidentally glue your forest to the dining room table! Give this a minute or so to set and then apply some more glue over the any part of the split stem that is still exposed. This will make the bond that much stronger and also gives the appearance of roots.

Once the glue has cooled, it is time to glue some sand to the base. Cover the top of the CD with white glue and cover it with a liberal layer of sand. Gently shake off any excess and then set it aside to dry overnight.

Once the sand is dry, it's time to get to the painting. Give it a coat of brown and then hit it with a dry brush with a lighter shade of brown. Let this dry and then finish it off with some static grass or flock, whichever suits your fancy. I also like to put some felt on the underside of the CD so that it doesn't slide around too easy during the game. Nothing worse than having your forests start to float away when you're trying to hide in them.

And there you have it! Nowadays there are a lot of other options for forests out there (including the very nice looking Citadel Wood produced by Games Workshop) but I think that it's hard to beat this one for the price. The CD can be any old CD or DVD that you have lying around (and don't plan on using again obviously) while the hot glue gun, paint, sand, and flock I already had around the house. The only thing that I actually needed to go out and buy were the plants themselves which cost me less then $2 a piece. Now that's what I call gaming on the cheap!

The Parting Shot...

That's it for now. Thanks for checking out the blog and as always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to either leave them right here on the blog or you can email me at SinCitySnowman@gmail.com. Plus you can now follow the Dispatch on Facebook by clicking on the like button to the right. Until next time...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Audio Noise: Swinging For The Fences

Hello everyone and welcome to another swinging installment of the Dispatch!

For this issue we are heading back to the Audio Noise as we take a swing at hitting on the high points of another podcast. Who could it be this time? None other than...

Swing And A Miss

Focus: Actual play sessions for various systems along with a few discussion episodes as well.
Audio Quality: three out of five gamers
Content Quality: three swings and a half swings and less than a couple of misses
Average Length: Averages out to about two and a half hours
Language: No more than you'd expect from your typical group of gamers.

The guys at Swing And A Miss started out with the goal of diving into the broader world of RPGs with recorded one shots so they could share their experiences with the world. Oddly enough, after stating this they posted several episodes that featured one or two sessions from more established campaigns that they were involved in. Not a bad thing but a little inconsistent and a slightly disappointing. Some of these early games sounded really interesting but you only get a glimpse at the adventure which in a few cases leaves you wanting more.

Since those early days, they have really focused back onto their original goal and gone back to one shots with new systems. In addition, they also had put out a few discussion episodes dealing with various things you might run into around the table but it has been a long time since they have done any more of those.

They have also not been the more prolific of podcasts for a while now. Averaging about one new episode every two months shortly after they started, there are others that are much more regular out there.

Even with these things going against them, I still think that it is an interesting listen. Some of the sessions are set in very different places then you normally find (like Shadowrun in the new south for example) or feature some of the less common systems (such as 3:16 and Grimm).

I would also recommend that anyone looking to try running a game for the first time should take a listen to the most recent episode (the Nemesis actual play posted on November 23rd) as it features one of the hosts trying to practice for a con game. It is a very rough session as the game runs into a number of problems but I think it could also very educational for new GMs as you get to see several of the pitfalls you could run into during you first few games.

All and all, while Swing And A Miss might not be the best thing since sliced bread but I definitely think it is worth them a listen. It's always good to hear someone else takes on a system.

The Parting Shot

Well, that wraps up another installment of Audio Noise! Thanks for checking out the blog and as always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to either leave them right here on the blog or you can email me at SinCitySnowman@gmail.com. Plus you can now follow the Dispatch on Facebook by clicking on the like button to the right. Until next time...