Monday, May 31, 2010

GMT's Monmouth: Our First Experience

During Memorial Day weekend, I always like getting in at least one wargame featuring an American force. Sometimes they are miniature games, sometimes computer games.

Yesterday afternoon, we tried playing our first game of GMT's Monmouth board game. Part of GMT's American Revolution Series, Monmouth recreates that famous battle of the AWI where both sides fought to a draw. This is a game Jeremy badly wanted for Christmas last year and that Santa delivered for him.

I won't bother writing a review of the game since you can read those at the game's entry on Boardgame Geek by clicking here. There is a good reason the game gets a 7.39 out of 10. It really is a nice set of rules.

First Scenario
I set up the first scenario in the rules, "Lee's Advance," where Lee and Lafayette head off Clinton while Cornwallis and reinforcements are only an hour (1 turn) behind. I snapped a photo of the set up above. I left the image large so you can enjoy the beautiful map and see the counters in action. You can also see it here at GMT's website. I played the British and Jeremy (theoretically) played the Americans. I say theoretically because he was supposed to play them but really spent his time working on the computer and his Zune across the room. (Remember how this is supposed to be his wargame? The first wargame he ever wanted to own? That's ok. I love the kid regardless!)

I discovered that the scenario took forever for me to setup, even though I had the counters pre-sorted into a counter tray. Each counter is a unique unit. (Note that the game comes with small baggies for the counters, which is a really nice touch, but I like trays. Old habits, I guess.) I also learned that a couple counters I needed were two-in-ones--the front and back were different units. Took me a while of searching for a needed counter before I figured this out, finding it on the backside of a counter. Live and learn.

Where To Deploy?
I had a tough choice for the British. They really were caught in a nice ambush situation. The Americans, due to Lee's bungling, really gave up a good opportunity to hurt the British historically. Back to the game... Should I plow down the road toward Lafayette in Monmouth to make way for Cornwallis' large force entering the next turn? That might leave me open to a flanking by Lee. Or do I deploy in the fields where I began, hoping that I don't get whooped and create a traffic jam preventing my main forces from deploying properly? Most of my units were light infantry and cavalry, typical for an advanced force but not meant for engaging a strong enemy head on. Only one unit was regular infantry, the Queen's Rangers. My choice? I deployed in the fields.

Sure enough, the Americans moved up and came toe-to-toe with Clinton. Lafayette also advanced to the north side of Monmouth. I felt the pincer beginning to pinch. Luckily my light artillery pushed back a small unit of Americans and my largest unit, the Queen's Rangers, clobbered one of the stronger units in Lee's advanced force during a massive first volley, sending it retreating across the field and flipped to its weaker side. Other fire caused some disorder among the rebels. However, the American fire did little to budge the stout Brits. The close combat was pretty much the same results due to the weakened American units. Lord Cornwallis would be happy to see his entry point cleared and Clinton holding the ground. And that was Turn 1.

Except for defensive artillery fire, all ranged and close combat in Monmouth is simultaneous. Since one needs to be contacting the enemy to fire and then to melee, it gets pretty bloody pretty fast when one unit out powers another, as had happened on Turn 1 for me. I like the combat system. Very simple yet effective, reflecting horse and musket. Add the command and control to the game, and we have a winner.

Curse These Hands!
Ok, and that is where the game ended for us. At the end of Turn 1. My hands were hurting too much to keep picking up the counters, which I could barely pick up anyway due to the psoriasis on my fingers flaring up. Rooting through the counters during set up had taken its toll on me. Made me mad, sad, and frustrated. It hurts to type right now as well, but I can work around it a bit to ease the pain. Constantly knocking over counter stacks is another matter. Sigh. This is why I like Company of Heroes--big thick counters I can easily pick up. But I will not let this latest malady stop me from enjoying my hobbies! I will not!

For More Info See...
If you'd like more info about the game, check the game's page at GMT's website. You can download the rules, map, and some sample counters. You can also check the game's page at Boardgame Geek. You can also order the game online from Cool Stuff for only $17. Folks, this game has a $50 retail! The game is on sale at GMT and Cool Stuff discounts the sale price even further. We are lucky that the nation's best online wargame discounter is 20 minutes down the street. We will play the rest of the scenario as soon as we can.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Aeronef Inspiration & Painting Problems

A few months ago I puttered along a bit on my Aeronef project, re-priming the figures, drilling and placing the rigging into the decks, and gluing on the other bits. My goal is to paint them using some of the anime-like images below as inspiration.

Masking Paint Problems
I masked off several of them using blue painters tape, began working on some of the patterns, but discovered that painters tape does not like craft paint, pulling off bits of it. Ouch! I haven't tried masking hobby paints like Vallejo or Reaper and am wondering if I will get the same results. Is this an acrylic paint problem? I let the paint dry before removing the tape.

Many years ago when I custom painted model railroad equipment, I would spray them using model railroad hobby paints and use plain masking tape to mask them. I never had a problem. One thought I literally just had was to paint the base coat, dulcote it, mask it, paint the new color, dulcote, mask, and so on until done. Perhaps that would prevent the blue tape from peeling up the paint? Down side is that it would take a lot more time to work on each ship.

I would like to mask straight lines instead of free-handing them. Does anyone have any suggestions and experience with this?

Add Image

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sheriff Office: Part 5 - Finished Model

Here are some photos of my finished model of Old Glory's 25mm Sheriff Office from their older Western building range.

Painting the Walls
The cell walls are "wet drybrushed" with Ceramcoat's Antique White, with some areas dirtied up using a grayish ink wash--you really can't see that in the photos due to the lighting. I painted the office walls with Folk Art Bayberry. This is a classic light green that I have seen in many old railroad buildings from the turn of the century, so I decided to use it here as well. The wooden trim and doors are painted Ceramcoat's Walnut. The gun rack is Americana Light Cinnamon. The posters are from my earlier post.

The Jail Cell
When I went to put the jail bars in place, I discovered that the longest section did not fit between the back wall and the interior wall. The gap was too large for my tastes. The solution is what you see here. Instead of having a large cell on the right and a smaller cell on the left, I made the one cell. Works for me. I can always use the other cell piece for something else.

I dulcoted the building before gluing in all the pieces in place, making it easier to varnish everything evenly. I think it also helps the glue adhere. As a kid I was told that glue does not like paint. Anyway, I glued the jail using Zap-a-Gap on the bottom and ends of the pieces. This left a little puddle of dried glue on the floor, but I dabbed on some Ceramcoat matte varnish and took care of it.

After finishing the building, I realized I had made a few mistakes. Looking at Old Glory's photo, I glued the windows upside down. I tried putting them in the other way but would have had to carve out some of the stone bricks to get the window sill to fit properly. Not my idea of fun. I think the windows look fine and doubt anyone will critique them. I am disappointed that the window openings are about 1mm to 2mm too wide, causing a slight gap between the window and the wall. You can see this when looking at the building from an angle.

My biggest oops was gluing the front door on backwards. I seem to have a problem with this! The door knob really should be on the right instead of the left. Oh well. If someone asks, I'll just say a left-handed carpenter built it and that it makes it easier for the right-handed sheriff to open the door when he's rushing out of the office to a gunfight in the street. (See, we can rationalize anything!)

Not Done Yet!
Having bought some thin plywood the other day, I still want to make a permanent base for the building. When I do that, I will add posts to the front porch. The porch being in sections like it is, I just felt the posts would get snapped off as I transported the building. I still want to add some interior details like a desk, cot, and so on. I got some great suggestions from TMP to use.

So there you have it. Now the dusty streets of Gun Town can finally have a real sheriff and retire their vigilance committee. At least that's what the sheriff thinks!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hartley House: Part 1 Building a Better House

The 25mm Harwood House from Old Glory's Western buildings line, pictured here from their website, has always had a problem that Old Glory knows about but cannot fix. The bottom off the roof is poorly designed, so that when you place the roof on the building it will literally fall down around the walls. In their website's photo, the only thing holding up the roof are the two dowels and probably some Photo Shop magic. Getting the porch posts to fit the bottom edge of the roof would be difficult due to poor casting, with little space along the roof edge as the photos will show.

Fixing The Roof
A while back, I came up with an easy solution you can see in the photo. I used a piece of thin plastic left over from an item we bought at the store. I have no idea what it was any more, but it came from one of those items that has a clear window letting you look in the box. I cut the plastic to fit the bottom of the roof and then glued it in place. In other words, I created a new bottom for the roof. No more falling off the building for this roof. Of course, I forgot to do this before I primed the building last week. Figures! We had a clear, dry day here in Central Florida, and I was so eager to take advantage of it that I sprayed the building, forgetting that I had to work on it first. Oh well. No harm done.

Adding Porch Posts
Guess what? I have finally added porch posts to one of my Western buildings! It suddenly looks like a real building with a real porch. Old Glory supplies dowels with all their Western buildings, but I really don't like them. Most posts in the real West would have been square instead of round, which cost more. Still, this being a residence I decided to use some balsa wood dollhouse posts I had gotten a couple years ago on sale. (Dollhouse stuff is great.) I cut the posts to fit the roof, drove a size #20 pin into the base of the post, drilled a hole into the porch floor using a #72 pinvise drill, and then glued the entire assembly into place using Zap-a-Gap superglue. Worked perfectly. Of course, I should have done this prior to priming last week! Oh well again. The posts are straight but look a bit off due to the angle of my camera.

Final Thoughts
While I like the building, it had a great deal of thick resin flash between the window openings. It was very difficult to remove since I don't have a Dremel tool (that will be changing soon!).

Later this week, look for photos of the finished Sheriff's Office and some newly painted Western figures. The project is really moving along. I'm even looking into building my own structures. After 35 years of wanting one, I am about to buy The Chopper wood cutting tool! Until next time...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sheriff Office: Part 4 - Wanted Posters

As I am typing this, I just finished the Old Glory Sheriff Office. I glued on the doors, windows, and jail bars. I also added some wanted posters. I'm letting all the glues dry before I start snapping some photos of the building.

For now, I thought I'd show a tip for wanted posters. John Leahy kindly sent me a pdf of 25mm wanted posted he made a while back for The Rules With No Name. I printed them out and followed his instructions for making them look older. Any tan paint highly thinned will do. You can see the difference. Just slop it on and dry with a blow dryer.

Also, if you don't want to glue the posters to your buildings, a teeny bit of blue tack will hold them in place no problem. I did this for some of the posters just to get a feel for how they would look. You can then change and move the posters as needed.

Next time, finished photos of the building.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sheriff Office: Part 3

Almost done with the basics of the sheriff's office. Snapped a couple quick pics before we watched the shuttle Atlantis take off this afternoon. Next step is to glue on the detail parts. Today, I bought a sheet of 5.2mm plywood to cut into bases for the buildings. When I do this, I will add front roof supports to the building. Sadly, the building does not come with roof supports. First, I have to borrow some power tools my my Tool Time neighbor. When done, much better photos coming.

Edit 5/15/10: I just realized I took these photos outside with the camera set to "light bulb" instead of auto--hence the odd tint to the photos. Lesson learned. Check the camera's settings every time I use it!

Colors Used:
  • Rear Interior Wall: Ceramcoat Antique White heavily drybrushed on black primer
  • Front Interior Wall: Folk Art Bayberry
  • Interior Trim: Ceramcoat Walnut
  • Jail: P3 Pig Iron
  • Gun Rack: Americana Russet.
  • Windows & Doors: Ceramcoat Tomato Spice with some Ceramcoat Toffee Brown dusty highlights
  • Roof: Americana Neutral Grey, Slate Grey and Sky Grey

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sheriff Office: Part 2

Another shot of some of the work I did yesterday on the sheriff office. I did some more work after the photo, mainly painting the sign and touching up the black paint and the walls. The walls are Ceramcoat's Antique White, which is a great off-white. The red is Ceramcoat Tomato Spice. While doing McFly's Studio last year, I came to the conclusion that I don't like doing interiors--lots of extra work for little pay off in the long run for me. The upside with the sheriff office is that it has a jail, which can play into a scenario.

IGN's Top 25 Westerns of All Time

On Monday, IGN released their Top 25 Westerns. "Our criteria, then, for what made the grade: the films' popularity and longevity with audiences, their impact on the genre, their basic coolness quotient, and their quotability." Having just spotted it this morning, I haven't picked over it yet. However, I do agree with their #1 pick, which they present in a video format. Plus it's the only Western I actually own on DVD. (I tend to watch a lot of Westerns on the Encore Western channel.) So see what you think.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sheriff Office & OK Corral Progress Photos

Below are some progress shots of the latest 25mm buildings I'm working on for my Western games. They are both Old Glory I bought two years ago during their big Western sale. The top is the sheriff's office, and the lower is the OK corral. I also painted some outhouses but forgot to snap them. Sorry but I forgot to write down how I painted the stone. (I used the hedges out front as a photo stand. I use free USPS boxes for painting, dulcoting, and holding models.)

Painting Wood:
Americana Burnt Umber DA064
Americana Khaki Tan DA173
Ceramcoat Sandstone 2402

I left the air bubbles in the sheriff's office instead of filling them. My explanation is that Gun Town is such a rough place, that the office has been attacked many times--even by Gatling gun. Like I said, a rough town to be a lawman.

Yesterday, I also cleaned up Old Glory's Harwood House and their wooden bridge. I found an easy and cheap solution to fixing Harwood House's poorly fitting roof and will post that asap. I cannot stress this enough: when cutting resin, always wear full safety glasses! The resin chips easily and flies everywhere. Two years ago, I learned the hard way that an Optivisor is not safety glasses!

Yesterday, I also primed the interior details for the sheriff's office and dulcoted three more Western figures I finished last week, taking advantage of a low humidity day here in Central Florida. I just have to finish their bases. That brings my total completed Western figures to 17, with a few Victorian gentlemen tossed in for measure. I promise that I will take closer photos of the Western figures and explain how I made the bases.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Scratchbuilt 28mm Space 1889 Ships

On Thursday morning at Cold Wars, I had a great time chatting with a fellow who scratch builds Space 1889 aeronef ships in 28mm. He makes everything himself, including the cannon in the lower photo. He plays a game or two with them, and then sells them off in the flea market. I would have bought one--the gray ship really caught my eye--but I had no idea how I would get them on the plane! Sadly, I watched other people buy them instead.
As a little aside, a fellow on the other side of the room had set up a great looking ancients game in 1/72 (I believe) and was tearing it down because practically no one signed up for it. Th became a common theme that day from what I saw. Still, we had a great day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Old Glory 15mm Train: Good, Bad, & Really Ugly

I first saw Old Glory's new HO scale Model Power passenger train set at Cold Wars. The set has been discontinued. Joel purchased it for their new line of largish 15mm Western figures and buildings. The set retails at Old Glory for $150, but is cheaper with the Old Glory Army discount, which I assume most purchasers will have. The Army price is about what you would pay online for such a Model Power set.

I realize Joel had a difficult time finding a decent HO set, but there are other, better choices for the same money or just a bit more. I've been a model railroader since 1976 and for the past 12 years have provided research for companies like Lionel, MTH, Atlas, and Athearn so they can accurately design their Conrail locomotives and freight cars. I have also been a fan of Western narrow gauge railroading, modeling in Sn3 back in the day.

The Good...
I guess the good part is that the Old Glory (aka Model Power) set is a train set and that it scales pretty well with the Old Glory 15mm figures. (This implies that the 15mm figures are closer to 1/87 than they are to 1/100, which is fair to say from my pirates.) I hate to say this, but that is where the good ends.

The Bad...
Where do I begin? The type of loco is totally wrong for the era. The loco is basically a 1930's-1940's 0-4-0 yard switcher with an "old time" diamond stack applied. The 1870's to 1880's, the main era of Western gaming, should really feature the 4-4-0 "American" style locomotive. Yes, most gamers are not sticklers for model railroading like I am. However, you place a model train on a gaming table--and then run it around--it will become the focus of attention for everyone for a long time. Therefore, it should look like it belongs.

The Really Ugly
My real gripe with this set is the paint scheme. The red and green look like Christmas. Worse, the entire train has "Pennsylvania Railroad" painted on every car and the loco. While as a kid I pretended that I was playing cowboys and Indians in my backyard in Central Pennsylvania, I knew that my backyard was not the Old West! The set's paint scheme is a huge problem I cannot overlook.

Once Upon A Time...
In the intintroduction to this post, I promised an alternative. Right now, there are few Western HO train sets in production. The hobby goes through these phases. My main suggestion is to pick up Bachmann's HO train set called "Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific Railroad." What? A Disney train set. Wait a minute. Walt Disney was a huge model railroad buff. This is a replica of his 1/8 scale train that he ran in his own backyard. It has the proper 4-4-0 American locomotive, correct boxcar, two gondola for your gunslingers to fight on, and a nifty "bobber" caboose. You can get the set online for about $99 from MB Klein, the same as if you bought the Old Glory Model Power set.

This Bachmann set also looks good enough and is reliable enough that you could use it as a train set during Christmas. I would be loathe to use the Model Power set for the holidays.

But what about passenger cars? I have you covered. Roundhouse, which is owned by Athearn, makes scale 32' Overland passenger cars for the Old West. Many have been discontinued but are to be reintroduced late July. You can see them at the Roundhouse website. My personal favorite is the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad, the quintessential movie railroad. Many films used these cars, which run on the Durango & Silverton scenic railroad in Colorado to this very day. The D&RGW Overland combine car was also the first train kit I built, way back in 1976! You should be able to get these cars discounted online for a decent price.

Cut! That's a Wrap!
So while I like the folks at Old Glory, I just cannot recommend this train set. I've given some suggestions. Over time, you even could add more and more pieces and new locomotives to the Bachmann set. I don't see that happening with the lower-quality Model Power set Old Glory offers. If people ask, I will also write an article offering advice for using model trains in 28mm Western gaming.