Friday, October 29, 2010

A Quick Game of FUBAR

Last weekend, we gave the 1-page rules FUBAR a test spin using my 15mm WWII figures, which hadn't seen any action in well over a year. When they say FUBAR is rules-lite, they aren't kidding! They were fun for some quick knocking about, but we made some additions to help the game along. This weekend, they should be releasing Version 3 of the rules.

1. The overall table above. While I might have liked my Woodland Scenics trees a few years ago, I realized that I need to make bigger trees and better trees. I also need to work on a lot more scenery and buy more buildings, both of which have been keeping my miniatures in their boxes instead of on a table. For this game, the three US squads will come in from the right center of the table, while a German squad will hold down the row-home backyard in the center as two other units try to come in from the upper left of the table.

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2. The units are deployed. FUBAR does have cohesion, so the soldiers had to stay close to their squad leader.

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3. In FUBAR, players each roll a die for initiative. The highest-rolling player gets the initiative and then selects one of his units, rolling a single die to activate it. If the die meets or exceeds the unit's training, which for the Americans we set at 4+ while the Germans we set to 3+, the unit can perform an action, such as run or move-and-shoot. Simple enough. Since we were using 15mm instead of 28mm figures, we decided to halve all distances but keep them in inches. This worked better than using centimeters, which we first tried.

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4. We're nearing the end game! The situation looks bleak for the Americans. Though they wiped out the original German squad defending the backyard, putting their 30cal machine gun to good use, two other German squads suddenly appeared. The tide of battle was about to shift to the Germans.

We made two changes here. First, FUBAR 2.0 lacks morale rules, allowing a unit to fight to the last man. We made a rather arbitrary decision about when a unit looked so suppressed and shot up that the leader had to make a leadership roll to keep the unit in the game, otherwise it routed. Every time the unit became suppressed or lost a soldier after that point, the leader had to make the roll. This really hurt the Americans, who were not as experienced as the Germans.

We also said that units could see 3" through "light woods," which is what the GI's were in in the last photo above. This allowed units to see farther than the rules allowed for normal woods.

The simple activation roll can really make a break a game. Even when no Germans were in sight, both American squads kept failing their activations, allowing the luckier Germans to move up and then wipe them out without so much as return fire. Some "narrating" during the game sought to explain the Americans' bad situation. In the end, the activation system determined the game. This caused mixed emotions. I did get frustrated as all my GI's just stood there for three turns in a row, doing nothing but get shot up.

Will we play FUBAR again? It depends how version 3 improves the game. FUBAR is a simple, fast game, but sometimes its simplicity works against it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Copplestone OOP 25mm Halflings

Last week on TMP, I bought the complete set of out of production Copplestone halflings. I had never seen all of them until they arrived in the mail on Saturday--photos of them online are elusive. Frothers has a few of the miniatures in their halfling gallery.

I am extremely happy with these figures! Great characters. Not only are the LotR hobbits in these sets, but others as well. I like these hobbits more than the GW LotR figures. The little boxes they come in are really nifty as well.

Since there are no photos of the sets online, I snapped some today during a 15mm WWII game I set up for myself--hence the green cloth.

CF1 Halfling Adventurers

CF2 Halfling Heroes

CF3 Halfling Travellers

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Don't Talk To Me About Gulf Strike

Have you ever bought a wargame based on the weight of the box along, thinking that having 900+ counters and four maps must make it an awesome game? I thought this back in 1983 when I walked into the Complete Strategist and picked up a new copy of Victory Game's Gulf Strike.

Gulf Strike sets out to simulate modern combat in the Gulf region all "within" 360 minutes. It's been updated a few times and has been used to game every modern war have been fighting over there.

Back in late 1983, I was at the height of my wargaming and roleplaying life. I was 20 years old, earning a decent living and preparing to go off to college the next year. (I worked for a few years between high school and college.) I had a large collection of wargames from Avalon Hill, SPI, GDW, Victory Games, Games Workshop, and others.

Well, several times I tried to play Gulf Strike to no avail. I read the rules as best I could. I even set it up several times just to motivate myself, thinking that looking at it all ready to go on my game table in my room would do the trick. Never happened. I mean, come on. I was an SPI veteran! I played plenty of "Complexity 10" games like AH's Third Reich. I even "tried" Squad Leader! So Gulf Strike should have been a breeze. Nope. Never happened.

So what is the moral of the story, boys and girls? I don't know. Just last night at Cool Stuff I almost bought Federation Commander: Klingon Border. Almost. So maybe I did learn something 27 years ago? Nah, I doubt it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fly's Studio: Part 8 - The Sign

Last summer, I began chronicling how I prepped and painted Fly's Studio from Old Glory's line of 25mm Western buildings. I enjoyed the project, learning a great deal usually from mistakes. Even though I declared the project finished in Part 7 , I always knew it wasn't. Two unfinished bits have been bugging me: the building needed a sign and it needed porch roof posts.

As in all the older Old Glory buildings in their Western line, the main roof over the building, the building's upper false front, and the porch roof are one solid piece, forcing the porch roof to sit on any posts I might add. A year ago, I avoided adding the roof posts because I was unsure how to add them, afraid they would break off during a game. Building the Hartley House project taught me otherwise. It also taught me to paint the posts before gluing them in place--a mistake I will not make again!

But this article isn't about adding the roof posts. This article is about adding a sign. So let's get to it!

A Bit Of Tombstone History
Camillus Fly was a frontier photographer during the height of the Wild West in the late 1800's . He spent the best years of his career living in Tombstone, AZ, where he ran the small photography gallery in the above photo. The building entered into legend after the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place in a 15-foot-wide empty lot between Fly's building and the Harwood House.

Comparing the vintage photo of the real photography gallery to Old Glory's model, you can see the Old Glory building only has a passing resemblance to it. This doesn't bother me one bit, since I'm not modeling the city of Tombstone.

Freehand v Transfers v Photo?
You might notice that Fly had his "sign" painted onto the building's false front, a common practice at the time. For the past year, I debated if I wanted to hand paint my sign on the Old Glory model. One slip of the brush, however, would ruin the entire model! So hand painting a sign was out of the question.

I then considered using dry transfer lettering, which I've done before on other models. Unfortunately, finding Western-looking dry transfer lettering is difficult in my area and online. What I did find was a too expensive. So no dry transfers this time.

Instead, I settled on using a photo of a real sign. After searching the Internet, I came across the sign you see here. It's a photo of a real sign from a real building, but not the real Fly's Photography Gallery. It's a sneaky imitation trading on the famous name--perfect for me! So in my world of Gun Town, the gallery belongs to the second-rate photographer Martin Fly, Camillus Fly's distant cousin. Like any good greedy relative with little talent of his own, Martin relies on his cousin's famous name for an income.

Resize The Sign The Right Way
Loading the sign into Paint Shop Pro, I cleaned up the original photo until all that remains is what you see here. I then shrank it to fit the model.

The first instinct many people have is to hit the "resize" button to shrink an image. Don't do this!!! Don't even use the higher quality "bilinear resample" function to resize the image. Both techniques will compress the image leaving squiggly "artifacts" in it--not good when printing signs.

Instead, increase the photo's dots per inch, its DPI. The higher the DPI, the smaller the photo will print while keeping the text sharp without artifacts. I knew I wanted my sign to print at a specific size in inches, so I increased the DPI from 72 upwards, clicking the DPI button until it matched the printed size I wanted. The photo above is the actual gif I printed. I left the ball trim in place in case people would like it.

Print The Sign
I printed the sign on good plain paper using the high quality setting on my printer. Since the paper needed more thickness to look like wood, I glued it to a handy scrap of thick cardstock. This combination looked better than printing the sign directly to cardstock printer paper, which still would have been too thin.

Trim The Bottom Of The Sign
Using a steel ruler, I trimmed the straight bottom section of the sign. Cutting this portion of the sign before gluing it to the cardstock is easier I feel. I then freehand cut the "Gallery" portion of the sign using a sharp Xacto knife. I tried keeping the small balls in each corner but decided to cut them off. Freehand cutting a teeny circle is difficult!

Glue The Sign To Cardboard
Next, I sprayed the back of the sign with 3M Super 77 glue. Super 77 may be a bit more expensive but is the best spray glue out there. I aligned the bottom of the sign with the straight cut on the cardstock and pressed it in place.

Trim The Entire Sign
Using the metal ruler and Xacto knife, I then trimmed the entire sign.

Color The Edges
Once the glue dried, I trimmed the entire sign. Since I didn't want the white edges of the paper showing, I grabbed a colored pencil ("carmine") that matched the sign's color. Believe it or not, I bought the pencil in the photo is 30 years ago!

Affix The Sign
I did not glue the sign to the building. Instead I used small bits of blue tack to affix the sign to the building. The tack holds the sign perfectly while allowing me to swap it out with other signs when needed. Nifty, eh?

I experimented with putting the sign on the false front and hanging it from the porch roof. I like both ways. Affixing it to the false front, however, might be safer during a game than affixing it to the porch roof. We'll see how it holds up either way. (You can also see the new posts test-fitted in the right-hand photo. I'm also finishing the bases on my Western figures this weekend, so no more 'naked' metal!)


Printing your own custom signs is easy and adds realism to buildings with little work. Some modelers are taking photos of actual buildings, scaling them to size, printing them on photo paper, and creating actual models that look amazingly real. A couple fellows are building an entire HO layout of modern Miami this way!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Top 50 Animated Features of All Time

The following is a list of The Top 50 Animated Features of All Time comprised by me, J. R. Waller. I have been a fan of animation/anime for years and it is my pleasure to share with you a list of those shows that I believe to be the best examples of their craft. They each standalone on their own merits, setting the standard for all to follow. These shows and movies display the boundless creativity of their creators and showcase a wide variety of styles and genres. From “cartoons” to “anime” the list feature the best there is. From exceptional writing and direction, to captivating stories, to inspiring artistic direction and much more, these are the best and these are not just my personal favorites either but what I believe to be the essential animated features of all time. Enjoy!

1. Honey & Clover II, 2006, J.C. Staff
2. Mushishi, 2005, Artland
3. Fullmetal Alchemist, 2003, BONES
4. Honey and Clover, 2005, J.C. Staff
5. Millennium Actress, 2001, Madhouse
6. Haibane Renmei, 2002, Radix
7. Kino’s Journey, 2003, A.C.G.T
8. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, 1984, Topcraft
9. Spirited Away, 2001, Studio Ghibli
10. 5cm Per Second, 2007, CoMix Wave Inc.
11. Planetes, 2003, Sunrise
12. Eureka Seven, 2005, BONES
13. The Girl Who Leapt through Time, 2006, Madhouse
14. Princess Mononoke, 1997, Studio Ghibli
15. My Neighbor Totoro, 1988, Studio Ghibli
16. Spongebob Squarepants, 1999, United Plankton Pictures
17. Porco Rosso, 1992, Studio Ghibli
18. The Big O, 1999, Sunrise
19. Last Exile, 2003, Gonzo
20. Trigun, 1998, Madhouse
21. Rocko’s Modern Life, 1993, Joe Murray Productions and Games Productions
22. Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1989, Studio Ghibli
23. Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004, Studio Ghibli
24. Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009, Regency Enterprises and Indian Paintbrush
25. The Triplets of Belleville, 2003, France 3 Cinema, Les Armateurs, Production Champion, RGP France, and Vivi Film
26. The Big O II, 2003, Sunrise
27. Samurai Jack, 2001, Genndy Tartakovsky
28. The Iron Giant, 1999, Warner Bros. Animation
29. Rugrats, 1991, Klasky Csupo
30. Whisper of the Heart, 1995, Studio Ghibli
31. Castle in the Sky, 1986, Studio Ghibli
32. The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 2004, CoMix Wave Inc.
33. Voices of a Distant Star, 2002, CoMix Wave Inc.
34. Batman: The Animated Series, 1992, Warner Bros. Animation
35. Hey Arnold!, 1996, Snee-Oosh, Inc.
36. The Twelve Kingdoms, 2002, Studio Pierrot
37. Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, 2008, Studio Ghibli
38. Justice League Unlimited, 2004, Warner Bros. Animation
39. Aria the Animation, 2005, Hal Film Maker
40. Rahxephon, 2002, Bones
41. The Cat Returns, 2002, Studio Ghibli
42. Doug, 1991, Jumbo Pictures
43. Rurouni Kenshin, 1996, Studio Gallop, Studio Deen, and SPE Visual Works
44. Steamboy, 2004, Sunrise
45. The Castle of Cagliostro, 1979, Tokyo Movie Shinsha, and Topcraft
46. Mobile Suit Gundam, 1979, Sunrise
47. Dexter’s Laboratory, 1996, Cartoon Network Studios and Hanna-Barbera
48. Justice League, 2001, Warner Bros. Animation
49. Wolverine and the X-Men, Marvel Animation, Toonz Entertainment, First Serve International, Noxxon Entertainment Inc., 2008
50. Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, 1989, Sunrise

Friday, October 1, 2010

P3 Modeling & Painting Vol 1 Briefly Reviewed

The DVD arrived earlier this week. Having some free time this afternoon, I enjoyed watching it. The video has several chapters for the new painter, covering basics such as cleaning a mini, picking the right tools, setting up a work area, and picking the right brushes.

The video also explains the basics of pinning and filling in gaps with modeling putty. Since I've never had to do this, this section was new to me, though I knew it in theory. I was a bit disappointed that they did not mention what size brass rod to use and its corresponding drill bit size. Looks like a quick post to TMP will be in order when I must cross that bridge.

The rest of the video shows the basics of painting--base coating, drybrushing, washes, and then layering. You get to see three figures from start to finish using the techniques. I was disappointed that blending was not covered. I guess that's an advanced technique. On the other hand, I cannot really do blending anymore since the rapid back and forth with the brush hurt my wrist and hands. (Just rinsing brushes in my cleaning jar can hurt my hand! I have to move my entire arm left to right to clean the brush between paint strokes--an odd sight that feels more like exercising than painting.)

I find the video inspirational and useful for anyone beginning painting. It makes everyone realize they can do a nice job with a little patience and practice. Even Jeremy realized he could paint a nice mini following these instructions. I can see me lending this to a few friends in my Sunday school class. For what it sets out to do, the video gets a A from me.