Saturday, March 29, 2014

Topside Minis WWI Fleet Ready to Set Sail

Back in February, I ordered from Topside Minis their WWI Falklands set of 16 British and German ships, which sells for only $5.60. These are peel-and-stick counters that need to be cut out and applied to the supplied laser-cut plywood bases. Back in February, I wrote about how good a bargain I feel these ships are. It took a while, but this morning I finally got around to applying the ships to their bases.

First, Experiment on the Free Sample 
Before I worked on my Falklands fleets, I experimented with the free WWII sample they had sent me before I placed my order. (Click on their link to get one for yourself.) This way I didn't risk damaging the "real" ships. I cut out the ship using my steel ruler and sharp hobby knife. I then stuck it on the supplied base. I then realized that I had cut the ship just a wee bit smaller than the base. A thin, light-tan strip of wood showed along one short edge. It was very noticeable.

Coloring the Base
After thinking a bit, I grabbed my large bag of Sharpie markers. I first thought of coloring the top edges of the bases blue to match the color of the water on the ships. No Sharpie really matched it. Then I thought, why not color the edges to match the dark brown of the laser cuts?

In the comments from a previous post, CharlesO had mentioned that leaving the edges natural instead of painting them a different color might look just fine. So I tried some of my brown markers. Voila! It worked and looked great. Thanks, Charles! You were right.

Sharpies Are Meant to be Abused
Use a brown fine point Sharpie. Not all Sharpie brown pens are the same color! The shade of brown in the fine tip pen closely matches the brown from the laser cuts. However, the brown in the ultra-fine tip pen is lighter. Odd, I know, but I realized this when testing the pens.

Ink the Base Edges
Before applying the sticker, rub the Sharpie along the sharp edges of the bases. If you look at the bottom photo, you can see how I run some ink along the sides of the top of the bases and the edges. I didn't marker the actual sides of the bases, leaving them in their natural burned look. Does that make sense? I did the top and bottom of the bases. Inking the bottom also hides any little rough spots or edges that might look tan when the counter is on the cloth. (I noticed this on my test ship.)

Skipped Sanding
Because the bases' wood is a bit fuzzy at times, I was tempted to sand it down with some fine sandpaper, but I didn't bother. I can be a bit retentive when it comes to models and such, but sometimes even I have to draw a line! I set aside the bases to dry, and then tried washing the streaks of brown ink off my hands. You will get ink on your fingers!

Ink the Paper Edges
After cutting out the ships, I ran brown marker along the edges of the paper. Do this! It takes away the bright white edge and blends the ship in with the base. This is a trick I also use when building paper buildings, though often I use colored pencils for that.

When done, peel the backing away from the ship, line up the ship along a long edge of the base, stick it to the wood, and smooth it out. You have just finished your first Topside Minis ship counter. And it looks good to boot!

I'm still looking at rules. I'm hoping to try out a couple this weekend. I'll let you guys know how it goes. Naval Thunder: Clash of Dreadnaughts plus Challenge & Reply II are on the top of the list at the moment. After some poking around online this afternoon and reading the demo rules, I am seriously considering Grand Fleets: 2nd Edition.

As PDF downloads, Naval Thunder would cost $15 to get going to play the Battle of the Falkland Islands. C&RII would cost me $13.29 for the rulebook plus the German and the British fleet lists I would need. Grand Fleets 2 would cost me $20 for the rulebook plus the King & Kaiser scenario book with ship data cards that I would need. From what I've read, the scenario book is generic enough to use with any rules. I also was looking at Fleet Action Imminent, but the $32 price tag for a PDF is a bit off putting for buying a game blind. Choices, choices.

Look at the large photo. You'll notice how I accidentally cut the counters a bit small at times or slightly misaligned them on the base. Inking the edges of the base and counter hides this on the table, making the counters look sharp.

Here is the bottom of the base. I did this on both sides. This little touch adds a lot. I elevated one counter to show how inking its paper edge helps blend the paper into the base as well.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Oh No! UHU Office Pen Discontinued!

Of course after my post yesterday on making Empire Warmaster counters do I learn after that UHU discontinued the Office Pen glue. I discovered this when I went to the Saunders website. Since I have two full pens of the glue I got years ago, it doesn't really affect me. (They were hard enough to find when they were in production!) However, it looks like a replacement is needed. I've never used the glues I mention below, but I've heard other paper modelers use them with good results. If you've used them or know of other glues that won't wrinkle paper, let us know!

Let's Bring Out the Contestants!
From what I can tell, the Office Pen has be redesigned from its boring "office" look to the hip and mod looking UHU Glue 'n Style pen marketed at school kids, which I would imagine is a much more lucrative market. Plus, this stylish pen makes the boring goopy glue sticks kids use look so...square. It sells for $3.90.

A popular glue with paper modelers is UHU All-Purpose Twist & Glue for $4.07. They don't advertise it as wrinkle free, but they say, "Works great on paper, cardboard, wood, felt, fabrics, cork and can be used in combination with metal, ceramics, glass, polystyrene, foam and many plastics."

A third possibility some paper modelers like is Beacon Adhesive's Zip Dry paper glue designed for scrapbooking. It sells for around $7 at Wal-Mart and craft stores. From the Beacon website: "Never wrinkles paper, ever! Dries crystal clear. Mistake-proof; easily removable when wet without leaving any residue. Glue dries very fast. Apply only one item at a time for best results. Always use with adequate ventilation." I don't know, the "adequate ventilation" part really scares me. I don't feel like I should have my windows open when gluing paper, especially here in Florida in the summer, lest I risk melting my brain cells or lungs. Know what I mean? It may be fantastic stuff, though. I don't know. With a 40% off Michaels coupon it might be worth a try for those with "adequate ventilation." :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Making Warmaster Empire Counters--The Hard Way

This afternoon, I began working on making Empire units using my paper Warmaster counters, which you can find under the pages links to the right. Most gamers simply will print the counters on 110lb cardstock, cut them out, and begin playing. What could be easier?

There is the Easy Way -- And Then There is My Way
Of course, I have to do this the hard way! Since my son will be playing Empire, I decided to use the box of junky Gale Force 9 laser-cut pegboard bases I've had sitting in the closet for ten years. He's going to game in style! Since I'm doing this the more unusual way, I thought I'd take some progress photos. While I was gluing the paper on the counters, Jeremy came by the table, looked approvingly at "his" counters in progress, and said, "That looks tedious." It wasn't too bad, really, and moved along quickly once I figured out the method. I'll be gluing the other sets to thick cardboard using Super 77 spray glue, which will be a lot easier than this method but still not as easy as printing directly to 110lb paper.

The Photos -- My Hands -- An Appology
Normally I do not take progress photos showing my hands. About five years ago, just after I began painting miniatures and building models, I began suffering from psoriasis on my hands. It's caused by a rare combination of genetics and then triggered by an external event, most often stress. Oh, have I gone through some stress! There were days when I was taking my life hour by hour, but the good Lord got me through those dark days when I was cleaning up my life. Anyway, one side-effect for me is that it caused my fingernails to deform, which is embarrassing. That's why I try never to show my hands in any photos and hide them from my students.

What Did I Learn?
First, I discovered that Staples printed the PDFs ever so slightly smaller than they should. The counters each were 39mm wide instead of 40mm. The height was 20mm though. I think this was my fault. In the comments section I forgot to tell them to print the PDF at full size. I normally mention that when sending them PDFs. When I printed the first page of the PDF on my home printer, they came out perfectly. So if you send the PDFs to Kinkos or something, make sure to tell them to print the PDF at full size.

Is it easier to cut them in long strips like I did and then cut each counter along the short end? Or vice versa? I don't know. Each way has its benefits and drawbacks. I'm still debating that.

Printing on cardstock at Staples may cost almost $1 a page, but it is soooo with the extra money!

I'm running into a problem with my commander counters and the huge altar counter because all I have are standard bases. I might get lazy and simply glue the commanders onto the bases with a lot of vertical overlap or make some smaller balsawood bases; I'd like them to fit in with the other units in the army. I'll have to think on this.

Onto the Photos!

Cutting the counters is easy. A steel ruler, a fresh hobby knife, and a cutting mat is all you need. Those who have a roller cutter or cutting machine have it even easier, especially if cutting cardboard.

I cut the edges off the sheet because I find it's easier to start that way. Just cut along the gray lines.

You've heard of chicken strips. Now there are counter strips, which I have discovered are not as tasty as chicken strips.

After I cut out the individual counters, I glued each onto its own base. I use an UHU Office Pen for gluing paper because they are super-low moisture glue that will not wrinkle paper. I'm sure other glues will work fine. I found that applying the glue to the base and smearing it around with the applicator was the easiest way. Just be careful with this stuff. Sometimes I could move the paper around a bit if I applied a thick layer of glue, but once you press the paper down, it ain't comin' back up!
Oooo, an action shot of me gluing the paper onto the base and watching glue dry too fast. Got to get it lined up perfec...rats, too late. In the next exciting post, we get to see several photos of you watching me watching paint dry. Yep. The excitement keeps on coming at this blog!

Voila! One unit of halberdiers ready for action to slaughter orcs. Notice how the counter is slightly smaller than the base? That was my fault when sending the PDF to Staples, as I mention above. It's really no big deal in the long run. I do have to trim up some of those bases though. If I were using bases for actual miniatures, I'd use Litko.

Don't they look the business! For these fellas, I used photos of real 10mm Warmaster figures. If my hands were steadier and the counters had been printed at full size, this would have looked even better. When I'm done and the glue has dried through and through for several days, I'll give them a light coating of Testors Dullcote to protect them. Now to finish the rest of the army!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Download My Warmaster Counters as PDFs

One of my favorite game systems is Warmaster. No matter what I play, I always like coming back to this game im whatever form it may take, from fantasy to ancients to Black Powder. Way back in 2002, I began making the first sets of print-and-play paper counters for the game. These were a cheap and easy way to get into playing the game, as well as experimenting with army lists and units without having to spend a fortune on time and money painting figures only to discover that using five steamtanks probably was not a good idea!

A New Old Project Reborn
This weekend, I revisited those old counter sets because I am finally going to start playing the game. This has been on my mind for a long, long time. I'll get into all the details in another post. Instead of running out and buying a bunch of miniatures, trying to take advantage of some last minutes sales, I wised up and took my own advice from 12 years ago. Why not print out the counter sets and test out some armies to see what we like and what I need and don't need to buy?

But I faced a problem--a big problem. The counter sheet files were all TIF images. My inkjet printer makes lovely color prints while sucking money right out of my wallet for the ink, but the thing has been relegated to the closet for the past several years. My go-to printer is a monochrome laser printer. I really didn't want b&w counters--that felt so 2002!

Adobe Don't Need My $$$
After doing some searching and review reading, I came across a small and free image-to-PDF converter named PDFill Free PDF Tools. I tried it out on some test counter sheets and printed them on my monochrome printer. Success! I turned all 12 army sets into individual PDFs.

This afternoon, I sent some counter sets to Staples and had them print them on their quality color laser printers. I looked at using 110lb cardstock, but it would cost about $1 a page without a coupon. I decided to print them on standard paper to save a bit of cash. I have a box of old 20mm x 40mm bases doing nothing in the closet, so my goal is to cut the counters and glue them onto the bases. It will take some time, but they should look good. (I would have liked to use peel-and-stick paper but that option wasn't on the Staples website. I live 5 minutes from Staples, but 20 minutes and traffic each way from a Kinkos.)

The printout looks fantastic and sharp. Jeremy wants to play Empire, while I seem to be a hoard player, with a strong love of ratmen. So I also printed the Skaven set, along with orcs, undead, and dwarfs. (I've always been a dwarf guy.) That will give up plenty to mess with. Of course, I love all the armies plus my own creations!

The Host With the Most
I'm now hosting the army counters on the server I use for my railroad website. So folks can have easy access to the counter set PDFs, I've created a permanent page for them here at the blog. Go to the page, scroll to find an army you like, click on the army's name, and enjoy the PDF!

Free Samples--Just Like Costco!
I'll also be posting some sample 1,000 point, 1,500 point, and 2,000 point armies to get folks started in the game. I'm working on reformatting and cleaning up the lists I have.

If you have never played Warmaster, download the free rules from Games Workshop, print out some armies, and start having fun. I know you'll be glad that you did!

He Who Shall Not Be Named
BTW if you look on the counter sheets, you'll see my real name. No, my last name is not Belt and CP are not my initials! (That is the name of a railroad junction where I used to go in Reading, PA. I normally hung out at CP Wyomissing, but who wants to type that as an email address!) Just be careful invoking my real name. You never know what weirdness could happen. :-)

So What's New? Quar!

Not having purchased any unpainted metal figures for the past four years, I have been needing a change of scenery for a long time. Honestly, I've been bored with the hobby for a long time. Well, instead of endlessly debating if I should or should not buy something as I have been doing, I took advantage of ZombieSmith's February 15% off sale.

I love their Quar figures and have been eying them up for ages. So I ordered a couple platoons and support of their 15mm figures. I'll be basing them individually for platoon v platoon gaming. I've been wanting to get back into 15mm. This is a good time to do so. Many more possibilities now that the hard sci-fi that had been dominating the scale. I also love the Ion Age figures and many of Khurasan's new figures, which would work well against the Quar. Plus, the Quar just might invade 1940s Europe--you never know.No vehicles, but plenty of nifty 15mm WWI armor out there to modify.

I've also been eying up 6mm sci-fi for years now and decided to get into the waters with a bunch of  6mm Quar.

Below is the list. I'm excited. I placed the order last Monday but haven't heard anything yet. Hopefully they won't take long to get here. (I've posted some photos from ZS's website.)

1x Crusader: Light Infantry Company
1x Crusader: Infantry Officers Pk. 1
1x Crusader: Infantry Officers Pk. 2
1x Crusader: Pack Cadier
1x Crusader: Snipers
1x Royalist: Rhyfler Company

3x Crusader: Infantry - LMG Teams
2x Crusader: Infantry - Company HQ
2x Crusader: Infantry - Infantry Company

Update 3-15-14
It looks like my order was lost in the mail, so a replacement is being shipped as I type. This was to be my Spring Break project this week, but that was a bust considering that I had no Quar to paint! Hopefully I'll get these fellows in the mail in the next several days.

Update 3-18-14
Got my figures in the mail today. They look amazing. I can't wait to paint them up!