Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Preparing for Arthur and Merlin in 10mm

Yesterday I blogged about preparing my Covenant of Antarctica fleet for painting, while getting these ready I also prepped some 10mm Dark Age figures and started work on some terrain pieces.  More on the terrain pieces later, for now I want to quickly post about the 10mm figures I ordered.

I have a variety of minis games on the shelf at the moment that haven't seen play, to be honest, it is likely that they won't see play for a little while yet (I have Song of Blades and Heroes and Dystopian Wars clamouring for my immediate attention).  A while ago I ordered two sets of Dark Age rules - Dux Bellorum, which seems a rule set from the lineage that brought us DBA, and Dux Britanniarum - which seems a fun campaign system with a rules set attached.  Of course I also have a spin-off of the Song of Blades and Heroes skirmish game - called Song of Arthur and Merlin.

I wanted to get some miniatures that would eventually allow me to play all these games.  For a long time I was trying decide between 15mm scale figures (something like those available from Splintered Light), and 10mm - from either Pendraken or Magister Militum.  In the end I obviously chose to try the 10mm figures.  The most glaring con of this choice is the fact that these minis will not be able to be used in conjunction with the ones I already have for Song of Blades and Heroes, but the pros, I think, far outweigh that con.

So why 10mm?  The choice of which scale to collect is always a tough one, usually it is somewhat dictated by whatever is used by the people with whom one games.  In my case I would be the only player collecting these minis, and wanted enough for two players to be able to play. I also wanted to be able to get enough to allow me to play (at least basically) all of the Dark Age rules sets I had, though admittedly I think I'll need to look into sabot bases for both Dux games.

Given that I wanted so many figures, I also had the problems that came with them - first they need to be purchased, they need to be painted and they need to be stored somewhere (and I'm very short of spare storage space for large scale armies).  In all of these cases the smaller the scale the better the pay-off seemed to be, and in the end I turned to Pendraken, and I'm very glad I did.

For a relatively cheap price I was able to grab a set of minis representing the Late Romans and the Saxons - both armies that would allow me to play all three games - Song of Arthur and Merlin, Dux Bellorum, and Dux Britanniarum.  And while it will likely take me a long time to get enough figures painted to be playing the latter two, I at least have enough to keep me going long into the future.

So this is what the various sets looked like after they arrived:

Divided into their types (spear, archer, mounted etc)
The Saxons divided... a veritable multitude.

I also ordered some 20mm laser-cut MDF bases (around 100 or so), for a very reasonable price, and mounted enough to allow me some choices when I play Song of Arthur and Merlin.

Late Romans...

So after trimming and filing some of the flash and mold lines I glued them to their bases.  After the glue was dry I used a tooth-pick to spread some PVA over the bases, and then dipped them into some fine sand - this is to add texture and also to build the MDF base up so the figures aren't sitting atop their little mounds they were molded with.

I'm pretty happy with how the bases turned out.  They manage to add texture as well as build up the simple wood.  After laying on the sand I also used an old paint brush laden with heavily watered down PVA to moisten all the sand on the base (just touching the base with the brush was enough - as whatever sand was dry really sucked up the liquid).  Once dried this made the sand really quite solid.

I used a cheap undercoat - which I'm not overly happy with (I was impatient and had used everything else up on my Dystopian Wars fleet), but I think they come up well once I start painting them.  All in all I'm really happy how they turned out.  The Pendraken figures are nicely detailed, and should work really well.  I have a lot more waiting to be based ready for the Dux games - but that's a project for another day...


Monday, 25 February 2013

Preparing the Covenant for War

The last couple of days I've managed to get a bit of work done on the various miniature projects I talked about in my last blog post.  While no brush has touched paint at this early stage, all the preparation work for three more projects has been completed.  One of these, of course, is for my Dystopian Wars Covenant of Antarctica fleet.

Yes, the workers have been roused from their cabins deep below the ice-locked surface, and set to work - for the drums of war beat, and the Covenant is on the move.

When I opened the starter set I was impressed with the quality of the models - they are well designed and produced, with a little flash, but nothing a sharp blade couldn't cope with easily enough.  There are few mold lines - and most of the stuff that needs to removed is on the base - where the ship model meets the table.

There was quite a bit of flash around the edges of the tiny fliers, but some sandpaper quickly and easily dealt with that.

So a judicious use of a scalpel, as well as some sandpaper, and the models were ready to be glued.  I'm glad at this point that I couldn't find my glue, because I originally assumed the battleship would be glued together like this:

Only, after not being able to find my glue I resigned myself to flipping through the rule book and found that actually this ship can partially submerge itself - and when it does you take the top part off and place it within a template like this:

So I luckily managed to avoid what would have been a fore-head slapping moment of frustration at some later point when this became apparent.

So with all the trimming and sanding done, and the glueing for the parts that actually require it. I was ready to prime.

Trimming? Sanding? Glueing? All check.

I used Games Workshop white primer for these, and am really glad I did, after having trialled a couple of different spray primers over the last year I have found that while Games Workshop is expensive (and a company of ill repute), their primer is excellent.  I managed to run out just as I was finishing the priming of the Tiny Fliers, so all Dystopian Wars - primed and ready for paint.

Everything ready for the next stage - the painting... though I am still lost over what sort of paint scheme I want to use!


Friday, 15 February 2013

The queue...

A glut of past orders has arrived on my doorstep, not piecemeal, but all n quick succession.  Mostly these are miniatures to be painted for various games, and so my painting queue has ballooned.

Here are some of the things I have lined up - and all represent projects I'd like to get done at some point in 2013...

My Covenant of Antarctica Fleet for Dystopian Wars is probably the top dog of this pile at the moment, it's the game I want to get to the table soonest.  It also represents something of a mental block, as I am really unsure of what sort of paint scheme I want to try with them.  They need to be trimmed and tidied and undercoated of course, but they are a priority... (if I can just decide on a paint scheme!)

I have about 20 more Splintered Light miniatures to go with the ones I have already painted up.

I already have about 15-20 painted and ready for use.
These are for the Song of Blades and Heroes system by Ganesha Games - a short skirmish style wargame, requiring only a handful of models per side and rather enjoyable.  I want enough to have some choices about what to field for two warbands... so I really want to get these done as well (if just so I can get a game in with the guys I have painted so far!)

Some 10mm figures have arrived from Pendraken, and they look very nice.  I got these to use with a variety of game systems - Song of Arthur and Merlin (a Song of Blades and Heroes spin off), Dux Britanniarum, Dux Bellorum, and potentially even Saga - when they release the King Arthur spin off.  These are all dark age figures, a mix of Saxons and Late Romans.  I'm looking forward to seeing how they come up, as they are rather good sculpts despite their diminutive size.

To give an idea of scale, the weasel is 20mm, the saxon spearman 10mm (this is an ahistorical set-up, the Saxons didn't fight giant weasels in any recorded conflicts)
I went with 10mm because of several reasons, they may be quicker to paint, they cost less for more figures, and importantly, they will be easier to store in numbers than a larger scale.

Lastly I have some figures for a very strange but enjoyable game from Australian company: Eureka.  This game is called Pig Tickler, it's set during an alternate and silly 19th century (known as the Pax Limpopo range) and sees English officers jousting at a mechanical pig from their perch on unicycles.  The sculpts are 28mm, very well done and as full of humour as the game.  I'm very much looking forward to getting these fine gentlemen painted as well.

Aside from the figures I have a bit of terrain I want to ut together, some forest pieces, some hills, and perhaps even a sea board for Dystopian Wars.  We shall see.

So, these are my painting and modelling goals for 2013, along with a rough run-down of the figures in my painting queue... I am optimistic but doubtful I'll get them all done, but you never know!  I could become strangely productive at some point.


Friday, 8 February 2013

The Covenant of Antarctica in dry docks...

My brother very kindly sent my Dystopian Wars stuff up to me as an advance to the beginning of hostilities between his Russian and my Covenant of Antarctica fleets (we had ordered together).

I must say these are really nice, I wasn't sure what to expect from the resin casts, but there are only a few mould lines and 'flash' (if resin is still called that).  The ships are quite large and hefty, and very nicely detailed.  I don't think I'll be able to do them justice to be honest.

Now I have some cleaning up to do, some undercoating and prep, so I have a little time before having to settle on a paint scheme, something that I am really unsure about at the moment.

I'm really liking the look of Dystopian Wars, rules wise the game seems a lot of fun, and the sculpts are certainly excellent.  So that's that - my fleet is in dry-docks, some maintenance and fresh paint and they'll be ready to prowl the sea lanes.

Lacking the turrets...
Looking good!
Russian's beware...
There are only a couple of metal pieces altogether...
This one will be mounted on a large flying base. Great (and hefty) model!
A viewing of the fleet before the reparations begin...


Friday, 1 February 2013

Thunder Alley, GMT and Kickstarter...

Kickstarter has risen on a tide of popularity and has, in my humble view, changed the landscape of the boardgaming industry.  Crowd-funding has provided many with the opportunity to leave the traditional publishing model behind, and make a break for themselves.  As the last couple of years have progressed, a culture of expectation and a pattern of successes has led to some would be kickstarter campaigns to suffer the penalty of seemingly swimming against this tide.  

More and more I hear and read people making cynical observations about campaigns only succeeding with lucrative extras, bonuses, stretch goals and miniatures.  Or that any stretch goals are usually things that should come in the box already (if not simple associated merchandise).  Of course, the world is not as simplistic as all that - 8-Minute Empire is a small game with few pieces that plays quickly - and yet managed to get all it’s funding despite a relative paucity of stretch goals (at least when compared to poster children of such things - such as Zombicide).  An interesting juxtaposition is Formula E - a game by established and well known game designers, plenty of beautiful art on show, lots of advertising, no real stretch goals, and yet a campaign that only just managed to scrape over the line and at the last minute.

The real reason I came to think about this is because of the game Thunder Alley.  A game that didn’t succeed on Kickstarter, despite the probability that it is as good if not better game than any of those I’ve mentioned so far.  Thunder Alley, by GMT and Jeff & Carla Horger, strikes me as a wonderful opportunity for GMT to produce a game for a broader market than their usual stable.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love many of the GMT games I have played, and understand they make wonderful and high quality wargames.  However, with a game like Thunder Alley (and some of the more euro style games they are seeking to produce) they seem to have an opportunity to break new ground as a company.  These are, after all, games the equal of any other games that hit the market.  

When Thunder Alley was announced as a kickstarter project, I was extremely interested to see what GMT would do, would they use this as a platform to reach out to a different market? To step beyond their normal P500 audience and take a shot at hitting the people who follow the Nurnberg announcements and the Essen and GenCon releases?  To go beyond that and try for a more family orientated market?  They certainly have the industry knowledge, game ‘nous’ and potential to do it.

However, I was disappointed to see that it was business as usual.  I wasn’t disappointed because I wanted plastic miniatures, a hundred extra tracks and a t-shirt that would announce to the world that I backed Thunder Alley.  I was disappointed because of what I thought it could have been, what I had hoped it would be, and what it was.

Now - harsh as these words might read, I mean no disrespect to Chris or Jeff - both seem, from my interactions with them, to be stand out people, people, what’s more, who make great games.  GMT, in their description of the Thunder Alley game, talked about their hope of reaching out to a new audience through Kickstarter.  But I don’t believe they can do that with GMT business as usual.  I am still a staunch believer in GMT and Thunder Alley - but not like that...

Now, I say all of this with my history of having zero experience putting a game through the kickstarter mill.  With that caveat now aired, as GMT look to re-launch Thunder Alley through kickstarter, I think they need to be thorough in their planning, and make sure they have more to sell than the mechanisms of game play.  As good as they (the mechanisms) sound, I think they need to make an effort to generate a feel, a look, a style, a product that people want, not just because it’s  got some solid game play, but also because it’s high quality, because it looks great, because it bleeds the theme. 

Of course, the other elements that people have come to recognise as part of a Kickstarter are important - yes even stretch goals are important.  If I kickstart a game I’m spending (in some cases) significantly more than what I would if I waited for it to arrive in a shop near me, stretch goals are a method of binding a community and building a motivation to pull in backers - these people are the investors providing the money that companies use to produce the game.  Prices for backers, distributors, stores and consumers all need to be carefully weighted.  

I also wonder whether running it both as a kickstarter and a P500 (and I understand why) diluted the market - would more people have leapt aboard if the funding had risen more quickly (we are herd animals after all), and would this have occurred if the P500 was closed down in favour of the Kickstarter?  We shall never know - but I do think running both concurrently had an impact on the success of the kickstarter.

I think GMT had some reasonable stretch goals and backing levels for their campaign, but they also shot themselves in the foot.  The lack of art meant people had to guess what it would all look like, and as superficial as this is, it’s important.  For a racing game that’s going to sit on my shelf next to Formula D and Rallyman, it needs to look the part in order for people to want to pull it off the shelf over those other two.

Want to play an exciting race game? Which one? This, or...

All in all I’d rather see GMT knock out a Thunder Alley that people would confuse for an Asmodee production, or Fantasy Flight or Days of Wonder - it’s no good going after a new market with the same strategy and tactics they have used previously - those people have already signed up to GMTs style (or haven’t).

Perhaps what I’m advocating isn’t what GMT want - they are successful, produce plenty of high-quality games, and have loyal followers and many fans.  If that’s the case - then carry on.  However, I can easily imagine a branch of GMT that has the potential to rival some of the great board game companies out there - like Z-Man, FFG, DoW, Asmodee, RGG and the like.  They have some great games... 

And of course - I’d still love a copy of Thunder Alley - after all, I comment only because I like the sound of the game so much!  If it hits kickstarter again, I'll back it again - best of luck to GMT, to Chris, to Jeff and Carla - with whatever path you want to tread.