Monday, 23 June 2014

It's alright, we're coming on. We're gonna get right back to where we started from.

Blimey!  It seems like I've spent so much time and effort working on the Big Birthday Bash these last three weeks, I've neglected to post anything about it.  Unfortunately I'm not going to correct that in this post, not until I can find the time to do a proper photoshoot of the figures, terrain and vehicles in progress. so for now the game will have to remain Top Sekrit.

Work on the game has been going well.  Mi Hermano Pintor Jonesy has been coming round on a Sunday afternoon and over the last three weeks we've managed to get 90% of the figures painted and ready for the Army Painter Quickshade.  Almost all the terrain I think we'll need is either already made, on the workbench or on order from eBay.  But it has led to some interesting behaviour I think a lot of wargamers might relate to.  Even as I'm working on elements of the BBB, my mind keeps drifting onto other gaming possibilities, and I find myself spending valuable time researching these "future games" on the net.

For example, the BBB game is.... generally and vaguely set in 20th century America.  Ish.  So for a couple of iconic terrain buildings, I went to eBay in search of some of the legendary Plasticville O' gauge building sets.  Now these are hard to get hold of here in the UK, where OO gauge is by far the dominant model railway scale, and postage rates from the US can be quite harsh, but with a bit of careful shopping, you can get buildings for anything in the £10-20 range, which compares favourably with similar sized MDF wargame buildings.

(I've since found a couple of UK dealers who sell Plasticville kits.  On Tracks and Dark House Games, both are roughly comparable in price, but you can sometimes get a better deal from one than the other depending on what you're buying and how many you want.)

Anyway, after securing the two buildings I needed for the BBB scenario (the Gas Station and the that another clue?) it occurred to me that these would make a great start in the process of modernising the Victorian city terrain.  That got me looking at some of the other buildings that were available, especially the rival K-Line buildings - similar in style, but out-of-production and even harder to get hold of.  While these buildings are generally styled after 1950s small town Americana (in fact many of the kits have been unchanged since they were first designed in the 50s), I thought many of them would work incredibly well for a Caribbean island city, especially one that's a tourist destination.

Cast your mind back to the second-ever post on this blog, outlining the island Imagi-Nation of Paradiso.  Back then I'd been planning on doing this in 15mm, But the concept of Paradiso way predates that post, going back to an idea I'd had back around 2003 for a 28mm demo game using Copplestone/Grenadier Future Wars figures in a tropical holiday resort setting. Ever since then the idea had been fermenting slowly in the back of my mind, and I'd picked up the odd poundstore bit here and there for the concept.  The suitability of the Plasticville buildings for the concept may just be the straw that's broken the camel's back, as I currently have nearly 20 buildings purchased, open auctions for about 30 more and a further 10 on my watch list waiting to see how the auctions do.  There's also an order for about a hundred 28mm scale palm trees that seems to have just happened.

Although Jonesy and I have agreed that the next project for our Sunday painting school is going to be 15mm sci fi (he has some starship crew and some not-Klingons) for some coffee-table sized skirmishing, it looks like 28mm Paradiso is going to happen sometime in the not too distant future.  Again I now have most of the terrain I'll need either ready or on order, and all the figures for various factions awaiting paint jobs, Perhaps most significantly, there'll be some nice synergy between the Paradiso figures and terrain and those for the BBB, opening up some more fun scenario possibilities.

Then again... no sooner had I resigned myself to that idea, I then noticed how with a little conversion work some of the more rural Plasticville buildings would work well in a rural English Village setting, more suitable for VSF or that VBCW malarkey.  And off I go again....

Sunday, 8 June 2014

I can see clearly now, the rain has gone.

Old age has finally caught up with me.

In truth, it was the cooking instructions on frozen ready meals that was the final straw.  When I found myself really struggling to read them in any light, I knew it was finally time to go and get my eyes tested.  And lo and behold the test revealed that I needed reading glasses.  

Unfortunately, Specsavers managed to screw up the prescription for the main 2-fer-1 designer pair with anti-glare coating, making them up as distance glasses in error.  But luckily I'd also ordered a third cheapo pair for hobby work, on the basis that it wouldn't matter so much if they were accidentally spattered in paint, scratched or set on fire. They managed to have this third pair ready, so I picked them up today.

The difference in reading any small text is astounding.  The ready meals are no longer a problem, and the many sets of PDF wargame rules that Mi Hermano Impresor Jonesy has printed out for me, often scaled down from A4 to A5, are now finally legible.  The smaller booklet size is incredibly handy in use, and the only disadvantage was that some small print became incredibly challenging.

But perhaps more significantly, I can see the detail on miniatures much more clearly.  The small indistinct blobs of lead that Jonesy bought me for Xmas a couple of years back, have now been revealed as a very nice 15mm representation of the crew of the Firefly class transport Serenity.  Now I know what they are, I must find a way to thank him properly.

Going forward, this does seriously open up 15mm as a viable gaming scale for me once more - both Jonesy and I have modest lead mountains in this scale, and the smaller scale would lend itself to some casual "coffee table" games, on play areas as small as 2ftx2ft.

There is also a slight chance that I might also be able to improve a little on my 28mm "daub and dip" painting style, though I wouldn't hold your breath on that count.

Speaking of 28mm, I have had a modest buying spree, treating myself to several items I'd been putting off for a while.  Firstly I ordered a few buildings from Sarissa Precision's "Gaslamp Alley" range, to add to the city layout.  I haven't assembled them yet, but so far have mixed feelings about them.  The switch to using laser cut card for some detailing parts means they can add some finer details, however I'm a little wary about how well the different materials will blend together when painted.  The Sarissa terraced house model is similar in size and costs the same price as the Warbases terraced kit, however it only represents one dwelling compared to Warbase's two, and the Sarissa model does not include the walled back yard as standard.  It can be bought as a separate add-on, but at what I feel is an awfully inflated price (nearly double what Warbases charge for their back yard seperately).

Last year, West Wind ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for expansions to their "Empire of the Dead" gothic horror skirmish game.  Part of that included a new set of horse drawn vehicles, and though I'd long wanted a properly scaled 28mm horse-drawn omnibus, when I backed the campaign I somehow managed to forget to add one at the backers' discounted rate to my reward choices.  Being stingy, I resented then having to pay full price, and it was only the other day when I discovered West Wind had released a bundled set of the hansom cab, gentleman's carriage and the omnibus at a decent enough discount, that I felt I could buy them.

Like the Sarissa buildings, I've not yet assembled them, but first impressions are quite positive.  They're all solid resin bodies, as such the hansom cab is more than just a remaster of the old Vampire Wars model in white metal (of which I have two already)  The omnibus looks ever so slightly downscaled, with what looks like a 25mm driver, but is still fairly chunky and looks the part next to 28mm figures (much more so than the Lledo diecast omnibus that you can still find floating around on ebay)

At the same time however I also spotted that Warbases had a laser cut MDF hansom cab kit, at a ridiculously low price - £10, though you can get just the basic cab for £5 and all the cast accessories (horse, driver, passenger, lamps) separately.  With it roughly half the price of the West Wind offering, I had to give it a go.  The kit is tiny and fiddly and has no instructions, but I managed to figure it out and though with some fumbling I managed to snap the whole thing in half, it was fairly easy to repair and patch together invisibly.  The finished model sits well alongside the West Wind cab - slightly smaller but definitely not out of scale.  If I wanted to bulk up my Victorian traffic with cabs and didn't already have four of various models, I'd order more of these from Warbases like a shot - at half the price of the alternatives it's a no brainer.

I'll post photos of all these when I get to assembling and painting them properly, however all work on things Victorian has for now been put onto the backburner.  I announced to my gaming friends the intention to revive the Big Birthday Bash this year, and while the response was overall positive, the proposed standard GASLIGHT battle met with a lukewarm reception.  We bandied around a couple of alternative game ideas, trying to find something that appealed to everyone.  Though most people were annoyingly polite and accomodating "No really, they all sound good, we don't mind what we play", we eventually settled on something that seemed to spark peoples' imaginations a little.

But it's late, and this post has become far too long, so the big reveal will have to be put off to the next post.  As a teaser, I'll just say this - as the discussion went back and forth the theme outgrew the game and began to shape the whole weekend's entertainment.  I was soon googling UK suppliers of exotic meats in search of...... TO BE CONTINUED.