Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Chariots of Rome

Next on the agenda at BackyardCon II (which was held for the second year in the screen room due to inclement weather) was Chariots of Rome. This is a board game from Victory Point Games. It was actually on Kickstarter, but didn't get enough funding, but the company went ahead with it anyway and took pre-orders. Turns out it was worth the wait!

Basically each player takes control of a chariot and receives a charioteer with unique skills. Some are better drivers, some are more aggressive attackers, some are favored by the gods. You get the idea. Then by tracking your endurance, tactics and rattled level, it's off you go! There are three basic speeds to choose from (4, 7 or 10 spaces) but these can be adjusted somewhat by spending endurance to roll a die to add up to three extra spaces.

Charioteers can attack rival racers with a whip or by ramming them. Note: Whip when you are on the inside. If you make your opponent swerve, guess where they swerve!

The fate deck introduces intervention from the gods and other such external devices to spice things up and keep you on your toes. Component quality is very good - nice board, sturdy cards that are clear and easy to read and tokens that make sense.

It took us a lap or so to get the hang of it, especially the cornering rules, but it's really not that difficult overall and can be picked up pretty quickly. We had only three chariots, but can see this is definitely one of those "more the merrier" type games. It would be a hoot at a party with up to eight charioteers sticking it to each other!

We're already looking at ways to make this a miniatures game, and found that Essex makes racing chariots. Ah, the temptations.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Adventures of Dr. Ford in China!

I've been wanting to play Pulp Alley for a very long time. Saturday we finally got the opportunity. We played a relatively simple smash and grab scenario to learn the rules, and it was a good one. Read on!

Dr. Isaac Ford stood with his team from the Geographic Archaeology Society (GAS) and looked across the river. There, in the valley beyond, he knew lied the next clue in his quest for the lost treasure of Emperor Zu Rong, gone missing thousands of years ago. He had made the search his life's work, at the expense of nearly everything else.

With him, though, was his daughter Mollie, who while not quite as convinced the treasure really existed, was ready to prove herself in a man's world. With a sharp tongue, Mollie is not afraid to speak her mind, but has the moxie - and the physical wherewithal - to back up what she says. 

Standing slightly behind are Ernest Dunlap and Harvey Pitt, a pair of adventure-seeking Americans the Fords met on the ship to China. Ernest carries his prized automatic rifle, and scans the area looking for trouble he knows must be near. Harvey's heart is in the right place, but sometimes his good intentions outweigh his skills. He'll do almost anything to try to impress Mollie, but so far she hasn't seemed to have noticed...

Finally there is Cheng-Gong Chin, Dr. Ford's main contact in China and translator. Without him, it's hard to say where GAS would be.

As the GAS team started to move toward the river, nearby another group was also looking for clues to the treasure. Commander Hu Song, in the employ of the mysterious Dr. Wang, is also gazing across the river, and looking for GAS. Hu Song was trained by the Bolsheviks during the Chinese wars, and fancies himself a great warlord - an opinion not shared by those who know him. Hopelessly in love with Dr. Wang's beautiful daughter, he is not in the business for the money, but to impress her father, who he frankly doesn't really like, in hopes of winning her hand. It should be noted, however, that she does not share this dream.

At his side is the real muscle of the operation, Bi Gui. Not as dumb as he looks, Bi Gui was toiling as a slave to another warlord when Hu Song rescued him, and he remains fiercely loyal. Behind them are the brothers Shai Dong and Wai Dong. They really are in it for the money, and any other "benefits" that may come their way from serving a high-ranking boss like Hu Song.

With them are three other thugs, Sing Lu, Bu Mao and Chang Li. Hu Song doesn't put much stock in them, but who knows? They may prove useful.

Signalling Bu Mao to checkout the roadside shrine to the right, Hu Song began to move the rest of his unit across the river.

Hu Song should have known better. Bu Mao wasn't the sharpest noodle in the dumpling, or something like that. As soon as he knelt down to take a closer look, a snake shot out and caused him to jump back in fright. Hu Song heard the scream, cursed, and sent Bu Mao and Chang Li to check it out.

Meanwhile, after slipping and recovering in the perilous river, Hu Song looked to the right, and there was GAS crossing the river as well!

Dr. Ford and Mollie were making a beeline for the valley, with Ernest slipping to the left to provide cover with his rifle. Harvey and Chin were heading toward a clump of brush to the right.

Shots rang out, and one of the Dong brothers went down! He shook it off, and was quickly back in the fight.

While he sent Bi Gui forward to check out a mysterious stone pillar on a hill, Hu Song moved to try to intercept the Fords while the Dongs tried to deal with Ernest.

Meanwhile, the other two flunkies trying to check out the roadside shrine were both bitten by the snake. Oops! Hu Song couldn't spend time worrying about them...

Standing in the middle of the river, Ernest got off a blast that pinned down the Dongs, allowing the Fords time to work their way through the maze of rocks and underbrush guarding the entrance to the valley. Before them stood a huge terracotta statue. This is it! Dodging bullets from Hu Song, the Fords moved up the valley to the statue. It wouldn't be easy, but Dr. Ford had spent years researching and countless hours preparing for this moment. Moving quickly, he found the release mechanism, disarmed the booby trap, and a stone glyph fell in his hands!

Quickly, he yelled for his daughter to follow him to the other end of the valley, hoping to get away as quickly as possible and anxious to find out what had happened to the rest of GAS.

As it happened, one of the Chinese flunkies managed to get up up, and seeing the Dongs in trouble, got off a shot on Ernest. Down he went! Now free, the Dongs also set off in pursuit of the Fords.

Bi Gui, meanwhile had reached the top of the hill. Though he seemed to understand what to do, anything he tried simply wasn't working. Seeing his distress, and growing in frustrating, Hu Song raced up the hill, found a mysterious gem, smiled at the thought of presenting it to Dr. Wang's daughter, and set off in pursuit of the Fords.

What about Harvey? Well, Harvey was having a heck of a time. He had stumbled upon a stone wall with some mysterious bits and pieces sticking out of the ground, but try as he might, he couldn't make heads or tails of it. He finally slipped on some loose stone, clunked his head, and got knocked out.

Chin has been heading toward another hill with what looked like an urn on top, when he spotted Hu Song and Bi Gui close behind the Fords. Yelling a warning, he raced off to intercept. Before he could get there, though, Hu Song calmly took a shot at Mollie, and down she went. "There's no time!" he yelled to Dr. Ford, and with tears in his eyes, Dr. Ford climbed the hill. Bi Gui was close behind, but as soon as he caught him, the earth began to tremble! Earthquake!

Fearing the worst, Bi Gui remembered his first mission to protect Hu Song and ran back to usher him to safety. Chin was able to pick up Mollie's limp body and join Dr. Ford, as they headed back toward the river. Harvey and Ernest would have to make their way out as best they could. 

But he had succeeded, and he knew it. With the piece now in his pocket, Dr. Ford knew he was one step closer to unraveling the ancient mystery. Mollie would be fine after a few days of rest.

As for Hu Song, Dr. Wong would not be pleased, but what did he care? The object of his desire would certainly like the gem. And he still had the Dong brothers to help him next time. And maybe the flunkies - if they survived the earthquake.

There were probably a few things we did wrong, but really after a couple turns, we basically had it down. It proved to be a fun game, and has sparked all kinds of ideas of where we can take it. I have a couple other leagues painted up, I just need to finish the stats. And lots of ideas for more!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Norman Crossbows

Finished these a bit ago, but just now getting around to posting it. Enough for a Saga game!

These are from Black Tree Design. Nice figures, but it does mean there are two of each pose in the unit. I can live with it. Painted with the usual mix of Vallejo and Testors.

I now have a full four points of Normans for Saga, five if I add a priest. I have a few more odds and ends to paint, but what I would really like are some mounted warriors without armor, and some archers. Gotta have some archers in a Norman force.

While Saga places a great emphasis on mounted Normans given the options on the battle board, I'm not convinced it was all horses all the time back in the years after 1066. Horses are expensive, and transporting difficult. And the terrain wasn't always suitable. So I will probably do at least one or two more units of foot troops.

Need to get a game in one of these days!

The full force so far

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

NASA Said There Would Be Days Like This

Maiden flight. And first crash.
Somehow, I've gotten myself on a bit of a rocket kick lately. (Squirrel!) I guess the kicker was when I took my dog for a walk one evening last week down by the field at the end of the road. It was a clear, windless evening, and the farmer had not planted his crops yet. (Corn this year, I think.) In other words, ideal rocket launching conditions!

So I dug through the stash, did some repair work on some, completed one kit that's been lying around for a year, waited for another ideal evening, and off we went.

Well, sort of. Some went off. Some went and came down hard. Some just went boom. Or fizzle. Or whatever.

First up was the little Yankee rocket to check wind conditions. That one went well on an A8-3 rocket, streamer out, nice landing, no damage. Then the troubles started.

Second one, I somehow missed that the launch lug was missing. No go.

Then the parachute troubles began. Of the following five launches, only one actually opened. Damage was a couple broken fins, and one lost one as my helpers were a little eager on retrieval and failed to fully check the rocket before removing it from the LZ. Oops. Not the first time I've had to cut a new fin. Too bad it was that rocket's maiden flight.

Epic fail
Then I tried the shuttle. It felt a little sticky going on the launch rod, which should have told me to abort. But no, I tried anyway, and as the engine went, it just sat there and burned a hole through the shield! It was actually kind of funny when the parachute and wadding popped out, kind of like that old NASA video.

We didn't want to end the evening like that, so I switched engines on one that had been a dud earlier. Then the igniter fizzled. This thing just didn't want to go! I should have listened... when it finally did go, the shock cord snapped! The nose came down nicely on the parachute, but the body fell to earth with all the grace of a falling sack of door knobs. Night over.

Plus the gnats were atrocious! I've never heard them so bad. Yes, heard. Sure you could see the clouds of them, but I don't know that I've ever heard such swarming noise. Weird.

Anyway, I took some notes in a logbook, which I wish I had started years ago. It's back to the repair bench, and hopefully another launch date this summer. Where, I don't know. Once the corn is in, it gets tough!

Those engines burn hot!

Monday, May 7, 2018

It's May! So I finished an Indy car!

I honestly don't remember when I started working on this. Two years ago? Three? Heck, it could even be four. Darn life and other projects kept getting in the way. But since the calendar turned to May, I was determined to finish this.

So here it is: the 1963 Tropicana Special Novi as driven by Bobby Unser in the 1963 Indy 500. Well, not for long. He completed only two laps before crashing in turn 1 to finish in last place. An inauspicious debut for an eventual three-time winner, to be sure. But, dang, that's a good looking car. And it's tough to beat the roar of a Novi!

This is built from the excellent kit by Lance Sellers, with decals from Indycals. Paint is Tamiya, and went on smooth. And the decals are awesome, as usual from Michael. I don't know why it took me so long. It was a fairly straightforward build with no unusual challenges. The two worst parts were really more my fault - I lost the arm guard at some point and had to scratch build a new one, and I struggled a bit with the vac formed windscreen, but, I mean, who doesn't? Any errors are mine alone. :)

Although I am just about out of display room, I really hope to build some more Indy cars. Lord knows I have enough in the stash! Who knows, there may be a couple yellow ones on the bench right now...

All three of my Bobby Unser cars

Sunday, March 25, 2018


Horses, horses, horses! It's pretty much all one of my daughters thinks about. Horse stuffed animals, horse pillows, horse blankets, horse coloring books, horse shirts... you name it. And, of course, Breyer horses.

This past Christmas, my wife gifted her and me with a set of Breyer paint your own horses. Fun! A few weeks ago, we finally sat down for a daddy-daughter craft day and busted out the paints.

Here is one of my efforts. I mostly used the paints that came with the kit, which were surprisingly good and in realistic colors. I did supplement with some Vallejo for the hooves, eyes and such. And I used a Vallejo ink wash to simplify the shading. But overall I think it turned out pretty well.

And the best part is, it was more painting time with my daughter. Always a bonus! I just wish I had taken more photos.

Oh, as a sidenote, she has also talked us into a family trip to Kentucky in July for Breyerfest. Should be horse heaven for a little girl!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Sleeping Beauty

Wake up! Oh, I'm supposed to kiss her? Well, that's kind of weird, since she's only about 7 inches tall.

I think painting her was enough, don't you? Yup, I finally finished another one of these Disney Paint Your Own Statue things. I painted Snow White a couple years ago, then got busy with other things. But now with my mantra of catching up on old projects, here is Sleeping Beauty. Or Brier Rose, if you prefer.

These are quite fun to paint. You can do them as simply or as elaborately as you wish. My daughters have painted up a few to practice their brush skills, but I use an airbrush to try to get as smooth a finish as possible. I actually use Ceramcoat craft paints, thinned with water and a bit of a flow agent. You have to be careful not to get them too thin (first coat of her dress, ahem), but too thick and it can really clog the airbrush. Like most things, practice, practice, practice!

The hair I actually did use a brush with some Vallejo Pale Yellow. Same for some facial details, including the lips and eyebrows, with some drybrush rouge. I did the eyes with a technical pen.

I still have a bunch of these in the stash, with Belle up next, followed possibly by Ariel. But it's not all princesses - there are some Monsters Inc. characters, Mickey and Minney, and Starlord and Rocket Raccoon. Enough to keep me busy for a while.