Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Here Come the Irish!

Don't mess with the Irish!

 Happy St. Patrick's Day! Seemed like a good time to post some pics of my Irish warband for Saga. This has been an interesting one. It's a mix of Footsore, Crusader and Wargames Atlantic. That's right, plastics. My first real big dive into plastics. Overall, I really like them!

These were fairly quick and easy to paint. Lots of earth tones, and not a lot of gear. Shield transfers are from Relic Miniatures out of Canada and worked very well.

I have ordered some more slingers from Footsore, but otherwise this is basically ready for the table. Watch out, Viking raiders! The Irish are ready.

The full warband so far

King Brian Boru himself.


Could not resist this!

Is there a better name than Ulf the Quarrelsome?


Wargames Atlantic look good

Would not want to meet him in a dark alley.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Has Anyone Missed Me?

Wow. It has been a while, hasn't it? I'm not even sure where to begin in discussing the misadventures of the past few years that have kept me from this blog. I rather feel like King Harold in this meme - it seemed like every time I turned around, it was something else!

I know everyone has a tale of woe from 2020, but I like to say our 2020 actually started in 2019. Early spring to be precise, then by fall it was a full-blown cluster. It started off well enough, with a new job at a local community college, and I got to attend FlintCon. But let's say it started at spring break with a car breakdown - in Florida. We sold it for parts and left it there. And more ominously, my wife just did not feel well...

That trend continued throughout the summer, with multiple tests and one biopsy with suspicion of cancer. We didn't do a lot over the summer, only managed one long weekend getaway up north. At least I got to go to Indy, which was another "unknown last one" for a while.

Anyhoo, by fall things really went bad. September 11 to be precise. What is it with that day? Wife had her biopsy that led to a conclusive cancer diagnosis. Person who held my job previously to me died, so they no longer had to hold the position open for her on medical leave, so it became open to anyone, and they decided to hire someone else. And I turned 50, with that inherent midlife crisis. Not. A. Good. Day.

I continued working until the end of October, but overall the fall was rough, with chemo treatments and watching that ravage her. By the holidays it was clear she would no longer be able to work, so, and this was one of the small blessings, I took over her job. Yes, I went in in January to teach 8th grade English as her long-term sub. It actually went well, all things considered. There was that week between Christmas and New Year's when she was in the hospital, which was rough, and then the three-week stay in the UM hospital in Ann Arbor in February for the bone marrow transplant, but we managed. Of course, that put both of my annual treks to game cons - SpartaCon in January and FlintCon in February, off the table. 

Which brings us up to Friday the 13th in March, the day everything came to a screeching halt. Covid. Ugh. We all know about that, so I won't say much. But suffice to say, I was out of a job. Again! Fortunately I was able to go on unemployment, which lasted through the summer. By fall, we had figured out how to more or less do in-person school safely, so I went back in as my wife's sub while she taught remotely through Google Meet. Kids are amazingly adaptable!

But I am actually getting ahead of myself. Let's back up to the April/May timeframe. I'm home, not working. She's trying to throw together some kind of virtual school. And she finds out the transplant did not work. The cancer is back. Oh, and then the area gets hit with an epic 500-year flood when a dam breaks after a storm. Fortunately we stayed mostly dry, barely. The water rose within a couple hundred feet of our house, and houses one street over were badly damaged. She evacuated that night with the kids while I stayed to man the pumps. I don't think many people in the county slept much that night!

Oh, and about the same time, my dad got diagnosed with colon and liver cancer. 2020 sucked.

So that brings us to summer, and a new chemo treatment. This one is not billed as a cure, but it is working to keep it under control, at least for now. Who knows for how long. And it is not as rough - her hair is growing back (curly) and she mostly feels OK after, if a little tired. Not like before, which would knock her down for days. 

Ultimately, the doctor gave her clearance to return to work a few weeks ago. We both have had our covid vaccines, so that helped. (Did I mention she was severely immuno compromised after the bone marrow transplant? Her immune system was wiped clean. Basically she was a newborn again and has to get all of her vaccines again.) So she went back teaching in front of kids for the first time in 14 months. And in a fortuitous stroke of good timing, I started working in the communications department of a local university the same day. I've gone in some, but a lot of it right now is from home, which is fine.

So, hopefully, things are looking up and we're getting back to "normal." But we realize how quickly things can change. I'm healthy. Kids are healthy. And we're just doing the best we can.

All of this doesn't mean things have been completely quiet on the hobby front. It has been a looong time since I played a miniatures game, but I have been able to get some painting in, and have taken up with some solitaire board games I rather enjoy. And I have gotten more into the model rocketry, and even some balsa aircraft! More on those to come, I hope.

If you bothered to read all that, thanks. It was beneficial to spew it all out. I hope I can get back to blogging about more fun things!

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