Tuesday 31 March 2015

497 - Life Lessons

I'm a teacher. 

Love us or hate us, our job is to try to teach stuff to kids, and by-and-large - despite all bloody interference by ministers and tabloids - we tend take an immense pride in our jobs. Sometimes, we even take it seriously.

Last month, however, I was forced - forced, I tell you - to stop teaching a lesson on genre tropes ten whole minutes early in response to overhearing an 11 year old boy telling his group that a genre feature of sci-fi was 'Jar-Jar Binks'.

Once I'd finished spluttering, gesticulating and suppressing profanities, I spent the remaining time putting them straight through a long, multifaceted rant. Here's what was still there of my copious notes at the end of the lesson:
What fools these mortals be.

- Drax.

Friday 27 March 2015

496 - Bolt Action Scenic Pin Markers/Order Dice

Hullo - I thought some of you might like what I made last fortnight:
They're 'Heroclix' bases, which function as order dice holders and pin markers for those folks who - like me - get easily confused.

I must point out, that this is not my original idea: it's taken wholesale from the marvellous work of Jarec at SIX-D-SIX (link here) who also gives such a smashing tutorial that even I was able to follow it. And boy, are these quick to make!

For once, I'll let the pics speak for themselves...
With thanks again to the excellent Jarec,

- Drax.

Monday 23 March 2015

495 - Review: T&L Terrain 40K/28mm Resins: Part 1 - By Gamers; For Gamers

Hullo, All.

The good folks at T&L Terrain [link here] have been so kind as to send me a package of their resin goodies to review, and though time and photographically useful daylight have conspired against me for the last few weeks, I've finally got the opportunity to post up my first impressions.

In Part 1 I'll take you through the models themselves and my thoughts on the casts.

Before I start, though, I ought to point out that I rather like the idea of what these guys are doing: they're trying to offer what they describe as gaming 'scenics' for "pocket money prices" - their words - and straight off the bat this to me is a hugely tempting prospect. At the moment they're trading mainly via facebook and ebay, and I must say, their communication with me has been personable and prompt!

Let me talk you through the sample pack they sent me and then I'll explore each pack's scuplts. The package was incredibly swift to arrive: it got to the back end of nowhere in Devon the next day! FULL POINTS for postage.
Included in the parcel from T&L (clockwise from top-centre):
  • medium (40mm) round cobble street bases (x5)
  • well kit
  • 25mm round 'industrial' bases (x10)
  • bunker door
  • 25mm round 'desert' bases (x10)
  • half bag of 'dark soil weathering powder.
NB: All of these 'baggies' will - in this post - be reviewed just as they were unpacked: any clean-up will happen later, trust me!

40mm Round Cobble Street Bases:

[With these, as with all of the items, the flash on the bottom edges is inconsequential.]
These really are delightful. They're beveled after the GW 40K style of bases (in terms of angle, depth, texture etc.) but stylistically probably more suited to basing more 'real-world' miniatures...and the detail of the cobbles is wonderful in its European timelessness. I can imagine these being absolutely perfect for Malifaux or anything with historical or pseudo-historical setting.
The Good: 
The detail is lovely and not too uniform - although they are all identically sculpted, the scalloped pattern of the cobbles means that this works extremely well together. 
The Bad:
One of the bases (the centre one, above) has a few tiny bubbles in the cobbles (like, 0.5mm), which is a shame but easily remedied; the only other thing I might have liked would be same deliberately missing, damaged or loose cobbles, as these would be brilliant for - say - the fall of Berlin.
The Price:
£5 for a pack of five.

The Well Kit:

This is another great idea for a pretty damned timeless bit of battlefield scenery, and I simply cannot look at it without thinking of the opening of '300'. The well is in two halves and includes a trio of beams to surmount it.
The Good: 
Pretty much everything, actually: the detail is crisp and the damaged stone edge (near the left-hand post-hole, above) is a great little detail.
The Bad:
Struggling here. It's just smashing to look at - we'll see how it goes together in the next post...
The Price:
An absolute STEAL, I reckon, at just £3!

25mm Round 'Industrial' Bases:
These really impressed me. Again, the detail is crisp and clear, and there's a good bit of variety here too. As before, they're GW-like in style, but be aware that 'industrial' is more 'late-Victorian factory or slum' than 41st century 'Manufactorum'.
The Good: 
Again, pretty much everything. These are very good-looking bases, and I particularly like the height dynamic of the clumps of brickwork clinging together.
The Bad:
If I had to find something, one could argue that the bricks are maybe a little on the large side...but I rather suspect that all of us playing at 28mm scale (heroic or otherwise) are used to suspending out disbelief...
The Price:
£6 for ten. I would be very happy with this price. Pocket money prices.

Bunker Door: 

- This is genius. Lump of packaging material + this door = awesome bit of scenery. The most fantastic element of this is that it is every bit as usable for a WW2 setting (think 'Wolfenstein') as it is for 39,000 years into the Empire of Mankind! 
The Good: 
Great, simple, timeless design.
The Bad:
This piece was quite warped when I got it out of the bag (it's quite thin in the middle) so I had to warm it up and flatten it - this was straightforward at least. It also came with some weird black marks all over it - I assume they're part of the mould release, but I thought it a little odd to ship a piece out like that...
The Price:
A smashing idea, but somewhat pricey I reckon, at £5.

25mm Round 'Desert' Bases:
Oh boy. 

For me, these are the best thing in the sample. They're cast in what I'm told is a newer resin: it's whiter and significantly cleaner-looking...and these bases are just gorgeous!
The Good: 
Simplicity done really, really well. Again, T&L have managed to gauge the 'height' dynamic of the bases just right with those jutting rocks: they just look perfectly organic...if 'organic' is the right word for things geological!
The Bad:
NOTHING. There is nothing bad about these.
The Price:
As before: perfect pocket money cost at £6.Here's some more pics, because I like these so much:

'Dark Soil' Weathering Powder:
This was the first thing I pulled out of the parcel and the ever-patient Mrs Drax gave me a brief 'are-you-in-fact-receiving-shipments-of-heroin?' kind of a look before sighing and walking away.

This is a half-portion sample of T&L's weathering powder, and I must admit this is something of an unknown beast for me: I've never used it before. Still, I've been watching some tutorials, and I'm going to try my damnedest to paint up my Bolt Action Cromwell ASAP so that I can review it properly. Watch this space.
The Good: 
It looks like dark soil. That helps, right?
The Bad:
It's also looks like heroin.
The Price:
Apparently, a pot with twice the sample amount I have above costs a mere £2. Happy days.

VERDICT (Part 1): 

These are some lovely-looking bits of kit for pretty damned reasonable prices.  

If you're wondering whether I'm on the take here, then shame on you! If your a reader of my blog then you know me better than that! I just wanted to give them some screentime because I like what they do. Here's their link again: [here] and here: https://www.facebook.com/TlTerrain . WHY NOT HEAD ON OVER? - With luck and a following wind I'll pop up a permanent ad for them very soon...

Do please let me know your thoughts...

- Drax.

Sunday 15 March 2015

494 - First Bolt Action British - Finished!

[...pretty much.]

With hearty thanks to all those of you who offered such wonderful and helpful advice: I've lightened the First Six with a light drybrush in key places and almost finished the basing.
I say 'almost' because I fully intend to add some higher grass tufts or flowers to the bases, but I don't actually own any, and I've banned myself from ANY hobby spending this month after a splurge.

Here them be:

After some further advice from Karitas, I might even try highlighting their faces a little, but watch this space...


- Drax.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

493 - 28mm Painting Help Needed, Please!

Hullo, All.

Much to my surprise I've been enjoying the process of painting my Bolt Action British troops, but I have a worry: they appear rather dark.

In my ongoing bid to 'grow up a bit' and try paints other than Citadel (which are excellent, but which keep changing!) I thought I'd try some of the well-regarded Strong Tone. It seems more-or-less on a par with GW's Sepia anyway, BUT now I've used it, I'm a little worried that my minis look a wee bit too dark even for me...and I like 'em grimy.
My question is: what can I do, please, to either lighten them up a little or bring them a little more dynamism.
I do realise that once the bases have some greenery on them they'll look less severe, and I love that they look infinitely better than they did before Strong Tone, but I'm still a little frustrated. I suspect one of you might advise me to repaint the lighter colours, but I don't want them to end up looking like the Warlord Games Studio Brits - as if they've just Blanco'ed all of their webbing and khaki [see here: link] - so I thought I ought to ask for your help first.
In case you can't see it(!) I've used the dreaded 'autocorrect' to adjust this next picture a little so that you can just about see the red details above and below the Black Bull: the curved red regimental title and the red 'arm of service' stripe [excellent research notes on these, incidentally is to be found here: (link)]: I painted these an appropriately muted red before, but now they seem too muted.
Likewise the NCOs' stripes: I'm fairly pleased with them, but ought I to have painted them white in the first instance, rather than 'biscuit' (Bleached Bone)?

Any help you can offer, Dear Readers, will - as ever - be gratefully received.

Yours hopefully,

- Drax.

PS: I'm rather worried that the chap on the left rather has the look of Nigel Farage about him...or should that be 'on the right'?

Wednesday 4 March 2015

492 - EXCITEMENT! First X-Wing Tournament - Part 2

Time, then, for Part Deux of my Exe-Wing tournament write-up. 

I left you at the halfway point:

Game 1: Modified Win - 12-0
Game 2: Match Loss - 0-100

Next, Game 3

Game 3: Tim with Empire: a Decimator List
Notes and Result:

This Tim also seemed fairly well matched with me in terms of experience, and was a very helpful chap to boot. Plus, he wooed me with a generous offering of Fox's Glacier Mints on the sidelines. Yay! He brought with him the kind of list I'd been fearing: the Decimator was captained by Capt Oicunn and packing proton bombs, flanked by Howlrunner and Backstabber with another Academy Pilot making up numbers.

Me deploying first meant that Oicunn set a course to overrun me, and - not being sharp-witted enough to avoid this fully - I sacrificed the Z-95 to take the hit from the terrifyingly pointy ship. So far, so inevitable, but what I'd completely forgotten about was the proton bomb just about to drop out of its pointy backside. Rats. I've never played against bombs before and was caught out utterly: both the Z-95 and the X-Wing took a hit.


Tim was also kind enough to remind me before the game about how the bombs work.

Pointy nastiness
Still, I rallied my forces, managed a sneaky wee bit of K-turning and some cunning manoeuvring, and started fighting back. First to fall was the Decimator itself - I stripped its shields, crippled it with some lucky rolls and finished it off soundly by managing to steer most of my ships to have it arc. Rather pleasingly, it was the sturdy old Y-Wing that finished it off!
Gritty survivors!
At this point, Tim's defences sadly crumbled, and to my surprise and delight his other three ships soon went too. He was kicking himself that he hadn't focussed on destroying my Y-Wing when it was limping, but honestly my Mutts and Mongrels were on a roll in this game, and astonishingly they all made it through.

Result: Match Win (99-0)

Game 4 - Tom with a 'Phat Han' List
Notes and Result:

This was one match-up I was really interested to play - I was quite excited going into my last game! 

I was playing against Tom, who knew his Star Wars fluff inside-out and really enjoyed the construction of my list, noting how typical it was for the rebels to just cobble together whatever ships they could find for a sortie. I guess that's why I was fielding a 'Prototype' A-Wing, right?

First, a brief note on the tactics I'd been using through the day:

- None.

That's not strictly true. I was trying to use the A-Wing as a flanking outrider, but that was about it, and now I was facing an actual outrider: the beautiful YT-2400 'Outrider' piloted by the marvellous Dash Rendar and escorted by Chewbacca in the YT-1300 Millennium Falcon, helped out by his crewmates R2-D2 and C3PO. The crew choices were a wee bit beardy maybe, but the two ships together look amazing - and how very cinematic to see the two smugglers zooming round the board together!

And for this game, I genuinely planned and played tactics: The A-Wing was deployed in a feint to swoop by and strafe the Falcon before zooming off to run interference with the Outrider. This worked. Whilst the A-Wing stopped Dash Rendar doing what he should do best by flying annoyingly in his way, the others systematically swarmed round the Falcon and took it apart. Rather poetically, after my Mutts took it in turns to get in Chewy's way, it was obstructed by the X-Wing, ion-ed twice by the Y-wing, then finished off by the Z-95.

Then it was just a matter of chasing down the Outrider - cue 'Benny Hill' music as my ships bumbled round the board in the last minutes of play, crashing into each other and trying to head Rendar off at the pass. The B-Wing was on its last hull-point and bound to die, but as it happened, my rush to manoeuvre meant that all of my ships ended up crashing into each other within Range 1 of the Outrider - meaning that he couldn't actually shoot me: Woo-hoo!

This time, the X-Wing took the final shot. Nice. The tactics worked.
The dying moments - a portrait in three parts.

Result: Match Win (100-0).


To my surprise and utter delight, it turns out that I finished sixth out of twenty-two!

Top-eight! Woo-hoo!

I got as a prize not only the special character card we all received but also a shiny new (literally shiny) X-Wing dice bag. Bolt Action here we come!

It really was an absolutely smashing day, and the X-Wing system - if not too roughly abused - is genuinely a great leveller for newbies. Thanks go out to all the organisers.

Here's to next time, eh?

Fly Casual...

- Drax.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

491 - EXCITEMENT! First X-Wing Tournament - Part 1

Hullo, Friends!
I've actually got a couple of posts in the pipeline for once, but first...NEWS!

This last weekend I had the singular joy of attending my first official X-Wing tournament - it was co-hosted by Kirton Games (of Col. Gravis/Curious Constructs fame - see banner, above) in Exeter and it was an absolute blast!

Yup, 'Exe-Wing' (for what else could they call it?!) was a four-round, Swiss-style tourney, and on the off-chance you're vaguely interested, I'll give you a quick run-down of my trials and tribulations here, in two parts.

The 'Mutts and Mongrels'

You know me by now - I'm not particularly competitive, and I haven't even played X-Wing since before Christmas, so I went for a squadron that was suitably in keeping with the canon - it would also be simple to use and not 'gamey'. It was as follows:
As it turned out, there was a fair bit of list variety in the room - from the beardy net-lists to the rather fun ones. There was also a 'Scum and Villainy' list, although I didn't get to play them. Rather pleasingly, I did get a couple of compliments on the fluffy/canonical nature of my squadron - I'm glad that folks noticed!

Game 1 - Tim with an Empire 'Mini-Swarm'
Notes and Result: 

In Tim's own words a little later, "This was a tough list a couple of years ago!" Tim's pretty new to the game and was an absolute gent to play against: we were both bumbling through a lot of rustiness with the rules and I lost us at least two minutes as my bottle of drink sprayed all over the floor, but our ships finally clashed and eventually - in the dying seconds of a slow game - I managed to kill (for no loss) an Academy Pilot. That was the lowest of the low in terms of kills, but it was enough to scrape me, at twelve points, a 'modified win'.
This mat looks amazing...This mat, though, prevents you from seeing absolutely ANY playing pieces - it's a right pain in the Wookie!
Result = Modified Win (12-0)

Game 2 - Rich with Empire: the 'Royal Guard' - 4 Interceptors
Notes and Result:

Since this match I've been scratching my head, wondering just what - if anything - I could've done to maybe shoot down just one of his ships...but I can't think of very much. As it happened, four Interceptors with 'Push the Limit' are enough to run rings around anyone! My only consolation was that my plucky little A-Wing didn't shy away, and upon finding he was the sole survivor of my squadron he charged headlong into the enemy formation - staying bafflingly alive for two more rounds before succumbing. I was tabled.
Valiant death of an A-Wing.
Result = Match Loss (0-100)

Tune in next time for Part Deux and the final placing...