Sunday, May 21, 2017

Using plumbing supplies to scratbuild industrial terrain

My friend Jeff and I are scheduled to try out the new Necromunda, Shadow War: Armageddon next week.

Only, I don't have any terrain ready. Jeff says he has terrain, but he is far more lax than me on using the correct terrain for the setting. Frankly, I don't recall ever seeing his Sci-Fi terrain and I have this fear he'll foist modern terrain on me instead.

I did buy some GW terrain for Shadow War..

--but there is no way I can build and paint even one of them by next week to at least acceptable standards.

 I was tinkering with an idea that I had at the hardware store to use plumbing supplies for industrial piping terrain. Industrial pipes and such are suitable for Necromunda, so I assume it will be suitable for Shadow War.

I bought some plumbing pieces, the names and exact uses for I don't know.. But they are cheap hard plastic and look industrial in a 28mm setting.

The first thing I did was scrape off the brand names and anything else that would give it away with my Dremel...

I then spray painted them olive green and then distressed them by adding rust paint (dark and highlighted).

I then scrounged around for dollar store stuff I have been buying for possible terrain in the future. Well, today is that future for some stuff.

As a starter, I used four cheap dollar store coasters which I spray-painted in hazard lines and then dirtied up to go with the rusting look.

I am always buying this garden light transparent thing from the dollar store which I've used before as flight stands..

It can be equally suitable for transparent pipes.

I fitted the plumbing supplies on some board and added some brown-grey gesso to a base to make some modular industrial piping.

I also have been saving this plastic grid (used for some reason in Greek feta cheese packaging) which I used on one of the big plumbing supply things to make it look like a vent of some kind. I was going to put cotton to signify steam or smoke, but it struck me as overdoing it here, so I left it as is.

Lastly, I bought for future use a while ago this garden light thingy from the dollar store that looks very sci-fi and fantasy and added that to the other large piece..

This thing added to the plumbing piece can be anything we say it is.. a generator.. the death ray gun, the objective marker.. whatever. I think it works.

So, I quickly made 5 pieces for next week. Hopefully, I 'll have time to make some more terrain, but I think these 5 are a good start.

Patchistory weaves together unique and enjoyable Civ mechanics

About two years ago, I bought this Civ game called Patchistory from Deinko Games.

It's been sitting on my shelf all this time, but the recent Civ games I've been playing has reawakened my enjoyment of Civ, so I convinced my friends Jim and Pix to try it out recently.

Patchistory, one "h" by the way, is an abstract Civ game that encompasses 3 ages, Ancient, Medieval & Renaissance, and Industrial/Modern. This is a typical Civ thing which you see. What you don't see and this seems to be unique, is the tiling system. The heart of the game is the quilting of these "patches" that represent not just land (with its resources) but Wonders (another Civ trope) and heroes (also a Civ Trope) all in one.

Over the course of the game, each player quilts their empire (and just as in real life history and historical accidents) your empire/country becomes a hodge-podge of resources, heroes and wonders patched together over the centuries.

When you acquire these patches through a round-robin auction method, you must patch them in on at least one other of your tiles. Each of your tiles is typically separated by 4 1x1 rooms or 2 1x1 rooms with a 2 room extension. Each of these rooms can give you various resources provided they are visible when you tile them. To tile them, you can place them over or under an existing tile for the most part, like you would with a cloth patch on your jeans.

The catch is though that you are limited by 5x5 room size in the Ancient era, 6x6 for Medieval and 7x7 for the Modern world. You thus are increasingly getting squeezed in and have to make sacrifices as you can't use everything. You are forced to patch over old resources, or patch under new resources all the time.

In this example, I had 1 brown wasteland, 1 military room symbolized by 2 swords and a shield, and an airport room that would give me 3 more transportation functionality. However, I was limited by 7x7 space limits, so I patched the airport underneath, losing it's benefits.

Very unique mechanic I have not seen before.

As you patch here and there, you move your workers around to different rooms to maximize resources that you need. When they move off/ on to patches, your resource capacity changes accordingly. This has the effect of not making you complacent in what you got and you're always needing to adjust and plan accordingly.

You also are forced to think short term as you have "prosperity cards" that make you plan for secret goals at the end of every era, accomplished through player voting. The winner of a vote gets everyone's votes which ultimately get translated into victory points. The 3rd place guy in a 3 player game gets nothing.  If one of your prosperity cards was to maximize food for example, you would try and buy patches that had agriculture rooms. This way, when your prosperity card is up for voting, you would put all your votes on it. If you indeed had the most food for the end of that era, you would get everyone who voted for food's votes and thus victory points.

In a memorable event during the game, I was going for the most trade routes and saved up 10 votes for that. I had two trade routes, while Jim and Pixie only had 1 each. However, at the last round before voting, Pixie and Jim voted on peace unexpectedly between each other (Pixie had Napoleon but didn't use him on Jim!!), and thus opened up a two-way trade route. We thus each had  then two trade routes each. I could not fulfill my "most trade routes" objective and squandered all those votes.

Interaction with other players is usually by giving aid, threatening (which is basically a shakedown) or war.

I used this Bismark hero patch to threaten Pixie for 3 turns in a row, acquiring something like 20 victory points between her and the bank and it cost me nothing.

And that is not even war.

You can see either peace or war slowly coming toward you when a player has a trade route to you. The player collects goodies on the way, but when they finally reach you, you have to decide for peace or war in a secret method where you both reveal your intentions simultaneously.  If both decide on peace, then a two way trade route gets established. If one decides on war, then its a comparison of military strength with hidden resources thrown in. Of course, you'll only know who won the war in the next turn, giving both sides time to build up resources to use against the other.

Even if you lose, you can never get exterminated in this game, hence it's a 3X game. Still, war is no picnic as the winner gets oodles of victory points.

The auction as I said is for the patches, and bidding can get hot and heavy. Given the space constraints or the demand for a certain resource you desperately need, you sometimes have to throw good money over bad to get that patch. I've seen Jim and Pixie bidding and re-bidding a certain patch they both needed.

Production values are okay, as there is a nice points tracker and reference screen..

However, I found the patches a bit flimsy, but they were double-sided. Indeed, most most cards we did not use in the game and there is thus lots of replayability in Patchistory.

The game overall is very enjoyable and I would encourage all Civ players to give it a try.

Thumbs up! I am keeping this game.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stripping Miniatures with an Ultrasonic Cleaner

I've recently come across miniature painting pros on YouTube espouse the benefits of having an ultrasonic cleaner to strip minis.

These machines are used to clean jewelry, coins, glasses, etc. You immerse them in liquid such as soap and water, and the machine uses vibrations and cavitation to shake up whatever is being cleaned.

I find stripping minis a chore. First, you have to soak the minis for days and days sometimes, then use an old toothbrush to scrape the old paint away.. Ughh..

I usually strip minis because I made a mistake or I buy old sculpts off ebay that are usually badly painted. (As a side note, you ever notice the overuse of the phrase "pro painted" on ebay?)

Intrigued, I ordered an inexpensive one off ebay about 2 or 3 days ago and by some miracle, it arrived today. This must be an ebay record for me.

Anyways, I did a little experiment. I recently bought an old Mordheim warband off ebay cheaply, but the paint job is goddawful.. Just look at them.. Whomever painted these just vomited on the paint willy-nilly with no shading or highlights.

These are cheap sculpts from about 17 years ago, even by GW standards, so it's no big deal if I can't strip them.

I am not sure, even if I do strip them, I will repaint them. Whomever put these together did not know what he was doing. I mean, who holds a halberd like this, as if they were throwing a javelin at the Olympics or something..

Anyways, I put in a 1:1 ratio of water and Green cleaning liquid and let it run. The machine runs for 3 minutes and then stops, so I decided to do it 4 times, for 12 minutes and see what happens.

I took one out and scrubbed it with my old stripping toothbrush..

but it was not coming off.

I decided to empty the machine, and this time, use 100% of green cleaner and let it run 5 times, for a total of 15 minutes.

When I went to investigate the final time, the liquid was starting to get warm. I decided to stop as you don't want your plastic minis in a boiling cauldron.

I took one out and I was relieved to see it was coming off after applying my toothbrush lightly.

This is very promising as ordinarily, this would take days sometimes and lots of scrubbing.

I'll let it cool and give it another 3 minutes and scrub off the rest tomorrow.

For $30 US, this is a good investment for those who strip a lot.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Out of left field.. Was Games Workshop's warpstone inspired by the New Age moldavite stone?

I've been playing Mordeim: City of the Damned on Steam these last couple of days, which is based on the beloved skirmish tabletop game by GW. Like the tabletop game, you have a warband in the abandoned magical Chernobyl that was Mordheim looking for the magically green warpstone (aka wyrdstone) to sell to your patron.

My gang of killers meets and dispatches other gangs of killers looking for the precious stone, as I did here in this screenshot.

The computer game reminded me of the origins of GW's ubiquitous warpstone, and that it came from a comet that destroyed the city of Mordheim.  This intro from the game explains it.


Warpstone/wyrdstone is a staple in the Warhammer fantasy universe as it's everywhere and used especially by the Skaven for their artillery.

I see it's even in Bloodbowl.

While I have been playing the game, I kept calling the warpstone "Moldavite" unconsciously and only now did I realize it and got a good laugh.

Let me explain..

I'm a bit of a New Age guy, so I am familiar with a lot of the discussions going on among my fellow New Agers. One hobby that I have is collecting crystals as I find them unwordly, nice to look at and soothing to the touch.

Moldavite is a rare tektite from the Czech Republic, named after the nearby town where it was discovered, Moldauthein. A tektite is a glass-like deposit formed from the heat of impacting meteors.

This is what Moldavite looks like. 

In Moldavite's case, a meteor slammed into what is now Southern Germany and the Czech Republic about 15 million years ago, and like Mordheim, it created this greenish stone.

Moldavite is rare, as the meteor only managed to generate 275 tons worldwide.. Rare like warpstone.

I happen to own some rare Moldavite myself, as part of my crystal collection.

Moldavite is sought after in the New Age community, so much so that a fake cottage industry has been born, selling worthless glass to eager buyers.

The reason there are so many cheap fakes is because, like warpstone, real moldavite is very expensive..

Why am I talking about this tektite with respect to the magical warpstone of GW?

Well, Moldavite is reputed to have all sorts of "magical" qualities.. healing, seeing ghosts, "raising your vibration", etc, as these people say:

There are a lot more testimonials on YouTube.. I personally have not had any experiences.

Anyways, in both cases, there is a celestial impact, and a magical green mineral forms that is sought after.

I don't think GW staff were aware of the similarities, but it is an amusing out-of-left-field thought..

Supplemental: Someone pointed out that Southern Germany/ Czech Republic is approximately where Mordheim would be given that old time Warhammer Fantasy was set in this faux Holy Roman Empire setting.

Also, I've gotten some strange comments. Clearly, this post was written tongue-in-cheek and I was not positing a theory on the origin of warpstone. I just wanted to draw the similarities between the two rocks. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tried Scythe.. an unspiring worker-placement cube-pusher

I sat down with my friends Jim and Jeff today to play the hyped-up game Scythe, by Stonemaier Games.

The cover art looks beautiful, and it has an alternate-Earth theme which I love and Mechs, which interest me as I never got to scratch my Battletech curiosity itch as a kid.

It's set in this 1920 post-WW1 dieselpunk theme somewhere in Russia, or what we would call Russia on our timeline. I don't know much about the Scythe universe, but I imagine the Scythe is a mirror symbol of the USSR's sickle.. We had the Russian Revolution (the Sickle) and Scythe had Mechs and different factions vying for power in a war-torn land.  At least, that is my guess on why the game is called Scythe, history-lover that I am.

Whatever.. let's get to the mech combat I thought...

The first thing I was told was that it's a Euro cube-pusher...


and despite the beautiful box cover art, every side gets only 4 mech minis for this entire huge board.

My friend Jeff, who owns the game, had to stress to me and Jim that this was not a strategy war game but an economic worker-placement game with a bit of Mech warfare thrown in.  Despite Russia's famous steamroller of infantry historically, this game's only combat is 4 Dieselpunk Mechs per side. No infantry.

Jeff got the game from someone who Kickstarted it with all the goodies, so the production values were nice..  Nice metallic coins, oil barrels, wheat bags, wood and real metal bars.. I was overall impressed with the Kickstarter production values.

The cards in the game have whimsical text that was interesting (for example, the "bears frolic together in snow") and really beautiful art to be honest..


Then came all the moving parts to this game.. you build resources to generate points and build mechs, you upgrade, you trade resources, you do this, you do that.. this affects that.. that affects this..  I just rolled my eyes at first until I got used to it..

Every turn you can do two things on your card as indicated in four columns with a top part and a bottom part.. for example, buy resources and build a mech is in one column.. Jim let out an unintentional gag during the game when he said he had no wood and couldn't do the bottom action..This turned out to be the highlight of the game for us.

With all the resources on the large map and the paltry 4 mechs each, the game seemed bare to me.. Sure the map looks pretty and takes a large footprint, but it didn't do it for any of us.

Combat in the game is dull. You basically add an amount based on your energy to this wheel and throw in some combat cards... add them up and compare it to the other guy.. the highest wins. And by winning, he doesn't destroy the enemy Mech nor his workers, but they just start all over again in their home base.

Not only is combat dull, but it's discouraged despite the impression you get looking at the box art. It's discouraged because combat costs energy points, but more importantly, it could cost you popularity points, which affect multipliers at the end of the game when assessing victory points.

For example, the red and yellow hearts represent a mid level of popularity, which give 4 x, 3x and 2x, multipliers on certain victory conditions. If yellow engages in war and loses 1 popularity point down to 6, his end of game multipliers when counting up victory points is now 3x, 2x, 1x.. Why the hell would anyone risk combat because of that?

Neither me, nor Jim nor Jeff, were overly impressed by this game. The alternate-Earth Russian mech theme seems bolted on to cube-pusher mechanics.. the alternate Earth dieselpunk theme (even though on beautiful art and map), seemed almost an afterthought.

With just 3 of us on a large map, we just expanded and pushed cubes around.

I am getting tired of board games to be honest, especially the hype over the new shiny ball syndrome that this hobby suffers from. Scythe was raved about by all the Euro loving players, who love all the worker placement stuff, but I see now it was just overblown hype.

I'd rather just paint models and fight miniature battles at this point, instead of wasting my Saturday afternoon chasing victory points by making sure my wooden cubes are in the proper place.