My Biggest Gaming Regrets

I thought I would be able to get a few more Star Trek miniatures painted this month, but I’ve been playing a lot of Horizon: Zero Dawn, and my painting time has suffered somewhat. Instead, I thought I’d post something without pictures and see how that goes…

I subscribe to Uncle Atom’s YouTube channel, Tabletop Minions, because he often has an interesting point of view about hobby stuff. Recently, he delved into his Biggest Wargaming Regrets, from buying the wrong army to not buying an airbrush early enough. His video got me thinking about my own gaming regrets; what do I wish I hadn’t done, or what would I do differently if I had the time and hindsight to start over?

Uncle Atom and I share some of the same regrets, although not buying an airbrush isn’t one of mine. Here, in no particular order, are my top seven regrets about gaming:

I don’t make enough terrain. (This is also Uncle Atom’s first big regret.) When I started wargaming, most of my games took place at the FLGS where I bought my stuff. There was plenty of terrain available, albeit of dubious quality: ruins made of Styrofoam trays, rock piles and scatter brush, printed cardboard terrain (like the walkways in the original Necromunda box) and the like. It wouldn’t win any awards, but it provided an adequate setting for some fun games.

Nowadays, any gaming I do is in my own home, and the friends I play with are not wargamers themselves. Thus, any and all terrain must be supplied by me, whether it is purchased or constructed. I would much rather paint miniatures than build terrain, as I consider the former to be fun and the latter to be work. There are some exceptions, but to be honest, terrain-building isn’t really my strong suit, so I often buy a lot of it (which can get expensive). There’s also the problem of storage; I have difficulty figuring out where the hell to put the stuff when I’m not using it (which, given how often I actually play, is most of the time).

I wish I had discovered smaller games sooner. Like many folks, my first introduction to wargaming was through Games Workshop and Warhammer 40K, with Warhammer Fantasy Battle soon to follow. As an AD&D player, I had collected and painted fantasy miniatures for years prior to my “discovery” of wargaming, so miniatures weren’t new to me. Gaming with them, though, was a new concept.

I soon fell in love with GW and the Warhammer world, and still have many fond memories of playing throughout my college years. The cost of GW gaming, while not as ridiculous as it is currently, was high even back then. I’m still amazed that I managed to put together the armies I had, given my budget. As a student I had very little money to spare. When Necromunda and Mordheim came out (GW’s skirmish games) , I pretty much ignored them in favor of the bigger games because I already had the armies and didn’t want to spend money on anything new. I couldn’t really afford to, anyway.

The only alternative to Warhammer, as far as I knew, was historical wargaming. I didn’t have much interest in historical gaming (I like wizards and dragons over Spartans and triremes). If I had only discovered (non-GW) skirmish wargaming sooner, I would have likely played a lot more games, and would have probably found more people to game with. Many of these would be the same folks who were put off by the entry cost (in both time and money) of GW gaming, as well as GW’s insistence on using only “official” miniatures in their games. Today, the market is flooded with smaller scale games by independent publishers. Many don’t require a specific line of miniatures. I wish I was aware of other wargaming options like these back then.

I didn’t really give a shit about basing my miniatures until it was way past time to give a shit about basing my miniatures. The Ral Partha and Grenadier miniatures I painted during my early years in the hobby all came on their own bases. I never really bothered to paint bases anything other than a glossy (!) grey or green until I discovered flocked slotta bases when I started playing Warhammer 40K. When I moved on to Warhammer Fantasy, I never bothered to fill the slots on the bases, even if the tabs on the bottom of the miniatures on them didn’t fill the slots completely. Now I have many old GW miniatures with open slots on their bases that look like shit. I suppose I could go back and rebase them, but I just don’t have  the time or the inclination. Instead, I just get annoyed whenever I look at them.

Nowadays I consider basing to be an important part of painting any miniature, and a lot of thought generally goes into which base I use. Just as a good base can turn a mediocre-looking miniature into a good-looking miniature, poor basing can really bring the overall aesthetic of a miniature down. I’m a fan of sculpted scenic bases, but these can get expensive. The availability of ready-to-use tufts and basing effects is a good thing.

I was ignorant of using the right tools for the job for far too long. I didn’t discover acrylic paint until I started painting space marines and they came with a set of five Citadel paints. Up until then, I painted everything with Testor’s gloss enamels, which are horrible to work with and are very limited in color palette. Green stuff? WTF was green stuff? Instead I used Squadron modelling putty to fill gaps because I thought it was better than Testor’s modelling putty (and trust me, it is).

I didn’t own a pair of nippy cutters until about 2006, when I was in the middle of a period when I had stopped painting and playing games regularly. Until then, I cut everything off a sprue or made any modifications to metal miniatures using only an X-acto knife. (It’s a wonder I didn’t cut my fingertips off.)

When gluing models together I never pinned anything because I didn’t have a drill other than a pin vise, and cutting pinning wire with an X-acto knife was too much of a pain to make me want to try. I opted to use copious amounts of putty instead, which rarely worked well, considering the quality of the putty I was using.

As you can see, I often “improvised”, even when I didn’t know I was improvising. That sucked. Nowadays, I am a big proponent of using the right tool for the job, whatever that job might be, and regardless of whether or not I’ll ever need a particular tool again. (Example: About five years ago, I bought an angle grinder to sharpen an axe blade because I didn’t want to hone it by hand. I used it once and haven’t needed to use it again, because my axe is still sharp, seeing how I’ve only used the axe about 3 times since I bought it.) This is especially true of my hobby tools; if something will make my life easier, I’m likely to buy it even if it’s only to use it once. I’m lazy like that.

Now I own clippers and a Dremel and green stuff, and I have more acrylic paints than I ever thought possible, which really isn’t anything to brag about considering these things (with the possible exception of the Dremel) and others like them are pretty much basic supplies anyone in the hobby should own. Took me long enough to figure that out.

Uncle Atom says he waited too long to buy an airbrush and suggests that if I buy one I’ll use it all the time. He may be right, but I haven’t felt the need to buy one of those yet. I don’t paint many large, flat surfaces, and those I do have occasion to paint are easily done with the right paintbrush. We’ll see if that changes. I’m mainly put off by the knowledge that airbrush maintenance is more time-consuming than cleaning a paintbrush. Who needs that?

I don’t know how to sculpt. This one is pretty self-explanatory. I wish I knew how to sculpt, as working with green stuff is the bane of my hobby existence. I can handle filling gaps and sculpting things that take minimal skill (like entrails), but that’s about the extent of my abilities. I don’t want to be Sandra Garrity or Mark Copplestone, but it would be nice to be able to sculpt a hat or a cape; or perhaps some hair.

I have asked good sculptors for their advice and even attempted to follow it, but with poor results. I even changed my sculpting medium from green stuff to magic sculpt with equally poor results. I know sculpting, like painting, is a skill that gets better over time and with practice. I just lack the patience and wish I had learned the basics sooner.

I have a hard time saying goodbye to things I know I will never use. I am a collector of many things,  miniatures first among them. I’ve collected a lot of miniatures over the years. Some date back to my earliest days as a Dungeons and Dragons player. Many are from my early wargaming days. Still more, however, have been purchased in the last 15 years or so for any number of games or projects that I know (now) that I will never get to.

It’s tough to get rid of any of my things, especially miniatures. I never understood people who can labor for a year on an army and then sell it when they get tired of playing it. I could never easily sell any of my painted miniatures. To me, they are an investment of time where the results can be clearly seen. Are they all masterpieces? Certainly not. But they’re something I did for no other reason than I wanted to, and looking at them makes me happy and brings back fond memories (most of the time).

I have given much morbid thought to the fact that I won’t be here forever, and barring unforeseen catastrophe, my miniatures are likely to survive me. When that happens, they will become someone else’s problem. I feel like I should take steps to minimize that problem while I’m still here, especially if I care about the someone else in question. Yet somewhere in my mind I still think it’s possible that I’ll paint those two complete Clan War armies I’ve had languishing in a box since 1998, learn the rules for this unsupported and OOP game, get some friends interested in playing, and play regularly.

It could happen. Best not to get rid of them just yet.

I don’t play games often enough. My biggest regret, to be sure. I have no good excuse for not being able to play games. I have a perfect space for it and I have more leisure time than most people I know.

That being said, I have blogged (whined, really) elsewhere that any miniatures and terrain used in my games would have to be supplied by me and me alone. I am also quite particular about who I invite into my home. Even so, I do not live particularly close to my gaming buddies, who are always welcome, of course. But they’re mainly roleplayers, not wargamers.

As I said above, I used to play at the FLGS, but that store is long gone. All the ones that took its place cater to the GW and Privateer Press crowd, so small-scale, small press games have no real home there. And that’s what I’m interested in playing nowadays.

The problem with retailer-based gaming  (to me, at least) is that the retailer has little, if any, incentive to offer or promote games other than what sells best. That’s why here in the US you rarely see anything other than GW or Privateer Press games being played in game stores. There may be exceptions, but if so, they’re not around me. I guess the answer is to start a club of my own. I think I’m going to try to do something akin to the “European” model, i.e. not being affiliated with or based in a retail establishment. I have no real idea how to go about getting something like this started, but I am going to try to figure it out.

Next time, I hope to have the TNG bridge crew completed, with Kirk and Co. soon to follow.

Star Trek Adventures: Ruthless Romulans!

It’s Martin Luther King Day here in the USA, so I have the day off. I woke up this morning to a balmy 7 degrees Farenheit (that’s 13 below for any of my readers who use the Celsius scale). Definitely a day to stay indoors and paint some miniatures. My first batch of Modiphius Star Trek miniatures has been completed, and I decided to go quick and easy with the Romulan set. Since they’re essentially all painted the same, it was a small matter to get the entire set painted in short order.

This is a good thing, because they were not much fun to paint. Romulans aren’t known for their daring fashion sense. The limited grayscale palette wasn’t exciting, and they all have the same metal deck base. Yawn.

The exception was the Romulan commander, who I painted as Sela, the alternate-timeline daughter of Tasha Yar. Since Modiphius made the Romulan commander miniature female, I have to assume they expected other people would do this, too.

Once they were sealed, I added some gloss coat to their boots, belts and hair. Not sure I like the glossy hair, but at this point I may be too lazy to change it. All things considered, it’s a good set with some nice miniatures. Once I get the bridge crews done, I should be ready to try out a skirmish or two.

Modiphius Star Trek Miniatures: A Review

For Christmas, I gifted myself two sets of Modiphius miniatures for their Star Trek Adventures roleplaying game: the Next Generation Bridge Crew and the Romulan Strike Team. Then, after Christmas, I got the Original Series bridge crew at a staggering discount (see below). Here’s my review of all three sets. Spoiler: it’s not a universally great review. Some sets are much better than others, and the same problems are common to all.

Price: There seems to be a great deal of variation in the price of these sets. Modiphius sells them for $50.99 each, which is fucking insane even for licensed properties like this. Luckily, you can easily find these much cheaper simply by shopping around. I paid $24.56 with free shipping for the TNG bridge crew, and $16.88 for the Romulans, both from Amazon vendors. Then, I managed to find the Original Series bridge crew for only $8.00 plus shipping, which is a truly incredible savings that I still can’t believe! YMMV, but I find full retail price for these to be ridiculous and not at all worth it.

Sculpting: They’re obviously digitally sculpted, and I’m not really a fan of computer sculpting. (That’s my personal preference, of course.) The likenesses are pretty good overall, although I question many of the poses of the TNG crew and the decision to make so many of them and the TOS crew multipart castings. More on this later.

Composition: The miniatures are plastic. Not good, strong plastic; rather shitty, fragile plastic. Be very careful removing them from the sprue. I was, and I still had an annoying mishap (see below). I don’t understand how miniatures today get made out of flimsy materials like this. GW, Victrix, Wargames Factory and Wyrd can make miniatures out of strong plastic, so it’s not like it’s impossible. Even Reaper Bones, with their tendency to bend, are way better than these. Not a fan.

Assembly: Each miniature comes on its own sprue, which  includes a circular base with holes to accommodate pegs on the model’s feet. Most of the bases are sculpted to look like metal decking, but some of the TNG and TOS bridge crew miniatures have “scenic” bases. I found using the peg holes to be somewhat aggravating, as they are positioned in such a way that the models are often off-center, which looks weird. To make matters worse, these miniatures are fiddly as fuck, making assembly a huge chore. This is further complicated because many are multipart castings (and they really don’t need to be…see below).

I use Gorilla Glue gel to assemble all my miniatures. Metal, plastic, resin…it doesn’t matter. I find it to give a strong, quick bond, and the gel gives a little substance for fiddly parts to grip onto. Gorilla Glue gel failed me here. For whatever reason, it did not want to bond this shitty plastic. I had to hold pieces together for much longer than usual to get these miniatures assembled.

Now, onto the miniatures themselves…

I’ll get the Romulans out of the way first, because I have the least to say about them. In short, it’s a pretty good set, and you get 10 miniatures instead of 8. These include a commander, 4 centurions, and 5 uhlans. The Romulan commander and three of the uhlans are female; the rest are male figures. Sadly, you get repeats of some of the same figures as opposed to 10 different sculpts, but they’re still much better looking overall than the TNG bridge crew, and far less fiddly to assemble. All of the miniatures are single-piece castings with the exception the two centurions armed with disruptor rifles; they need to have their arms attached.

Onto the TNG bridge crew. I’ll take these miniatures individually, because there’s a lot not to like about them. I’ve already stated my problems with assembly, so just assume unless otherwise stated that they were all a pain in the ass to put together.

First, what I consider to be the best miniatures in the lot. Dr. Crusher looks pretty good, carrying a medical kit in one hand and a medical tricorder in the other, just as she should be. In my opinion, she’s the best miniature among the crew, but YMMV. Next, Captain Picard is the only one-piece casting in the set. He’s not too bad, but I would have preferred he look more “Picard-ish” and not be brandishing a phaser. Lastly, there’s Commander Riker, who looks pretty good dramatically standing with his characteristic “leg-up” pose. His beard is not very well-defined, which could be because Modiphius wanted to give us the option of having a beardless, Season One Riker. (That’s no Riker of mine, but again, YMMV.)

Next, the rest, in no particular order of disappointment. Lieutenant Yar looks good except for her ridiculous karate pose. (They couldn’t give her a phaser? She was Chief of Security. If anyone should be brandishing a phaser, it should be her.) Lieutenant Commander LaForge would be a lot better if he was looking at his tricorder, not looking like someone poured ice water down the back of his uniform. Deanna Troi is ok, I guess…but why give her a tricorder? When did Troi ever use a fucking tricorder?

Lieutenant Commander Data looks just as out-of-place holding a Type III phaser rifle. Again, why? Maybe Modiphius wanted to give some variety, but I can’t recall a single instance of Data using a phaser rifle in the entire series. Even if he did, it’s not like it was a common enough occurrence that he deserves to be sculpted with one. Lieutenant Worf is wielding his iconic bat’leth, because of course he is. I would have preferred him with something like a Type III phaser rifle instead. I can’t recall him ever using one of those either, but it seems to fit his style better than Data’s. Sigh. I can’t decide whether Data or LaForge is my least favorite miniature in the set. They’re both pretty bad.

On to The Original Series miniatures, by far my favorite set of the three, and not because I paid the least for it. You get eight miniatures in the set. Again, I’ll start with the three best miniatures (IMHO, of course); the big three: Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

My favorite miniature hands-down, Kirk just looks AWESOME, talking into a communicator and brandishing a phaser. (He just needs a green Orion female to drape herself around him Frazetta-style and it’s a 100% match.) Spock is looking appropriately science-y, and McCoy looks great with his iconic old-school tape recorder/microphone style medical tricorder. A+ on this trio, Modiphius!

Next, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura. Sulu and Chekov both look great, although Sulu is a tad more dynamic (Bravo on not casting him shirtless with a fencing rapier, Modiphius!). Uhura is also a terrific sculpt (I like her almost as much as Spock and McCoy); although she was rarely on away missions, she looks perfect with her ubiquitous earpiece and a phaser, to boot.

Finally, Mr. Scott and Nurse Chapel. Although he’s still better than most of the TNG miniatures, Scotty is my least favorite miniature in this set. What is he running away from? A warp core breach? (If so, it’s doubtful he will get far enough away on foot…you know, in space…) Nurse Chapel looks fine holding Dr. McCoy’s space clipboard for him, but I question her inclusion in the set. I guess they needed an eighth miniature. I guess they didn’t want to include Yeoman Rand, considering she only lasted 8 episodes…

My biggest quibble with all these miniatures is the quality of the plastic. Worf broke when I was cutting him off the sprue, and my cutters didn’t even touch him. His foot snapped in half when I cut the sprue next to it! Annoying for sure…but it would be downright infuriating if I had paid full retail for this set. I tried my best to fix it, but the problems I experienced with the glue made it set wrong. I have read similar complaints about the fragility of other sets.

Currently, Modiphius offers three additional sets: TNG-era Klingons, Borg, and generic Starfleet officers, many of them alien races included as character options in the rpg. They all look pretty good, but I haven’t been able to find the sets for a reasonable price (less than $30). I would love to see some Cardassians (my favorite bad guys), the DS9 station crew, and some original series Klingons, but we’ll have to see what, if anything, Modiphius releases next.

I’ll be working on painting these Trek miniatures throughout January, so hopefully I’ll have them done soon. Until then, peace and long life!

2019 Resolutions

For my first post of 2019, I have appropriated the popular trend of coming up with a list of games I want to play, projects I would like to complete, and challenges I would like to participate in this year. Note that this is what I hope to do; what actually happens is anyone’s guess. Therefore I have included my best guess of the chances of any given project happening.

First, the top 5 games I really want to play (with others) this year. This of course, requires that I get my friends together to do some gaming.

Gaslands (Osprey): With Gaslands: Refueled already announced, and over a dozen cars converted and ready to go, it’s way past time I actually played this damn game. Chance of success: 90%

Star Trek Adventures: the Role-playing Game (Modiphius): I would love to run and/or play this game, as I really like the system and the setting. Trying to get my friends to play would be much easier than trying to get them to buy into it, as it’s not a cheap game, and we don’t seem to be able to game nearly enough to justify its purchase. That being said, the character creation system is a lot of fun, but very involved, so one session would likely be devoted to that alone. Chance of success: 40% for one game (using my books), dropping sharply for successive games.

Super Mission Force (Four Color Studios): It should be no surprise to anyone who visits this blog even casually that I love this game. I will continue to play it; ideally with friends, but solo if necessary. It’s very easy to pick up, and my friends who have played seem to enjoy it a lot. Chance of success: 100% solo, 85% with friends.

Legends of the Old West (GW): This OOP Old West game from Games Workshop seems like a pretty good way to finally start some western skirmish gaming, since I’ve been putting it off for years. Now that I have my new “arid lands” battle mat, I have little excuse. Just need to round up a posse. Chance of success: 50%.

Dungeon Saga: The Dwarf King’s Quest (Mantic): I didn’t paint this game last year for no reason. It would be nice to get a game or two of this in before the end of 2019. Luckily, my friends like this kind of game, so playing it should be relatively easy (in theory). Chance of success: 75%.

The biggest obstacle I have to playing any of the above is finding people to play with and coordinating a game day. Even if I don’t, you can expect more posted After Action Reports, especially for Supers gaming, which I can play solo.

These are my top 5 hobby projects for 2019:

1. Paint my Star Trek Adventures miniatures. With three sets primed and ready, I’ll be getting to these pretty quickly. Expect a review soon.

2. Paint more old-school miniatures! It’s a pretty good feeling when I paint something I’ve had for decades that I never got around to, or when I repaint a miniature that’s had a horrible paint job because I painted it when I first started out. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and revisiting old lead is a lot of fun.

3. Write a game of my own. I have several ideas for miniatures games kicking around in my head, and have gone back and forth over the years trying to get a rules system down that I like. I’ve got the ideas for the games firmly secured, I just need to find a way to make them work without making things super complicated (which I want to avoid) or ripping off someone else (ditto). It’s the system that plagues me, not the concept…

4. Start a gaming club. Probably the only way I’m going to be able to play more games is to find new people to play with. Sadly, all the game stores around me only carry and support Warhammer 40K, Age of Sigmar and Warmahordes, so the style of gaming I prefer is not exactly well represented in my local community. (I went into a local shop recently and no one had ever even heard of Gaslands or Frostgrave, but everyone plays 40K and the current darling, Necromunda.) There isn’t even a significant Historical gaming community near me, which isn’t really my kind of gaming, either, but at least it would be something other than GW and Privateer Press.

5. Paint an army, or complete an entirely new gaming project. It’s the beginning of the year, plenty of time to make a commitment and see it through. I have several “armies” ready to go, all of which I will most likely never use (40K Orks, Warhammer Empire, and some generic Wargames Factory Shock Troopers, to name but a few). Not the point. Other than those, I have plenty of gaming genre interests I should really pursue, like the Ronin rules I got for Christmas.

Of course, in addition to the above projects, you can be certain I’ll be painting whatever takes my fancy throughout the year. I will continue to repaint Heroclix for use with Super Mission Force, and I will most likely convert more Gaslands cars.

Forgotten Heroes 2017

Finally, I very much enjoy taking part in painting challenges, and I hope to do more of that this year. I will happily take part in Forgotten Heroes for as many years as Carrion Crow will have me. Perhaps it may be time for me to host another challenge myself. It’s been a couple of years since Dwarvember and WizarDecember, after all. Should I bring those back, or start something new? I am considering hosting a “Monster Month” challenge, which was a challenge I did all by myself last year in May.

All in all, 2019 could be a very productive year for my hobbying, if I can stick to my resolutions. Hope I’ll be better at sticking to these than sticking to my actual New Year’s resolutions. I never make it past the first month with those…

A Little Something on the Side…

Or perhaps, “Some Side Action”.  Either “double entendre” title would work.

For my last post of 2018, I thought I’d share what I did in December, which is clean up “the side pile”: that group of partially-painted/assembled  miniatures that collects in the corner of my workspace over time; things I plan on getting to, but for whatever reason shunt them aside in favor of other projects. These sad miniatures collect dust and stare at me in silent accusation, wondering why they are neglected. Not having any other project slated for December, I decided to devote my entire month’s efforts to these orphaned miniatures.

A couple of these miniatures were supposed to be painted for my failed AD&D campaign, which ended back in 2012. Some of them have languished in the side pile for longer than that!

First, an old-school fantasy ogre, made by RAFM. I’ve had this guy for decades. RAFM still makes a variation of this miniature, but this particular guy is out-of-production. He was originally supposed to return as a member of the Cudgel Gang, that group of highwaymen that plagued my gaming group throughout the campaign. Length of time in side pile: 8+ years.

Another miniature intended for the AD&D campaign, this is Finari, from Reaper. This is the metal version; she’s since been reissued as a Bones miniature. Length of time in side pile: 10 years or so. Yes, 10 years. Easily.

Next is Kjell Bloodbear, another metal Reaper miniature. I really had no idea how I was going to paint him, and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the end result. It was a long time coming, but he’s finally done. Length of time in the side pile: 7 years or so.

This is Duke Gerard, yet another Reaper miniature, this time a Bones version I got from a guy who bought into the Kickstarter. Apparently, he has a weird back banner-thingy that I didn’t get, which is ok, as I like him better without it.  Length of time in side pile: 4+ years.

This is Herryk Aesir, a dwarf that has a back banner-thingy I actually like. He’s another metal Reaper miniature (they make a Bones version, too). He’s been in the side pile the least amount of time; I intended to paint him for Dwarvember two years ago, but didn’t get around to it. Length in side pile: 2+years.

These snipers are from Demonblade Games for their Shockforce post-apocalyptic skirmish game. I didn’t play the game, but I liked the snipers. They’ve been primed and ready for a long time. Length of time in side pile: 7+ years.

Last but not least, some Reaper Toolbots, from their Chronoscope line. I don’t remember why I bought these guys. I think I wanted to use them for some Retro sci-fi gaming I never really pursued. They’ve been primed and based with a gunmetal silver for years. Once I decided to change them to this yellow color, I painted them in no time at all. I just couldn’t get motivated to paint them until I made that switch…strange how our minds work. Length of time in side pile: 6+ years.

That’s closes out the year. I thought I’d have one more side pile miniature done before the ball drops, but it’s not happening. As it is, I cleared out a fair bit of space and put paint on some figures that have been waiting far too long for it, so all’s well that ends well.

Bring on 2019!

What I Got for Christmas

Another holiday season has come and gone, and it’s time to tally up the loot under the tree. I won’t bore anyone with detailed descriptions of my new socks and aftershave…after all, no one who reads this blog is the least bit interested in that. Instead, what gaming goodies did Santa Claus leave at chez Piper?

Well, Santa himself didn’t leave much, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get some cool stuff.

First, Tanks, from Gale Force Nine. Three plastic tanks, some cardboard terrain and everything else you need to play a quick miniatures tank battle game right out of the box. If I like it, I can buy some expansions, much like X-Wing. A pretty darn good value for the $20 I hear Santa paid for it.

Next, Santa brought me Ronin, from Osprey Games, which is something I asked for. Why did I ask for Ronin. when almost all of the samurai miniatures I own are from Clan War, and are unpainted? I don’t know the answer to that. I really don’t. But ask for it I did, and it was under the tree on Christmas morning.

And that’s all the gaming stuff Santa brought me this year. Of course, every year, while shopping for friends and loved ones, I become my own Santa. So…

A close up of the Arid Land mat.

Cigar Box Battle Mats had a pretty cool Christmas sale…buy 3 mats, get 20% off. And I almost went for it, until I saw how much I was spending, and how much the shipping wipes out of the savings. That being said, I love Cigar Box, so I started my self-Santa-ing by buying myself a mat for both Old West and Post-Apocalyptic games. I chose their Arid Land mat.

Looks like it works well for Gaslands

And for whatever Old West skirmish set I decide to use.

I’ve just discovered a podcast called Mission Log, which apparently has been around for years now, in which two guys watch every episode of Star Trek from every Trek series, ever, and dissect the show; providing trivia, commentary and thoughts on morals, meanings and messages contained therein. They’re somewhere in season two or three of Deep Space Nine right now, but they’ve already made it through the Original Series, the Animated Series, and The Next Generation, not to mention all the TOS movies (up to Generations). A few years ago I binge-watched every episode of DS9, which may be my favorite Trek series. (I say may be because it’s kind of a tie with TNG. Both these series came out when I was in high school/college, so they were “my’ Trek era.) Every Trek series is currently available on Netflix (including Discovery, over in Europe), so it makes re-watching them pretty easy, should you be so inclined.

Several months back I became aware of Modiphius’s new Star Trek miniatures from an issue of Miniature Wargames magazine. While shopping on Amazon this year, I stumbled across these sets at somewhat irresistible prices, so a couple of clicks later, the cart was empty. What are irresistible prices, you ask? Well, these sets retail for about $50 each, which makes them quite resistable, as that’s just insane even for foreign-manufactured, licensed character miniatures like these. BUT, on Amazon I found the TNG bridge crew (8 miniatures) for around $25 including shipping, and 10 Romulans for $16! That’s less than 2 bucks per Romulan! Sold!

Of course, then I discovered there was a game to go with these miniatures…

So I bought this bundle, which includes the “new” (about 2 years old now)Star Trek: Adventures roleplaying game, a book of 8 ready-to-play adventures, a combat screen and reference sheets, a map of the alpha and beta quadrants, and this spiffy spaceship pin.

The first thing I did was cast aside the pin with complete disinterest. (I mean, really…if you’re going to include a useless pin in a bundle of gaming stuff, couldn’t you make it a TNG communicator or something cool? ) Then I looked though the core rulebook, and I fell in love.

I’ll probably do a review of the game and the miniatures soon, but for now I have some lingering projects to finish before the new year. Then I have to give some serious thought to what I’m going to do in January…

Happy New Year, everyone!

Kraven the Hunter

Kraven the Hunter is one of my favorite Spider-Man villains. I admire his lion-face vest, his zebra belt, his leopard tights and his cute green booties.

Sergei Kravinoff was considered by many (especially himself) to be the greatest hunter in the world. If it was alive and worthy, he hunted it, from big game animals to great cats to superheroes. Kraven was particularly fixated on Spider-Man, who cleaned his clock on more than one occasion. Kraven even helped start the Sinister Six hoping that with a little help he could say he defeated Spider-Man, but it never really happened for him.

Eventually, Kraven lost his shit and decided it wasn’t enough to just beat Spider-Man, he had to BECOME Spider-Man. Thus kicked off the “Kraven’s Last Hunt” storyline, which was pretty dark for Spider-Man, wherein Kraven “kills” Spider-Man and assumes his identity, running around New York crippling and killing criminals in an attempt to fully understand what it means to be the ultimate predator, The Spider. Then he eats a gun and blows his own head off. End credits.

The story, which ran through three Spider-Man titles back in 1987, was actually pretty good, and is considered one of the best Spidey stories of all time. Some have criticized its dark tone as being Marvel’s response to the critical acclaim of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, both published by DC the previous year. Maybe there is some truth to that. It’s certainly more adult in nature than what Marvel was publishing at the time, and it was set in the general continuity of the Marvel Universe. I liked it because it was drawn by Mike Zeck (Secret Wars, Punisher), and I love me some Mike Zeck art.

Since Kraven’s demise, which as far as I know is still permanent, his mantle was taken up by his son, Alyosha. I know nothing about Alyosha Kravinoff, so check Wikipedia if you want to know more.

Anyway, I actually wasn’t kidding when I said I like Kraven as a character. He’s definitely a second-stringer in the Spider-verse, a tier down from Green Goblin, Doc Ock and Venom (who I can’t stand).  He’s more on the level of Rhino, Electro and Scorpion, but he has a unique charm all his own.

Kraven doesn’t technically have any super-powers, but through ingestion of rare herbal potion he can do some pretty cool things. He was able to run super-fast for long periods of time. He was also an Olympic-level athlete and a superb fighter, who preferred archaic weapons like knives and spears over guns (which he considered dishonorable). He was the greatest hunter in the world, able to track his quarry using enhanced senses, much like Wolverine. His aging process was slowed dramatically; at the time of his suicide, Kraven was over 70 years of age, but was in the peak physical condition of a man in his 30’s.

Kraven is one of the villains in the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes adventure Lone Wolves, which I will shortly be converting to Super Mission Force. In other words, I had several reasons to do what I did, which is repaint a Kraven Heroclix miniature.

Over the years, Kraven has had several Heroclix sculpts. Above is the original version,  from the Critical Mass set. I removed him from his dial and stuck him on a base. To be clear: this is the original paint job and NOT my work. This is what came out of the blister pack back in 2003.

Here is my repaint. I decided to give him some real knives instead of the weenie dagger he had strapped to his thigh. I got rid of that, then I put some old GW space marine knives in his hands and sculpted some sheaths out of Magic Sculpt. I considered giving him a spear, but I think his two-fisted knives look pretty good.

Here is my Super Mission Force build for Kraven the Hunter:

Kraven (Brawler) Major: Scrapper, Minor: Fast, Super Agility

(I gave him Fast because Kraven can reportedly run as fast as a cheetah for short periods of time, and this increases his Move to a 13, which I think fits. I could swap it out for Enhanced Senses; either one would work.)

 

“Who you callin’ a dummy?”

As Movember draws to a close, I have officially painted all of my pulp miniatures! For this last installment, I present some ventriloquists!

Technically, only ONE of these is a pulp miniature…yet when painting him, I was surprised to find that I had two more ventriloquists in 28mm! It’s an odd genre of miniature to own, after all. How many ventriloquist miniatures do YOU own? I’m betting not three.

First, straight from his tour performing for the crown heads of Europe, The Great Adamski! This miniature comes from Black Army Productions, a small company that makes some interesting miniatures. This guy came with a couple of hand options; he could have either had a second puppet or a gun behind his back. (I went all in on the dummies.) Adamski also satisfies my Movember requirement: check out that handlebar mustache! His Cossack dummy (the one behind his back) is sporting some impressive lipwear as well.

Next, a zombie ventriloquist from Horrorclix, because why not? I repainted him because as expected, the factory clix paint job was somewhat…sub-par.

Lastly, a relatively new-ish Batman villain, THE Ventriloquist (and Scarface). This miniature was repainted completely, but I forgot to take a “before” picture.

The Ventriloquist (and Scarface) is pretty dumb, even for Batman’s rogue’s gallery. The Ventriloquist himself is a mild-mannered milquetoast; it’s Scarface, the dummy, who is the real ruthless bad guy. From the DC wiki:

I find him annoying because Scarface can’t pronounce the letter “B” (on account of the Ventriloquist not moving his lips), so he substitutes a “G” sound. This gets old pretty fast, especially when you’re reading speech balloons. “Let’s rog the gank, boys! And watch out for the Gatman!” Ugh.
Anyway, that wraps up Movember…I’m still mulling over a project for December. Watch this space!

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 63

Miniatures Purchased: 13

Total: +50

Weird Villains and Pulp Doctors

Movember continues with more pulp-themed miniatures. This time around, my last remaining Pulp Figures: some Weird Villains!

From L-R, as Bob Murch has named them: The Crimson Scorpion, Stahl Mask, Dr. Price, The Creeping Claw and Mr. X! Also, a random Nazi officer that Bob Murch included with my last order, for no other reason than he seems to be a swell guy. (I mean Bob, not the Nazi. To be clear: there isn’t a fucking Nazi in the world who I would consider to be a “swell guy”.)

You can barely see Dr. Price’s “John Waters” mustache; but fear not, I have painted a miniature with epic facial hair in honor of Movember! Stahl-Mask’s walrus mustache is legendary; it’s a shame you can’t see it under his, well, his stahl-mask. Stahl-Mask is one of only a few Pulp Figures with more than one sculpt (Dr. Koo is another). I’m pretty sure this is Bob’s original version of the dastardly German, but I could be wrong.

You may notice my Creeping Claw has a hook for a hand. This is my own addition. My miniature was missing his right hand, so I used the hook from the Heroclix Aquaman I cannibalized earlier this year to make my Aquarian submission for Forgotten Heroes (I never throw anything away). I like the way it looks; very pulp villain-ish. And now he has an actual claw!

Up next: some pulp doctors! These three are from RAFM‘s old Call of Cthulhu line, and I’m pretty sure they’re also sculpted by Bob Murch! (Small world, eh?) These guys were a lot of fun to paint. I’m glad I decided to bang out all my pulp models this month, otherwise these fellows were likely to remain pretty low on my priority list. I really like the guy in the middle, as he could easily work for an Old West sawbones just as well as a pulp-era physician.

This is a “before” shot of the surgeon, as in “before he applied serrated blade to his grisly work.” (Actually, I just like how this picture came out, so I figured I’d include it.) For the blood, I used Citadel’s Blood for the Blood God technical paint, which is awesome (IMHO).

Lastly, another “doctor” of sorts; this one a professor of Archaeology! Another RAFM miniature, this is “Drake Harrington”, from their new Call of Cthulhu line. His resemblance to a certain whip-wielding archaeologist isn’t accidental, I’m sure (even though there’s no whip to be seen). I like the miniature, but I would have liked some variety in his hand choices. I’m not wild about the lantern, mainly because I can’t paint object source lighting effects very well.

I added this rope to the model because I think it looks cool. Then I mounted him on a scenic base, which unfortunately contains a human skull with dimensions noticeably bigger than Drake Harrington’s own head. Oh well.

Next post: some real dummies!

 

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 62

Miniatures Purchased: 13

Total: +49

Movember is Pulp Month!

Movember, as everyone knows, is the month men everywhere grow facial hair to raise awareness of male health issues. Every year, Bob Murch over at Pulp Figures encourages this practice by offering a special, Movember-only miniature (with serious facial accessories) to those who donate to Bob’s Movember Campaign.

I love beards, on dwarfs. On me, not so much. In fact, I absolutely loathe my own facial hair. Several years ago I grew my beard throughout the entire month of November. Two weeks in I was scratching like a mange-ridden mongrel. Three weeks and I was begging for relief. At 12 AM on December 1st I finally shaved off my whiskers and almost wept with joy.

Despite this, I am male, and I certainly support raising awareness of male health issues. It’s been a while since I placed an order with Bob, so I’m painting all my remaining Pulp Figures this month in honor of his Movember efforts. (Also, I promised Dick Garrison I would paint some miniatures with facial hair. Anything, as long as I don’t have to grow it myself.) Although Bob’s figures feature prominently, I’m also painting some other pulp-themed miniatures by other manufacturers. It’s a pulp-themed month-long extravaganza!

Here are my first couple of miniatures for Movember: two masked avengers. (Sorry for the blurry top picture. I can’t seem to get a better one.) These two are part of a set that includes a “Not” Green Hornet and Kato. The guy looks like he could be a “Not” Spider or “Not” Eisner’s Spirit, but the Spirit never wore a cape, to my knowledge, and Pulp Figures already has a “Not” Spider (although I like this one better). I have no idea who the masked lady is supposed to not be, if anyone. No facial hair in this batch.

Up next: some Hooded Minions! Check out the Van Buren whiskers on the guy second from the left! What’s that, you can’t see his masculine beard beneath his hood? Well trust me, it’s there. Honest.

 

Finally, enjoy this video, which is the perfect distillation of Movember, put to song.

 

Neil Patrick Harris is the Tree of Masculinity. Seek his fruit.

 

Coming soon, more Pulp Figures!

 

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 52

Miniatures Purchased: 13

Total: +39

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