Monthly Archives: January 2019

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…