Monday, June 26, 2023

WIP - Sarissa Precision "Atomic Gas"

 Call it a Gas Station, Petrol Station, Fuel Parlor (someone probably calls it that), it's a must for any urban or post-apocalyptic table. My wife was kind enough to get me Sarissa's "Atomic Gas" Gas Station for my birthday last month, and I've been slowly working on it over the past few days.

the catalog image, non-derelict version


I say slowly because the weather's been really uncooperative, with days and days of smothering humidity punctuated by torrential rainstorms. Which has made getting things primed extraordinarily annoying!

Worse, I'm nearing a point where I'm going to have no choice but to stop until the weather cooperates; I don't want to glue the walls together until I have plastic sheeting glued into place for the windows, and I don't want to glue the windows in until the walls are varnished (so that the varnish doesn't frost the windows). And I can't varnish the building when the humidity's sitting at 86% for 12-15 hours at a time. So I'm painting as much as I can, getting the paper flooring glued down, and obsessively rechecking how the parts fit together. 

I'm also working on some furnishings (purchased from Miniature Building Authority) as you can see here - out front there's a locked cage for propane tanks (not yet primed), as well as a reach-in freezer filled with bagged ice. Inside, I've got a top-down freezer filled with ice cream (placed in impulse-buy range of the front counter, just like in the gas station up the street from my apartment) and a vending machine:

There's a bit of a story here - "Big Red" is an American cream soda, only available in certain markets, mostly around Texas and Kentucky. The flavor is frequently mistaken for bubble gum, but is apparently a mix of lemon and orange oils and vanilla - and it's awful (or at least, a not-easily-acquired taste). My wife's father loved Big Red, and more than drinking it, he loved tricking other people into drinking it. I'll never forget his booming chuckle as he watched me take an unsuspecting sip of it. 

So presented with the flat expanse of the front of this vending machine, I knew I wanted to paint something, and while looking at photos of '90s era vending machines I remembered this syrupy nightmare drink, and decided it would be funny to have a vending machine filled with nothing but Big Red (and a discontinued variant, Big Blue) awaiting the unwary, thirsty customer. The red also pops against the green-and-white scheme I chose for the gas station as a whole, drawing even more attention to it. 

Looking at the weather forecast, I don't expect to be able to do any more priming or varnishing until Friday at the earliest; I might try assembling a delicate resin chair to put behind the counter, and I'm waiting on a resin cast toilet to arrive to put in the back room. I'm hoping I can maybe have *most* of the gas station done by next Monday.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Donut Worry

 For my birthday last month, my wonderful, lovely wife bought me a few pieces of modern terrain - a 3D-printed donut shop and a couple of MDF kits. I ordered some resin furniture from Miniature Building Authority to complement them, and started in on the donut shop, though found myself switching gears to paint orcs last month pretty vigorously. Picking up Majestic 13, and needing to be able to field urban tables, gave me the impetus to finish up the shop (and having a head cold that's left me too foggy-headed to play a game has certainly not impeded my painting either).

Two notes: One, I'm very grateful that Reaper Miniatures sends out free bottles of "Breast Cancer Awareness Pink" in every order during the month of October, because I'm pretty sure I went most of the way through one bottle painting the interior and the sign. 

Two, "Big Nick Was Here" is a bit of a personal in-joke. I didn't want to paint overly-raunchy graffiti in case I ever have occasion to set up and run a modern skirmish at a convention, and early in the Pandemic I was looking at playing Zona Alfa solo, re-localized from eastern Europe to the American Southwest (to better fit my collection of cacti and desert hills terrain). So Nicolai, the bandit leader from the first scenario in the book, became the American biker "Big Nick," with a Mark Copplestone biker figure painted as such. You can see him here. He's such a characterful figure that I'd welcome any opportunity to put him on the table. While it's hard to justify a group of player-character Hell's Angels in Majestic 13, and there's no option for civilians to be running around the table complicating fights, I'm sure Big Nick will find a way on to the table again soon - even if under a different ruleset. Either way, his mark's here. 

I'll get the building and furnishings varnished tomorrow afternoon, and then Tuesday I'll cut some clear plastic sheets to size and glue them into the windows and glue the furniture down. And then it's play time!

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Majestic 13: Test Play #1, "Keel's Killers Vs. the Avenkian Shrieker"

The other day I picked up a new solo/co-op skirmish game called Majestic 13 from Snarling Badger Studios. Premise is you have a team of five operatives who belong to one of 13 organizations that have joined forces to protect the earth from an alien threat; in most games, this threat is made manifest as a single big, brutal monster with a lot of hit points. The video game series "X-COM" gets referenced quite a bit as a comparison, but I've never played it so I can't say much on that point. Realizing that I had everything I needed already painted, it was short work to print up the PDF, roll up my team, and get a test game on the table.

 I'd initially planned on playing out my first test game tomorrow, Sunday the 18th, as I was scheduled for two RPG sessions today - but I woke up feeling a head cold coming on, so I bowed out of my afternoon in-person game, and the online game I'd been scheduled for this evening was postponed by the GM. So, with my evening suddenly free, I figured I'd move up my first playtest to tonight.

 My group is "Keel's Killers" - a group of roughnecks (oil rig workers, industrial welders, etc.) given guns and told to stomp mudholes in monsters. Their leader, Johanna Keel, is a veteran of Majestic 13, having pulled this new group together after being the sole survivor of a previous team. 

Left to Right: Keel, Barker, Moseley, Arnold and Klass

Rolling a few dice, I determined they'd be fighting in a wilderness area and facing off against an Avenkian Shrieking Shock Trooper, one of 26 monster archetypes presented by the game. In this case it's a pretty straight-forward brawler type that also has an area of effect attack - by shrieking, it can deal damage over a 12" radius, which is quite a bit when you're playing on a 3'x3' board! I picked a Reaper Bones "Gloom Stalker" (or in D&D terms, a Hook Horror) to represent the monster.

"If you go down to the woods to-day..."

The monster activated first, and charged across the board into Moseley, scoring a critical hit, dealing (2D6+3)x2 damage which was...not great for Moseley. Pretty much everyone else moved in close and started shooting, which worked great until the monster took damage - another feature of its stat block is every time it takes damage, everyone within 12" needs to make a saving throw or take damage as well! After that everyone started spacing out and shooting from a distance, while Moseley tried to get away and maybe reach Barker or Arnold, both of whom were carrying medical kits. 

Unfortunately, while restrained in the monster's claws, Moseley fell victim to a flash bang grenade thrown by Keel, leaving him stunned as the monster finished him off. The Avenkian then turned it's attention to Barker while the team continued to (try to) shoot at it. Arnold never successfully put a round into the monster, despite having an average chance of success. 


The game has a FUBAR mechanic - each turn, a D6 is rolled and the current turn number added to it; on a result of 6+, something has gone wrong, ranging from civilians wandering on to the battlefield, another monster showing up, or in this case, an errant drone strike potentially hitting our heroes. On turn 5, Keel took 3D6 damage from said errant drone strike. 

Games end automatically after the end of Turn 5, and if you haven't killed the monster by then, you're SOL - team-members who are still alive flee the scene, and the monster becomes someone else's problem while you're debriefed and recover. At the end of Turn 5, I'd reduced the monster to half its starting hit points. Following this, there's a whole mini-game of seeing how your team-members recover (or if not, whether their cloned replacements are weird or not), and trying to requisition upgraded gear and improvement's to your team's base of operations from the bureaucracy. I haven't delved into that yet; I figure I'll play a couple of test games to get the feel of things and then maybe dive into the full campaign experience the game is geared towards. 

I don't have enough knowledge of game design to feel I can truly comment on the mechanics that much, but I will say that I really enjoyed how fast-paced the game is, and the 5-turn time limit keeps things from bogging down. I felt like I picked up and fully absorbed a lot of the mechanics very quickly. Also, with charts to roll on to randomly generate locales, terrain, threats and bureaucratic complications, I feel confident in saying that this is a game that can easily stay fresh for a very long time, with no two games being the same.

One thing that will take some getting used to for me is some of the spinning plates - for example, I think I forgot to roll a FUBAR check on turn 4, and I'm pretty sure I forgot about the monster's reactive area of effect ability on one of the turns where it received damage and there were team-members within 12". 

All that being said, I had a great time with my first play through, and making it through with three team members intact and the monster reduced to half-hit points feels like victory enough for a first play. I'm looking forward to rolling up another table's worth of terrain and a fresh monster tomorrow.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

"Building a Dark Elf Army," White Dwarf #144 (Dec. 1991)

 No, I'm not switching gears and building a Dark Elf army. These scans from White Dwarf issue 144 (Dec. 1991 - I was 4 years old at the time) were posted in one of the Oldhammer groups on Facebook and I found them to be a really fascinating read and honestly, for me, thought-provoking.

My first visit to a Games Workshop store came almost a decade later, in August 2001. Warhammer Fantasy Battles 6th edition was in full swing and I loved the idea of building an army. However, the messaging I got at the time - less so from the staff at that Games Workshop store, but from other patrons of the store as well as message boards online - was that 2000 points was the absolute minimum army size that a game could be played with, and there was no point in me showing up for games with anything less than that.

Being a 14 year old who only really had spending money in the summer and after Christmas, and with an oversized case of "Ooh! Shiny!" syndrome, building a 2000 point army was daunting to the point of being out of the question. I built a couple regiments of plastic figures - Night Goblins, then Skeletons, Orcs, then the hunchbacked 6th edition Chaos Warriors - but eventually felt like I'd never get anywhere and moved on to other games.

I wonder what my hobby/gaming trajectory would have looked like if someone had sat down with me and said, "Let's make a plan to get you started with a basic, well-balanced 1000 point army, and then build from there if you want to continue"?