Saturday, December 29, 2007

"I'm not dead yet!"

Well, it has been a while since I last posted but hopefully once we get into the New Year I can get a little more regular about it. My parents are visiting from the other side of the country at the moment plus being the holiday season/New Year means that I am working overtime at work so my time is at a premium at the moment. Another week or so and life should start to return to some kind of normality and I can get back to doing more regular posts.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Terrain Project: Recreating the poster map

When I started work on my first board for AT-43, I actually had no idea what I was going for (a common state for me...). I did not have the rules, the miniatures, nothing but an interest in the game and what knowledge I could find in the official AT-43 forum. I discuss this more in depth in other posts, so I will simply leave it that the "final" board (it is actually still not finished yet) is much different than it's original form.

After this, I borrowed a copy of Cry Havoc #14 from Joe, another member of our fledgling group. In this issue, the details of the Damocles Campaign are laid out with several special rules and four new scenarios. The common factor for all of the scenarios is that they all use the poster game board that come with Operation Damocles. I had originally planned on making a 3D version of this board but I had later decided against it. Well, having seen this I changed my mind yet again and I started work on the easiest of the two sides, the open space with the large elevator. Very simple to build and it is featured in all four of the scenarios from phase 1 of the campaign.

To start out, I needed a board to build it all on. Since I decided to work with materials that I have on hand for now, I settled on a board that is 24" x 32" (roughly 60cm x 80cm) which is actually slightly shorter than the original poster. The difference is pretty minor though, which is why I was not too worried about this.

One of the key features of the poster map is several hatches located at various points on the board. They are actually used as objectives in the game, so I needed to find some way to model these quickly, easily and cheaply. Oddly enough, I found the solution while I was playing Play Dough with my daughter.

Play Dough actually comes with two different types of lids, one with just a lip (seen on the left) and one with a lip and a raised center (on the right in case you hadn't guessed). These are the lids from the really small containers, not the big ones like I used to grow up with. I used the lids with the raised up center for the closed hatchways while the others became the open hatchways. Above the two lids is a medium sized base from GW and this is what I actually used for the hatches. I cut a shallow line into the closed ones, while the open ones were actually cut in half and hot glued to the lip of the lid so that they look like the hatches on the poster. (I did actually have WIP pics of these but they were unfortunately deleted before I had a chance to download them. D'oh!!!)

Having made the hatches, the next step was to position them on the board. I measured the distances on the poster from the nearest two edges for each hatch and then positioned them on the board. I pushed them down into the board to make an indentation to mark where they were supposed to go, and then went back and hot glued them down.

Once these were attached, I needed to make the elevator. On the poster the elevator is irregularly shaped, but to keep things simple I decided to just make mine rectangular. The edge is cut at roughly a 45 degree angle and I also cut a line to mark the edge of the elevator floor. I don't know how well it will show up once I actually get some paint on it but hopefully it is visible enough that it will be apparent what it is. I also put indentations on the board to represent various seams in the concrete. They are hard to see now, but once the paint is on there they should be more obvious.

Here is the board laid out as it is written up in the third mission of phase 1 of the campaign (minus a few terrain elements since I don't have enough containers yet). Overall I am pleased with how it came out, but then again it still isn't finished. Hopefully I will be able to get some paint on it over the next couple of days so that I can show the finished product.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Terrain Project: Making a hyperlink antenna


Edit: I actually had a few paragraphs typed up about this but it was dumped so I need to retype it. Argh!!! Ah well, more on the homemade hyperlink soon!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Terrain Project: My first Therian board

On my first board I thought that I used the fold up map from Operation Damocles as a guide for how big to make the board, but apparently I thought wrong. For some reason the length of my board was actually 32 5/8". Why the odd number I really can't say. 32" I could see. 33"? Ya know, I could probably even explain away that as well. But 32 5/8"? What the heck was I thinking? Regardless of the dimensions, I didn't realize that it was such an odd number until I had already started work on it and at that point my shear bull-headed nature made me push onward until it was done. Conventions be damned, my board uses fractions!

Now then, as for the actual construction process I must admit that I didn't actually take any pictures of the board while I was making it, only when it was finished. Still, the board is basic enough that you can really tell which part I am talking about quite easily so I have decided to just put in a picture of the finished board. Well not really finished, but at the time I thought that it was. More on that later...

For the "dirt" on the board, I actually did use dirt. I had bought a bag of paving sand (I believe that was the name) from Lowes a few years back and I have been using it ever since then. I don't have the bag anymore so I am not positive about the name, but it was in with the patio material. Basically it is a somewhat rough mix of sand and small rocks that came in a pretty good sized bag. Not sure about the exact weight but I think it was in the 20-25 lbs range? I need to swing by Lowes again soon to find it again. To attach it to the board, I just used a slightly watered down Elmer's glue. I probably should have used some kind of a wood glue for better durability but I was just working with the materials that I had on hand so I settled for the Elmers.

For the base coat I used brown Fresco Tempera Paint that I picked up from Michael's. It comes in a big 16oz bottle so I have been using this for almost as long as I have been using the bag of dirt. I didn't put any kind of a primer on the blue board which gave it that kind of cracked appearance (I think there must be something in the finish of the blue board that caused this to happen) so I had to do a couple of coats to get a more even coverage because some of the blue showed in the cracks after the first coat.

Next I attached the various pieces of terrain (the pipes and walls). All of these were given a good coat of black paint (I used FolkArt acrylic paint; basically a cheap craft paint that you can pick up at Wal-Mart dirt cheap). Once this dried, I did a very heavy dry brush with Apple Barrel Pewter Grey acrylic paint on the concrete portions, followed by a lighter dry brush with Apple Barrle Country Grey acrylic paint again only on the concrete. I then went back and touched up the pipes with the black. I had thought about using some kind of metallic for a dry brush on them, but I really like the dark metal look of the Therians and the straight black seemed to be the best way to emulate that.

Once all of the paint had dried, I gave the whole thing a dry brush with Apple Barrel Territorial Beige to give is a more weathered look. Just because of the way that I painted it (I had just finished painting and dry brushing the road and wall) there was a little bit of the grey that got mixed into the beige which gave it a kind of dirt and ash look. I don't know the exact mix between the paints, but I know that it was just a touch of grey to it. When I dry brush a large piece like this, I actually pour a little paint directly onto a terry cloth towel and work straight from there. Once the first color is done (in this case the pewter grey), I put a bit less of the next color right on top of the first paint; this gives something of a blend between the two colors and personally I really like how it pulls them together so that the difference in the shading is kind of subtle. When I did the beige on the whole piece, I actually put the beige right on top of grey that I had just been working with, which gave it the slightly grey tint.

As for my inpiration for the board, I didn't really have a lot to go on; only the fluff of the Red Blok (which is more about them and their worlds, not the Therians) and the few pictures that there are. None of it was really that clear except that Damocles was some kind of a factory world. It seemed like a good starting point, so I took that idea and ran with it. In the downloadable scenarios on the Rackham site there is a mission that uses two of the basic maps side by side, one with the exterior landing pad, the other with the interior. I decided to try to recreate this kind of a situation with my boards, the first being the exterior since I didn't have any minis at that point and I was not sure about dimensions for doorways and the like.

For the interior, I was thinking of something like a massive city from the Tripod novels. The point where the two boards meet would be the edge of the factory city with a massive wall and some access points to the interior. Inside, I wanted to make various rooms and even some different levels (maybe 4" for each level with the exterior wall between the boards being about 8" tall).

All wonderful ideas, but as I learned more about the factory world I realized that it really did not look at all right and I decided to recreate the whole board. Most people would at this point simply chalk up the odd sized board as an experiment and start again from scratch, but I have never claimed to be normal. Thus I been work on a "new" board using the old one as a foundation to build on, but more on that later...

On the Cheap: It's all pre-painted so how do I know what's mine?!?!?

One of the first things that you notice with a pre-painted game is that they all look the same so how do you make them distinctive enough that you can tell which are you minis? The quick and easy way to do this is to simply stick a label on the base. I picked up a pack of 1008 round 3/4" labels made by Avery and they work very well. It is easy to download the template for Word and you can put anything you want on them. Best of all it that since they are printed on the computer no one has to try to decipher my chicken scratches!

Here is a picture of the labels on my Assualt Golems, along with my homemade markers which I will talk about next.

I also used the same template to make some markers for the game. You can get a pack of these from Rackham, but I had some 1" round wooden discs that work perfectly. Below is a picture of some of the ones that I have made. The other nice thing about using homemade markers is that the official markers from Rackham use various pictures for all their markers while mine is very clearly labeled so that you know exactly what is going on.

So here are two quick and easy solutions to couple of situations that you might run into with the game. Next I will probably do a write up about how I built my small demo board depicting the surface of Damocles. I have already posted a lot about this on the Yahoo group, but for now it gives me something to talk about until I have some battle reports to post.

More coming soon!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Welcome to Sin City AT-43

Well, I decided to start another blog. I must be crazy... Ah well.

This blog is dedicated to our fledgeling AT-43 group here in Las Vegas, hence the name. Now that we have a few games under our belts I decided that I would like to have a place to post battle reports, terrain ideas, and conversions just to name a few things, and this seems like the best place to do it. Now I just have to get some pictures of some battles and we'll be all set...