Friday, March 16, 2018

Portability of Wargaming

I am a huge fan of the Portable Wargame concept, some rules for which can be purchased from Bob Cordrey, via Lulu and Amazon. His blog is a good source of information for what he and others are doing to further the concept and fully develop it into something more. I happen to read his blog almost daily, and I frequently trail back to view his older posts.

There are numerous takes on this type of game, which did not originate with Bob, as I understand it, but he is perhaps the most vocal advocate, currently.

A few other notable chaps are pushing the concept into new and interesting directions, using technology to advance the standard, so to speak.
A discussion about this photo here.

I would not be surprised to see someone doing "official" resin or laser cut plywood tiles and terrain, to support those of us who see the utility of this type of game. Yes, it is rather stylistic and lacks the glamour and glitz of other game systems, but its simplicity is an attraction all to itself. Also, it is, well, portable.

Link to the above site here

Of course, the Perry's have already developed a similar game, which is also very portable, by design.

I own two copies of this game, but I really, really, want to buy at least two more. However, between a planned move and other projects, the expense cannot be budgeted for this year.

The flexibility of the game means that one could play any genre, be it science fiction, fantasy, historical, or whatever lies between. Also, the game itself could be of any size or scale, from 3mm to 54mm figures and the size of the board/table could be a chessboard (or even smaller) to a very large multi-table board. Your only limit is your imagination...and space...and budget. But, these are minor when compared to the benefits of having a game ready to hand wherever you live and wherever you go.

There's a lot of action or potential action in the above photo. Is the terrain super-realistic? Why does that matter? Do it really matter at all?

Heck, as the image below shows us, we don't even need miniature figures at all.

One of my current not-quite-backburner projects is to create a 10x10 square board, and assemble two WWII-ish armies. I am looking at Russian and German miniatures, but painted as Mordian and Cadian troops from Warhammer 40k. I've just ordered a small selection of Pendraken 10mm figures, including an AT gun, a tank, and some infantry, to get a sense of the size of square I will need for my board. Now, I can use my Kallistra hexes, but they are not as readily portable and I dare not risk them as baggage on a flight across the country.

Another bonus, I figure solo rules for this type of game will work just fine.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Soloist Gamer

So, it is a 98.9% certainty that I will soon be living 118 miles from the nearest game/hobby store, in a town that has zero or close to zero wargamers among its population base. Thus, I will join the ranks of the soloists

I have begun looking for board and miniature games suitable for playing solo. I already have most of the Two Hour Wargames rules and I have a couple of games from Victory Point Games, but I am still searching for a greater variety of interesting games to myself.

I did receive, via a BoardgameGeek purchase, this:
Which is a game I should have bought decades ago, but kept telling myself I'd come back and get it later...and then the store owners died and the shop closed down., before internet sales became a thing.

I'm going to have to pack that away, for when after I move in to my new home, but I did not want to fall back into the old trap of putting it off until later.

If any of you readers have suggestions for good solo games, whether boardgames or miniature games, then please reply to this post. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am looking at converting several games over to fit the soloist experience, but that will be a long-term effort and will not serve the immediate needs of playing a game.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Getting it Right

Whenever I walk into a game/hobby store, I am always looking for certain things. Not just products, but also the manner in which they assist me, offer assistance, or outright ignore my presence until the moment I step up to the register with cash in hand.

Back in 2001, I switched from Games Workshop Trade Sales to Games Workshop Retail, due to my then-wife wanting to move back to California. Games Workshop was kind enough to give me a chance to earn a position as a retail store manager, so that I could maintain my employment with the company I loved.

It all worked out, I spent a couple of months as a retail store employee, learning the ropes, and mastering what I needed to in order to become a store manager. Everyone was happy, as was I, even though I went from having a 5 day a week work week, to six and seven days a week, with nary a holiday in sight.

What I learned as a GW Retail employee as stayed with me, literally, ever since. I submit exhibit 1 into evidence.

This is the "10 Commandments of Retail" card I was issued when I first walked into my new experience as a retail employee of Games Workshop. Exhibit 2 is more revealing.
The flash makes the last one difficult to see, but it reads "Show Courtesy."

At the time, as I do not know if this still the case (the local GW shop closed after about 6 months due to weird store hours meaning no customers. It was very strange), employees could expect to be randomly quizzed on these 10 Commandments of Retail at any time, from anyone.

Upon close inspection, none of these are sinister or evil, instead they each indicate an expectation on the part of an employee, in fact this could be an employee of any retail outlet in any part of the world.

Unfortunately, far too many "workers" in retail stores are either gamers first or "counter jockeys" who stand, but usually sit, behind the register counter, and passive await someone who insists on spending money in their store.

Many stores I have entered failed, badly, at fulfilling #8, to the detriment of my future enjoyment of food and the destruction of my sinuses. Others cannot even get #1 right, ignoring me the entire time I am in the store.

Usually, if a store manages to get over half of these right, I will spend cash on their products, as a way to reward them for their professionalism. If they do not get any right, I do not spend my money and I never return to it.

I did well as a retail manager, but my store was in a very high costing area, and I had to commute 3 hours a day, one way, to work. It was stressful and affecting my health. A year later, when I was promoted to regional manager, meaning I had to visit three stores, spread out over 200 miles of driving a month, for no additional pay, including no funds for my extra travel, then I gave my notice. I just could not afford to do the job they required of me and I did not wait until I went bankrupt to inform them of such.

As things turned out, within two years I would have quit anyways, due to how they transitioned from Glen Burnie, Maryland, to their new U.S. Headquarters, wherever that is. Don't get me wrong, I loved working for Games Workshop, in spite of the stress, but I felt my friends and co-workers were treated rather poorly by the UK management at the time, which has since changed greatly for the better.

In these years since, my training and experience as a Retail employee and manager has stayed with me I have high and not unreasonable expectations from game and hobby stores that I visit. If you want for me to spend any money in your store, I'd better be greeted when I enter, your staff had best not smell like a locker room, when I ask questions about products you carry, then you need to know the answers or be able to get the answers quickly, and you should not talk down any products, even those you do not carry.

I cannot tell you how many times I've walked into a store and heard store employees trashing products, even ones featured on their shelves. If a product is not any good, do not carry it in the store. If you do not carry an item, don't slag off on it. Promote what you do carry and be positive with your customers.

Getting it right in retail has its own financial rewards.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Chug Chug Chugging Along

Lots has gone on in the relatively short time since my last post. Some of it good/great and the rest being terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad. The latter may require some explanation, but I cannot bring myself to do it at this time.

However, the good/great is that I am going through the required background check for the job I accepted. Once I pass this check, I should be getting word which dwelling I will call home for the next number of years. I do need to take a class on Native American history and culture, in the state where I will be moving to, but I may just read a few books on the subject and take the test, if allowed.

Otherwise, I will need to take yet another college class, in the midst of the M.A. program that I am already involved in.

On the gaming side of things, here's a big hint

Need a bigger hint?

Yes. Yes, sadly yes, but happily yes, in oh so many ways. I'd pretty much sworn off  Games Workshop products and games since the great Inquisitorial purging of my friends and former co-workers at the US Headquarters in Glen Burnie. It was (and I still believe it to be) a crappy thing to do. However, in the past few years, the company has turned a new leaf, or rediscovered what they were when I first fell in love with the worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 and all of the little and not-so-little side games they released in the later 80s and early to mid 90s.

So, in the years since 2004, I've missed out on Dreadfleet and the 4th edition of Space Hulk, as well as the fall of the Old World and the rise of the Age of Sigmar. Now, though, I have gone back to my passion of my late teens and early twenties to early thirties, starting an army of the Daemonic forces of Khorne. Way way way back, I had a Chaos Warrior army of Khorne, never fielding any units of deamons. I'm making the change. Actually, I have always liked the concept of Chaos Undivided, with forces of all of the Chaos gods being mixed within a single army. The current models are, for the most part, spectacularly good, now that the resin (bleep) stuff is gone or mostly gone.

Unfortunately, Games Workshop's in-house and online ordering system is... not what it should be. Gone are the days of "Games Workshop Mail Order!" and now it is "customer service hours are 9am to 5pm Central Standard Time." Man, I yearn for the days when I could talk to a fellow gamer, who only just happened to be a GW mail order trolls, about building my army and what kinds of units are best suited to my play style.  My last few conversations with "customer service" were more about waiting on hold and being hurried off the phone. I was on hold for 25 minutes, on one call, last week. As I started out my short (just under 5 years) career at Games Workshop, working for Bob Bassin in Mail Order, my memories of what an excellent service it was are not even partially met by my current experiences. I do not blame the trolls, but rather the US management.

Additionally, a number of items are out of stock, even ones currently, as in a few hours ago, were featured on their main page. I ordered an time two weeks ago, which I was told will not be in stock until July, at the earliest! WTF! Why is it on the main GW page? I cancelled that order as will likely have an entirely different home address by the time the item arrives at the GW warehouse. I'll just buy it then. I bet they have it in the UK warehouse.

Of course, Age of Sigmar is not my only weakness. As I mentioned, or I think I did, I am again back to playing Necromunda, where I have faired well, with a single loss (friggin dice failed me at a crucial point).

The above picture is my desk, at work, while I am on a break. I was in the process of base coating my Orlocks, who I failed to photograph. But...I can tease you with this shot of their bases.

I've spent way way way too much on GW products in the last month. Yet, retail therapy is a very real and, I might say, "necessary" way to cope with the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad news that we received in the past two weeks.

A few of us have been getting together, at Hobbytown USA, with the intent to bring new players into the game. Below is a photo from two weeks ago, where we were using Brent's copy of the game, and showing it off in small, demo scenarios.

 We were going to play again, tomorrow evening, but the game night has been cancelled for this week. Hopefully, we will be back at it again next Friday.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

My Last Campaign?

It has been an eventful few months, which drew my attention away from getting back to posting here. Let me explain.

I was quite ill from December until just last week. Luckily, medication is proving to be helpful and my long-term prognosis is good. This issue caused me to become exhausted after a normal day of work, and I usually went to bed within a hour or so of returning home. As I usually am online in the evening, this situation made it difficult to keep up with this blog as I had fully intended.

Also, my computer issue has not been resolved. I am using my laptop, exclusively, for now. I just do not have the expertise to deal with the software conflict that is going on within the hardware.

Work has been good, apart from my illness, even though I did use up nearly four years of accumulated sick days.

In the meantime, my will was broken down by Games Workshop, with their re-release of Necromunda. Now, I have long been a fan, if not fanatic, of Bloodbowl, but I was able to resist the temptation of the new release, when it first came out. My next passion was Necromunda (Warhammer Fantasy was and remains my first love of wargaming, but it is now gone), and when I saw that it released, and then saw the quality of the new plastics being released for it, I could not resist.

On top of that, I, as I parenthetically mentioned above, love the Warhammer Fantasy world, which many now call "Oldhammer." The Age of Sigmar swept that all away, and I was able to close my eyes to the new world and new game....until, like Lot, I glanced back at the way I came. Instead of turning into a pillar of salt, I embraced the idea of the new Warhammer world and the models and game(s) that came with it.

Within the past three weeks, I purchased Bloodbowl, Necromunda, Shadespire, the Orlock Gang x2, and a variety of paints and hobby supplies. I spent far far far too much money on it all, but my friends and I are now playing Necromunda and Bloodbowl, with talk of twin leagues starting in the near future. We had a demo night at the local Hobbytown USA, last night, with several people showing up to either play or observe.

My Orlocks are assembled, and the first ten models are in the process of being painted. I hope to finish them by next Friday, so I can initiate them into a league game.

Yet, the title of this post is not related to Games Workshop or gaming at all. Instead, this week I was selected to the post of history teacher for the Bureau of Indian Education, with the position of 7th/8th grade history teacher. I will be teaching on a reservation, and also living there. Which is, to be honest, one of two dream jobs that I have wanted for a long time. I still have to pass a background check, which should be a breeze, and I am planning on flying out to the location during Spring Break, to see where I will live and meet staff and students. I intend to move there either in July or August, in time enough to get familiar and comfortable with the area.

Yes, I have not named it as yet. I will reveal that once I've gone there and back (again), as I do not want to jinx anything. I've had many promises made to me over the years, with a very few ever kept, so until I am there and have signed off on it all, I'll keep that part unmentioned. The image below is a hint, though.

I will be receiving the new hire packet within this next week, and also reserve my flight and pay for the tickets.

My best mate, Brent, will accompany me on the move, to assist with driving and unloading/unpacking, and then I will pay for him to return home. As I cannot keep him from his wife for an extended period, my hope is to get settled in and play a game, so he and I can share that experience in person, for perhaps the last time. Unless he and other friends can come up and visit me. The move distance, by the most direct route, is nearly 1500 miles, but it is also more treacherous as there's a long stretch through the Rocky Mountains, which is not a fun drive (I last did it in 2003, in the rain, in the dark). So, I think we will add a couple of hundred miles to the journey, saving a lot of stress on us as well as the moving truck's brakes, by taking a less steep route around the higher mountains.

It is my intention to remain at this new job either until I retire or until another federal job opens up, which allows me to make a positive difference in Indian education, such as principle, or a bureaucratic position overseeing multiple schools.

The downside to this is that I will no longer have the local friends with whom to play games. The nearest game store will be over 100 miles away, meaning any face-to-face games will have to be on weekends. I have major plans that will keep my actively gaming and also participating in the wargaming hobby, which I will reveal later.

However, the positives do outweigh this large downside. I am a small-town guy. I am impatient by nature and sitting at a stop light for 5-8 minutes, through several light changes, is really irritating. I prefer not to waste minutes of my life sitting in traffic. So, the town where I will live has less than 2000 residents and the county has less than 20,000 people. Some may look at this as a barren hell, I look at it as one step removed from Heaven. Peace and quiet, when I am reading or painting, are at the top of my requirements. Where I currently live, the only time I get either is between midnight and 2am.

So, I have much planning, organizing, and preparing to do before I move. I hope to work at both summer teaching jobs, to earn funds that will help ease the move and set me up in my new home. If I do, then I will not be able to move before the last week of July, at the earliest. I will learn whether or not I will be teaching this summer, by the end of April.

I do want to post more there. I hope to have pictures to share of my painted forces, sometime next week. I also have more things to post about, but this is already a bit lengthy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Software Blues and Thanksgiving plans

Well, it's just going to be a long, hard road to recover my data. I am going to have to spend many hours recovering individual data files and copying them over to a new Win10 install.

I'm also going to have to find about 5 years worth of product codes, so I can reinstall software. I figure anything older than that isn't really worth the both at this time.

So, I am going to begin with the mapping software for the Imagination project that I have been working on, plus the excel spreadsheet that I was creating to establish population sizes for each nation.

on a slightly brighter note...

I've just finished my second seminar course for the MA in military history program that I am in. My final paper was on the cultural factors that led to the Bishop's Wars of 1639 and 1640 and the consequences that followed those wars. My next course begins in less than three weeks, so $500 more in books, of which we read from one to three chapters each. The books are useful additions to my library, but I hate that I have to buy a book that I am assigned to read less than 100 pages from it.

Anyhow, in 15 weeks, I will be halfway through the program and that will be a relief. I wish my employer coughed up more salary bonus for having multiple graduate degrees...they do not.

On that note, we are very close to striking, which is a shame. The school district I work for has playing hardball, likely the result of having a new superintendent. If we do strike, I will be playing board and miniature games with friends, when I am not working on my computer.

Speaking of which, I did receive several new games that I hope to play over Thanksgiving break.

I picked this up through the second edition kickstarter. It's not a game for everyone, but I have a few friends who want to play the campaign.

Fallen Land. I saw this when it was a kickstarter, but I was low on funds and could not afford to support it at the time. I did order it and its expansion through and we're excited to play it next week. A monster game, as is Gloomhaven.

Wizard Kings, from Columbia Games, is also in route to me. I expect to play this next week also.

Our plans are to also play Maurice, finally. Four of us intend to play; we've been looking for an opportunity for a couple of months now. Between schedule differences, it's taken us until now to be able to get together and break out the miniatures.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Need IT help, computer still down

Okay, so this past couple of weeks has just been another small addition to the chapters of the last 3 decades of my life: no luck but bad.

I was in the process of switching boot drives from a 60G SSD to a 240G SSD, but during the process, I accidentally activated the original boot drive instead of the cloned version of the drive (the drive names got switched around when I first rebooted, still using the original boot drive). I cloned it use DriveImageXML, which has worked for others in the past.

I since reinstalled Windows 10 on the 60G drive, but I cannot get the 240G drive up and running as a boot drive. The drive shows as a valid installation, but I cannot add it to the BCD (?) list, as I get an error saying something like "pathway not found" or some such.

When I attempt to do the /fix commands using bootrec, such as /fixmbr, I get "access is denied."

I just cannot get around this. I really, really, do not want to have to reinstall all of my programs, that will literally days as they are all downloads, some of which I will probably have to purchase again if I cannot get this resolved.

So, if someone skilled in these matters has a solution, please post a comment.

I would like to get the larger SSD to boot, and/or be able to recover the installation information, that is currently on the larger SSD, so that I can simply access the programs through the newly installed Windows10 on my smaller SSD.

Windows 10 bloat is what caused this issue in the first place, maxing out my boot drive and then forcing it to crash continually through failed updates.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Computer Down!

On Friday, my computer took a dive and stayed down for the count. It will not boot and will not boot from a USB recovery drive.

I've followed several different methods of getting it to boot from a USB, to no avail.

I'm going to have to get an external hard drive and see if it will boot from that, once I make it a recovery drive.

So, until I can get this fixed, updates here will be problematic. I am on a computer at work, which is also problematic.

Unfortunately, I have a LOT of work on that computer, which I no longer have access to.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017


With the end of the 1st Quarter now past, I have a bit more time to post on what I've been up to, but I have to finish this soon as I have yet another graduate paper to write.

With the problems of getting the weapons and heads to cast from the Prince August molds, I went ahead and bought a thermometer to test the metal temp. Yep, the pot does not provide a consistent level of heat. My target tempt is 590 degrees, Fahrenheit, which the pot does get to within about 8 minutes. Casting was ON LIKE A BOSS!

However, an hour into casting, with no adjustments to the temp dial, the temp was down to 430 degrees and casting issues cropped up again. I had to fiddle with the temp dial to get it back to the correct temperature.

 My nearly empty pot as I fire it up. Notice the poor trooper who failed to pass muster
 And the shipment arrives...40 bars of Model Metal from Prince August. It's casting time!
 Cream rises to the top of freshly produced milk, scum rises to the top of freshly melted metal. It must be cleaned off and the process is continual throughout casting. Talc, dust, and other contaminants remain at the top and must be scooped out. This is the tedious part for me, and there's always a little bit of model metal with it.

Notice the thin slivers of metal in the lower left. This is where I cut a vent to help that mustket cast properly. Normally, a vent should lead more directly towards the top of the mold, but I wanted the flash to come off the tip of the bayonet, so I cut down and away before bringing it back to the channel. Usually, there's little to no metal in those two channels on the sides.

I've also vented several of the heads in the various molds, to get them to cast. Those pictures were too blurry to include in this post, though. The casting temperature of the metal needs to be between 572 and 608 degrees, according to the documentation and a Celsius to Fahrenheit calculation.

The metal still needs to be a liquid within 30 seconds of the pour, in order for it to get to all the details in the mold. Tapping on the mold can help, but not always. Sometimes, a large pocket of air is trapped in the mold cavities, and a few raps on the mold will cause the metal to displace the air. This is visible, if you know what you are looking for. Thus, molten metal at too low a temperature will harden within 5-10 seconds (at the top of the mold, which means it hardens sooner than that inside) and that is not enough time for it to get where it needs to be, thus causing items to not cast properly.
And after about 90 minutes, we had the command groups for one of the armies completed. You can see a portion of that effort in the top of the picture, but we did finish 16 officers, 16 drummers, and 16 standard bearers.

A couple days later, we had another casting session, with Brent again assisting by removing the figures from the molds and cleaning them up and with myself doing the casting.

I've no pictures from that, which I thought I had taken, but we have about 50 infantry figures, in addition to the command groups, cast so far. I've more metal and molds incoming, which should arrive this week.

However, I have parent-teacher conferences all week, after school, which means no casting as the light is gone shortly after I get home. All of my casting is down outside on the back porch, so we can use the light of the sun while it lasts.

I will be casting a bit, this weekend, regardless. I need to get all 220+ figures cast before the end of November.

Since the new SYW cavalry molds are unlikely to be released in time. And since I do not want to waste money on buying the old molds, cast and paint the figures for the event, and then remelt everything when the new molds are released, I am probably going to skip the cavalry for the convention game. I'll look for a tabletop teaser scenario that lacks cavalry and modify that for my games.

This will save me money and painting time, to be sure.

On the other hand, I have no figures for generals and notable leaders. I may go with Front Rank AWI models for this, for the event, but I would really like to see a Prince August mold for leaders/generals.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Casting Pot Woes

I've a paper to write for my grad class, so I need to be quick.

I spent three hours yesterday, with two mates, casting figures. Not one head or musket came out properly. Even after I cut vents and drilled holes for venting in one of the molds.

After a while, we all noticed that the metal seemed to be too cool, even though I had turned up the heat knob.

As I do not yet have a thermometer for the pot, the one I ordered will take nearly a month to arrive (sigh), I could not verify the temperature, but I believe all of my casting woes are due to an inconsistency in the temperature of the metal.

I will likely be returning the casting pot and getting a new one...but I have 20 bars of metal still in the pot that will have to come out first.