Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ghost of Karl Marx: “They took that bullshit seriously?”

Salem, Massachusetts

The Sisters of Gaea’s Sickle Collective, a witches’ coven and political action committee operating in the New England region held a seance in order to receive guidance from Karl Marx regarding the outcome of the Presidential election.  Gathered together in an amorphous, non-binary, gluten-free mass of bodies which they described as, “organic”, the participants used a copy of the US Constitution as kindling to light a sacrificial effigy of Ronald Reagan sprinkled profusely with a mixture of medical marijuana and bath salts in order to summon the spirit of the deceased political philosopher.

After several minutes of the group chanting the mantra, “we are the 99%”, a ghostly apparition coalesced into the appearance of the famed, Father of Socialism in a cloud of vapor which smelled of nitromethane, CLP, burning rubber and spent gunpowder.  Greeting the adoring women by loudly shouting, “Hey ladies!  Show me your tits!”, the German lawyer displayed visible disappointment at discovering that the summoning group was seeking his wisdom in enacting The Communist Manifesto worldwide.

Dressed in an Article 15, “Zero Fucks Given” t-shirt and carrying an ever-full Ranger Up, “Whiskey and Bad Decisions” glass of Jack Daniels, the 19th century dilettante addressed the crowd, emphasizing his words by gesturing drunkenly with a Kaila Cummings custom knife.

“Are you people fucking with me?”, he asked incredulously, “Have you no comprehension of satire?  That whole Manifesto thing was a prank I played on John Keynes”.

Members of the collective attempted to explain the attempts made at creating a socialist utopia by illustrating the USSR, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba and Venezuela, to which Marx replied, “bullshit!” and then vanished.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Fishing Trip

While fishing at a secluded pond during sunset, I began to hear soft, droning, wooden flutes in the nearby woods. Dismissing it as my overactive imagination playing while my mind wandered, I continued to cast and tease my lure, but the slow, somber sounds grew. Not in volume or intensity, but in the number of musical voices contributing to the insistent, quiet chord, the likes of which I’d never before heard or imagined. I reeled in my bait, hastily packed my gear and unsteadily made my way up the trail I’d walked many times, yet this trek was saturated with a continuously growing feeling of reverence and fear. The sunlight had faded and the new moon offered no illumination, yet my eyes perceived an unearthly glow ahead of me, growing at a nearly imperceptibly slow rate. Trembling, my legs strode a few more steps up the gentle slope before I became paralyzed by the majesty of one tree. I’d never before paid any attention to the ordinary looking trees along this trail, but tonight, one shone with a regal brilliance in the center of hundreds of tiny, softly glowing entities weaving through the still air when I realized that the countless flutes were indeed also these miniscule, inexplicable spirits, swirling about the luminescent pine. Smothering in simultaneous awe and dread, a compulsion from somewhere within me enabled me to capture this solitary image before terror propelled me to my car, leaving behind the fishing tackle. I frantically dove into the driver’s seat; mercifully the car started and I somehow fled home without crashing from the panic in which I’d become engulfed.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Alien Abduction Mothership

So I was in a funny mood yesterday morning, fired up Powerpoint, and drew this.  Last night after work, I printed, cut and glued it.  This is the result of the second attempt, and the artwork is a little cartoony, so I'm calling it a prototype.  Saucer crew is Flying Frog Martians.  Abductees are Bobby Jackson's Thugz, and Reaper's Bonzo because... Evil Clown.

Life's too short to not play an alien abduction game, and especially to proxy the alien saucer.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sponge painting dungeon tiles

About four years ago I bought into a dungeon tile kickstarter.  Last week, I finally got around to starting to paint the tiles.  After giving some serious consideration (yeah, for once I was actually serious) to how most efficiently get this done, I decided on sponge painting.  Here's a quick rundown; I like the results pretty well.
So here's maybe 20% of the loot.

My weapon of choice is an inexpensive sponge from which I ripped random pieces.
One sorta medium gray and sorta medium / dark tan.  Both fifty cent craft paints, I poured them so they ran into each other.
I poured the paints so I could dab one big hunk of rough sponge into both paints at the same time.
Finally I just smashed the sponge onto the tile at random angles until an entire side was covered.  The great thing about random smash painting is neatness doesn't count and may be a hindrance.
Just smash...

and smash some more, because there's too much definition in the colors,

As you keep on smushing the sponge, the colors partially cover each other, but don't mix, giving the mottled effect I want.

Here's some pieces drying, I like the variation in color and texture.

finally, about half done.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

She's Got It... Venus

Not all that long ago, Evil Eli and I were talking about how to get people to buy into a game so we'd have more opponents and / or allies.  During this conversation, he looks at me and says, "the most important thing to get people to come to your table is awesome terrain".

Rewind to 1997.  I'm hanging out at my parent's house with my Daughter 2.0®, when my good friend Valpurgius calls me.  Actually, at that time he wasn't Valpurgius yet, that's coming up.

Anyway, he says to me, "you should come over to [the new comic & games shop just three miles from my parent's house, now long out of business], my friend Steve is running game demos".

"What's a game demo?", I asked ignorantly, which turns out to be blissfully.

"If you play a game he'll give you some miniatures, come over here".

"I'm with Daughter 2.0® right now".

"Bring her along, they have comics and toys".

"Okay, fine".  <click>.  Yes, back then we were still on landlines, and the phones went <click> when you hung them up.  True story.

So we drive five minutes (yes, there was a time back in history when you could drive somewhere in Atlanta in five minutes) over to the game store, and are underwhelmed by the sight before us.  A couple racks of comics, a small display with blister packs of miniatures I'd never seen, that said, "WARHAMMER" on them, whatever that was, and to one side a table with a few model railroad trees, chunks of that white styrofoam they use to make coolers (it probably was once a cooler) poorly painted to presumably represent rocks, and a handful of unpainted, funny looking miniature guys with guns.  Standing nearby was Not Yet Valpurgius, a very bored, stereotypical comic book shop clerk, and a grumpy looking, paunchy, balding man who was then enthusiastically introduced to me as Steve.  That is to say, NYV was enthusiastic, Steve grunted while the expression on his face indicated painful chronic constipation.

"So where's the game?", I asked, still blissfully ignorant of wargames.

"THIS is the game, it's called WARZONE, and Steve's going to give you a demo", NYV explained with the same look he's had on his face every time he's had a hidden agenda since the first time Dixie, his charming smartass of a mother, caught him sneaking cookies when he was five.

"Okay...", I said while dubiously eyeing the table full of model railroad refuse.

Steve suddenly gained some minor command of language, and asked NYV, "this is the guy who's going to run demos?", inexplicably seeming to indicate me.

That's when I realized the look on NYV's face was because his hand was in MY cookie jar.

Giving my, "good friend" a, "we're going to talk later" look, I asked Steve, "so how do we play this game?"

"you're those guys there in the corner, and you have to kill this big robot before he kills you".

"It's just like D&D, but different", was the brilliant insight offered by NYV, agent provocateur.

Daughter 2.0® was still holding my hand and announced, "I have to go potty", in the grand tradition of every six year old girl ever.  NYV siezed this opportunity to gain as much geography as possible between him and me by generously leading his Goddaughter to the back of the store, which also left me standing at this table of stuff with Svengali Steve, who says, "first we roll for initiative"...

 A few months later, I had run a significant number of demos at several area stores, having collected and painted miniatures representing Capitol Corporation and the Demnogonis and Muwajie factions of the Dark Legion, and was hanging out at The War Room, the greatest gaming store in the history of both games and stores, when Valpurgius (yes, by now he's Valpurgius and I'm Martian Banshee) announces, "we're invited to run demos and a tournament at Dragon Con".

"Tournament?  Isn't Dragon Con comic books?"  Yes, I was that ignorant.

Okay... cutting to the point now.  Inspired and tutored by Dave the Firstborn Canuck and Evil Inside Dave, the local Chronopia demo team, the best demo team I've ever heard of, we knew we had to raise the bar on terrain.  Yesterday, seventeen years later, I hosted an episode of, "This Old Terrain", in which I ressurected the remains of the Venusian jungle battlefield I had made for that convention, and which turned out to be my introduction into letting my creativity loose.  After over ten years of being stored in plastic grocery bags and moved more times than I care to recall, I brought it back nearly to it's original condition.


The pieces, mostly broken, having been sorted.

First to be mended were the banyan trees, mostly because they have the most readily identifiable components.
Next was the Crunchberry Tree forest, because this collection of hacked up artificial flowers is the most memorable, though not my favorite, feature of the terrain set.
The Magnolia seed pods are the only remnants of my Martian Desert terrain, and will now take the place of the long-lost Venusian Blue Spruce trees.  I like these because not only did I acquire them by picking them up for free from under a magnolia tree, the "pod" appearance at this scale inspires me to use them as a "natural hazard, malicious flora" adding an seldom used feature to my games.
Last up are the Oak Leaf palm trees, which also used to see a lot of duty when I was gaming Vietnam.

The set stretched out on a 3ft X 6ft table ready for Bugs to explore the Pleistocene era of Sol III.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Conversion Project

Here's my latest conversion project:  Only Ewe can prevent Florist Friars.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Independence Day Game - Muskets & Mowhawks - Bunker Hill

A few years ago, I won a trivia contest put on by The Mighty Ed at Two Hour Wargames and the prize was a copy of Long Rifle, a French & Indian (Seven Years) War "immersion game", which is a game somewhere between, "very small and detailed skirmish" and "RPG lite".  Not long ago, Ed was kind enough to provide me a copy of the full Muskets & Mohawks wargame which is the companion to Long Rifle.  These are the foundation rules for my New France (alternative history Louisiana Territory ca. 1640) campaign which I've neglected horribly for almost six months mostly due to the demands of my former job; I now have a job I love working from early morning to mid afternoon - the painting table is getting geared up to stock the New France campaign. In the meanwhile, I picked up some Imex 1/72 AWI and painted them over two weekends, finishing in the late morning of July 4th, precisely on my deadline to fight an AWI battle using M&M somewhat "dumbed down" into fewer dice per roll.  Okay, so I didn't get the bases flocked.  No dessert for me.

Colonial militiamen wait inside the fortification on Breed's Hill as the British advance through the Charlestown waterfront.  Historical accuracy was thrown out the window (as usual) so that I could use this terrain tile I had just made by peeling the paper off one side of foam core poster board and etching the paving into the foam with a disposable ball point pen.  The buildings are actually printed on the back of the Imex packaging and the trees & rocks are out of a "bucket of dinosaurs" I found at Walmart for five dollars.

Aggressive woodsmen, possibly wishing to establish Roger's Rangers, charge forward attempting to ambush and destroy the British Huron allies.  Once again, not historically accurate, but I wanted to practice the melee rules.

The Huron reaction was to fire into the charging woodsmen with lethal effect, and then the natives eliminated the woodsmen in melee.  This is still turn 1 as the THW reaction system moves things along at a quick pace.

On the left, each side exchanged volleys
The result of the volleys was two stands of militia Out of the Fight (OOF) while the British ducked for the light cover near the village.

Turn 2:  The British center and Huron right flank advance within musket range.  Unlike 1775, the colonial muskets fire without inflicting a single casualty.  The British return fire, but the fortifications provide perfect protection to the militia.
Meanwhile, the left flank charges into musket fire, but unlike the historical battle, make it all the way to the fortifications on the first charge.  The colonials eliminate one stand of British in melee; both sides stand their ground.

Once again, the militia's musket fire has no effect as the British center and right gain the fortifications, charging into hand-to-hand combat.

The dice once again fail the colonists as they lose every combat, falling before the British onslaught.

The colonial right flank managed to beat back the British left, but the majority of the defenders fall quickly and horribly to the combined center / right attack.

The last few defenders split their formation in a desperate attempt at survival,

But the ferocious British onslaught sweeps through the small rebel contingent. 

This was a very quick, and due to lopsided dice rolling, brutal victory for the British, unlike the historical Pyrrhic victory.  I suppose follow-hp games could be alternate history.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jar Jar Binks Murdered in Spectacular Fashion

Back on International Tabletop Day,  I finally got the show out on the road and took the whole Jar Jar Binks Must Die game over to a local FLGS, Meeple Madness.  While the store was packed, most of the attendees were in two concurrent tournaments, but a few players were scrounged.  Here's a quickie on how things went.

Welcome to Possiltum, where Jar Jar waits upon Molehill Doom, plotting interdimensional domination.  With a goal of saving the cosmos from overbearing merchandising, The Scooby Gang, The Ghostbusters, Rico's Roughnecks, and Chuck Norris' Badass Super Team are all racing to defeat this menace.

The Super Badass Team has encountered Bradbury's Pandemonium Circus.  Machete falls to Calamity Jane's sharpshooting while William 'D-Fens' Foster and Dr. Sheldon Cooper eliminate Krusty the Clown and the Strong Man.  In the nick of time, Chuck deploys a Docbot which revives Machete.

In an effort to ensure only they get to fire on Jar Jar, Rico's Roughnecks fire on the Ghostbusters; Spengler and Slimer go down.

The Scooby Gang, assisted by Bigfoot have had the misfortune of encountering a "Gungam Lives Matter" protest.  Velma and Scooby fall to stray, "celebratory" gunfire.

Karma falls upon the Roughnecks, and a cascade of Booma balls rolls through their formation as the crew of the Enterprise laughs.
The Badass Super Team races into Jar Jar's lair, but, "it's a trap!".  Machete, Sheldon and Rick Grimes all suffocate beneath one million, seven hundred seventy-one thousand, five hundred and sixty-one Tribbles.

Doggedly pursuing their foe across the village, Fred and Velma finally vanquish Jar Jar.

Was it wierd?  Yeah.  Was it fun?  Yeah!

Friday, May 20, 2016

The most disturbing (to me) miniature I've ever painted

This may not be suitable to hardcore fans of Berk Brethed's Bloom County.

People who know me to some degree will describe my sense of humor as, "different".  My favorite comedians are Tim Conway, Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams.  My favorite comic strips are Pearls Before Swine, The Far Side and Bloom County, especially those strips deemed, "offensive".  This sense of humor and a love of gaming and especially painting miniatures led to this version of Reaper Miniature's "Bonzo" as a tribute to Bob Kane, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger.

This little darling was enough to convince my friend Chuck to commission me to paint some miniatures for his upcoming Morrow Project game, starting with a band of post-apocalyptic clowns, presumably because at least a part of his sense of humor is to some degree as horrible as mine.  Sorry Chuck, due to babysitting a sick five year old grandson, by my standard I'm badly behind schedule right now but I'm getting a lot of traction right now.  Anyway, I saw this charming gentleman and was immediately inspired to ruin a lot of people's childhood memories.
Yes, I know two spots of mud got in the wrong places and need to be touched up.  
Chuck expressed that he's pleased with this one, and some other friends implied that once again my sanity may be in question, so I'm confident I'm on the right track and I proceeded to paint the rest of this happy family.  The next one to catch my eye was a lovely lady celebrating Mardi Gras, but I lost traction am not posting WIP with which I'm displeased.  This next fellow is the biggest and most well armed of the troupe and his chosen headgear provides a very nice dichotomy so I dug in.  The hat for some reason reminded me of Liza Minnelli, both as Sally Bowles in Cabaret and singing at the Freddie Mercury Tribute, which inexplicably influenced the color scheme.

Getting attacked by a pink and purple clown is pretty messed up, but just doesn't have enough, "Wrongness" for me.

I went to bed last night rather dissatisfied with my progress - I was just too tired by six hours of navigating traffic in order to renew both my license plate and driver's license.  Then, something wonderful happened.  The very instant I awoke this morning, the shining light of inspiration illuminated my mind in the most (for me - probably not for you) happy way in the form of a vision / memory of this seminal moment from Bloom County:

That's when I knew what I had to do.

Further, while the full amount of hair on this figure can't be entirely seen from the above photo, let me assure you that the figure features a full-on tribute to 90s hair, and this butter (of all things) commercial arose from the bowels of my memories:

Now I have told my story so that you can fully appreciate why I consider this the most horrifically disturbing miniature I've ever painted.
For so it is written, at the end of days, one revered for beauty shall come forth cloaked in symbols of the darkest evil.

I painted the damn thing, but it scares the hell out of me.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

New France Episode 1: The Hunt


Predawn, Fort Frontenac, 8 September 1638

Captain d'Iberville has sent Cadet Olivia Pierre and Pte Adele Miroir to hunt the camp's afternoon meal.  Orders are to return with either an elk or enough turkeys and rabbits to present Her Majesty, Queen Anne and the Cardinal Richelieu with a proper welcoming feast.

Meanwhile, at the ford across the Hudson, one of the Witches of Salem has a different type of welcome for the visiting dignitaries.

Olivia and Adele first try a clearing known to be visited by elk and deer, and they are rewarded for their good idea.

In Sight reactions are rolled; Olivia and Adele both fire their muskets before the elk can react - both successfully strike it in the chest, immediately eliminating it's heartbeat.

Realizing that the fort has sent out hunting parties, the witch whips her conjured goblins into a frenzied charge at the fort's front gate, then she casts a spell of blindness (Dazzle) on the two gate guards.  The goblins race forward unopposed.

Back in the clearing, Adele cheerfully exclaimed, "Most excellent, Cadet Olivia, our prey will not require tracking", and both hunters reload their muskets before moving in and beginning to dress the kill.

"Yes, this is very good fortune", agreed Olivia, "let's be quick about this before something comes to investigate the shots".

Olivia had no idea how portentous her words were as nearly immediately two wolves began charging across the clearing, intent on taking the elk for their own breakfast.

Their muskets stacked beside the tree, Olivia desperately drew her pistol and fired her one shot into the gaping maw of the charging carnivore, while Adele stood by, too stunned to react.  Fortune was indeed smiling upon the young cadet as the musket ball flew between the massive fangs and embedded itself inside the wolf's brain, and it fell Obviously Dead.
"W-was that your shot or mine?" were the only words Olivia could form in her trembling mouth.

"I never had a chance to shoot, you saved both of us", was Adele's gasping reply.

Both heaved a sigh of relief as the second wolf silently retreated back into the woods across the clearing, but that relief was short lived when the women heard the cracks of muskets and war cries coming from the direction of the fort.
Hearing rather than seeing the oncoming horde, Sergent Jaques Martinez ran through the construction site inside the palisade ordering soldiers to prepare for immediate battle, but too late to rescue the guardsmen.  Blinded by the witch's malign spell, the goblins head toward their target inside the Captain's quarters.  Only Sergent Jaques' quick action to strike down the leading goblins in melee prevents the garrison from giving up the day.

Hearing the gunfire and shouts of battle back at the fort, the realization quickly came to Olivia that serious danger was afoot, "Drag the meat between us, we must leave now while there's still a fort to defend!", and the two hunters began their return to the fort at their fastest possible speed.

Emerging from the wood-line, Olivia and Adele were greeted by the sight of a goblin horde pressing an attack against the fort's garrison, but then an even more frightening sight:  a Salem Witch striding toward the melee with a gloating expression on her face.  Suddenly, the witch stopped, turned and locked eyes with Olivia.  Both knew that their survival depended on immediate action; in a moment there would only be the quick and the dead.

As Olivia raised her musket to shoot, the witch raised her wand so that she could Blink away to a hidden position from where she could strike unopposed.  Olivia desperately thumbed back the flint on her musket, but the witch's arm was over her head.  Suddenly, there was a flash of smoke and a hiss, but from Olivia's left and the witch froze as Adele's musket misfired, but the distraction was all the young cadet needed and Olivia fired.  The ball flew true and struck the witch just beneath the brim of her hat, causing her head to explode in a fountain of ichor.

Inside the fort, Sergent Martinez bought enough time and space that the garrison defenders were able to form a firing line, which shot as soon as Jaques was clear of their field of fire.Three goblins fell wounded from the volley, and the goblins, always unreliable, scrambled out the gate.

With the smoke cleared and the goblins retreated back across the river, Captain D'Iberville had the fort secured while His Eminence gave Last Rites to the two fallen gunners, nobody else had even a scratch.  Olivia and Adele retrieved the Elk and began butchering it near the fort's open roasting pit when they heard a feminine voice new to them.

"Captaine, Sergent?"  Neither girl paused from their work.  The same voice, louder and sterner, "Ladies, if you please?"

The young soldiers turned in surprise from their bloody task to discover Her Royal Majesty, Queen Anne, His Holiness, Cardinal Richelieu, and Pierre D'Iberville, now wearing the sash of a Colonel.

Her Majesty offered a sash toward Olivia, "We would be honored if you would accept the sash of your commander for your commission, mon Capitaine.  We have an urgent mission for someone of your skill and initiative."

Olivia was stunned and could only stare wide-eyed at the well-worn Captain's sash held inches from her chest.  Adele gave Olivia's arm a nudge, forcing the new officer's hand to accept the badge of rank.

"Once again, quick and excellent thinking Serjeant", the Cardinal congratulated Adele as he began to pin the badge of rank upon Olivia's collar.  Now it was her turn to be shocked into silence at the same time Olivia bowed so that the Queen could drape the sash over her head.

Episode 2