Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Night Space Combat

Travis came over and we played a couple of games.  First off, we played a few games of Magic: The Gathering.  Travis had to teach me, and after a couple of games I started catching on.  I had been taught to play once, by Kelly, about 15 years ago, but I barely remembered it.  I still have cards that Kelly gave me, though.  I'm sure I'll have the chance to play Travis again.

Next, we played some X-Wing Miniatures.  Travis was called home before we could finish our 125-ish point game;  at that point, I had only lost one Obsidian Squadron TIE, but he had lost a decked-out HWK and had shields stripped from his B-wing and his X-wing piloted by Wedge Antilles, so it wasn't looking too good for him and his Rebels.  My initial maneuvering was good, but just as valuable were some lucky dice rolls on my part.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Photos from early February

It was a long, cold, relatively snowy winter.  We had fun...but I am glad that spring is here, despite my sudden increase in sneeziness.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Games last weekend

Last weekend I was invited to a gathering to play games. There were 14-16 people playing, so it was time for party games. First we played Ultimate Werewolf. I had played simpler versions of Werewolf, with just a plain deck of cards and only three basic roles (villagers, werewolves, and a seer.)  I've always enjoyed that, but it was even better with Ultimate Werewolf because of the additional roles.

We played a couple of games of that; in the second game, I was in the final group of four people before the remaining players correctly guessed I was a werewolf (cub) and killed me.  The last laugh was on them, though, because then the chupacabra ate them.

Next we played  Cards Against Humanity, which I have played before with some of the same group.  I enjoy the game--so far--but I don't know how long-lived my enjoyment would be, and I certainly wouldn't want to play it with everyone I know.  The highlight of the game, I think, was when someone drew the question card: "War, what is it good for?"  Some of the card responses that people had in their hands, and played, were: "Nothing," "Amputees," "A windmill full of corpses," "Land mines," and "Large corporations."  The lady who had the question card, and who had to pick her favorite answer, looked them over and said, "Jeez, what happened to the funny answers?"

Later in the evening, people started leaving, and a smaller group started to pick out a more "gamer-y" game, which I would have loved to stay for, but I did not think I would be able to stay awake for it.

Most of the people at the party were people I had never met, and the ones I had met I barely knew.  I was thinking about this:  I like games so much that I am even willing to play them with strangers, which is tough, because I consider myself pretty introverted.  But then I also started to wonder that maybe that is one of the reasons why I like games to begin with.  Maybe it gives a more definite framework to the social interaction, more of a script to follow. I dunno.

Acrylic landscape

Sycamores by Beargrass Creek - Mark Tabler- Acrylic on panel

Here's a small landscape I completed a few days ago.  It's 12 x 16 (I think! Now I have to measure it when I get the chance, to make sure.)  This is all acrylic, which is rare for me.  Most paintings I've done have been either all oil, or oil over an acrylic underpainting.  I want to work more with acrylics; I need to get used to the fast drying time and how they handle compared to oils, but the payoff will be faster work and easier plein-air transport, I think.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

X-Wing Miniatures Custom Asteroids

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures homemade asteroids

I recently had to use a little Great Stuff spray foam insulation around my house, and when I was done I had a lot left over, so decided to experiment to see how it would work for making asteroids.  I’m pretty happy with the results, so I’m sharing the process for other Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures players.
The cans of Great Stuff are around $7-8.00, and that was the only thing I had to spend money on.  Plenty comes in the can: After some minor hole-filling around the house, I easily had enough left over for at least 50 asteroids, if I cared to make that many.

I have experience with art and with miniatures painting, although I am *nothing* compared to some of the terrain/miniatures builders and painters you can find elsewhere on the internet.  Much of the stuff I list below is the same thing other people do better than I can, and most of this process has been described before elsewhere.  I’m just detailing it all here with my variations on it for the sake of completeness.

I think I’ve seen people mention using craft foam for asteroids. I had heard of people using Great Stuff to build terrain before, but I’m not really seeing anyone specifically mention it for asteroids.  Some people use pumice stones, which look fantastic, but one advantage of Great Stuff  is that it’s very light, easy to shape, and can be easily glued.

Note: follow all warnings on the can of Great Stuff.  It is very sticky, so avoid contact with skin and clothing, and don’t use it in an area that doesn’t have good ventilation.

Materials required:

-Great Stuff foam
-Electric drill
-Needle nose pliers
-Hot glue gun
-Sharp knife
-Paper clips (large size)
-Plastic caps from milk jugs, water bottles, and juice bottles (an assortment of sizes is ideal)
-Paper clips
-Acrylic paint & a brush

Shaping the asteroids:

   1)      Spray small blobs of the Geat Stuff onto scrap newspaper or cardboard.  It expands to several times its original size as it dries, so only use a small amount
   2)      As the foam starts to set, use something small and disposable (a toothpick, a twig, etc. – not your finger, unless you want a sticky mess) to manipulate the foam into bumpy shapes.  Try to get some peaks or roughness.
   3)      Let the foam cure until the center is dry. Overnight works best.
   4)      Tear the dried blobs of foam off of the paper. Use a craft knife or other sharp knife to peel and cut away parts the smooth skin. I liked to leave some smooth areas, but you might not.

   5)      Use your finger nails to pinch out craters and break up any straight lines into more irregular forms.

Painting the asteroids

1)      Thin down some black acrylic paint so that it is pretty liquid. Paint over the asteroid, using the brush to work the paint into the holes and crevices. Allow to dry.
2)      Mix a dark gray or brown (whatever color you think as asteroid should be). Paint over the asteroid, leaving recessed areas and the undersides of ridges with some black for a shadow effect.
3)      Add some white to the paint, and go over the asteroid again, dry brushing higher areas to make highlights. Repeat this step with increasingly lighter paint if you want more highlighting.

Building the bases

   1)      Using a very small drill bit, drill holes in the centers of each bottle cap.
   2)      Straighten the paper clips with needle nose pliers.
   3)      Twist one end of the paper clip into a flat loop, or some other shape that would provide a surface to which to glue the bottom of the asteroid.
   4)      Poke the other end of the paper clip through the hole in the bottle cap, then use the pliers to twist that end into a flat gluing surface.
   5)      Holding the paper clip steady against the top of the inside of the bottle cap, hot glue it in place.
   6)      Hot glue the other end of the paper clip to the bottom of the asteroid.
   7)      I painted the paper clips black, but I’m not sure how durable that is going to be.  The paint might peel off too easily, so you might want to try wrapping the paper clip in black tape, or wrap it in masking tape before painting it black. Alternately, black vinyl coated paper clips might be ideal.
   8)      I cut out disks of black scrap felt and glued them to the tops of the bottle caps so that they matched the play area.  I painted the sides of the bases black, but I think next I will go ahead and wrap the sides in felt, too.

The asteroids are much more stable then I feared they would be; you can bump them and they won’t fall over easily, because the foam is so light.  The one that was just a little top-heavy was fixed by hot-gluing a penny inside the base, although it didn’t really need it.

Just by coincidence, the bottle cap bases I picked to use fit very nicely on the six different asteroid tokens that came with the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures core set, but I might cut my own out of the black felt and paint them.

In the future, I think I’ll dot the felt play area with white dots for stars, and then do the same for the asteroids bases to “camouflage” them.  I think they will blend in nicely.

DIY asteroid terrain

Monday, March 17, 2014

New house portrait

I finished this a couple of weeks ago. It's 6 x 9 inches.  It was a very nice one to work on because there wasn't any problem getting a good view, and the house has attractive proportions and good contrasts.  Sometimes it can be a real headache, but this one wasn't.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

X-Wing Miniatures

I had fun meeting some friends last night for some tiny plastic space combat.  Tiny though the ships are, I set up the largest X-wing Miniatures game I've tried yet: Nine Imperial ships versus six Rebels, on a slightly oversized play area.  It was 166 points per side, with four players, including two who had never played before, so it was kind of slow going for a while.  After we got the rules down, and after a few ships were blown up, things started going a little faster.  Not fast enough, though--we could not finish before the game store we met at started closing.  I'm not even sure who was getting the upper hand.