Thursday, December 31, 2009

Acquiring Prime (Miniature) Real Estate

Stern Rake Studio acquired it's first piece of (miniature) real estate!

Four days ago I bought a terrain board from my friend Adrian, which he got it at a wargame auction. This particular board was a fixture at American Eagles, a gamestore in Tacoma, which sadly, closed a couple of years ago.

This board consists of 6, 2'x4' sections and looks like this when fully assembled:

According to Adrian, no one knows who made this winter wonderland masterpiece. From what we can gather it was made for a micro-armor (6mm, 1/285th, 1/300 scale), Battle of the Bulge scenario.

Here's a view of Panels 1-4:

View of Panels 3-6:

Looking up at the "Splatterhorn":

Another view of the "Splatterhorn":

"The road less travelled":

I plan on adding brown flocking to the roads in order to give them a more "dusty" look. I also want to add more color and acetate to the river:

I'm certainly happy with my new acquisition! I've always admired boar ever since I first saw it back at American Eagles.
However, like some greedy land developer, there are "improvements" I'd like to make.
My long-term plan is to repaint and reflock the the entire board so I'm not limited to a winter campaign.
So far, I've discussed with Adrian, two possibilities:
1. Repainting and reflocking only the snowy areas.
2. Repainting and reflocking the entire board.
This will also mean uprooting all the miniature trees, since they're all "frosted" to look snow-covered. I don't intend to re-attach the trees as they are now. I'd like to make the board a bit more versatile by not "nailing down" these kind of terrain features. (The roads and the river will maintain their respective courses).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Michelangelo Exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum

Today, my wife and I went to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) to check out the Alexander Calder and Michelangelo Exhibits.

SAM website:

I must admit I've never heard of Alexander Calder until now. According to Wikipedia, he invented the mobile. You know, those things parents hang over a baby's crib to keep it mesmerized:

While Calder made small, toy-like pieces, including jewelry, most of his work is "industrial strength" sheet-metal and steel wire, which are unsuitable for any nursery room.

After watching some of Calder's pieces maintain their precarious balance, we proceeded to the Michelangelo Exhibit. One of the first things I learned was that Michelangelo, unlike some of today's pop stars, actually had a surname. The great artist's full name was: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni:

The exhibit here consisted of some of Michelangelo's surviving sketches. Near the end of his life, Michelangelo burned most of his sketches and rough drafts, because he didn't want people to see how "crappy" they were.

I guess the phrase: "One man's junk is another man's treasure," was coined after the Renaissance.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

My wife & I went to see Sherlock Holmes today. This latest rendition of the Great Detective opened on Christmas Day, but the theater was only half-full for the matinee show, either because folks were working, or more likely, watching Avatar.

Despite Holmes' legendary powers of observation, it would be hard for today's audiences to sit for two hours of deductive exposition. So Director Guy Ritchie's version of Holmes, played by Robert Downey Jr., is fast-paced and edgy, with a little bit of steampunk thrown in.

While racing to stop the bad guy's nefarious scheme, Holmes and Watson bicker throughout the movie like two domestic partners. This internal conflict is sparked by Watson's plan to move out of their bachelor pad, on 221 B Baker Street, in order to marry his fiancee.

Basically it's a Victorian Era, cop-buddy movie.

What I liked most about this movie is how Dr. Watson was portrayed. Unlike the classic Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies, this Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law, kicks butt! Afterall, Watson was an ex-army officer and a veteran of the British Empire's Afghan Wars. So the good doctor must have learned a thing or two about hand-to-hand combat.

I give this movie a solid 3.5 stars. The characters are so well known that even with today's movie making magic, it would be hard to surprise audiences without wildly deviating from the original characters. This movie's worth seeing on the big screen.

The Sherlock Holmes wiki-page:

Sherlock Holmes, the movie (caution--plot spoilers!):

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Clash at Kursk--the Final Episode

The last episode of Clash at Kursk has now been posted on YouTube and the Consimworld Social Network site. I've also posted the YouTube link to several other gaming sites.

This project was nearly as big as the project I did for HMGS-East, Mayhem in Makassar Strait. The only difference is "Mayhem" was broken up into 6 x 2-3 minute episodes.

The final production tally for all three episodes of this movie is:

Total number of gaming pictures--237

Historical pictures used--12

Total number of full-narrative pages--19

Total run time: 25 minutes

Link to Clash at Kursk, Episode 3:

Here's a synopsis of the historical campaign, called "Operation Citadel" by the Germans & "Operation Bagration" by the Russians:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book Review: War of Honor by David Weber

I love Honor Harrington!

There. Now that I've professed my admiration for my favorite literary heroine, I wish I could say the same about the book War of Honor by David Weber (2002).

It's not that I didn't like the book, but weighing-in at 929 pages, it's hard to love a story this long.

First of all the title is something of a misnomer. A more appropriate heading would be something like:

An Analysis of the Rising Tensions between the Star Kingdom of Manticore, the Republic of Haven and the Andermani Star Empire, with Anecdotes on the Genetic Slave Trade and the Exploration of the Manticoran Wormhole Junction

However, such a verbose title sounds like a doctoral dissertation on intersellar relations--and promises the reader it will be just as boring.

The first shots in Honor's war aren't fired until somewhere between pages 707 and 708. The action, squeezed between two consecutive pages, is discussed at length in a back story. But the outbreak of all-out hostilities doesn't start until page 827.

So what's the other 826 pages about?

As my doctoral title suggests, it is one long exposition on the chain of events that leads to open warfare between Honor's Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven. Both nations have been abiding by an armistice for the past five years. However, the fragile peace comes unglued due the ambitious and shortsighted actions of leaders on both sides.

David Weber combines "show" and "tell" in his 826-page exposition by way of cabinet meetings, staff briefings, economic round table discussions and press conferences. These gatherings are hard to sit through in real life, not to mention reading about them in a book!

So what did I like about this book?

Throughout the series, the author has done a fantastic job Honor's character development. In each novel, including this one, Honor is shown to be an inspirational, cunning and even gracious leader. David Weber is an imaginative writer of futuristic combat who can hold his reader's attention, so for an Honor Harrington fan like me it was worth reading the first 826 pages of this story.

I give War of Honor 3.5 stars. While the pre-war build-up is interesting, this book is not for a first-time Honor Harrington reader.

Now that war has resumed between Manticore and Haven, the following book, At All Costs (2005), promises to be more exciting.

Wikipedia's synopsis of War of Honor:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clash at Kursk Episode 2

In this episode, the battle for Prokhorovka continues and the Russian heroine, Mariya Octyabrskaya makes her debut appearance.

A short bio of Mariya:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Clash at Kursk Episode 1

Several months ago the owner of the Game Matrix, Chris Ewick, asked me to produce a wargame movie for the game he hosted during NHMGS's (Northwest Historical Gaming Society) Enfilade 09 convention:

The game he set up was a Kursk scenario using the popular Flames of War rules and miniatures:

Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, was a turning point in the Second World War, or the Great Patriotic War, as the Russians call it:

Chris set up a massive tank-versus-tank encounter using his finely painted, collection of 15mm miniatures. (He even painted "mud" on the tank treads!). During the 4-hour game, I acted as a "wargame correspondent" trying to capture every moment of the action. This was often hard to do, because it was a big game involving 11 players (4 German and 7 Russian), along with Chris as the Game Master (GM) and his assistant Walter.

Despite the photographic difficulties, I managed to take 237 usable pictures--a record, so far. The sheer number of photos and the 10-minute upload limit on YouTube forced me to break the movie up into 3 parts.

"Clash at Kursk Episode 1" covers the strategic situation, introduces the opposing players and their forces along with depicting the opening moves of the game: