Friday, April 29, 2011

Pass and Review: French Micro Armor

WWII French Armor.  Figures by GHQ, painting and photo by Peter Wort.

I consider painting miniatures a necessary evil of the wargaming hobby.  While I've painted figures for years, my work has never evolved above mediocre.  Despite my feelings of dread when it comes to painting, I'd gut through the process, slather paint on to miniature figures and buildings at every chance I could, in order to make my collection presentable.

Then, about a year ago, I developed tendinitis.  In fact, I didn't see a doctor about my condition until it hurt just to hold a paint brush.  So I asked around for someone willing to do "contract work" on my figures and found Peter Wort.  I've known Peter through our regional wargaming group the Northwest Historical Miniature Gaming Society (NHMGS) and our annual Enfilade! gaming convention. 

I thought I'd start off by getting my World War II French tanks refurbished.  You see, when I first started collecting micro armor, I'd merely paint the vehicles with one color--based on the counter colors of the game Squad Leader. 

Yup.  My French tanks were a rich, dark blue. 

Now that I'm into developing wargaming YouTube videos, I'm thinking "cinematically" and realize such non-historical color concoctions just won't cut it.  Fortunately for my cinematic reputation (such as it is), Peter repainted my small force in their typical camouflage pattern (seen above).

But wait, there's more.

A couple of years ago, my friend Adrian gave me his unpainted collection of Arab & Israeli tanks (circa Yom Kippur War).  This spurred me on to collect more modern micro-armor.  So in addition to the "usual suspects" of Arabs vs. Israelis, I bought some modern French vehicles and indigenous "technicals"  (pickup trucks with heavy weapons), for some Toyota Wars gaming.

Modern French, Israeli, US and ad-hoc vehicles.  Figures by GHQ and C&C, painting and photo by Peter Wort.

Peter seemed to really enjoy painting the technicals.  Both of us loved the way they turned out.  They're not "too hard" to spot in the above photo.

Since I sent these vehicles straight-away to Peter, without counting them, I was shocked when told me this batch consisted of 99 vehicles.

Yikes!  Now I'm wondering just how large my World War II, modern and sci-fi micro armor collection really is.

Then again, maybe I don't want to know...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Immersed in the Story

Some people become immersed in a fictional world by merely reading a book.  For me, I don't become fully immersed until I get spin-off wargames and roleplaying games (RPGs).  To date, I have games based on Middle Earth, Hyboria, Star Trek and Star Wars.  Now I can add Westeros, the setting for George R.R. Martin's series Song of Ice and Fire

As I mentioned in my Winter is Coming post (16 April 2011), I missed out on buying the Game of Thrones boardgame, but managed to get a map of Westeros from an issue of Dragon several years ago while this magazine west still in print.  Prior to the airing of first episode on HBO, I downloaded PDF versions of the RPG books, by Green Ronin:

But it wasn't until I visited my friend Joe and got to look at his collection of Game of Thrones-based games, that I got hooked on the world of Westeros.

I didn't take the plunge, though, until I discovered I had a surplus of funds on my credit card.  With my plastic burning a hole in my wallet, I high-tailed it to our local gaming store, The Game Matrix and purchased, not only the Battles of Westeros Core Set, but all three of the available supplements; Wardens of the West, Wardens of the North and Lords of the River. (The fourth supplement, Tribes of the Vale is due out soon).

You can check these out on the Fantasy Flight Games website here:

All this for a book I'm only 206 pages, out of 807, that I'm into?  And there's 3 more 800-plus page books, with #5 awaiting publication.

Is Game of Thrones so great that it's turned me into a rabid fan and spend a lot of cash on gaming merchandise this early into the saga?

Not really.  I'll do a full book review when I'm finished, but as of now, I find the book "interesting," as opposed to "totally awesome."  Over the years I've heard a considerable amount of criticism about the Song of Ice and Fire series and from what I've read so far, these comments are not entirely incorrect.  The sheer size of each book along with the number of characters turns off a lot of readers.  What I do like however, is George R.R. Martin has done a fabulous job of world building--a world I know I'll enjoy wargaming in.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Local Movie Critic Online

I've been a fan of Star 101.5 ever since I moved here.

As the weekend approaches, one of the station's guests stars is Brian the Movie Guy.  I enjoy listening to his glib and snappy assessment of the movies that are about to open.  His opinions on what makes a a good film, resonate among typical movie-goers, as oppossed to the artsy/film school graduate crowd.

Writers and wargamers alike, enjoy going to the movies, for both entertainment and to spark their imaginations for their own projects.  And no one wants to waste their time or money on a bad film.  Brian uses the school-letter grading system to rate each movie and since I've been listening, I've heard every rating from A to F. 

While I may not agree exactly with every film critique, I nearly always find his ratings to be within the ballpark of my own.  More often than not, I end up missing his times on the air, but a couple of days ago I stumbled across his blog.  I've attached a permanent link, which can be found under the Entertainment Section of the right-hand tool bar:

Thanks Brian!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Shot Heard 'Round the World" Day

Today commemorates the 236th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  Time to break out your Revolutionary War figures and boardgames!

A synopsis of events from British Battles:

While Wikipedia has a decent summary as well:

I currently have the following games in my collection:

1776, 1777-Year of the Hangman, Washington's War and Guilford's Courthouse. While I don't own any miniature figures, I do have the rules British Grenadier and the first 3 scenario supplements. 

What "revolutionary" games are on shelf?

Comments from Patriots and Loyalists welcome.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Discovering Elfquest

(Image of Nighfall by fan artist "OrangejuiceAddict")

I've known of the Elfquest graphic novel saga for decades, but never delved into it.  That is, until my friend Adrian sent me a link to this Elfquest Fan Fiction trailer site:

Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes pooled their talents to create an enticing video short, which they hope will lead to Elfquest productions.

After scrolling through the fan trailer site, I decided to check out the source:

The graphic novel, which debuted in February 1978, is now available online for free.  (Click on the Comics Tab, then the Digital EQ Online Comics). 

I added a link to the Elfquest sit to this blog under the On Line Comics tab on the right toolbar.

It Looks like I have a lot of reading to catch up on...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Winter is Coming"--Tune in Tomorrow

(Image:  Cover art to George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones)

When it comes to pop culture phenomenas, I'm one of the last to jump on the bandwagon.  Tomorrow night (17 April 2011), HBO will launch the miniseries Game of Thrones, based on the fantasy novel by George R.R. Martin. 

From what I saw of the 14-minute preview, the program promises to be fantastic.  My current dilemma, however, is this:  I just started reading the book.  As of now, I'm a mere 54 pages into the 807-page story.  Nor do I have HBO.  So I'll have to wait until the miniseries is availble on DVD, Blueray or holographic display.

For years I've heard a lot of buzz about Martin's fantasy books, which comprise the series known as A Song of Ice and Fire.  But I've also heard a considerable amount of negative comments too.  A glance at reveals not everyone is happy with the book (278 ratings less than 4-stars, out of 1,812):

Not to mention, the series fans have been waiting since 2005 for book #5 to appear on the shelves.
Despite the lack of closure, the gaming industry jumped ahead and created several products based on the Game of Thrones, or "GoT," in wargaming abbreviation-ese.

One of the first out the gate, was the boardgame, produced by Fantasy Flight Games, which unfortunately, is out of print:

Still going strong, is the collectable card game...

...and the Battles of Westeros:

While bringing up the rear are the role playing game (RPG) sourcebooks,which can be purchased and downloaded as PDFs:

I played the GoT boardgame once, a few years back and I enjoyed it.  (I won the game by not messing with anyone, which apparently, is contrary to the nature of the Lannister Family).  I didn't buy my own copy, because I didn't particularly care for the wooden, blocky playing pieces.

(Image from a game in session, posted on

I did manage to get a map of Westeros from an issue Dragon Magazine, when that gaming periodical was still in print.  While last week, I downloaded the RPG sourcebooks to use as reference material--and who knows--maybe even run a game session someday.

In the meantime, while Game of Thrones fans will be tuning in to tomorrow's show (or saving it to their DVR), I'll be "pouring over the books."

For anyone who merely want's to read the "Cliff Notes," here's a synopsis courtesy of Wikipedia:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

150 Years Ago Today--The American Civil War's Opening Salvo

Today marks the day Fort Sumnter was fired upon, which plunged the United States into a 4-year long struggle that raged across the nation.

The American Civil War, or "ACW," as it's often abbreviated, is a popular conflict among board gamers and miniature wargamers.  Now that we've entered the 150th Anniversary of America's most bloody conflict, the American Civil War will take center stage at wargaming conventions across the country--maybe even across the world.

There's a plethora of ACW gaming sites available to gamers and history buffs.  Below are just two, for starters:
Charge!, an ACW on-line fanzine is authored by Scott Mingus:

While The Miniatures Page (TMP), a popular site among miniature enthusiasts, has a message board dedicated to the ACW:

Fort Sumnter Today:

Faux Pas in France

Several months ago, my friend Dean and I played a session of Disposable Heroes at our local game store, the Game Matrix.  This particular scenario had a task force of American troops (me), supported by tanks, attempting to seize control of a town held by the Germans (Dean).  The very last turn included what Dean called my "crazy drive-by" against a German squad hunkered-down in a ruined building.

I decided to add a humorous twist to a couple of the "Drive-By" photos.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Top 10 WA State Authors

The Pacific Northwest has a large writers community.  Maybe it's the dreary weather of the coast that keeps people indoors and energizing their creative outlets.  What ever the reason, The Seattle Times has taken note and recognized Washington State's top 10 selling authors:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book Review: Pirate Latitudes

For Charles Hunter and his crew of privateers, stealing treasure from a cruel Spanish overlord is only half the battle.  Keeping said treasure proves to be even more difficult.  The Caribbean, 1665 A.D., is the setting for the late Michael Crichton's final book, which was found on his computer in 2006 and published in 2009.
The reviews on are all over the literary treasure map:  86 x 5-star ratings, 111 x 4-stars, 74 x 3-stars; followed by 49 x 2-stars and 42 x 1-stars. 
I assumed this was a "B-movie" swashbuckler when I bought it, so I wasn't disappointed.  Oh, sure the story contained some historical and nautical clinkers; but for what it was, I enjoyed it.  So I'm giving this a firm 3.5-stars.  I'm not sure what the low-score reviewers were expecting. The speculation among them is this was his first draft. If so, I wish I could write first drafts like this.  As any writer will tell you, first drafts (and even second and third ones)--suck.  Toiling away at improving a manuscript is part of the ordeal in honing one's craft as a writer.
Was this Michael Crichton's best book?  No.

Could the story have used some basic fact checking?  Yes, definitely.

But overall, did the author tell a good story? Myself and 271, three to five-star raters seem to think so.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Redshift Chronicles Intelligence Brief #3: Pursuit of the Ivory Bantha

Stardate: Wonday, 065-130 ABY/Tarsan Intelligence Service (TIS)
Subsector: Shannekam

DST-3's Mission to Zenya, Preliminary Situation Report (Sitrep)

After the Merantan Affair, three new members joined DST-3:  Rican Vranos and Coden (both human), along with Thege Kli'Klotaz (a Durosian).  Ambassador Eleonora Heraud ordered the team to locate Damathon Cohain, son of TAg Market's CEO, Thasallah Cohain.  Damathon was reported to be on the planet Zenya, inspecting TAg Market's sea food processing facilities in the Tau Tau Archipelago. 

The team made a hasty lift-off from the Stedmonton Starport on 052-130 ABY.  (See Intel Brief #2, for the reason of the rushed departure). 

On Senday, 057-130 ABY, Shuttle #147 dropped out of hyperspace and entered the Zenyan System.  Within a few hours, the team discovered the wreck of the Ivory Bantha, a YT-1300 transport, owned by the Cohain family.  The ship was dead-in-space and tumbling within a small asteroid field near the 4th planet.  After after detatching from the hyperdrive ring, Cad So Billes successfully piloted the shuttle through the field and tethered their vessel to the hulk.

The team's soldiers, Vranos, Coden and Klotaz donned vacc suits and boarded the Ivory Bantha, via the tether.  While one member was stricken with space sickness due to the zero gravity conditions, they managed to engage and neutralize "two dozen" battle droids found on board.  Once the team reactivated the ship's power plant, they downloaded part of the ship's log. 

According to the partial data recovery, the Ivory Bantha was attacked by an armed, but unmarked, Type-A merchant vessel.  (The origin of this vessel is unknown since it did not emit a transponder signal).  After the  Ivory Bantha was crippled by a salvo of heavy blaster fire, battle droids stormed aboard, intent on capturing the crew.  Damathon and the surviving crew members activated self-destruct charges as they made their way to the escape pod. 

DST-3 determined the escape pod's course was set for a return to Zenya-3, the only habitable planet in the system.

Note:  According to TIS analysts, it is highly unlikely the members of DST-3 encountered two dozen battle droids they claim were on board the Ivory Bantha.  A more accurate account of this incident will be made, once the team returns to Tarsus and is debriefed.

As Shuttle #147 began it's final approach to Pierson Station, it was nearly intercepted by a flight of TIE fighters from the Zenyan Restricted Zone.  The TIEs were driven off by a flight of X-Wing fighters of the Tau Tau Autonomous District's Defense Force, before an actual interception with the shuttle could be made.  No weapons fire was exchanged during the encounter.

When the team made planetfall, they were met at the landing pad by Penelope Pelletin and Adoko, the administrators to TAg Market facilities and Pierson Station's starport, respectively.  Due to jamming activities originating from the Zenyan Restricted Zone, the early warning systems on Pierson Station did not receive any distress signal from the Ivory Bantha, nor detect the escape pod landing within the Tau Tau Archipelago.  After the team briefed the administrators on the situation, a search was quickly organized.

Two days later, with search and rescue (SAR) assets fully committed, Ms. Pelletin asked the team to conduct a search of Gadnek Island.  Since the island is considered sacred to the Tau Taus and is home to dangerous wildlife, a member of King Gethen's bodyguard was assigned to the team as a guide. 

Note:  DST-3's sitrep was transmitted via subspace radio, prior to their departure for Gadnek Island.  Since these signals take five days to reach Tarsus from Zenya, the results of the search efforts on Zenya are unknown at this time...