One of my favorite parts of KublaCon is the painting area set up just outside the dealers room on the edge of the foyer. I really like the location. Something about being tucked under the stairs adds to the industrious feeling, the Paint and Take tables being almost always full certainly doesn’t hurt either. Will really have to get photos of some of the hard working apprentice painters next year. It is inspiring to see so many people of all ages tucking in and trying their hands at minis painting as well as artists sharing their skills.
Friday found me entering the first of the Speed Painting contests as I was there and I like to maximize my opportunities to get into the final round. Always a fun way to spend time with creative people as we all have the same figure, the same paints, and the same lousy brushes. Other than the final round one never knows what figure will be handed out. If one places first, second, or third in any early contests then they can sign up for the Masters Round held Sunday night.
My first piece was a Rivet Wars figure I had never seen before. I don’t play the game but am vaguely aware of the visuals. Since the figure came with a stat card showing this color scheme I decided it was easier to match what I saw rather than create something from scratch. Fortunately I had just enough time to add the tartan to the kilt and crowns to the ammo belt. I think those were some of the details that took it over the top, placing first in the round. That meant I was eligible for the final one Sunday night. Now, there is no rule saying one can’t enter multiple times but once I’ve earned a spot in the final contest I’m done entering qualifying rounds. I’ve got games to play and friends to catch up with after all.
So this year’s mascot is a Dwarf Cleric version of Kubla and as has become tradition, the final round’s figure is that year’s Kubla mini. While I love dwarfs he is a VERY small figure whose finest detail is difficult for me to discern with my fifty year old eyes and the brushes we have aren’t very good. Since one isn’t allowed to use an Opti-visor in the Speed Painting competition it is obviously becoming a young person’s game. I will keep doing my best to represent the oldsters in the painting community but only time will tell how much longer I will last. While I was able to do some nice, basic color blending as well as pick out some fine detail there was a gem on his forehead I couldn’t even see and I was disappointed in my handling of the mace head. It is supposed to be a ten sided die but I just went with a straight (boring) metalic scheme. My hard work and patience did pay off as I won the Silver Medal in the final round for the second year running. The winner did a great job on his figure, painting the tiny jewel on his helmet and making the weapon look like the head was made out of a sapphire. I felt fortunate to be right behind him in second place as the rest of the field were quite good. That’s what happens when twelve winners sit down together I guess.
Next was the actual KublaCon Painting Competition 2015. I find the name to be a little misleading as it is really more of a miniatures painting Exhibition. Each entry is judged on it’s own merit, whether it meets certain criteria and awarded a medal if it reaches them. If five painters enter pieces that earn enough points to qualify as Silver then all five painters win Silver Awards or badges in the case of the Draconic Awards. This year saw KublaCon’s volunteers teaming up with the Draconic Awards adding yet more national cred to our little local convention. We are already a qualifier for the Crystal Brush competition so this seems a logical next step. Before I go any further I’d like to take a moment to thank the previously mentioned volunteers. The Painting area is hugely successful every year due in no small part to the excellent people who give their time and talents over the weekend. A huge Shout Out and hearty thanks to Wayne, Meredith, and all their volunteers for running a wonderful part of KublaCon.
I have mentioned the Beholder miniature from Reaper Bones in an earlier post. I love the sculpt and despite having no real use for him in any games I currently play, he was the first one out of the rewards I painted. His face is just so expressive and the details fun to paint that I wanted to show him off. I also think he came out quite well for squishy plastic. Turns out I was right and he earned a Silver. Maybe it was his hypnogaze.
Maelee, by Bombshell Babes is another figure with an expressive face who was fun to paint. Honestly, I find the majority of them to be entertaining and well sculpted. I coupled her with a Malifaux base because her massive wrench needed some massive pipes. I was delighted, upon entering her, to discover that there is a limited edition, alternative sculpt of Maelee battling robots. The three winners of the Final Speed Painting Round each won a limited edition figure from various manufacturer and first place was the alternate Maelee. As luck would have it he really preferred the resin vampire thing I had and we happily swapped. Thanks, Jordan! Back to this Maelee and my luck held out landing her a Silver despite her refusal to wash up before the competition.
My fondness for dwarfs is no surprise to any who know me and when they are mounted and highly mobile it’s just bonus. I showed pictures of my Berserker Lord on Brock in an earlier post but I enjoyed painting both him and the base so much I wanted to show him at KublaCon. I think it was the old school mushrooms I made out of milliput and toothpicks that tipped him to Draconian Gold.
Since I’ve just had a ball assembling and painting unit bases for Mantic’s Kings Of War I wanted to show off a couple of them. Besides being my current favorite, the Hasslefree Bulwarkers unit are an attractive grouping, carefully painted, and all those hand drilled spearheads and dwarf hands deserved to be in a display case at least once. The decorative Scibor bits really add a sense of narrative as well. So pleased when they won a gold as after the first two silvers I was worried nothing else placed because I’ve been a solid bronze and silver winner for years. Well I needn’t have worried.
Just like the Bulwarkers, the second edition Bugman’s Rangers are some of my favorite minis, ever. It was my college room mate’s paint job, with a tiny stein on each shield, on this unit that caught my imagination and made me not only want to play Warhammer but collect my own dwarfs. The Oldhammer, chunky stunties of the eighties are so different from Kev White’s anatomically logical work that I wanted to show something from both examples. I was floored when they also won Gold.
Okay, Slayer Girl, as I’ve come to think of this female slayer by Hasslefree is a wonderful sculpt that (I even have the scifi version of) has been off and on the painting table for over a year. As soon as I’d decide on one part of her I’d run into the massive force that is my own indecision on the next part. Once a section was done something would happen and she would get chipped or spilled on so I kept starting and stopping her. When everything was fixed I couldn’t decide on the tattoos. Finally, right before the con and after a base swap I felt she was finished. I have struggled with flesh tones and worked to get hers right. The miniature really inspired me to keep coming back to make things better, to push my comfort zone and work on new techniques, not accept “good enough” like she were a bulk trooper. It is also helpful to have Necron99 pointing out the obvious when I’m too close to see it (the previously mentioned base swap for example). Truthfully, I was really hoping she would place and felt she was my best chance for maybe a gold this year. Turned out she was one of four golds but she came in third in the Journeyman Class. Which is truly humbling because there were amazing pieces this year done by talented painters that I was just proud to be showing with so to place at all was more than I had even considered. To top it off, I won a full set of twenty-four Militiare transparent paints. Talk about exceeding any and all expectations.
So, I always said if was able to win another gold, especially in Single Miniature, I would move up to Masters Class the next year. When one enters six pieces, wins two silver and four gold then it is time to run with the big dogs or as Necron99 puts it,”enter the wasteland of no trophies”. Honestly, I’m so stunned by this year’s amazing results I’m sure the buzz will carry me through a few years of hoping for Bronze in future. Until then I have skills to sharpen, pigments to master, bases to create, and an airbrush to dig out of my garage because I know as long as I keep trying to learn, to improve, I will keep loving this art form. Hope to see you all at the KublaCon painting cases next year.
The Khan of Cons
I recently attended KublaCon2015 in Burlingame, CA. It is my favorite game convention and I try to attend every year. Family friendly, diverse crowd of attendees, every kind of game one can think of (many that you can’t), wonderful staff, amazing painting area, and all in a rather nice hotel (Burlingame Hyatt). About the only complaint I can make is the same with most conventions, the food is way over priced and not very tasty (or healthy for that matter). Pretty minor negative considering everything that goes into one of these events and there’s a grill and burrito place right across the street. The Miniatures Painting Competition is really more of an exhibition but I’ll discuss that more in the next post. This is about some of the miniature games.
The first thing I saw when I walked into the minis hall was a table covered with tiny oared vessels and counters. Fleets and their crews were being assembled by Thomas (http://www.skullandcrown.blogspot.com/) and Stan whom Tom had apparently chained to the table and put to work. They were organizing ships and crew counters for the big battle between Venice and the Ottoman Empire the following day.
The first pictures are several games I didn’t play in but liked the look of. Saw a couple of friends playing Star Wars Armada and really liked the ships. Being fully painted right out of the box is certainly a major plus and Star Wars space ships look cool. I’ll have to try it out some time just to see what all the little dials are for. Next is a historical war game named Hell or High Water that was being Beta tested with a scenario called The Sands of Taman Rassat. I always love the table this group sets up, being partial to Egyptian ruins.
Speaking of tables I love, Mike has always been an artist in everything he does from minis to terrain to character sheets and for this he adapted the Conan Board Game rules and had players running classic heroes from Conan to Elric. The heroes worked through several battles before arriving at the huge night time table.
I understand that Elric cut a swath through just about everything and everybody. Not surprising really, vampiric sword and all.
The first miniatures game I played in, later on, was The Battle of New Orleans using Sharpe’s Practice rules and run by Necron99 so I knew the table and miniatures would look great. Honestly, if the toys are nice it just seems more fun to me. Captain Sharpe (of the classic BBC show Sharpe’s Rifles) had replaced one of the historical British officers so it was anyone’s guess what the outcome would be. Fortunately there were no beautifully sultry rebel leaders to aid him this time. The Americans might have a chance.
The British troops were trying to get to the canal where they could begin building a temporary bridge and take the ramparts on the other side. The Americans, on the other hand, were trying to stop all of that from happening but from behind the relative safety of said ramparts. I knew where I would rather be and so joined Jackson on the right flank of the American line.
The Sharpe’s Practice system uses cards to randomly determine which unit or leader will go next as well as when the turn will end. This makes for some frustrating combinations with the British officers getting the first four activations four turns in a row at one point. While one may be tempted to think the Americans will make it up later there is the problem of the turn ending card turning up before that happens. True to history, the Scottish troops marched forward through the American fire.
The Americans were able to put some Shock points on the skirmishers and the Scottish regiments. Of course they were distracted putting out the fire started in the cannon emplacement by the shooting of Sharpe’s Rifles. They then hid from fire in the smoke from those fires making way for the heavies coming up behind them. Guess that’s why they’re the chosen men. True to the TV show, one of the British commanders suddenly saw the merits of guarding the rear and brought a regiment of red coats with him. Fortunately for the attackers the British commander was able to intercept the unit and dismiss the officer from command before the entire regiment left the field.
As the British finished their bridge the pirates manning the gun were finally able to use their rare activations for more than fire fighting and reloaded the cannons. As the first regiment of red coats charged across La Fitte was able to light the fuse with his cigar tipping the balance of the combat and wiping out a chunk of the unit. Just to prove his worth the French privateer then bested Sharpe in a personal challenge sending the wounded captain sliding into the mud of the canal’s edge. It was the second unit across that broke the pirates and held a spot on the ramparts. That activated the American cavalry to enter the board beginning a drawn out firefight. In the end the British didn’t have enough banners left alive to fulfill their victory conditions but since they had done far better than their historical counterparts the GM declared it a moral victory. In Napoleonic era adventures it pays to have Sean Bean on your side.
Typical of me, I thought Wooden Wars was running at noon on Saturday rather than ending then. I realized the error of my ways when I went downstairs to find Thomas cleaning up the last of the lovely wooden soldiers while chatting amiably with con attendees. I was determined to play in his Galleys, Guns, and Glory game Sunday morning. Having seen all the toys being assembled the day before as well as watching Thomas paint crew tokens I was ready for the beautiful ships covering the blue table. Despite being officially signed up for the game I opted to run some of Stanley’s ships on the far right flank of the Venetian line. This would allow more new folks (I’m a long time fan of Tom’s work all the way back to Pre-Pirates! days) and, even better, I could hang out with Stan (who appeared to have been released from painting servitude) and catch up with him. Besides, he had a Hotwheels van to give me so double score!
Not as huge as Lepanto the battle was still an impressive array of colorful ships. Some of the players had played in Tom’s games before, others were new but all were excited to get started as Thomas reviewed a little history as well as the simplicity of the rules. Besides, the toys are just so beautiful, rigged and all, that one can’t help but squat down next to the table for better effect.
Following Stan’s lead, he has played before after all, we closed in on the enemy with the intention of sinking two and capturing the third of the three facing us.
We held our fire until we had closed to medium range to increase accuracy and damage. Knowing these cannons took ages to reload in real life I figured those might be our last shots. Anything more would be a bonus. By concentrating fire and Stan rolling better than I we were able to sink an Ottoman galliot right away. We then prepared to close the distance and readied our marines for boarding action (figuratively speaking). We were fortunate that our targets were more focused on supporting the efforts of the Turkish center rather than our ships bearing down on them. Stanley even managed to roll well enough to reload his guns.
While much of the Venetian force was struggled, Stan and I swept forward, raked the enemies decks with crew killing grapeshot before taking our first trophy ship. Again, thanks to Stan’s excellent rolling, we managed to reload both of our smaller ships before sinking the last Ottoman galley facing us. Leaving just enough crew aboard the captured vessel to sail it home we turned our unscathed, fully crewed fighting vessels to face the center and saw the sea afloat with damaged targets. At this point Thomas called it an Ottoman victory as they had crushed our left flank and were in a stronger position in the center. Stanley and I both felt we could have tipped that fight, being one move from at least two more easy captures but decided to bask in our accomplishments. Next fight I want my own fleet so I better get to work painting the ship I already own. As with almost all the rules Tom writes, I found the system easy to grasp, logical in how it represents combat and moving, and a lot of furious fun to play. It also helps that it was a really entertaining group playing.
I’ll close my report with a picture taken during Mike’s climatic Conan battle. It shows that Thomas is still the king of multitasking, painting crew markers while playing in the scenario. I swear the only thing he doesn’t do better than the rest of us is sleep. That is one skill I still possess in massive quantities. Next post will address my Painting Competition experiences.
So I had my zombie fighting Scooby Gang, found a suitable Mystery Machine upgrade, and I had some maskless ghosts and zombies. Time for a base. I did some sketches, moved the figures around a piece of paper before finally heading down to the local craftstore, reasoning it would be easier to plan out if I knew what I was going to build on. Tom (http://www.skullncrown.com/store/) always says to buy the storage box before building the terrain so you know where it needs to all fit into. Words I have repeatedly found the wisdom in the older I become. So with that in mind I found a wooden plaque template that was big enough to hold all my parts and I liked the varied edge. I had played with a number of ideas, the runner-up being the parking lot of the ruined malt shop but in the end I decided on a simple crossroads because I wanted to make the wooden sign as much as any symbolism. At this point I drew the overall shape onto a piece of foam core as well as circles where the bases would be inset, cut everything out (careful right angles for the circles tapered outer edge), and glued it down to the board with some Elmers White Glue.
I built up the area around the road with lightweight spackling and painted the road with Golden Course Textured Medium mixed with deep brown acrylic paint as a base color figuring I might as well save a step. I ran an old flat brush, frequently moistened in water, along the road to simulate ruts and old tire tracks. Once I liked the look, I pressed the tracks of the Mystery Machine against a wet sponge repeatedly between pressing them against the still moist roadway, up to the point I wanted the vehicle to be parked.
I painted the finished roadway with a watered down gloss medium to make it look wet and flocked the rest of the areas with Woodland Scenics materials, finishing them off with some tufts of grass to break up the solid horizontal planes a little. I built the sign post out of bits and pieces laying around my table.
The resin kit I picked out (GZG41 Snow Cat at http://www.daemonscape.com/contents/en-uk/d5_01.html) has some nice detail, is a clean cast, and has wonderful flat panels to paint that 70’s detail onto. I do recommend washing resin kits with a little dish soap, rinsing very well before drying them with paper towels. Otherwise I find my hard work comes pealing off the mini AFTER I’ve completely finished and usually right before I want to show it off. The only issue I had was with the turret as it didn’t have more than a slightly raised cylinder to show where to place it and then the gun hit the vehicle’s ventilator/snorkel (yes, they might have to cross flooded out roadways on their way to “Old Man Brown’s Farm” looking for the zombie of Don Knots) and my gang would need clear arcs of fire. All I needed to do was build a short base to raise the height of the barrel a bit and I found that the trigger block from a can of Montana Gold spray paint was perfect. The hole in the trigger block was almost exactly the same size as the placement cylinder and even tapered into the middle so I didn’t have to sand it off the original. What I did have to do was build up the bottom of the turret and add a plug so it could rotate. I used two part epoxy, or greenstuff, to roughly shape the bottom before pressing it into place, the surface of which was liberally covered in water to prevent sticking when I then removed it. This provided a nice, custom fit plug. After it dried I test fit and sanded it to get a smooth, tight connection and it was time to paint.
Other than the Cosmonaut Horrorclix figure where I wanted to keep his transparency, I primed everything white. Still not made the jump to airbrush I do everything by brush, including my vehicles.
I try to keep my base coats clean as it makes everything else so much easier and is worth the effort once I start putting down washes and stains.
After the base coats the figures receive said stain and washes. While I will coat every bit of a 10mm Warmaster figure (strip of figures?) a solid wash of brown (Agrax Earthshade in Games Workshop colors) for these I prefer to mix it up and tailor the colors more. Secret Weapon Miniatures (http://www.secretweaponminiatures.com/) not only make my favorite washes (huge range of colors made out of high quality materials), my favorite bases (nothing less for Hasslefree Miniatures) but also an incredible line of dry pigments I swear by for weathering. The tutorials on the website are wonderful.
The gang were simple enough as reference materials are everywhere online. I did find a great “print and fold” your own Mystery Machine on Deviantart.com that showed the details on EVERY side of the vehicle. That was wonderfully helpful. It was really a straight forward job of base coats, washes, blend, and highlight on the figures. I was working off of cartoon characters here after all. I mounted all of the Scooby Gang figures on Secret Weapon Corpse Fields Beveled bases with the original plan of adding some water effects afterward. The “Rombies” were all based on simple round bases I didn’t do more than add some texture to. Heroes should stand apart on multiple levels after all. I still haven’t added the water effects because I’m not really sure they need it. Might be a bit of overkill but with zombies that might not be a bad choice.
Such a fun project and I’m rather proud of myself for getting results so close to my original vision. That happens so rarely in any creative endeavor it’s worth savoring. All that’s left now is to figure out a game to use them in.
I have been in love with Hasslefree Miniatures’ (http://www.hfminis.co.uk/) Scooby Doo Gang as Zombie Fighters figures since the first time I saw them. I knew if I ordered them I would find a reason to use them eventually but it wasn’t until KublaCon 2012 when I acquired a HorrorClix Undead Cosmonaut that I knew I had to make a diorama. Okay, a little clarification on my use of “acquired”. Necron99 actually picked it up as part of his Friday night flea market haul. Immediately upon seeing it, I grabbed it and said he was needed to face my Scooby Gang. Being a man who appreciates aesthetics as much as he does classic cartoons he graciously agreed to let me have the radiated figure. Then it was a a simple matter of ordering a Zombie Dog Walker and Deep Sea Diver (would need some conversion) from Reaper Miniatures and my cast was complete.
Now, if they were going to be fighting zombies, real zombies as opposed to guys in rubber masks, then their Mystery Machine would really need an upgrade. I have found that Daemonscape (http://www.daemonscape.com/index.html) is a good place to start for science fiction vehicles and after some looking around settled on the armed and armored, four track Snow Cat.
Now that I had the pieces assembled it was time to plan out the display board and start painting but that can wait for another post.
Strange how life can lead one full circle. As a child I was entranced by the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for reasons both numerous and varied but one of my favorite scenes is at the very end with the two old fathers crawling around on the floor, toy soldiers lined up beautifully on both sides, throwing pots and pans at each others’ forces. Oh, but I wanted to play that and would set up my plastic army men to experiment with various missiles from marbles and rubberbands to cylinders fired from a Lego cannon (there is always room for Lego) but nothing really seemed to satisfy. Once I began painting metal and plastic figures even the idea of dice bouncing off them brought shudders and my old dreams quietly crept back to my subconsciousness.
A couple years ago my friend Tom had an idea for a game, called Wooden Wars, he wanted to play with his kids. Now, like a fair number of my friends, Tom (http://skullandcrown.blogspot.com/) is a game designer, both computer and actual, so this is nothing out of the ordinary for him. I hope he forgives me for showing the earliest test pieces. Its all part of the process after all.
Add the fact that he is also an amazing artist and one gets games that are as beautiful to play as they are to look at. What he described, rubber balls bouncing across the floor to strike lines of flat, wooden Napoleonic soldiers, instantly brought back my dreams and had my inner five year old itching to go.
That it was the very same movie scene that partially inspired him (OK, H.G. Wells was the major inspiration-for so many things) convinced me to paint my forces as the Army of the Free Republic of Vulgaria. Obviously my troops would have to be proud volunteers of the post-Bomburst revolution, clad in the emerald and violet of their homeland.
Being a long time war gamer it should be of no surprise that a fair number of my friends are into Napoleonic miniatures of various scales. While I had studied the general history of the era (birth of Nationalism and all that), had a great appreciation for the amazing spectacle a full minis battlefield can be, I had no interest in painting any of my own, let alone doing further research into the particulars.
Once Tom had handed me the first “sprue” of cannon and crew that all changed and I couldn’t get enough details of the uniforms, units, flags and stories of individuals. That Tom’s excitement for anything can be highly infectious is not to be denied (anyone play Pirates!?) and he kept steering me toward new resources.
All my ravenous interest is ironic, really, as my army is that of an imaginary country but it really crystalized my theories of lifelong learning being fueled by play and pushed me to start blogging, or pontificating as some would have.
That is a brief look at the early days of one of my favorite games. Soon I’ll be showing newer units, convention games and even exploring other planets with Queen Victoria’s Robot Wars. Until then, I leave you with a couple of convention shots in order to convey a hint of the enthusiasm this game seems to generate.