Pause

One of the greatest inventions in the gaming world was the pause button.  I use it regularly when playing games.  Most of the time, I come back to the game and continue on and sometimes, I simply turn off the game.

wm_pauseThis past month, I’ve received a few messages asking if I was going to continue on with the blog (I believe related to miniature gaming) or if I was done.   The short answer is the blog is on pause.  I started grad school this fall (MACP), moved my family from So. Cal. to Seattle and started a new job.  I do have a few posts ready to go and will share those in time but for now, i’ll continue the hiatus. 

Peace,

Nate

Wargame Terrain: Objective and Game Table Markers

As I’ve said in other posts, I appreciate a good looking game table full of terrain.  I’m often more captured by being immersed in the aesthetics of a game than the actual game mechanics.  One thing that can ruin this immersion for me are objective tokens and other things on the table that simply look out of place.  In a pinch, I get it.  But, I always prefer to have matching painted terrain objectives on the table.

objective1

Over the years I’ve painted 15mm WW2 figures to be used primarily for the Flames of War game system.  For one of the scenarios, we needed a downed German plane.  I had recently purchased a few pre-painted 1/100 scale planes and figured I could sacrifice one for a good cause.  A few chops, fresh bullet holes and some paint and I had a new objective marker.  Ok, there were a few more steps but you get the general idea.

bailed outOn a similar note, I found using “fire markers” at the spot where a tank gets blasted apart can really make a battle field look awesome (and a good idea of how well or poor you’re doing as a battlefield commander).  For Flames of War, I found an easy way of making fire markers using steel wool.

Here’s the steps to making fire markers:

Supplies: Washers, steel wool, red and yellow acrylic paint, super glue, black spray paint 

I start out by using black spray paint on the washers.  This way, the silver from the washers won’t bleed through the final product.  The next step involves attaching the steel wool to the washer.  I use thick super glue and an CA accelerator like Insta-set.  This product cures the glue rapidly which is great for this type of hobby but terrible for your fingers (I have a bad habit of gluing my finger to the model).  Steel wool works really because you don’t have to do much to get it looking like smoke and fire.  Pull apart the steel wool and it will leave a “tail” that you can simply tear off and then glue to your washer.  You might need to  flatten the bottom of the steel wool so that the glue has a good surface to attach itself to.

Painting steel wool is also very easy.  I prefer to spray paint the steel wool black but leaving it grey works just as well.  After the spray paint has dried, I added thick coats of red paint.  Very little precision went into this step.  Just slather it on about 1/2 way up the steel wool.  The final painting step was to dry brush some yellow highlights on the steel wool once the red had dried.  That’s it.  Making this lot of markers took me about 1 hour.  Here are some photos of the process described above.

terrain fire 8

My Birthday: Your Voice is a Gift

This blog emphasizes the tension between my heart and my head. Both the creative and the comfortable.  Risk and security.  A place where I share some of the eccentric things in my life (I’m looking at you 10mm dwarves) and a place to write about life, family, culture, hurt and hope.   About it all, I can be intentionally geeky and passionate.

Cat-sad-birthdayToday is my birthday and I am asking you for a birthday gift.  I’m asking you to spend a few minutes reading, clicking and responding.  It would be an amazing gift if you could lend your mind and your voice to this conversation.

The unfortunate reality is that the sin of child abuse still happens inside our churches and ministries but the response by the leadership in some of our churches and ministries is abysmal.

My wife has been a vocal champion for change and an advocate for those who have lost the strength to speak up.  She has been embroiled in her own battle with the missions organization A.B.W.E. which has done its best to cover up multiple cases of abuse, and–in their choice to continue to obstruct justice–they have “re-abused” the victims over and over again.

This and the abuse scandal involving Sovereign Grace Ministries leader C.J. Mahaney and other similar cases of Christian leaders who are more concerned with protecting their “institution” than helping the abused needs to stop.  Boz Tchividjian of GRACE ministries recently wrote: “These leaders have once again, and perhaps unwittingly, demonstrated the art of marginalizing individual souls for the sake of reputation and friendships.”  Let me be clear, I’m talking about Christian leaders that have abused their position and have gone lengths to cover-up the abuse that has happened in ministries they oversee.

Here’s the deal, I am asking you to be a voice and an advocate.  Below are a couple of links that explain more about the current issues going on with A.B.W.E. and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Also, if you think about it, take a moment to encourage those, like Tamara, who are on the front lines.  Write them a note of support on their blogs or simply share their stories with others.  My hope today is that you will stand with those who have been deeply hurt and to help shed light into the dark places child abuse has created.

A.B.W.E. Abuse Victims (MK’s) Speak Out

G.R.A.C.E. Ministries response to A.B.W.E. most recent move to obstruct

Scot McKnight’s thoughts and overview of the SGM scandal

Tam’s thoughts on the SGM scandal

The Green Room:  A very well written and clear response to the SGM scandal

Peter Lumpkins:  Another good overview of the SGM scandal

 

 

Geek Moment: Playing Memior ’44 with Richard Borg

I own way to many games.  This is a normal plight for a gamer geek and over the past year I’ve been doing my best to thin out my collection and focusing on those games that I enjoy the most.  At the top of the list of games that I’m holding on to is the World War II themed board game I picked up nearly a decade ago called Memoir ’44.  I had previously played its predecessor Battle Cry, which is a US Cival War boardgame with similar game mechanics.  With some simple rule tweaks and the bonus of a game with German tanks, I was hooked.  Memoir ’44 is a game that can have both deep game play and be simple enough that I can teach the rules in a few minutes.

36578_10150968407716273_857444222_nLast year, I headed out to a local game convention to play another WW2 game, Flames of War but ended up having a few hours before the tournament began.  I stepped into the board game room, checking various games being set up including a game table set aside for Memoir ’44.   As I approached, I was asked if I’d like to join in on an 8 player version of the game called Operation Overlord.  I jumped at the opportunity  to learn this variant of the game.  The guy next to me then says, “Isn’t it cool that we’re playing with the guy who created this game.”  I rarely get star struck and of all people, game designer Richard Borg shouldn’t have cause me to lose my mind…but I did.  In fact, it was Richard himself that invited me to play so I stood up and said something like “Hey there Mr. Borg…your game is …favorite” or something like that.  He just laughed at me and started telling me about the newest expansion that would be coming out.  What I recognized quickly was that Richard was just a gamer geek like the rest of us.  It was a blast playing the game with him primarily because he is a great story teller, often explaining why he choose to use one rule over another, how they designed the maps and strategies I hadn’t considered before.

pc memior 44

It’s still one of my favorite 2 player games even thought I don’t get it out as often as I’d like to.  Last year I taught a few of my college aged staff how to play and they picked up the rules quickly, maybe even beating me in a round or two….err…i can’t really remember.  If you haven’t had a chance to play it yet, there is a free online version of the game that will teach you the rules and allow you to play with friends (I believe the first 40 games or so are free).

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to share your own geek moment!  And be sure to follow me here on the site and on twitter.

DIY Game Terrain

terrain10

Geek moment – That first time I walked into a game store and saw a huge miniatures gaming table loaded with high quality terrain.  From that day on, I devoted a good portion of my hobby time to designing and building terrain.  I’ve found that the terrain that’s on the table helps tell the story of the game we’re playing.  A few years back, I spent hours building Helms Deep in my garage (+10 Geek XP).  I had painted up over a hundred Uruk-Hai and just as many men of Rohan but it wasn’t until I could place them on those castle walls that the game scenario felt complete.  Currently, my game table at home resembles The Shire with rolling hills, trees and hobbit holes.  I enjoy building terrain so much that I created a few pieces for Pegasus Hobbies which manufactures high quality pre-painted terrain.

Today I thought I would share some simple steps to make good looking game terrain, specifically steep rocky hills.

Find the Styrofoam/Polystyrene
terrain3While I prefer thick pink/blue insulation foam to create terrain, it can get quite expensive and in some places, hard to find.  I had great luck finding foam pieces at furniture stores, used to protect the furniture during shipping.  As you can see from the photo, I found a large piece of white “bead” foam.  While not initially as strong as other types of foam, it’s readily available in my area.  To create a strong base, I glued the foam to a 1/8inch piece of masonite board.

Cutting the Base & Shape the Foam
Using a jigsaw, I cut through the masonite to form the base of each hill piece.  The jigsaw left rough edges on the masonite so a little sanding was required.  I also needed to use a long serrated kitchen knife to continue the cut through the 10 inches of foam.  The next step is the most “creative” in the process…shaping the foam piece itself.  Depending on the size of the foam, you can create tunnels, ledges and crevasses.  Again, using either a serrated knife or a hot foam cutter, simply “sculpt” away.  It’s important to remember that while realism is desired, the terrain piece also needs to be practical.  In the case of these rock hills, I created tiered flat ledges where I could place miniatures.  To both strengthen the foam and to give it texture, I use a heat gun and carefully “melt” the foam.  You will want to test out this technique on a spare piece of foam first as you can easily melt the foam too quickly.

Optional Foam Coat
While not necessary, I’ve been using a thin layer of Foam Coat which essentially seals and protects the foam.  I used a thicker coat on all of the places where I would eventually place miniatures.

Paint & more
terrain8Once the terrain piece has been shaped, it’s ready for a few coats of paint.  I prefer to base coat foam with Design Master paint as it’s one of the only spray paints that won’t dissolve the foam.  Alternatively, I’ve used acrylic paint sprayed through and air-brush.  Next, I use an inexpensive craft paint and using a large paint brush I “drybrush” on a heavy coat of grey paint over the black base coat.  Once this first coat is finished, I drybrush a second layer of white paint for highlights.

Finally, I wanted to add some grass to the hills and my preference is to use a light green Static Grass.  I simply painted on some white glue and sprinkled the static grass over the glued area.  Once dry you can blow off the excess static grass.

Hopefully, this simple tutorial will be helpful for those of you who are interested in building your own terrain.  Feel free to add your own tips and suggestions!  And, post photos or link to your finished terrain pieces!

The Wait Is A Gift

My legs hung down as I sat on the cinderblock wall just outside my middle school. I had just waved goodbye to my friend Mark as he road off on his GT-Pro Perfomer bike, heading home, only a few blocks away. Only 3 or 4 cars remained in the parking lot, most likely teachers that would be leaving as soon. I can recall wishing that I lived close enough to ride my bike home from school but this was out of the question considering we lived 20 miles away. The minute hand rolled by so slowly on my plaid Swatch watch and from what I could tell, it “seemed” my ride was about 30 minutes late. I would have just called but cell phones weren’t around yet and fear of walking in to the school office kept me perched up on that wall. More time ticked by and still no sign of the white Vovlo station wagon that would get me home.

 She’s never late. Something must be wrong. Don’t Panic.

Like clockwork, my mother would pick me up from school each day but for some reason, this day, it wasn’t happening. Multiple scenarios raced around my 7th grade mind, one involving alien abduction but I managed to keep it together for the time being. Don’t Panic. I chose to spend my time throwing pebbles at ants instead of completing my homework and honestly, those ants seemed like they deserved it. It wasn’t until a creeping shadow from the eucalyptus tree across the street crossed my path, alerting me to the setting sun that a hint of actual panic set in.

DON’T PANIC.

Almost 30 year later, I wait again. There have been pauses along the way but for most of my adult life, I’ve been employed. One job ends, another opportunity is already waiting for me. That is, until this year. It was time to move on and I did. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I have a few friends who have made similar leaps into the unknown over the past few years and each story is different. Would I fill my time? Would I do everything I could to prepare for the next thing? Would I use the time to heal? Would I freak out?

The truth is, I’ve done each of those things. I’ve been busy, I’ve been preparing, I’ve been healing and I’ve panicked. I swore I wouldn’t. The shadows from that tree started to creep in around me again, hinting that I’m not good enough, that I’m not qualified, that I should have chosen another carrier path, that I should definitely panic…

Arthur C. Clarke said Douglas Adams’ use of “don’t panic” from The Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity. I can choose to spend my time worrying about what’s next or I can enjoy this gift that I’ve been given.

Time with my family

Projects I’ve wanted to work on for years

Encouragement from family and friends

Books I’ve put off reading

Evening walks

Rest

Just a few of the gifts I’ve been given during this season of life. This doesn’t mean that I simply ignore my current reality but it does matter how I live in it.

Dont panic 2

My mom never did pick me up that day and I had to spend the night perched up on that wall. Ok..that’s not true at all. In reality, she drove up only a few minutes later reminding me that she did tell me that she would be a little late picking me up that day. I’m grateful for the wisdom found in the scriptures that remind me of God’s faithfulness. A new friend reminded me this week of the passage in James that tells us “every good and perfect gift comes from above.” I’ve accepted this gift of waiting and I anticipate the next steps.

Don’t Panic.

Miniature Bases

Much like a painting with no picture frame, a painted miniature with a boring base does not help in spotlighting this figure that you’ve been working on for so long.  I have plenty of “average” bases that I’ve done over the years but decided a while back that I would start basing my miniatures in a way that doesn’t distract but helps the figure stand out a little more.

dwarf axe 2After my recent post on painting the 25mm LOTR Dwarves, I was asked a few times about the bases that I used, so I thought I would take a moment to share the technique to make those bases.  I admit that this process was simply borrowed from someone else and hopefully showing this simple process will be helpful to anyone out there who wants to improve the look of their finished miniatures.

These bases require the original base that came with your miniature, thin super glue and cork board.  If you don’t already have some handy, head down to your local office supply store and buy a pack of cork board (you only really need a couple of small sheets). Next, super glue the top of each plastic base and place them face down on the cork (I usually do this in batches of 20 bases or so).  After the super glue has dried, simply break or cut the bases into individual pieces as seen in the photo).

bases 1

The next step is to simply break off the excess cork around the miniature base so that it creates a jagged look.  Using a hobby knife, I then begin to dig into the surface a bit, creating channels and grooves in the surface.  The final step that I found helpful is to seal in the cork by simply adding a layer of the thin super glue to the surface of the miniature.  The cork will naturally absorb the glue and the final product will be an solid surface.  I have also used a thinned coat of white glue to create a similar effect. Once dry your base is ready to paint.

This process does require more work the end result is a better looking miniature.

I had some left over resin and mold making supplies so I took this process to a whole other level.  Here’s a few photos of that process:

bases 2

Click to see larger photos