Friday, March 6, 2015

Location, location, location

When I first started gaming back near the dawn of time, almost all of it was in our heads.  Back in the days of the original Dungeons & Dragons white box (which I picked up when I was in junior high school - it took me another two trips to the city (which was two hours away) over six weeks before I could find the weird dice you needed to play) the most visual aspect of any of our games was the hand drawn maps on graph paper to track where our characters had gone (and more importantly, how to get back out again).  Of course the maps don't help when my very first character, a barbarian fighter, gets teleported down to a small island in an underground lake - and proceeds to drown as he attempts to swim to shore.  But I digress.

It was on a family vacation the summer before my first year of high school that I found my first miniatures.  It was packaged in a simple game with some heroes and monsters - all in metal with some type of map and rulebook.  (Using some quick google-fu I was able to find that this was the Heritage Dungeon Dwellers: Caverns of Doom set). I thought they were awesome, and once we returned home, I proceeded to paint them using the included paints, and my testors model paints that I had from the various model kits.  Stinky, messy oil based paints that you had to get special even stinkier cleaner (or turpentine later) to clean, and crappy plastic brushes.  Of course I thought they were fantastic.  There was no internet back in 1978, and in my small home town there were no 'game' stores, and no place to find anything about painting, so I made due.

It was about this time that my family added on three rooms to the back of our house - and I got to move into a bigger bedroom (as my sisters each had new rooms with their own vanities in them, and they shared a half bath between them).  Since I now had a lot more room, I lofter my old train board, putting a shelf under one end and 2x4' legs under the other.  I never had the love of trains that my Dad does, but I was inspired and wanted to turn it (the board was about 5' x 3.5' (I'm guessing) - it was exactly the size to slide under my bed with casters) into a huge dungeon diorama.  I had my miniature collection that had continued to slowly grow, so I started making cut-away walls, doors (using doll house hardware for hinges and pull rings) and floors out of drywall compound that I spread out on cardboard, carved the stone shapes into and then painted.  I think I eventually got enough to fill a couple of shoe boxes if I remember correctly before the project was eventually abandoned.

I used the same miniatures, all thrown in a box getting chipped and scraped, for many years - all the way through college. I did find that some of the wear and tear was actually improving the look of them.  Now I never had any art classes beyond junior high crafts, so the idea of highlights was completely unknown to me - yet the spots that wore off first, exposing the bare metal, were providing rudimentary highlights to the miniatures.

For a brief time my first wife became interested in my minis as we started playing some games with friends.  She wanted to use them to make a chess set.  Like so many things back then, it didn't work out, and my box of miniatures was eventually lost during the Hurricane Stephanie in 1998 (or so I like to call my divorce :-) ).

A few years later, after repeatedly seeing some really cool miniatures at Origins for several years, I finally took the plunge and purchased my first Warhammer Fantasy starter set.  I started reading White Dwarf and learning a tremendous amount about painting miniatures - and my painting improved drastically.  I had bought some minis for use when playing D&D with my kids the previous few years, but nothing like armies.

One thing that I found as I started playing miniature war games, is that, much like playing D&D when I was young, location mattered.  But now it was no longer in your head - it needed to be laid out on the battlefield (my dining room table).  Very quickly I discovered that covering a pile of books with a towel to make a hill just wouldn't cut it at all.  So I began making my own terrain.  Hills first, then forests and swamps.  Eventually, after I bought my house, I built my own game table in the basement - and made more terrain to match it.  I helped out with gaming groups, making terrain for the tournaments at Gencon after it moved to Indianapolis and was only two hours away (instead of 8 or more).  I even created my own orc fortress to play siege games on.  (There are still pictures of my old terrain up (for now) at my old terrain page - though I expect these to eventually go away since I haven't been on earthlink for two years now.)

I mentioned previously that when Reaper decided to bring out a new version of their classic "Dragons Don't Share" piece in their bones kickstarter that I couldn't resist it.  (Funny, when I went looking for a picture to add here - my blog entry with a link to a picture came up as the 6th result).  However since not everyone clicks on all the links I put in here, here is that picture:
Dragons Don't Share
One (of so many) things that is cool about this piece is that it is completely modular.  The ruined castle is actually six pieces that fit together.

I started running Kings of War tournaments even before I became a pathfinder (and started to get free stuff for doing it), and one necessity of that is to have terrain.  I have played in miniature tournaments where the tables had nothing at all on them.  I've seen tournaments where all the terrain was cards printed out with pictures of walls, hills etc on them.  And I've seen fabulous terrain boards that just made playing the game on them even better.

As such, I try to make sure that when I run a tournament, the tables and terrain look as good as possible.  Now I'm not able to transport full 6'x4' terrain boards, so I am limited to using large sheets of felt to mark the battlefield, but I do try to make everything else.

For Adepticon (coming up in less than two weeks) Mantic asked me to be able to double the size that it was last year (10 players).  I had enough terrain already for 16 players, so needed to make four more tables (for a total of 24 players (12 tables)).  Hills were easy and quick - finally opened and used the foam cutter I got for half price a couple of years ago at Gencon.  I had bought some more Armorcast walls for each table (3 pairs of brick walls, 1 ice wall).  I have enough trees for more tables (once I repair some broken ones).  So all I needed was one more terrain piece per table.

So I figured I could use the ruined castle.   There are three large pieces of it, so I added a ruined piece I had put together from the leftover pieces of the GW Witchfate Tor kit that I had gotten several years ago.  While I only needed three of the pieces, it was just as quick to paint them all up at once.

Unpainted
painted
Of course, these are all pieces of a single part




So the last of the new terrain is finished - and for the Clash of Kings at Adepticon the players will have some 'new' ruins to fight over.  Unfortunately I'll have to get another set or make more if I want to actually paint up the Dragon and Adventurers

3 comments:

  1. That looks amazing. I am looking forward to starting on my DDS2, but i am kind of intimidated by the shear size. Also worried i will make a mess of it.

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  2. I completely understand - I'm still a bit intimidated by the dragon (I've got the steampunk dragon from the first Bones kickstarter sitting on my desk, still haven't painted it yet.

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  3. Very nice! I've got the DDS2 set as well, and the first thing I did was to paint up the terrain pieces (the real star of the show for me); I even used a bit of putty to gap-fill the holes in the dragon's base so I could add that to the ruin. (If I really need my dragon to perch on that piece when I finally get around to painting the dragon, it'll be worth it to dig the putty back out -- but until then, MORE TERRAIN. :D )

    That's a nice touch with the leftover Witchfate Tor ruin pieces; I've got a Witchfate Tor as well, and I'm still trying to sort out what to do with those bits. (I assume they're just there because the Dreadstone Blight kit uses some of the same sprues.) Silly me, it hadn't occurred to me to just use the "ruin" bits on their *own* as you have. I'll have to give that a shot. :)

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