Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Geek Nation Tours - Day 1

Geek Nation Tours - AdeptiCon 2015

Day 1, Wednesday March 18 - Welcome to Schaumburg, IL

Teras Cassidy and Me
This was my first trip to AdeptiCon, but luckily I was joining some friends who have been multiple times and was facilitated by Geek Nation Tours (facebook). This was also my first experience with Geek Nation Tours and it was excellent. Teras Cassidy has put together a fantastic tour organization and helps with all arrangements including hotel stay, food, transfers from/to the airport, flights, Adepticon registration, and meeting lots of great people in the industry. 

I was lucky enough to have some sage advice from friends and since I was flying, I didn't pack everything I owned for the weekend. This, as it turns out is a really good thing, because what I did pack was too much. I packed up some of my Victorian Guard, which I had plans to paint, but then never did. I packed up my Star Wars stuff, but then never played. In fact, I ended up only playing two games, but more on that later.

I got to AdeptiCon (hosted in the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel) the day before the convention. While watching my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I noticed requests for help setting up some of the vendor booths. Now, as a reminder, AdeptiCon is very small even with the recent years of growth. I wandered down to see if Secret Weapon Miniatures needed help, but they were pretty much set. Then I wandered around to get a feel for where everyone was going to be stationed and when I went around the corner, there were all the good volunteers packing AdeptiCon swag bags. I figured, I was going to get one, so I could pitch in a bit. 

After about 10 minutes of packing, this cheery English bloke pops up next to me to pitch in as well. That bloke was Andy Chambers. We finished up the packing, received an incentive for our hard work ($5 off DSG games miniatures and a $10 voucher for concessions) and when all the bags were packed just stood there. Now I knew that later in the week, Andy was to be having dinner with us as one of the Geek Nation Tours events, but I am an opportunist. I asked Andy what he was doing and then we went to the bar to meet up with the rest of the group. 

Ironheart Artisans Blast Template
Well here are some other benefits to booking with Geek Nations, we got our registration done by Teras and that meant that we didn't have to wait in line for registration. You can order drinks from Sal's Beverage World and they miraculously are waiting at the hotel when you get there. I picked a case of Murphy's Irish Stout and a case of water. We also received some great Geek Nation Tours swag, including a branded long-sleeve tee, an Ironheart Artisans 2"inch blast template with markings for a 1" blast as well. Alex has done lots of other branded templates and objective markers, if interested definitely check them out. The latest and greatest is the add-on sets for Mantic's deadzone Kickstarter

That evening, we had our first Geek Nation's dinners. This was in the hotel and was, overall, pretty good fare. Following dinner and a plethora of announcements, we played some Warhammer 40,000 RPG. I had the honor of playing with some great folk in a Horus Heresy setting with guest GM Adam Fasoldt of Masters of the Forge (facebook). While the original idea was we would be a dinner and during the evening become acolytes, it turns out that an untrained psycher can easily unleash enough craziness that we were clearly heretics. The game was lots of fun and especially heretical, but in the end we all managed to escape alive though barely and I'm not really sure actually alive.

Final AdeptiCon haul
During the 40k RPG event, we also received our AdeptiCon swag, which included an AdeptiCon pint glass, AdeptiCon t-shirt, 10 tickets for the AdeptiCon Charity Army Raffle, and a load of armies and other gaming pieces.I'll have plenty of additional log posts to cover all of the loot I got as I get through assembly and painting.

How could it get any better than beers with Andy Chambers, well the convention hasn't even started (and we had lots of beers with Andy Chambers).

Hope to you see you at the next AdeptiCon,

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ironheart Artisan designs

Ironheart Artisans design plans

After spending so much time with Alex Landing at the Ironheart Artisans (facebook) booth at Adepticon, I have been itching to find ways to contribute to Alex's business. I floated a bunch of ideas his way and have a slew more to share, but I wanted to produce some working models to show the ideas in a three dimensional form.

So with so much running through my head it was tough to choose where to start. I wanted to put something together first that could be easy to develop/market and worked with the current materials available. 

I went to A.C. Moore and picked up a bunch of balsa wood to work up the demo pieces. I had never worked with balsa before, so the texture was a little strange. One major thing to note, if you are going against the grain then it is difficult to re-cut a piece of balsa if you only need a very small sliver taken off because of the spongy nature of the wood. The material compresses as you cut across the grain, so make sure you have very sharp knives. Going with the grain it is very easy to shave off more. All pieces were glued together using Aleene's wood glue, which adheres well and quickly cures. 

I'd be happy to get some feedback on these pieces. Hopefully with some final work up, if well received this may make it to market.

10-yard Stand-up Dumpster

Ironheart already has a complete 40-yard roll-off dumpster kit and a set of wood pallets which add a great deal of texture to a tabletop game of Zombicide, Deadzone, or a skirmish game of 40k. The scale for the pieces is correct and with that in mind, I tackled a 10-yard stand-up dumpster first.  

I started with some sketches and used this Warhammer Astra Militarum guard member for height comparison. I tested out with a number of scales sizes (1:56, 1:55, 1:60.96, 1:48) before getting the dimensions correct. I wanted to make sure this was relative to the actual size of a stand-up dumpster and based my height at a dumpster we have at our softball fields with an approximate height of a guardsman. 

As you can see, I did have some difficulty with the balsa wood, but I am sure with some additional practice, this won't be a problem. I started with identical front and back pieces, which would allow for the sides to surround. This is so that when I translate to the mdf design, the tabs will sit snug together. I didn't think the balsa forgiving enough to build with a tabbed design. 

So I cut out the front/back then made the sides with the appropriate depth to hold the front/back pieces. I also included sufficient height so that the lid pieces would fit within the frame of the sides. I made one solid piece for on the top. This would be where the lids connect. This is a split lid design as you'd expect. Each piece was marked using a standard No. 2 pencil so it has some texture. Those will be translated to laser cuts. The front is also marked similarly to add a bit of detail to the piece. 

The slots for the forklift are a three part assembly. I used the same piece of balsa for the entire assembly, so that is the reason for the depth of the forklift holes. The top and bottom for each piece were cut to length then angled. Then the spaced is a small piece just glued between.

After it was glued together, I remembered that there would be need for a side door given the height of the dumpster. I roughed in the side door but cutting small slices going with the grain. This let me notch out the top and bottom cuts against the grain. Then I marked a few lines where the rails for the door would be and added the textured door to the piece. All together the piece is a total of 14 pieces. 


Now for the next piece, I again wanted something that was ubiquitous. This inspiration came as I was sitting at my son's baseball practice. My youngest was asleep in her car seat and I was sitting idly watching Facebook updates. The school where he has practice is under construction and that's where I was inspired by a few ideas. The first though, was something I just had to put together. Unfortunately, this initial creation wasn't started until about 11:15 pm and so the initial quality is a bit worse. 

I give you the port-a-potty. This was overall pretty easy as the sides are all the same size pieces. That makes cutting pretty simple and as you can see, the scale was pretty easy to figure out. 

The roof was by far the trickiest part. I had an idea of what I wanted to achieve, but it was late and I was tired which meant I didn't quite achieve the final result I wanted. I also didn't spend much time working on the details on this to really sell it as a finished portable toilet. In the end, I need to do some rework to it, but wanted to at least get the concept created so I can refine it later. The total number of pieces for this is 9, but that will probably come down to 7 when I make some modifications. 

The first st of changes will come this weekend. I'll be modifying the front/back so the pieces are a bit of a different shape. I think making the slight peaked roof as part of the front/back will allow me to then have a simpler roof design. This will also make mounting the exhaust pipe a little easier. 

As I said, I'd love to hear any comments you have on how to make the pieces better and if you think this is something you'd like to see available to add to your gaming tables.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The eyes...THE EYES!

Adepticon Class Review - 6-Step Eyes with Meg Maples

Meg Maples...a primer

Me and Meg at Adepticon
So if you don't know who Meg Maples is, here is a little bit of a background. Meg was one of the staff painters for Reaper for years, 6 I think, before striking out on her own as a freelance painter and painting instructor. Check out her work on her Arcane Paintworks blog (facebook)

A striking demo of Meg's eyes
Meg is now travelling the world giving her 2-day Master Classes all over the place, so be sure to check that out when it comes to a town near you. You can't beat learning from one of the best painters in a class where you can get lots of one-on-one time to ask questions and go over your personal techniques. She has a number of other classes available as well, which are all discussed in great detail on the Arcane Paintworks blog. She is also super fun and quite approachable. My great thanks to her for letting me crash her Adepticon course. 

Six-Step Eyes

Brush basics

OK, so what is the six-step eye method. Well let's get to it. First though, I have to warn you that this is not easy despite what I observed in the class. Meg is able to paint these eyes on 28 mm figures using Windsor Newton Series 7 or Raphael #2 brush. I'll let that sink in a moment and then continue. 

So a bit about the reason for this size brush. Many of us learned to paint and are not painters. We see the size of the figure and think we need the tiniest brush possible so we don't make a mistake. There is an issue which we never think about and that is brush control. First way to combat that issue is to use sable brushes. These are made with a natural hair which holds the paint better and the brush will last with repeated use and will hold a very good point if you take care of it. Next these tiny little brushes don't hold enough paint, which as a result means that the paint will dry in your brush quickly, require you to make multiple passes to paint something, and will leave you struggling to control the brush tip. So get a bigger brush, thin your paint appropriately and practice.


For her demo at Adepticon, Meg used the Reaper Bones Faceless Horror. This is a great practice piece because it is dirt cheap ($2.39) and has, at last count, over 180 eyes to paint. Now another amazing thing, Meg did all of this, as a reminder, with the size 2 brush and without a magnifying glass. As Meg pointed out to everyone, she starts with the eye and then progresses to the rest of the face. It is easier to avoid the eye when painting the face than it is to avoid the face when painting the eye. 

So to start, you want to fill the area of the eye. You wan to use a color darker than the skin so you can instantly build the contrast and set a boundary for the eye. You can use black for a female character to makes the eyes pop and give the look of eye liner or use a brown for male characters. 

Now onto the white of the eye. For this you can use any white, though I think using an off-white is better. Be aware of the rest of the face and look you are trying to achieve when selecting the tone of the white. Add this to the eye so that there is a thin layer of the base color surrounding. This will create that boundary.

With the white added, it is time to add the iris to the eye. Select the your eye

color and add a small dot to the center of the eye. Make sure you pay attention to both eyes as you don't want the figure to be cock-eyed or cross-eyed, unless of course you do. 
Victorian Guard heavy weapons crewman

Now the fun part, the pupil. This is a little tricky and of course each step will take lots of practice. To place the pupil, you will need to add a small black dot to the eye. Make sure that you add this to that it is in the direction of the point of focus. Again, you probably are not shooting for a cross-eyed figure. 

So this all sounds incredibly hard and you are right. I spent over 1 hour trying this out on the Victoria Miniatures Victorian Guard Heavy Weapons crewman on the right. the rest of the color is just roughed in for now. The base coat is Army Painter Barbarian Flesh. the other night and managed to get one set of eyes done. I don't care, I was proud, even if it doesn't look like I got all of the steps. Once I get him painted up, there will be a post on Victoria's object source lighting and a little work with some Secret Weapon pigments. 

Bonus step

So just when you thought it couldn't get any more difficult, there is one last bonus step... the highlight. When you have your pupil in place, add a very small (tiny in fact) white dot to indicate the direction of the light source. If you can achieve this, nirvana is not far off.