Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Homestead Analysis & 3-Wide Design Theory

On Sunday the 2014 NASCAR championship race was held at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As the race unfolded, the four drivers with championship hopes were all running in the top five positions. But the defining moment of the race was the caution period with 20 laps to go. When the yellow flag was displayed, Harvick was in 3rd, Hamlin was 4th, Newman 5th and Logano was in 6th place. The four pit crew chiefs then made some very interesting choices that ultimately decided the outcome of the race and the season championship.

The race leader, Jeff Gordon stayed out on the track, and in a gutsy call, Hamlin’s crew chief Darian Grubb also decided to not make a pit stop. This put Hamlin in second place with older tires. Kevin Harvick’s crew chief made the standard call for four fresh tires. Ryan Newman’s team opted to change only the two right side tires thus having a quicker pit stop than Harvick. Meanwhile disaster befell Joey Logano when his car slipped off of the jack in the pit stall. By the time his team struggled to get the car back up on the jack, 49 seconds had ticked away, and his championship hopes had also expired.

When the cars lined up for the restart with 15 laps to go, Gordon was 1st, followed by Hamlin in 2nd, both of them on older tires. Newman lined up 3rd with two fresh tires, and Harvick was in 12th with four fresh tires. The race was at this moment a question of whether Hamlin could hold off Newman for the remaining laps, and if there was enough time for Harvick to advance from 12th on his new tires. As it worked out, two more caution flags doomed Hamlin’s chances, and gave Harvick the opportunity to advance to the lead. Newman, with his two fresh tires, never had quite enough speed to seriously challenge Harvick for first place.

In my opinion, the pit strategy calls on the lap 20 caution were fascinating, and this is precisely what I have tried to capture in designing 3-Wide. Most racing boardgames focus on the tactical aspect of racing – gear selection, cornering, and overtaking. 3-Wide covers the tactical actions through card play, you can play cards for your drivers to allow them to make a pass, draft with the pack, bump and run under your rivals, and other tactics. But I wanted the design to also reflect the decisions that the crew chief makes. When do you pit? Do you want four tires? two tires? fuel only? Should I take the time to try to fix damage on the car, or do I just try to gut it out with an ill-handling race car? These are the strategic decisions that are every bit as important as the tactical maneuvers. Maybe even more important.

An big part of 3-Wide is the ‘racing’ phase. During the racing phase cars roll custom dice based on their current level of tire wear. Each tire can be black, green, yellow or red – black is a new tire, and red is extremely worn. So if a car has two black, one green and one yellow tire, the car will roll two black, one green and one yellow die. The results will determine how far the car is moved on the track, and whether or not the car is risking a blown tire incident. (There is also the possibility of choosing a slower die result and saving fuel.)
So in summary, this tire/racing mechanic determines how fast you go, and is a result of your pit stop choices. I thought that yesterdays NASCAR finale was a thrilling race, and I felt that it confirmed my design decisions in making 3-Wide.

And what about Joey Logano? He had some horrible luck when his car fell off the jack in the pits. In the design of 3-Wide I’ve chosen to avoid hitting players with this kind of random-bad-luck event. You can’t have a pit stop disaster like Logano did yesterday. And although you can find yourself caught up in an accident through no real fault of your own, all 3-Wide racing incidents are a result of someone, somewhere, pushing the limit of their car and their luck. I think this is the right choice for a racing game.

Friday, September 12, 2014

3-Wide print and play

I've decided to release my stock car racing game, 3-Wide, as a print and play offering.  To that end I've posted a couple of web pages which are linked on the right hand side of this page under the heading "Games".  I also just recently had the racetracks and the card deck printed professionally by The Printer's Studio.  The cards look amazing.  The tracks are nice also - no more scotch tape seams to contend with when playing the game.  I am still in the process of getting all of the game content uploaded and linked to the web page. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014


The 'Game Table' is located in the 'Game Studio' - see here.  But recently the game studio has been dual purposed.  We have been raising chickens in a chick brooder inside of the game studio.  At first I was glad to share my space with them and I was happily painting Russian soldiers while listening to chicks peep merrily in the background.  But as they got bigger, they started to kick up a lot of dust...and smell.  The dust eventually got so thick that I could no longer work on my miniatures in there.  Thus the delay in my series on WWII Russians.  But now all of the chickens are out in the hen house in the pasture.  Everything in the game studio however is covered in a thick layer of stinky chicken dust.  I will need to take everything out of the room, clean everything, and then move it all back in.  This is going to be a big job but when it is done I will get back to finishing my little Soviets!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

WWII Soviets: Highlighting


Now that the figures have been washed, it's time to put on a little bit of highlighting.  Bear in mind that these are figures for gaming.  They are not top shelf fantasy figures painted to "ridiculous detail standard".  So after a single dirt wash, I dry brush all of the boots with some charcoal paint.  Next I dry brushed all of the uniforms and blanket rolls with khaki.  Finally I dry brushed the helmets with a little bit of the same green that they were base coated with - just to take the sheen off of them.  So here are a couple of photos of the figures at this step.

Next Time: Finishing

Sunday, April 20, 2014

WWII Soviets: Dirt Wash

Easter & Dirt Wash

Yesterday it rained all day, and so I had a little extra time away from yard and house chores to apply dirt wash to my Russians.  Late on Good Friday afternoon the rain began to fall, steady and cold.  Today, Easter Sunday morning dawned a beautiful clear  and warm sunny day.  All of the dirt and dust had been washed away and everything looked fresh and clean.  I could not help but notice the Spiritual implications of the weather this weekend.  By the grace of God and the blood of Jesus, all of my dirt and sin has been washed away, and He has made me a new creation, holy and righteous.  But instead of washing away the dirt, this post will be all about applying dirt and grime to miniature soldiers.

Making Dirt Wash

A long time ago I used to use a wash that consisted of black paint thinned with water.  This method would more often than not make my figures look like they had been in a fire.  They had black splotches all over their clothes, not just in the recesses of the model.  Straight up ink was my next attempt at a wash, but it was often too vibrant, not subtle enough for what I was trying to achieve.  Finally I found some acrylic matte medium at a craft store.  Matte medium is essentially acrylic paint without any pigment.  (Gloss medium is the same thing but shiny)  By mixing a small amount of ink with some matte medium I could get a less vibrant color than straight ink, at a thinner consistency than paint, that would still adhere to the recesses of the model!  Eureka!
dirt wash ingredients

In the picture above you can see my WW2 dirt wash bottle along with the ingredients I used to make it.  Truth be told, I have no clue what is really in my WW2 dirt wash - when it gets low I just add more matte medium and some ink to get a nice brownish, blackish, slightly greenish hue.

Applying Dirt Wash

I am always tempted to use a big brush and just slap this stuff on all of my figures.  Resist this temptation!  Use a small brush and apply it carefully all over the model with the possible exception of the flesh.  I put a lot of it into recesses around the model's gear and then spread it out onto the uniform and clothing areas.  By using a small brush I can make sure that no bubbles are left on the model because bubbles can dry in weird and ugly ways.  A small brush will also allow you to build up the dirt thicker in some places and thinner in others.
Here are some comparison shots of models with, and without dirt wash applied.
With, without, with, and without.

Dirt wash on top right and bottom left

German camo orange ochre - without and with dirt wash.

Finally, here are all of the figures in this batch with dirt wash on them.

Next Time: Highlights

Friday, April 18, 2014

WWII Soviets: Weapons and Helmets


There are three different weapons in this group of figures; the Mosin-Nagant 91/30 rifle, The PPSh-41 submachine gun, and the DP-28 light machine gun.  Weapons are perhaps the most important part of a WWII miniature.  Some game rules, like Bolt Action for example, differentiate figures by the weapon they carry.  So it is important to glance at a figure and be able to identify the weapon the figure is carrying.  Therefore it is important to paint the weapon correctly.  Get a picture of the weapon you are painting and get it as close to correct as you can.
Riflemen (Mosin-Nagant)
I decided to paint all of the Mosin-Nagants a nice wood-brown color.  Later, I will wash this with a dirt color, and then pick out the hardware with a metallic paint.
The PPSh-41 is largely metal with a wooden stock.  So I painted the barrel and hardware black and the stock the same brown color as the rifles.  After this I painted the black parts with a pseudo dry-brush of gun metal.  This weapon has an air-cooled barrel and I wanted to be able to see the sculpted texture of it.
Group photo (DP-28 prone on the right)
The DP-28 is almost entirely metal except for a small stock.  So once again it gets a brown wood stock, and black everything else, followed by a generous dry-brush of gun metal metallic paint.
Metallic painted weapons

Helmets and Headgear

These russians have three different types of headgear.  The pilotkas were painted the same color as the uniforms.  The helmets I painted with Vallejo 70823.  The winter hats (woolly chapkas?) I painted two colors.  The inside of the hat I painted black and the outside I used Ceramcoat Storm Grey.  So these will be the grey variety of winter hat.  You can also use a brown/buff color as well.
Woolly Chapkas
At this point, every bit of the figure has a covering of color!  So the next step is one of my favorites...

Next Time: Dirt Wash

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WWII Soviets: Gear and Boots


Now we start to get to the part of the job where things can get tedious, but keep plugging away at it!
I paint all of the boots on these soldiers black.  The Vallejo black has just enough gloss to look right without being too shiny.  So here are 16 pairs of boots.


It really helps to know what you are painting when it comes to painting all of the ammo pouches, backpacks, blankets, shovels, and so on.  Reenactor sites like this one are really handy for this kind of thing.  So I have painted all of my soldier's gear in a variety of greens, khakis and browns.  When I can I try to provide some slight contrast and variations.  In other words don't paint all of a soldiers gear the same color as his uniform.
Some details will look nice during this step.  For example, paint the shovel handles a nice wood color, then paint the metal parts of the shovel black.  When the black is dry paint the metal parts with a dark gun metal color, because metallic paints always look better on top of a black base coat.  Finally paint the shovel (or e-tool) cover a nice green or khaki color.
Other details to consider are a different color strap holding the ends of their blanket rolls together.  Paint the straps on the rucksacks and grenade pouches a contrasting color to the rest of the bag.  Contrast and variety is good.  Here are my Soviets after this stage of painting.

Next time: Weapons and Helmets

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WWII Soviets: Uniforms


For various reasons, I like to paint my Russians with slightly mismatched uniform colors.  I could be that the uniforms were manufactured with variances in the material, the dye, different factories, or perhaps the soldiers themselves have served for differing lengths of time.  For any of these reasons I like to choose a variety of shades of color and paint a few soldiers in each.  This first picture shows the colors I used to paint the soldiers pants.
Soviet pants colors
When painting the pants, you can go pretty quickly, making sure you have a solid and even coat covering all of the area and leaving no white showing through.  Just be sure you don't hit any areas of flesh.  Here is my group after their pants were painted on.
soviets with pants

more pants


I do the jackets or tunics in the same way.  I choose a range of colors and paint them on.  This time, more care has to be taken to not slop onto their pants, hands or necks and heads.  Here are the colors I used.  (I have to admit I'm having second thoughts about 70824 - the German camo orange ochre...)
Tunic colors
And here are some soldiers with full uniforms painted on.  This step can take a little bit of patience, but now your miniature has a lot of color on it and it is starting to look nice!  Some of the soldiers are sculpted with a cloth pilotka hat.  In these cases, I always paint the pilotka the same color as the tunic.  They probably got issued at the same place and time.  Also, my scout figure got a darker green camo suit than the rest of the guys.

If you want to read a really good discussion on Soviet uniforms, check out this blog from A League of Ordinary Gamers.

Next Time: Gear and Boots.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

WWII Soviets: Flesh

As I mentioned in the previous post, I base my figures with white primer.  I do this so that I can get brighter and truer colors when I paint my miniatures.  Part of this method is what I call inside-out painting.  I start with the most inside layers of the miniature and paint towards the outside.  So that means I start with flesh, then go to pants, jackets, boots, gear, weapons, helmets and lastly finishing details.  So my fist painting step is flesh.
As an aside, I had taken some pictures of the individual steps of painting the flesh onthese guys but then I accidentally deleted the photos.  My apologies.
Completed flesh painting example.

Base Coat

Paint all of the exposed flesh with a solid coat of flesh colored paint.  I am using Liquitex Sandalwood.  At this point there is no need to worry about being sloppy, just make sure every bit of flesh has a nice even coat of paint on it.  No bits of white showing through.  Also, you never want to gob on the paint so thickly that details become obscured.  A nice thin covering of paint is the key.  Let the paint dry completely.

Flesh Wash

The next step is a wash of a darker flesh color.  This will deepen the recessed ares of the model like between the fingers, the mouth, ears, and eye sockets.  I sometimes use ink straight from the bottle but on this project I am using one of my own concoctions.  I start with some matte acrylic medium - this is basically acrylic paint without any pigment.  Then I am adding to it some rust brown ink and some sepia ink to get a nice ruddy russian soldier color.  I mix this up in an old contact lens bottle so I can seal it up for later use.  Paint this on to the flesh paint, again you want good coverage, but the skill here is to allow the wash to pool up in the recessed areas.  There should be a difference in color from the models eye socket to the tip of his nose.  Similarly, the lines between his fingers should really pop out.  Let the wash dry completely.
Flesh wash ingredients


The highlight step is done using a drybrush technique.  The paint is the same base flesh color used previously.  Now I use a brush called a shader.  A shader comes to a flat tip, not a point like most brushes.  Dip the very tip of the shader into the paint, and then work it into the bristles by stroking the brush against some paper towel.  You should have about an 1/8 of an inch at the end of the brush saturated with paint.  Now using the paper towel, pinch the tip of the brush and gently pull the brush out.  Don't pinch so hard that you yank out the bristles, you just need to dry the paint onto the brush.  Once that is done, stroke the brush firmly against the fleshy areas of the model so that the raised up portions of the sculpt will "grab" the paint particles from the brush.  This technique should lighten the color on the models chin, nose, forehead, cheekbones, ears, fingers, etc.  You should reload the brush for each model you are painting.  If your brush starts getting gummy, wash it thoroughly in water and let it dry completely before reloading it with paint again.  Dry brushing is a valuable technique for a miniature painter and it is one with which you will need to become competent.
Shader brush and paper towel after highlighting
Another example of finished flesh painting

Next Time:  Uniforms

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

WWII Soviets: Basing and Priming

World War II Soviets

I like the WWII figures I have from Black Tree Designs.  I have a good size collection of Germans and Americans already painted, along with the obligatory pile of unpainted figures from each of those armies.  A while ago I purchased a large platoon of Soviets along with some support figures and weapons also from Black Tree Designs.  I painted 12 of them at the end of 2012, but since then I have not painted any more of them.  Now I have set out 16 more figures to paint as the next part of this project.  At the moment they are just based and primed.  I intend to blog about the entire process of paining this group of figures.  Here in part one I will describe the figures I’ve chosen and then describe my process of basing and priming them.
World War II Soviets


The sixteen figures I’ve chosen consist of; 9 men with the Mosin-Nagant 91/30 rifle, 3 men with the PPSh-41 submachine gun, a gunner with the DP-28, an assistant gunner, a scout carrying a PPSh-41, and finally a sniper with a scoped Mosin-Nagant.  Combined with the 12 figures I’ve previously painted this will give me enough figures to put together two soviet squads.
Soviet Riflemen
Soviets with SMG
LMG team, Scout, and Sniper


When figures come fresh out of the bag they normally have to have all of the flashing removed.  Flashing is all of the excess metal that is still hanging on to the figure and is not part of the sculpted model.  Flashing usually comes from the mold vents or along the edges of the mold.  I carefully look over each figure and cut or scrape off this excess with an X-Acto knife.  I also take a heavy craft knife and scrape the base of the figure smooth enough so that it can stand up on its own.  Some models may need to be slightly bent to get the center of gravity over top of the base so they can stand on their own.
Fender washers and "unclean" miniatures!


I base my WWII infantry on 1”x1/8” fender washers.  You can get a package of 30 of these at your local big-box hardware store for about $5.  Using super glue (cyanoacrylate glue), put a drop or two on each end of the bottom of the figure base, and then glue the figure onto the fender washer.  I try my best to cover the hole in the washer as I do this.  I let them dry before proceeding – you want this bond to be nice and strong.
Some germans glued to their bases
I like to use washers because they give the figure some bottom-heaviness and thus they will stand better on slopes.  I can also put magnetic sheet on the bottom of my storage boxes and the figures will stick to it.  The aesthetic look is also preferable to a thicker plastic base, they are standing much closer to the terrain surface when they are on the battlefield.  For linear warfare figures, like my ACW collection, I use square or rectangular metal bases instead of a round washer.


Once the glue is dry I add texture to the base using gesso and model railroad ballast.  First, take a disposable plastic cup and cut it down to be about 2 inches high and fill it about a half inch deep with ballast.  Using an old brush, paint gesso onto the top side of the washer right up to the edges of the models feet, but don’t touch the model.  I add big globs of gesso to smooth the transition line between the figure base and the washer.  While it is still wet, put it into the cup of ballast and shake the ballast all over the wet gesso.  Remove the figure from the ballast, firmly tap off the excess ballast, and then place the figure down to dry for a couple of hours.
Bottle of Gesso and some ballast in a small cup


Once the gesso is dry the figure can be primed.  Priming is a topic of differing opinions in the world of miniatures painting.  Basically the opinions are black and white.  I choose white.  If you are like me then take your handy can of flat white spray paint and go to it.  If you are a black primer, then feel free to prime in black at this point.  (But if you do use black primer, the rest of this series of posts will be of limited value to you.)  Be sure to use spray paint in a well-ventilated area.  Get decent spray paint coverage, but not so thick that you obscure details of the miniatures.  The primer is there just to provide a surface that your acrylic paints can readily adhere to.  If you don’t get perfect coverage, it’s okay.  At this point, I like to allow the miniatures to dry for several hours before doing anything else, you really want the gesso and primer to cure completely.
With this method of basing, a few grains of ballast will fall off whenever you handle the miniature.  At first it is a pain, and you will be constantly sweeping off your work area.  But after a while, all of the loose ones will be gone, and that is exactly what you want before you paint the base of the miniature.
Based, primed and ready for painting!

Next Time:WWII Soviets: Flesh