Wednesday, March 30, 2011

AdeptiCon Tables: part seven


Brian Carlson (a painting legend and practically a neighbor as it turns out) asked last time about what I had been calling the black and yellow warning stripes after my last post. 

Thank you, by the way, Frozen Joe for teaching me that these things are actually called chevrons.

Well. As luck would have it, there were more left to paint on table number 5 between then and now, and I detailed the progress for a little “how to” post. Please forgive the quality of these photos; I was working very quickly over the span of several hours and into the evening. As such, the quality could be better. They are, alas, for illustrative purposes only.

Here goes. I used half inch masking tape and made little marks an each apart along one end of the desired space. That was the easy part. 

After that, I took some time laying out each strip of tape and pressing it firmly to the wood. For the most part, I started with the inch mark but eyeballed the rest. Again, this took some time, but for my way of thinking more precision (and even more time) simply would not pay off with a notably better result, so I trusted myself to get it close enough to right.

I then applied the first coat of yellow.

++TOP TIP (I am going to shoehorn the top tip into the meat of this post as it seems most relevant here): The use of masking tape is often time consuming. Moreover, with the grain of the wood, the tape is also a rather haphazard affair; the paint will often run under the any bit of masking tape that has not been pressed securely down into the grain. Likewise, the tape (when soaked) will want to peel up and away from the wood, which means that you really only one pass per coat. A return pass will inevitably slather paint into the tender spots of tape that have lifted.

Never fear. Embrace the chaos. Part of the beauty of the 41st millennium is that it is in a state of permanent entropy. Nothing is new. Nothing clean. Wherever the paint bled under the tape, I covered with dirt and splotches later. This helped create an appropriately random and worn feel to the chevron, while also making a virtue out of what might otherwise be considered a mistake. Hoorah.++

After dabbing a few layers, working toward a suitably splotchy and inconsistent white, I removed the tape and observed the aforementioned damage. At this point, it was an easy matter to splotch on some more brown to cover the most glaring accidents.

I roughed up the entire mess with a wash of either old GW inks, or severely thinned paint mixed with a glazing medium. Either works beautifully, but I am most comfortable with the inks.

At the time of these photos, the tables still require a layer or two of the wash, but you get the idea.

And so it goes. 

Thanks for the kind comments, Brian. See you soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

AdeptiCon Tables: part six

But first, a wip of tables one, three, and four. oh, and please mind that all of these photos are wips really. The painted products you see below are about half finished, maybe less. 

I mentioned last time that, as I re-redrew the maps for the tables, I also painted out a few swatches of GW color. I took these to my local paint store and found reasonable but rough matches for those colors in standard satin house paint (…it was about this time that the Alacrity Raffle started, and I probably don’t need to explain why exactly. Time and resources were beginning to compress. All the same, the Alacrity Raffle went off splendidly and your contributions brought new life to the project).

With regard to the paints, I am extremely comfortable with GW colors and while house paint will be substantially different, I felt and feel quite strongly that I needed to stay at least somewhere in the vicinity of my comfort levels. It is difficult enough to broach a project like this one; I didn’t want to have to reinvent the wheel with colors as well.

(by the way, this question is rather moot by now, but does anyone have a particular expertise with the relative value of house paints… I know gloss is a stronger paint and that satin might not be the best choice, but gloss is glossy and that won’t do).

I also ordered a rather ambitious set of old oop GW inks from Coat D’Arms, the company that made the inks for GW and still makes them under their own umbrella. It was big order, but man I love those inks. All my metallics depend on them, really. And the soil colors lean heavily on various tricks I have learned with them as well; sporadic Brown Ink washes, for example, help make this volcanic dirt look suitably scorched.

With a smattering of brick-a-brack piling up, I also took any opportunity (there were few) to paint modest detailing pieces, like these barrels and whatnot. It is a slapdash assembly, to be sure, but it was something to do before the weather permitted more ambitious work on the tables; it was a gesture that made me feel I was still making progress, and I was otherwise keen to keep the process as streamlined as possible. Those inks helped considerably, as did the assembly line approach. These barrels, cases, and other stuff were each completed with the advantageous use of sprays, inks, and sponging in just a matter of hours. In my humble opinion, they turned out reasonably well.

I have commandeered the top floor (which is now also my office since baby-number-two arrived), and spread out in the space in order to paint various one-bys, dowels, and other pieces that would later become walls and detailing on the tables. I must confess that Ionly had the roughest of notions as to where much of this would end up at this point, but I knew that nothing could possibly go to waste with so much real estate to cover.

Indeed, pre-preparation in general remains, perhaps, the most important morsel from our previous misadventures with the prototype table. Wherever and whenever possible, I have tried to pre-paint anything I am able well before assembly.

I can’t stress this enough. The final nail in the coffin of the prototype table was the challenge of painting a mostly assembled table. I have found another work-around as well, but simple prep has made parts of this project reasonable… the yellow and black warning stripes you see here, for example.

++TOP TIP: rather than open quarts or gallons of house paint every time I need just a dab of paint, I decanted a some of each color when open into these smaller containers (pictured standing in the left corner below). I also poured a bit of glaze medium in each to thin the paint a bit. I carry these about in a handy tool tote and can call upon the service of just about any color for that odd touch-up that appears without great hassle (…and there are seemingly millions of those touch ups. It is endless).++

And finally a sneak peek at the dark, gothic interior table (number six in the sequence). 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

AdeptiCon Tables: part five

“Ave Imperator. Morituri te salutant.”

Both Tall Paul and Mrs Smoove have suggested that I keep these photos close to my chest, that I not reveal them to you, the gentle reader, for fear of spoiling some element of the surprise on the day.

In theory, I agree with that reasoning. It is sound and logical, compelling even. I admit that I entertained the notion. Indeed, I would be quite pleased if this particular element (number four) in the sequence of tables remained a surprise… but I absolutely cannot contain myself.

To some extent, the cat is already out of the bag. Surely, I mentioned that I hoped to build an arena on these tables, and the more keen reader would have already glimpsed a hint of this in the enlarged sketches I’ve posted previously. I suspect, however, that the architectural reality lends itself to an entirely different impression. Behold.

While working on this, Tall Paul will repeatedly and spontaneously erupt in exclamation, “Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is that why you are here?” (…I think the better nature of this fine hobby is starting to win him over).
For my part, I am more partial to this quote.

Really, either one works splendidly with regard to these tables. Thank you, Mr. Crowe.

Again, we have pressed material into service left over from the construction of baby-number-two’s room  -specifically, two-bys and more crown molding. This time, Paul insisted on building up the footprint of the building to accommodate more levels and a more dramatic feel to the site. I resisted initially for fear that this thing might get too large, but then conceded the point almost immediately.

Why suddenly worry about that now? Surely, the modest and demure ship sailed into the harbor and sunk like a stone some time ago. 

Alas. We hardly knew her.

++TOP TIP: When working with the pink foam, we found a few tricks to be quite helpful:

First, there is [name forthcoming] a specific glue (it comes in tube form, so you need a caulk gun to use it well) made for foam that works a treat. Wood glue will also manage in a pinch, but the foam glue is ace. Gorilla glue also works and deserves mention, but we’ve had some real nightmares with the glue bleeding out onto unwanted areas... I don’t love that Gorilla glue (Gorilla wood glue is fine; the other stuff you can keep).

Second, we found that the foam (at least initially) wanted to simply sit atop the glue. This was going to be a problem, made all the more bothersome by the fact that we couldn’t weigh the steps with a heavy book or somesuch without messing up the layout. So, we put a washer onto a screw and “pinned” the foam down –gently, gently. An aggressive hand at this point would have torn right through the foam. The holes were later covered with spackle (see last top tip).++

Monday, March 21, 2011

AdeptiCon Tables: part four


So, finally the weather began to break, and Tall Paul was brought back onto the scene to help make some headway in the carpentry department -these things always happen in fits and starts here in Chicago. It’s lashing down today, and later in the week we are meant to have some more snow… brutal. Speaking of, there’s a saying common in these parts: “I know a guy,” which is an intentionally vague shorthand for “I can get this applicable and improbable task done through some form of extra-curricular involvement, often with a dubious relation to legality and particularly on account of those who should know better.”

Tall Paul’s my guy. He’s a childhood friend that has little/no interest in our fine hobby. He does, however, have a truly awesome set of tools and 20+ years experience using them. We’ll be talking a bit about those tools in a future post, but for now let me simply state that this project could never have happened without Tall Paul. He may drop in at AdeptiCon. He may not. All of this has certainly inspired some curiosity in his better nature, but I’m not sure that we’ve tipped him over the scales just yet. 

I think wargaming is an affliction that one must catch at an early age.

The point is that I don’t want these posts to sound as if I am lauding my accomplishments, while someone else is standing in the background swinging a hammer. There’s a growing list of people responsible for making these tables come together, and each link in the chain has been immeasurably valuable.

While all these contributions are absolutely essential and therefore level. Tall Paul is, put simply, more equal than others –the first among them, if you will.

OK. the tables. We began in order, so you are looking at tables one and two here. Again, they are contiguous, and I was particularly keen that elements from each should overlap into the next. This helps make the entire affair seem like a genuine cross-section of a once breathing city. For that same effect, I’ve offset all of the structures at an angle, which has created several wild carpentry challenges (more on that next time) but also made the tables much more evocative and even at times voyeuristic –as if we are peeking into these rooms informally, or at least without permission.

Once I had mapped the basics, Tall Paul got to work on his saw and built up the framework of the tables. In an effort to reduce-reuse-recycle, we’ve diligently raided every option available. In one photo here, you will see us deciding how best to align some bits of crown molding left over from when we built baby-number-two’s room.

Once that was nailed down, I set to with pink foam and a dry-wall saw. Then spackle to smooth the obvious bits. Then some time for drying. This is where each table started to slide into slow motion, as seemingly every sequential step required a night of drying before we could move forward. Just as well we had six in rotation.

Once the spackle was dry, and pounded away at it with sandpaper to ensure that it didn’t look exactly like spackle, but also to ensure that any bit that didn’t intend to stick around for the duration chipped off now, rather than later. Once this was properly sorted, I went over the whole mess with a heap of slightly thinned wood glue. When dry, this adds a tremendous amount of strength to what might otherwise be a delicate and brittle table. And it requires a good amount of time to dry, particularly in colder weather…

So, table one is my post-industrial non-trench mining trench table. It marks the point in which the exterior wilderness meets the rigid gothic order of the city interior, which is also rather wild. As these steps began to drudge along, we jumped forward to a real treat and challenge of a table, the merest hint of which you can see here on table three. Next post is dedicated to that leap forward–backward.

++TOP TIP: today’s top tip concerns spackle. I’ve used quite a few tins of it by now of all different shapes and variety (we are currently holding on tin number four, but expect to make serious headway into tin number five this week). Synkoloids Premium spackle works quite well. I have also been impressed with DAP’s all purpose effort. Having said that, I strongly encourage you to avoid anything with the words “lightweight” on it, as I have invariably found these poorly suited for the rigors of gameplay.++

Saturday, March 19, 2011

AdeptiCon Tables: part three

Redrawing and Revelation

Once I had the first concrete drawing of all 6 tables sketched in a small plan, I… well… I redrew them, only bigger ("ohh it's like space... only darker"). I took each component and enlarged it more or less to scale on an individual sheet of graphed paper so that I could a) observe the space each wall, each corner, and each doodad would require on the table in a more precise manner, and b) whittle away some more time until it got warm enough to build once again. This Winter was brutal. 

The process both of redrawing and of enlarging the initial ideas forced me to refine my thinking considerably. I felt much more confident about what would be happening after spinning, sifting, erasing, folding, and generally ruminating ad nauseum on them (in some of these photos, you may spot a red folder. That's my graph and ideas folder. I've had it laying about for months now). In the end, this has proved a tremendously useful step.

At this time, I also painted out some swatches of GW colors so that I could match them to the standard house paints (more on that next time).

Unfortunately, I had come no closer to answering any of the questions from the last post. Where, Why, When, and more. But I wasn't about to let that paralyze the operation. AdeptiCon waits for no man. 

Never worry. As if on cue, the blogosphere answered. I forget where I first saw the link (though I suspect that Porky had something to do with it. This is his particular talent) to the Rancor Pit's planet generator, but it’s a brilliant bit of randomly generated fluffernutter for those of us in need of it. I remember that I almost felt that the internets were listening to my soul; it felt my angst and filled the need as only the internet can. Just glorious.

It’s great fun. I clicked a few times until I found something that felt right… and here it is:

Planet Name: Roamir
Planet Function: Colony/Mining
Government: Military Imperial Governor
Planet Type: Satellite
Terrain: Volatile/Volcanic
Atmosphere: Type II (breathing apparatus rec.)
Length of Day: 15 hrs
Length of Year: 270 local days
Hydrosphere: Moderate
Temperature: Temperate-Hot
Population: until recently 900000
Starport: Limited Services
Tech Level: Post-Industrial Hyperspace

So that’s the planet in question. Very little of this information is relevant to the Killzone games (indeed, much of it remains a non-entity), but it gave my poor planet a name and a face and a bit of history and a kind of purpose. Inertia took over once more. I found it quite useful when thinking about a few specific details to know this history. What color should the soil be, for example? It's not as easy a question as it first might seem -particularly when you consider that that soil might appear here and there across 24 consecutive feet of table.  That's a different monster.

Oh, and at this time I began genuinely to hoard every last little item I could find that seemed to promise some small glimmer of purpose or potential.  It almost became a compulsion.

One more thing. At the end of each of these posts from this point forward, I intend to add a little "top tip" from all the modest, un-intrusive items I have learned while stumbling through this process. These tips will be small, no doubt, and potentially obvious to the more experienced terrain guru out there; nevertheless, they are/were new to me and helped push me from there to here. So. Here goes:

++TOP TIP: when laying out the table, I had to remember that one-by is actually only 3/4 inch thick. To keep the plans and the reality from varying too widely, I purchased a roll (two in fact) of blue masking tape... 3/4inch. As I mapped out the table, I plotted the lines with the tape as well in order to ensure that I was looking at an accurate representation of what I'd planned. Later, this acted as the reasonably precise footprint of where the wood would sit, and helped tremendously with the actual measurements involved with the carpentry as well. Some walls are still sitting on top of this tape even now.++

Thursday, March 17, 2011

AdeptiCon Tables: part two

Inspiration and Sketches

Now back to the looming matter at hand. While I no doubt have taken the Sin of Alacrity (who will, by now, almost certainly be settled in a new home -sniff) as my inspirational starting point, I had decided early on that these tables were not simply going to be the Alacrity writ large. Space Hulk is as Space Hulk does, and I couldn’t help but feel that 24 feet of Killzone deserved something significantly more ambitious, dynamic, and unique (below, by the way, is an image of something similar to how the missions will play out). 

Moving forward, I had two quite clear impulses –I don’t really know where these came from, but there you go: Mechanicus and Trenches. hmph. I have since left these notions behind, but this was a distinct part of the process and remain a significant part of the character of this project. In the end, we’ve all seen Sabol’s stunning Industrial Mechanicus themed table. Why on earth, I thought to myself, would I want my hard work to sit next to this monument to 40K glory. As for Trenches, well, Sir Sidney Roundwood has already accomplished that in quite genuinely stunning form. He’s an absolute legend, and the trenches were ground (excuse me) I didn’t feel the need to tread in his shadow.

So. I sat down and drew out some small sketches on a single sheet of paper.

I whined a bit to myself, I admit. something like this... But I have always wanted to build a trenched table. But I adore Space Hulk and want to recreate some aspects of the Alacrity interior… As I wrestled with all these conflicting impulses, it came to me. I am building 6 tables. Why not make each one some small aspect of EACH IDEA that I’ve ever wanted to dabble with, to reward every impulse that I ever wanted to indulge. Trenches? Well, not exactly, but something similar. Complex interior spaces with removable doors? Certainly. It would be rude not to.

Because I believe that it is silly to do things by halves, I also demanded that I make the tables fluid and the run contiguous as well.  Ah bollocks.

yet here’s where the real world helped push me off the proverbial precipice. While relocating my office space into the midst of my ever dwindling hobby space, I stumbled upon two more items that I had in stuck awy: first, a map of Pompeii; second, a book on Roman architecture. Once I opened that door, inertia took over.

Planetside. I needed to get my feet back to planetside. The tables would be the skeleton of a preserved but abandoned city and the progress of each would be a step from the exterior toward the interior of the city… (think the Mary Celeste but on firm ground and in the distant future). I still had no idea why 24 individual Special Operations Groups might fight over this city, or why, or where that city might be, or what they might fight over, but the inspiration had struck me between the eyes and I was in absolutely no position to ignore it. 

I rarely am. 

I could have trenches outside, doors inside, and everything else that I wanted in between. What else might I want in between, you ask -well, those trenchy things to start, an arena (Pompeii had a few), a motorpool, a reflective space of some description, a town center or piazza, and then that Alacrity-esque interior.

And why not?

++I must thank each and every contributor to the Alacrity Raffle once more. Unfortunately, there could only be one home for the dear Alacrity, but please enjoy these next two weeks of posts on what your contribution made possible. Thank you.++

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Alacrity Raffle: and the winner is...

First, I would like to offer a sincere thank you to everyone that donated to the Alacrity Raffle. The AdeptiCon tables also thank you. We managed a considerable surplus and the funds have gone a long way toward making those tables a reality. I hope to see some of you, the gentle readers, soon, and that you will get to enjoy the fruits of your contribution to this worthy task. Again, thank you.

So. In a way, we are all winners... but in a slightly more accurate way...

# 060 is the winner!!!

Congratulations John M.!!! I will ship the package to you after lunch today. Keep an eye to the post. 

Again, thank you one and all, genuinely, sincerely, humbly. Thank you.

As Vinnie Jones would say, "it's been emotional."

++Just in. I've heard word from John and he mentioned that he's been a fan of Space Hulk since the 80's. Moreover, he says that the Alacrity will likely make a tour of his FLGS in Ohio so that more folk can enjoy it. How's that for gentlemanly. Good show, sir. Good show. ++

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Alacrity Raffle: DRAWING TOMORROW

The Alacrity Raffle Drawing will be tomorrow around this time. Please look for a post at that time  with regard to the winner!!! I am tremendously (unnervingly) excited about this, and hope you are as well. 

THANK YOU!!! and all for the generous and kind donations. Your contributions are going (and to some considerable extent already have gone) toward a worthy task. Best of luck to each of you. 

See you tomorrow.

(if you submitted and entry and have not received an email from me with your raffle numbers, please check your spam and contact me immediately. Each entrant should have numbers in hand).

Friday, March 11, 2011

AdeptiCon Tables: part one

The Scrap-Yard

You may be exhausted to hear this by now, but please have a gander at the Alacrity Raffle if you have not done so yet. Sunday is the last day to enter, and the drawing will be Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday. 

I am tremendously excited. I confess that it is bittersweet to see her go (wipe that tear from your eye).

And now for the singular hobby goliath that has eclipsed all other concerns in my hobby universe (which had already shrunk considerably with the arrival of babyzilla). It’s crowded and desperate these days, but the hobby lives on. AdeptiCon waits for no man.

As you may well know, I am gluing together the Killzone events at AdeptiCon this year, and with that honor comes great responsibility –namely, the creation of 6 4x4 tables.  Long-time readers may well remember that Tall Paul and I began work on these tables late in the Autumn. Today's photos sum up where we finished that progress...

A leaking roof, the pressing and wholly appropriate need to build baby-number-two’s room, and Winter summarily squashed all carpentry progress right around the time of my last post on the matter


Perhaps as importantly, the necessary pause gave us time to reflect on our progress and our shortcomings -not interpersonal, mind, but rather the shortcomings of our creation thus far. Although we found a viable solution, the doors were becoming increasingly unmanageable as primer then paint either bent them or ruined our cuts. We both felt we could do better. The construction was solid, but the layout ultimately felt rather flat. Moreover, painting after the fact was warping the table at places, and this particular task was becoming rather daunting. The mistakes were stacking one upon the other until the entire table had started to lose a bit of its luster.

And thus I genuinely do not mind writing here and now that all the previous work has been abandoned. We leaned from those early travails how NOT to build these tables. Alas.

So. I completely the scrapped the original plan, took the previous sketches, and sat myself once more in front of the drawing board for those long winter months. Beyond the technical considerations (of which I will discuss at greater length in future posts), there were several glaring thematic elements that had been left floating in the ether and that require more careful consideration. 


With the obvious exception of Sunday and Tuesday, the next three weeks will be an epic journey into the heart of this AdeptiCon table monstrosity. Epic.