Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Game, New Project! Bolt Action Late War!

After I am done with NOVA this weekend, my next game is one that I picked up at Historicon this Summer: Bolt Action.

After one read through, I like what I see from the rules.  Alternating and random activations, reactionary orders, shooting, and assault rules all look to make a fun and tactically realistic game.  Just how I like it.

The game was written by Rick Priestly and Alessio Cavatore, who both had the good sense to leave Games Workshop in 2010, so the rules show great promise right from the starting gun.  Anyone who fled the GW trainwreck before that organization went from lost to pathological might actually have some talent.  The fact that the authors are billing this as a platoon-sized game tells me that they learned from one of the fundamental design mistakes that doomed Warhammer 40k to fail as a wargame.

But enough of that for now.  As a career infantryman, the two rules I like best so far, well, OK, three rules, are shooting, assault, and off-board artillery.  Shooting is not going to be decisive in one turn.  Rather, it looks like you will use shooting to affect your opponent's units over a number of turns.  Assault, on the other hand, is completely decisive.  If a unit assaults, it will either destroy its target in one turn, or it will be destroyed.  This is how it goes down in real combat: it takes a little bit of time to win a fight with shooting, but if you close into hand-to-hand, soldiers are going to start dying really fast.  Assaulting generates huge risk, and huge payoff.  If you get it right, you get a Dining Facility named after you.  If you get it wrong...well....

Then we have the off board fire support.  Alessio, Rick, I have been waiting for a long time for a good 28mm wargame with realistic indirect fire support (and CAS) that includes smoke.  Gentlemen, thank you.

So I'm off to Normandy next where I will learn Bolt Action.  I will start by building two forces, German Wehrmact troopers of the 352nd Infantry Division, defending the Normandy beaches, and U.S. soldiers from my old unit: the 116th Infantry Regiment (The Stonewall Brigade), the first Americans ashore on Omaha Beach.

Ever Forward!

Monday, August 25, 2014

NOVA Narrative Terrain 2014

Now I'm not supposed to show you this, but I can't help myself.  Just a little leg to catch your attention.

If you want to see all the sweet new terrain for the 2014 NOVA Open Narrative Campaign, you need to register and head down to Crystal City this weekend.  

Come find me and I'll buy you a drink.  You know you want it.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Surgery, Age, Fitness, and Marathon Training

So here's the deal.

I just had major rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder.  On a scale that went from minor to major, my surgeon described my tear as "fucking massive."  He showed me the pictures, it was gross.  The pre-repair inside of my shoulder looked like a pre-cooked bowl of kung pao chicken.  Seriously, there were peanuts.

Six years ago I had a similar surgery on my left shoulder.  That tear was pretty bad, but my surgeon (same dude) described the repair as a "chip shot."  He operated, the recovery and rehab was indescribably miserable, and I eventually recovered full use of my left shoulder.  Back to the recovery, though: it took me over a full month to tie my shoes.

Yesterday marked one week since my most recent surgery.  A more serious injury than my last surgery, a more traumatic repair than my last surgery.  The day BEFORE yesterday I tied my shoes and walked nearly three miles fast enough to break a sweat.  On its own, this means nothing, but compared to where I was a week (hell, a month) following my previous surgery, I'm left scratching my head trying to make sense of things.  To put it in perspective, last time, a week following my surgery, I could barely make it from the bed to the bathroom without passing out; this time, a week out, I nearly trotted out 3 miles.

How is this possible?

There are two major differences between the last surgery and this surgery: this surgery was on my dominant arm, so the muscles had a lifetime of better development; between the last surgery and this one I became a marathon runner.

I have no idea why this recovery is progressing as freakishly well as it is, but I will take it.

Suffice to say that I will start my next Marathon training program as soon as I can.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dark Angel Terminator Librarian

This Librarian was the 2nd HQ for my Dark Angels army at the 2013 NOVA Open.

Saga Irish Warband

Being of Irish heritage (among others), I am compelled to field an Irish warband for Saga.  I have also found a copy of The History and Topography of the County of Clare, by James Frost, which is providing me with lots of inspiration for developing campaigns that recreate the turbulent Dark Age history of the kingdom of Thomond and the rise of Brian Boru.  I am bummed that I did not discover Saga until after the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf.  It would have been fun to field Brian Boru against Brodir and his Viking pals.

I imagine this dude leading my Dál gCais ancestors on cattle raids up and down the Shannon river valley.

A large group of elite Fianna forms the core of the warband.

The two Fianna in the foreground are heroes, or Curaidh, who have provided some pretty epic and entertaining exploits in their brief campaigning history.

Not all that historically accurate in the sense of warfighting, but what Irish warband would be complete without a pack of fierce and loyal Wolfhounds?

Finally, a group of brave Bonnacht accompany the warband, eager to prove themselves worthy of ascending the ranks of the Fianna.
The Irish are a fun, if tricky faction to play.  Their battle board embodies the oft-heard critique from historical wargamers that Saga incorporates too much foolishness into its mechanic to count as a proper historical wargame.


My position is that Saga is easy to learn, fun to play, and way more tactically satisfying than any comparable wargame I have played so far.  To be fair, the number of wargames that I have not played far eclipses the number I have.  Still, Saga manages to hit a sweet spot between ease of play and tactical realism.

Who knows, maybe there is still time to replay Clontarf before 2014 comes to a close.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Saga Anglo Dane/Hiberno Norse Warband

Saga is my latest miniature wargaming flame.  It is a very basic, straightforward game that is both tactically satisfying and unpredictably entertaining.  Gripping Beast is really on to something with their battle board game mechanic.

My all purpose warband is 10th Century Anglo-Danish, but since they are Dark Age warriors, they could also be Hiberno-Norse, Vikings, Saxons, Scots, or any other grungy bearded dudes with stabby things and shields.

A fearsome Warlord leads the warband

Heavily armed and armored Huscarls provide a powerful elite force

Axe-wielding warriors are the primary offensive unit in the warband

Spearmen form the bulk of the warband

Stay tuned for forthcoming detailed Saga battle reports.

Monday, August 18, 2014

V, the Cocktail

This cocktail recipe emerged from the 2013 Academy Awards.

My beautiful wife/lab assistant asked for something special to enjoy while watching the red carpet events. I went to work inspired to create something suitable.  Something Hollywood. Something red.

Back then, we were watching True Blood pretty regularly, before the show jumped the shark from being dumb but watchable, to being completely asinine.  Anyhow, I set out to make a cocktail that evoked vampire blood, or "V."

I started with a base of Campari and St. Germaine.  I had enjoyed previous success mixing these with Blood Orange soda, so I juiced a blood orange and added that to the mix.  It looked like blood. I finished it with a dash of lime juice.  The final recipe uses Aperol instead of Campari, since the former is a bit more of a "team player" with the other ingredients.

The result was drinkable and perfectly respectable, but lacked the Hollywood wow factor necessary to accompany the Oscars.  The True Blood setting of Louisiana provided the solution.  A splash of Tabasco transformed the drink from a a sweet and unremarkable tipple to a pretty darn fine red carpet cocktail.  The final product is sweet and alluring, with enough of a salt/spice back to evoke the thrill and danger of drinking forbidden vampire blood.

This is a really good drink.

1 shot Aperol
1 shot St Germaine
1 oz ripe, freshly squeezed blood orange juice (must be dark red; pinkish orange will not do)
1/4 slice of lime
1 fearless splash of Tabasco (V must be dangerous!)

Stir liquids and a few drops of juice from the lime wedge together over ice and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with lime zest.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My 2013 Dark Angels Army

Here are some shots of the rest of the Dark Angels I took to the 2013 NOVA Open.  I had fun with the ruined chapel display board.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dark Angels Terminator Chaplain Step-by-Step Painting Guide

With the 2014 NOVA Open right around the corner, I think I will spend the next couple of posts showing off last year's army.  Dark Angels.

If you have not registered yet, do so now.  It is one of the biggest and funnest Sci-Fi miniature gaming conventions on the East Coast.  NOVA happens every year over Labor Day weekend in the Washington DC area.

I can especially recommend the Narrative campaign.  There are still a couple of slots available, so if you want to take part in a unique and on-going struggle for Earth and our solar system, register today.

But back to the Dark Angels I took to the 2013 NOVA Open.

First up, here is a step-by-step look at the Terminator Chaplain:

Step 1: Prime the whole model white and base-coat the armor and any steel-colored metal dark gray.  Leave some of the armor white so you can paint some dark green later in order to provide some Dark Angel-ness to the paint scheme.  I chose the "halo" around the head, the storm bolter (not pictured yet), and the grip for the Crozius Arcanum (not pictured yet).  Cheatin' Steve's Painting Tip: I used Vallejo  Game Color Sombre Grey diluted to 2 drops of paint to 1 drop of water (2:1).

 Step 2:  First, go back and basecoat that chain in front that you forgot to paint in Step 1.  Now, cover all dark gray with black wash (Secret Weapon Washes Heavy Black undiluted).  Next basecoat all gold metal, parchment, and bone intense brown (Vallejo Beasty Brown diluted 2:1).  Next basecoat all red (Vallejo Gory Red undiluted).  Next, basecoat green areas as discussed in step 1 Vallejo Heavy Blackgreen diluted 2:1).

Step 3: Paint all paper with tan, leaving the brown showing in rips and between sheets (Citadel Kommando Khaki undiluted).  Shade the purity seals and the eyes Secret Weapon Drying Blood).  Shade the green (Citadel Leviathan Purple.  If you can find any of this wash anywhere, buy it, it is fantastic.  Their re-tooled purple wash is shit.)

Step 4: Paint skull tan, leaving brown showing in joints, between teeth, and in recesses (Citadel Kommando Khaki undiluted)

Step 5: Paint parchment white, leaving darker colors to show in rips, recesses/folds, and between sheets (Aleen's Premium-Coat Titanium White diluted 1:1, use multiple layers on highlights).  Paint the skull bone white leaving dark paint showing in the joints, between the teeth, and in recesses (Vallejo Bonewhite 2:1, use multiple layers on highlights)

Step 6:  Before I start here, let me put in a plug for the the best gold metallic paint I have encountered in over 30 years of painting: Aleene's Premium Coat.  I have no idea of the specific paint color, as my label is printed "Light Fuchsia." I dont even know if you can get it anymore.  Here is what the bottle looks like:

I got it at an an arts and crafts store in Seattle back in 2001, and am only about half-way through the bottle.  You need to dilute it a lot, and it looks really granular going on, but when it dries it will give you a rich, deep, luminous gold coat that kicks ass on any other gold metallic out there (including those Citadel metals).  If you can find it, buy it.  Then post a comment letting me know what the actual color is!

So, back to the Chappy: Paint the gold (Aleene's "Light Fuchsia" about 1.5:1-dilute until the acrylic medium starts to show 'milky' as you blend the paint.  It will look really bad on your palette and while it is wet on the model, but once it dries you will be psyched).  Next, paint steel metal (Citadel Boltgun undiluted).

Step 7: Shade the parchment (Secret Weapon Parchment Wash).  Shade the skull (Secret Weapon Armor Wash diluted at least 1:1).  Shade the gold and steel (Secret Weapon Armor Wash).

Step 7: Highlights and details.  Highlight gold with original gold color.  Highlight steel with light steel or silver (Reaper Honed Steel undiluted).  Highlight black with dark gray and light gray for the highpoints.  I did the three gemstones using the technique that was originally described in White Dwarf a couple of decades ago.  I assume it is in the Citadel painting guide now.  I may describe that technique in another post, but you can probably find it described somewhere in the interwebs.  Finally, I used Secret Weapon Wash Storm Cloud for verdigris on the Crozius and Censers.  You can see it "pooled up" in the next three pics.

For the script I used black paint diluted 2:1.  This did not produce good results.  In later models I have used black ink undiluted or diluted 3:1 or so to much better effect.  Paint is just too thick.

 Here's How my Chaplain Warlord looked at NOVA last year. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Saga Battle Report Irish v. Anglo-Danes

Onward to the third pillar of this blog: Miniature Wargaming!

My buddy Mike has posted a brief report and some pics of our most recent game of Saga over at his Mini-Mayhem blog.  You should check out his blog simply for the mad display of award-winning painting.

While the game was never really close, the performance of one of Mike's Irish heroes turned a lopsided route into a really fun event.  After Mike's (obviously over-the-hill) Irish Warlord suffered a downright ignominious death beneath a flurry of Dane axes, one of the young Irish heroes stepped up to secure his own place alongside such legends as Finn Mac Cumhaill and Cu Chulain by single-handedly beating back the fearsome Danish Warlord and his retinue not once, but twice to finish the game triumphant atop a hotly contested hill.

The Danes may have carried the game, but the Irish hero owned the field at the end of the battle and ensured that his Saga will indeed be an epic for the ages.

Play Saga, it's fun.

The Twelfthmanhattan

For my leadoff cocktail I'm going with this bad boy.  It is certainly not the tastiest drink I have created and has nothing whatsoever in common with a proper Manhattan, but it looks amazing and is a fitting tribute to the Superbowl Champion Seattle Seahawks!

1 shot gin (London dry or moderate botanicals)
1/4 shot Hipnotiq
1/4 shot Blue Curaçao

1/2 shot Sour Apple Pucker
dash of rhubarb bitters

Mix half the gin with the Sour Apple Pucker and rhubarb bitters with ice.  Pour into a cocktail glass.  Mix the other half of the gin with the Hipnotiq and Blue Curacao with ice and float it on top of the green booze.  The result is a gem-like (a-la Bejeweled) potion that is absolutely drinkable, not nearly as cloying as many drinks of this hue, and plenty potent.  I used Tanqueray gin, but Gordons, Booth's, Beefeater, Bombay, Sapphire, or Plymouth would work fine.  Hendrick's or other gins with similarly interesting botanical flavor profiles probably would be too much-there is plenty of flavor in the blue and green booze.  Don't wuss out and use vodka.

Cheatin' Steve's bartending tricks: if you are having a hard time floating the blue booze, you can pour it in first, and then inject the green booze underneath it using one of these:

If you are still having trouble, try mixing all the gin with the blue booze and then injecting just the Sour Apple Pucker underneath.

If floating the blue booze is still giving you problems, try freezing the Sour Apple Pucker instead of chilling it with ice.  The combination of a relatively colder liquid with its undiluted density should send it straight to the bottom of the glass and keep it there.  Just make sure you take it out of the freezer before it turns slushy.


Running Goal: 4-hour Marathon

Here's a starting point.

The last Marathon I ran was in my hometown of Missoula, Montana in 2012.  I finished at 4:15.  15 minutes over my 4-hour goal.  I have met my goal of completing a marathon, several, in fact, but I have yet to break the 4:00:00 mark.

So I will set-out to do exactly that over the next year.  My aerobic fitness is right about zero right now, and I am about to undergo surgery which requires a lengthy recovery time, so I will be starting from the very beginning with the goal of finishing a marathon with a sub 4-hour time in the Autumn of 2015.  For any of you who are interested in joining me in this endeavor, I am going to use a low-impact endurance running training plan that should be perfect for beginners.  I took my inspiration for this plan from the legendary Hal Higdon.

Right now my workout run is about 4 miles at about a 10+ minute pace.  There are large sea mammals who can run faster than me.  After my surgery, my workout run will be about 2 miles at whatever pace I can manage.  Probably 10+ minutes.  To meet my goal, I will need to run a marathon at about an 8:30- 8:40 mile pace.  So I will need at increase my long run by 24 miles and reduce my mile pace by 1:30 per mile.  Fortunately, I will have about a year to achieve this somewhat daunting challenge.

The key to endurance training, especially for beginners, is to go slow with the mileage increases.  Endurance running is very hard on your body, and if you overtrain, you will get hurt.  Trust me.  I ignored these golden rules and I ran my first marathon injured.  It sucked.  The first golden rule is to increase your mileage (overall and long run) by no more than 10% each week (or 1 mile, if your overall mileage is less than 10 miles).  The other golden rule is to give yourself plenty of rest (at least 24 hours) between runs.  My training program is based on three runs per week.  Two runs will be fairly short (max of 4 miles) and one run will be a long run (up to 22 or 24 miles, we'll see how it goes).  The training program will proceed through three phases: 1-Build Cardio Base; 2-Develop Endurance; 3-Develop Marathon Performance

Starting with Phase 1-Build Cardio Base.  The goal here is to establish a fitness foundation that will enable me to progress to endurance training and prevent injuries.  This phase will probably take about 2 months.

Here's how I will start:

If you are into time rather than distance, treat a 2 mile run as a 20-minute run, and the 3 mile run as a 30 minute run...unless you are really fast, in which case you should be looking at an intermediate/advanced marathon training plan.

Who's with me?

Ever Forward!

Welcome to Cheatin' Steve's

This is a reboot of sorts.

I'm rebooting my blog, because with my last blog, I learned that you really need to blog in order to have a blog.  I'm sure the one person who is still following that blog would agree.  Now I think I have some good stuff to share, so off we go.  Again.

This is a reboot for me as well.

I recently retired from the Army, so now I have to find ways to spend all my free time.  Reboot fun.  I'm about to have surgery, so I'm going to have to start over with my marathon training and my pursuit of the elusive ultra marathon finish.  Reboot fitness.  I still love to drink and create my own cocktails, so I really don't need to reboot that.  I've got drinking cocktails down.

So if you like running, drinking, and playing miniature wargames, well then, you should stop reading this narcissistic crap and go do those things.

If you like reading blogs about running, drinking, and playing miniature wargames, press on...