Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Game Room: Librarium

The last element for a proper gaming facility in your home is a Librarium. This will be the place where you work on some of the more delicate hobby operations, such as painting and assembling. It will be a place to keep all of your army books, rules manuals, and fiction. Likewise, it should be a place where you can display your work and be proud of your trophies.

First, the location needs a proper work area and sufficient light. This is likely the most time consuming part of the hobby, so ideally it should be in a family area, like the TV room. Painting in the basement lacks natural light and painting in the garage risks getting dust where it should not be. Here are some options:
  • Some people work on a TV tray from the couch with a light over their shoulder. This is actually a pretty good way to go for many reasons. The TV tray can be easily moved to the Strategium when not in use, it keeps you close to your family, and the light can be moved around easily. It is also small enough to force you to work on just a few figures at a time. Obviously, it can get knocked over and doesn't give a lot of extra room for paint, water, glue, and brushes.
  • Some people work on the kitchen table. If you do this, put down a few layers of cardboard to protect it from paint and knives.
  • Others work at the computer desk, but this will probably get you kicked off when someone else wants to use it.
If you have the space, you can do what I do:
  • Get a nice table and set it up near the TV. Do not let it directly face the TV, since you can easily become distracted by the images playing upon its surface. Ideally it should be by a window.
  • Add a hutch or a painting shelf to it for storage of all your painting gear and reference books.
  • Get two lamps, one halogen and one incandescent. The mix of two light sources will mimic natural light.
  • Invest in a good desk chair with proper back support. It should have adjustable arms and high-quality casters.
  • Put down a plastic carpet protector for the chair to roll on.
  • Pop in a good DVD commentary or start a podcast.
The Librarium should also house all of your gaming books. I have gone back and forth on what to do with my old codexes. I once came close to throwing a bunch of them out, but I examined the new ones and determined that the fluff and painting guides in the old ones made them worth keeping, even when the new edition came out. These old books now provide a handy resource whenever I look to start a new army or clean up and refurbish an old one. I also keep all my old gaming magazines. For storage, I bought a number of heavy-duty magazine holders from the office supply store. Again, they form a handy reference once you have several years worth saved up.

When buying a book shelf, get ones that have solid wood shelves. Pressboard or plywood is not rigid and will bend over time. Magazines and RPGs are particularly dense books, so will require a good quality bookshelf. Don't be shy about putting them on display. Game books tend to have bright colors and interesting covers. They are sure to spark a conversation when the neighbors come over to play cards. If you are lucky, they might decide to try out a little D&D instead of playing poker! These shelves can also be a place to store your more popular board games. This way they can be brought out at a moment's notice instead of having to be reclaimed from the Enginarium.

You should also invest in a display case. It is important because you should be proud of the work you have put into your hobby. How many houses have you been to with a display case full of plates that were painted in a sweatshop in China or antiques created by someone with only modest talent a hundred years ago? Think about it- the time, effort, and artistry that went into painting your Warjack is a hundred times more valuable than any of that other garbage. Do not fall into the fallacy that just because something is "nerdy" it should be hidden. Explain to the viewer such things as shading, highlights, color theory, and brush work. Get them to appreciate it for what it is- artistry and craftsmanship. The display case will also inspire you to keep improving. Take a look at what is in there and challenge yourself to replace it with something better!

When selecting a display case, look for a couple things. First, make sure it is lighted. Ideally, it should have two bulbs- one at the top and one at the middle. Second, it should have doors on both side that give you enough room to get your arms in. Finally, the case should be big enough to display what you want to show off. If your game is 40K, you will want a bigger one in order to fit an entire army. If you play Malifaux, a smaller one will probably be fine.

Even if the Librarium is also the family room, it should be a place of quiet meditation and reflection. Is there a fireplace? How about a grandfather clock? Consider adding a few wing-backed chairs. This is where you will go to reflect on your victories, stretch out on the couch, and ponder your next move.

I hope my reflections on the gaming environment have been helpful. I was lucky enough to have all of these elements in my last house. I had a large gaming room that was connected to a good sized storage room. The light was good and it had a utility sink and bathroom connected. There was room for a couch and several comfy chairs next to the gaming tables. Now that I am back in grad school I am not so lucky. But even here in my one-room apartment I have all that I need.

Cheers, and happy gaming!


The Game Room: Strategium

The Strategium (gaming area) should be the focus of your hobby endeavors. This will be the place not only where games are played, but also where new worlds are created. The ideal game room will be a place that is comfortable, useful, and inviting. Here are a few tips for starting your own game room.

First, don't worry overmuch about space. The ideal game room will be rather large, but even a small place can be made to work. There are other considerations to see to that are actually more important
  • Floor Covering: Avoid thick carpet. If you drop something small you will never find it. If you get it dirty it will never clean properly. If you need to, pull up the carpet and go with bare floors. Linoleum or wood is better and will be easy to clean. The ideal surface is actually commercial grade carpet with no pile. It is generally easy to clean, will allow you to find dropped bits, and is more forgiving to models that fail their initiative save and go tumbling over the side. If you have a bare floor, you can always roll out an area rug for games and roll it up for messy hobby projects.
  • Lighting: Install an overhead light fixture with multiple bulbs and put in the brightest ones it can handle. If this is not an option, get several halogen lamps for the corners. If you want to be able to take any pictures or read your rule book during a game, this will be crucial.
  • Power: Are there sufficient outlets for your needs? Could you plug in a laptop, phone charger, lamp, air conditioner, jigsaw, and refrigerator at the same time? Is there a hookup for cable or internet?
  • Plumbing: Is the room connected to a bathroom? If the room has access to a sink, it will be of great use. You can clean out your brushes regularly and take a break when needed without disturbing others. Just make sure the second option is not used during game night. Make your guests go down the hall.
  • Temperature: Does the room have a bearable or adjustable temperature? Install a window AC if you need to in order to combat gamer stench.
  • Proximity: Is the room near your Enginarium and Librarium? Is it near a place where people will want to be sleeping (the Somnatorium) on game night? The ideal Strategium will be near the prior and far from the latter.
If all of these elements are in place, then this should be your Strategium. Even a small bedroom can be made serviceable if all the other elements are in place. If you are lucky enough to have an entire garage or basement to use, then go ahead and construct whatever sort of place you want. Throw in some couches, a TV, a couple custom built game tables, and have a great time. If your space is limited, try some of these suggestions:
  • Use a collapsible game table. There are lots of plans for game tables out on the web, but the design I like the most is also the simplest. Go to the DIY store and buy something called 1/2" OSB (oriented strand board). It will come in a big sheet that is 4'x8', so get a buddy with a truck to help you get it home. Once there, you have a few options. If you cut it in half, you will have two skirmish sized boards of 4'x4'. If you cut off 2 feet, you will have a Warhammer board with another to use as an army display board, and if you leave it alone you will have an Apocalypse board. Whatever you decide, paint one side green and the other side black (I use cheap paint and a big roller). Flock or sand appropriately, and now you have several game tables. They can be laid over an existing table or set up on a couple of sawhorses. There are some nice foldable sawhorses out there that can be easily stowed when not in use. These type of boards can be leaned up against the wall or behind a shelf and take up little room. They are also dirt cheap and require no skill to construct.
  • Use a collapsible work table. I use a thicker piece of plywood for my work projects. The OSB is not quite as durable, so I use a 3/4" piece of plywood. If you have problems with it sliding around, you can cover the saw horses with a rubber mat or a piece of cork board. 
  • Use wall mounted shelving for storage. This gives the added benefit of not taking up any floor space. Use these shelves for storing the terrain and armies that are currently in use. If you are not playing with them regularly, they should be in the Enginarium, safe from dust. Likewise, keep a few rulebooks and codexes in here, but not the whole collection. The rest should be in the Librarium.
  • The only things on the floor should be a couple of chairs, a mini fridge, a trash can, and a file cabinet if needed for army lists and campaign notes. By now most of this should be on your laptop anyway.
  • If you have the room, a side table is not a bad idea for writing notes, setting up your laptop, or organizing armies.
  • Put up several Frank Frazetta posters and have a sound system ready to go. These two things can help you get in the hobbying mood and will be sure to dissuade your spouse from coming in to bother you.
  • Don't let the Strategium start to look like the Enginarium. Be careful to clean up your hobby project mess at the close of each day. This will better allow you to get in a quick game when your buddies stop by and force you to not leave projects hanging.
There you have it. With a little planning, any small room can be made to serve as a place to play games and even work on hobby projects that can get a little messy. If you don't have such a room in your house, then chances are that your dining room already fulfills most of the criteria. You will just have to be a little more protective of the table and floor. If you don't have that, then you could use your bedroom. If you put your bed up on a set of cinder blocks or a small loft, you will have extra storage and it will be at just the right height to lay a game table over.

Remember- don't let anything stop you. Gaming is more important than responsibility. Imperator Vult!


The Game Room: Enginarium

A friend asked the other day for some tips on storage for hobby supplies and armies. Over the last 8 years I have had to develop a storage system since I have moved or been relocated about 4 times. As a hobbyist, I crave a stable location to practice my art, but that has unfortunately not been my lot in life. Here are some thoughts on how to store all your stuff. I call it the "Enginarium."

When looking at storage, I take several things into account.
  • First, the area I choose must be for gaming alone. When I go to my Enginarium, I don't want to have to sort through clothes or Christmas decorations. All the gaming stuff should be right there. 
  • Second, The space should be large enough to accommodate everything. Once I start looking for something to work on, I don't want to have to go to three different rooms trying to track it all down. 
  • Third, the space should be accessible, meaning that the doors are easy to open and provide an easy means for installing shelves or moving boxes in and out. 
  • Fourth, it should be dry and free of mold or other undesirable effects. Moisture should be rigorously monitored and addressed with sealants, dehumidifiers, and regular cleaning. 
  • Next, be aware of fire hazards. Cardboard, paint, and plastic like to burn. Do not choose an area near wiring, heaters, boilers, dryers, or anything else with a remote chance of getting hot. 
  • Finally, the area should be secure. Most thieves might not want to haul off an army in the night, but what about your little nieces and nephews who come over to visit? Do you want them getting into your space marines and hobby paints? Lock it up to be safe.

Next you will want to look at storage devices.
  • I started with buying steel shelving units from the hardware store. I bought the tallest ones that would fit in my storage room and bought several at once. I wanted them to match up evenly and chances are that the one you buy this year will not have the same dimensions as the one you buy next year. Buy a bunch and get it over with. 
  • At the same time, invest in all the plastic containers you need. Again, buy them at the same time and get ones that stack and come in different sizes. The tubs I bought are clear and fit two wide on the shelves I bought. They come in two different depths and lock together nicely when stacked. I also bought another style that have pull-out drawers for tools and paint. I also bought a number of Plano boxes for my pre-painted minis, like Star Wars and Heroclix. These boxes are clear plastic and have customizable compartments. They are then put in a larger plastic tub like the others I bought. 
  • Your painted armies should be stored in foam trays and boxes. I keep mine in cardboard boxes and write the army name on the side. I am switching over to plastic, however, since the cardboard does deteriorate over time. 
  • The last item I got was a small shelf unit with a bunch of little plastic drawers. These are commonly sold as storage for nuts and bolts, but they also work great for a bits box.

Once you have your room and storage devices selected, it is time to put it all together. When putting models away, be sure that they lay flat and are not under any pressure that could cause breakage or distress. Leave a little room under the lid so they have room to "breathe." I keep dessicant packs from shipping containers and distribute them freely around the boxes. Put all your tools in a safe place together. Mark the outside of their container with their contents. This will save time when cleaning up or starting a new project. Seal all loose items like sand and flock in the proper container. Spilled anything is a waste of money and can contaminate other projects in the Enginarium. Store larger things like game boards and sheets of foamcore or plexiglass standing straight up and down. This will minimize warpage. If you have anything flammable or under pressure, like spray paint, keep it in a separate area- preferably in a garage. If the garage gets too cold or hot, however, keep it in a steel cabinet in the basement or other storage area. Temperature changes can destroy these items.

Focus on efficiency of space. I saved quite a bit of room by going to all of my miniatures that were still on sprues and cutting them off. Usually an entire regiment or squad can be reduced to fit in a drawer of my bits box. Store like items together and throw out anything you don't need or haven't used in a couple of years. If you have a neat piece of something you would like to use in the future, ask yourself if you could make the same thing better out of foamcore and pink insulation. If it has a distinctive feature, just take a picture of it and throw it away. Also take a look at some of your older projects. Would the local game shop want it for game night? Could a new gamer use it? Don't be afraid to pass on some of your older stuff. Sentimentality is for the weak. Take a picture and give it away. If not that, then consider ebay. Why not make a couple bucks and spend it on new stuff?

Now you have a sweet storage area for all your stuff. Don't forget that your hobby supplies and armies represent a significant investment. Clean the Enginarium regularly and be merciless with spiders and ants. Do not allow anyone to smoke in the storage room or even drink pop. Punish all offenders immediately and make an example of them before the Emperor. Don't let the space become a fire hazard- pick up the floor and beware of clutter. If it can't fit in one of your boxes, then throw it out. A clean storage room will allow you to better complete your projects and move on to the next one. If it is full of crap, inaccessible, or dirty, your chances of getting anything done are exactly zero.

Now get to it!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

300 Challenge: Cryx Chicks Part 3

These models have gotten easier as I went along. I think the problem with tackling a highly detailed mini is that all the details are not immediately clear when it is primed all one color. As I added washes and picked out details it got easier and easier to see what was going on. I guess the lesson is just to get started and let the details worry about themselves.
Skarre is coming along nicely. I want to do some free hand work on her cloak and make her a nice centerpiece model. The weapons will also get an extra touch, perhaps with magical glow or damascus steel effect. We'll see.
 They don't need a lot of work, just a few highlights and a little work on the base. I will probably dull down the colors a bit as well. If they are raiders, they should be a little less ostentatious. 
 The main change at this step was shading the horns, highlighting the flesh, and picking out some of the belts and other details.

Skarre will get a fresh base as well. I hope to be done with these chicks pretty soon so I can get to work on a new army. it has been slow going, but we are almost done!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

300 Challenge: Cryx Chicks Part 2

I have been working bit by bit on the Satyxis Raiders. They are starting to get some definition, but I have a long way to go.

 I really like these bases. They are resin bases that I bought online from Kerr & King. They needed a little cleaning up, but the detail is good and they also have a depression for water effect to go into. I painted the stone gray and then washed it with brown and green wash. I will highlight it again with gray to pick out the edges.
 I should really just work on a few at a time, but I am loathe to waste any paint. This is the mob as I am working on them. I am still in the basic colors stage and they need a lot of cleanup. I often make the mistake of continuing to work on them even when I am tired, so the paint job is not as neat as I would like. I seem to spend a lot of time fixing mistakes.
 She is looking pretty good. I think I will go with white hair on this unit and black on the chicks with whips. They will be easier to distinguish that way. Now that the models have some color, I want to go back and work on the skin and faces a little bit. There are many parts I missed that I originally thought were going to be cloth, but are in fact bare flesh. These models are so finely detailed that you only pick up on some of the subtle details when you actually start applying the paint. Again, these are mistakes that are costing me time!
These girls need some bases! I ordered some new ones from Back2Base-IX and they look pretty good. I went with a simple wood decking base as I want to eventually model them on the deck of a ship. That would be pretty cool, right?

Another thing I noticed in my painting this week is just how important it is to check and double check your models before painting them for flashing and mold lines. I seem to remember going over these models very carefully, but I have found a bunch of things that need fixing. Again, time wasted.

Unfortunately I did not get much painting done during October. November's schedule looks better, but I am pretty sure my painting schedule is going to roll over into December to finish my goal of painting 300 models. However, if I can get through my entire backlog before I head home for Christmas, I will count it as a victory.



Monday, November 7, 2011

Hell on Wheels Review

Last night I watched the premiere of "Hell on Wheels" on AMC. I watched it in the hope that it might offer some inspiration for my games of Malifaux. I enjoyed the pilot and here is my review.

The lead is a gunfighter named Cullen Bohannon (played by Anson Mount). Without giving too much away, he was a soldier who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. We are not told much about him, but he appears to be on some sort of revenge mission that leads him to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where the Trans-Continental Railroad is beginning to be built. Colm Meaney plays Thomas Durant, a rail baron. He is the titular bad guy, but in a neat soliloquy he mentions that without him, America would never be truly great. Elam Ferguson (played by Common) is a worker on the railroad and an emancipated slave on Bohannon's crew. There are fights, drinking, a baptism, and a raid by Indians. The train is pretty cool as well.

The revenge theme is pretty clear from the very beginning and provides the basis for several character's motivations.
There is also an element of self-preservation and desire for power. Durant, in particular, is motivated by the opportunity he has been given to make something great while also making an incredible fortune.
There is no supernatural element in the show. This series is being played as a straight Western with no magic, voodoo, or steampunk whatsoever.

Here is where I think that some Malifaux inspiration can be found. The conflicts we have seen take place in several different settings. On the plains, we see a campsite attacked by Indians. I had not thought to make a setting like this, but it would be perfect. There were several wagons, a couple fires, and a bunch of straight-sided canvas tents. This kind of battlefield would give a good mix of cover, breakable terrain, and lanes of fire.

There is also the semi-permanent work camp around the rail line. I like the idea of a section of unfinished rail, piles of dirt, stacks of ties, and half wood, half canvas shacks. The wagons being used are also distinctive. The preacher and his band even have a wagon with a steeple on the back.

The soundtrack is worth a look. I have several of the songs featured on the show, and all would make a good Malifaux soundtrack.

Despite the lack of any magic or steampunk elements, I think the show can help get you in the mood to Malifaux. It is pretty dark, gritty, and has an acceptable level of violence. I hope the show takes off and does well!



I shouldn't have pressed the button...