Catching Up, Pt. 1

It’s been a good while – nearly three months – but I am still here.

Hopefully, you’ve had a great holiday season and you’ve not been burdened by too much snow or frigid temperatures.  Just remind yourself that Spring is only 70 days away.

Life’s just gotten a bit . . . busy.  So many areas of interest, so little time or money – it’s weird how that happens.  But I had a couple of irons in the fire when I was last here, I should probably provide a run-down on how they turned out:

I did manage to clean and eventually repaint that O-scale Lionel engine.  I had to do a bit of improvised rigging, too, as some parts were rusted beyond repair.  In the end, I have what I wanted – a non-functioning period piece for any 1:48 scale gaming I might pursue.  I’d originally picked it up for Dust Tactics, but seeing how that’s no longer an option, the train – the engine and a few railcars – might be used with as scenery (or an objective) in Bolt Action.  I mean, in addition to the 1:35 figures I’ve got, I do have a number in 1:48 scale.  We’ll see.

I also got an opportunity to thumb through Modiphius’ Star Trek Adventures.  The book is gorgeous, and at least physically, lives up to the hype.  I’ve heard mostly good things about it from users, although I’ve yet to see the game being played.  I was particularly disheartened to learn that Modiphius has yet to release the playing figures – the dice have apparently been out for a while.  Then again, it could just be that the stores in my area aren’t carrying the figures, hence their absence.

Anyway, it’s something to consider.

Most of what I’ve been doing as of late revolves around a newer interest of mine – Battlefront’s Team Yankee.


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The ‘Other‘ 1985

For people not in the know, Team Yankee is a miniatures wargame based on a book by Harold Coyle, that details a major confrontation between the Soviets and the West in 1985 West Germany.  I remember getting the book when it came out (so long ago), but I don’t recall finishing it; there were a slew of World War III books that came out in the wake of the Hunt for Red October, and most of them are a blur to me now.

It’s funny, in retrospect, but it seemed like adventure novelists were fixated on some major military confrontation in the mid-1980s.  Coyle looked at a war from the perspective of ground forces, while Tom Clancy took a broader military approach in his classic, Red Storm Rising.  I remember one author who looked at a war beginning in the Mediterranean, while another had it start with a resumption of the Korean War.  One of the more interesting takes was a story where a war began in apartheid-era South Africa.  Books like these had comparable plots:  Devious plan cooked up by an aggrieved person leads to war, which soon spirals out of control.  Before it gets too far gone, sensible heads take over, the planners are destroyed in some fashion, the war ends, and the reader is left asking, “What happens now?”

They say that history is cyclical.  It’s not, but I won’t argue here.  What is true is that nowadays, people are fascinated by the 1980s, much the way that people in the 1970s were fascinated by the 1950s.  Each generation seems to fixate on some arbitrary point in the past, and argue that it was a “time of innocence,” before the “chaos of today.”

Maybe they’re right.

Team Yankee is interesting to me – at least as a game – because I was in the army during the time the game takes place.  Had this been the real-deal, I would have been one of thousands of young men and women who’d have been playing this for real, so there’s an added dimension to this material for me.  (Interestingly, it’s this personal familiarity with the time and place that’s been helpful as I reacquaint myself with GDW’s apocalyptic classic, Twilight 2000 – but that’s a topic for another day.)

Anyway, the available components for Team Yankee are 15mm, or 1:100 scale.  And while I’m sure that the folks at Battlefront would love for you to use their models, I’ve been wondering if smaller actions can be played by using their rule set and other, larger models.  I say “smaller actions,” because one of the issues I have with Team Yankee (and it’s older brother, Flames of War, a WWII version), is that the tabletop battlefield can get very crowded.  Photos in the respective books, as well as those found online, suggest that one needs to have dozens of scaled vehicles and troops all on a relatively tiny (4′ x 6′) tabletop.  Factor in the cost – about $45 USD for a set of five vehicles – and it is easy to see that Team Yankee can send a guy to the poorhouse rather quickly.

You don’t need to rush out and buy everything, and in fact, Battlefront has been very helpful in releasing Hammerfall, their introductory set that provides you with virtually everything one would need for a basic game.  Two US M1 Abrams tanks and three Soviet T-64s, along with a simplified set of rules, dice, and playing pieces, all for $35 USD is not a bad deal at all.  And these vehicles are kits – tiny models that are extremely detailed, but require the necessary glue, paint, and patience, before one can start.

And I mean a lot of patience.



I hadn’t planned on getting involved in the game itself; I was interested in the models.  And let me tell you, I think Superman would have had a hard time seeing some of that detail.  But as I started to acquire and accumulate, it just made sense to dig deeper into the game and to see what it had to offer.  What really helped me the most was that I was able to find used copies of some of the books, and that saved me a pretty penny.  Only the primary rule book is required; the others are helpful, but definitely not needed.

At this point, I’ve built a modest American force:



Notice how few are painted in a camo pattern?  What was that about patience?

It’s a nice little American force, but it’s not finished.  I may add a few more vehicles to the group.  If one was going to be even remotely accurate, the use of the M109 artillery howitzers (in the back row) would necessitate a playing table much larger than 4′ x 6′; probably something in the neighborhood of 8′ x 20′.  I know that those guns have a far greater range than what the required tabletop allows.  It’s for that reason that I’ll likely avoid any air units and anti-air defenses.

But as I say, it’s a start and we’ll see how it goes.


More Dusty Rails

Well, I went back to the antique store and re-inspected the bag of Lionel train parts I mentioned yesterday.  And wouldn’t you know it?  I was right.

The missing engine trucks, the base for the coal hauler, and a few other things were located amid the broken flatbed and other fragment.  I could have argued that I should have gotten those engine trucks for free, seeing how I bought the rest of the engine, but I didn’t feel like going there; I just paid for the bag and went on my way.

I did, however, take a look at those other two components – namely, the power box and the rail light post.  The power box was that in name only; if I was a collector of 1940s bakelite, I’d have gotten it and been happy.  But as it was, the thing was barely in one piece.  The base was cracked and missing pieces, and the knobs fell off when I tried to turn them.  As for the light post, not only were the bulbs broken off and gone, but they were damaged in such a fashion to make the entire post unusable even as a non-functioning prop.  So while I hate the idea of breaking up a set, this was a set that was more broken than one should have been.  I did nothing wrong by taking only the more salvageable portions of what was there.

And get this – someone I know is sending me some more Dust Tactics stuff.  One of the add-on campaigns, all of its components, and a vehicle; I should have them by the middle of next week at the latest.  Interesting how, after having given up on the whole thing, Dust Tactics merchandise is falling out of the skies around me.

Maybe I should give up on money next . . .

Dusty Rails

I should probably share a couple of additional things concerning Dust Tactics.

One of the things I’d wanted to do with that game – back when I was serious about one day playing it – was to incorporate some “real world” material so that it wasn’t entirely “science-fictiony.”  This included adding a few 1/48 scale tanks, like a late war German Panzer IV and a Soviet KV-1, a couple of trucks, and two platoons of soldiers.  I’d also wanted to add an O-scale locomotive with a few rail cars, possibly as obstacles or objectives, but one glance at what such trains cost nowadays, and that addition died rather quickly.

Until today.

I went to an antique store this morning and found a Lionel 1655 steam engine, along with two cars.  There were actually four cars, but each item was priced individually, and I’d wanted to do this on the cheap – meaning that something had to be left behind.  I’d only wanted it for set decoration, not actual use, so at first, it didn’t bother me in the least that the engine was in several pieces (but the metal shell was intact), nor was I fazed by the fact that one of the cars had one of the trucks (wheel sets) detached, with no means of permanent reconnection.  At least the remaining car was in decent, if not filthy, condition.

I know nothing of Lionel trains, so after dropping my $20 on a bag of dubious worth, I came home and did some research on my questionable bag of booty.  Turns out that what I have were the components of a single train set.  These were not cars purchased by a big-time model railroader; this was boxed set that likely had one owner.  The 1655 model was sold for only two years – 1948 and 1949 – making the train (oh irony of ironies) perfect for the Dust universe, as it’s a good representation of period locomotive.  If only it were completely intact . . . but then again, if it were, I’d likely not have been able to afford it.

Between the rust, calcium deposits, and missing parts – the engine is a 2-4-2 model that’s more accurately described as an 0-4-0 version (i.e., it’s missing both the forward and rear trucks) – there were a lot of reasons to take a pass on this mess.  It’s going to take some time and effort to get this stuff where I want it.  The motor’s there, but I’ve no way to test its functionality, much less repair or clean it; heck, I don’t even have tracks.  But again, I didn’t need it to work; I just wanted there as dressing.  That fourth car?  Broken and in at least four pieces, but I might return to get it because I think it might have the engine trucks I need.  I now know that it contained parts of the engine’s coal hauler car, so that alone might be worth the visit.

I’ve got, however, two reservations.  In addition to the bag of broken parts (for $7.50, which will bring my investment up to $30), there was the power box and a couple of rail light posts.  These were a part of the set as well, and I feel guilty about breaking up a set like that.  But assuming I get that bag, I’ll be in for $30; I’m guessing that the power switch and the light posts will add at least another $15, and that’s more that I care to shell out for what is essentially junk.  I can’t imagine the store selling them by themselves.

My other issue is with the restoration.  I’ve checked and even for parts, I’ve done pretty well for myself.  Ebay has a slew of sellers with 1655s worse than mine, and they’re asking $15 and up.  It’s not a rare model, nor is it worth more than what I paid.  Yet I’m still uncomfortable about stripping and refurbishing the original paint, knowing that it’s nearly three-quarters of a century old.

Well, let’s see how the cleaning goes, and I’ll worry about the other stuff later.


Late to the Party

According to my mother, I’ll probably be late to my own funeral.

She told me this when I was a kid, mainly because I tended to be slow and meticulous with things that didn’t need that kind of attention.  She was right, mind you – I can be ridiculously slow (and slow-witted) at times, and only Goodness knows why.

I mention this because I’ve only recently developed an interest in Dust Tactics.

Go ahead and laugh.

On the off-chance that you’re not familiar with the game or the game-universe, Dust Tactics (and its various incarnations) depict a world where the Second World War follows a very different path than what happened.  After Hitler is assassinated in 1943, a disgruntled Wehrmacht sees an opportunity for Germany to achieve an honorable peace.  The Soviets, however, are left out of the loop, and due to a misunderstanding, they’ve now declared war on the remaining Allies.  Along the way, the Chinese and the Japanese get involved, Florida is invaded, and everyone involved has unleashed new armaments developed with newly discovered alien technology.


Sadly, I don’t own the core set, which is kind of a blessing – I’ll explain that later.  I had a chance, about two years ago, however, to snag a copy of it on a clearance table that was going for about $60; I thought it was too much for something that I knew nothing about, so I put it back on the shelf.  In fact, I remember the incident as if it were yesterday – “I’m going to check and if it’s legit, I’ll be back tomorrow.”

If that were only true.  “Tomorrow” never really comes, where I’m concerned.  I can’t begin to count the number of regrets I have because I’d talked myself into “coming back tomorrow.”  Too many to count, that’s for certain.  Anyway, I left that store and soon found other adventures in which to involve myself, quickly forgetting about the box that caught my eye.  In fact, it wasn’t until last September before I’d even given Dust a second thought.

Visiting another gaming store, I came across another clearance table.  Price-wise, this was nothing to write home about: Many of the “sale” items were only a few dollars down from list, so it was no wonder that the own had so much inventory still on his hands.  But I did see two of the Dust Tactics books on hand: The Core Rule Book and Operation Zverograd.  I remembered my earlier interest, and perhaps foolishly, convinced myself to research the game again, before investing any money.  There were several copies of each, and given the pricing, I was reasonably certain that none of them were going anywhere.  Worst that could happen, frankly, was that the shop could close its doors before I came back, thus time was of the essence.

Two days later, I was back.  I’d done some cursory research on Dust Tactics, and knew enough to say that it was something I’d definitely find interesting, giving its alternate historical timeline.  I grabbed those two books – by now, the materials were half-off, so if it proved to be a bust, I was only out of $30.  I could live with that.

But now I’d been bitten by the Dust Tactics bug.  Another visit (and twenty bucks) later, I had a couple of boxes of game figures.  Just before Black Friday, Fantasy Flight Games, which marketed the game, began a massive sale of Dust Tactics accessories, figures, and books.  This was cool from my perspective, because another $40 investment netted me nearly $150 worth of merchandise.  I was on my way!  That sale on Amazon?  Wow – two more add-on sets for $25!  A building set here, and Quonset huts there?  I’m on it!  I spent weeks reading what I could find, downloading various manuals, books, and add-ons; following Dust related blogs and websites . . . I was in full-blown addiction mode, and I hadn’t even played a game yet.

That store with the core set?  Of course, it was gone.  No one could get it for me, either.  When I did find a copy on Ebay, it was nearly $300, and that was used.  All while this was going on, I was curious as to why none of the local stores carried anything Dust related.  It never occurred to me to ask them about it.

When I finally approached a store manager about the game, he gave me the skinny.  Told me about how he’d refused to stock Dust after that “Kickstarter incident.”*  How he’d simply boxed up his armies and put them in his basement.  How his friends, who’d likewise supported the game, did the same.  How he felt there wasn’t a lot of interest left in the game because things had gotten too expensive and bizarre.

This is why I’m glad that I didn’t buy that core set.  Because while I’d have a few more figures and terrain tiles than I have now, I would have simply stared at that box and thought, “Sixty bucks, and for what?”  I had to know that I’d never get anyone else interested in zombies, werewolves, killer gorillas, and walking tanks.

Seriously – what was I thinking?

I could pursue it, he told me, but I’d just be wasting money.  I didn’t tell him that I’d already come to the same conclusion.  All said and done, I probably shelled out $150 on Dust Tactics.  Strangely, I don’t regret this – not one bit.  When I learned about Dust Adventures RPG, I reasoned that my investment could still pay off, just in a different way.  When DrivethruRPG put the volume and its add-on adventure on sale some months back, I went ahead and purchased it.

Do I feel bad about my time with Dust?  No, not really.  After all, a similar game – Konflikt 47, by Warlord Games – was released about a year ago, and since that game is a reworking of Bolt Action, I see some interesting possibilities ahead.


* I know little about that incident, so I’m only repeating what was said to me.

Useful Finds

While I’m working on other projects, I’ve been taking stock of things on store shelves that might be of use at some future date.

I was at JoAnn Fabrics this weekend and found a number of interesting things.  Apparently – I didn’t know this – “fairy gardens” are a thing.  From the way it was explained to me, people have these small gardens wherein they create small diorama style themed settings for “fairies.”  Gnome villages, beaches, 1950s Americana – you name it, chances are you can find small components with which you can create a miniature park.Resized_20170602_151306.jpeg (2)

What first caught my attention was this set of “concrete” planters; it was probably their size, as they’d be perfect for a table using either 28mm or 54mm figures.  I’m guessing they’re either ceramic or resin, because they do have some weight.  Although marked at $13 for the set, JoAnn’s had marked them down significantly; I think I shelled out just over $5.  Given what’s here, it’s almost worth it.

My problem, as you can see, is the rather pathetic looking greenery included.

Let me get you a better view:

Resized_20170602_151343.jpeg (2)Yeah, that’s some hopeless looking vegetation.  I’m guessing that there were limits on just how much of this green colored lichen (or sawdust, I can’t really tell) was used, because no one  planter has more or less than the next; it’s like each was specifically measured out and that was that.


I could have left them alone, but then I’d have nothing to discuss.  That’s when I brought out my secret weapon:


Ten minutes later, it would seem that I’d developed a green thumb:

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I’m not completely satisfied with how they look – I mean, this foliage is really just shredded foam – but at least now the planters have something that resembles a bush.  These might make some interesting hedgerows if I use them with Bolt Action, or they might factor into some other tabletop game.  In fact, they might work nicely with something else I found on JoAnn’s shelves:

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I picked up resin naval cannons, which are a part of a pirate themed set.  While none of the other naval items were to scale (or applicable) for me, the cannon – with all of it’s imperfections – just called out to me.  Frankly, I think it was the fact that they were about $3 each (down from $7).  I’ve yet to do a more scientific comparison, but they appear to appropriate for 28mm to 54mm use.

Which is good, because look what I just happened to come into?

I’m Back, Pt. 2

With the whole Star Wars/Trek thing currently on the back burner, I’ve been dedicating myself to some new interests, specifically, the idea of wargaming.

I’d gotten into wargaming some years back, but it was never serious.  Rather, I should say that I never got the chance to get too serious about it, as components were rather expensive and rule sets were (at least in my neck of the woods) hard to come by.  I did manage to piece together a really nice set of expensive 15mm US and Soviet vehicles, but I never got to use them, as my lovely nephew discovered them one evening, and thought they’d make wonderful projectiles to skip across a nearby pond.

Yep, I’m still ticked about that.

Anyway, I hadn’t had much to do with wargaming until recently, when I was intrigued 81oeiWfuyhLby the release of the 2nd edition rules for Osprey’s Bolt Action (BA).  I’d heard about it in passing, but knew nothing else.  Virtually no store in my area carried BA products (save for an occasional supplement book), and I knew no one who’d had any experience with the system.  But once the updated rules were released, I was curious.  I did some investigating and research, and eventually decided to just order a copy of the book.  I should add that what really got me motivated to act was my curiosity about a companion rule set, Konflikt ’47 (but that’s another post entirely).

I got the opportunity to watch the game being played at a local store and immediately fell in love with what I’d seen.  My only problem was in the costs, as fielding a basic force can be a bit expensive.  With me wanting to try the game at home (and possibly recruiting others into it), that meant I’d be paying for at least two armies (so double my prices), as well as all of the books, accessories, and who-knows-what-else would be involved.  What am I talking about dollar-wise?  The starter kit for one force runs about $120, and that’s essentially a collection of 28mm scale soldiers (between 25 and 40, from what I’ve seen), a copy of the rule book, and several smaller accessories needed for the game.  Vehicles could run another $25 to $50 each, and then there’s the costs involved in creating a realistic looking playing area, and that depends on what one is trying to do – but it can be pretty expensive, not to mention time consuming.  By the end of the day, I’d determined that I’d probably shell out several hundred on a game that might get used, and that was a bit rich for my blood.

Then, as they say, something happened.

Resized_20170523_094627.jpeg (2)I remembered that a few years ago, I’d gotten bit by the modeling bug.  There were a couple of really good hobby stores in my area – now since gone – where I’d gotten some basic 54mm scale Tamiya models on the cheap.  Some had been assembled, others sat waiting for action.

I’ve been questioning whether or not it is possible to play Bolt Action with figures larger than the 28mm scale.  Without a lot of table space, I’m guessing that it’d be near impossible to conduct large scale actions, but I’m wondering if one limited oneself to smaller, squad based activity – would it still be feasible?

I have so many models that would work that it seems almost silly not to try . . .