The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

More decals…

Posted By on June 28, 2015

So, yeah, I’m kind of burnt out on decals, but I got a pretty decent amount of touch up and decal additions done.


Turrets. Unit 4 has 2 options, unit 2 is the guy on the stick and he goes in another unpictured turret, with just one option.


All completed units awaiting varnishing in the spray booth.

The astute reader and 40K nerd would perhaps notice a couple of things:

  1. The razorbacks and predator lack army designations.

    1. This is because, according to Dark Angels OrBat those are not organically part of a battle company (in my case, the 5th), but rather drawn from the Armorium as needed. As such, they don’t get army designations, except, perhaps for the Armorium, for which I do not have decals. A rhino, however, would.
  2. The dreadnought’s number isn’t over its army designation.

    1. That’s because it’s too hard to read (white on white). So, I moved it.


Another shot of the Chaplain and landspeeder, with an attack bike not in the above shot.

The same reader above might say that the chaplain should have a green shoulder pad because, while space marine chaplains always paint their armor black, the left shoulder is typically painted in the color of the chapter to which they belong and has that chapter’s sigil upon it (this is not 100%, depending on what painting guide or codex you reference, but I like it). However, the Dark Angels are weird – the whole army doesn’t use the same sigil. The sword and wings on a green field are used by most of the army, but the deathwing (first company) uses a red sword and wings on a bone white field, and the ravenwing (second company) uses a different white sword and wings on black. Since the chaplain is attached to the company, not the army, it makes sense to me that such a chaplain would use the company sigil. Hence, all black armor and a ravenwing sigil, not a generic dark angels sigil.

The jetpack chaplain, however, will be attached to the 5th company (likely attached to an assault squad most of the time) and will have the normal green shoulder pad and white sword with wings sigil.

Wargaming rules post collection

Posted By on June 27, 2015

So, I’ve been wanting to do a couple of these posts for awhile, one for wargames and one for roleplaying games. This is the one about wargaming. I’ll break it down by scale (meaning the size of miniatures) and scale (meaning the size of the engagement), the latter which I’ll call “scope” for clarity, and Genre. I’m ignoring genres or scales which I don’t play.

  • Scale: 15mm-30mm (one figure per base)
    • Scope: Platoon to company size (15 – 250 soldiers) (aka “army”)
      • Genre: Modern/SciFi
        • One Page 40K – This is basically the only game in town for games of this scale. All the other ones I’ve tried are just a boring slog which take too long to play. This is largely because they’re “scaled up” skirmish games. OnePage rules sacrifices a lot of fiddly bits (namely, weapon strength and rate of fire are aggregated together into the number of dice rolled, and the different models’ strength, toughness, and separate melee and ranged skills are aggregated together into a single quality number). The overall goals are fun and simplicity, and I’m finding that this leads to more tactical depth, because you can focus on tactics and not get hung up on the crunch. The rules aren’t currently generic, but they aim to be once they get the bugs worked out of the point calculation system.
    • Scope: Squad to platoon size (4 – 15 soldiers), maybe a little bigger (aka “skirmish”)
      • Genre: Modern/SciFi
        • One Page 40K This is the scaled down version of the One Page 40K rules. I have not played this extensively. As above, it is not currently generic, but intends to be.
        • Zed Or Alive is a modern post-zombie-apoc skirmish game. Uses the Savage Worlds Showdown engine, which is familiar to me. It’s less wargame-y and more “RPG light”. It is miniatures agnostic with point values for unit creation.
        • This is Not a Test is a near future postnuclear skirmish game, which throws a pile of different tropes together and hits blend. It’s pretty obviously heavily influenced by the Wasteland and Fallout series of games, as well as tabletop campaign-oriented skirmish games like Necromunda. It is miniatures agnostic with point values for unit creation.
        • Pulp City is a superheroes game, with mechanics that fit the theme and a rich backstory, and rules for doing all the fun pulpy stuff you’d like to do. It’s designed for play with their miniatures, and no unit creation rules are provided.
      • Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
        • Warmachine and Hordes are a superbly balanced, well-modeled, strongly thematic, nominally skirmish pair of games which are widely played and I highly recommend. (Warmachine is based around the command of steam-powered robots, Hordes is based around the command of large creatures, and the two systems are compatible, so a Warmachine army can fight a Hordes army without issue). My only drawback to it is that I get burnt out on it because I love SF stuff and start to miss it. But, that’s not the game’s fault, it’s my malfunction.
  • Scale: Smaller than 15mm.
    • Genre: Space ships
      • Firestorm Armada is a space ship game which hits all the happy buttons with regards to space ship combat. It’s not generic per-se, but there are various homebrew points systems for creating ships, which I’ve found to work out to be pretty balanced.
      • Full Thust deserves an honorable mention. I very much like this system, but Liz doesn’t, mainly because of the pre-plotted movement. She vastly prefers the alternating system of Firestorm Armada and, while we could use the Firestorm Armada movement system with Full Thrust, it’s easier to just make up ship cards in Firestorm Armada.
      • X-Wing is a really good game and has the distinction of having the only movement pre-plotting mechanic which Liz likes (because it’s done very quickly and unobtrusively). Plus, the minis are prepainted, so it’s really a “pick it up and play” gateway game (or game for the busy gamer). I like the system so much, I may try to port it to the now defunct Crimson Skies game, because I have a pile of those planes, but everyone hates the movement system (alternatively, I’d use an alternating system, not unlike Firestorm Armada).
    • Genre: Naval
      • Dystopian Wars. So, I don’t generally like naval games. They just don’t really appeal to me. The exception is that very narrow period of time which was WWI-WWII, with large battleships with big guns with lots of aircraft flying around. Dystopian wars hits this in a Victorian SF setting, so you get a pile of weird things (cloaking devices, tesla guns, flying ships, etc.). It is non-generic. You use their minis and unit cards. There are no unit creation rules.
    • Genre: Land
      • Dystopian Wars covers land warfare too, with the same notes as above.
      • I don’t have a generic one. I’m looking. I own several, but I don’t really like them. I’m waiting for the One Page Rules guys to come out with something in this scale (likely called 1pEpic or something like that, after the now-defunct Epic 40k game, but the key here is that is must be generic. I have a pile of modern microarmor, as well as a bunch of epic 40k stuff, and I’d like to be able to use all of it under the same ruleset. In the One Page Rules Forums, some folks have reported success using the One Page Kill Team rules in that scale, and that’s not a bad approach. I mean, when engaged, infantry will either get killed, driven back, or pinned (called stunned). This makes sense. I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense with vehicles, but I could be sold on it – they either blow up, back off, or get rattled and don’t act. Fair enough. However, there aren’t rules for making units, nor are there some units that are really common in epic 40k games. It also is kind of an “all or nothing” killing of units rather than a graceful degradation of capabilities, like there is in the Dystopian Wars ruleset.. which may be another option – come up with a points system which works and use those rules. Not sure.
      • Axles and Alloys Post apoc automobile warfare with kitbashed matchbox/hot wheels cars. This is kind of its own thing, and is just fun.
      • Battletech: Alpha Strike This is a giant stompy robots (and, actually, airplanes, tanks and other combined arms) in the future game, and is a streamlined version of the regular Battletech game. This allows for both larger games playable in a normal time frame, or the same sized games as regular Battletech, but played in a shorter time frame. Liz and I played a 2 on 2 battle in half an hour, and that was while learning the rules. The game is fast, brutal, dynamic and, while the rules cover all situations, they are pretty simple, while keeping the real flavor of Battletech. As with other rules discussed in this post, they get out of their own way, and make you want to focus on campaigns and strategy, and not making sure you get the rules correct, because doing so is simple.
    • Genre: Air
      • Dystopian Wars covers air warfare too, with the same notes as above.
      • I don’t have a generic one here either. I’d love to use my Crimson Skies planes, but there are two problems with those rules as written:
        1. Liz hates pre-plotted movement.
        2. I don’t like the way the guns are done – large caliber guns make big holes at short range. Small caliber guns make small holes at long range. I get why they do this (game balance), but it’s kind of annoying.

        There are a couple of ways to fix these items. I’ll take them in order, using the same numbers as above.

        1. The simple solution is to not pre-plot movement. Have the activations alternate between players, even better, happen based on pilot skill. This is how most of the games detailed above work. Alternatively, you can borrow from X-Wing, which does pre-plot movement, but uses a really good mechanic for doing so (namely, a little dial which you set then put upside down near the ship or plane). With the advent of 3D printers, making your own really nice looking ones becomes easier.
        2. There are a couple of steps to fix this. The first is to rework the ranges so small caliber has a short range and large caliber has a long range. However, you need some type of way to keep it in balance. Options:
          • Limit ammo for larger caliber ones (this ends up requiring more bookkeeping, which is not great).
          • Let smaller caliber stuff shoot more (roll more dice). This results in rolling buckets of dice.
          • Make smaller guns cost less in terms of game points.

          I’m not certain which is correct. It also influences how damage is recorded. The original game uses sheets where you color in boxes for your planes as they get damaged, which is a lot of fun to watch your plane get shot up. But, if you let some guns shoot more, you end up having planes get shot down more quickly. If you drop this requirement, and give each plane a certain amount of damage it can soak before it gets destroyed, then that works, and is pretty conventional.

          So, yeah, I’m not sure what to do here, which is why I’ve done nothing.

          If anyone knows of a good set of generic airplane rules, leave a comment.

Babies’ first Cabelas

Posted By on June 25, 2015

On the way back from a graduation in VA (much fun was had by all, but it is a loooong drive) we stopped by Cabelas in Hamburg, PA. This was the boys’ first trip. They didn’t quite know what to make of it.



The other project that’s been consuming my time…

Posted By on June 23, 2015

As I mentioned in a previous post, we’ve been working on a playset for the kids.

The plans and much of the hardware are from Pirate Play Ships, the rest is lumber, screws, etc. sourced locally. These pictures are from the week of memorial day, where we got most of the framing done. I need to take some more pictures once it’s finished, which will likely be in the next couple of weeks. I’ve also been shooting video of the progress, and will post that once I edit it all together. I also plan to post compiled notes and tips, etc. if someone reading this was inclined to order the plans and build it themselves. (The main thing lacking in the plans is an estimate of how many screws to buy – we’re currently up to about 15lbs of screws of varying sizes, and knowing how much we’d need ahead of time would have been helpful).




Children for scale, of course.

Beer recipes

Posted By on June 7, 2015

So, it occurred to me that I could put my beer recipes in a code repository, since they’re just XML. So, they’re up on github.

Eventually, I’ll make a real page for it. Probably.


Posted By on June 6, 2015

In the grim darkness of the future.. guys on motorcycles are cavalry.

Kicking off my “I suck at painting army signage so I’m going to use waterslide transfers now” (more on this later), I’m starting with my bike squad and the often associated chaplain on a bike:

The idea here is that I brush-painted over my bad unit markings, touched up some other things, and then used the airbrush and some Future to seal it against the water from the waterslide transfers softening up the paint.

This is the result:

Which I then sealed again with more future in order to stop the varnish from possibly getting underneath them and lifting them (though I’ve never had a problem with this with transfers, because I’ve never risked it, I have had an issue with some of the metallic particles coming loose and floating. It’s not as much of a problem if you’re spraying the varnish on, but it can be if you’re brushing it on).

Anyway, stuff I’ve learned about waterslide transfers…

For starters, when I was younger, I had several problems with them:

  1. They would tear.
  2. The models couldn’t be handled once the transfers were applied, as they would rub off.

Doing some research this time (because it’s not 1995 anymore and we have the internet), I found:

  1. Seal with Future where the transfers are to be applied, both to protect the paint and provide a smooth surface on which they should sit.
  2. They can stick better by using some Micro Set.
  3. If they’re old, or thin, or homemade, or you just want some extra insurance that they won’t tear, brush some Liquid Decal Film on to the decal, let dry, then apply as normal.
  4. To get them to soften and conform to curved surfaces, use several applications of Micro Sol.
  5. Once the decal is the way you want it, seal with more Future.
  6. Then seal the whole model as normal using polyurethane varnish.

The above has been working for me for a couple of models. We’ll see how well it works over more broad applications.


Posted By on June 6, 2015

So, I haven’t updated this in a couple of days because I’ve been working on a playset for the kids in the backyard (more on this in a later post). So these pictures are a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, I did some airbrushing on the Master of the Ravenwing and the gunner.

First, I masked with silly putty:

Then I painted the heavy bolter red and did a power sword fade:

Finally, since I was airbrushing, I did a base coat on some marines with heavy weapons and a chaplain with a jetpack (whom I painted black after I took this picture).

It looks a little splotchy because I thinned the paint a little bit much through the airbrush. I’m still working at getting the consistency right.

It also occurred to me that I’m going to be painting a lot of big stuff (tanks, terrain, lots of troops) and varnishing them all by hand is going to be a royal pain. So, I took some terrain I’d been using as airbrushing test platforms (planets for space games) and tried airbrushing on the varnish. SUCCESS! Specifically, Jo Sonja’s Matte Varnish worked through a Badger 350, medium needle, at 40PSI (which is what I use to prime stuff). It worked either thinned or not, and the unthinned likely resulted in a thicker coat, so I’ll be doing that from now on. Of note is that it’s very important to thoroughly flush the airbrush between each cup refill and at the very end, because if this stuff dries in the airbrush it’s going to be a bear to get out.

Turret thursday

Posted By on May 16, 2015

As its name would suggest, this post is about turrets. Specifically, these turrets:


The one at the top is from a Predator Annihilator, and finds itself on the bench because, when I redid my army for 1p40k, I decided that the pintle mounted linked assault rifle (aka storm bolter) wasn’t worth it. Heck, I’m not sure it was worth it in the original 40k rules either. I also painted over the handpainted number on it, because I’m going to use a waterslide transfer instead.

Anyway, pulling that off required touching up the paint, which required mixing something which was really close to the old GW goblin green. For anyone who cares, equal parts Vallejo Game Color Dark Green (72028) and Goblin Green (72030) get you there.

The middle one I assembled from some bitz I had lying around. It’s a linked lascannon turrent for a razorback. This allows me to run the razorback with either linked lascannons or linked machineguns (another turret which is not pictured).

Finally, the bottom turret is the linked lascannon turret from my other razorback. The back of the seat broke off, so I glued it back on and repainted the joint because it took a bit of paint with it when it went.

I also fixed up misc dings and chips.

New series – from my hobby bench

Posted By on May 15, 2015

So, I’ve realized that I haven’t been blogging a lot, and that’s because I’ve been painting and working on other stuff. Now, while no one is really interested in my chores, it occurs to me that a quick snap on my phone of what I’m working on whenever I’m painting, coupled with a brief description as to what and why, might prove interesting to folks and serves as a journal for myself where I can see the progress of my mini painting.

Anyway, these are some pictures I took a little while ago largely to taunt my mother about guys which are going to come and beat up on her armies. But, they were in the gallery, so I uploaded them.

Master of the Ravenwing

This is a kit which I got for Christmas somewhere in the ballpark of 10-15 years ago.. and it remained in shrink wrap until about three months ago. When assembled, it looks like this:

(Hat tip to Dakka Dakka for the box art.)

Currently, mine is further along than the above picture suggests. It is cleaned and mostly assembled (I left Sammael and the gunner off to make them easier to paint and will glue them in later), primed, and basecoated. I’ve masked off the bodies of the crew so that I can airbrush the gun (because I’m painting it red and red is way faster with an airbrush because red takes like 5 coats to cover well) and power sword (so I can do a nice fade). The rest of it is just sharp line brush work, picking out details, etc.

Commander Shadowsun

This model, Commander Shadowsun is a new acquisition because I decided I needed a distinctive commander for my Tau. I had been using a regular crisis suit, and, under the 1p40k rules, crisis suits come in groups of 3, but the commander comes individually. Since I had 6 crisis suits, it means I could have one commander, 3 suits, and 2 extra, or buy this figure and have 2 units of 3 suits plus her. I did the latter.

By way of editorial – I love this figure. I’ve always loved this figure, and I’ve always wanted this figure, and I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to get and paint it. Since my army is purple, she is going to get a matching (though slightly different, because she’s the boss) purple paint job. Aside from from the fact that I like the sculpt, I like the fact that she’s not a dude. See, with about one exception, the grim darkness of the future is a sausagefest.

However, this is also my first finecast mini. I’m sorry, not impressed. Now, I’ve had plaster minis before, and resin minis before, am used to the bubbles. They don’t bother me that much, though some people complain that GW does a shit job at keeping the bubbles out compared to, say, Spartan, I can’t say that mine had a lot of bubbles, but the two halves of several parts of the mold were offset more than I’d call acceptable and there was a ton of flash to be removed. However, all of that I can deal with. What really bothers me is the additional support structure/channels they added to the mini. I’m not even sure why these are there, but logic would suggest that it’s either to strengthen a thin part to stop it from twisting as the resin cures, or to allow more space for the resin to get in there in the first place. So, I had to whittle out all these little pieces (I think there were half a dozen) while not messing up the mini itself, which was hard because one isn’t totally sure what’s part of the model and what’s extra flash.

Anyway, I think that’s enough for this post. Welcome to the hobby bench.

Broadband NY

Posted By on May 13, 2015

So, the governor has been promoting a rural broadband initiative.

If I had been watching too many episodes of House of Cards, I could speculate that this is a taxpayer-funded give away to entrenched corporate near-monopoly interests (namely, Time Warner) while placating rural areas which he had recently pissed off with the SAFE act. But, let us submit for a moment that I’m not so jaded, and the intentions are pure and genuine.

On the one hand, the market oriented libertarian in me chafes at the idea of using taxpayer funds to pretty much do anything, for the standard reasons that taxation is theft and by condoning it, you’re basically saying that it’s okay to steal from people under threat of violence in order to obtain result X. This is not a peaceful, voluntary solution to challenges. This same libertarian realizes that entrenched anti-market forces have set it up so co-ops and regional governments cannot compete with them, so the idea that lack of rural broadband penetration constitutes a market failure is roughly like saying that not being able to buy certain beers in certain parts of the country is a market failure – it’s not because the market is so contrived by government intervention that it’s not really a market to begin with. Basically, you have to be a small company like Google to be able to come in and get stuff like that done and, even then, the rent-seeking monopolists try and block you.

Anyway, let’s ignore all of those things.

If you presume the principal function of government is to administer the commons and arbitrate differences between parties, and that part of the administration of said commons is to build infrastructure (bathrooms on the fairgrounds, roads, rest stops on those roads, etc.) then it is reasonable, at this point in history, to determine that access to broadband as much of a necessity of life as access to roads, electricity, and telephones. As such, like the rural electrification initiative, these rural broadband initiatives make sense. The ROI isn’t short enough for the business to do the infrastructure build-out by themselves, so the government gives them some money to build the infrastructure and then the company gets to reap the rewards over the long term, because now, instead of having to pay off a capital outlay in 5 years, the capital outlay is nil, so you start making profit immediately (assuming the government pays for all of it). Over time, those lines cost more to maintain (because there’s more of them to have trees come down on them vs. number of subscribers), but you can pass that line maintenance cost down to the people on their bills, which is reasonable.

So, business is happy because they make money. Rural citizens are happy because they now get access to a necessity of life which they did not have before. It’s good for society because it lets people live where they’d prefer to live, and start businesses in more rural areas which traditionally have been more economically depressed, so small business creation there is good. It also gets broadband to schools which increases distance learning opportunities, which makes it reasonable to have a class of 5 kids who want to learn Mandarin. You can’t justify having a teacher with that specialty in district, but you can do it when it’s county or even state wide and done via distance learning. If we assume that government education is good, then it follows that more opportunity in this space is better.

The only losers in the bargain are urban taxpayers who are being forced to pay for a give away to businesses and rural citizens, but we’re ignoring that because it’s a “taxation is theft” argument – in reality, the amount of money given to the internet companies divided amongst the whole tax base is pretty small – I mean, the population of New York is like 20 million people, and if you assume half of them pay taxes, the stated $1 billion government pledge is a one time $100 from each of the stated people, which is not unreasonable.

So, as much as I want to hate this initiative, the only way I can do so is by my general disdain and skepticism for politics and government.