Cold Waters Ocean Mat Review

For my naval gaming I knew I needed a proper mat eventually; I thought about doing up a sheet of grey felt with spraypaint and such, but then I found the Cold Waters mat from Cigar Box Battles and figured it was worth the investment.

A lot of mats are designed for Mediterranean or tropical games (pirates!) or the Pacific and are way too blue or blue/green for the North Sea or English Channel where all of our WW2 small boat stuff has taken place so far. The Cold Waters mat is described as “the perfect mat to use with your North Sea WW1 Jutland fleets” and the colour looked good, so I decided to order it.

I ordered the mat February 1st and it showed up on the 20th from wherever it is in the US that Cigar Box Battles are based. I didn’t get a shipping notification or tracking number, oddly, which I was expecting given the cost of the thing. No matter, it made it, and a three week turnaround is good in normal circumstances, nevermind our current COVID-FUBAR’d postal mess!

A portion of the mat spread over one end of my dining room table. You can see the colour variation and nicely consistent whitecaps really well here. Click for larger.

Honestly the mat looks even better in person than in the photos on the Cigar Box website. The colour varies randomly across the mat from quite a dark blue to a lighter grey-blue, with whitecaps across it in the fairly consistent pattern you’d expect. There’s no obvious repeats of the pattern created by lazy graphic design, which is definitely not the case with some of the other sea mats out there.

Closeup with a couple of my 1/1200 WW2 coastal boats and one of my coast segments. It looks bluer in closeups. Click for larger.

The mat is a lightweight fleece blanket material and only printed on one side, which is fine. The fabric has a bit of a shine to it, again just fine on a seascape, and just a bit of fleece fuzz texture. It lays nicely flat, no curling at the corners or edges, and the creases you can see in the photos are about the largest on the whole thing right now. I’ll iron it eventually, and then store it either rolled around something or crumpled up loosely so it doesn’t get long straight creases in it again.

I think it’ll stand up to years of gaming use, and according to Cigar Box it’s washable in case someone does spill on it once in-person gaming is a thing again.

Middle distance shot. I’ll probably iron it to get the storage and transport creases out, then store it either crumpled up or rolled around something to avoid future creases. Click for larger.

The mat has fairly flat seams along each edge; if you were laying several out overlapping the ridge along the edges wouldn’t be too disruptive even with small ship models. It’s advertised as “4 x 6 Plus” which I think means it’s four to six inches bigger than that in each direction; I’ve not actually bothered to measure yet.

Absolutely a good value and solid looking product, with good shipping times. I’m not sure when I’ll next need a mat for something else, but Cigar Box will be on the shortlist if and when I do!

Gates For Gaslands, Part Three

Kind of slow on the gaming front around here; we are still in COVID lockdown so no in-person gaming is permitted, but Thursday evening Gaslands by webcam is still going strong – we’ve had six players the last couple of games, which is probably pretty close to the limit for webcam gaming and keeping things organized and moving.

The gates have their basecoats and a first pass of weathering done, at least. I’m especially fond of the blue pair, they’ve taken the weathering really well so far.

Base colours and a bit of weathering on all four gate towers. Click for larger.

We had a blast of unusually cold weather and snow which has meant that my brother’s 3d printer (which lives in his garage) has been out of order, so everything is on hold until he can print the “GATE” lettering the six or eight times I need to add to each gate. It’s warmed up to normal winter temps again so hopefully he can get that done this week and I’ll be able to finish these up!

Gates for Gaslands, Part Two

Got the base gate towers primed, and cut out the huge numbers that will go on each gate.

Primed gate towers. I forgot to add damage and scuffing to most of them before priming, hence the white streaks on the leftmost tower. Most of that was done with a small file, with bullet holes added with a very small drillbit in a pin vise. Click for larger, as always.

The plan is to label each pair of gates with large numbers cut from scrap styrene sheet, and to have 3d printed lettering for “GATE” above that, because I do not want to create styrene sheet lettering six or eight times if an alternative creation method can be found!

I’m going to scar up and then do the base colours on all the towers before the lettering goes on, so that I don’t have to try to paint under the lettering. But I cut the huge numbers last night and added the scrap bars that lift them off the surface of each tower.

Numerals for Gates 1, 2, and 3. The squares on the cutting mat are half inch; the 1s are just under 2″ tall and the 2s and 3s are between an inch and a quarter and an inch and a half tall. Click for larger.

Base colours tonight and priming the lettering, then I kind of have to pause until Corey gets his 3d printer fully functional again before I can add the GATE signs and start work on the overhead gantry for the Start/Finish line.

Gates for Gaslands Racing, Part One

The Death Race scenario for Gaslands calls for at least three or four gates, for start/finish line (which might not be the same gate) and a couple along the course. We’ve been using various random scenery bits, which works fine, but proper gates have been a obvious piece of scenery I wanted to make.

The scrap metal look worked well for the jumps I made last year, so it was the asthetic I followed for the gates as well. I decided to do freestanding gate pillars, essentially, with no permanent overhead horizontal pieces but with the vertical construction to allow modular overhead gantries to slot in if desired.

To keep the tall gate posts ballasted I started with solid 1 1/4″ washers from the stash, then sank the main vertical beams for each into a footing of styrene plastic filled with Milliput epoxy putty, which dries rock hard. Because it’s a fast technique and super cheap, I filled the lower levels of the foundation footings with crumpled tinfoil tacked in place with superglue, then put a layer of Milliput over that.

Early in construction, tinfoil filler visible in the footings. The three course gates are on the left, and rightmost is the start line, which is more substantial. Click for larger.

I used a couple of different methods to construct the footings; roughly circular lengths of corrugated sheet styrene were fast and easy but I really like how the vertically-embedded heavy pipe (styrene tube) came out.

This entire project was done from the Ancient Stash of Doom; I’m pretty sure some of these random girder pieces date back to the family model railroad we had in the early 1990s when I was in junior high. The dark grey plastic is all Plastruct; all the white plastic is Evergreen Plastics. There’s three or four sizes and styles of girder, a couple sizes of tube, and sheet styrene in at least four thicknesses and styles.

Beyond making sure all the main vertical beams were roughly the same length (about 4 inches) I did very little planning ahead. Each pair of gate pieces is in roughly the same style… more or less. After making sure the main vertical beams were solidly anchored to the washers, I filled in the rest of the structure from whatever sheet and beam bits were handy and looked the part.

Left, the Start Gates, with an elevated box for race officials, announcers, media, etc. I’ve decided that the “pipe” gates are Gate One, for no particular reason. Click for larger.
Gates Two and Three, basically finished and awaiting primer. Click for larger.
The backs of Gates Two and Three. The scrap-built girder structures are actually fairly solid now! Click for larger.
The backs/sides of the Start Line Gate and Gate One. Gate One has by far the simplest struture, but I really like how it turned out and if we need more gates will definitely be copying the basic design. Click for larger.

Gates One, Two, and Three are basically done, structurally, although I might yet put more details (floodlights, maybe loudspeakers) on them, and the plan for all three is to get Corey to 3d print lettering for “GATE” and then add the gate number in sheet styrene like they were cut out of sheet metal.

The Start Line Gate is still undergoing detailing. There’s ladders to get the crew up into the announcer’s cab, and I’ll be covering the sides and back with some solid metal sheet and a bunch of mesh – you can see the first piece of that on the offside Start Gate pillar, second from left above. The ladders are scratchbuilt from very thin strips of styrene; I’d have used HO scale plastic ladders but my awesome local hobby shop was out of stock.

The Start Gate is also going to get a fairly substantial horizontal gantry spanning the course between the two pillars. It’ll have floodlights, speakers, and a 3d printed “Esquimalt Thunderdome” sign on it, or will when Corey coaxes his 3d printer back to life. I’ve got some very cool openwork styrene girders to form the main central part of that gantry.

The main vertical part of the Start Line Gate, with partially constructed announcer’s cab. This photo was mostly taken to show off the scratchbuilt ladders, which came out really well. Click for larger.

More on these gates soon, and in the meantime stay safe, everyone.

First Three Gaslands Cars Finished

Finished up my first three cars for Gaslands over the weekend, the two Barracudas and an Impala last seen in grey primer a little while ago.

Basecoat on all three cars; the black stripe on Vlad was done as part of the basecoat with glaze medium. Click for larger.

Car One: Vlad the Impala

The big red and black car is an Impala, so naturally it has to be called Vlad in the long tradition of ancient dumb car jokes. The bulldozer blade ram plate, exhaust pipes, ring mount gunner, and rear slab spoiler are all off the North Star accessories sprue; the bar armour on the windows is thin styrene plastic strip. I might yet freehand the car’s name on the top of the spoiler, but it’ll thunder around the track quite handsomely without it for now.

Car Two: the blue Barracuda

This one seems to have accidentally turned into a Spaff Maureen landsplatter or whatever they’re called, never having played any 40K myself. It’ll be nice and clear which direction to point toward the finish line, anyway! Sheet armour over the windows is sheet styrene scrap; the air scoop, gun, and minedropper are North Star accessories.

Car Three: The Purple People Eater (Barracuda)

The second Barracuda is wrapped up in some extra bar armour with a pair of machine guns bolted to the hood. Guns again from North Star, bar armour bits from scrap styrene. Over the purple paint it has neon green skulls on the trunk and both doors, with some flames alongside the gun on the hood.

A Few Extra Shots

Just a few extra beauty shots for fun!

Both Barracudas heading up the jump. You can see the passenger door skull on the side of the Purple People Eater. Click for larger.
Tight starting grid, or parked up waiting for the mayhem to start! Click for larger.

My next project is going to be a set of gates for Gaslands race events; I’ve got a big stash of random plastic tubing, girders, and such that’ll make three or four gates to lay out race courses.

Cars for Gaslands

We’ve had a couple more Gaslands-by-webcam sessions since Corey wrote up his how-to and that’s inspired me to finally get the first few cars built up properly.

I’d primed and painted these cars months ago and they probably even appear in a few of our game photos, but I’d rushed the painting so the primer was scratching off far too easily, and I really hadn’t done much conversion.

I dropped the metal car bodies back in Simple Green to reset them to bare metal, then set about properly converting them into post-apoc Gaslands armed cars! Some time ago we’d done a group order to North Star for a bunch of their Instruments of Carnage plastic accessory sprues and those plus bits of plasticard from my parts box has gotten me three armed, up-armoured cars, all Gaslands Refuelled legal designs.

Vlad the Impala in progress. The huge absurd exhaust stacks, bulldozer blade ram, pintle mount gunner, and sheet metal spoiler are all from the North Star accessories. Click for larger.

The first and largest of the three cars is Vlad the Impala, with a turreted MG or HMG, ram plate salvaged from a bulldozer blade, huge exhaust stacks coming directly off the engine block, and “spoiler” on the back hacked from a piece of sheet metal. The windows also got barred off with plastic strips.

The school of Barracudas. Dual MG/HMG on the left and in-progress bar armour over the windows; the right hand ‘Cuda has an air scoop, single front HMG, a rear dropped weapon (not yet fitted), and sheet metal over the front and rear windows.

The two Barracudas are slightly smaller. One of them got an air scoop on the hood, a single HMG mounted alongside, sheet metal on the windows, and a dropped weapon (usually mines) off the back. Barracuda 2 got metal bar armour over the windows and reinforcing the front and back of the car, and a pair of MGs or HMGs on the hood.

Vlad the Impala all primed and ready for paint, with the bar armour over the front window nicely visible. I scarred up the ram plate with files, an Xacto knife, and a tiny drillbit a little bit, because it’s such a prominent feature of the car. The exhaust stacks stick up so high as to get in the way of the gun mount, but Rule of Cool prevails so I’m sure the gunner can work around that little detail. Click for larger.
All three cars all ranked up ready for painting. Click for larger.

I’m pretty sure that one reason I had trouble getting paint to stick to the metal toy car bodies the first time I tried painting these cars was because I rushed off to paint before the primer coat had properly cured, so I’m going to put this trio aside for a couple of days to give the primer a chance to really properly dry and cure.

Rear quarter view of all three cars. Very pleased with all three of them, and looking forward to getting paint on them soon! Click for larger.

I haven’t actually finalized a paint scheme for any of them, although I suspect Vlad the Impala will wind up red and black, with one of the Barracudas mostly purple and the other blue, just because. There are driver figures on the North Star sprues, but with all the window armour none of the driver seats are particularly visible, so I think I’ll save them for other projects with more visible crew positions.

Given that our current COVID restrictions are running until at least mid-February at this point, I am probably going to finish all three of these and then drop them off at Corey’s place, along with the jumps and other terrain I finished late last year so they can appear in our webcam games as lockdown drags on!

2020 In Review

Well, that was quite a year, wasn’t it?

No conventions, no in-person gaming at all for a good part of the year thanks to our local COVID precautions, and yet things still got painted, finished, and even played with.

Before COVID (Remember That?)

village
Low over the coastline, approaching the village. Click for larger.

We started the year damp and cold off the 1/1200 coasts of England with a lot of naval gaming and scenery for that, then we were briefly visited by a very strange bartender indeed and got a few games of tiny ships done in-person.

narthoks finished, front
Narthoks all finished except for basing. Go on, tell the bartender your troubles! Click for larger.

The Weird Begins…

March was when it all went weird. The high point of my own gaming year, Trumpeter Salute over in Vancouver, was cancelled on less than two weeks notice, work-from-home started abruptly, and all sorts of other things went very, very sideways. I did spend some of the money I’d have ordinarily have spent on other things on orders from Bad Squiddo and Forge of Ice, two tiny one-person companies I’ve been meaning to order from for many years now, so that part was nice, but the fact that March/April/May 2020 have fewer blog entries here, combined, than I made in January indicates how off-kilter everything was!

The end of May did see the modification of our local COVID restrictions so that we could have “pods” of up to six or so people, so my brother and a friend resumed gaming most Sundays, starting up a Frostgrave campaign that eventually morphed into a fantasy-flavoured Pulp Alley campaign.

start of game
Start of the game. My chaps centre foreground, Sean’s ogre ladies top left, Corey’s mousling bravos top right. Click for larger.

COVID Bubble Gaming

June and July saw something like a normal posting pace resume here as I cranked out a bunch of fun quick fantasy scenery to add to our Forestgrave tables including a standing stone and a big tree. There were also a few impossibly tiny planes as a diversion from fantasy!

Tiny, tiny 1/1200 RAF and Luftwaffe airplanes to trouble boats not quite as tiny.

August saw a return to naval stuff and small scale scenery, and September saw the arrival of Gaslands on the scene, which has provided much pandemic diversion since!

Mad mushroom jungles for properly fantastical fantasy gaming!

The Bubble Bursts…

The last quarter of 2020 saw tightening of our local COVID restrictions and the end of even limited in-person gaming, but before that we did get to see some mad mushroom jungle terrain and some other weird fantasy terrain before we finally turned to that most 2020 of communication solutions, online webcam conferencing, for a Gaslands gaming fix.

Gaslands by webcam, via OBS and Discord.

So, that was our 2020 here at the Warbard! A weird, stressful, very strange year but here’s hoping that sometime before the end of 2021 we’re back to in-person gaming, conventions, and something vaguely like pre-pandemic normality.

In the meantime, wear a mask, keep an eye on how soon you can get your COVID vaccine, try to get some hobby time in if your situation allows, and stay safe. Happy New Year, I guess!

How to run gaslands (or any game) by webcam

The second wave of COVID-19 is here and with it, new restrictions on in-person events like gaming. While in British Columbia we don’t have a strict lockdown, we are limited to our “core bubble” aka our immediate household. Which means no in-person gaming. Our little gaming group (myself, Brian and our friend Sean) took a break, we wanted to get gaming again and preferably avoid fully-online solutions like TTS. Enter the webcam.

Attempt 1: Ancient webcam + gotomeeting

Our first attempt used an ancient webcam that spits out low resolution image, plus using Gotomeeting. I shared my screen, which had the default Windows camera app up on this. It worked, but was very difficult to see.

We were also challenged with how to track stats – gear, hazards, damage, etc. Brian tracked it on his computer and I tracked gear phase and hazards on the gaming board. Neither really worked – we couldn’t see what Brian was tracking and due to the webcam, nobody could see the hazards I’d placed on the board.

Attempt 2: Phone as webcam + OBS + Discord

Having tried the old webcam and realized it didn’t work, plus the need to track stats, I decided to download and play with OBS Studio. I figured I could overlay a Google sheet to track stats, plus bring in the camera feed.

To deal with the poor image quality, I downloaded #LiveDroid, an Android app that streams your phone’s camera over a local server. To help with low light, I used my new ring light that my wife had bought me for Christmas.

At the end of the third game. My phone was in the light ring holder, hence why OBS is showing a blank image right now.

Setting up Open Broadcast Studio

OBS sources

OBS is pretty easy to setup – this was my first attempt at using it and it ran flawlessly. I had four different sources: cam link from phone (as a browser source), read-only Google sheet (as another browser link), white image for a background and the Esquimalt Thunderdome branding image. Note that I didn’t run any audio through OBS, as we were talking via Discord.

For stats via Google sheet, I first setup the needed columns and then cropped the source down using a Crop/Pad Effects Filter to only show the key part of the stats. This method is easy to change on the fly, which we did when I forgot to add Gear Phase to the initial sheet.

Streaming from your phone

I downloaded #LiveDroid, a free Android app that streams your camera to a browser on your local network. You will need to set the resolution for both the camera and in OBS. I set the phone to be 1920×1280 and the OBS source to 1280×960. For me, Camera 0 was my rear camera.

I also tried DroidCam, which has an OBS plugin, but that stuck an ugly watermark on the image.

Connecting it all together

Finally, I shared the OBS window out using a virtual webcam. On the bottom left of the OBS window, it is labelled Start Virtual Camera. We then started a video call in Discord and I changed my webcam source to OBS Virtual Webcam.

If you’re the presenter, don’t be alarmed when your webcam looks like this:

Discord helpfully flips the webcam image, which works great for your face. Not so much for this.

But for everybody else, the combination works well. This was Brian’s view of the final hit of the game.

Modifying Gaslands to play via webcam

For those playing remotely, the hardest challenge is spatial sense. A lot of Gaslands is about choosing the right template. Also, play will be slower, so plan for that.

Adjusting the template rules

The touch it, use it and no pre-measuring rules from Gaslands assume you have a good view of the table, which remote players really don’t. So we changed the template rules a bit. They could ask me about what a template would look like and sometimes I would even lay it down after they’d described what they wanted to do.

Keeping the cars and game simple

In order to keep the game from bogging down, we decided to institute a few simplifications to the game:

  1. Everybody drives the same car, in our case a car with a single HMG forward facing & a mine layer aft
  2. No sponsors
  3. Easy scenario – we ran both a modified flag tag and arena of death

Have a record keeper (and track stats locally and remotely)

The person moving the cars and running the feed doesn’t have the time to deal with record keeping that others can see. So we ended up tracking the key stats both on the game board (so I could see them) and in the Google sheet. So Brian, sitting at his computer, could track the stats for everybody, leaving me free to move cars and keep the game moving

Be ruthless about whipping people along

In order to complete a game, you’ll need the person who is moving the cars to be a ruthless GM. They need to keep the game moving via ensuring each player moves, constantly asking all the key questions like “How many dice do you want to roll”.

What’s next?

Overall, the second game ran really well. OBS made it a lot simpler for everybody to see all the stats.

One of the key problems we ran into was seeing the dice. Instead of an online dice roller, I rolled everybody’s dice in person. For the next game, I plan on using the crappy old webcam as a dice cam – set it up vertically over a dice rolling box.

I also need to play with the colour balance, contrast and saturation of the webcam. Unsurprisingly, all the various pieces of software being used tried to do some sort of correction and not all of it worked.

Where to get the software

OBS is free and runs on most major OSes, while #LiveDroid is Android-only.

Links:

Gaslands by Webcam

It’s the pandemic. We can’t meet in person, we can’t meet in each other’s houses, the university and board game cafe we sometimes use locally to host games are all closed for that sort of thing. What’s a gamer to do to get their fix?

Zoom, zoom zoom… and I’m not talking the Gaslands cars, but of course webcams. Gaslands is especially good for webcam gaming, it turns out, as all movement is template based and there’s relatively few stats per car to track.

Corey has promised to write a more technical post here in the next while on the setup at his end as he hosts and runs these games, but the most recent game used Discord for the video feed and voice chat with some OBS voodoo at his end for the game table feed and Gaslands stats tucked into a Google Docs spreadsheet.

From my end, it looked something like this. Well, from the cat’s perspective, that is. (If Cat is your copilot, you shall fear no hairball!)

Cat, beer, computer, all the components of online tabletop gaming in late 2020!

We actually got three games done in about two hours in as we were only running one car each and the Death Match arena setup (last person standing) is pretty straightforward.

One of our Gaslands games in progress, screenshot showing the Discord view. Corey acting as Ivana White (a very hardworking lady!) and game host.

With Discord for voice chat and the OBS integrated video feed it worked out really well for Gaslands.

The ending of our third game featured the most spectacularly destructive head on collision we’ve seen yet. The screenshot below captures the dice rolls; the left hand pile of ten (!) damage was what I did to Sean, and he in turn did seven points to me, destroying both of us and leaving Corey the overall winner, best of three games!

Crazy high dice rolls for the collision over on the left there between the white car and the blue one. My white car did ten points to Sean’s blue car but took six in return, destroying us both and leaving Corey in the silver car with the win!

There’s a few other games we think would work well with this basic setup; the current GW airplane game being hex based and having simple maneuvers would be one, as would some of the naval games that have written orders with templates, although there’s more recordkeeping for that sort of game.

Hope everyone has been having a good, safe holiday season, however you celebrate, and that you’re able to get some sort of gaming fix in somehow!

Resin Bases and Bits from Rain City Hobbies

I’ve talked up Rain City Hobbies on this blog before, but only for their very nice grass and flower tufts. They also do a huge range of resin bases, but because I rarely use elaborate complex bases they’ve not interested me much.

I do own a few of their resin bases, however, picked up from the “production seconds by weight” bin sold by Rain City at gaming conventions. (remember gaming conventions from the Before Times? I miss them…)

Needing a distraction from current events I decided to paint up the biggest of these, an elaborate ruined temple base nearly the size of a CD, their Huge Ruined Sanctuary insert. 120mm (~4 and a quarter inches, roughly) across, the production second one I have has nearly perfect molding of all the details, but it warped before the resin had fully cured so won’t lie flat.

The ruined sanctuary base all painted up. Click for larger.

I tried out a bunch of different stone painting techniques on this base and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. The three big chunks of shattered statue were based in light tan, then progressively highlighted with whiter and whiter paints well diluted with glaze medium, which really got a translucent polished stone effect going.

The green arc and big green fragment were basecoated fairly dark green, then given marble-like veins with brighter greens, again well mixed with glaze medium. They got a good coat of gloss varnish, and then some highlighting with almost pure white.

The flagstones got basecoated with four or five off-white/tan shades, washed with GW Sepia and Earthshade washes, then highlighted with light tan and off-white. The tree roots are various shades of reddish brown.

The big base from the other side. Click for larger.

Because of the warp across the width, I’ll probably base this onto a larger piece of thin plastic, then use putty and then foliage to merge the lifted corners back into the base, making this look like a fragment that has been largely swallowed by forest or jungle.

I’ve also got a few more random bases I might finish up, and those three tan pieces to the right in both photos above are the Large Broken Statuary Base Accessories that I will be using either together with the big base or on their own as scenery elements. More on them in some future post when I get them finished.

Stay safe, stay home, try to get something creative done, mask up when required out in public, and better days (actual gaming conventions!) shall come again.

Wargaming & Such (formerly Brian's Wargaming Pages)