Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Photo setup

I got questions how I took my pictures. Nothing fancy I am afraid. They are taken with a Samsung Galaxy A8 smartphone and my normal picture setup. This usually is a small diorama background I made specifically for that purpose or a sheet of grey wallpaper sloping up towards the background. 

Lighting is provided by daylight if I have it or my painting lamp. Using the lamp top-down takes care of most shadows since the lamp tube is circular and lights the object from all sides. 

I NEVER use flashlight because the shadows are hideous and it destroys all colour. 

The phone's software takes care of most of the rest. There are two zoom options. When photographing a row of figures you have to account for the fact that the strong curve of this small lens distorts the image at short range. Because of that, figures that you have positioned to look into the lens actually seem to turn away from it. So it is better to take the picture at a bit more distance. 
The software has some simple white range adjustments as well, but that part of the technique is better explained elsewhere. And by other, more knowledgeable people 😁

Sunday, March 29, 2020

More Predators and a Dunwich Horror

The magnificent Predator figures by Prodos (alas OOP now). I was lucky to find the one pack missing from my collection at Crisis in Antwerp last year.  

And because it is a creep as well the old Dunwich Horror by RAFM.

More Vietnam painting

Some of these figures you have seen before but the pictures are better :) 

Sergeants Elias and Barnes from Miniature Wargames Magazine

Some Full Metal Jacket characters by Empress Miniatures

And more figures by Empress. 

The Long Range Recon patrol by Empress.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Photography Display base: jungle

I often photograph my minis on a display base, so that they have a nice background and seem to be placed in wargaming terrain or a diorama. With the Vietnam project I needed a jungle display base so I set out to make one.

The basis for the material was extended foam, cut with a hot wire cutter. A base, some props in the foreground and a printed background would form the basic plan.

It was basically extended foam and some things from the bit box, like an interesting piece of wood, some decorative foam rocks and an old Buddha statue I bought years ago.

The Buddha needed a pedestal. These handy clamps were printed by and bought from IBookBinding.

Trying out the printed background. A bit too dark it seems.

For those typical jungle vines I used wool, drenched in PVA glue and let dry. A brown base colour was added. No spray paint! Most spray paints will dissolve extended foam. And unfortunately I don't have an airbrush.

Then I made the surface in the foreground a bit more interesting by adding sand and structure to it. Trying not to overdo it as of course here is where the miniatures to be photographed must stand. 

Then it is time for more paint. Highlights and browns. 

And after the paint green is added. starting with the smallest, the flock to represent grass, then working up to moss, grass tufts and bigger plants until the background looks sufficiently jungly. 

Some details. The background print is intentionally curved to avoid disturbing shadows from lighting. When taking a picture that is close enough the result is quite realistic.

Place the figures in the center of the display. I use a fixed white light lamp instead of flashlight. This gets the best results in my opinion.

And the result is this. Not bad if I say so myself.

 More examples. A big monster works as well, but you have to position it more carefully.

I made another display a few years ago. Made from cardboard and printed patterns it represents a Victorian street corner. Or a modern one, if you blur the wall posters enough :) The same idea.

Friday, March 20, 2020

SPECTRE Operations Mob Rules 2.0

In an attempt to design search-and-capture crowd pursuit rules I reworked my original Mob Rules.

Comments and test results are welcome (as soon as social distancing distances itself of course...)

 Mob rules

The aim of these rules is to use mobs of people as moving terrain where one can hide in and that can obscure Targets. At least 30 Civilian models for a 3x3 feet table are needed and more will work better.

These rules assume two playing sides: the Hiding player and the Pursuing player. The Pursuing player has visible figures on the table and is assumed to be on the hunt for the Hiding player. The Hiding player is posing as civilians while trying to accomplish a mission. This mission might be an attack on a target managed by the Pursuer, an escape off the table or a Tactical Action of some sort, like picking up a dead drop etc. 

Before play, the Hiding player secretly nominates 1 civilian miniature per hiding figure (which should be individually identifiable by appearance or number written on the figure somewhere) and secretly links each specific civilian figure to a specific player figure under his control. The Hiding player may also secretly nominate flight cars, which include a driver. Flight cars may be parked or driving around.

All civilian figures and cars are then placed on the table by the Pursuing player, evenly spaced. Cars are placed on roads and parking places, pedestrians on sidewalks, crossings and/or in public buildings and spaces.

At the start of each turn the Pursuing player may move any number of civilians and/or cars a maximum distance of 4 inches in any direction. Cars stay on the street. Pedestrians follow the normal routes i.e. sidewalks, street crossings etc.

Then the Hiding player may move up to 5 civilians and/or cars per Hiding figure a maximum distance of 4 inches in any direction, with a minimum of 10 figures. Figures and cars that leave the table return the next turn on that spot moving in the opposite direction.

In any turn phase the Hiding player may reveal any or all Hiding figures. Replace the specific civilian figure by the specific hiding figure and proceed play as normal.

All hiding figures still successfully posing as civilians automatically win Initiative (and may use this to reveal themselves). A hiding figure may reveal himself in any phase. As soon as a hiding figure has been revealed (by an action, detection or a Scan) roll for Initiative for the following phases and turns. Normal Initiative rules apply to that figure from then onwards. NB: Initiative is rolled for AFTER the revealing action has been completed.

The Pursuing player may try to Scan hiding figures before they are revealed. Use the normal Scan rules. However, for any civilian figure in the LOS between the scanner and the scan area apply a -1 modifier for Command. This represents the difficulty of finding someone in a crowd.

The Pursuing player may also attack and capture any civilian figures they deem suspicious.

A successful attack will reveal whether the figure is a hiding figure or not. However this will cause some panic among the civilians. The turn following such an attack the Hiding player may move up to 15 civilians 6”in any direction to represent the panic. An unsuccessful attack will not reveal the hiding figure (unless he wants to) and result in a continuing scuffle of the agent and the civilian. It will still cause panic.

Any exchange of gunfire will also cause panic. Civilians may never run towards gunfire. Hiding figures (revealed or otherwise) of course are under no such obligation. 

Hiding figures and Pursuers are usually Alert unless the scenario states otherwise.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Vietnam project: painting starts

Above Sgt Elias, a figure released by Miniature Wargames Magazine, is looking doubtful at the next mission. 

Below the excellent Empress Miniatures' Long Range Recon Patrol start out into the valley, equipped to the teeth. 

And the first grunts, Empress Miniatures US Marines. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The City of Pillars: a Spectre Operations scenario plus AAR

Extensive research has brought to light the disturbing possibility that an ancient Artefact of unfathomable power lies buried beneath some ruins in Afghanistan. The US administration, eager to acquire this powerful asset, dispatches a small and low-profile task force, led by a CIA officer, to secure it. Unfortunately, with the task force already on its way, a satellite scan discovers unknown forces already present in the area, busy unearthing an as yet unidentified object. Intelligence suspects Iran to be most likely responsible for this undercover mission on Afghan soil. Given Iran's ambitions in the field of unconventional weaponry this most unconventional weapon should definitely not fall into their hands.

Two parties attempt the same mission: acquiring an Artefact from a Afghan archaeological dig or -if unattainable- deny this asset to the enemy. One party is already in the possession of the asset but is awaiting transport. The other party has transport but is only now entering the area. Parties are aware of each other’s presence. All units are Alert. 

Parties and deployment:

US Army:
 17 Professional US soldiers (including 2 Commanders) & 1 Professional CIA operative (Force Commander) Armament as shown
 1 Bradley IFV, 2 Humvee transports, 1 Land Rover (including Land Rover driver, Untrained and unarmed)
·         Will deploy in vehicles on the road entering the table


Iranian Republican Guard (Undercover)
·         25 Professional IRG (plainclothes) including 2 Commanders plus 1 Professional SS Operative.
·         Armament include 2 RPGs and 1 M40 recoiless rifle. The rest is as shown.
·         6 Civilian laborers, Untrained and unarmed
·         1 eagerly awaited truck including driver and guard
·         IRG may partly or completely deploy in hiding on the far half of the table (away from the US convoy entry point).


The table represents a small valley. The US Convoy will enter at one point, starting on the road from the table edge at the start of turn 1. The Dig lies near the other end.  A few small buildings, rocks and sparse trees and scrubs dot the valley. The Dig is a cluster of ruins, in the middle of which lies the Artefact.

Special Rules

The Eagerly Awaited Truck
The Iranian truck will arrive at the start of a random turn. At the end of each turn, roll a D6. Add the turn number. On a result of 7 the truck arrives on the road at the IRG end of the table. The truck has a Civilian driver and an Trained guard with a sidearm.

The workers
These are unarmed locals, intimidated to do the bidding of anyone with a weapon. They can be controlled by whichever player has the most figures closest to them, with a maximum distance of 6”. They will not fight and take off to the nearest cover as soon as no player has figures within 6” of them. The workers start the game near the Dig close to the Artefact.

The Artefact
This is a heavy statue made of a strange type of soapstone. It actually feels slippery to the touch and is hard to hold on to. Four (4) workers in b2b contact are needed to move it (reasonably) safely. For each move roll a D6. On a 6 the workers drop the Artefact. See below “The Entity” for the effects. These effects also apply when the Artefact is hit by fire or explosion. Add 1 to the roll for each worker below 4.  Add a reroll for each worker above 4. Max 2 rerolls.

The Entity
The Artefact is actually a Binding Spell containing an Elder Entity (choose an appropriate monster). It is not a stone statue but an energy field shaped like a statue (hence the slippery feel when touching it).

The Entity will be released when the Artefact is damaged. Rolling a result of 6 while moving it, each time the bearers are shot at or hitting it with firearms will damage the Artefact and releasing the Entity. Nothing short of a large thermobaric explosion will actually destroy the Artefact outright to the extend that it prevents the release of the Entity.

The released Entity will appear on the exact spot of the Artefact. It will drag a number of smaller entities in its wake in the turn it appears. These will possess all humans within 6” of the Entity when it first appears.

All units viewing the Entity will get hit by D6 Suppression the first time they see it.

The Entity will then start moving at 10” per turn in a random direction and continue in that direction until it leaves the table. It will ignore all players and is invulnerable to weapons as represented on the table.

The Possessed
These pose the most immediate danger after the Entity appears. The possessed are nearly mindless creatures, driven by hunger. They do not use weapons. Each will move at 6” per turn towards the nearest unpossessed human in order to attack them in close combat. Only a lethal hit will kill them. They ignore all other wounds. Their touch is lethal and a figure losing a close combat to them will be possessed itself. This lethality will dissipate when a Possessed is killed.  

The Possessed move 6”, have a Defence of 1 (they move but do not attempt to evade anything and go straight for their prey). A Possessed has a Melee of 2 also due to its fierce and reckless attack mode. Being targeted by a Possessed gives 1 Suppression to the figure targeted per Possessed.

Players should clear the table of Possessed to prevent one escaping and start an epidemic.

The MOAB (Massive Ordnance Areal Blast)
As soon as the Entity starts moving an airstrike is launched from a plane already loitering in the area.

This was the US backup plan should the Artefact prove harder to handle than anticipated. At the end of each turn, roll a D6 and add 1 for each consecutive turn. On a 6 a MOAB hits the area. Players will need to exit the table beforehand and in the opposite direction of the leaving Entity to escape the blast area.

Optional Hidden Rules
Option 1: Units completely hidden by terrain
Spread 20 to 30 numbered stones across the table, near or on terrain that enables hiding. Write down your units and the number of the stone they are hiding.

Option 2: Units hidden but partly exposed by heat signatures
I use three types of counters: small, medium and large. Each type represents a known heat signature of a number of people. Place the counter on the table at the location of the hidden unit. The counter must reveal the correct number of figures when exposed.

Small:                 1 or 2 people
Medium             3 or 4 people
Large                  5 or more people

In any case, models are displayed on the table when Scanned, Detected or Activated in order to move into view or deliver unsilenced direct fire. 

How it played for us: 

We used the heat signature Hidden Rules and these did indeed enable the IRG player to effectively hide his ambushing troops from my US Army column.

My column entered the table in a cautious manner, Scanning and seeking targets as we went. Too cautious as it turned out, because it gave the IRG time to take a shot at me with his hidden M40, damaging the Bradley and when I Scanned a team of IRG entrenched in a building I was too far away to employ grenades effectively. To make matters worse I deployed my infantry in terrain with not enough cover and took the predictable heavy casualties. Smokescreen you say? It didn't cross my mind.....

One of my Humvees was riddled with bullets. The gunner dead and his car immobilized, the driver heroically manned the .50 and laid down some withering covering fire until he died as well. Those IRG had laid their ambush very well and my fears that I might have under-equipped them were quickly dissipated...

The Bradley nevertheless was very effective. It knocked out the M40, survived two RPG rounds and then eliminated the crew of the truck that had in the meantime appeared to pick up the Artefact. My infantry began rolling up the IRG flanks which were firmly entrenched in buildings and scrub. Things were beginning to look better. And then it al went pear-shaped.

The workers carrying the Artefact to the truck did indeed drop it, the Entity appeared and Possessed all workers and 4 IRG. Loads of Suppression all around and to make matters worse the Entity began moving towards the nearest table edge giving us all of 2 turns to clear the table of Possessed and skedaddle before the MOAB dropped. We decided to end the game there and await the Big Bang.

Lessons learned: 
When driving a tank one should behave like one. Take the lead!
Smoke screens are invented for a reason.
Don't deploy your troops in open terrain. They will not like you afterwards.
A standard Humvee is an about as well protected against light weapon fire as a pup tent....

This scenario was inspired by the stories of -amongst others- Howard Phillip Lovecraft,  Tim Curran, Charles Stross, Jonathan Maberry, David Conyers and John Sunseri.