27 March 2011

On The Workbench - Old Missiles Made New Again

Digging around in the gaming den I found some missile miniatures I use in Full Thrust games. The miniatures themselves actually aren't missiles, they are in fact zeppelins. They are most probably from the Hallmark 1:6000 scale ship range, I purchased a number of the smaller zeppelins from Eureka Miniatures back when they had license to sell them in Australia. The overall length is about 2.5cm and the gondolas are little more than small lumps which were easily carved off with a sharp knife, After this simple and quick modification you're left with an excellent little space missile/torpedo.

Originally I mounted them on a piece of copper wire stuck into a piece of balsa wood, but the wire often came loose from the soft balsa wood so this time I opted to mount them on small flying bases from Gamesworkshop. To mount the missiles first I cut the top of the post off and drilled and pinned the missiles on top of the posts fixing them in place with glue.

24 March 2011

Is that plasma bolt launcher charged? Or are you pleased to see me?

Finally after long delays and 'painter's block'. Yes, there really is such a thing, how else can we explain those half completed projects and piles of unpainted and sometimes unassembled miniatures? Almost 11 years after I started, I have finally finished my Phalon Fleet. Of course I could buy more, I mean, I could do with some carriers and battle cruisers........

My Fleet as it stands contains:

  • 1 x Yoth class GREAT WARRIOR (Super Dreadnought)
  • 1 x Saath class GREAT WARRIOR (Battle Dreadnought)
  • 2 x Ptath class GREAT WARRIOR (Battleship)
  • 2 x Tuuloth class WARRIOR (Heavy Cruiser)
  • 2 x Huulth class WARRIOR (Medium Cruiser)
  • 4 x Tsaara class WARRIOR (Light Cruiser)
  • 6 x Tyaph class PROTECTOR (Frigate)
  • 2 x Phuun class PROTECTOR (Frigate)
  • 6 x Vlath class PROTECTOR (Scout)

The Phalons were introduced to the GZG-verse in the Full Thrust supplement, Fleet Book 2, the Phalons from a human point of view are a species of amoral opportunists who shoot first and trade later.

Constructed with organic materials using biotechnology the ships of the Phalon Conglomerate Grand Fleet while sporting beam and plasma weaponry are protected by heavily armoured shells. Their overall appearance was influenced by the alien ships that appeared in a 1980's japanese manga, Outlanders by Johji Manabe.

In painting this fleet I decided to paint the shell armour an ivory colour and then following the at times asymmetrical detail on the miniatures I created a mosaic of red shapes on top of the ivory. The 'soft hull' was painted a brown colour.

Phalon Great Warriors surrounded by their lesser brethren.

Left to right: Ptath (BB), Voth (SDN) & Saath (BDN) Great Warriors.

A Saath Great Warrior escorted by smaller protector type vessels.

A Voth Great Warrior in concert with Tsaara class warriors.

Another view of the Phalon Great Warrior type vessels.

19 March 2011

Modelling and Wargaming

I love seeing wargamers argue about whether simulations as wargames are fun or not. I’ve been a scientific modeller now for 20 years, but all of us are modellers. We have mental models of how the world works and games are one expression of that. Regardless of whether they purport to want an effective, realistic simulation of an event all gamers well tell you when a game doesn’t work “because it wouldn’t be like that”.

The real point they are arguing is the level of desired complexity. In my working life this has been a focus of my research for 15 years. Desired complexity should always be matched to the question at hand and the kind of answers required. It is perfectly reasonable to find very simple and very complex versions of the same process or event. Thus some aspects of complexity are “in the eye of the beholder” so one form will never please everyone. On the other hand if you are after an effective realisation of real (or close to real given its on a table top) events then the key is to find a sweet spot in the complexity. There is a lot of science now that shows that there is a maximum potential realism in models that peaks when complexity is intermediate. Maps are a great illustration of this, they model the layout of the land and help us navigate to our end destination. If the map is a blank sheet with a cross on it may be fast to take in but it is useless in providing us with useful information about the real world. If however we are presented with the other extreme, where the map live updates and has every car, person, dog etc on it that we would see in reality then it doesn’t distil any new information for us. It doesn’t provide new insights, because it is as confusing and complex as the read world while being subject to accumulating errors in our understanding and parameterisation of the processes. What is useful is a map with the kind of level of detail that we find in a street map, it has the key features we need (layout, identifying markers etc) that let us discern the maximum amount of information required for reaching our solution.

Of course there is a but behind this. Just because a model has intermediate complexity does not automatically make it a good model. It has to be the right complexity, the critical defining processes not just a list of trivialities. That comes down to the art of modelling. Some people have great skill in being able to discern the critical processes, most get better with experience – knowing who and how to ask to find out what are the processes and then using mathematical tricks to represent the dynamics without dragging the exercise through a brute force 1:1 reproduction of the steps (which typically runs slower than the real events).

Hopefully from this you can see that all games are models of some form and that gamers motivated by different desires will be after different kinds of games. Trying to argue for a consensus is kind of pointless really. The thing to keep in mind for your own enjoyment is that its not a matter of chasing the newest game in case you fear you’re missing out on something (that little human feature comes down to completely different evolutionary drivers), but rather to assess your current holding. Does it capture the features you’re after at the scale that’s of use to you? If yes then its highly likely you’re already finding it enjoyable to play. Happy gaming.

01 March 2011

On The Workbench - EDF Destroyers new friends

I was going to wait until I had finished the Andromeda (which you can see half completed in the background) but why wait? Here you can see the first Earth Defence Force destroyer with it's two new friends, another destroyer and a battleship.

Once completed the fleet. Oops, what I mean to say was, once the models I have are finished. Because as we all know no wargaming army or fleet is ever truly finished, you will always find something to add to it. I will have a force of 5 battleships; one Yamato, two Andromedas and two 'standard' battleships plus a screen of one cruiser and four destroyers or frigates.