The 7TV Open University – a report

On Sunday 17th November 2019 I had the pleasure alongside the rest of the Dales Wargames Club of hosting our latest 7TV event.

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Titled the 7TV Open University, this event was a follow up to the games day we held earlier in the year and was again held at the Whitworth Centre in Darley Dale near Matlock in Derbyshire.  The focus was once more on narrative play rather than competition, with an additional aim of getting new players into the game.

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I wanted to make the event beginner friendly in order to spread the joy of 7TV as far and wide as possible.  For the first event earlier in the year we really didn’t have any overarching theme and I was keen to address this for our second outing.  Therefore I came up with a theme of the ‘7TV Open University’ which would encompass both the scenarios we’d play through on the day in addition to the focus on new players.

To get new players into the action as quickly and easily as possible I created a number of pre-built casts for new players to pick from.  Cast size was set at 40 ratings for the event and for what I referred to as the ‘pick and play’ casts on the day I stuck to profiles from the core 7TV 2nd Edition ‘Inch High Spy Fi’ set.  These also happen to be the same profiles that can be obtained from Crooked Dice as a free download and are also available within the casting agency application.  This was a concious decision to demonstrate to new players how much fun can be had ‘out of the box’ with 7TV.

Eight ‘pick and play’ casts were created and I’ll be writing about each of these in future articles.  Basically it was a case of matching what painted miniatures I had in my collection against the core profiles and using a bit of imagination.  And it was a lot of fun.  Heres the list of casts:

  • Department XS (‘Excess’)
  • The Guru and the Spacemen
  • Knight Industries 3000
  • The Tuetonic Order of Luna
  • United Nations Alien Countermeasures Force
  • The Revengers
  • Cobra
  • The Cult of Fu Manchu

After a sudden surge of interest in the few days leading up to the event, I had my fingers crossed that I had casts for budding new players.  That also meant we had to get at least seven tables setup on the day.  I was able to dip into the clubs scenery collection as well as my own and we ended up with an eclectic mix of setups including a V2 launch site, a woodland area with mysterious stone circle, a dockside loading area, a cobbled townscape and a couple of post apocalypse wastelands.

A couple of attendees also brought along tables, including Simon Quinton and his excellent PA diner and highway.  Thankfully as well, there were enough sets of cards and templates and tokens to go around.

So, what about the scenarios (or more correctly in 7TV parlance, the episodes)?  To tie in with the university theme I came up with a narrative that had the studio obtaining a government grant for educational programming.  This was then immediately diverted into their adventure series and as bonuses for their top stars with the producers then having to work the system to avoid getting closed down by the government regulators.

Using the basic scenarios from the 7TV Spy-fi set I added some extra narrative tweaks.  This introduced events that included shoehorning famous scientists into the episode (guest starring as themselves) or potentially having to deliver public services messages at the expense of action sequences.

In future articles I’ll go into a bit more detail around how the episodes were setup and how they worked, as well as making them available for others who might want to try them out.

While not a tournament in any way, the kind offer of prizes from Karl at Crooked Dice and Wayne at Wargames Illustrated meant that we did need to find a couple of ways of measuring some degree of success on the day.  In addition to the usual ‘most sporting player’ (aka ‘best director’), we also had on offer a prize for most victory points accumalted and a wooden spoon for biggest margin of defeat.

I was busy moving between tables and didn’t get to see much of the action over and above helping out with rules and scenario queries (and taking lots of photos).  However a few of the attendees have kindly written up reports of the action on the day and you can find these here:

The day itself went really well.  It was extremely tiring but very satisfying experience and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who turned up and especially the veterans who helped guide the new players through their first games.  All in all there were a lot laughs had, which is really what it is all about isn’t it?

We are going to do it all again in 2020 with a 7TV Apocalypse day scheduled for Sunday 5th April with the working title of ‘White Line Nightmares!”.  In the meantime the club have agreed to run a couple of participation games at upcoming shows (more on that soon), but I’m also really looking forward to actually getting a game or two in myself.  First up in January is another event at Board in Brum in Walsall which promises to be great, with the now annual Wargames Illustrated event scheduled for the summer.

In amongst all this good stuff Crooked Dice are also (at the time of writing) running another Kickstarter campaign to fund a new set of ‘flashy’ retro sci-fi figures.  It’s a good time to be a 7TV fan!

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Blotz 28mm scale submarine

Purchased as an integral part of the ‘secret base’ I have been planning as a 7TV table for some time now, I purchased the excellent Blotz modular 28mm scale MDF kit of a generic submarine back in the summer.

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Having spent my holiday hobby time back in the summer building the kit (which can be broken down into various sections and therefore configured in a number of ways), I recently went back and finished the painting.  It’s worth noting that the model could double as many different sorts of sub on the table top from World War 2 U boats to more modern types.  One of the sections contains a set of missle tubes (which you would probably drop if using this for WW2), likewise the section which mounts a deck gun is probably specific to an earlier era boat.

I wanted to maintain the generic nature and usability of the model across different time periods and games in the way I painted it too.  A black undercoat was applied using matt black primer from a spray can, followed by a dark grey spray and this was then sealed using a top coat spray (the currently incredibly hard to find in the UK Testors Dullcote).

Next up were decals.  Again I wanted to keep it generic, but the more I looked at the painted model the more I felt it deserved some extra treatment with the decals in order to break up the monotony of black.  I’ve got lots of decal sheets left over from my long since departed Dust Tactics collection, many of which were generic warning signs and symbols, which would do nicely to a certain degree.  However I then came across a set of Soviet decals for Dust with some nice big red stars that would really stand out.  These were applied over a gloss varnish and then sealed again with the same before another dullcote layer.

The final step was to apply some airbrush highlighting using some lighter grey from the Vallejo Air range.  (I’ve purposely left the deck gun off at the moment as I wasn’t happy with the build, I’m planning on maybe looking to 3D printing for a replacement.)

At some point in the future I will go back and add some weathering, but at present I’m happy to get this to the table.

The 7TV Open University – coming soon…

I’m delighted to announce after the success of our first event, Dales Wargames are holding a follow up 7TV games day on Sunday 17th November.  We still have plenty of spaces left, so if anyone is reading this and is interested please see the full details here.

7TV University

Three full games at 40 ratings, any casts from across any 7TV sets (although for balance, no Apocalypse vehicles), custom casts welcome.

We are keen to spread the 7TV love, so if you’ve never played before or are just curious there will be pre-built casts available to borrow on the day and support available to learn the game. It is 7TV University after all. (Kipper ties are mandatory!)

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7TV ready to ‘start shooting’ at a recent Dales meeting

Cost is £7.50, paid either in advance or on the day (just let us know you are coming).  It’s also a normal meeting date for the Dales Wargames club, so if for some (crazy) reason you don’t want to play 7TV ago come along anyway, there’s bound to be something of interest (including cake).

The venue is the beautiful Whitworth Centre in Darley Dale, near Matlock on the edge of the Peak District with easy access from the M1.

Apocalypse update – Garden centre gore

So in amongst all the other stuff I have going on (including a new resin 3D printer, more on which another time), I am still working my way through the big pile of lead from the 7TV Apocalypse Kickstarter.

This time up its the turn of the Creepers!  These miniatures were multi-part so required a bit of superglue magic (i.e. activator) to get built.  They are very much an ode to those killer plants from an early eighties BBC TV adaption of a classic sci fi novel.  They are ‘triffic’ sculpts.

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Having had a break from the airbrush for a few months (I tend to do all my spraying with rattle cans, especially basecoating outside while the weather is good), I decided to crack it out again for these guys.  Over a white undercoat, building up a couple of successively lighter layers of green worked really well.  I supplemented this with the use of yellow washes/glazes and a purple contrast paint to make it all look suitably organic and plant-like.

I went to town on the basing with these, swapping out to some of the (now standard for Space Marines anyway) 32mm round bases from Games Workshop.  I added in various tufts, flock and static grass to tie in with the theme.

I also found the time to complete another of the cultists from the set, a rather lost looking survivor and am continuing to work on the motorbike gang.

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7TV Batman

A while back something caught my eye.  Not unusual for a hobby butterfly, this was on Kickstarter and was for the Monolith Games Batman Gotham City Chronicles board game.  Ultimately a bout of common sense took over and I didn’t hand over the big bucks for this.

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Gotham’s best and worst face off in the Batman Gotham City Chronicles board game

Fast forward a couple of years and now that 7TV Pulp has been released the alure of doing a game if not with full blown superheroes at least with costumed vigilantes was strong.  What really attracted to me Gotham City Chronicles originally was (as with a lot of things) the miniatures.  I’d previously owned and played the Conan game upon which Batman was based, and liked it, although I found it a bit over complicated.  But the figures….

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Even the ‘supporting cast’ are lovely miniatures and a joy to paint.  Here we have Harvey Bullock of the GCPD.  Painted in contrast paints.

Quick trip to eBay and I found a reasonably priced base pledge from the Kickstarter and after an abortive attempt to play the game at one of my regular Wednesday night gaming sessions I then switched my attention to getting some paint down on some figures.  Oh, of course, thinking about how to port this to 7TV.

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Lots of lovely miniatures inside

First off the issue of scale.  The miniatures in Gotham City Chronicles are (in the majority of cases) one-piece.  They are all PVC plastic, but don’t suffer at all from ‘bendy sword syndrome’.  They are also on the big side – I’d say on the upper end of 32 to 35mm scale – almost ‘heroic 1:48’.

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My initial set of minis painted

So is that actually a problem for 7TV? Well obviously not if you are playing exclusively with these miniatures, but what if you want to do some mixing and matching?  To be honest, I can live with it.  In true 7TV style if it was noticeable it could always be passed off as a continuity error in the production!  I have in fact played a game using a standard 28mm scale cast against some chibi miniatures before – in my mind we were filming a crazy mix of animation and live action – ‘who framed Hugo Solomon?’ if you will.

So far I have been concentrating on the good guys.  As alluded to above, the thing that helps with the Batman setting (at least within the confines of the majority of the figures I have available) is that super powers are not really a major thing.  Most of the good guys (Batman, Robin, Batgirl and so on) are gadget laden combat specialists – sounds an ideal fit for the archetype approach 7TV takes to customising casts.  Likewise with the villians.  In fact even the addition of some limited super powers into the mix could probably be easily modelled using the guidelines in the various boxed sets available from Crooked Dice.

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Nightwing – painted primarily with Citadel contrast paints

So far I have only got the Batman himself stated up.  I used the base stats from the  ‘Crusading Crimefigher’ profile in the 7TV Pulp box and then adjusted the star quality and abilities according.  I wanted to give some Batman flavour to these, but avoid creating any new rules and abilities.  I therefore looked across the different 7TV books and profiles to see what I could switch out.

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Commissioner Gordon – again contrast paints getting a hammering here!

I switched in the ‘Pulse Pounding Action’ star quality from the Pulp ‘Intrepid Adventurer’ profile (but renamed this ‘Dark Knight).  This gives me a super strong close combat option, which seems about right, and I supplemented this with the ‘Martial Arts’ ability from the ‘Spy-Fy’ profiles.  Bruce Wayne loves gadgets, so to replicate this for his alter ego I included the ‘Gadget’ ability and then to make sure Batman’s detective skills are (kind of) represented I also added ‘Spy’ (again renamed for ‘flavour’).  Trying to stick to only four abilities became tricky here – there are loads of things that fit, but in the end I went for ‘Jump’ at the expense of ‘Climb’.

7TV_cast-Batman

So still work in progress, and yet to be tried in a game, so likely to be changed.  I am planning on adding Robin to the initial cast and will need to profile him up.  As for extras I’ll go with the existing 7TV cop profiles to add some of Gotham City’s finest into the mix.

(Custom card created using the Casting Agency app – check it out it’s great.)

 

Iron Cross and 15mm World War II

A month or so back I went along to my regular club meeting without any real plans for a game.  Last minute I arranged to play a game with one of my mates who had some World War II micro-armour and a few different rulesets he wanted to try out.  Having had a flick through the different books we settled on Iron Cross by Great Escape Games.

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Iron Cross – available direct from Great Escape Games or from other friendly local or online sellers

What appealed about this was both it’s simplicity but also its approach to getting a lot of toys on the table at once.  Add to this a (welcome) lack of weapon ranges and things seemed to add up to this being the one to try.

 

The rules themselves only span about ten pages and what immediately appealed was the use of ‘command tokens’ to activate, react and plan your actions.  This put me in mind of the use of plot points in 7TV, so of course this immediately drew me in.  It’s fair to say that I have not played that many historical wargames in my admitedly long gaming career, but I have done extensive painting and modelling of particularly WW2 in primarily 28mm.

 

Playing in 6mm scale (and adjusting inches to centrimetres for movement) on a 2 foot square board resulted in some really fun and fast paced games.  Although the placement of tokens on the board to represent activated units provded a unique problem with this scale as the glass beads we were using were in some cases as big as the models.  What became apparent to me as we played through (and was backed up by reviews I have read of the game) was that this would be ideally suited to a larger scale on a larger battlefield.  15mm seemed an ideal way to go.  So emboldened with yet another new project I started plotting.

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Tiny dice look huge next to 6mm scale armour!

I wanted to put together two forces (rather than just build up a single army) and knowing that Flames of War 4th edition is currently hot I sought out the new (and really good value) Hit the Beach starter set.  This provided me with a good basis for two starting forces and I supplemented this with some eBay purchases and also managed to track down a reduced price full German army box by Plastic Soldier Company.

 

15mm had never really appealed before, but with the enthusiasm gained from my first outing with Iron Cross in 6mm I really begun to see the attraction of getting a lot of figures and armour on the table at once.

Having agreed to give the game another go game at this larger scale at the next meeting which was only a few weeks away I got to work assembling and painting.

 

 

Most of the armour was a pleasure to put together.  I’d probably say that the Battlefront Miniatures Flames of War stuff is slightly easier to assemble with the Plastic Soldier kits being slightly more fiddly.  I also picked up a couple of Zvezda 1:100 scale snap fit kits to add a few of the big cats to the German forces (including a King Tiger).  While cheap and ‘snap-fit’ I found that these do need a lot more after-assembly love and care (gap filling in particular).

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Zvezda King Tiger – not visible here, but needs some gap filling

In addition I’ve also done a bit of 3D printing to expand some forces.  You can see a comparison between the Zvezda King Tiger and a 3D printed version below.  While not a bad model, the obvious issue with 3D printing at this scale for a large game is simply the length of time it takes.  We are not yet in the position I don’t think where the availability of 3D printing files for WW2 armour is going to have much of an impact on traditional kit sales for this very reason.

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King Tigers – Zvezda (left), 3D printed – file from Thingiverse (right)

Painting the tanks and vehicles was case of keeping it quick and easy.  Basecoat, dry brush highlight, wash, silver drybrush and spong chipping.  For the allied armour I used a Halford Camo Green spray for the basecoat, which I would highly recommend.

 

The German armour was basecoated using Plastic Soldier’s Dunkelgelb yellow from a spray can.  Trying to keep things at least a bit historically accurate I did various camo patterns on some of the German tanks.  I am not hugely happy with these as I think they were a bit rushed.  I hand painted these, whereas really I ought to have broken out the airbrush to get a better result.

 

Both allied and German decals have been purchased, but I haven’t yet got round to applying these.

So, the elephant in the room for me with respect to painting were the infantry.  I’ve never painted anything smaller than 25mm so this was going to be interesting.  In the end as the majority of the miniatures I was working with were one-piece I decided to try painting them on the sprue.  In general this has worked quite well so far.

 

Anyhow after a productive couple of weeks assembling models and painting, this last weekend at the club we got a couple more games of Iron Cross this time on a 6′ by 4′ table in 15mm scale.  Taking a very relaxed approach to matching up our forces, in the first game I got the upper hand as the Germans.  In the second game we adjusted the forces to be slightly more realistic in terms of numbers (with the allies outnumbering the superior German tanks) and it went as you would expect with a victory for the British/Americans.

 

The rules worked really well again, we spotted some mistakes we had made last time and both games played through relatively quickly.  I think we have found our go to club game for 15mm.  I didn’t have enough infantry done to include them, so I think this will add an interesting new dynamic next time and that’s what I’ll be concentrating on painting wise.

 

So the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to try something new; however accept that it will add to your plastic/lead pile and project to-do list.

 

Cold war gone hot is starting to look appealing!

Further adventures in 3D printing for tabletop

A while back I wrote an article about my first steps in the growing 3D printing part of the tabletop hobby.  Now a few months down the line, an update on what I have learned and where I am going next with this.

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I’ve said it before, but it is worth reiterating – patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to 3D printing.  Over the last few months I’ve made some great inroads into ‘dialling my settings in’ and getting some great results for scenery pieces and larger models.  I’ve done something I’ve never done before – stripping electrics and re-wiring when a key component broke and I’ve also discovered some fantastic digital sculptors pushing their wares on Patreon.

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Dock side scenery piece by Hayland Terrain

So a reminder, I am running a Creality CR-10S which is a larger bed (meaning larger print sizes) FDM printer.  FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, this is the most traditional style of 3D printer on the market and basically works by layering down melted plastic filament to build up a model.  The material I am using is PLA – this is an odourless plastic based on corn starch (so biodegrable).  Having played around with different brands (which does make a difference) I have settled on eSun PLA+ (in a rather splendid yellow).  PLA+ seems to be a slightly more dense version of PLA (possible with extra additives) and I have found it produces stronger models that are easier to work with both in terms of modelling and painting post-printing.

One of the key challenges with printing miniatures in particular is getting the ‘supports’ right.  Supports are the removable parts of the print, which you’ve guessed it, support parts of the model which overhang and would otherwise have to print in mid-air (as a famous guide book once said – this is of course impossible).  There are plenty of miniature designs out there in the 3D printing universe which have been specially designed to print without supports (more on these in a bit).  The real issue when you are using them is to get them so they provide enough ‘support’ for the model while also being relatively easy to remove without snapping off those important bits that should remain in place.

When taking this into account there are all sorts of different variables and pieces of advice out there.  Most of these relate to how you process the STL file prior to printing in your ‘slicing software’, but many also relate to the physical setup of your machine, brand and even colour of filament used and so on.  Lots of trial and error, lots of visiting Facebook groups, checking YouTube and reading forums – so again patience is a virtue.  For information I am using a piece of software called Cura to process (slice) the files before printing.  Learning and tweaking the settings in here is all part of the fun!

In the end I have got this about right I think and some of the results I am getting for larger miniatures both with and without supports are really pleasing.

But where I am getting the files from to print?  Thingiverse is a great resource – a community of designers and printers and a place to find stuff that is free.  There are specific groups and collections of files on there which are aimed at tabletop gamers. However there is also a growing trend for digital sculptors and designers to use the Patreon funding platform to market and distribute work.

I currently support two Patreon campaigns, where for a monthly charge I get access to a number of STL files each month.  Duncan ‘shadow’ Louca is well worth checking out.  I first came across his work as part of a Kickstarter campaign which was creating tanks and armoured vehicle files for a ‘grimdark’ setting.  However he has since branched out into miniatures which are primarily aimed at the fantasy roleplaying game market.  Duncan is extremely prolific and the level of funding he is achieving each month is quite staggering.  It is worth saying that the quality of the prints I have been getting from his files have been excellent as well.  So both quantity and quality – winner!

Another Patreon I have also recently started supported is run by Rocket Pig Games.  They again focus on fantasy monsters and creatures primarily for role playing (but for me ideal for planning out a Saga Age of Magic army).  The big selling point of their models is the aforementioned lack of supports.  Well worth checking out.  They also run a seperate Patreon campaign which focuses more on Lovecraftian ‘cosmic horror’ style miniatures.

The thing that connects everything I have covered so far is that I am printing big models.  In addition thanks to some recent Kickstarer campaigns and the wealth of treasures on Thingiverse I have been printing lots of scenery.  Again, although often detailed, this is big chunky stuff.  For the most part the models produced are sturdy and where supports are necessary they are relatively easy to remove.

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Pre-support removal and clean up

What about normal sized 28mm scale miniatures though?  I recently volunteered to print our some models that a friend had designed and purchased on HeroForge.  This is a great site where you can design character miniatures for your games and then either get them printed and shipped out to you or receive the STL files for printing out yourself.  It is here that I’ve noticed that you are really stretching the capabilities of a FDM printer.  As you are effectively layering up a model by depositing thin layers of plastic you do get some lines on flat surfaces.  For larger models these can be easily filed or treated post-printing (with plastic putty for example).  Settings can again be tweaked in slicing software to increase the resolution of a print (by reducing the layer height, but thus increasing print times); combined with the ability to swap out nozzles of different diameters this can lead to some stunning results. Of course on smaller models even with a high resolution setting and a smaller nozzle size these lines do become more visible.  Combine this with the issue of removing supports and you do start to get some problems with bits snapping off that shouldn’t or obsfucation of detail.

This very much became apparent when I was trying to print off these models – many came out well, but there were a few where the detail was just too fine and the oft mentioned patience became somewhat stretched.

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Smaller minis are pushing the limits of what I can do on a FDM printer

There is some light on the horizon though.  SLA (Stereolithography) printers are becoming much more affordable.  These work in a slightly different way and although they tend to have a smaller print size and are somewhat messier (they use light to harden liquid resin that is contained in a reservoir to create the desired 3D shape), they are ideal for printing smaller more detailed minaitures.

Ooops….

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