Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Software Blues and Thanksgiving plans

Well, it's just going to be a long, hard road to recover my data. I am going to have to spend many hours recovering individual data files and copying them over to a new Win10 install.

I'm also going to have to find about 5 years worth of product codes, so I can reinstall software. I figure anything older than that isn't really worth the both at this time.

So, I am going to begin with the mapping software for the Imagination project that I have been working on, plus the excel spreadsheet that I was creating to establish population sizes for each nation.

on a slightly brighter note...

I've just finished my second seminar course for the MA in military history program that I am in. My final paper was on the cultural factors that led to the Bishop's Wars of 1639 and 1640 and the consequences that followed those wars. My next course begins in less than three weeks, so $500 more in books, of which we read from one to three chapters each. The books are useful additions to my library, but I hate that I have to buy a book that I am assigned to read less than 100 pages from it.

Anyhow, in 15 weeks, I will be halfway through the program and that will be a relief. I wish my employer coughed up more salary bonus for having multiple graduate degrees...they do not.

On that note, we are very close to striking, which is a shame. The school district I work for has playing hardball, likely the result of having a new superintendent. If we do strike, I will be playing board and miniature games with friends, when I am not working on my computer.

Speaking of which, I did receive several new games that I hope to play over Thanksgiving break.

I picked this up through the second edition kickstarter. It's not a game for everyone, but I have a few friends who want to play the campaign.

Fallen Land. I saw this when it was a kickstarter, but I was low on funds and could not afford to support it at the time. I did order it and its expansion through and we're excited to play it next week. A monster game, as is Gloomhaven.

Wizard Kings, from Columbia Games, is also in route to me. I expect to play this next week also.

Our plans are to also play Maurice, finally. Four of us intend to play; we've been looking for an opportunity for a couple of months now. Between schedule differences, it's taken us until now to be able to get together and break out the miniatures.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Need IT help, computer still down

Okay, so this past couple of weeks has just been another small addition to the chapters of the last 3 decades of my life: no luck but bad.

I was in the process of switching boot drives from a 60G SSD to a 240G SSD, but during the process, I accidentally activated the original boot drive instead of the cloned version of the drive (the drive names got switched around when I first rebooted, still using the original boot drive). I cloned it use DriveImageXML, which has worked for others in the past.

I since reinstalled Windows 10 on the 60G drive, but I cannot get the 240G drive up and running as a boot drive. The drive shows as a valid installation, but I cannot add it to the BCD (?) list, as I get an error saying something like "pathway not found" or some such.

When I attempt to do the /fix commands using bootrec, such as /fixmbr, I get "access is denied."

I just cannot get around this. I really, really, do not want to have to reinstall all of my programs, that will literally days as they are all downloads, some of which I will probably have to purchase again if I cannot get this resolved.

So, if someone skilled in these matters has a solution, please post a comment.

I would like to get the larger SSD to boot, and/or be able to recover the installation information, that is currently on the larger SSD, so that I can simply access the programs through the newly installed Windows10 on my smaller SSD.

Windows 10 bloat is what caused this issue in the first place, maxing out my boot drive and then forcing it to crash continually through failed updates.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Computer Down!

On Friday, my computer took a dive and stayed down for the count. It will not boot and will not boot from a USB recovery drive.

I've followed several different methods of getting it to boot from a USB, to no avail.

I'm going to have to get an external hard drive and see if it will boot from that, once I make it a recovery drive.

So, until I can get this fixed, updates here will be problematic. I am on a computer at work, which is also problematic.

Unfortunately, I have a LOT of work on that computer, which I no longer have access to.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017


With the end of the 1st Quarter now past, I have a bit more time to post on what I've been up to, but I have to finish this soon as I have yet another graduate paper to write.

With the problems of getting the weapons and heads to cast from the Prince August molds, I went ahead and bought a thermometer to test the metal temp. Yep, the pot does not provide a consistent level of heat. My target tempt is 590 degrees, Fahrenheit, which the pot does get to within about 8 minutes. Casting was ON LIKE A BOSS!

However, an hour into casting, with no adjustments to the temp dial, the temp was down to 430 degrees and casting issues cropped up again. I had to fiddle with the temp dial to get it back to the correct temperature.

 My nearly empty pot as I fire it up. Notice the poor trooper who failed to pass muster
 And the shipment arrives...40 bars of Model Metal from Prince August. It's casting time!
 Cream rises to the top of freshly produced milk, scum rises to the top of freshly melted metal. It must be cleaned off and the process is continual throughout casting. Talc, dust, and other contaminants remain at the top and must be scooped out. This is the tedious part for me, and there's always a little bit of model metal with it.

Notice the thin slivers of metal in the lower left. This is where I cut a vent to help that mustket cast properly. Normally, a vent should lead more directly towards the top of the mold, but I wanted the flash to come off the tip of the bayonet, so I cut down and away before bringing it back to the channel. Usually, there's little to no metal in those two channels on the sides.

I've also vented several of the heads in the various molds, to get them to cast. Those pictures were too blurry to include in this post, though. The casting temperature of the metal needs to be between 572 and 608 degrees, according to the documentation and a Celsius to Fahrenheit calculation.

The metal still needs to be a liquid within 30 seconds of the pour, in order for it to get to all the details in the mold. Tapping on the mold can help, but not always. Sometimes, a large pocket of air is trapped in the mold cavities, and a few raps on the mold will cause the metal to displace the air. This is visible, if you know what you are looking for. Thus, molten metal at too low a temperature will harden within 5-10 seconds (at the top of the mold, which means it hardens sooner than that inside) and that is not enough time for it to get where it needs to be, thus causing items to not cast properly.
And after about 90 minutes, we had the command groups for one of the armies completed. You can see a portion of that effort in the top of the picture, but we did finish 16 officers, 16 drummers, and 16 standard bearers.

A couple days later, we had another casting session, with Brent again assisting by removing the figures from the molds and cleaning them up and with myself doing the casting.

I've no pictures from that, which I thought I had taken, but we have about 50 infantry figures, in addition to the command groups, cast so far. I've more metal and molds incoming, which should arrive this week.

However, I have parent-teacher conferences all week, after school, which means no casting as the light is gone shortly after I get home. All of my casting is down outside on the back porch, so we can use the light of the sun while it lasts.

I will be casting a bit, this weekend, regardless. I need to get all 220+ figures cast before the end of November.

Since the new SYW cavalry molds are unlikely to be released in time. And since I do not want to waste money on buying the old molds, cast and paint the figures for the event, and then remelt everything when the new molds are released, I am probably going to skip the cavalry for the convention game. I'll look for a tabletop teaser scenario that lacks cavalry and modify that for my games.

This will save me money and painting time, to be sure.

On the other hand, I have no figures for generals and notable leaders. I may go with Front Rank AWI models for this, for the event, but I would really like to see a Prince August mold for leaders/generals.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Casting Pot Woes

I've a paper to write for my grad class, so I need to be quick.

I spent three hours yesterday, with two mates, casting figures. Not one head or musket came out properly. Even after I cut vents and drilled holes for venting in one of the molds.

After a while, we all noticed that the metal seemed to be too cool, even though I had turned up the heat knob.

As I do not yet have a thermometer for the pot, the one I ordered will take nearly a month to arrive (sigh), I could not verify the temperature, but I believe all of my casting woes are due to an inconsistency in the temperature of the metal.

I will likely be returning the casting pot and getting a new one...but I have 20 bars of metal still in the pot that will have to come out first.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Off With His Head!

Just a quick post. I'm slammed with end of quarter grades, at work, and also a hefty assignment in my graduate program. I'll be catching up with things next week.

In the meantime, I've started casting 40mm SYW miniatures using Prince August molds, as I posted before. I'm having some trouble getting the heads to cast. I do not expect everything to come out 100% every time, but I am consistently having trouble getting any of the 4 heads in the infantry molds to turn out.

I've fiddled with the temperature of the metal, used the talc properly, and tapped the mold. Yet, I think the problem is that I need to vent each head, with the cut leading to a hole in the mold for the air to escape. I've also adjusted the clamps on the backerboards. Some times, everything will line up and I get one perfect pour, but although I am doing the same thing each time, the outcome is inconsistent.

Still, my preference is to avoid cutting and drilling, if possible.

Any reader have much experience with these particular molds? I'm using the recommended Model Metal, so that should not be the issue.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My Prince Has Arrived!

The order from Prince August, that is...

Over the past two weeks, my orders from Prince August arrived here and there. When I first ordered the SYW molds, I did not intend to immediately get into casting. That was rather foolish of me.

After the first of two packages arrived, I immediately realized how silly I was and ordered some metal from Prince August. Five orders later, I now realize I should have just ponied up the dough and ordered 50 though my budget could afford it.

Now, I went through most of my first eight bars today and I have ten more that should arrive any day now (I expected them today).

I had my mate, Brent, come over and we cast up some figures to test things out. Oooh.. the bug has done grasped on to me. Yowtch!

As the Prince August hotplate is only for EU use, I had to order a Lyman casting pot, usually used for melting lead for bullets. I went large and got the 10 pound capacity, nearly going with the 20 pound pot. I am glad I didn't as it would have been a chore to get the molten metal out. I probably should have gone with the bottom poor version, where I would not need a ladle, but I wanted to start the old fashioned way.

Here's my box of molds. I've the SYW Prussian set, plus a SYW Austrian Fusilier and Grenadier mold, and a Hessian officer mold that I got on sale. I also have the SYW artillery mold set, with molds for crew, guns, and carriage.
A few of the infantry. I could have gone for me, but we chose to give the artillery piece molds a test.
The barrels are beauties. This is the result of the very first pour on this mold. Perfection!
And so our "test" turned into a "plan." We've got a large convention coming to our town for the first time, in January. Brent and I wanted to put on a game, so.....We're going to run Maurice at 40mm.

The game will be smallish, only 8 battalions (16 figs per), 4 squadrons (8 figs per), and 2 guns (1 gun and 4 crew per) for each side. Um.. yeah, so those are the guns and carriages that we cast up. The infantry had a bit of flashing around the barrels and bayonets, but we can easily clean that off with a hobby knife.

I did have all sorts of trouble with the wheel for the gun carriage. I just could not get all the spokes to form. After a bit of experimenting, I realized I had too much pressure on that part of the mold, from the clamp. I shifted the clamps around and they cast up perfectly.

The only problem is that I think the molds are missing a piece. The gun carriage looks as though it is meant to have an elevation block, as there is a slot for it, but the piece is not present in the mold and the gun barrels will now be far too elevated.  I guess some green stuff will have to make do.

I asked and Prince August told me that they expect to release the cavalry molds soon. However, unless the are available before December, I am going to have to use their Wild Geese or Karoliner cavalry molds.

If someone knows of another alternative mold that fits well with these, please let me know.

In all, I'm going to need to cast up 208 infantry, 16 officers on foot, 16 standard bearers, 16 standard bearers, 64 cavalry (including command), and 16 gunners. I already have the guns done. :)

At approximately 5 infantry figures per bar of model metal, that's a lot of metal, just over 51 bars in fact. So, with the 40 bars enroute, I will need about 12 more to finish off the infantry. I expect I will get maybe 2 cavalry figures per bar, and so another 32 bars, with 2 to 3 bars for the artillery crew. Of course, I will need a mounted general per side, thus another bar or two. Say an even 60 bars of metal to go.

Sadly, there is not a local source for metal alloys, otherwise I could probably save some money on the metal.

40mm figures at approximately $1 per infantry figure is not bad. These should be fairly quick to paint up and base; we're going old school on the bases, so no flock needed. 40mmx60mm bases for the infantry and cavalry, and slightly larger for the artillery.

Painted up in the colors of a couple of my ImagiNations and it will be a nice way to play a game.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

ImagiNations - Map (almost there)

The map is very nearly done. I need to add names to some geographic features, but the capital cities and the towns over 50,000 population are present. I may go and add smaller towns, but that may be a while.

I've more work, lots more, to do on the gazetteer, but I've got a working Excel sheet that will automatically calculate population, based on the types of hexes present. I just enter those and the population is generated for me, including the size of their military.

I am going to zoom further into each nation, and that is where more details will appear.

I'm still waiting on a package and then I will reveal another element of this ImagiNation project. I hope to receive it by Tuesday.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Possible Replacement for Wargammer Fantasy Battles in 15mm

This photo does not do the miniatures justice.
Update: Their campaign became fully funded on 9/14. WTG! Lots of people I know will be happy with more 15mm fantasy.

I am an old school Warhammer Fantasy Battles player, from the mid-80s. I own or owned a lot of the miniatures and books. I used to live and breathe the world as it was both fascinating and majestic in that dark and Gothic tone that it is so well known for.

When Games Workshop made yet another blunder by offing the game and replacing it with a skirmish system, the fearful wails of millions of gamers seemed to be snuffed out in an instant.

I gave it up and swore off GW forever. I've not bought so much as an overpriced paintbrush from them.This coming from someone who loved the company and who enjoyed working there; it was like Christmas almost every day of the year. But the cold hand of undeath took me by the financials and I had to part ways. Soon after, the great slaughtering of GW Baltimore employees occurred and many of my friends and former co-workers were unceremoniously kicked to the curb. I got out before the company forced nearly everyone out.

Now, a former co-worker and supervisor of mine, has arisen like a phoenix, with a new mass fantasy battles rules system and lovely and seductive 15mm metal goodness is beginning to flow out of some Dwarf foundry in Pennsylvania. Battle Valor Games, and appropriate name, seeks to claim fields of battle and magic for itself.

Take a glimpse, mortal, and see what opportunities away you.

Exhibit 1 - Declians (Undead)

Exhibit 2 - Delvians (Dark Elves)

Exhibit 3 - Dwarians (Dwarves/Dwarfs)
Exhibit 4 - Frigian War Mammoth
Exhibit 5 - Frigian Characters

They have a Kickstarter campaign, please support them. It's a one man operation, but he hires out the sculpting [click the link above]. Only 1 bloke from the UK is supporting them and 20 Yanks. What a bunch of ....... Hey you Brits and Irish who read this blog, support this campaign. You cannot let us former colony types show you up again.

I love you guys and gals, especially the gals, from the UK. Come on.. man and woman up! They've less than 3k to go, as of this post.

I mean, it's FRIGGIN 15mm!

Someone's doing it right, for a change, help 'em out and kick in.

Full Disclosure: I've not contacted the owner of Battle Valor Games and he has no idea I'm a former co-worker. He was a good boss and I feel he deserves to sell me (and you) some damn fine 15mm fantasy miniatures at less than $1 a figure.

Do it.

Do it now.

Go ahead and click

If you do, maybe I can arrange for you to meet a sexy mink

Sunday, September 10, 2017

ImagiNations - Updated Map part 2

I exported the map at a slightly larger size, so people can more easily read the eventual notations, including those for important geographical features.

Notice, the western edge of the continent has been fully fleshed out, only the southeastern portion remains, behind a barrier of mountains and desert, so I have some time. I have ideas for it, and it is a very large area (about twice what is pictured here). There is another continent to the east and north east, portion of which are almost, but not quite, hinted at in this image. Essentially, I took what is a combination of continents and split them by an inner sea; think Europe and Asia thusly divided.

Each of the named areas on the map has its origins story, and I will flesh those out as time goes on. I've got a good mental handle on pretty much all of it, but I need to spend the time to write it up. I handle the nations as though they were individual characters in a novel and that is how I mentally compose their backstories, goals, religious and political motivations, etc.

I need to update the real world historical influences on each nation, I know what they are, but have to add them to that working map. However, I have several hours of grading papers ahead of me, today, and I need to focus on that once I finish this post.

Please, if you have not done so, vote in the poll to the right. It is a close call between two of the named selections and the "I don't like any of them" choice. If you don't like what is there, make a suggestion through a comment.

In other news, I have received one of my Kickstarter pledge items and will post on that this week. I also have another order incoming from Ireland in the next week or so and am excited to share that once it arrives.

Edit: I just noticed I still have the ghosted border around the text boxes for some of the names. I do not understand how this is happening, as I am doing the same thing for the text that does not have a border. If anyone who knows GIMP 2.0 can explain to me how to fix this, I'd be grateful.