Welcome to the Highlander Studios blog.

I won't promise any earth shattering revelations here. What I will be trying to do is post some new products as I release them, share some thoughts on gaming and show some pics of games and other stuff that I enjoy. So come in and make yourselves at home.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Croclomachus: Take Two

     It's always a trade off between personal attachment and potential profit and the quick lump sum of cash when a client offers to buy something you sculpted for yourself. You guys may remember seeing Spoticus over at the Weekly One Five.

     I was planning to do a series of fantasy gladiators for myself to use with Two Hour Wargames'  Red Sand Blue Sky. There was also a crocodile gladiator started.

     A few weeks ago I received an email from David at Splintered Light Miniatures asking if I'd be interested in selling them. I thought a bout it a while and decided that I really had too many other things going on to worry about getting these into production myself. So off they went to the mold maker for David.

     They will find good homes in his lines of figures where they will have the company of many, many other friends that I've sculpted.

     And the cash will be put to good use to purchase cool Christmas presents. Thanks, David.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cheaper By the Dozen: My First Shapeways Experience

     Well, as usual, dabbling in a discipline opened a lot of doors to other interesting subsets. A friend of mine started asking about rapid prototyping and the costs involved in having items produced for use as masters in spin casting. The first place that came to mind was Shapeways. So I started looking into their products.

     Shapeways' online documentation is easy to understand and their tutorials were clearly written. I was especially interested in their tutorials about making models ready to print using  Blender. I spent about an hour reading through these files and looking at a number of products that others have already made available. Then set out to model a simple scenic gaming element.

     I have one garbage can that is sold as part of my Gideon's Dust Redneck set that people have asked to have put in a multi-pack. So I decided to use that as my subject in Blender. I spent about an hour modeling the basic can. A lot of that time was learning a few more commands to make it the shape I wanted. Here is the end result. Very simple, but it has the basic trash can features.

     The next step was to check the normals. Normals determine which way the light reflects from the object. If they are all on the outside, it appears correct. If some are reversed (on the opposite side of the faces), you have a light absorbing or passing through effect. Sometimes the faces show as black, other times they are transparent and you can see into the center of the object. Either way, if the normals aren't corrected, the model won't print correctly on the 3D printer.

     After the normals I needed to check for watertightness and non-manifold faces. Watertightness is basically making sure that all seams are closed and there aren't duplicate vertices that could cause problems. Manifold faces occur when you have more than two planes joined at the same two corners. This also causes problems with printing. Luckily there are easy, one-button fixes to most of these issues in Blender. So it took about a tenth the time to actually do the checks as it did to write about them here.

     With all checks done, the next hurdle was to upload the model to Shapeways. That requires an account. I took some time to set up Highlander Studios 3D. Uploading requires particular scaling, so it was back to the Blender drawing board to rescale my model and save the object. Shapeways accepts several file formats, but I used the recommended .stl. Uploading was simple after that. Choose the file on your computer, choose the scale units (mm in this case), and upload. Shapeways checks the model for printability and sends an email if it has problems or when it has been added to the site. Pretty darned slick.

     Shapeways charges a flat handling fee plus a price based on the volume of material consumed. The owner also adds the markup he'd like for profit. One model before markup would cost almost $2.00 for their cheapest material. That's fine for having some prototypes printed in assorted materials for vulcanization tests, but expensive for customers to buy. On to the next step.

     I saw several examples of products that had multiple items sprued together. I decided a dozen would be a good number to sell in a set and it was back to Blender. This was the longest part of the process. Blender has some great functions for duplicating items and connecting items into a single unified piece, but the sequence to make it work correctly without a lot of fiddling later was tricky. There's a Boolean function that will add, subtract or choose the intersection of two parts. That's slick, but the part added is duplicated and needs to be deleted or it craps up the model. I fought the good fight and won out in the end. Here is the result.

     Again, I needed to check the normals, watertightness and non-manifold faces. No issues were found. The model was then scaled correctly and uploaded. Five minutes later, the email from Shapeways arrived letting me know that there were no problems found and the model had been added to the shop.

     I checked the prices, chose the materials I wanted to make available and decided on the markup for profit I wanted. Twelve cans at $10.34 for a dozen is much cheaper than the single can price. It's still a little pricey for what it is, but they're available in some form until I actually have them made in metal.

     Overall, my first experience with Shapeways was a really cool learning exercise. I gained a lot of confidence using Blender and the Shapeways interface is quite painless. I look forward to using more 3D printing to make prototype parts both for sale at the Shapeways shop and for more traditional metal casting methods.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bug Hut Mk I

   I spent some time playing with filters and such to texture the Space Bug hut. Here we have Bug Hut Mk I.

    I chose a watery copper with a force field door for the test printing and assembly. The whole model has been scaled down to about 85% of the original size to allow for two complete buildings per printed page. It's still large enough to serve as a pre-fab shelter for a squad of bugs.

    The Inkscape file was left as a multi-layered drawing so I can make variations later. There is a layer with the base color, one with the transparent filter effects, one with the shapes outlines and a text layer. For the final production PDF, I'll include several color schemes and textures and a couple of variant doors. But for a first build to practice all of the new skill sets I need to develop, Mk I is not too bad.

    Please feel free to Download the one page PDF and play around with it. Bug Hut Mk I. It's a big file yet (2MB); I haven't compressed the graphics so I can work on it more for the final version.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

15mm Space Bug Pre-fab Shelters

    While I've been under the weather this week, I took a few minutes here and there to start designing some terrain and vehicles for the space bugs. I stared with some rough sketches.

     I decided on a basic hexagonal design for the bug buildings. The other constraint from my buddy who designed the bugs in the first place is that they are fairly low tech metal users. So the designs will incorporate hard angles and flattish surfaces.

    I've been playing around with Blender for my 3D modeling. It probably has the most difficult learning curve of all of the modeling software I've tried, but it's free, very computer resource friendly, cross-platform, has built in animation and a game engine that I plan to use for later projects. You can check it out at blender.org if you want more information.

     I plan to create some PDF downloads for folded paper models first. So I built a low poly model in two parts. The basic dome is one and the door is the second.This made unfolding it easier. I had to select a part and unwrap it in the UV editor, move some pieces (OK, all of the pieces) around and save the file to edit in a photo editing program.

    These are the unwrapped parts. The piece above will make the basic dome shape. The one below will create the door.

    I've uploaded them as .png files so you can  take them and play with them in your own editing software if you like. They need most of the gluing tabs added and textures added. I use GIMP, Inkscape and Open Office for editing. They are all free and fairly powerful programs. Click on the names if you'd like to check them out.

    I Imported the saved parts into Inkscape. Sized them correctly for my bugs and printed them out. Once printed I drew some tabs, cut and assembled the model. The test build was satisfactory. It's the size I wanted and all of the sides matched up the way they should

    I'll be adding the textures to it over the next week or two. When I'm finished, I'll also be adding detail to the 3D model in Blender for later prototyping in 6mm. For the actual 15mm sized models, it's probably easier for me to cut out styrene from the PDF layout and build the masters for casting in resin. We'll see how that all goes later.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Post Fall In Recovery and Goblin Factory

    Fall In has come and gone. The three weeks leading up to it were a bit crazy. I had forgotten just how much work goes into getting a game together to run at a convention. I shared table space with Ken from Proxie Models and Don from the Goblin Factory. There was a lot of good company and conversation all weekend. I had a great time talking with people during the dealer hours and running the Custer on Mars game on Friday and Saturday nights. But, man, was I wiped out when I got back.

    After several days of taking it easy, the weather turned nice and my fiancee put me back to work on the outside of the house. The time working outside wasn't a total loss, though. I was able to sort through some commission work, do some online research and paint a few sample figures during the dead time. With the concrete patching, scraping and painting of the porch wrapping up this weekend, I'll finally be able to get back to sculpting.

    For now, though, here are a few pics of the new Oriental Goblins from the Goblin Factory. The first is a group shot of the goblin Ashigaru with yari and the command figures.

    The command figures include a samurai commander and a standard bearer. These will be going into their own pack once production begins.

    The yari goblins will be sold in their own pack. I'm not exactly sure what Don has in mind for the final packaging, but it will include some multiple of all six poses.

    As you can see all are in different poses and have armor and clothing.

    The master mold has been made and we're waiting for Old Glory to do the first two production molds. For now there are a few pre-production sets available at Highlander Studios. I'll be selling the new Goblin Factory figures until his website is completed and in working order. These sets include one each of all eight figures and sell for $15.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

U.S. 5th Cavalry on Mars

     I attended a great seminar on Space: 1889 at Origins this year. Not only was it well presented and full of good information relating to my current sculpting project, but it also seeded several scenarios for Space: 1889 games. The most interesting to me was that the United States had sent a troop of the 5th Cavalry to Mars. That set off vivid images of Custer making his last stand behind fallen gashants while surrounded by hordes of Hill Martians. Imagine my surprise when a little research dug up the fact that Custer had briefly been assigned to the 5th during the Civil War. It suddenly all fit together.

     Custer was actually one of the few survivors of the Little Big Horn. This combined with his political leanings and glory hounding caused some consternation with the War Department. Custer was quietly shipped off to Mars at the head of a troop of 5th Cavalry where he would be out of the way. On a routine patrol he finds himself once again surrounded by angry native forces.

     So we have the basis for a game. But what to do about the figures? I had already planned to start Hill Martians for Space: 1889 so getting them sculpted was not an issue. Well, the actual production delays may be an issue, but hopefully things are timed just right and I'll have the figures in time for my Fall In game. I plan to do U.S. Cavalry for Mars later, but they aren't slated until December at the earliest. What to do?

     I gave the matter some thought and started playing with the idea of putting other figures on the gashant I had done. I tried some of the John Ford style cavalry that I'm doing for Legends In Time, but they would require major conversion to fit correctly. I pulled out a couple of Blue Moon cowboys and tried them out. Hmmm... just about right. A little filing here... a little widening there and... U.S. 5th on Mars.

     Old glory was kind enough to sell me a pack of just their cavalry riders which I set about converting to fit on my gashant models.

     The combined figures looked pretty good.

     I decided how many I wanted and set to assembling, priming and painting.

     The results were pleasing. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't have time to have the gashant conversions with bridles and saddles produced. But that would have caused even more trouble with the Blue Moon figures anyway. So I'll just deal with the lack of reigns and girth cinches.

     The overall effect when they are mounted together on  a base is good. They'll do nicely for my game at any rate. And I can replace them later when I make the official Space:1889 figures.

     Now I'll spend the rest of this week painting the rest of the mounted and dismounted cavalry. I hope to have the Hill Martians by the end of the week so I have time to paint them for the game. Fingers crossed, people.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

15mm Huts Have Arrived

     Acheson Creations has finished molding and casting the first four huts for me. All right, so they're the only four huts at this time, but you know what I mean.

     The first is a half-stone granary or treasury.

     The second has complete stone walls. This was the first one I did. The roof is a little tight and it requires a few passes with a file or knife around the inside top of the wall.

     The third is a wattle and daub structure with only a few cracks showing.

     The last is another wattle and daub hut. This one shows a little wear. There are patches where the wattle shows through around the structure.

     All will sell for $8 each or the complete set of four can be purchased for $28. They are unpainted and each is two parts; the wall and the roof. Highlander Studios shop.

     Painted sets of the Space: 1889 adventurers and steppe tigers are also now available. They can be found here: Space: 1889 items.

     I am taking pre-orders for Fall In. Anyone interested in picking up merchandise at the show can place an order in advance via email to me at Highlander Studios. Please put Fall In pre-order in the subject line.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tomorrow's War - First Impressions

     Last month Joe at Osprey posted that he was looking for bloggers to review Tomorrow's War. I emailed that I was interested, pointed him to my blog and told him a little bit about what I did here. He kindly sent me a copy of the rules and I've been reading through them as I have time throughout the day. This first review is by no means comprehensive. I'll be digesting for a while, but I wanted to post my initial impressions. I'll follow up over the next several weeks with a review the actual game mechanics and a few battle reports, but for now, I'll just hit the physical production and layout.

     The first thing that I noticed was that the shipping envelope was heavier than I expected. I opened the package to find an inch thick, hard bound, full color book. It's 260 full color pages packed with rules, interesting illustrations and great photos of figures in action. The spine shifts a bit, which concerned me until I started reading it and realized that this is one of the few hard back rulebooks I've read that allows the pages to lay flat even when it's open to the middle of the book. The pages seem to be securely stitched in instead of glued and the pages themselves are substantially thick and should wear well. The only issue I'm having is the  printing of the background picture behind the text. It's about 10-20% opaque in the text boxes and I find it distracting and hard on my eyes if I read for more than 20 minutes.

     I had purchased the PDF pre-release version and was a bit concerned that I had to also purchase Force on Force if I wanted to play. I was also hesitant regarding the fluff that was promised. I like my rulebooks to contain rules. If I want a story, I'll read a novel. Well, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised on both counts. This book starts with about 20 pages of fluff and systematically lays out the basic rules, more advanced rules, rules for special units, a campaign system, troop stats for several nations and some scenarios.

     The fluff provides a brief background of the state of things in the Tomorrow's War universe. It's presented in a factual manner rather than anecdotal and provides a structure for a believable, near future setting. There are lots of interesting little tidbits interspersed that could be used for scenario or campaign seeds. I was a little disappointed that Israel was mentioned as a relevant factor in the text of another group, but it's current state is not defined.

     The rules themselves are laid out in a logical, progressive manner. They begin with the Basics of Play and move systematically through Units and Leaders, Infantry Combat, Mechanized Combat, Close Air Support, Off-board Artillery, Special Unit Types and Asymmetric Engagements.

     The campaign system seems well, thought out. It's limited in scope to unit sizes of about a platoon, but I think a bit of thought and tweaking would allow it to be adjusted for whatever size campaign you'd want to play. I was really intrigued by Operational Momentum Points. "These points represent the operational momentum that each force has accumulated prior to the actual operation." They can be used to buy assets for a scenario or saved and counted as victory points at the end of the game. The campaign is also flexible enough to accommodate a closed campaign with a predefined number and order of scenarios or an open ended campaign which could be as long and contain as many scenarios as the players wish.

     While not comprehensive, the tables of organization and the sample units lists provide a good deal of variety for interesting games. Again, the scope of the rules seems to be more suited to about a platoon with a few vehicles rather than great sweeping battles. For me that's about perfect.

     Tomorrow's War is published by Osprey Publishing and Ambush Alley Games and sells for $34.95 US dollars. Overall I'm very impressed with the quality of the production. It's a physically beautiful piece of work and it's sensibly formatted to provide easy assimilation of the rules. Good job, Osprey and Ambush Alley guys. I look forward to playing a few games and blogging the results.

Tomorrow's War is available for pre-order at a discounted price on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hill Martian Spear/ Halberd Sculpts

     All right there are just too many things going on for one post. I'll stretch this out over three or four posts this week.

     Let's start with an all night sculpting session to have things ready for delivery to Old Glory. I had a very limited window of opportunity to have my next master mold made in time for Fall In. So I put in several long days of sculpting that wrapped up this morning. The delivery of new Hill Martians for Space: 1889 was made this afternoon.

     You've seen these two before, but I included them here since they'll be part of the Hill Martian spear/ halberd pack.

     My apologies for the blurry photos. I had five minutes to snap them before I was out the door and on my way to deliver them and didn't get to review them. Anyway... here are two females for the same pack.

     This is the fifth pose for the spear pack.

     This is the first of the command pack. He'll have buddies added a little later, but right now I just needed one to have ready for my game at Fall In.

     The troop packs will contain 10 figures; 2 each of 5 poses. The spears should be available for sale at Fall In or shortly before that. The command packs will contain 4 individual poses to mix and match with the troop packs to build units.

     Other news for the Space: 1889 line: I picked up the first 2 sets of adventurers, gashant herd, dead gashant and steppe tigers from Old Glory. I'll have them posted on the business website for sale within a day or two. Painted photos will follow as I have time to do the displays.

     More news tomorrow.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Billy Pink and the Hill Martians

     It's been far too long since the last post. I've been in and out of town for a couple of weeks, working on the house before the weather gets too crappy and playing catch up with a few commissions. But... I've also been working on a few new items for Fall In. At least I hope they can be molded and cast for Fall In. Fingers crossed, people.

     Anyway... First up we have a new 15mm 5150 personality, Billy Pink. He's the protagonist in many of Ed's battle reports. I kept him fairly low-key. He's reaching into his coat for... fill in your favorite item du jour.

     The Space: 1889 lines continue with the first of the Hill Martians. I'm sculpting spears, swords, bows and muskets in groups of five. I hope to be able to use the spears for the game at Fall In. I'm also working on a set of cavalry with spears. I'll post more pictures early next week.

     Work continues on the 5150 Zhuh Zhuhs. The big guy is finished. The other three mercs have been put on hold while I cram some Space: 1889 stuff in.

     In other news. I'm still waiting for the last batch of figures to be molded and cast. They've been in the queue for four weeks now. I should have then ready for sale at Fall In. The new products will include: Space Bug heavy weapons, Carolee in her QWIK uniform, Space: 1889 steppe tigers, gashant herd, American adventurers, Wilderness adventurers and dead gashants.

     The British troops for Space: 1889 are tabled until I get the weapon sprues back. I should be back to work on them around the middle of October. The London adventurers are back burnered while I push some Hill Martians. I have an interesting discussion with Ken Krout planned for the show as well. he's the guy that does the injection molded tanks and buildings in 15mm. I need to see what the physical limitations are and if it is a viable method for producing the airships. Again... fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

We were goblins once, and young

     I have permission to share a few pics of some new goblins I'm working on for The Goblin Factory. Here are the first 7 of 20.

     The 6 in this photo are goblin ashigaru with yari plus the standard and samurai commander. I have to sculpt the crests for his helmet yet, but these will be interchangeable.

     While I was working I decided that oriental goblins needed to include ninja. Here's the first. I have the go ahead to make some more for this part of the project.

     These are sculpted to fit with most 28mm ranges. The commander is the tallest, standing at 24mm sole to the top of the helmet. I'll be working on 2 more spears for the first set to be released in the fall. There will also be sword, bow, arquebus and naginata sets shortly after that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Headless Soccer Team

     I had the pleasure of doing more soccer players for a client this last month. These are still a nice stretch for my skills and I'm learning new things each time I work on one.

     I don't have to exaggerate the muscle masses so they take a more delicate hand than usual.

     The poses are mostly from photos of players in motion. The goalie pose was described to me and adapted from another figure.

     The sockets were all made from the same head. When I do the other heads the bottom of the necks will all be fitted to the original pose. Things should fit together well for end user assembly.

     It's been fun working from real people instead of drawings and sketches. I wouldn't want to (and couldn't) do it all of the time, but it has allowed me to get back to my roots in fine art for a bit.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Custer Buster Part 2

     I wanted to get a few shots before any of the detailing was done. So here are the photos of the final underpinnings.

     The arm, head and chest are bulked up and the approximate locations of the the cuff, hairline and neck muscles are sketched in.

     This piece is made to be viewed from the front and doesn't hold a lot of visual interest from the sides. However in this view you can better see the angle of the head and inclination of the chest.

     The back isn't as interesting as the front, but there is still some interesting positive/ negative space stuff going on.

     After sitting with this for a couple of days. I can see the bust mounted on a longer irregular piece of driftwood, a branch or an old fence post. I like the look of the square plinth in the sketches, but the stretched, irregular base may work better with the bust. The beauty of having these cast is that I can experiment with several options and keep all of the ones I like.

     Now on to the final detailing. I've not uses Apoxie Sculpt before so this will be a good learning experience. I'm three hours into the project at this point. I'm estimating I have a good thirty to forty to go.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Custer Buster Part I

     For several years I've wanted to get back into making larger sculptures for art and display purposes. Don't get me wrong, I love creating miniatures for gaming. It's a 13 year old D&D player's dream come true. But I also just like to create larger works for the joy of it. I've played with wood, stone, clay and mixed media in the past. Now I'd like to take the skills I've been practicing in my miniatures sculpture and use them to create larger works for shows and galleries.

     In the library of my home town there was a bronze by Carl Kauba titled How - Kola. I would spend a lot of time just walking around this piece and viewing it from all angles.

     There was also a local jewler who had a couple of shelves of similar works; some in bronze, some in German porcelain. The subjects were not just western. They also included a lot of fantasy pieces. I fell in love with them all.

     The other day I was doodling while I was watching TV. I was thinking about larger sculpture, bronze casting and a particular piece of cover art from the Custer Reader that I like. The prospect of a full figure is daunting so I started thinking about busts. That would allow me to sculpt in a larger scale while keeping the overall size of the piece within reasonable bounds.

     A simple sketch with notes regarding the composition and basing was the result. I decided on 1/6 scale; large enough to show good detail and be seen from a distance, but also small enough that it wouldn't take forever to complete. I broke from the traditional bust because I wanted the arm extended. The mass of the left shoulder and the upward sweep on that side should balance the composition.

     About 3:00 AM I found myself wide awake, mind going in circles about the project. I raced upstairs to my computer and started manipulating the cover art image to use it as a scale card behind the figure as I worked. I printed it, made a few notes and went to the third floor to start gathering materials.

     3:30 AM found me in the basement drilling holes in some wood for a temporary base and gathering wire, aluminum foil and Sculpy modelling clay to start work. The armature was built from some 14 gauge steel wire that I had been using to make mail. I wrapped some aluminum wire around that to give some grip. The foil that bulked up the chest, head and arm was held in place by more wire. By 4:30 AM I was ready to add the first of the clay.

     The oven preheated while I was smoothing clay over the armature. It was ready to bake about 5:00 AM. I was finished for the night and finally able to sleep at 5:30. Not a bad couple of hours of work.

     I'll add another layer of Sculpy to finish bulking out the piece and use Apoxie Sculpt for the final detail work. I'll post updates as I go so you can watch the work progress.

     I'm considering several options for having this cast. Ultimately, bronze would be the coolest. But I'll explore ceramic and porcelain as well and even cold cast bronze (resin). If I work it right I can do all of the above to allow several style and price options for the end consumer. I have several leads to explore, but if any of you have specific information that would help, please don't hesitate to speak up.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

5150 Monkey Boys - 15mm Zhuh Zhuh Mercs WIP

     Ed at Two Hour Wargames has been shooting me ideas for figures to populate New Hope City. The Zhuh Zhuh list alone is a bout as long as my arm. I put the project to simmer on my brain's back burner for a while. Here's what's cooking so far.

     I decided to make 5 figure packs of residents of New Hope City. The first denizens will be the Zhuh Zhuhs since there aren't a lot of stand-ins available on the market. And they have a certain appeal to me for sculpting. The first pack will be Mercs.

     This pack will include 1 merc leader, 2 mercs w/ assault rifle/ SMG, 1 w/ shotgun and 1 heavy water cannon/ energy weapon.

     This one still needs some work, but you can see where I'm going with it. I plan to have these available at the end of September.

     In other news loosely related to 5150, I've wrapped up the Carolee Drive figure for QWIK: Game of the Wastelands.

     Ed and I discussed making her a Qwik, but it was decided to put her in the Drive position. So she has a stick, fairly heavy armor and a helmet. The overall look was inspired by the Lingerie Football League. I was researching football pads and these images of yummy women kept popping up.

     Here are the stats for QWIK: SAV: 7, STR: 5, SPD: 7, PRO: HA, Signature: Agile, Brawler

    She'll be put into production with the next round of molds. So I hope to have her available for sale by the middle of September.