DBA Army I/51: Neo-Assyrian Later Sargonid

In preparation for the Assyrian campaign event at Fall-In 2012, JM and I ordered Neo-Assyrian Later Sargonid armies from Magister Militum.  JM planned to paint his for the campaign event, and I’d paint mine so we could build a BBDBA army out of them.  Yeah, that was a year ago.

DBA army I/51: Neo-Assyrian Later Sargonid; Magister Militum figures
Assyrian Chariots; Magister Militum miniatures.

As with many plans, this one failed to survive contact with the enemy.  JM didn’t go to Fall-In, and I didn’t have an occasion to paint the Assyrians for BBDBA until this year.  I planned to go to Fall-In 2013 with Mike Kaizar (there’s that “plan” thing again), and wanted to play Assyrians in Big Battles. I got as far as painting this army in September before Mike cancelled, and I found another Big Battle partner who already has Assyrians painted.

Assyrian Spearmen; Magister Militum miniatures.

I didn’t do much research for color selections with this army.  Essentially, I had a vague memory of seeing Assyrians in light blue-grey and red, and did that.  The army painted up fairly quickly due to the few number of colors used, and I’m happy with the way they turned out.

Biblical armies are my “dump stat,” so I don’t usually spend much time on them despite tending to enjoy the fast pace of Biblical battles. Luckily it’s often fairly easy to get a good look for them since they typically have simple clothing.

Assyrian Spearmen; Magister Militum miniatures.

I like the Magister Militum figures. I believe these were originally Chariot miniatures before Magister Militum purchased the line.  They’re sculpted well, and have a “toy soldier” feel, with very limited and static poses.  The overall effect is good, though it has a bit of a “retro” feel compared to more modern figures.

The figures they provided for the Horde elements are interesting. They sent an even mix of archers and lightly armed spearmen. I decided to base them up similarly to Pavisers, since it doesn’t make much sense to put the spearmen behind the bows.

Assyrian Auxilia; Magister Militum miniatures.

Assyrian Cavalry; Magister Militum miniatures.

Assyrian Psiloi and Horde; Magister Militum miniature.

HoTT Army: Professor Hans’ Metal Minions

Here is my latest Hordes of the Things army: Professor Hans’ Metal Minions.  I just made that up.  I finished this army before Cold Wars, but didn’t get a chance to post about it yet.

Professor Hans’ Metal Minions
Professor Hans and his Avatar: Magician General.

Professor Hans was afflicted with Polio at a young age.  For years he studied Science, Technology, and the dark arts of Alchemy to try to find a solution to his frustrated confinement. After receiving a small mechanical assistant robot from his uncle, he began experimenting with building ever more complex mechanical bodies.

Eventually he invented a mind-machine interface that allowed him to give his creations the autonomy they deserved. This army is the result of years of experimentation with transplanting insect and animal brains into mechanical bodies.

His work must continue until he feels he can successfully transplant his own brain into a suitable host body.  In the mean time, his army gives him the tools he needs to find human subjects for further experimentation.

Professor Hans’ Brass Spiders: 4x Beast

This army is built primarily out of Mage Knight figures, but there are a few from other prepainted sets: Dungeons and Dragons and Dreamblade.  I repainted, touched up, and/or converted all of the figures in one way or another.

Professor Hans is a figure called “Gent” from the Dreamblade series of prepainted miniatures.  I repainted him with a brass colored integrated wheelchair.  In his hand he holds the Aetheric Impulse Controller for his Avatar, who can shoot its Aetheric Wave Gun at enemies that Hans has a particularly strong interest in.  Hans’ Avatar is a repainted Mage Knight figure.

Professor Hans’ Camel Backs: 2x Shooter

His brass spiders are early creations that use a spider’s brain to control their steam powered bodies.  They are Mage Knight figures that originally had riders.  I removed the riders, filled in the seats, added smoke stacks, and repainted them all.  These are Beast elements.

The Camel Backs are an early success with Hans’ use of the mammalian brain.  They carry steam boilers on their back and shoot cannons instead of spitting. These are Mage Knight figures repainted silver with brass highlights.  They are Shooter elements.

Professor Hans’ Turtle Men: 4x Blades

The Turtle Men use brass bodies controlled with the brain of a snapping turtle.  They are mixed Mage Knight figures, also repainted in a better brass color with matching color highlights.  They’re Blade elements.

Papa Bear is a giant steel mech controlled with the brain of a bear.  It’s a Dungeons and Dragons prepainted figure. Most of the paint is original, but I changed the highlights from copper colored to brass so they’d match the rest of the army.  This is a Behemoth element.

The Dragonfly combines Hans’ insect brain interface with a flying mech that uses his newer, smaller power sources.  It’s a flyer. This is also a Mage Knight figure that had a seat and a rider. I filled it in and repainted portions of the figure.

Now all I need is a stronghold!

Professor Hans’ Papa Bear: 1x Behemoth

Professor Hans’ Dragonfly: 1x Flyer

Cold Wars 2013

JM decided not to go to Cold Wars this year, but luckily Mike Kaizar did.  It’s always more fun to go to a convention with a friend, even when there are more friends waiting for you when you get there. He drove from Columbus to Pittsburgh, and we left late enough that we got to Lancaster at 8 or 9pm.

BBDBA Doubles

First thing on Friday Morning, as usual, was BBDBA Doubles. This was the first time Mike and I have partnered for BBDBA, and it went quite well overall.  I hope Mike keeps coming out to more conventions in the future; I’d happily partner with him again.

This was the first BBDBA event I’ve played in that had a historical theme: Medieval Europe. We took my recently finished Early Hungarian army. I filled out the third army by building a morph army out of my Germans, Early Russians, and other random figures. Many of the figures were identical except for the paint job, so they matched well.

I’ve wanted this army for a long time, and was very interested to try it in BBDBA.  For the Ax/Bw option, I would ordinarily have chosen all Auxilia.  However, since this was BBDBA with a Medieval Europe theme, I expected to see relatively little bad going (except when playing against The Davids), and a substantial number of bows in our enemies’ armies.  I decided to take 3x3Ax, 3x3Bw.  In retrospect, I’m not sure if that was the best choice or not.  3 bows wasn’t as many as bow-heavy armies had, so it may have been better to take all bows or all auxilia.

Early Hungarians vs. Two Davids playing Feudal English with Welsh ally.

In the first round, we faced Two Davids: David Kuijt and David Schlanger.  They were playing Feudal English with a Welsh ally. We ended up as the attackers, and as I expected, we saw a good amount of terrain.

In this game, our command structure used three combined arms commands, with elements shifted around to get good break points and PIP management.

  • High PIP, 13 el, BP 5: 2xKn(Gen), 2xCv, 5xLH, 3xSp, 1xPs.
  • Mid PIP, 13 el, BP 5: 2xKn(CinC), 1xCv, 3xLH, 3xSp, 3xAx, 1xPs.
  • Low PIP, 10 el, BP 4: 2xKn(Gen), 1xLH, 3xSp,  3xBw, 1xPs.

The Davids had one large English command and one tiny one: their C-in-C had 3xKn, 1xCv, and 4xHd, which they taped in place around their camp.  This meant that they could attack with their C-in-C command’s mounted, and they’d have to lose 3/4 of its elements in order to break.  It made it easy for them to combine two or 3 commands against one of ours, and its small size made it hard to reach and even harder to gang up on.

Our commands worked quite well, but unfortunately our attack didn’t succeed quickly enough to win. It ended up fairly close: we lost 25-75. It was a good matchup and a fun game; a great way to start the convention.

Early Hungarians vs. Comedy and Tragedy playing Low Countries.

In the second game, we faced Comedy and Tragedy: Spencer and Christina Ginder.  They were playing Low Countries: a pike army (with knights).  Their forces were less mobile than ours, so they had terrain on the board again.  That was satisfying, but also made me question whether this army composition for Hungarians actually wants very much terrain.

In deciding what command structure to use here, I considered how Spencer might use his pikes.  Many players combine their pikes into a single huge block, give it the low PIP die, and sit it on defense.  Some build a single large pike block but spread it across two commands so they can attack with it. Others maintain several separate combined arms commands.

Large blocks of pike are hard to break but easy to avoid, and they’re easier to use effectively.  Combined arms is more flexible, but more difficult to use and easier to break by killing things other than the pike.  We decided to build a very mobile force that would be able to quickly and easily outflank a large block of pike, if they brought one to the field.  Our main force would follow up to pin their line in place, preventing them from effectively turning to face our flank attack.  Our approximate command breakdown:

  • High PIP, 10 el, BP 4: 3xCv (Gen), 7xLH.
  • Medium PIP, 16 el, BP 6: 4xKn (CinC), 1xLH, 6xSp, 2xPs, 3xAx.
  • Low PIP, 10 el, BP 4: 3xSp (Gen), 3xBw, 1xPs, 2xKn, 1xLH.

It turned out the Ginders decided to use multiple combined arms commands, but we maintained our plan: a fast flank attack where we intended to win, and a slower frontal press where we hoped not to lose.  They deployed with a gap in their line for flexibility, but unfortunately couldn’t use their third command to both fill the gap and protect their flank effectively.  This stretched their command radius to its maximum.  Their combined arms commands had pike and knights interleaved, making it difficult to get optimal local matchups.

Our left flank attack arrived quickly, but took a long time to become effective.  We tied up a larger number of the enemy’s troops with my smaller mobile command, but unfortunately our high PIP die was committed to that use alone. In the mean time, we started winning more quickly elsewhere.  In the end, the battle didn’t go as we had planned, but we did win 92-8, so I have no complaints.

The lesson we learned here is that you really don’t need a very large flanking force to be effective, if you can truly get around the enemy’s flank; but you do need a lot of time if you’re using resilient weak forces (LH) versus a stronger enemy who can’t kill you (Pk).   The terrain made it difficult to support our flank attack effectively, since we didn’t have any bad going troops in the attacking command.

Early Hungarians vs. Doug Austin’s Condotta with Swiss ally.

The third game was the first time we rolled low enough to defend and place terrain.  Early Hungarians are Steppe, not arable, so we placed a bunch of small bits of rough and a few hills.

Our command split was the same as in the first game. We placed our Mid and Low PIP commands first, with a gap between them so we could wheel them both to the right or left depending on our needs.  Unfortunately, our terrain was offset to the left a bit farther than we’d prefer, leaving little space to deploy our third command on that side.  This made our third deployment possibly a bit too obvious.

Doug deployed to overlap our line on both ends, as expected; and we deployed our third command on our right flank, also as expected.  This left us with a lot of room to outflank him on our right, but he overlapped us on our left.

Doug quickly second-guessed his deployment, and decided he needed more troops on his left (our right) flank.  He started spending PIPs to redeploy knights from his right to his left behind his line, as he advanced slowly and we tried to press on as quickly as possible.

We had the early game advantage due to the PIPs he was spending on redeployment and having his troops out of command. I broke his command on our right flank, but unfortunately I was too aggressive with my CinC command, and ended up suffering losses where I should have just been holding the line and waiting for my right flank to keep winning.  We started losing elements on our left flank, and eventually lost enough elements in our CinC for it to break.  It was a good game, but we lost 16-84.

My first goal for BBDBA was to win a game, and I accomplished that with JM several conventions ago.  After that game, my second goal was to finish with at least 100 points.  We achieved that in this tournament, after a strong win and two losses that actually gave us points.  BBDBA Doubles is one of the highlights of every convention, now that I’m competent enough to feel like I have a chance of succeeding in most of the games.

Quad Themes

Friday night was Roland Fricke’s Quad Themes event.  There were 4 rounds, each played with a different army from a different historical theme.  At this point I was fairly fried, so I’ll just give a rundown of the results.
In round 1, I played Early Egyptians (I/2a) and beat Mark Pozniak’s Nubians, 6-5.  Next, I played Later Achaemenid Persians, and beat Dick Pagano’s Macedonian Successors 4-1. In the third round, Rich “Diceman” Baier’s Later Imperial Romans (East) beat my Ancient Brits 4-2.  I got to play Mike Kaizar in the last round, but it was a poor matchup for him: my knight-heavy Feudal Spanish faced his blade and raider Vikings. He won anyway, with a 1g-0 victory in one of the first rounds of combat.

Alexander the Great Theme

On Saturday morning, we were forced to get up way too early, for Mark Pozniak’s 8am event: an Alexander the Great theme.  I brought Later Achaemenid Persians, and lost all my games.  I didn’t write down my opponents’ armies, unfortunately.  Mike Guth beat me 2C-0.  Bill Fisher beat me 4-2.  Kristy Faux beat me 4-3.

Unification War: Rise of the Son of Heaven

On Saturday afternoon, I ran a Pyramid format event with a Warring States Chinese theme.  We used Limited Attrition rules as described on the Buttocks of Death Wiki.  

Warring States Pyramid, final round of 4-on-4.

We had two new, young DBA players: Otto, Dave Schlanger’s son, and his friend BJ.  They had a lot of fun, and I expect to see them playing DBA at more events in the future.

The Commanders in Chief in the final round were Otto leading his Chu empire against David Kuijt’s Qin empire.

These 4-on-4 games usually end up being more like several 1-on-1 games next to each other, rather than having as much interaction between commands as you have in BBDBA, but they are still quite fun; and that’s the real point in the end anyway.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the Pyramid format, and the limited attrition rules worked very well, as they did at last year’s Cold Wars.  I think I prefer running Pyramid events rather than Matched Pairs.  I like having fixed signups and a tighter historical theme, and it’s easier to handle the matchups when the pyramid is constructed before the event starts.

Two Davids Campaign: Recovering Byzantium

The real reason I had to paint Early Hungarians before this convention was the Two Davids campaign event: Recovering Byzantium.  The campaign was centered around Byzantine states in 1230AD, and Hungary was on the outskirts.
In the first round, John Manning attacked me with his Byzantine army, and I lost 3-4.  Not a great start, but that’s okay.  In the second round, Jack Sheriff’s Syrians attacked me and I beat them.  Next, I attacked Mark Burton and failed to capture a vassal.  
In the final round, I had a high number, and I was surprised to be allowed to attack someone again.  When my number came up there were 4 of us left. I attacked Dave Schlanger, and beat him; acquiring a vassal.
After the fourth round there was a bit of an incident… I won’t go over the details, but you’ll never fail to  remember it if you were there. It pretty much put an end to peoples’ enthusiasm for a fifth round.
I still enjoy the campaign events.  I think overall, I enjoy events with a very strict army list best, because they provide me with the most motivation to paint more interesting armies.

Hordes of the Things Open

Hordes of the Things: Fire vs. Ice played by BJ.
On Sunday morning, Mike met his parents for breakfast and I played Hordes of the Things.  I brought my Die in a Fire army.
For this event, my composition was: Mg (gen), Beh, Drg, 3xBd, 2xFly, 2xLrk.

In the first round, I faced BJ’s Ice elemental army.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to use the pretty elemental terrain board.  I lost 8-12g.

Next I faced Otto’s Slaad demon army: basically giant lizard demons. I beat him 6g-2.

Hordes of the Things: Fire vs. Rick Wynn’s Wild Hunt of Faerie.

In the final round, my fire elementals faced Rick Wynn’s Wild Hunt of Faerie (Oberon, Titania Elves) army. Rick’s army was beautiful, built mostly out of Games Workshop plastics.  He did a wonderful job of building an exactly 24 point army with a very specific theme.

After a bit of posturing, our magicians made it into range of each other.  I decided to try to ensorcel his general with mine on the first turn I had a chance, because he had two magicians and could get a better shot against me if I waited.  This turned out to be a tied roll, the only result that didn’t end up with one of us losing instantly.

In the next round Oberon returned the favor, with Titania’s help, instead of ensorcelling with Titania and having Oberon help.  Despite his better combat factors, I rolled high enough to beat him and pull the instant win: 4g-0.

This was the first time I had used a Dragon in HOTT.  I have mixed opinions about it at this point; it’s powerful and looks cool, but it’s also easy to lose and you don’t get any overlap support from friendly elements.  I think the key might be to use it with fliers who can provide flank and rear support more easily.

It turns out that after my two wins and favorable loss, I ended up tied for first place with BJ.  Since he beat me, he won the event overall.  Congratulations, and I hope to see you back for more games!

It was another great convention, and I’m glad I went. I won’t be making it to Historicon, but I look forward to more great conventions in the future.

DBA Army III/67b: Early Hungarian

Soon after I started playing DBA again in about 2009, I decided that I wanted an Early Hungarian (III/67b) army.  It’s been a long journey since then, but finally my quest is complete!  I finished a double army just before Cold Wars.

Double DBA army III/67b; mixed manufacturers.
Early Hungarian knights by Essex and Black Hat (Gladiator).

I was attracted to this army for several reasons.  I am 1/4 Hungarian, and identify most closely with that part of my heritage. The composition of the army itself seems almost perfect for my tastes: 2x3Kn, 1x3Cv, 3x2LH, 3xSp, 2x3Ax or 3Bw, 1x2Ps. It’s one of the few Medieval combined arms armies I’ve seen with more than one Auxilia.  It also fits well with other armies I have from the same period: German, Leidang, Polish, Russian, and Mongol Conquest… even though I bought most of those armies only because they were good enemies of the Hungarians I didn’t have yet.

Cuman and Hungarian Light Horse by Black Hat (Gladiator)

My first attempt at building this army was purchasing a “not for the squeamish general” army pack from another gamer on the Fanaticus forums.  It had the proper composition, but as I should have expected, I didn’t like the figure selection very much. It was mixed manufacturers, but chosen based on whatever he had lying around and not based on what he thought the army should look like.  After not painting it for quite some time, I donated it to Mike Kaizar, who is still working on it.

Hungarian spearmen by Black Hat (Gladiator).

My second attempt came when Wargames Minis had a clearance sale on their Essex Miniatures packs. After long research discovered no good solution for Early Hungarians, I settled on buying a bunch of Essex later Hungarian figures that might work. They were so cheap, I bought two armies worth! But when it came time to actually paint them… I hated them. Closer inspection showed me that they were far too late for any part of the Early Hungarian list.

Early Hungarian bowmen by Black Hat (Gladiator)

By this time it was late 2012, and I needed this army for Cold Wars 2013.  After talking to David Kuijt, I settled on the figures shown here.  The General stands and a few of the other knights are Essex figures from my previous order.  The remaining knights, light horse, spears, bows, auxilia and psiloi are all Black Hat figures from their Gladiator range.  The Cavalry are a mix of Essex figures, Black Hat, and a few whose manufacturer I do not know but I happened to have on hand.

Early Hungarian cavalry by Black Hat, Essex, and others (unknown).

The Black Hat figures are not specifically sold as Hungarians, other than the knights with round helms. Many of them are from their general Feudal range, and some are from slightly inappropriate areas, but look good enough that I wanted to paint more of them.

Early Hungarian Psiloi by Black Hat (Gladiator).

I knew the primary heraldry I wanted to use was red and white, but I didn’t want another red and white army since it’s the most common color combination I have.  David told me that repeated heraldry wouldn’t be common in this period, but I am also not a fan of a widely varied, garish palette.  I decided to use a lot more yellow and yellow browns, and rounded out the palette with green. It’s definitely not red and white army I feared it would be.

Hungarian Auxilia by Black Hat (Gladiator).

I’m not sure if I prefer the green and the brighter reds I used here, but otherwise I’m quite happy with the color scheme. For the white on the shields, I used an “extremely off-white.”  It’s closer to beige than white, but in contrast with the surrounding colors it’s bright enough, and doesn’t add too much contrast. Looking at the shields, I’m reminded of Hoplite shield patterns more than garish Medieval heraldry.

I’m very happy with the way this army turned out.  After playing it in BBDBA and the campaign at Cold Wars, I also enjoy the way the army plays.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with all those Later Hungarian figures, since that army has so few spears compared to this one.

Battle at the Crossroads 2013

Apparently I’m about a month behind on posting event reports.

This year’s Battle at the Crossroads was on February 22nd. There were only 6 players for DBA, so instead of running a pyramid event, we ran a normal 3-round tournament, and ended with a 3-on-3 game “for fun” with the top two players as C-in-C of each side.  The games were played with DBA using the 2.2+ extensions, and I had a new set of MU sticks made for the occasion.

3-on-3 Battle at the Crossroads; John Loy and Larry Chaban.

I won my first two games, against Daryl and then John Loy.  In the last round of standard play, Larry finally broke his 2-year losing streak against me, and beat me.  I’m officially no longer his nemesis.  Sooner or later he’s going to have to find JM and beat him, since apparently Larry has never beaten him…

For the final 3-on-3 game, Larry and I were commanders-in-chief. My allies were the two players Larry beat: Mike Kaizar and Bob.  Larry commanded John Loy and Daryl.

Everything was going well overall, but then Mike’s command broke on our right flank.  Soon after that, Daryl’s command broke opposite Mike.  Unfortunately, Bob broke before we could break the enemy, and it was all downhill from there.

The army selection was fun this year, with a biblical theme.  The games were over quickly due to the low combat factors, which allowed us to fit in 3 single games and the triple game, and still get home at a reasonable hour.

This was a good event, but we need more players!  What happened to the days of bringing 4 or more players from Pittsburgh?

BRE Datsun 510

ABC Hobby BRE Datsun 510 #46 body on Tamiya M-05 chassis.

After smashing up the Honda S800 body too much, I got a replacement.  This is an ABC Hobby BRE Datsun 510, #46.  This one is closer to a 1/12 scale body, compared to the S800 and Mini bodies, which are 1/10 scale versions of smaller cars.

Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) set up some Datsun 510’s for racing, and entered them in the 1971 and 1972 Trans-Am “2.5 Challenge” for smaller engined cars.  Datsun destroyed the competition both years (though Alfa tried to cheat to avoid their fate in 1971), and the series was shut down when the European manufacturers picked up their toys and went home crying.

The body shown here also comes with bumpers and better headlights, but I decided not to use any of them since I expected to beat it up racing anyway.  Unfortunately I must have scored the body when trimming the paint mask, because it almost immediately split right up the left front corner between the red and white areas.

Fitting the body over the wheels was a bit challenging, and required some creative trimming around the wheel wells to keep it from rubbing around corners.  Unfortunately the M-05 battery compartment pushes the battery wires into this body, which flexes it on whichever side the battery protrudes from.  It’s a tight fit, but it works.

Malifaux: Terrain

We finally made time to play another game of Malifaux.  Frank, Andy, JM, and I played two games side-by-side on a 4×6′ board set up with terrain set up for two adjacent 3×3′ boards.  This was a good showcase for my Malifaux terrain, so I took some pictures.

A Ronin attacked by mechanical spiders in the woods

Frank played his Viktoria crew against my arachnid-heavy Ramos crew.  Andy’s Colette box set tried to fend off JM’s Freikorps.  Frank crushed me utterly in 4 turns, while JM destroyed Andy’s dancers in 6 turns.

After trying and failing to enjoy the Terraclips terrain, we’ve fallen back to using area terrain pieces on a Terrainguy map.

The terrain here is an amalgam of pieces from a variety of sources that I’ve collected over the last decade or so.

Malifaux terrain: city and outskirts

Some of the buildings are Mordheim terrain from the box set. Others are completely scratch built and hand painted by Frank.  Some are made from inkjet printed walls glued to foam core. The hobo village around the swamp is plastic O scale railroad terrain.

The grave stones and piles of skulls are from Michael’s craft store during Halloween season.  The graveyard was scratch built by Frank.  There are railroad trees, cast resin stumps, and strips of cloth for roads.  The barrels were store bought pre-painted terrain.

Colette versus the Freikorps in the streets of Malifaux

I scratch built the swamps and rough ground area for dual use with DBA and Malifaux.  They’re made of thin plastic with rocky sand glued on, followed by paint and flock.  The water areas are done with glossy varnish slopped on over the paint.

Frank scratch built the board fences for Warhammer Fantasy, and I built the stone walls using Hirst Arts plaster molds.

Overall, I like the way this terrain looks, works, and stores better than Terraclips.  I could see adding a few standalone Terraclip buildings to this kind of game board, but I don’t think I’ll be trying to lay out an entire board of Terraclips terrain again any time soon.

Playing Malifaux reminded us all how much we enjoy the game, and we plan to play again soon.  Unfortunately the game seems to be changing faster than we can keep up with, since we don’t play regularly.  Luckily it’s still enjoyable with older models.

Sakura S Zero

Sakura Zero S chassis with HPI Honda NSX GT body

In anticipation of On-Road racing at PT Raceway, I decided to get a second on road car so I could race in two classes instead of just one.  I chose the Sakura Zero S chassis from 3Racing because it looks very good for its price, it’s a kit, there are many replacement and hop-up parts available, and it gets good reviews.

The Sakura Zero S is an entry level version of the Sakura Zero chassis. The main differences are that the S version has plastic parts instead of aluminum; fiberglass instead of carbon fiber; gear diffs instead of ball diffs; and it costs about 1/3 as much.  It’s a 4 wheel drive touring car chassis with a twin horizontal plate design.

This was a very fun kit to put together.  Its plate chassis is very different than the other kits I’ve built recently: the Tamiya M05 and HPI Savage XS.  Unfortunately, the Sakura also suffered from Crappy Screw Syndrome, just like… well, apparently this is just like every RC kit everywhere.  This time, instead of starting out driving the 3mm screws straight in with a 2mm driver, I threaded every hold with a screw that had a larger 2.5mm head.  This destroyed my hands, but I stripped fewer screw heads (unfortunately more than zero). As much as I didn’t like the phillips head screws in the Tamiya kit… at least the heads didn’t strip easily.

Sakura Zero S chassis with HPI Honda NSX GT body

The chassis has very adjustable suspension geometry, but the stock dampers don’t allow unlimited adjustment of ride height. I doubt this will be a problem in the short term. It doesn’t look as durable as the M05, but it’s also not a giant block of plastic.  I think at the speeds I’ll be running at the track, it won’t matter.

Other than the screw heads, there are a few problems with the kit.  The first and most universally well known problem with the Zero S chassis is that the stock motor mount is inconvenient, because you can only access one of the motor screws by sticking your tool through a hole in your spur gear.  This is inconvenient with some pinion sizes, and impossible with smaller spurs.  There’s a vertical motor mount part available, but this requires you to also use a new top plate and flip your differentials to swap the side each belt runs on… and that causes your belt to run into your battery on the other side. This kit is not ideal if you’re planning on changing pinions often… but it’s still a lot better than changing pinions on the HPI Savage XS.

The other minor problem I have is that the turnbuckles seem to have undersized flats, making them difficult to turn without slipping.

For a body, I was in a hurry and couldn’t find anything I fell in love with, for sale at the same place as the chassis.  So, I settled for “acceptable and inexpensive” instead. This is an HPI Racing Honda NSX GT.  It retains a bit of the car’s distinct look, especially the air scoop on the rear roof.  Hopefully I won’t have any problem with traction roll, because I don’t think the scoop will last long if the car is upside down.

The body fits the chassis perfectly.  Figuring out where to drill the body mounting holes is a pain, though. You can’t drop the body onto the car and mark them until the posts are cut to approximately the right height, but you can’t cut the posts until the body is on the car to see where it sits.  I ended up measuring the body posts in relation to the center of the wheels, and transferring their locations onto the body using the center of the wheel cutouts as a reference point.  It worked, but it felt like there should be an easier way.

Since I’m going to race this instead of admire it on a shelf, I used the external headlight stickers instead of the internal light cans.  I think it’d look a lot better with the light cans… until I hit a wall and crack the body, in which case I’d rather have more room to repair it inside instead.

For electronics, I used what I had on hand: a 27T brushed motor and ESC I replaced in the RC10, and a Hobbyking Orange Rx Spektrum receiver.  I’ll start out with this slower setup, and once I like how I’m handling it (or once I burn out the motor) I’ll probably upgrade to 17.5T brushless. So far I don’t see hugely different times at the track between the three other cars I drive there (Tamiya M05 with stock 27T brushed; XXX-SCB with 17.5T brushless; RC10 with 17.5T brushless), so I expect the current limitation is my own driving skill more than the technology.

Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the first on-road race day on December 1, and I won’t be able to make it on the 15th either. Maybe they’ll run on-road on the 22nd, but if not I can make it on the 29th.

XXX-SCB: New Body

Losi XXX-SCB with body painted by Alan Ferrency

After a summer of bashing the XXX-SCB in the yard, and then rolling it over trying to tune it for racing at the track, the original ready-to-run body was cracked at the front shock corner, and generally really beat up.  I ordered a new transparent body to paint up myself, and here’s the result.

I don’t like modern, garish complicated paint jobs very much, so I went for a cleaner, simpler look.  The general contours of the colors was lifted from a real Lucas Oil Offroad Series pro buggy, but I used yellow instead of white.  I got the numbers printed at the same time I made decals for the RC10, but the rest of the stickers are for manufacturers whose parts are on the car.  I’m not a huge fan of the “rolling billboard” livery look, so I didn’t cover every possible surface with advertising, but I think the limited use of stickers add to the scale look.

At this point I have the car handling really well on the carpet track, I just need to get out on race day and see if I can manage to not crash for 5 minutes in a row.

Games with Ezra, Part 1

Ezra, about to start a game of Hordes of the Things.

My son Ezra is now 5 years old, and he has enjoyed playing games of all sorts for as long as he’s been able to play.  Here are some of the games we have enjoyed playing together so far.

He has a great capacity for learning game mechanics, and a long enough attention span to finish a game that he’s truly interested in.  Most of the time he’s able to handle loss well enough to want to play again. The biggest challenge I’ve had in finding good games to play has been that he’s only just starting to learn to read.

For now I’m limiting this list to games that adults can play with kids, and those that are surprisingly appropriate for children (or at least for Ezra) instead of the ones everyone knows work well with kids.  This isn’t a game review, and I won’t be teaching how to play the games; but I will mention any changes we made to make the games more playable.

Cartagena

One of the first “real” games we played together was Cartagena.  When we first started playing, I removed the “move backwards to draw cards” mechanic and turned it into a “play one, draw one” game.  This helped him learn the mechanics and the strategy of skipping over full spots to move forward more quickly.  In the last year or so, we’ve started playing with the full rules instead, but we don’t play as often as we did.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is fairly commonly known to be good with kids, except for the farmer scoring mechanic.  The Hunters and Gatherers version can work a bit better, because scoring hunters is a bit easier, but I find it to be a bit more bland, and young kids still have a hard time thinking ahead far enough to know whether to place a hunter or not.

Castle Panic

And our third entry in “Games that start with CA” is by far Ezra’s favorite and most played game.  At its height we were playing for hours on end, and I’d get sick of it before he did, but at this point he rarely maintains interest long enough to finish a session anymore.
Castle Panic is especially good with young kids, because it is a cooperative game.  You play with open hands, make plans together, and accomplish goals with each others’ help. We both prefer playing this one with the Wizard’s Tower expansion.  Although there are cards with words, they all have unique pictures, and when we were playing this game regularly, Ezra could recognize and summarize every card in the base set even though he wasn’t really reading any of them.  The most challenging aspect of this game, for grown-ups and kids alike, is to make plans for your whole turn before you start trading in your cards.

HeroQuest

Marla found a copy of HeroQuest at a yard sale for around $3, and it was a great investment.  I’ve finished more dungeons with Ezra than I have with adults. We played this one semi-cooperatively: I played the dungeon master and controlled the two spellcasting characters under Ezra’s guidance as the party leader.  He controlled the barbarian and dwarf: Kick in the door, and kill whatever’s on the other side of it!  When there were decisions to be made involving traps and searching, I had Ezra make the decisions since he wasn’t looking at the map.

Heroica

I’m not sure what it is about Heroica that encourages just about everyone who plays it to make up new rules and change the ones that are already there.  This is an incredibly simple dungeon crawl with no reading required, and it also has Lego, so how could any kid refuse? It’s theoretically competitive, but realistically players are usually leap-frogging each other through the dungeon.

Lionheart

I found Lionheart at a yard sale before I had any kids, and for years I attempted to trade it away.  I’m glad I didn’t, because it has been a lot of fun with Ezra.  This is a board-based miniature wargame for 2 players.  The mechanics are easy to pick up, and the combat doesn’t even require math skills.  I expect it’d be hard to find these days, but it’s a lot more worth playing than I expected it would be.

Dune Express

This is a fun little print-and-play area control game.  It has no language components used during gameplay, and there isn’t much for players to remember.  We play the basic rules, but haven’t had to make any changes to play well together.

Zombie Dice

Zombie Dice is a quick “push your luck” game with simple rules.  Ezra’s good at managing his risk in this game, and he’s just as likely to win as any adult.

Zombies!!!

For Zombies, we skip the event cards, and there are no other language dependent components used during play.  This makes the game a bit less fun and flavorful, and it can take longer without the help of additional weapons, so I also reduce the number of board sections we need to get through before reaching the helicopter.

Dungeon!

I’m only listing Dungeon here because it was a major disappointment, and did not meet our expectations.  It’s too simplistic for Ezra, he gets bored too quickly. There aren’t enough decisions to make, and there is very little character development.  For a simple, fast dungeon crawl, we prefer Heroica.

En Garde

This one is listed for ages 14+, but that’s ridiculous.  The truth is, almost every game with plastic or metal parts produced today must list an age of 13+ or 14+ because they cannot afford to have their pieces tested for toxicity.  We play the simple or slightly advanced versions of the rules, with no other changes.

Uno

I don’t love Uno, but there were some times when Ezra couldn’t get enough of it; and he consistently beat both his parents and his sister.  He also likes Harry Potter Uno, or Crazy Eights if there aren’t any Uno cards around.

Loot

I’ve played this with both kids a few times, but it isn’t that good with only 2 players.

The Sorceror’s Cave

This is one of the first dungeon crawl games I played with Ezra.  It’s extremely dependent on good luck to succeed, which totally drove away Martine.  Ezra fared better and enjoyed playing it, but we quickly moved on to other games with a similar theme.

Wings of War

Ezra loves starting games of Wings of War, but rarely finishes them.  He likes playing with the plane miniatures, and isn’t very good at flying predictably. But early on, he shot me down the first time our planes were within shooting range, so maybe that’s why he keeps coming back…

Hordes of the Things

I’ve started introducing Ezra to a few different miniature games, but at this point I have to wait until he asks to play so I don’t drive him away with my enthusiasm.  He has finished several games of Hordes of the Things, using all of the rules (all of the rules that happen to come up) but with a limited set of elements. The easy way I’ve found to introduce young kids to the game is to limit element selection to only about 3-4 types of elements, either all foot or all mounted.  Kids can remember 3-4 different combat factors, but it requires a chart if you need to remember different factors vs. foot and vs. mounted.  We played HOTT using Mechwarrior prepainted figures, limiting element selection to Behemoth, Knight, Rider, and Hero.
I’ll write more as we discover more games worth playing, but I expect we will soon start opening many more boxes once Ezra starts reading.