Mark Con 2017 (aka Ma’k Con 2017)

I have been accused of having a Boston accent, but this is not really true – I have a Worcester accent, or properly a Worcester County accent.  Throughout my military and civilian career, my pronunciation of my name, Mark, sounds to others like Ma’k.  My good buddy Buck Surdu has often shortened it to “Ma’k” on his blog posts.  Last weekend (right before Thanksgiving) he and my other good buddy, Dave Wood, made the drive up from Maryland on a traffic-filled Friday afternoon for a Saturday full of gaming – and it was called “Ma’k Con”.  My wife Lynn really helped out as well with her keeping us well fed.  This blog post is about the gaming we crammed into that Saturday.

Buck and Dave got me into tabletop wargaming when we were back at West Point.  Since then, Buck has published a myriad of rules for gaming, and Dave has contributed to many of those rule sets.  The most recent rules that Buck published is a fantastically easy to play and streamlined card-based system for skirmish-level combat in WWII called Combat Patrol™.  It is truly flexible, and has had optional rules and supplements written to cover different possible scenarios, to include the South Pacific theater, the Winter War, the Falklands War, the Napoleonic era, and even the Star Wars universe.  These can be downloaded for free from his website, and the cards are available in the US from Drive Thru Cards and in the EU from Sally Forth. The rules are also available in book form from both On Military Matters and Sally Forth.

Buck recently added a new set of cards for the South Pacific, which have different morale results for Japanese troops.  Readers of this blog know that I have been collecting and assembling units from the old Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line of figures, specifically Star Ducks, Power-Armored Frinx, Aphids, and Mark III Warbots.  Additionally, I have been supplementing these forces with Khang Robots, weapons, Robo-Sentry Guns from War Games Supply Dump, and my own sculpt of a sphere tank.  I also used some weapons from Bombshell Miniatures.

I decided that I would combine aspects from different Combat Patrol™ rules for a fun retro sci-fi game.  Specifically, I would use the new South Pacific deck for morale results for robots, the new vehicle-mounted flame thrower template for my sphere tanks’ death rays, and the Sith rules from the Star Wars supplement.  Also, I added in several rules from the optional rules.  Lastly, I added my own special rules for the Mark III Warbots and their leader, Juggerbot, to account for possible effects that weapons fire could cause on their behaviors and capabilities.

Upon arrival in Massachusetts, Buck surprised Dave and I with uniform t-shirts from West Point that we would have worn to gym or when we played sports.  It was called Gym-A (Gym-Alpha) and we wore it for Saturday’s game marathon.  Admittedly, both Buck and Dave wore it better than I did.  We were also joined by my daughter Ellen Morin and her fiancé Chris Smedile.

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Buck Surdu, me, and Dave Wood (US version for you UK followers) in our Gym-A shirts

The scenario was one where the Star Ducks, Aphids, and Frinx were allied against the cybernetic horde of attacking robots.  The non-metallic forces had captured a robot Mark 1 Sphere tank.  The Frinx were attempting to repair it so it could be used against the robots, who were to have two Mark I Sphere tanks of their own in the assault.  The tanks have two side mounted laser cannons, and a Death Ray (think 1953 War of the Worlds movie).  Dave and Ellen had the robots, while Buck, Chris and I defended.

1 Ma'kcon
Dave and Ellen prepare to attack.  The Aphids are in the ruined building to the front, and there are the Robo-Sentry Guns acting as speed bumps to their front.

The Robo-Sentry guns slowed the attacking robots slightly, but allowed Aphid and Star Duck mortar fire to hit the Warbots near Juggerbot, damaging the robot leader, and causing some of his robots to go rogue, or blow up.  When they went rogue, they would attack the nearest figure.  Juggerbot ended up dealing with such a problem.

2 Ma'kcon
The battle begins with the Warbots clearing the Robo-Sentry gun defenses.

Normally, in Combat Patrol™ games, figures can take a certain number of hits, usually three wounds, before they die or are incapacitated.  In this game Frinx had 4 wounds (because of their power-armor), most line Star Ducks had 3, and Warbots had 6.  However, I allowed for critical hits as outlined below.  This had a nice balancing effect on the game.

Warbot critical hit
Warbot Critical Hit Chart – lots of 4’s and 5’s happened!

The Warbots also had some devastating energy weapons.  The opposing forces had two “Sith Lords” (Duck Wader from the Star Ducks and Lt. Ma’k from the Frinx) with special powers from the Star Wars supplement.  Early in the game, Buck moved Duck Wader up to engage the Warbots, only to get vaporized along with some Aphids by an arc weapon blast.

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Duck Wader (center) near the corner where he was shortly vaporized thereafter
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The Frinx AT section moves up – only to never make an impact

The other Sith, Lt. Ma’k, used his Force powers to fly into the middle of a group of 8 immobilized Warbots (they had drawn a “Hold until Death” morale result due to Frinx fire, but the robots could still fire).

Lt. Ma’k (a Frinx) then tried a Sith power – Force Blast – which damaged some robots’ weapons and caused them to explode.  Additionally, friendly mortar rounds landed there (Lt. Ma’k did not care) and eventually he succumbed, as did several Warbots. Simultaneously, Juggerbot finally was destroyed by Aphids on Grav-Cycles.  As he was the platoon leader, his destruction led to his unit becoming pinned – and only activating on black cards.  This really had the effect of reducing the entire robot platoon’s combat effectiveness.

5 Ma'kcon
Lt. Ma’k (by the purple die) makes his last stand.  Note the black die for the Warbot Green Team 2 due to a “Hold until Death” morale role.  Later the entire Warbot platoon would get black dice (“pinned”) when Juggerbot was destroyed.
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The death (destruction) of Juggerbot
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Aphids an Grav-Cycles make a desperate charge before dying to the last bug – but they sealed Juggerbot’s fate
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Frinx on Glyptodon cavalry move up before being taking heavy fire and being routed

At this point, the carbon-based living got very lucky and fixed their captured Sphere tank earlier than would have been expected due to Chris pulling some great cards.  However, the robots got reinforcements in the form of two of their own Sphere tanks, a squad of Warbots, plus 2 self-propelled robot guns.   Chris and Buck were able to immobilize one tank with some very lucky shots.  The other annihilated a squad of Buck’s Star Ducks with a Death Ray Blast.

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Buck’s Star Ducks are hit by Death Ray fire
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Some of Buck’s Star Ducks jet pack onto the immobilized Mark I Sphere tank.  Their satchel charges (6) attacks all failed to destroy the tank.

By now it was dinnertime and pizza called, plus we wanted to move to the next game.  It looked like a slight victory for the living forces, but casualties were high!  The game turned out well and I may redo this scenario at Barrage in Maryland in January.  Buck’s account of the battle is the next entry in this blog.

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Surveying the carnage
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Great Game!

Then we moved onto a play test of Dave’s micro-armor game of “The Battle of Nikolayevka (Nikitowka)” using the Look Sarge No Charts rules.  This was a breakout of Italian forces on the Eastern Front in 1943 as part of the Battle of Stalingrad.  So we had Italians and some Germans attacking a small town held by the Russians.  The link above describes the historical battle well.

Buck attacked with a combined German/Italian force on the right half of the battlefield and I attacked along the left half.  Dave defended.  It was a tough slog, with the Russian artillery (they had no armor) making progress difficult.  Later in the game Dave had us command reinforcements in the form of the Italian stragglers from an earlier phase in the battle.  It was a good scenario, and interesting to see a primarily Italian versus Russian scenario.

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Initial set up – Italians and Germans (on left) fight into the town to the right of the railway crossing (in light orange)
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Another view showing the town in the upper right.  The attackers needed to get into the town so as not to freeze to death.
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Assaulting the rail line defenses
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Buck tries to get into the town

I think Dave will have a very good scenario for an upcoming convention!

The day flew by, and I am so appreciative that we West Point Old Grads had the chance to game together.  Thanks to Buck and Dave, and Chris and Ellen!  And of course, Lynn for her logistical support!!

Mark III Warbot Platoon & Juggerbot for Combat Patrol

Followers of this blog may have wondered where I have been, why have I not been posting?  Well, I have been working on building a platoon of Archive Miniatures “Mark III Robots” (#2323).  The platoon will be led by Archive Miniatures “Juggerbot” (#2331).  Both of these sculpts are from the vibrant imagination of Nevile Stocken, who was way ahead of his time with his work.  Given that these figures were from the late 70’s and early 80’s, I have to think that they were inspired (especially the visors) by the original Cylons from the 1978 TV series Battlestar Galactica.  I loved that show when I was a kid!  So, I had to make them shiny!

 

Cylons-rock
Mark III Warbot inspiration?

 

These will be used in upcoming games using the Combat Patrol™ set of card-based rules.  The figures are effectively 25-28mm, being large robots (larger than humans).

This long project started with making a mold and casting 38 out of the 40 Mark III Robots as described previously here.  I wish that I could have just bought them, but my time machine is broken…and that made purchasing them an impossibility.  The platoon will have 4 squads of 10 (5 per team), plus 4 squad leaders, and Juggerbot – so the platoon is composed of a total of 45 figures.

The original Mark III’s (there were no Mark I’s or II’s!) were from the Star Rovers line of figures made by Archive in the 1979-1981 timeframe.  They are very tough to find on eBay or anywhere else.  I managed to acquire two originals, but only one was fully intact, and it became the master for my recasting efforts.  The other original I converted with another weapon.

I found the Juggerbot kit on eBay, and decided that it would make an excellent platoon leader.  For squad leaders, I have four War Games Supply Dump Khang Robots that were previously described in this blog here.   Each Khang is color-coded (red, green, blue, and purple), and each squad in my platoon follows that scheme.  Each Mark III Warbot Squad consists of the Khang Squad Leader, and two teams of five Warbots.

I converted one Warbot per team with a special weapon.  Each squads’ Team 1 had a conversion with Bombshell Miniature’s “particle beam weapon” (BOM36016).  I gave the Team 2’s two different weapons each.  Two teams got Bombshell Miniatures large “arc weapon” as their conversion, while the other two got a large War Games Supply Dump retro sci-fi weapon from the WP01 “Weapons Pack 1”.  All of the conversions I did were with these weapons, which are no longer available from either Bombshell or the now-shuttered War Games Supply Dump.

Conversion of these figures, as well as cleanup in terms of cutting and filing were major efforts in this project.  I use mostly tin (about 67%) in my casting, and this made sawing away and filing pieces from them tedious as they are not as soft as a higher-lead alloy would be.  Still, I was able to convert 7 of my castings plus the extra original for a total of 8 conversions.  In most cases, I needed to bend the arms to accommodate the new weapons.  My concept was for Team 1 to have one Warbot with a higher rate of fire weapon, while the Team 2’s would have specialized breaching or anti-armor capabilities.

 

1 Archive Mark III Warbot - Copy
My original Mark III Warbot with weapon intact.  I had one other with a broken weapon, which I converted to another weapon.

 

1 Juggerbot
Juggerbot as received from eBay – obviously cast from a mold in the post-Archive era
2 Juggerbot
Juggerbot contents – needed some TLC…glue, and pressure while the glue set
3 Juggerbot
Assembled and straightened Juggerbot

 

0000 Arc Weapon sprue 36013
Bombshell Miniatures arc weapon sprue -I used two of the ones on the far left
0000 Particle-Beam-Weapon-Sprue
I used the far left particle beam weapon for each Team 1 conversion
0000a Catalog Closeup
From the 1981 catalog
000 Archive Star Rovers juggerbot
Juggerbot drawing from the 1981 Star Rovers game rule book
000 Archive Star Rovers Mark III Warbot a
Mark III Warbot drawing from the 1981 Star Rovers game rule book

After cleaning up the figures, I made a plan to complete the conversions.  I also wanted to try a few new things in making this platoon.  I wanted to use my new airbrushes and spray booth, and I wanted to use poster tack on specimen bottles and grocery store coins to have greater ease of painting with both the airbrushes and traditional brushes.

01 Warbot Platoon with Juggerbot
After cleanup but before conversion – I ended up using 2 arc weapons (far left), 2 of the WSD weapons (2nd from left), and 4 of the particle beam weapons (far right) in my conversions
02 Warbot first conversions
After conversion – arc weapon on left, particle beam on right
03 Warbot second conversion
War Games Supply Dump weapon conversion
04 Assembled platoon on washers
Mounted on steel washers and ready for the poster tack and the specimen jars

After all of my conversions were complete, I mounted the figures on steel washers for eventual magnetized storage.  I had to use a bigger washer for Juggerbot.  The platoon was then affixed to outdated grocery store bonus coins and specimen bottles or just to the bottles themselves with poster tack.  In the future, I will not use the coins, as it was just easier to use the bottles minus the coins.  I used an Aztec airbrush to prime the figures with gray Vallejo “Surface Primer”, giving the figures 24 hours to dry.  I had read that doing that is desirable so that this primer paint can harden.

06a primedAssembled platoon on coins and bottles
Primed on the specimen jars

I then used Createx “Wicked Aluminum” airbrush paint (very sparkly) to base coat the Warbots using an Iwata Eclipse air brush – and I found this brush to be a much easier tool than the Aztec.  I used Vallejo Model Air “Gold” to base coat Juggerbot with the airbrush.

08 Juggerbot primed
Juggerbot base coated
09 Close up primed
Close up of Warbots base coated

I saw that the Createx paint had given the Warbots the appropriate shiny starting point for further development of the paint scheme I wanted, which was to be very retro sci-fi metallic, and reminiscent of the Cylons.  Then I went back to the regular brush!

For my color schemes of red, blue, green, and purple on the Warbots, I went with DecoArt “Festive Red”, “Peacock Pearl”, “Crystal Green”, and Craftsmart “Amethyst” respectively.  These metallic paints are great, but thick, and not easily thinned.  Still, they worked well and I put these colors on the ankle, knee, and wrist joints for ease of tabletop play.  I chose to use them as well for the visor interior colors, with Vallejo Model Air metallic “Black” for the outer parts of the visors.  I then used “Gold” for the Warbot voice boxes and weapons tips on the unconverted troopers.  “Black” was my choice for the rest of the weapons, offset with Vallejo Model Air “Steel” and Martha Stewart Crafts “Duckling” (this was a nod to my friend Buck Surdu, whose love of all things ducky and his take on the Mark III Warbots helped me plan out my approaches here).

For the common weapon barrels, I employed Vallejo Model Air “Copper”, and complemented them with Vallejo Model Air “Medium Gunship Gray”.  Juggerbot had several lights on him, so Vallejo Model Air “Arctic Blue” and “Signal Red”, and “Aluminum” helped me with these details.  I used these as well on the conversion weapons.

I then used several applications of Citadel “Nuln Oil Gloss” and “Black” on Juggerbot to shade the recesses of the figure.  Moving back to the Warbots, I used “Aluminum” on the bodies, then similar to what I did with Juggerbot, I shaded with “Black” and “Nuln Oil Gloss”.  Interestingly, I found that the inks really rolled off the figures, and the “Black” paint really helped with the shading.

I then added a healthy coat of Citadel “Ardcoat” to all visor and lighted surfaces.  As a final highlight for Juggerbot and the Warbot weapon tips, I used Citadel “Retributor Armour”.

 

10 Juggerbot basecoated
Juggerbot mid-stage
11 Red original Mark III base coated mid stage
Early stage painting of Red Squad Warbot
12 Purple cast Mark III base coated mid stage
Early stage painting of Purple Squad Warbot
14 Green cast Mark III base coated mid stage
Early stage painting of Green Squad Warbot

I decided that I wanted to be able to differentiate between the two teams within each squad.  To do this, I experimented with kneadatite (green stuff) and Apoxie Sculpt and some numbered stamps.  I found that the Apoxie Sculpt was easier to form, stamp, and once dry, cut.  I applied these numbers to the figures’ bases with Gorilla Glue.

16 numbers applied
Figures with the numbers applied

I used Citadel “Imperium Primer” on the Apoxie Sculpt numbers, then added Citadel “Martian Ironearth” to them.  Then, I built up the bases with Citadel “Martian Ironcrust” with a light sprinkle of Army Painter “Black Battleground” for more texture.  After using both “Ironearth” and “Ironcrust”, I dried them to a crackly surface with a hand-held hair blow dryer.  I highly recommend this technique.

After a day of drying, I dry brushed the bases with Armory’s “Red Brown” and  “Brick Red”.  I filled the numbers in with “Imperium Primer” for all troopers, with the team leaders getting “Retributor Armour” on theirs.  Then it was back to the paint booth for two coats of varnish, this time with an Iwata Neo airbrush, allowing for adequate drying between applications.

17 varnishing in the paint booth
Juggerbot ready for varnish
18 varnished group shot
The platoon all varnished

I now needed to remove the figures from the bottles and coins.  The poster tack was easier to remove when I did not use the coins.  I lightly painted the underside of the bases with Craftsmart “White” so I could use a black fine-tipped Sharpie to write information on the figures’ bottoms.

25 Red Team Mark III Warbot conversion with Bombshell Mini particle beam
Red Team 1 conversion with particle beam weapon – this is the other original Warbot that had a broken weapon
26 Green Squad Mark III Warbots with SL
Green Warbot Squad with Khang Robot Squad Leader
27 Green Mark III Warbots with conversions
Left to right, regular trooper, particle beam weapon conversion, and arc weapon conversion of Green Squad
28 Purple squad Mark III Warbots with SL
Purple Warbot Squad with Khang Robot Squad Leader
29 Purple Mark III Warbots with conversions
Left to right, regular trooper, particle beam weapon conversion, and War Games Supply Dump weapon conversion of Purple Squad 
30 Blue Squad Mark III Warbots with SL
Blue Warbot Squad with Khang Robot Squad Leader
31 Blue Mark III Warbots with conversions
Left to right, regular trooper, particle beam weapon conversion, and War Games Supply Dump weapon conversion of Blue Squad
32 Juggerbot right side
Fear the Juggerbot!
33 Juggerbot front side
Coming at you
34 Juggerbot left side
Mr. Universe pose
34 Juggerbot rear view
The back view
40 Assembled Mark III Warbot Platoon, front view
Assembled Mark III Warbot Platoon, front view
41 Assembled Mark III Warbot Platoon, side view
Assembled Mark III Warbot Platoon, side view

I cannot express enough how much I like this platoon!  The figures started off pretty rough, but in the end, I was able to make a nice unit for tabletop gaming.  It did take me a couple of months, but it was worth it.  They will be in action this upcoming weekend, as they make their tabletop debut – stay tuned, and let me know your thoughts below!