Saturday, February 23, 2013

Some great Napoleonics photos...

 Hey all!

Hung out at a buddy's place yesterday... he actually put together a Napoleonic collection over the last few months and I finally got a glimpse of them!

The British are his primary force; the French are his OpFo that really only exists as an enemy for the Brits.  There are still a bunch of units waiting finishing, but overall it's a pretty nice setup!  So I thought people would enjoy some photos!

And some reinforcements awaiting basing...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Battlefield 3 Tank Tips and Tactics

Hi all!

Okay... I know the toy soldier folks out there don't need this, but...

I do play a lot of games, both tabletop and electronic.  My favorite is an XBOX game; Battlefield 3.  I have never played a more perfectly balanced video game in my life... you can fly planes, attack choppers, transport choppers... you can drive light armored vehicles and jeeps and armored jeeps and tanks and troop transports... or you can hoof it.  But no matter what approach you take, every one has its strengths and its weaknesses!

I wanted to talk tactics for this game a bit in a few blog posts.  Now, the vast majority of my posts will still be toy soldiers, so fear not.  However, once in a while it will be Battlefield 3 time!

Battlefield 3

And today I want to start by talking about the tank in BF3, and giving you some handy BF3 tank tactics and tips!

Now... I'll be honest.  My first choice in BF3 is ALWAYS driving a tank.  Second choice?  Machine gunning in a tank.  Third choice?  CITV in a tank!  I just love tanks, because they are big brutes, and they require the most teamwork of any of the vehicles in the game (along with the transport chopper, maybe).


Battlefield 3 Tank Basics

Okay... so, all tanks have three spots; the driver/gunner, the machine gun, and the CITV.  Each is ESSENTIAL.

Obviously the driver/gunner is the key component.  He is the guy who keeps the tank moving, gets it into cover, and who fires the big gun.  Depending on what you are fighting, he is also the designated repair guy, as long as there is no armor around.  Drivers should also usually pack a Stinger missile to engage pesky air targets... let the machine gunner cover the driver when he is out of the tank.

(And btw... I know everyone knows this, but when you are repairing a tank ALWAYS keep the body of the tank between you and any potential enemy, and keep moving as you repair so snipers can't get you too easy.)

The machine gunner is pretty damn key too, though.  Sure, the main gun can be used to kill infantry, but the machine gunner is the best at keeping away those pesky C4 guys.  Don't waste time shooting at choppers and tanks, though... in the end, you'll just tick them off and make them look for you.  If your tank is engaging enemy armor, the machine gunner should also be the repair guy.

The CITV is a HUGE spot in the tank.  Okay, it is a late unlock.  So what?  Get working!  The CITV should always be scanning for mines, so that your driver can focus on moving and shooting.  The CITV is also the one who should be constantly spamming select to mark targets, and of course locking every chopper in sight (and every tank, when there are no choppers in sight!)

Those are the basic positions in the tank.  Whenever possible you want to keep them filled.  In fact, it is often better to have a machine gunner/CITV than another tank, as crazy as that sounds, although if you DO have two tanks rolling make sure one of those drivers (the REAR one, as the CITV has a longer range than the Guided Shell... if the front guy gets in the CITV the back will be out of range!) are ready to jump into their CITV to lock up enemy birds.

Now... what gear should you pack, as the driver?

Battlefield 3 Tank Load-outs

What is the perfect BF3 tank loadout?

I always run the following; guided shell, proximity sensors, and smoke.

Guided shell is a MUST HAVE.  Forget the shell itself.  While guided shell can make short work of things like MAVs and the like, you REALLY want guided shell to take advantage of your tank's CITV and nearby SOFLAMs.  As long as you have guided shell and a partner who can laser designate, you are able to kill almost anything.  Attack choppers in particular are GREAT fun.  Just get a laser lock.  Then lock on your guided shell.  Wait a second, to see if the pilot is an amateur who will fire off flares early (they will distract a guided shell once in a blue moon...)  Then... blammo!  Choppers are dead meat against a well driven tank.  Just watch out for those chopper pilots who get above you and don't give you time to lock.  In that case, either A) bail out and hit them with a Stinger, B) drive away, fast, into a building, C) bail out, or D) if you KNOW there is another tank out there, hop into the CITV and lock him up, and cross your fingers and pray that someone else blows him out of the sky!

The only chance a chopper has to survive once a guided shell is in the air is either A) firing off ECM, which can cause you to miss, B) diving RIGHT at you, which only sometimes works, or C) diving into close cover, and your shell might hill an obstacle.  But you'll quickly find that a chopper pilot will then end up staying too low to be very effective on the battlefield, allowing you to almost "suppress" the chopper by constantly keeping your eye on him.  Good stuff.

Next up is proximity sensors.  They are NEEDED, especially on maps like Seine Crossing, because there is NOTHING as annoying and cowardly as those C4 idiots running up to blow up your tank in what is really the single most irritating and unrealistic concession to VIDEOGAMESYEAHHH!!! that BF3 made.

The only time you DON'T need prox is if you KNOW your machine gunner or CITV mate, and THEY have to on.  In that case take your Reactive Armor.  Then just make sure that the DRIVER is the one who hops out and does repairs when you are being engaged by enemy infantry.  This is the IDEAL loadout for a tank, but I find that depending on someone else for Prox is juuust a touch too dangerous.

Remember, btw... if whoever has prox jumps out of the tank, the remaining crew is blind... so, in a fight against armor, if the machine gunner (who hopefully has prox) jumps out to repair then you better keep an naked eye out of a C4 guy running up!

Finally comes smoke.  Smoke is just essential.  It keeps you alive against enemy tanks with guided shell and javelins, but FAR more importantly it keeps you alive against air power, which is the enemy of all armor.  Sure, you can still get strafed by fighters, and yes a well piloted attack chopper can still chew you up, but overall smoke will keep you alive a LOT longer on the battlefield.

So.  There is the ideal loadout.  Obviously you can make some substitutions if the maps dictate so... for example, guided shell is not that useful in the cramped setting of Seine Crossing, where you might prefer to take something else in that slot.  But if you want a good all-around load out, there you go.

Now.  You are loaded up; how do you fight?

Battlefield 3 Tank vs Tank Tactics

Here are a few tank vs tank tactics I want to share.

First... keep moving, and try to get to their flank and back.

A lot of tankers, when they engage in tank on tank warfare, stand still.  They dig in and think that will work.  Well... it can, especially with an engineer behind you.  But ideally you want to keep moving.  If you can, get yourself to the side of the enemy tank, or even better get BEHIND them.  Some tankers will get flustered to see you flanking them and leave themselves open.  All you need is one or two shots to the back of an enemy tank and voila; they are DONE.  Oh, and by the way... if possible, don't hit them on an angle... shots at an angle from the side or back don't do as much damage.  You want to hit the enemy from as close to a 90 degree angle (i.e. perpendicular to the point of impact) as possible.

Second... use smoke.  A lot.  And not just for breaking locks.

There are two times that smoke is effective as a purely visual device.

First, when you have someone out repairing your tank you should ALWAYS pop smoke; it gives them at least a little cover from enemy infantry who might be eyeing your tank.

Second, in a tank-on-tank fight, try this;

First, spot your enemy using the select button.

Next, pop smoke.

Then, back up out of the smoke, but DO IT AT AN ANGLE.

Then engage your enemy using their MARKER as an aiming point or with guided shell.

If they have not spotted you, the enemy will frequently fire through the smoke in a straight line, and their shell will blaze right past the front of your now-relocated-slightly tank.

This is a very useful tactic that can REALLY frustrate an enemy.

Lastly... get good at rotating your tank when you have reactive armor.

Okay, this only works when you have a gunner or CITV with prox so you can take reactive.  Here is the thing; reactive armor absorbs a hit.  And that can make a BIG difference in a fight.

If you find yourself in a fight where you A) are largely standing still and B) have reactive, see if you can take the first shot on your side armor, where the reactive plate can absorb the shot.  Then, as you take the shot, rotate the body of your tank so the front is now facing the enemy.  This gets you one-up against them, and can make the difference in a tank-on-tank fight with no engineers repairing.  If you REALLY want to get fancy you can even try to rotate so you take the first shot on the side, the second in the rear, and the third on the OTHER side... that way it isn't until the FOURTH enemy shell that you take damage.  This is tricky (reloads are often faster than you can rotate) but CAN be done, and when it is, you will feel like a BOSS.

Battlefield 3 Tank vs Infantry Tactics

Okay, first up; keep moving.

ALWAYS keep moving.  Most anti-tank infantry is armed with either C4, which generally needs to be ON you to work, or RPGs, which are point-and-shoot.  If you can keep moving as you fight, it will make it a lot harder for the enemy infantry to hit you, and since your machine gun is pretty stable you SHOULD be able to win that fight.   It is VERY very easy to put an RPG round on a tank that is standing still.  It is MUCH harder to hit one that is moving even a little bit!  Just be sure that your machine gunner or CITV mate is spotting for mines!

Second; spam the select button.

Whenever you are a machine gunner (or, even better, in the CITV seat) make sure you are always scanning in front of your tank and constantly hitting the select button to mark explosives in the way.  The driver has a lot of responsibilities... shooting, moving, and so on.  Whenever possible another member should be on the lookout for mines and to mark enemies.

Third... run someone over!

There are some dangerous zones for a tank; namely, right up on it.  C4 guys and engineers with torches can make a mess of you, QUICKLY, if they get too close.  So what do you do in that case?  Try to run them over!  You can especially squash a few enemies if you see them running towards you on prox... try driving away from them at half speed, lining yourself up with them, acting as if you aren't even aware of them.  Then, when they are lined up, quickly hammer it into reverse.  Often they will not react in time and SQUASH, you can run them over.

Oh... and two last things... first, if a suicide jeep is homing in on you, don't engage it as soon as you see it.  Hold your fire until the last possible second... then put a round through it.  Engaging too far away makes it very easy to miss, and then the jeep will be on you before you can reload.  Suicide jeeps are basically like scrumptious delicious tidbits full of over-eager C4 snacks... hit them when they get close and watch them all blow up!

And lastly... die in your tank; don't EVER let the enemy take your tank. If you are in a tank and an enemy runs up on your (ahhh C4 guy C4 guy!) don't automatically jump out.  When your tank is surrounded and on fire and down to 20 percent health, don't automatically ditch.  Because you know what will happen in those situations?  You'll get shot, and in your death screen you'll watch an enemy engineer repair your tank and drive off in it!  One of your key jobs as a tanker is NOT to let your tank fall into enemy hands.  On a map like Seine Crossing or as a Russian on Canals that can be an absolute disaster.  So sometimes, you have to make like Ed Smith and go down with the ship!

So!  Some BF3 tank tips and tactics!  I hope they are useful for the BF3 players out there.  And for the toy soldier folks, no worries... I'll be back to toy soldiers with the next post:)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Okay... both sides of "Zero Dark Thirty" lit... and a question

Well... both sides are lit.  In fact, it is just about done!  So I thought I would share both sides with the internal lighting.

So now I am stuck... I need a name for the plaque for this thing!  I don't think I'll go with "Zero Dark Thirty" because that is a bit too connected to the Bin Laden story.  Something like "Late Night Encounter"?  I can even do a two part plaque, with two sayings, one on the left and one on the right...
"Late Night Meeting" and "Late Night Mission" or something?

Anyway... anyone out there have any bright ideas for a title?

A few Minecraft screenshots

Hi all!

Well, like so many people, I have to admit I've been sucked into the fun that is Minecraft!  Now, I am not playing as much now as I did, but I did want to share a few screenshots of my primary creation; Castello City!

By the way... before I continue... EVERYTHING in this server is done in SURVIVAL mode.  Not one thing was done in CREATIVE... every bit of that cobblestone was mined!:D

I play on a server with maybe eight or nine other people, all of whom build on a continent and build whatever they would like.  A few build sort of randomly, creating things as they pop into their heads.  Others are machine programmers, and build crazy redstone projects.  I am very much a "create realistic things" sort of builder, and my main idea came when I saw two neat mountain peaks overlooking a village.  I thought those two peaks would be perfect for a mountaintop castle and its gatehouse tower, and maybe eventually I could build a city up full of villagers!

Below is a shot of the castle itself, before any serious work had started on the city.  You can just make out the planned arrival port of the rail line from the main spawn house of our world.

Over time I expanded the inside of the castle all the way down into the mountain it sits upon, incorporating several underground swimming grottos, a huge Great Feast Hall, an art gallery, a spa, kitchens, multiple guest suites, a forge, my own personal quarters (the tower on the right side of the above shot) and a whole host of battlements.

Eventually, however, I started to construct the city around it, first by outlining a huge area with walls, and then building within!

Above is a shot from outside of the main gate of Castello City.   You can still see the main castle overlooking everything, but obviously there is a lot more now.  To the bottom right you can see the arrival of the rail (all enclosed in glass now).  Leaving off the right side you can see another rail line, with a covered foot bridge above it.  The fortified spot it is leaving is the main rail center of the city.  Dead center is actually the house of one of my buddies, whose first home was made in my city.  Yeah, that is his roof deck and pool there.

A word on the main gate itself; it is actually a functioning portcullis, created using KidMischief's tutorial video.  It was a bear to create, as I am NOT a redstone person, and my security was lax, so I got hit mid-project by creepers twice, which REALLY set me back.  The circuitry actually takes up the entire tower around the gate and goes a solid 15 squares deep underneath it!  In the end, though, it was worth it.

The best views of the city are from the various towers of the castle.  Looking north you get this view of the city.  A few points of note:  to the lower right is the City Park, including (clockwise, starting from the bottom right) the Japanese Water Garden, the Rose Garden (which I just noticed is missing a block and a sign!), the Bridge, the Treehouse, the Water Sculpture, and the Birch Walk.  To the right of the Park you can just make out the archery range, a perfect place for occasional shooting tournaments.  In the center of town you can see the Cathedral and its square, and to the left of the Cathedral my buddy's large place.  Near the back of the North Side you can see the Library (the building on the top left with the courtyard) and, at the top right corner, the multi-level city pool.  The city ampitheatre is just out of sight on the veerrry top left of the above photo.

If you look south, this is the view of the harbor of the city, which sits just under the rather severe edge of the mountain (it looks must less steep from here!)  You can see the harbor, and to the bottom left the market.  The warehouse is center, and my little Japanese inspired home is to the top right (just under the rail line that leads to Thunder Mountain).  There is also a small garden there, with a brick path and a number of nice little spots to sit and take in the view of the harbor and the jungle across the way.  Out of the shot to the right are my skyscrapers, where I imagine my villagers work in their cubicles!  This part of the city DOES have a touch more work to go; you can see a few bare spots awaiting homes!

Now... I did mention Thunder Mountain there.  One fellow (the guy who hosts the server) is a big time engineer, and his main project has been the rail system that connects our worlds.  The world itself is pretty large... about 4x4 individual maps, and he has largely connected everything with a fully automated rail system!

And remember... it was ALL done in SURVIVAL mode.  Yeah, it was crazy.

The system is contain in a mountain called Thunder Mountain.  It was the largest mountain we found in the world.  A few people spent several days hollowing it out.  Above is a shot of that huge chore.  They hollowed it out to within one square of the surface in every direction, and it is MASSIVE... it actually stretches way back behind the person who took the screenshot above, but there was no way to get it all in one shot.

Then came the station.  Above is the transportation hub.  The doors are all piston doors which automatically open when you arrive or leave.  In order to pick where you are going you just press one of the buttons under the appropriate destination sign.  I think TM has the possibility of 15 outbound and inbound lines... right now about 9 are being used (there are four to the left that you cannot see here.)

Once you pick a destination the system automatically brings you a cart.  One button push, the opening notes of a race in Mariocart (courtesy of note blocks) and off you go!

Now, the engineer who made this ALSO included one rail line that is JUST for touring the inner workings of the transit hub.  It isn't as easy to see as it used to be (it was open for a long time, but a creeper accident which required some serious work changed that) but I included a few screenshots of the machinery and wiring that make it all tick.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Four shadow boxes ruined...

Yep.  For some reason, every tape I am using for masking off the clear spots of the shadow box for the "Zero Dark Thirty" diorama is leaving behind really bad residue.  I've now had FOUR boxes ruined by various problems (one with tiny fractures that I didn't notice on purchase, one exacto accident, two spray paint/tape problems).  I am getting SO damn frustrated.  At this point I think I'll have to use balsa to mask, because every tape (masking, painters, special masking paper) is leaving a residue.  Could the spray paint be causing the problem?

*sigh*  Should have been done a week, and thirty dollars, ago.