Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Mini Monday #10: Good Enough

This was supposed to be a post about getting 18 miniatures painted in 18 days. I needed to finish 18 Orks to finish my battalion detachment, and I gave myself 18 days to do it in. ‘Easy,’ I said. And that’s why today’s full title should be Mini Monday #10: Good Enough and the Power of Being Satisfied with the Chance to Try Again.

Mini Monday Gargoyle

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting ideas for your roleplaying table. This week we talk about mediocrity, the value of arbitrary goals, and being satisfied.

Mini Monday #10: Good Enough

Here’s my kitbashed Ork boy with rokkit launcha. He’s the only figure I finished in the 18 days.

Mini Monday #10: Good Enough

I’m very happy with the kitbashing I did with him, but not with the paint job. But, you know what, it’ll do. It’s better painted than unpainted.

The 18-day goal was arbitrary, but it was still good for a few things.

Just Your Average Geek

For one thing, it was good to remind myself that I’m no pro painter. This blog isn’t about me teaching you. It can’t be. The only thing I have to give is passion and the determination to keep learning. Rather, this blog is about sharing my discoveries and, hopefully, encouraging you to go make your own, paintbrush in hand.

Flinging Paint on Plastic

I still have 17 minis to go, but the 18 days meant I got closer to finishing them. How long will that take? Who knows!? All I can say is that whatever time I spend painting is progress. If I want to get through that pile of plastic, the only way to do it is to sit down and paint.

Got anything to say? Slap it in the comments below and let’s talk about painting, kitbashing, and the benefits of more dakka!



Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic: the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

It can take time for things to come together, but when they do, all the effort can pay off in a big way. Today’s Magic: the Gathering deck is all about the long game, and it wins by sticking around and grinding down the opponent for the eventual win.

Graveyard Adventures

You can copy and paste this list into MTG Arena:

3 Lucky Clover (ELD) 226
4 Order of Midnight (ELD) 99
7 Swamp (ANA) 58
8 Forest (ANA) 60
3 Rosethorn Acolyte (ELD) 174
3 Garenbrig Carver (ELD) 156
4 Leyline Prowler (WAR) 202
4 Spark Harvest (WAR) 105
1 Witch’s Cottage (ELD) 249
2 Glowspore Shaman (GRN) 173
2 Syr Konrad, the Grim (ELD) 107
1 Edgewall Innkeeper (ELD) 151
1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General (WAR) 97
4 Overgrown Tomb (GRN) 253
4 Temple of Malady (M20) 254
2 Kraul Harpooner (GRN) 136
2 Loaming Shaman (M20) 180
2 Find // Finality (GRN) 225
1 Izoni, Thousand-Eyed (GRN) 180
2 Golgari Findbroker (GRN) 175

Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game

Life is about the long game too, and that’s Magic Life Lesson #8: The Long Game. You work your plan for weeks, months, years, until you successfully achieve your goals. This takes two things: the ability to see where you want to be and stubborn perseverance to keep slogging away until you get there.

It won’t be easy.

It shouldn’t be easy.

Nothing worth doing is easy.

Your future is like a marble sculpture, while your plans are the sketches and clay models of what you’re crafting. Your hammer and chisel are the efforts you put into making this new reality happen.

Right now, I’m seeing my RPG content — writing and ideas I’ve amassed over years — come together as a consistent whole. Many lessons, over many years, have gotten me to this point, but only because I kept the future in mind. If I regret anything, it’s that I didn’t dream bigger, sooner. But I don’t regret the lessons; tomorrow’s brighter because of them.



MM #9: Smoke Grenade Objective Markers

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. Today we’ll look at making smoke grenade objective markers for your games of Warhammer 40,000 or Kill Team.

Mini Monday #9: Smoke Grenade Objective Markers
Smokin’

These were easy to make, but before I break it down, I need to point out that the best part of these, the bases, were a lucky find. They are from a line of Steamboy collectables, and I had six of them in my box of D&D minis, so I used them instead of gaming bases. Games Workshop has some excellent bases that would be a great substitute, such as their Sector Mechanicus Industrial Bases.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught an Ork Alive…

I used a kid’s stencil to create an outline for my own numbering stencil, and then painted the numbers on in white. I then painted the outline of each number in black.

Smoker’s Corner

The smoke is cotton wool, pulled apart slightly to make it more whispy. I left mine white, which made sense for a smoke grenade, and glued it down as is, with PVA glue.

Grenade!

The grenades were the most fun to make. You’ll need a thin, hollow plastic rod and a paper clip. I used the stick from a lollypop and a single paper clip for the six grenades, so these are really cheap to make.

Cut the rod into six 5mm segments. Using the end of a pair of needle-nosed pliers, bend the paperclip so that it makes a small D shape. The left part of the D should be 5mm long, so that it fits into the small segment of rod. You’ll need six of these D shapes, and they should pinch the rod segment when inserted inside them. This is your basic grenade.

Fill the top and bottom of each rod with PVA or wood glue. When it dries, this makes the rod look like a solid, closed-off container and they’re ready for painting.

I base-coated my grenades black, then mixed green and black for the body of the grenade. I then painted the striker lever of the grenade silver, but a dull metallic dry brushed on would work better.

Glue these so that the top of the grenade is sitting in the smoke. Varnish everything except the smoke and your smoke grenade objective markers are done.



Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Magic: the Gathering is a lot like poker, and both games can teach you a lot about life. For one thing, you’ve got to know when to mulligan. As Kenny Rogers sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em… .” And that’s today’s Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em. Here’s Kenny Rogers singing The Gambler:

There’s enough there to write a book, but let’s focus on “knowing what to keep.” When you draw your starting hand in Magic, you get the choice between keeping them or mulliganing for new cards. Knowing when to mulligan helps you draw better starting hands, which helps you curve out better. Think about it, if you’re a master of the mulligan, then your whole MTG game improves.

Many writers and YouTubers have written about the mulligan and curving, so I’m going to assume you know enough about it and dive into the life lessons we can glean from it.

Magical Life Lesson #7: Know When To Hold ‘Em

Life, like a game of cards, if full of choices. One of the most important choices revolves around judging the value of things, especially activities and relationships. You have to decide what’s good for you, which activities are worth pursuing, and which relationships grow you as a person. Ruthlessly discard everything else.

Keeping the worthwhile things isn’t always easy, but those people, those passions, they’re worth fighting for.

So fight for them.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Mini Monday #8: Expanding Your Toolbox

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’ll look at expanding your literal and figurative toolboxes, so that you can achieve more with your miniature projects.

The Figurative Toolbox

As you tackle and complete more hobby projects, you’ll learn and practice skills, building your repertoire. The important thing is to keep challenging yourself and learn new things. Find better ways to paint or scratch build, find out what doesn’t work, and master useful skills. That will build your figurative toolbox, allowing you to achieve a much wider range of things with the hobby.

The Literal Toolbox

This includes all the tools you use to work with miniatures, like paint, brushes, cutting boards, files, hobby knives, glues, and everything else you use to cut, shave, sand, or paint a miniature. Collecting these tools can prove expensive, but you can build your collection of tools up over time. This gives you a chance to learn how to use those tools before you become inundated with stuff.

When I got started, I bought a Citadel Colour Paint Set (which I still use), and an extra brush. I got some hobby knives for a birthday and an old emery board (nail file) from my mom. That was enough to get me started with cleaning and painting minis. Later I got more brushes and spray cans, which stepped things up a notch. I kept collecting tools and built up the collection I now have.

Here are some of the most essential tools you’ll need to get started:

Cutting Tools

A variety of cutting tools is useful for tackling different jobs. Extra blades and a clean, tough cutting board is essential. Sharp blades make a big difference, and don’t forget to cut away from yourself.

Cutting Tools for Miniatures and Kit Bashing
Snip snip.

Filing Tools

Different grits and types of sanding tools, like files and sandpaper, give you more control over how you finish a surface. You can glue sandpaper to a popsicle stick to make your own sanding sticks.

Sanding tools for miniatures and kit bashing.

Painting Tools

Paint, brushes, and a pot for water rounds out the collection. I recommend getting a starter set unless you have a very good idea of what you’ll be painting. Even though you might never use all the colors in the set, it’s good to have a wide range of colors to pick from. Don’t worry about getting an ultra-fine brush; go for two cheap, medium-sized brushes and build your collection from there.

Citadel Colour Paints
My 20-Year-Old Paint Box

If you’re just starting out, then you’re in for a great journey. Take your time, enjoy it, and you’ll learn loads. It’s a very rewarding hobby.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic: the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

My Vedalken! deck (say it like you’re pulling off a Hadouken) has been winning games, and has proven to be versatile enough to handle a number of decks in the meta.

Vedalken! Deck - Magic Life Lesson #6
Smurfy, very smurfy!

When I first had the idea for this deck it didn’t work, but I came at it again and again until I found a powerful synergy. The key is card draw and the ability to bring cards back to your hand, and thereby control the board. When you’re ready, Sage’s Row Denizen and Stolen by the Fae creates a powerful mill combo that can end the game in your favor.

Our Sage’s Row friend has a life lesson, and that’s that you have to keep trying. One more lap. One more try. One more push for the goal. The deck mirrors this perfectly, giving you the ability to duplicate and recast creatures as if they were teleporting rabbits. That’s Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

Magical Life Lesson #6: One More Vedalken!

You never know when things will come together for you. Maybe the next attempt will be the clincher. Maybe one more job application. Maybe two more. Maybe twenty more. Don’t let failure stop you, but keep learning and keep trying, and eventually, you’ll find the way and succeed. That’s what the Vedalken does.

The official version of Unstoppable by The Score is worth checking out.
Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



MORE DAKKA — Mini Monday Ep 7

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we’ll scratch build and kitbash weapons for Warhammer 40,000 Orks. Because everyone needs MORE DAKKA!

I’m busy converting a bunch of old Warhammer Orcs into 40k Orks, and kitbashing two Deff Dreads. The hardest part has been making weapons, and here are a few lessons I’ve learned so far.

Ammo Belts

You can make great ammo belts using cable ties. Cable ties come in so many sizes that you’re bound to find one that matches your model’s weapon.

Ammo Belt — MORE DAKKA
The gun is from a Mech Warrior Clix figure.

 

Rocket Launchers

Method 1: I used a cylinder of sprue to form the main body of the “launcha,” then added bits from other weapons to make it look more like a weapon. For mine, I used a handle from a Dark Eldar weapon and two disks from a Gundam kit on either end. I drilled into the ends to finish it off. Really, it all depends on what your bits box has to offer. You can see this “rokkit launcha” in the last image, below. He’s the second Ork from the left.

Method 2: I used the caps from small medicine vials, which I glued together onto plastic tubes. I added greeble from sprues and bits of bent plastic to make this monster-of-all-rokkit-launchas. They look great on my chibi-style Gundam Deff Dread, and when they’re painted will look like they’ve got rockets loaded and ready to go.

Rocket Launcher / Rokkit Launcha - MORE DAKKA
Lots of things that go “BOOM”

Grot Lash & Grabba Stikk

Here are my custom Ork Boys and Runtherd, which I hope will inspire your own army of green-skins.

Scratch built and kit bashed Ork weapons.
More custom weapons.

I want to call out the Runtherd’s grot lash and grabba stikk. He’s the third from the left.

The grot lash was made with modeling epoxy clay, which I rolled thinly. I drilled a hole into the Runtherd’s hand, then glued it in. This guy’s not going under any bridges, but it gives him a dynamic look that the rest of da boyz are missing.

The grabba stick is a bit of wire attached to a plastic stopper from a nose spray. Yes, lots of medical waste here. Again, I drilled a hole into his hand to take the pole, then I finished it off with a bit of fine chain.

We Gotz MORE DAKKA!

Scratch building weapons can take a lot of playing around with bits of plastic until things fit, but the Orks — with their bashed-together aesthetic — are a very forgiving army to work on. Oversized weapons are never out of place in the Waaagh, and a wide range of weapon designs adds visual appeal to your forces.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

As I write, Magic 2020 Mastery is coming to a close in MTG Arena, and we’ll be dipping into Throne of Eldraine by the time you read this. Trying to grab the last mastery orb forced me to find a fast deck with a high win rate, and that got me thinking about speed, which is Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed.

Krenko’s Kommando

The deck that’s gaining a lot of XP for me right now is Krenko’s Kommando, a fast 1/1 aggro token deck.

Krenko's Kommando — Magical Life Lesson #5 The Need for Speed

It ideally works like this, by turn:

  1. Torch Courier comes out
  2. Cavalcade of Calamity out
  3. Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin out. Sacrifice the courier to give him haste.
  4. Sure Strike and any other buffs on Krenko, before he attacks. That’ll create between 6 and 9 goblins.
  5. You horde attacks, each dealing 1 damage to your opponent’s face, even if they’re blocked

Krenko’s Kommando applies “planning to win” and “knowing your goal” and is fine-tuned for speed. Most of the games I’ve played I’d taken the victory by turn seven. That meant I could fly through games and rack up XP. In life, you need quick wins to get ahead, and that’s  Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed.

Magical Life Lesson #5: The Need for Speed

It takes time to learn and gain competence. You spend years of your life at school, then you have even more learning at university or on the job. The time it takes to get skilled up can be frustrating, especially if you’re like me and want to do things properly. But then things click into place and you gain speed.

You really crack things when you find work that you can blast through. For me, that’s editing work. I need a lot of time for writing, which is what I give my mornings to. My afternoons are for editing, and because I’m faster at it, I get a sense of achievement much faster than with writing. That keeps me motivated. Dan Abnett, who writes for Black Library, has a similar approach. He writes novels in the morning and comics in the afternoon.

Let me be clear here, you don’t need to be fast with everything, but having something you do often that you can handle quickly does so much for your momentum.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



Quick Terrain Projects — Mini Monday Ep 6

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying table. This week we take on two quick terrain projects, which you can bang out in an evening.

Quick Terrain Projects of a stalagmite and road sign.

The first project is a stalagmite, those naturally forming spikes of rock that you find at the bottom of caves.

For mine, I used paper clay, but any type of clay should work. I drilled a hole through it and threaded a bit of chain through the hole to create some visual interest. I dripped super glue down the chain, which keeps it stiff. To paint the stalagmite, paint with a dark gray then dry brush with a lighter gray on the raised edges. The chain is painted black and then painted with a metallic color. Done!

The road sign is a bit of chopstick and popsicle stick, shaped and stuck together with wood glue. I used paper clay for the base, and you need something that is heavy enough to keep the sign upright. I then painted it brown and edge-highlighted it with a tan brown. I didn’t paint a name onto the sign, because I wanted to be able to add names to photos with Photoshop, as I’ve done above.

Both of these projects are simple and quick enough that you could turn out several in an evening, and they’re great projects for beginners. Besides being cheap, you can get a lot of reuse out of each bit of scenery. My little stalagmite has appeared in every prison and dungeon I’ve run since making it, and fills an inch square nicely.

Is there anything you’d like to see me paint or build? Let me know in the comments below.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.



Magical Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win

Magical Life Lessons are short snippets of wisdom learned from playing Magic the Gathering. It may be a game, but here you’ll find insights learned from slinging cards that you can apply to the game of life.

Deck building is a major part of Magic: the Gathering. You can throw a deck together, based on a theme or a cool synergy, and it might work. The best decks take thought and research, combining strong synergies with cards that can handle whatever you’re up against. The strongest decks I’ve ever played were carefully put together and refined through hours of playing. This is planning, pure and simple, and it’s Magic Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win.

Magic Life Lesson #4 — Plan to Win

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: “failing to plan is planning to fail.” You know how some decks are amazing at creating 1/1 tokens, or gaining life, and then there are decks with high win rates? The decks with high win rates are built to win, first and foremost. This is all about knowing your goal, but it’s also about creating a plan to achieve that goal. Some of these strong decks might create tokens or gain life, or do whatever they do well, but never lose sight of controlling the board, which is vital for victory.

Spock detecting large quantities of win in this sector. Magic Life Lesson #4

Lessons from Industry and Life

At the start of this year, we went back to our business plan for Rising Phoenix and gave it a lot of thought, which led to an overhaul of how we publish, what we publish, and how we market our publications. We knew it was vital to our business to have a strong plan, informed by lessons we’ve learned since we got started, viability, and our goals. Without it, we’d be all over the place, but, with the plan, we have something to gauge new projects by and goals to work towards. We won’t always get it right, we will make mistakes, but we’ll keep refining our plan based on the lessons we learn, and that will make us stronger. Just like refining a MtG deck after a few games or when you get new cards.

A Simple Plan (Not the Band)

A plan doesn’t need to be complex. Whatever you need to do, from studying for an exam to raising funds for your next RPG spending spree, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Identify what success looks like. How much do you need to know to ace your exam? How much do you need to raise to afford those minis?
  2. Chunk the work needed to gain success down into manageable bits. If you need to study 100 pages, how many can you handle in a 45-minute study session? How many study sessions would you need to learn all 100 pages?
  3. Begin working according to your plan. Track your progress as you go.
  4. Modify your plan to ensure you meet your goals. Do you need to cut pages from your study plan? Do you need to work more overtime to afford that core book? Make changes to how you’re going to achieve your goal, not to the goal itself.

The ICBM acronym might be a stretch, but planning works. Don’t roll through life without a plan — figure out where you want to be and go for it, fists flying!

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

Check out our store, subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates, and visit us on our blog, our Facebook page and on Twitter.