Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Game of Thrones Beer Pong Table

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die drink.

I have finally finished my Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones beer pong table.  I started working on it late last year but then put it aside for several months to work on other projects.  Now with the start of the third season of HBO's adaption of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, it seemed like an appropriate time to finish up.

Some of the sigils of the great houses of Westeros adorn the table.

For those not familiar with beer pong, it's a beer drinking game (though nonalcoholic beverages can be used instead) which features two teams trying to throw ping pong balls into beer filled cups from the opposite edge of the table.  When a pong ball lands in the opposing team's cup (8-10 cups arranged like a pool ball rack is the norm), that cup is consumed then removed.  Once all of a team's cups have been removed from play, that team is out and the opposing team is declared the winner (though in my mind, maybe it's not so bad to be the loosing team since you get to drink the beer).  There are plenty of additional rules (and house rules) but that is the core of the game.

I was introduced to beer pong last year by some of my boat crew.  Due to the nature of my business, my boat crews tend to be fairly young, with many just out of college.  They couldn't wait to share with the "old guy" their favorite college drinking game.  Now we had our share of games in my days, but they mostly involved cards or quarters.  So this one was going to be quite different.  Although according to reports, beer pong has been around on college campuses since as early as the 1960s, during my college years (1990s) it had not caught on and was not as popular as now.  The concept intrigued me so I let the "youngins'" show me how to play and explain all of the esoteric and crazy house rules.  I'm pretty sure they took advantage of me that night but all in all it was great fun.  I was hooked!

Rinse cup holders were added to each team's side.

The table we used that first night (and many nights thereafter) was a sorry affair.  Basically they took a thin piece of plywood and threw on a coat of paint.  It didn't even have legs.....just a pair of sawhorses held the table up.  It was in bad shape even then but the weather and humidity of the Florida Keys took a toll.  The peeling paint basically disintegrated and the wood warped to such a degree that one could almost toss a pong ball to the side and have it bounce in for a bank shot.  That's when I decided take make my own version.

House Tully and House Stark are aligned on the left side of the table.

Not to be outdone by the kids, I decided to build a bullet proof version.  I did a little research online and discovered that not only are there official beer pong leagues with a world championship in Las Vegas, but official beer pong table dimensions as well.  Two feet wide by eight feet long are the official specs so I decided to adopt those measurements.  I chose half inch plywood for the table itself then attached 2x4 runners down each side to keep the playing surface strong and level.  I also ran several 2x4 struts underneath to give additional strength and longevity to the table top.  2x2 legs approximately 28" high were then attached to hold the table up to the official height. Not required and probably not official, I also added rinse cup holders on each team's side.  This thing was heavy, to say the least, but the table would definitely last.

House Targaryen stands proudly in the center.

With the table constructed, I applied a few coats of dark stain to help protect the wood from the elements.  I wanted the wood to look old and well worn, so a rag was used to stain the table and I let the excess gather in random places to create a bit of a pattern.  After the staining process, it was time to start painting.

House Baratheon and House Lannister guard the right side of the table.

I knew all along that I wanted to make a Westeros themed table.  I just wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to represent.  At first I thought that a map of Westeros itself would make a great backdrop.  The landmass from The Wall down to Dorne would fit very nicely on my 2x8 rectangle due to the shape of the continent of Westeros.  The idea was abandoned early in the planning process however.  Though I am a huge fan of the books, I didn't think that at first glance most people, including those I play with, would make the connection between the imagery of the geography on the table and A Game of Thrones television series(which they were familiar with).  I wanted to take advantage of the atmosphere and branding the HBO adaption has created so I decided to use the house sigils popularized by HBO instead.

Painting the shields.  And yes, that lamp did fall over a bit after this photo was taken.

To create the sigils of some of the great houses of Westeros, I started with the shields.  I first made a template to insure that each shield was the same shape and size.  I then outlined them on the table itself.  Then it was on to painting the backgrounds, which did take quite a bit of time.  Several layers of acrylic paint were used to cover the dark stain with the appropriate house color, so four cycles of painting and drying were needed .  The next step was the most difficult.  I drew each design by hand on paper first, then cut out a template to trace onto the shield.  Some of the designs like House Baratheon, and House Targarian in particular, were a real pain to cut out due to all the small features.  With a craft knife and a steady hand, I was able to do so however, with only minor mistakes.  To finish up, all I had to do was paint between the lines just like we were all taught to do back in grade school.

As a final step, I applied several coats of sealer to help protect the surface from the sun, weather, and the inevitable spillage of beer.  A water based sealant was used instead of a stronger oil based version to help protect the paint.  I was afraid the latter would cause the acrylic to bleed or peel up.  If I had it to do over though, I would have applied an oil based sealant after staining, then paint the sigils over the stronger sealant.  I could then go back and apply additional water based sealer on the painted areas themselves.  Oh well.....

So my Game of Thrones table now sits proudly in my man cave ready for action.  The lords and ladies of the Seven Kingdoms may prefer the joust for entertainment in between their planning and scheming to win the Iron Throne but for me, I'll take a good game of beer pong with my friends any day.  Come on over and play but remember:  as Craster would say, "My house, my rules."  Ha, ha, ha.......

Thanks for reading......

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Prime Time Baby!!

It's that time of year again friends.  It's not what you're thinking though.  Despite the title of the post (which I said in a very horrible impression as I typed it) and the photo below, I'm not writing about March Madness.  Although I'm a huge fan of The Big Dance and will probably be watching the tournament more than painting over the next few weeks, I'm actually referring to the change in the weather here in the Florida Keys.

Here on this tiny string of tropical coral islands, the dry season is rapidly drawing to a close.  The daily rain is about to return and along with it, constant high humidity.  As one can imagine, such conditions provide a very unfavorable environment for spray priming miniatures outside.  Although when you're surrounded by water humidity is always present, for a few months each year the percentage comes down enough to allow me to use a spray primer.  I do have a method for hand priming miniatures during the rainy season but it's time consuming when prepping more than one or two models.  So every year about this time I seem to realize that my window for spray priming is coming to an end and then I go all out to prime just about everything I can get my hands on before the humidity returns.  Prime time indeed!

I took a quick photo with my phone to show an example of some of the work that has occupied my time during the last week as I scramble to beat the humidity.  In the upper portion of the pic you can see some of the recently primed miniatures.  There are some random Reaper miniatures and a few LotR models, but most of the batch is comprised of goblins from Otherworld Miniatures.  The goblins have a great "old school" look to them without the static poses and poor details characteristic of minis cast back in the day.  I can't wait to paint them.

The lower portion of the photo shows miniatures that have recently been cleaned, washed, and assembled.  They are awaiting the end of a rare rain event for this time of year so that they can be primed as well.  Many of the minis from this batch are from Dark Sword Miniatures.  Any regular reader of this blog probably knows how much I love the dynamic sculpts and incredible detail from DSM, but I very much dislike putting the models together.  To be able to produce those great poses, the miniatures usually arrive in quite a few pieces.  The parts themselves are rather small and flimsy and are difficult to glue into position. Ironically, I often find myself cursing DSM for the very reason that I love them.  All will be well once I start painting them however.

Besides the miniatures in the photo above, I have quite a few more to prep before they even get to the cleaning and assembly stage.  I'm a bit of an obsessive collector and tend to hoard way more miniatures than I'll ever be able to paint.  I have no doubt that one day I'll be featured on the television show Hoarders where I'll be seen surrounded and trapped by mounds of lead and plastic.  Before the humidity makes a return, I need to put a major dent in some of that hoard.

Amongst some of the items to tackle are several boxes of Rangers of Middle-earth, two boxes of dwarves, a box each of Easterlings and Haradrim, two each of Anglo-saxons and Vikings, and several resin pieces. That list does not even account for the huge box of miniatures that should arrive before long from the Reaper Bones kickstarter.  Plus I have about 15 metal minis on the way in from Ebay.  Busy will be the word of the day for the next few weeks.  "I love the smell of primer in the morning." What does not get primed before the end of April will just have to wait until late next November when the air dries out a bit and the dry season arrives again.  If I purchase something new in the meantime that I simply must paint before the fall, I'll just slap on a coat of Guesso and get right to it.

Thanks for reading my update folks.  Now it's off to work on more miniatures and finish up my NCAA basketball bracket!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ori the dwarf

Due to the lack of posts lately, it may look like my Thorin & Company project has come to a standstill, but that is not the case.  I've just been too lazy to post anything.  I'm actually almost done (finally) and simply need to catch up with my photography and posts to polish off Thorin and the boys.  To further that goal, here is Ori the dwarf.

Once I finally decided on an appropriate color, Ori was fairly easy to paint.  His garb is simple and he does not carry all that much equipment.  But deciding on a color was not fun.  Trying to match the tunic as it appears in the movie photography took several tries.  The color seemed to be halfway between red and purple.  Simple right?  Just mix the two and there ya go.  Not so fast there cowboy. 

No matter how I changed the ratios, I kept coming up with a very brownish burgundy.  I now think I should have tried to add a bit of blue to "cool" off the color a bit but I didn't think of it at the time.  Instead I gave up and searched the internet for a premixed color that matched what I was looking for. 

As most of you know, ordering paint online by looking at a color swatch can be an exercise in frustration.  It seems that the paint bottle in question rarely matches the color shown online.  I know that I have certainly been disappointed in the past when an order arrived only to be the wrong color.  Fortunately, that was not the case this time.  I ordered Burgundy Wine (09025) from Reaper and the match was nearly perfect for what I wanted.  I used the color as is for the basecoat then added reds and purples to create highlights and shades.  I could have lightened up the overall pallet just a bit to brighten the miniature but for the most part, I'm quite happy with the final colors.

Ori did not get much attention in the movie.  One of the only lines that comes to mind is during the meeting at Bag End when bravado (or perhaps the ale from Bilbo's stock) gets the best of him and causes him to blurt out "I'm not afraid!  I'm up for it.  I'll give him a taste of the Dwarvish iron right up his jacksy." I got quite a chuckle from that line!

Despite his lack of attention from Peter Jackson, he certainly garnered quite a bit from me during his time in the painting queue.  I'm glad he is done!

I'm feeling rather lazy again so that's all for now.  Thanks for reading......