dispatches from terra incognita

Month: April 2020

Zafrarian Infantry

Paint has dried on the first Zafrarian infantryman and thus he is ready for service.

Embodying the national colors.

I had returned to Battledress for inspiration. I believe these two fellows may have risen to the top:

An infantryman from Wurttemberg…

… and a grenadier from the Kingdom of Bavaria.

I went for a lighter jacket, a bit horizon blue-ish.

And smart, black patent leather kit with bright gold accents. I painted over the front cross strap (you can see in the picture on top) as I wanted more blue to show. Looking at him now, I think I painted the epaulette on his right shoulder incorrectly. I’ll need to fix that …

More About Zafraria

As promised, here are the first two Zafrarian troops, painted. Also as promised, it is a bit of a cheat.

Through the process of an apparent convergent evolution, the troop type “Zouave” arose separately both in Algeria in 1831 (according to Wikipedia) and in a distant, little travelled corner of the ocean on the island of Ascaria.

The more prosaic explanation is that among the bags in my Christmas Haul were two zouaves, and I am determined to use as many of these random fellows as possible. Camels are going to be indigenous to Ascaria, as Armies in Plastic gave me any number of those.

The free-association words I came up with for Zafraria were “heterodox, effective, alloy, agglutinative.” One difference from Ascodal and historical Napoleonic troops is that the Zafrarian army comprises soldiers of several races. The capital city is Fora, written “????;” other cities include Pruih Frain, Ushtar, Nochia, Achal, and Aiqozoth. (These were randomly generated and I suspect contain some tricky sounds to represent with Cyrillic…)

And finally, the flag:

This is the Zafrarian national flag. The red “crescent” actually represents the sun, refusing to be concealed by the smaller (implied) white moon. The flag commemorates a myth from the Zafrarian past.

This is the battle flag. Being mostly white, it makes a significant statement, as the standard bearer commits to keeping the colors spotless throughout the battle.

I went back to the Napoleonic section of Battledress for inspiration for the Zafrarian infantry. Until next time …

Further praise

I have been driven to the point of proverbial distraction by ætheric misbehavior. I put in hours to perfect the fine points of an imaginary language, only to discover that my blog obdurately declined to reproduce it accurately.

After spending significant portions of multiple days questing for resolution of the issue, I once again put myself in the capable hands of WP Tech Support. An expert soul called “Honey” sorted the issue, and now the Ascaria Parts I and II appear as I intended.

One side effect is that some punctuation and oddments were replaced by “?” in older posts; I’ll have to comb through them gradually and re-type. I did manage to learn just enough about SQL Databases and character set collation to be dangerous, but not enough to repair the problem.

It’s my sincere hope that this old Circa Games machine should be running smoothly and securely now, so that I can devote more time to creativity than maintenance.

Ascaria II

Part 2: Zafraria

The name for the sworn enemy of the Ascodali came during my original session of random generation: Zafraria. Soon after my dive down the rabbit hole of the Ascodali long s, I decided there should be something outré about the Zafrarian language as well.

I have long harbored a curiosity about the Cyrllic alphabet — different letters, “backwards” letters, number-lookin’ things — it has always exercised an exotic appeal. I pulled up my club chair and a musty, leather-bound Wikipedia, and set in to learning what I could about the script of St. Cyril.

As a little sidebar, I decided early on in this new shelter-in-place paradigm that I would cultivate an “atmosphere of growth.” I bought a book, paper, and fancy pen, and have been trying to teach myself to draw; I’ve been re-reading the work of the Brontës and learning about their lives; I’m trying to write a song with music and lyrics. All of this language study was an unexpected bonus. Among the myriad things I’ve learned is that Cyrillic was named for St. Cyril, but not created by him. He created an earlier, cool-as-hell looking script called Glagolitic, which is the writing system used in the world of The Witcher books and video game series, according to Wikipedia. There is a Netflix series as well; I don’t know if it features any writing.

Well, I studied tables of the corresponding sounds, and found a “learn Russian” site that gave example words and how to write them. I was tickled to learn that this fascinating fellow  — ? — or “Zhe” would make the initial /z/ sound I imagined. They have a plain /z/ sound, too, but I always associate the voiced postalveolar fricative /zhe/ sound as Russian. (I admit, I learned that linguistics stuff from Wikipedia).

I was dead chuffed when, seeing how “India” is rendered in Russian, I discovered that I would get to use “backwards” N (pretty cool) and (O, my MG) — perhaps the most quintessentially Cyrillic of all Cyrillic letters — “BACKWARDS” R! 

Next, in order to reproduce the letters electronically, I had to learn about Unicode. It seems that one can get his computer to type all sorts of fascinating glyphs and sigils if only he can divine their Unicode. Fortunately all the Wikipedia pages about languages provide tables with each letter’s code.

I achieved my pièce de résistance upon pasting my creation — Жафрария — into Google Translate, dialing in “Russian” (Google detected my word as Kyrgyz in origin, of all things) and clicking the left speaker to pronounce the word in Russian (not how it sounds translated into English). The little computer voice said: “Zafraria,” exactly how I had been saying it in my head.

At some point during the whole process I decided that Ж was, in fact, perhaps a little bit “extra.” I wanted a recognizable, but stylized Z. I somehow stumbled into (you know how the internet works) Black Letter or Gothic script. There were a couple of Z-ish options; I decided upon ℨ as a compromise between Ж and plain-old Z. (Of course, it looks just like the plain-old Russian z [sigh].

And so, I give you… ℨафрария.

I’ve completed the first two troops, but as we shall see next time, they are a bit of a cheat …

A word from our sponsor

A brief peek “under the hood” at Circa Games. I rarely do “commercial breaks,” but I was ably assisted in a time of need, and thus am moved to sing appropriate praises.

Broadcasting was temporarily disrupted for a day or two here in terra incognita, owing to my apparent technical hubris. I grew tired of seeing the little warning that my humble blog was “unsafe” due to its lack of an SSL certificate. True, we conduct no sensitive business here, but one day I may offer my humble services as a terrain builder, and thus I want positive “brand” associations.

At any rate, my web provider made it easy enough to acquire an SSL, but installing it was a bit more arcane. This is a WordPress.org site, which means I have my own web host for a WordPress blog. It may in fact be cheaper for me to have gone the WordPress.com route, where they host it, but I have a legacy provider and domain name from the previous website I ran, starting way back in 1999.

Well, my maladroitness resulted in the site going straight offline. I mucked about using WordPress support forum advice, likely making things worse by the minute. Finally I engaged the services of a company called, informatively, WP Tech Support, who, for a well deserved $65 US, had it back up and whirring within an hour. 

Should you experience difficulties with a WordPress.org blog, I unreservedly recommend WP Tech Support.

Notice the reassuring little “lock” symbol next to my web address. Security, hard won.


Part I: Ascodal

I mentioned in my last post the bags of random figures I received in my Christmas Haul from Armies in Plastic. Amongst them were a smattering of Napoleonics, an era which has never, for some reason, “grabbed” me. Serendipity struck me when Mark, the Man of Tin’s recently mentioned Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town. I had already picked up the Oxford World Classics collection of the Brontës’ juvenilia on his recommendation, which I have been dipping in and out of.

Some of the Random Fellows

As I was unlikely to ever take up Napoleonics in a serious way, and as the Brontë’s Imagi-nation was rooted in that era, I decided that these Random Fellows should be drafted to serve in the army of a new, imaginary land.

The Uniform

I began my Imagi-nation, as one does, with the uniform. Picking through the pile of figures, I located about 10 who wore a pleasing uniform. But what color to paint them?

I paged through the section on Napoleonic uniforms in Battledress for inspiration, but found myself stupefied by the multiplicity. I have no idea how these people would have known who was on the same team! I decided instead to use a color combination I keep returning to — crimson and cream.

A brace of biplanes

Years ago, I built a couple of clothespin biplanes, using plans purchased from Mr. Kenneth Van Pelt at The Penny Whistle. In looking for a color scheme for my Albatross D.V, I must have come across a picture of the that flown by Manfred von Richthofen. I loved the crimson and cream combo, though mine seems a bit more maroon. Anyhoo, I’ve used that color pairing on several miniatures I’ve painted recently.

The midnight blue shako and facings is the color I use for my Prussians’ dunkelblau. The light blue plume was an extra flourish.

The Flag

Next order of business: a flag. As I frequently hurl myself into the “letting perfect be the enemy of the good” trap, I decided to preclude agonizing by using online random generators. I’ve looked at Scrontch’s Flag Designer before, but I wanted more control over the colors. Then I discovered Tennessine. I found a flag I liked (The “Flag of Maydrine by Ken”) and subbed in the colors from my uniforms. Looked good.

Just before downloading your creation, one has a choice of several filters. I was intrigued by “Negative,” clicked on it, and thus my flag was born. It’s quite similar to the flag of the Dominican Republic, where I lived for a year when my wife-to-be was in the Peace Corps. Thomas Foss has one like it with a bee for one of his Imagi-nations. I find it quite striking. I may also use the original flag for regimental colors.

I recalled that in the 19th century, “command” often wore different uniforms from rank-and-file troops. I had also been free-associating some adjectives for this new land — “effete, fragile, exclusive, polished.” Returning to the pile of random figures, I located a few more with an older looking uniform, all epaulettes and tailed coats.

This standard-bearer began life as a chap reloading his musket. He is my first-ever 54mm conversion. I trimmed away the weapon, drilled out the hands, and inserted a wire flagpole.

And here’s the commanding officer, a medal pinned to his tailed coat — perfection! The full set of these chaps include a drummer, so my unit will one day field a musician.

The Royal Æwon Regiment, 4th Regiment of Foot

The Name

Continuing to rely upon the random, I somehow stumbled upon a new generator for the names. Emily’s Fantasy Names Generators — particularly the Country/Nation Names generator — came to my rescue. I clicked and clicked, scribbling the names that struck my fancy.

The land would be called Ascodal, with Eighvale as the capitol. Cities of note include Barnsley, Ashbourne, Ely, Pitmerden, Seameet, Redwater, Three Streams, Iyera, Liofen, Iustrul, Estana, Agrya, Æwon (I believe some or all of these came from a different generator — the site has myriad).

Doodling in my journal, I realized that, of course, the Ascodali would employ the “long s” for formal writing. I can’t at this moment find a font that produces the descending s I imagine, but I’ve learned a bit about unicode, so I can settle for a “printers” version: A?codal.

I’ve started writing a bit of the history. We have a queen — Elspeth — and her only son, Prince Leander. Sticking with the Brontëan inspiration, I believe there will be a Gothic romance vibe amongst the battles.

Next time — Part II: ℨафрария.

A bit of a jag

Even before the recent “sheltering in place,” I seem to have gone on a bit of a painting jag — the term is, apparently, an Americanism: “a bout of unrestrained activity or emotion, especially drinking, crying, or laughing.” There is no rhyme or reason, just a gentle swirl through the unpainted masses. In the spirit of sharing, we have:

This fellow was a gift from him creator, Thomas Foss. I’ve noticed that his Skull and Crown web store is unavailable; hopefully indicative of a big relaunch. I’ve been hoping more of these fellows to become available.

Let us stay with the big boys. These are the first five Franco-Prussian War Prussians. They are to serve as stock villains for my Isla Victoria VSF setting.

Next up, my current “new shiny object.” When I acquired my Vintage Christmas Haul of Armies in Plastic 54s, one benefit of buying in bulk (in addition to free shipping) was the extra bags of random miniatures. I had long thought that I would press some of these lads into service in an Imagi-Nation. That plan has been set into motion.

Picked from the fellows in the bags plus an additional bag of random AIP Napoleonics I purchased, I have the first unit of Ascodali infantry. I’ll do a subsequent post on what I’m dreaming up.

Now we’ll move on to smaller souls. I’ll note at the outset that my painting style (block colors with a wash) and my not-so-matte sealer make the minis appear a bit blotchy here on the silver screen. They look better— to my eyes, at least — in person.

Here are four adventurous ladies from Wargames Foundry’s Darkest Africa collection. I accidentally captured an appropriate mania in the missionary lass at left.

I tried to create a little vignette for this lone, piratical captive. (Old Glory). Would have been better if I put a little ship in the background, I suppose.


Here is a pulp-era Dame or Gun Moll, I suppose, looking quite blotchy. This was my second attempt at sheer fabric (her stockings) which look terrible in the photo and not much better in the flesh [sigh].

When I began painting this chap years ago, I didn’t understand who he was supposed to be. As often, it was likely Maestro Chris Palmer who informed me Reaper intends him to be “a hougan.” I’ve since become better acquainted with the Reaper Figure Finder for positive IDs.

Last historical stop, the Old West. A couple of entrepreneurs in dispute with a cow herder. No doubt, just a misunderstanding. (Foundry Old West figures).

On to the world of fantasy. The leader of my orc army along with a chariot, as yet un-crewed.

Some villagers (Reaper Bones) …

… and an elf, maybe? As I got into the color scheme, I imagined her as a fantasy Bridezilla. Perhaps adventurers will interrupt her nuptials and invoke her wrath …

This one is meant to be a paladin, I think. With my color choices, I asked: what would happen if the god she followed wasn’t obsessed with purity evinced by chastity? Hence, a “Hot Paladin.”

I don’t know if GW does any female dwarf characters at all. I imagined this young lady as a “Slayer-in-training.” Hence, not yet nude (a shirt skirt and training bra-type-thing you can’t see here) and just a bit of the orange dye in her hair.

This fellow has a silly, Peter Mullen-ish over the topness that appeals to me. I tried — and failed — to paint mystical swirlings on the crystal ball. Looks like a bad globe [sign, again].

The final two were “hate painting,” really, just to get them out of the queue. I recall that Chris Palmer didn’t like this lass when he painted her, either. She’s clearly running away from something — something BIG as she seems to be looking backwards and upwards. I’m hoping it’s whoever sold her that outfit …

Finally, Reaper’s “Mr. Bones.” I don’t get what this guy even is. Skull face, which Chris Palmer refers to as “a mask,” which, I guess, it is, as he has regular hands and feet. Who is he? What is he doing? WTF? I have the next-year’s-model on the desk now. At least he has boney hands and feet as well.

More GW Goblin Goodness … and a Guest

Fairly recent eBay sleuthing resulted in two pertinent finds, which I instantly acquired:

This Goblin Regiment was new, still in shrink-wrap, at a somewhat reasonable price.

Some may cry
A trio of Forest Goblins

The flanking fellows are — now that I think of it —my first, and so far only, metal GW minis. They were billed as Forest Goblin Standard Bearers. Anyhow, goofy and fun to paint. I imagine that my forest goblins catch and dismember colorful toucan-type birds, hence the brightly colored feathers.

The fellow in the middle comes from Shieldwolf Miniatures. I picked up a couple boxes of infantry (enough to make 50 goblins), a hero, master archer, and a master spearman. I’m looking to raise small armies of each goblin faction that I might hold a Gob Off, per the Hoodling’s Hole.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén