dispatches from terra incognita

Author: Scott Larson Page 2 of 12

Odd Trios

Ready for battle

Today we have a few recent completions, all of which came in groups of three. First up, some ancient Eureka Miniatures Hardlove Steam Driven Impervious Suits. Apparently unpopular or at least unphotogenic, inspirational searches for them on the web were fruitless. I also searched for “Steampunk mecha,” to no avail. I knew I didn’t want to paint them as mechanical Victorian redcoats … so, I was at a loss.

I eventually decided that they would be attached to an artillery brigade — and thus, would sport blue livery. A few metal steampunks gewgaws, and then a Union Jack on the right shoulder and a Roman numeral on the left (indicating their code in the Eureka catalog).

As a mournful coda, just after this photo was snapped, I placed them in their Plano storage box. The top could just close, but when I snapped the latches on the lid, it pressed down sufficiently to put a dent in each of those plastic helmets [sigh]. So, I’m looking for suitable little bubbles in packing material to replace them. If not one thing, it’s another.

All black is hard to paint.

Next up, three Reaper Bones gorillas. Two are standard issue, if immense in 28mm. The third, their presumed leader, armed and armored. I studied pictures, and gorillas really are mostly black, which turns out to be pretty hard (for me ) to paint. Then, my trust Chick Lewis Magic Wash had gotten imbalanced and extra-Futury, so they got a serious gloss coat that matte spray Could Not Tame. [I used to be able to Google and find the original web page with Chick Lewis’s recipe. I don’t find it now … ] Somewhere in my containers of unpainted Bones is Ape X, who shall make the fourth for bridge.

And finally … owlbears.

Whoo, whooo, grrr.

The rug, 3D printed, has already made an appearance. The other two are Reaper Bones. The owlbear is a fascinating beast. The individual components of the duality are each deservedly menacing, but the alloy seems … well, silly. I recall that Chris Palmer didn’t love the pose on the left — he did some repositioning, I think. I think it looks suitably ape$hite for an ursine avian, with a “cuckoo for Cocoapuffs” vibe, those of us of a certain American age should recall.

The middle fellow looks to me like a regular 28mm miniature wearing an owlbear suit. I’ve always wanted to do some type of a “costume party” scenario — he shall get an invitation.

The Project I Didn’t Know I Needed

There I was, minding my own business, browsing blogs (as one does) and in a moment, I was swept into a project I had no idea I needed to do.

About three weeks ago, Mark Min, the Man of Tin, in one of his glorious fits of genius, posted a work-in-progress creation of his called Spla-fiti. Using soft plastic skateboarder minis (about which more anon), one scoots about the city, endeavoring to leave the most “tags” on the buildings. Meanwhile, police can catch one and cleaning crews might remove one’s tags.

Mark asserts: “It is another exploration of my interest in non-lethal ‘war’ games,” which I wholly endorse. As a kindergartner teacher, there are few aspects of my hobbies that I can share with elementary school-aged students. This game would be one they might play in school (whenever we get to go back, that is … ).

First step was to acquire skaters. Ebay easily yielded the first set of AJs Toyboarders. As Mark noted, Series Two is a rarer animal. My initial Google forays yielded nought. The following day, however, I unearthed a possible lead. A shop called Jack’s Surfboards claimed to have them in stock. I ordered.

Did Jack email to say he had received my order (and payment) ? … He did not. Were there any further communications about shipping, etc. ? … There were not. I could have emailed or called them, I suppose, but the cost was low enough that patience seemed reasonable. Well, not overly-long afterwards, I was surprised by there presence of a parcel in my mailbox.

And, who should I find inside?

They were eager for exercise after the long flight from California.

Ready to Roll

I believe I recall police officers — and perhaps fire fighters — in my sons’ toy box upstairs. I’ll need to have a look. Which I have now done, and, alas, they are all over the place, scale-wise …

The next challenge presented by the project was proper terrain. I have a decent collection of modern buildings for 28s, but I have not yet constructed much for 54s, particularly because of the storage issue. My first thought, though, went to another wargaming sub-hobby which I have been neglecting: 3D printing.

I scaled-up some STL files that I have acquired and printed them out. At the 54mm size, the printing lines are much more noticeable. I think I left the printer on a “fast” setting which is fine for 28mm and smaller. As they are intended to be background props, I’m not letting it brother me.

An appealing aspect of working in the larger scale is that it’s easier to model details. That loo roll was a bit of dowel with paper glued on. I impressed perforations for the individual sheets, but I doubt they are perceptible.

I have some small milk crates that I have been meaning for some time to transform into office buildings. I’ll need to fashion a gridded playing surface. And then I may tinker a bit with the rules to add “distractions” personified by video games and snack machines.

Expect further reports as progress is achieved.

Painting Progress

Here are my latest figures to go into the “completed” column:

An admittedly odd pair — a Blitz Bowl / Blood Bowl orc and a 3D-printed owlbear-skin rug from Fat Dragon Games.

Continuing with fantasy, we have two well-armed lasses from my horde of Reaper Bones.

And then I circled back to my goblin fetish, with two GW Night Goblin netters. I felt pretty good about adding them to the swelling ranks of my army:

Until I recalled that this is what remains to be painted:

The photo doesn’t do them justice, but these aged Reaper Bones turned out better than I expected. On the left is the iconic Deadlands cover boy by Brom; the skeletal fellow on the right had been a cavalryman, I decided.

“Blondie” was one of those metal figures I was too intimidated to paint for years. I don’t recall who made him. Flanking him are two Reaper Bones who turned out ok. I’m ever shocked that one can paint craft acrylics right on Bones plastic without primer.

And finally, to some 54mm denizens of my imagi-nation, Ascaria. First up are Zafrarian artillery. They came with both mortar and howitzer — I assume they wouldn’t man them both simultaneously.

… And their Ascodali counterparts. I’m getting in almost two hours of hobby time a day, which pleases me to no end. Alas, I’m soon to return to remote teaching, so I’ll likely have to forego one of the daily hobbying hours …

Vintage Tin Lizzie

I continue to progress in clearing my decades-long backlog of hobby projects. My latest completion was another wargaming sub-hobby — scale modeling.

I acquired a 1:16 Lindberg Model T around the same time I bought the war-game-sized contemporary rides. I’ve long wanted to own a Ford Model T, and thought that building a model would help familiarize me with it. Well … it remained on the shelf for almost 20 years. The scratches on the box were inflicted by a beloved feline who passed away 12 years ago!

Working on the model brought back a flood of childhood memories … OF JUST WHY I HATED BUILDING SCALE MODELS! My good-golly-gracious, they are an inexcusable botheration. Oh, well … here it is in all its wabi-sabi glory:

The parts are fiddly and often don’t fit together neatly. If you glue plastic to plastic, you can use model glue, which slightly melts the plastic for a solid bond. When one tries to be proactive and paint beforehand, he either has to scrape paint off the fiddly, delicate joining bits, or else use super glue, which musses the paint, it turns out.

The instructions are not always completely clear — I managed to commit only one profound blunder, by glueing the firewall to the cab before I installed the steering column and wheel. I ended up having to sever and rejoin the column. Had I done it correctly, one would have been able to turn the steering wheel and the front wheels would turn. As it is, I can gingerly turn the wheels, cringing with fear that the column will snap.

I used PVA on the windshield, but still managed to smudge it all up. A little part of me wants to track down another kit and try it again to redeem myself, but I doubt that shall happen.

I did check the web for actual Model Ts for sale, and, with the stable financial position that has come to me with maturity, they are not entirely out of reach. However, I did not inherit the “car” gene from my father, so I doubt I’ll be able to successfully convince my wife to support such an expensive hobby. Plus also the all-important consideration of where to store it.

An Unexpected, Though Pleasant, Diversion

Looking for a break from … well, everything I have been painting, with the added incentive of reducing the pile of boxes of unpainted Armies in Plastic, I reached for a box of Indian cavalry. They were from the AiP “Boxer Rebellion” range, “1st Skinner’s Horse.” I thought they’d make a nice addition to my Zafrarian army.

Now, I believe I was conflating them with these fellows, who I got in the same haul. The cavalry box had some less-than-helpful, monochromatic AiP art. I was thinking it would be a quick, mostly-khaki paint job, and another unit in the “completed” column.

Though I intended them for Imagi-nation use, I do like to do a little research when a unit is specifically identified. So, into Google went “1st Skinner’s Horse.” To my chagrin, they were not khaki clad at all. However, their uniform was a beautiful, intricate surprise, presenting an unexpected challenge.

Here’s the lot, poorly lit. I did try to be faithful with the uniform, but they would be hopelessly anachronistic in the late 18th-early 19th centuries, as the Imagi-nation of Zafraria is fully integrated. Thus, a panoply of races are represented (which doesn’t show up well in the poor lighting).

… and, Lancer.

Research took quite awhile as there were a variety of renditions of the uniform. Then, they were somewhat elaborate to paint — particularly the headgear. I also replaced the lances with wire, as the originals were unacceptably bendy.

So, they went into the “done” column, though not as expeditiously as I had hoped.

Beefing Up the Band

Your Humble Correspondent has been suitably prolific on the hobby front, but not sufficiently strict about documentation. I have much to share.

Whilst in quest of identification of my Royal Marine Band, I found an Ebay listing for a quite reasonably priced partial set — specifically, trumpets and a bass drum, which would complement my fellows nicely. Purchased!

Well, even I could tell they were not from the exact band as mine, but my eyes weren’t yet keen enough to notice those bases …

These fellows, it turns out, are of a much later vintage — circa the 1990’s, apparently. Here they are with pre-war counterparts:

These modern kids are more static — their arms are cast in position, rather than (more-or-less uselessly) articulated. I haven’t as yet had an occasion to parade them ensemble; I’m sure they’ll know many of the same tunes.

On a subsequent visit to the same vintage shop where I found my original band, I fulfilled a long-standing quest for a type case.

I’ve passed on many of these, but this one was in especially excellent condition. My initial thought was to display it turned vertically with 28mm figures. The slots proved too short, alas, so Plan B was for my VSF 15s. Suddenly, however, inspiration struck!

I had been wondering how to best display my marching Britain’s. I would leave the case horizontal (it already had handy hangers on the back to mount it on the wall this way) and give the band — and the rest of my nascent collection — the pride of place they deserve.

In time, I look forward to completing this case and purchasing a second to fill …

Good to Know

Gadding about the internet, as one does, he daily encounters innumerable morsels of guidance and advice. Some are retained for later use; others flutter harmlessly through the void betwixt the ears.

My first-ever purchased 54mm figures from Armies in Plastic were Zulu War artillery (who, as I know check, are apparently no longer available from AIP [!]). I acquired them during my Square Pegs phase, in order to have a model for scratch-building a 6-pounder and Gatling gun. I’ll also note these fellows annoy me to no end due to their state of inexcusable deshabille. Even in the heat of Southern Africa, I firmly believe that no proper toy soldier should be seen sans tunic!

Anyhoo, when I spray varnished them, owing to some hopefully-unreproducible atmospheric vagary, they got a slight whitish “frosting.” Because they were so unloved, I decided to decide that the frost was dust and left them as such. (Note, I also slopped a bit when drybrushing of the base color on his left trouser leg hem. That, too, I elected to ignore).

While scanning the Miniature Page one day awhile back, someone asked for guidance with a similar varnish mishap. I regularly use Krylon Fusion grey primer, which I will attest is so good it almost jumps out the can onto miniatures without my help. I have gotten spoiled and thus a bit lazy about shaking the can — it’s that good.

Kyylon Matte finish is less amenable, however. It never seems to be very flat / matte, which usually doesn’t bother me overmuch as I like a lively, toy-soldiery look. The chap on the miniatures page asserted that one had to shake the can of spray finish for an inordinately long time in order for it to have the desired effect. When someone bemoaned a “frosting” such as my troops had, another chap remarked that he solved the problem by spraying them again with varnish!

Now, doing the same thing that caused a problem to resolve it seemed counter-intuitive to me, but I apparently filed it away. I did immediately begin shaking the can of varnish for a full minute beforehand, and periodically throughout the spraying, and my figures these days have been a bit “flatter.”

A month or so later, I decided to see what could be done with the artillerymen. I gave one a well-shaken spritz, resulting in the expected wet gloss. When it had dried, however, the frosting was gone! [The lighting in the picture is bad, and his hem is still stained, but the frost has vanished).

Thus, another hobbying trick for the bag. I hope that taking more care along the way won’t necessitate its use. But, should I frost them again, I know what to do.

The Ascodali Navy

My first sub-hobby to wargaming was paper modeling. In the earlier days of web commerce, one could purchase, download, and print out paper models of terrain, vehicles, and miniatures. (And, I know, one still can, though I no longer do so … )

Back in the day, I built many buildings from Microtactix, which one might still acquire from DriveThuRpg. I particularly liked the Cheepsville USA Rural America buildings, which, perversely, one had to color himself. They remind me of the little towns around my house. I built all of Eric Hotz’s Whitewash City, though never got enough western minis painted to populate it.

However, the sultry weather of the American south is not a friend to paper structures, and anyway, I grew to prefer sturdier structures. (Which, led me onward to another sub-hobby — casting with Hirst Arts molds … )

The only vender selling paper models who still holds my interest is Jeff Knudsen, the War Artisan. His War Artisan’s Workshop features detailed paper models of age-of-sail ships from several eras, in multiple scales: 1:300, 1:600, and 1:900. (And, of course, one can always fiddle with printer settings to adjust the size.)

I’ve long had the free download of the 1:300 scale Enterprise, “an American sloop that fought on Lake Champlain in 1776.” I began and abandoned building one years ago.

As I’ve been expanding the available forces for my imagi-nation of Ascaria, it occurred to me that a 6mm paper navy would be thoroughly economical. And, I’ve been eager to dip back into model building as a diversion from my lengthy painting jag.

So, I’ve completed the first ship in the Ascodali navy — which may or may not go by Enterprise.

This was my first-ever attempt at rigging, which Mr. Knudsen assures us is not overly difficult. My first foray did not “spark joy,” but no doubt perseverance shall lead to improvement.

I printed out the tiny Ascodali flag rather than attempting to hand-paint it. Even so, it looks sloppy [sigh].

Mountains of the Moon

As promised, here are group vignettes of my Wargames Foundry “Mountain of the Moon Collection,” purchased about 20 years ago and only recently more-or-less completed.

The painting is passable at best, and the lighting was horrid, but I just wanted to create a record of the accomplishment. This band of souls intimidated me for about 18 years, with only a handful painted (Tarzan and Jane were two of the first, of all things). I’ve steadily knocked out the rest over the past two years.

Some of them got their eyes retroactively, as I’ve only felt comfortable painting them in the last couple years. As I notice on “the big screen,” it is clear I occasionally rushed. I’m still not 100% convinced that 28mm figures need eyes, but so many painters do it so well, I feel compelled to try.

DA1/1 “Eccentric Explorers,” now DA011 – Men of Substance
DA1/2 “Ardent Adventurers,” now DA012 – A League of Exceptional Gentleman. Note that Wilbur Vanhuysman (in dark glasses) has transformed into Teddy Roosevelt!
DA 1/3 “Askari Characters,” now DA013 – Askari Command
DA 1/4 “Askari Command,” now DA014 – Askari Characters
DA 1/5 “Heavily-Armed Askaris,” still (!) DA015 – Heavily Armed Askaris
DA 1/6 “Daughters of the Empire,” now DA016 – Deadlier than the Male
DA 1/7 “European Traders & Travellers,” now DA017 – Traders and Travellers
DA 1/8 “European Ladies,” now DA018 – Roses of the Empire
“Askari Rebels,” which I don’t find to be currently available …

“… Sgt. Pepper Taught the Band to Play”

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I found myself dutifully masked, hands a-glisten with sanitizer. I was assiduously perusing a local Junque Shoppe, a joy I had missed during the time of quarantine. I knew this store to have had toy soldiers — a box of modern-ish Britains — during my last visit, years ago, before I had contracted a passion for 54s.

Near the back of the shop, I discovered a booth with a few display cases of miniatures. One immediately caught my eye as being vintage and 54mm. I put back the art books I had been considering and convinced my wife that these fellows would be a perfect Father’s Day gift.

The lot clearly included two sets of figures, which I have regrouped here. The first were, I believe, Britain’s Royal Marines, marching with rifles at slope. Here’s a page from William Britain, which may well be them. The marine in the front rank, foreground, had a damaged arm, which resulted in an un-asked-for 10% discount on the sale! I did not expect that their left arms are articulated and rotate, though that only happens when one picks them up.

There were several command figures (with swords) so they may have come from separate sets. The lads have been confined in a display case for awhile and need work on their “slope,” as I begin to see.

Royal Marines, I believe.

These were the chaps who really caught my eye, though:

Royal Marine Band

All of the present figures were in good condition, though the paint jobs seem a little wonky. I could clearly see “Britain, Copyright, Proprietors,” &c. on most of the bases. I believe them to be the better part of a Royal Marines Band. Their leader was missing, so a Marine with sword is filling in.

Here are a couple of bands people had for sale on the internet, for comparison:

The whole band, someone had for sale on the internet.
And another.

So, I’m missing the leader, a snare drum, some woodwinds, the big tuba-thing. Preliminary research indicates that perhaps they were first issued in 1933, so may be pre-WWII? They weren’t any sort of a “deal” — the seller knew they were worth something and charged accordingly. I’m pleased with the find, though, and perhaps through time, I can track down the missing lads.

Postscript: Over the past few days I have been moving this blog to a new internet host. I believe some typography — including my precious Russian characters for my imagi-native language, have become broken in the process. I shall endeavor to effect repairs and perhaps this whole enterprise will eventually be more stable as a result. Fingers crossed …

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