dispatches from terra incognita

Author: Scott Larson Page 3 of 12

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).

Command
Trumpeter
Lancer
Lancer
… 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 …

“It was 20 Years Ago Today…”

Well, not exactly, but ’round about. Aflame with inspiration from The Major General Tremorden Rederring, I fired up my internet machine and sent off to the Wargames Foundry in Old Blighty for The Mountains of the Moon Collection. In 2000, it set me back the princely sum of $125 US, shipped gratis.

The Whole Lot

It has taken me, lo these 20 years to get them all painted. I’ll share vignettes of each group presently, though the painting hardly merits it. I’ve written previously how some miniatures — these in particular — intimidated me. John Hanning Speke’s checked shirt alone seemed beyond my meager skills.

Helpful, but intimidating …

Plodding along, mostly during the past year, and mostly pre-“sheltering in place,” I completed the set. Checking the Foundry website, it seems they no longer sell these collections — just the individual groups of 7 or 8 figures. And they’ve changed some of the names of the groups. Apparently, even 20 years ago they had regrouped them, as I received the extra figures as well.

We’ll return to them later; for next post I have some Big News!

Sweet Jane

Here’s a roundup of some recent completions. First up is what I consider to be one of those silly Reaper fantasy figures that I will likely never use. A bard, I presume, whose “axe” is every bit a modern-day guitar, with a bunch of extra bass strings you could probably pick out were I a better painter. ‘Tis a better picture of the Stutz from my last post, though.

“Ridin’ in a Stutz Bearcat, Jim,
Those were different times…”

Next we have some sort of steampunky-chronomancer type fellow wearing a big Power Hand and goggles. Again, seems a bit silly. I did stick the steely-eyed gaze.

Two final Reapers for this post— tough lasses. I gave the witch really big yellow eyes, which make her otherworldly. Other painted examples of her online did the dress more elaborately, so I guess I took the easy way out on this one.

A fine pair.

On to a bit of history. Three fellows from Foundry’s Darkest Africa collection. I’m going to put the whole band together for my next post.

An Old Glory pirate captain, poorly lit.

Avast! This light is horrible!

And at long last, my Thos. Foss largess is complete. Two 10mm cardstock horse and wagons and one 54mm 18th Century chap. It seems the Skull & Crown store is up and running again. Alas, the comrades for this fellow or Queen Victoria’s Robot Wars remain elusive …

Another Set Complete: Cars

About 1,000,000 years ago, in a beloved but now defunct chain hobby store called Hungates, I purchased two small boxes with plastic scale models in them. Unlike the semi trucks, 1950’s hot rods in 1:25, or WWII ship models I had ham-fistedly assembled as a child, these were early 20th century automobiles, roughly in scale with 28mm miniatures.

Glencoe Models still exists and these kits are listed. (I can’t find a direct explanation of how one might order them — there is a physical address to write to, and more of this modern age, an email address. So I imagine if one worked at it, he, too, could acquire these kits).

I completed the Pierce-Arrow and Stanley Steamer several years ago, photographing them with the intention to blog, but not following through, apparently. These models embody the term “fiddly” and I was intimidated by the other two for years.

It would seem I have become more adept and confident, and thus these two have finally rolled of the production line.

And so, I can move my Glencoe Models automobiles to the “complete” column. All due to the fact that I no longer have to use my own automobile for a daily commute.

Reinforcements Arrive in Ascaria

Though I have yet to complete painting the soldiers I have on hand, I availed myself of the Spring Sale at Armies in Plastic ($8.95 sets and free shipping for a $50+ order [I see now it’s $60, so my impulsivity has been rewarded!]). This time I ordered whole boxes rather than random sets.

Zafrarian Infantry

First up, above are Zafrarian infantry. I already had a couple chaps on the left with that little roundy hat, who I’ll use eventually use as some other type of troop, I imagine.

Ascodali Command

A picked lot of these blue fellows will become Ascodali command. You see the drummer and the “donor” figure for my standard bearer. I’m intrigued by the headgear of the fellow to the left. A mitre sort of thing?

Serving a look …
The first gun.

What ho? Another branch of service makes its arrival! I think this will be Ascodali artillery.

Despite having created my “Armies in Plastic Concordance,” these fellows in blue were a mistake. When one dives into the cornucopia of codes at Armies in Plastic, he discovers that many represent the same figures, differing only by color of plastic. My eventual goal is to create my own illustrated AIP Catalog, occasionally substituting photos from re-sellers, as those on the AIP site are often blurry. For the present, I printed off the catalog and scrawled which codes included the same fellows. As I prime and paint them anyway, color of plastic matters not. “I call it my AIP Concordance.”

Now, AIP Napoleonic artillery provides an extra challenge, as AIP now also has codes with two sets of crew and no guns, and other sets with two guns and no crew, and then regular-old codes with a gun and 5 crew.

When placing my order, I neglected to note that these fellows were manning a howitzer and mortar. “Size matters not,” ’tis said, but that stubby little thing perched atop a full-sized carriage seems embarrassing. Oh, well … I still haven’t decided on which side these fellows will serve. And, I suppose I ought to vow to paint them before I invest in cavalry?

Ascodali Infantry

The final box will beef up the Ascodali infantry. I’ll have to find another purpose for that telescope-wielding commander. While likely realistic that command would be “scoping” out the sitch, I consider the pose to be inexcusably unheroic. These chaps, for example, could be birding.

The Brit is an artilleryman, so I suppose long-distance viewing is appropriate.

This, my friends, is what proper leadership looks like.

Great tit fancier? Perhaps. Stalwart commander? YES!

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