dispatches from terra incognita

Category: Imagi-Nation

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 …

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.

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].

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!

Zafrarians Completed, Mostly

The 1st Bunch

At long last, I’ve finished painting the first lot of Zafrarians.

The 2nd Bunch

Well, mostly, I should say, as I haven’t yet settled on a uniform for these fellows. And, as their command and that mysterious bag in the background indicates, reinforcements have arrived …

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 …

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 …


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.

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