dispatches from terra incognita

Category: Isla Victoria

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.

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.

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 Square Pegs

Fresh from showing off my counterfeits of Matt’s figures, I should make clear that I also steal from Kenneth Van Pelt. Here are a few pictures of my Square Pegs 54mm craftee VSF soldiers (and some experiments in other genres). Many of the fellows could be used for straight-up colonial combat, I suppose, but I don’t possess enough hard military historical knowledge to paint them correctly…

First up is a British artillery crew with scratch-built gun. I did buy the mdf wheels. (Though, I will say, I made one using the Toy Making Dad’s methods, but it took a LONG TIME so I opted to buy some here). I should also note that these guns do not really fire …

Here are their Prussian counterparts:

The pickelhaube-with-a-ball-on-them are a real thing, by the way. One wonders if it wasn’t just a touch difficult to take them seriously? They were manning a cannon, I suppose…

So that you can appreciate my sacrifice, you see I glued rivets onto this thing. You can’t really see it, but there is also a bolt to turn to adjust the elevation. At one time I fantasized that I would make a firing model; I have given up on that dream for the moment.

Death’s Head Hussars. I cut the tops off the pegs and glued on bits of dowel to fashion the busbies.

Here are some Jægers. I tried to take the easy route by sanding the top at an angle to communicate the distinctive hat. I’m not sure if it was successful.

I think Kenneth was brilliant in devising the pipe cleaner arms, but I agree with Dale that something else — he suggests craft foam — might serve better. The pipe cleaner arms are eminently reposition-able, but they hold guns funny. And [sigh] they make the guys look like muppets.

The field surgeon and a wounded soul. I’m either going to make a scalpel for the medico or buy one intended for Lego people. You’ll see some Lego weapons anon.

A hospital scene, with casualties and nurses. I think one of the ladies from Downton Abbey was serving as a nurse when I made these plucky lasses — I hadn’t seen the costume previously. Note, I have to cut the pegs in half the long way to get them to lie on the cots properly. I don’t recall now how I did it! The blankets are tissue paper soaked in white pva glue.

Here are a couple of civilian ladies and an Indiana Jones-type. Gun and sword are Lego weapons. Hats on Indy and the lady in yellow are some type of metal nut from Home Depot, intended to hold plastic wheels on axels. I haven’t attempted to do a whip yet.

Now we come to some of my experiments. First up, the crew from a famous starship. Phasers are Lego weapons. The figures can be removed from their “starship floor” bases, should I become sufficiently possessed to create exotic planet bases as well.

Feel the need to point out Uhura’s earrings and eye shadow… I have also begun an Orion slave girl (should you even doubt it) but haven’t photographed her yet.

The pirate lass is the favorite figure I’ve done. Her hair is braided, but I had to outsource the task as I seem incapable of learning the art. Tricorne courtesy of Dale’s craft foam tutorials. Lego weapons. Alas, her counterpart is WIP.

Finally, Lara and Tara Kraft, tomb raiders. The only female expression I seem to be able to paint is a smirk… which likely sums up exactly what they think of me.

 

Vintage Christmas

I came to miniature wargaming as an adult. Childhood Christmases did include wondrous gifts, but never the tubs of little plastic warriors that so many boys enjoyed.

As an aside, I did yearn for that crate of Revolutionary War Soldiers advertised on the back of comic books in the 70’s. I’m quite sure I could have scraped together the $1.98; I think it was lack of postage preventing the transaction.

My recently developing 54mm VSF bug coincided with a big sale at Armies in Plastic ($12 boxes for $7.50) and thus I placed a robust order timed to arrive just before Christmas.

The packaging — cardboard boxes and plastic bags containing the figures — is a bit excessive for 2017 sensibilities. I had a vision, though, of how wonderful it would be to walk into a store that stocked them. The box art is suitably stirring and could serve as painting guides, should one be not girded with preconceived notions…

My preferred look for the British army is the red-coated Zulu wars era. Alas, the AIP figures are in “shirt sleeve order” which, although likely appropriate for the hot African climate, was too informal for the likes of me. My soldiers need to be in uniform.

These chaps from a conflict a few years later could be painted to fit the bill. They seem to be wearing gaiters, but I have already painted them black to look like boots.

The highlanders will be painted as a detachment of the Black Watch and there will be cavalry support as well. I intended for them to be the 17th Lancers, but they are brandishing sabers instead. I may do some modifications with Egyptian lancers. Finally, there will be Indian troops in support.

Next come the opponents: frontier tribesman and Prussians. The uhlans might well be converted to Death’s Head Hussars.

Inaugural Combat

Following an unplanned hiatus, I have every intention of resuming semi-regular posting to this blog.

Part of my time away was spent on some 1:1 terrain building. Inspired by Eric the Shed, specifically expansion of his eponymous structure, I endeavored to nearly double the size of the building which houses my carpentry workshop (known in my family as The Shed for far longer than I’ve known of Eric’s). The additional room has become my Hobby Shack, dedicated to innumerable non-serious pursuits.

I’ll post a bit more concerning construction later. Today, however, I shall focus on inaugural combat conducted in the new hobby space.

Aside from the new space, I have drawn from two ancillary inspirational founts:

  • I purchased and devoured Neil Thomas’s One-Hour Wargames. This little gem, about which I’ll wax to further length poetic at some later date, provided perfectly concise rules for me to conduct a solo battle; and

  • The resumption of posting by Dale Hurtt and Matt Kirkhart to Wooden Warriors. Part of the reason I labored doggedly for two months (I’m a one-man crew) to build my Shack was to have room to battle with my Square Pegs.

The Square Pegs are my 54mm craftee toy soldiers fashioned from clothes pins. (Their inspiration came from Kenneth Van Pelt and is recounted here.)

The initial conflict would be Scenario One, a Pitched Battle, somewhere in the wilds of Isla Victoria. Army sizes were regrettably halved to 3 units each, as my Prussian jæger and both sides’ artillery languish incomplete.

Thus, the British would be represented by two infantry detachments — 74th Regiment of Foot and the Black Watch — and a troop of 17th “Death or Glory” Lancers.

The Prussians brought to bear detachments from their First and Second Infanterie, supported by the infamous Death’s Head Hussars.

The two small forces faced off thusly:

Now, in my enthusiasm I shall beg your indulgence for this one illustrated After Action Report. I find them tedious as a rule and so you won’t find many here. This occasion was auspicious in that it marked my first foray into One-Hour Wargames, the initial engagement between Square Pegs, as well as the 21st anniversary of the day upon which I was wed. Caveat lector.

Turn the First: The Lancers, who for reasons known only to themselves bore the guidon of the 1st Lancers, charge en avant. The boys of the 74th and the Highlanders press onward to glory. Answering with a cry of battle lust, the Prussian Hussars make for the British cavalry. The 1st Infanterie marches straight towards the scrum while the 2nd have the Highlanders in their sight.

Turn the Second: Plucky British lads soldier onward, closing the gap. A model of malevolent malice, the Death’s Head Hussars not only reach the Lancers, but close on their left flank! They inflict 4 hits.

Turn the Third: Undeterred, the Lancers charge the 1st Infanterie and the 74th closes to shooting distance of the Hussars. The Hussars wheel right to engage the Fighting 74th while the 2nd Infanterie treads implacably towards the Black Watch. The 1st Infanterie fires on their tormentors (3 hits) and the sabers of the Hussars slice into the 74th (6 hits).

Turn the Fourth: The cry “Death or Glory” echoes from the looming mountains as the Lancers renew their charge. Both the 74th and the Highlanders engage in disciplined volley fire with their opponents, inflicting 6 hits on the Hussars and 4 on the 2nd Infanterie. Sensing weakness in the Lancers, the Hussars wheel to the attack. Both foot detachments return fire. The Lancers sustain 5 total hits from saber and shot and the Highlanders receive 5.

Turn the Fifth: The battle rages on with more hits sustained by all (Hussars, 7; 2nd Inf., 3). The Death’s Head Hussars close for the coup de grâce on the Lancers. Alas, sustained fire from the 1st Infanterie cuts down British horse pitilessly. Unit eliminated!

Turn the Sixth: Returning the favor, measured firing of the 74th decimates the Hussars.

Turn the Seventh: Placing themselves in the hands of Fate, the 74th and the Highlanders close on Prussian foot. Alas, needle gun made short work of the Black Watch (Unit eliminated).

The thin red line of the 74th prepared for Prussian onslaught. Martini-Henrys blazing, they take out the battered 1st Infanterie. At the end of the day, there were only souls standing to send final dispatches of the battle to Berlin, recounting the glory of the 2nd Infanterie.

The actors regain the stage to take their bows.

 

Buildings from the Big City

Here are some shots of the first three, very-nearly-done, buildings for my 25/28/32mm figures.

(Note that the spread for the miniature size is due to the fact that I didn’t realize that the Reaper Bones figures would be so tall. All of my metal figures are closer to 28mm, so these new plastic chaps tower over them!)

IMG_1326This is the building based on the old Games Workshop template. (I showed its 15mm cousin in a previous post). I made adjustments during construction because I followed some bad advice from the GW plan maker, which, I knew at the time would lead to no good, but I went down the road anyway. The stone bits around the windows and door, as well as the roof, are cast from Hirst Arts molds. It still needs a door and interior detailing. I believe it’s going to be a potion shop.

The next two are based on ideas described by Robert Provan on Matakishi’s website. Robert drew his inspiration from the late, lamented buildings sold by Pardulon. Robert used cork (a la Matakishi), but I opted for good old foam core. The buildings are (theoretically) modular, as each floor is separate and the edifice is stacked together. I’m still fooling around with a workable size. All of these buildings seem a bit large to me — my 4′ by 6′ table will fill up quickly. Another Hirst Arts roof, as well as a chimney built into each floor, which comes apart. That was an experiment and a true PITA, which will not be repeated, methinks.

The offending chimney

This one is supposed to be an “Adventurers’ Guild” or “Explorers Club” type place. I figured the high level characters would return home with “foreign” tastes, so I imbued their headquarters with some exotic touches. The bright color and window trim are Asian-inspired, and the roof is pan-tiled rather than slate. I have an idea for a sign, but I’m not sure how I’ll execute it yet.

IMG_1324The third contestant is also copied from Robert. This time I wanted a Hirst Arts stone ground floor. The trouble I’ve found with Hirst Arts is that in order to get any usable interior space, one has to make buildings so big. The footprint on this one is 3.5 by 5 inches, and 2.5 inches tall (the floors on the red building are 2 inches). This one will be a shop.

While I’m constructing these for a fantasy city, they should be able to find a place on Isla Victoria (my VSF setting), some colonial outpost, a pirate town…

A Town in Two Scales

Should you have examined my brain a couple of weeks ago, it would have seemed evident that the “28mm” synapses were firing perfectly. A smattering of the many, many Reaper Bones I now own were being painted, and I was even constructing some appropriately-scaled buildings and terrain. I noticed, but successfully defeated the urge to throw in for, the Dwarven Forge City Builder kickstarter. I was already hard at work on some Hirst Arts/foam core hybrids (which we shall examine anon).

Alas, the rent was beyond my means

High from this victory, I unfortunately rode smack into an ambush. 15mm.co.uk announced a preorder for a quintet of absolute lovelies… resistance was futile. My rationale for parting with money was that I do have a bit of a collection of 15mm figures already painted and ready to play. The buildings can be used for fantasy (?), pirates (got ’em), pulp and VSF (umm…, YES!). So, despite no email confirmation as of yet, the line-up you see below ought to be winging its way over the pond to me.

IMG_1275

Upon arrival, they’ll join the nascent collection of 15mm terrain I began cobbling together in younger days. For years, I scoured the interweb for plans intended for oh-so-popular 28mm miniatures and rescaled them for my own nefarious purposes. These two beauties on the right were based upon plans plundered from the old Games Workshop website (back in the days when they tried to help one to learn, rather than to help one to spend). Even shrunk, I still think I made ’em too big — they’ll dwarf the compact accommodations from 15mm.co.uk. I also should have devoted more time to that thatch. It looks like a lovable mop top.

In the early years of the current millennium, Gary Chalk ran an online shop called the Little Grenadier. He endeavored to sell his plans for wargames buildings directly to people online, rather than having them published in Wargames Illustrated. Well, he tired of this after awhile and shut down the store. The simple cottage above was one of the plans, reduced to house 15mm peasantry.

The vignette above (one of my favorite things that I have ever built) was from Gary’s Pirate Buildings plans in Wargames Illustrated. In my VSF setting of Isla Victoria, Tudor and pirate architecture will stand proudly side-by-side.

Finally, the last one should look familiar to old-school grognards. This would be the 15mm version of Pasha Ali’s fortified palace, originally created by David Helber, also known as Major General Tremorden Rederring. The wily Major General didn’t provide plans for this one, so I had to reverse engineer from looking at the photos on his website.

My point is, then, that I have the makings of a great fantasy or VSF town in two scales. Maybe others of you share this sickness?

Our next episode will feature the larger scale buildings upon which I’ve been laboring in 2015.

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