dispatches from terra incognita

Category: Pirates/Naval Page 1 of 2

Bones Day

Two Saturdays back (July 3) was “Bones Day” — I received my box of Bones miniatures from Reaper’s 5th Kickstarter. It took me almost a decade to learn, but I finally figured out how to work the Reaper Pledge manager. I opted not to get the Core Set (as I’ve done the previous four times), which has saddled me with a sizable collection of miniatures I don’t really want. This time I used my pledge to purchase various expansion sets and specific collections from the core set. Thus:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The loose bags contain constructs, Halloween, kid heroes, and townsfolk. The dangerous (to my bank account) news from Reaper is that they have reopened the Pledge Manager for 90 days, so, I could in fact go back and order the Core Set after all…

 

 

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].

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 …

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.

Peninsular Approximations

Soon after I bought and didn’t paint a bunch of Foundry Old West miniatures (about 20 years ago), I bought some Old Glory Pirates from a now defunct gaming store in Atlanta. Both have languished in bags on the shelf — my oldest miniatures. I’m now on a kick to plow through the layers of my lead pile, so the pirates have joined the painting queue.

I find that working on buildings and terrain (which I prefer to painting miniatures) serves as inspiration when my desire to paint flags. I have had my eye on the peninsular village created by Eric the Shed, as shown on Shed Wars. They are the Modular Buildings from Warbases. As I was too impatient to wait on shipping from the UK, and they look fairly simple in design, I decided to attempt replicating the buildings as The Major General would, with foamcore.

Warbases helpfully provide measurements for the buildings, so I could work out the dimensions for the various modular components. I am a much more comfortable as an imitator than an improviser, so I will begin by replicating Eric’s buildings.

Mine are true Frankenstein’s monsters, though. The shells are foamcore covered with sand and spackle for texture. I 3D printed the windows, resizing some from Fat Dragon Games. Finally, the pantile roofs are cast from Hirst Arts molds.

I plan to try his method of using sheet foam for paving stones as well, which seems quite a bit simpler and lighter than Hirst Arts castings.

 

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.

 

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.

Gaming Table

Building a gaming table is a daunting endeavor. If one has yet to accumulate a lot of wargaming experience, he has to imagine what “features” a table should have in order to make gaming more enjoyable. Lumber and time are both valuable these days. I didn’t want to expend too much of either to create something that wouldn’t work for me.

I embarked upon the project in the usual manner, by poking about the internet to see what others had done. I uncovered a few intriguing possibilities. The one to the left (which I unearthed here) boasted the benefit of being simple, sturdy, and a bit of storage as a bonus. The castors are a nice touch, though in the location I have available, there won’t be much wiggle room. Two-by-fours and plywood are easily obtainable and I had my eye on that shelf for the plethora of banker’s boxes filled with the terrain I have constructed through the years.

66940_sm-table design_1

I thought a lot about this theoretical one (I didn’t find evidence that it was ever built), discovered  here. It looked very sturdy (it would also likely weight a ton), had storage, and was expandable, which would be a big plus in my limited space. I already had modifications envisioned (I think you’d need two fold out legs on each side to keep the extension wings from sagging at the corners, for example). I may come back to this design at some point.

The final contender (found here) had the most to recommend it. First off, the builder provided a nifty tutorial, complete with a list of materials and shots of construction in process. The design was simple and didn’t use too much lumber. Storage could be created by attaching a couple of shelves to the legs (which would also make it sturdier). The best part was that the top was customizable one could swap out the boards. So, I could have a flat surface and place a game mat over it; use painted and/or flocked boards, or create custom, modular terrain. Plus also, the little slide out tables were adorable…

It’s also usual for me not to stop and take pictures, so I don’t have a single shot of my building process. You’ll have to settle for the table, more or less complete.

Here’s the “skeleton.” The legs are standard 2×4 pine from Home Depot. I used two boards joined at right angles for each leg (unlike the original) to make them appear a bit more finished, and perhaps to to make them more sturdy (Hirst Arts buildings are dense). I also added a storage shelf below. There were originally two, but a corner tore out of the upper one. (I was so inspired after taking these pictures that I repaired the upper shelf). The top is made with pine 1×6 boards around the outer edge and 1×4 boards for the internal bracing.

The table top is 4 by 6 feet. The bracing is recessed about two inches so that I could use 2″ pink foam and carve rivers, canyons, trenches, pit traps, and whatnot. I haven’t done any of that yet; I currently use three 2 by 4 foot pieces of 1/2 inch MDF to make the table top. Here’s plain grey for dungeon delving and urban set ups. I plan to paint the backs of these black for asphalt. I have another set of boards that are tan for colonial combat and Lost World exploration. The reverse is blue for watery warfare. I have a piece of 1 inch foam beneath the boards now, which raises the surface closer to the table edge.

This is a thrown-together set up of Pirates of the Spanish Main terrain, including some closeups of some islands. The top of the lighthouse is in need of repair.

IMG_1222 IMG_1228

Here we have the table with my homemade grass mat, which is an unholy union of a bed sheet, copious tubes of caulk, and much, much flock. That beast has been a botheration and will likely need to be redone. I followed a tutorial I found on the internet, but didn’t “roll” the flock into the caulk, and so it sheds worse than my cat. I made it large so that I could place “hills” underneath. Here it is untucked and tucked. The slide-out “tables” (as per the original) are intended for rule books, record sheets, beverages, &c. The wrinkles are exceedingly difficult to disperse, thus annoying me to no end.

 

Finally, here’s a little tableau starring my first-ever Hirst Arts building (the “Wizard’s Tower”) with some allied Reaper and Warhammer skeletons facing off against the Reaper goblins I painted earlier this year. The observant will notice honest-to-goodness Major General Tremorden Rederring stage-set mountains in the distance. Comprised of cardboard with crumpled up brown paper shopping bags glued to the front. There are little platforms on the back so that snipers can perch amongst the rocky crags. These were among the first terrain I scratch-built, round about a dozen years in the past. The “sky” is the actual wall of the room (the color is called “Cerulean” which, I believe, means, “looks just like a nice, blue sky in pictures”). I may have to paint some clouds on it…

The GULP

The very first minis I purchased in my adulthood were a passel of western figures from Monday Knight Productions. They turned out to be a mixture of 25 and 28mm, as I really didn’t know the difference then, and the site doesn’t seem to differentiate. This was nearly 15 years ago, and these wee desperadoes formed the core of my Great Unpainted Lead Pile, or GULP, which also happens to be the sound I utter when I behold its vastness.

Soon thereafter I became enamored of colonial and VSF figures, and made several big purchases from Wargames Foundry, both the Darkest Africa and Western ranges. I think I may have acquired some Old Glory Pirates next (which, I just realized, invalidates my claim a few days back that Mega Minis civilians were my first post-70’s FLGS miniature purchase; I plundered the OG scurvy dogs from the dearly departed War Room in Atlanta).

Falling under the spell of 15mm VSF, I was able to increase the numbers of figures I purchased for the same amount of money. I became an enthusiast for Irregular Miniatures, which remains, I believe, an acquired taste. Reading Wind in the Willows and Redwall to my little boys resulted in a few strategic buys from Splintered Light (those little boys are both teenagers now, one poised to leave for college; the armed mice remain bare metal). With lamb-like dutifulness I followed internet advice to purchase boardgames (Descent, Battle Lore, Super Dungeon Explore) for more figures. I fell hook, line, and lead sinker for the 10mm craze, thinking that 5mm less to paint might get things going. Then the Reaper Bones Kickstarter ambushed me.


Oh, well…

I should note that during this 15 year period, my rate of purchasing far exceeded the rate of painting. Among many curses of the internet is that innocent eyes are exposed to examples of painting skills that far exceed one’s own. No matter how many tips and tutorials I read, my little people never ended up looking like those gorgeous models online. Oh, I could slap a coat of paint on the Irregular fellows, as the usual comment one hears is that “they look disappointing out of the box, but paint up nicely…” But those ladies and gentlemen from the Foundry were expensive and the examples online are so pretty… So, they languished among many others in the GULP. (As you may have detected in the above list, the GULP comprises plastic as well as lead, and, when you think about it, probably contains no lead at all, as I don’t think they use that anymore).

Now, I’m also thoroughly fastidious as well as avaricious, so, I will make clear, mine was not a messy mass of lead. I washed and ogled each and every figure upon arrival. Some sat out for awhile, perhaps dreaming that they might be reborn in glorious technicolor. The vast majority were eventually packed neatly away in boxes, bagged and labelled in anticipation of the day when their turn would come.

In fact, I devised quite the system. Minis “at bat” would be scattered about the painting table (of which I’ve had a number through the years). To the left is the current batch, including some Bones goblins, Foundry Victorians, and a Brigade Games Stealth Squad I bought for a reason that is lost to me. There were 12 Bones kobolds there until yesterday evening.

Minis “on deck” are based and likely primed, and I’ve taken to storing them in stacking tupperware containers from Walmart to keep the dust off. Basing and priming is easy and hints at the promise that I might actually work on a figure. So, there are many, many miniatures “on deck.”

Finally, the sad souls “in the hole” are packed in photo boxes with attractive “old map” prints on the outside.

Lately things have become a bit more lax, as the Super Dungeon Explore figures did get primed, and so are theoretically on deck, but are still piled in the box I primed ’em in.

 

And the Reaper box is just one big overwhelming jumble. (And, yes, lest you worry, the Bones II box is on its way as well.)

 


Of all things, I spent about a year fabricating my own figures out of clothes pegs, the sordid story of which is elsewhere detailed. I will credit my experience of both the Square Pegs and the Reaper Bones with my painting renaissance. Painting Square Pegs was transformational because, well, in the end, it’s just a clothespin. It’s only gonna look so good. And, though the Bones are festooned with excruciating detail, they are just bendy plastic guys and gals, not the solid metal “clean limbed chaps” I bought from Foundry all those years ago. Somehow, it didn’t feel as serious painting plastic —the stakes were not as high — so I made more headway.

I hope that I will be able to maintain the momentum of productivity initiated on this break. To my credit, I have essentially halted buying new miniatures, out of sheer embarrassment as much as anything, so I guess I’m participating in one of those “Pledges” people talk about. At some point I’ll feel sufficiently positive about my progress and find some new pretties that I can’t live without.

Much like my credit card debt, the GULP keeps me getting up each morning and going back to work.

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