dispatches from terra incognita

Category: Terrain Page 1 of 2

Packing Away the Year

This one has been a mess for so many. I feel fortunate to have remained healthy, employed, and amongst family. I hope the new year brings better things to everyone.

Here is a good bit of my painting progress of late:

The Cthulhu Collection, Reaper Bones all.
A lovely suite of torturing stuff; also from Reaper.
Weird-lookin’ columns; Reaper.
Scatter terrain from Super Dungeon Explore.
This stuff sat primed for a LONG time!
Super Dungeon Explore kobolds and kobold-ogres.
I hate “mimic” monsters, but they make sense for SDE I guess.
I tried to go full “silly” by painting the handles to look like eyes.
Here’s the whole gang. People online describe them as “fun” to paint. I found this not to be so.
Another pair of poker players, from Monday Knight Productions, maybe? I shared the rest of the quartet awhile back.
Reaper Bones fantasy. Not bothered to straighten weapons, and ok with that …
Zombicide figures. These were kinda fun to paint.

Wisdom of the Ages (WotA)

This purposely portentous category will be a catch-all for the occasional gleanings of guidance I run across on the web. I’ll begin with two nuggets of wisdom that have guided me for years, and one that may guide me in the future.

The first comes from a foundational text of my wargaming: viz: David Helber’s Major General Tremorden Rederring’s Colonial-era Wargames Page. Mr. Helber formed and continues to shape my aesthetic sense of how a properly laid-out wargames table should appear.

In miniature gaming, structures should be as small as they can be without looking ridiculous.

David Helber, Building Construction for Colonial Wargaming, Major General Tremorden Rederring’s Colonial-era Wargames Page
Template belongs to David Helber.

The Major General’s site is a treasure trove of inspiration and counsel. I have printed out most of the pages, gathering them in a binder for perusal. I’ve read that some gamers use buildings of one scale smaller than their figures. That makes sense, but to my eyes, seems too board-gamey. If you look at David’s structures, they look appropriate next to the troops, but you can fit more of them on your table. And, they’re easier to store. I’ve loved the mdf stuff I purchased from TT combat, but, good golly, those are immense.


The site that likely persuaded me to begin collecting 15mm (really 18mm) figures, lo those many years ago, was Bryan Brooks’ DyeHard’s Victorian & Edwardian Science Fiction page. In addition to his Helber-like tutorials and guidance, Brooks freed me from the shackles of “dead matte” miniatures. No matter the make of spray varnish I used — including the venerable Dullcote — my figures always retained a bit of a shine.

Bryan used the stain method of dipping, rather than my Chick Lewis Future Wash, but the final appearance is similar.

I was very skeptical about this dipping method at first, but now I love the effect. I have even grown to love the candy coat shine over time. I use to be a dead flat paint kind a guy, and one could go back a spray on a layer of Dull-Coat to reduce the gloss effect. After mounting the figures on bases and adding some grass flock, I do give them a quick spray to cut the shine just a little. Beyond the shading effect, the dip also will provide a very strong protective coat over your paint job.

Picture belongs to Bryan Brooks

Here you can see how the technique brings out the details like buttons and metals on a figure, while adding shading to folds in the uniform. Also, despite the focus, you can see the contrast of the dead matte paint of [the] side of the landship and the gloss of the figure. To my eyes, it makes the figure look more animated. [Emphasis added]

Bryan ” Dyehard” Brooks, The Dip Method of Shading, 15mm VSF

And I just have to agree with Mr. Brooks. The slight glow evinces each miniature’s élan vital — the spark of life.


Today’s final bit of philosophy was shared recently by a miniature painter whose work I admire: Chris Palmer of All Bones About It. Chris has been intrepid in his endeavor to paint all the figures in the Reaper Bones I Kickstarter, and subsequent editions as well. He’s been unfailingly generous in sharing details of his process, decisions, and techniques. I only began painting eyes following his tutorial.

Lately he mused after completing some unsatisfying gnomes:

Well, there they are.  They turned out okay, but my heart wasn’t in them.  I have decided life’s too short for me to paint stuff I really don’t like, so the remainder of the set, is going in my sale/trade box. 

Chris Palmer, All Bones About It, Monday, September 21, 2020

This one remains more of an aspiration than a practice for me. I have 1 gazillion unpainted metal and plastic miniatures, including most of ALL OF THE Bones kickstarters … [sigh]. I’ve painted more than ever while working from home during the pandemic. Some miniatures I like, some I grow to like while painting them. Some I don’t like at all, but I soldier through … The lesson of my Warhammer boxed set keeps me from giving them all away, though — it took me 15+ years to realize I did like those figures. And, it doesn’t cost me anything to store them.

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.

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.

Onward and Backward?

One frequently reads wargamers lamenting their “Gamer ADHD,” the magpie-like distractibility that prevents us from completing our projects. I am thoroughly fortunate to have a dedicated gaming space — The Hobby Shack — which I was certain would sharpen my efficiency and dedication to wargaming. Well… I definitely spend more hobbying time than I used to do; yet still nothing comes to completion.

Some folks implement measures such as “The Pledge,” whereby they keep a balance of new purchases to items completed, forestalling wanton accumulation. I’ve begun to do so informally — for example, I have vowed to finish every mdf kit I have before purchasing another.

Regularly, however, I’ll find myself seated at my painting desk, staring aimlessly, overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. I simply have so many projects in media res that I don’t know what to do next. Cracking on to completion of anything feels impossible… And, this is a hobby! (We’ll set aside for the moment the fact that I have other hobbies as well).

I suppose an appropriate graphic representation of my hobbying experience would be one of those slow-moving maps revealing the formation of a tropical depression — lazy counter-clockwise spinning that never attains the fury of a hurricane.

As an exercise, let us examine my past week or so of hobbying. N.B.: I’m on my brief Summer Interruption from teaching (my school is year ’round so it’s only about 5 weeks long) and thus I enjoy the luxury of daily hobby time. Here is what I have been doing — not, mind you, in the exact order I did it, as my records and memory are not sufficiently accurate to reconstruct the timeline.

Way back in early 2016 (!) I was fortunate enough to benefit from the generosity of Tom Foss at Skull and Crown and his Great Wagoning of 2016. He utilized his laser cutting contraption to create some 10mm card wagons and horses for a Warmaster scenario he had planned. Somehow I managed to win a brace of said wagons. Mr. Foss posted them alacritously, and as I gushed about his wooden soldiers and made mention of my own humble aspirations toward same, he graciously included one of his as-yet-unreleased 54mm ImagiNation figures.

I did manage to photograph the missive with the intention of thanking and blogging…

Any reasonable soul would immediately email him thanks and set to work assembling and painting as a demonstration of respect, right? [Sigh]. Alas, my prodigious introversion/diagnosable communication defect assured that I would not acknowledge this kind gesture and, perhaps out of associated guilt, the packet has stared at me on the desk for three years.

A good bit of primer showing through, magnification reveals. Good thing it’s 10mm and really tiny.

At embarrassingly long last, one of the wagons is done! (I bought more 10mm stuff from Pendraken back then to try Warmaster myself; it’s also still in plastic baggies). The 18th Century chap is primed and awaiting pigmentation.

I possess the merest scintilla of Mr. Foss’ artistic ability; fortunately he and his laser provided all those little lines to guide my feeble brushstrokes.

Here’s an establishing shot of the painting desk to set up more of this week’s drama:

Top center are the remaining 5 stripped 54mm, possibly homecast guards in bearskins. They are at attention but have got none of mine as yet. Just below the bottle of light blue craft paint you might spy one of my Foundry Darkest Africa figures — my second ever miniature purchase, nearly 20 years ago. I painted him in an hour. There’s a Reaper Bones lass next to him which I also finished. Then a Funky Skull Games Street Wars NYC figure who’s awaiting a decal for his jacket (which will be so small that I’d probably be better off to just hand paint the design). Below them are some Bones vermin — scorpions, spiders, and spider & rat swarms. About half-way complete. Possibly from the Bones I kickstarter, which was probably from about 1909, wasn’t it?

Dominating the foreground is possibly the weirdest twist. Inflamed by an advert for a Printable Scenery Dwarven Airship, I pulled out, and this morning assembled and glued, my Warhammer Battle of Skull Pass figures. I started a bunch of the Night Goblins after buying the set (apparently in 2006, ye gods), but fairly quickly lost interest. I was struck yesterday by a vision of the dwarves (some of whom have pistols and one of whom isn’t wearing pants) and their airship, battling Night Goblins with a Jawa sandcrawler-type-thing which I suppose I’ll have to scratch-build. The sculpts on these figures are refreshingly simple, so it is within reason that I could get a bunch painted up.

I have simultaneously been according due diligence to the aforementioned mdf buildings, the idea being that I could set up a Matakishi-like city board. I’ve been consistently vexed by the immensity of the TT Combat buildings — 1:56, I guess, as opposed to Matakishi’s 1:64-ish creations. They are intended to complement those statuesque Heroclix figures perched on plinths rather than my collection of diminutive 28-32mm souls.

I’ve added the final bits to the trio of Grey Haven Houses (TT Combat) — mostly some Evergreen angle for trim to hide the corner box joints. I have plans to divide the interiors into rooms and add details, but that is for some time in the future. Each of these three dwarfs a Matakishi brownstone.

Save varnishing, I’ve completed the Chinatown square, Hawkers’ Stands, Little Ramen, Subway Entrance, and Phone Booth, all from Knights of Dice. [And to their defense, regarding my previous complaint about the pictured-but-missing tables in the square, I failed to note a critical explanatory asterisk in the photo on the Knights of Dice website].

Thus, I purchased some of said tables, which currently reside temporarily al fresco on what will eventually be an Italian restaurant.

I’m especially annoyed by the gaping door of this shop. The two Funky Skull hooligans are solidly 28mm and the Reaper Chrono-technician who beamed in is 32mm, yet all are barely half as high as the door. I’ll probably create an insert to assuage my fury.

Finally, I’ve assembled and mostly primed Dino Gas (TT Combat), which, as I begin to see, I don’t think I even like that much [sigh]. I’ll likely finish it out of sheer obstinance, but then go with Kraken Petroleum from Knights of Dice instead.

With Hirst Arts church looming in the background.

Thus ends the maundering tour of my most recent hobby achievements. Is there a coherent strategy? — 10mm cardboard wagon; dwarf and goblin armies; 19th century colonial explorer, Chinatown accoutrements; elephantine city buildings; vermin —one would say, “No.” This blog post itself should be added to the list. I do, however, feel some sense of accomplished satisfaction. And, it is, after all, just a hobby.

Chinatown

A chance mention on The Miniatures Page led me to a new (to me) Australian manufacturer of mdf terrain: Knights of Dice. The sci-fi stuff — which is what was referenced in the TMP post — is fabulous. The pulp/modern stuff is what hooked me, though.

Chinatown? An amusement park? I hadn’t even realized my absolute ache to have this stuff!

A little digging uncovered the delight that Noble Knight Games carries a bunch of the stuff in the US. I ordered last Wednesday morning and by noon on Friday I had my first three bits of Sentry City. I decided to start small, with Chinatown.

IMG_6395First up, a simple plaza. This one reminded me of street plazas on the Lower East Side / Chinatown in New York City. The only ding I’ll give the kit (and my sole criticism of Knights of Dice thus far) is that the website photo shows a table and chairs in the plaza — which are sold separately — but not included with this kit. I fully realize that when they pose miniatures in photos they won’t come with the terrain; I just kinda thought they might include the tables to dress up the plaza. In NYC, I recall they had chessboards, so I may scratch build some of those instead.

IMG_6396Next up, we have a lovely brace of street food Hawker’s Stands. Check out the details on the image on the KoD website — stove grates, cutting board, pan, cleaver. Amazing!

IMG_6394

Finally, a smallish restaurant / food stand — Little Ramen. The detail inside the kitchen rivals the street carts. I haven’t begun to search for suitable miniatures to staff them…

I’ve just begun to dry fit some of this together, and everything fits neatly and tight — they should be a joy to build. Noble Knight has a lot, but not everything, that KoD sells, so I will likely be doing some direct ordering from Down Under.

At any rate, I foresee many, many more purchases from Knights of Dice.

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.

 

The Ruined Tower

Whilst searching for a Hirst Arts ruin that was skulking about in my memory, I uncovered new inspiration. A day or so later, this little crumbling beauty debuted on the table:

Here it is with a skeletal guard, and then with my four D&D B/X heroes:

I cobbled together some scenario objective markers using some old Games Workshop plastic skeletons. A bit of surgery on the pelvises allowed them to sit or lie, suitable splayed.

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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