dispatches from terra incognita

Category: VSF Page 1 of 3

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.

“… Sgt. Pepper Taught the Band to Play”

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I found myself dutifully masked, hands a-glisten with sanitizer. I was assiduously perusing a local Junque Shoppe, a joy I had missed during the time of quarantine. I knew this store to have had toy soldiers — a box of modern-ish Britains — during my last visit, years ago, before I had contracted a passion for 54s.

Near the back of the shop, I discovered a booth with a few display cases of miniatures. One immediately caught my eye as being vintage and 54mm. I put back the art books I had been considering and convinced my wife that these fellows would be a perfect Father’s Day gift.

The lot clearly included two sets of figures, which I have regrouped here. The first were, I believe, Britain’s Royal Marines, marching with rifles at slope. Here’s a page from William Britain, which may well be them. The marine in the front rank, foreground, had a damaged arm, which resulted in an un-asked-for 10% discount on the sale! I did not expect that their left arms are articulated and rotate, though that only happens when one picks them up.

There were several command figures (with swords) so they may have come from separate sets. The lads have been confined in a display case for awhile and need work on their “slope,” as I begin to see.

Royal Marines, I believe.

These were the chaps who really caught my eye, though:

Royal Marine Band

All of the present figures were in good condition, though the paint jobs seem a little wonky. I could clearly see “Britain, Copyright, Proprietors,” &c. on most of the bases. I believe them to be the better part of a Royal Marines Band. Their leader was missing, so a Marine with sword is filling in.

Here are a couple of bands people had for sale on the internet, for comparison:

The whole band, someone had for sale on the internet.
And another.

So, I’m missing the leader, a snare drum, some woodwinds, the big tuba-thing. Preliminary research indicates that perhaps they were first issued in 1933, so may be pre-WWII? They weren’t any sort of a “deal” — the seller knew they were worth something and charged accordingly. I’m pleased with the find, though, and perhaps through time, I can track down the missing lads.

Postscript: Over the past few days I have been moving this blog to a new internet host. I believe some typography — including my precious Russian characters for my imagi-native language, have become broken in the process. I shall endeavor to effect repairs and perhaps this whole enterprise will eventually be more stable as a result. Fingers crossed …

“It was 20 Years Ago Today…”

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

The Whole Lot

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

Helpful, but intimidating …

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

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

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.

Victorian Science Fact

I am not a frequent traveller. On my occasional rambles, I do encounter inspiration for gaming. Last fall, my wife and I visited the somewhat-nearby college town of Athens, GA. Mostly a pilgrimage for artifacts of my favorite band from adolescence, R.E.M., we unexpectedly encountered a bit of military history from the era of VSF.

Keeping watch over a town square, this beauty was an authentic failure of the military imagination. The accompanying documentation tells the whole story. There’s a Wikipedia page, too, which fleshes things out a bit.

A replica in miniature would be a straightforward scratch building affair, intended for either the VSF or Warhammer milieux. When fired, I imagine it would have a certain chance of inflicting double damage or flying wild and potentially hitting friendly troops…

Toy Soldier Update

The toy soldiers I found in a junk store (last seen here) have been successfully stripped and repainted. Here they are after a lengthy bath in acetone and then Simple Green.

The chap on the left is clearly an authentic Britains of unknown vintage. His colleague was marked simply “ENGLAND.”

The highlander, you may recall, had experienced some battle damage. I performed a bit of reconstructive surgery with an epoxy sculpting material from Home Depot — poor man’s “green stuff.” No pictures of the process, alas, and my sculpting skills are rudimentary. Here he is with a spot of paint.

He didn’t have an integral base (I glued him to a washer) and I didn’t notice until the paint was stripped that he has “ENGLAND” in raised letters down his left arm! Particularly vexing for a Scot, one would imagine.

Here is the Britains infantryman in a Zulu war era uniform and then his comrade, in what is intended to be home service uniform.

The Year That Was

I can say “long time, no post,” but when an entire year has passed since I attended to this blog, it seems a bit ridiculous. When I finally did check in a week ago, I discovered that the blog had been offline since April! Oh, well… A little elbow grease and filthy lucre and we were back on the net again.

I did manage to have a thoroughly productive 2018 on the hobby front. Christmas 2017 brought me a pile of lovely little boxes full of 54mm plastic warriors from Armies in Plastic, last seen here. Some, not all, was painted during last year. Here is the proof:

First up, Afghan Tribesman, both on foot and mounted. Apparently I thought I needed many of these fellows as I got three boxes. A little over half are finished. [I will note that my lights gave an unpleasant yellowish cast to all of the photographs, compounded by my oldish phone. However, I have pledged not to let “perfect be the enemy of good” this year, so the pictures come with all of their warts.

Pathans

Pathan Cavalry

Next we have the Brits. The Officer came in one of my free bags — he’s from a different era and war, but I like to have officers distinct from foot soldiers.

British Infantry

And Cavalry:

British Cavalry

I wanted lancers as well, so I supplemented the AIP miniatures with some from Expeditionary Force. They are a bit of work, as they come in pieces that one must glue together. Stunning, though.

“X Force” Lancers

Aside from the Pathans, the British will battle Prussians as well. AIP didn’t have the artillery I desired (little balls on the pickelhauben) so once again I sprung for Expeditionary Force. They’re listed as British, but paint re-patriated them.

Finally, a possible British ally or thorn in its side are the plucky US Marines.

US Marines

More anon!

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.

 

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