dispatches from terra incognita

Category: VSF Page 2 of 3

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…

Paint Table Annex

One of the great joys of my day is chatting with my wife as she prepares dinner. Cooking is her hobby, as miniatures (and guitar and carpentry and farming and sailing … oh, well, perhaps I have too many hobbies) are mine. The results of her work are impressive and delicious, and our boys and I gratefully partake.

The kitchen has a counter with bar stools and I often set up a little “painting annex” to keep my hands from being idle. One will note the 2oz. craft paint bottles. I do use the palette occasionally, usually when painting something large, like a terrain piece. I believe it was one of those You Tube terrain guys who I saw dipping paint out of the paint bottle tops, so I acquired the habit. Give the bottle a hearty shake before opening and there’s usually more than enough paint on the inside of the top. The light was rescued from the piano when it was donated to a good home; it is tucked behind the basket of napkins during the day.

On the table are some Reaper lasses. I sense that they are a bit uneasy, though, as the 15mm VSF bug has bitten, and three GASLIGHT units of Irregular Miniatures British have invaded the main paint table upstairs.

Poking around in the GULP also unearthed my Blue Moon “Missionaries, Explorers, Victims and other White Folks” who will likely force their way into the queue as well. I was also shocked by the quantity of Pendraken 10mm colonial and WWI figures I fell pray to years ago. All primed, a smattering painted. I had dreamed of a Warmaster-based VSF game. I later purchased Black Powder, which is along those lines, though intended for individually based minis. I might be back to Warmaster.

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.

Paint Table Saturday + 48

Following the blizzard of productivity which coincided with February’s blizzards (well, o.k., they weren’t really blizzards, but a half-foot of snow is a lot for North Carolina), things have been slow, hobby-wise, for the past month.

I did finally manage to knock out the 15mm Pathans who so unceremoniously invaded the painting queue. As I find customary with Irregular miniatures, they looked like blobby bits of lead out of the bag, but painted up quite nicely. I don’t purport them to be historically authentic; my main source for guidance was the little line drawing in The Sword and the Flame rulebook. I’ll probably use them most often for VSF, so anything goes, I suppose.

It seems I’m a slow learner with the digital camera. I was attempting to follow the tenets of this miniature photography tutorial, and I ended up not being able to get the camera to focus properly. Apparently, cameras are complicated tools that one must take time to learn how to use properly…

In addition to likely inauthenticity, these are painted to my usual “good enough for government work” standards. I don’t do eyes (I don’t even do them on 28mm when I can avoid it) and the beards proved to be a challenge. I think one luckless chap suffered a daub of black on his nose.

Jumping the Queue

Paint Table Saturday features flagrant queue jumpers. Looking back yesterday at A) the Major General’s page and 2) my aged stage-set mountains, rendered me nostalgic for VSF and afflicted with remorse for my long-suffering 15mm figures. As things stand, I can muster a respectable force of British. In the back of my mind, however, I was certain that somewhere there existed some Irregular Miniatures Pathans, neatly stored but inexcusably denude of paint. A brief ruffle through the boxes and my quarry was in hand.

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Reaper Bones have fallen into heavy rotation ’round these parts, and thus many moons have passed since I’ve tackled 15mm metal. First off, I was grateful that Irregular parted with so much lead for my dollars. Too bad for me that only about half of it was in the shape of figures and the balance was a nuisance known as “flash.” A solid 30 minutes with an Xacto knife cleared up that condition. A dollop of 2-part epoxy and they were firmly grounded on a washer. 3 packs of 10 men, three poses: firing while standing, firing while kneeling, and runnin’ at ya with a big sword. My new-found painting courage will soon render these chaps “ready for battle.”

However, the Afghanis were superseded in ill manners by a ragtag band from Mordheim. I bought the box set years and years ago, snipped everything off sprue, and stored it with customary anal retentiveness. The major barrier to their progress was the fact that they were all in little pieces. If you haven’t yet encountered that vintage of plastic figure, you get a bunch of legs, torsos, arms, heads, and weapons; Games Workshop awards one the privilege of cobbling them together using malodorous cement. While I had already suffered through assembling the Skaven, the human fellows remained in pieces.

Just behind my brush-washing jar in the paint table picture one might spy a nifty Testors Model Master Liquid Cement Applicator which, quite truly, is the bee’s knees. (Another of my hobbies is beekeeping and I don’t know what that really means…). When I discovered that cool glue bottle at Michael’s, I resolved that I could finish those fellows. And so, assembled is a band of what I think are called “Marienbergers.” I don’t think I’ll paint them just yet, but who knows?

Finally, below you see a shot of the stalwarts who were leaped over in line. I think what’s holding me back with the Woodland Warriors is that most animals are grayish-brown so I’m afraid that they’ll all look the same. Mixed in are a couple of Bones I lasses (Henceforth I’ll have to distinguish Bones I and II, as my box arrives Monday) and a Night Goblin from the Battle of Skull Pass set (which I also bought and which is largely naked…).

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.

Ernest Glitch & His Lateral Science

I first discovered Roger Curry’s Lateral Science website (now blog) a decade ago. He would seem to be in the process of distilling it into a “novel” — The Ernest Glitch Chronicles. I have to let Roger Curry describe this one for you himself:

During the mid-eighteen hundreds, the Weardale savant Ernest Glitch performed scientific and technological investigations, little known to the present student of the history of science. An eccentric and volatile person, his pursuit of knowledge was accompanied by the sort of hedonism only the very rich can enjoy. The results of experiments he and his assistant Hodges undertook were never published. As he kept no log-book, the main record of the discoveries they made are the letters he wrote to Michael Faraday.

In this book, the letters to Faraday are presented, together with contemporary reports, a journal Glitch made of his expedition to Africa, and several narratives of his life. Also, reference is made to both his ancestors and, in detail, his descendants.

Contains very strong language. The letters and accounts of the work of Ernest Glitch are of an appalling nature in parts, containing references to animal and human experimentation, extreme violence, Victorian drug abuse, and complete disregard for the dignity of native peoples. 381 pages. 135 thousand words.

I don’t yet find evidence that an e-bookified version is available, but one can read it all online by foraging through the blog. Ripping inspiration for VSF technology and adventure.

From the Archives (Originally posted December 20, 2002)

The Square Pegs

The time has come for me to unveil my most recent Enthusiasm;— viz.:

The Square Pegs

The Square Pegs are a motley collection of 54mm Toy Soldiers constructed from clothespins, pipe cleaners, and other accoutrements.

Why 54mm Craftees?

In the summer of 2012, I found myself assessing my increasing pile of unpainted lead; simultaneously reflecting upon my diminishing space for storing my soldiers and scratch-built terrain; and finally, lamenting the little time I have to devote to hobbying. In a flash came the perfect solution;— why not embark upon a project in a new, larger scale, which would entail constructing (and storing) all new buildings and terrain, and which would require me to create all of my own figures from scratch? Thus began the madness!

But First, the Back Story

The Anglo-Zulu War, rendered in clothespins

Examining the history of my browser would reveal the following artifacts;—

For years I have been ogling (in a good way) the clothespin creations of Mr. Kenneth Van Pelt one might find at The Penny Whistle (website of the Secondhand Lions Wargame Club) — 54mm Zulu war Brits and 1:72-ish biplanes, all constructed of parts plundered from the laundry;

Though I have a well-thumbed copy of Wells’ Little Wars, I was strangely compelled to purchase a modern update — Funny Little Wars by Padre Paul Wright — published by the Virtual Armchair General; and finally,

Really shoots!

How could one not be captivated by the Toy Making Dad’s tutorial for constructing a little wooden cannon that really shoots?

One horrid day these Ætheric contagions took hold of my feverish mind. I realized that I possessed the necessary skills and modest pecuniary means to construct 54mm soldiers and the artillery with which to shoot them dead.

Looks of grim determination, astride stoic steeds

Thus was born the Square Pegs!

Creating little clothespin people did have several qualities to recommend it. One of my other (too numerous) hobbies is carpentry, so the concept of combining woodworking with miniature wargaming was appealing. I embrace any opportunity to employ my costly collection of tools, and better yet, welcome any excuse to purchase new ones! This may seem strange, but by creating craftee warriors, a certain pressure was off. I am not at all a skillful painter, and I frequently “psych myself out” (as a Victorian gentleman might remark) by admiring the Olympian Heights of painting technique displayed on the interweb. When I compare the Picasso-like results of my brush strokes (and not in a good way), I admit I become Discouraged, to say the least. The main reason I originally took up 15mm figures (for example) was so that I wouldn’t have to paint eyes!

Officers and a Lady

Working in the “laundry appurtenance” medium, however, equaled Freedom. There were few ultra-skilled craftee-devotees to outshine one, and, in the end, as I often remind myself, “Self, it’s only a clothespin.” Occasionally, when I catch a glimpse of those furry blue arms, they afford a Muppetational quality, which plunges me into to the depths of Despair …  Perhaps my time has been wasted? I suppose that one could say that about any of one’s pursuits when examined with excessive scrutiny and cabernet sauvignon.

Men and supplies

In the end, I think I’m decidedly Pleased, and I harbor Grand Plans for the Square Pegs. As the cooler months are descending, I have time to amass forces for an epic spring Garden Battle, … and then I could double the size of the plans for the Gary Chalk river steamer and repurpose my figures for pulp/penny dreadful VSF in Darkest Africa  … and then I could make “proof of concept” models of fantasy figures for a truly expansive garden hexcrawl… and then if I made pirates, I could construct 1:32 ships armed with those shooting cannons, spread out so blue canvas on the lawn … and then …

Three infantryman from Army Black, before being issued arms (You may, in fact, regret having found this site…)

Funny Little Wars

My current Enthusiasm involves a return to the origins of another hobby — miniature wargaming. H.G. Wells’s Little Wars an Floor Games were the foundational texts for adults to engage in warfare employing tiny metal models.

One can have for himself the text of both books via Project Gutenberg, should he desire an authentic return to roots.

For a modern day re-imaginging of Wells’ rules, along with a plethora of ancillary accoutrements, Padre Paul Wright’s Funny Little Wars is highly recommended. The rules for battle are all there, both for using little Wellsian cannons (that really shoot) and modern day dice-rolling. There’s a points system for assembling balanced opposing forces in a rainbow of hues (Red=Britain, Black=Germany, &c.).

I particularly enjoy the little touches — aircraft for reconnaissance (never combat)… rules for caring for wounded in field hospitals… sartorial suggestions and culinary guidance for players new to a more civilized style of gaming.

The soldiers themselves — old fashioned 54mm tin soldiers — are breathtakingly dear (in two senses — cute, as well as, you could never afford them) but Padre Wright provides Ætheric addresses to purveyors of plastique proxies. I, myself, have chosen a Different Path, about which more anon.

Even if you never make it outside to gaming in the garden, Funny Little Wars is a delightful read and contains a bit of history about the origins of wargaming. I’ll keep Readers up to date as my Enthusiasm unfolds….

Hexographer

Hexographer is the thoroughly wonderful program I used to create the map in my header. It comes from the mind of Joe Wetzel at Inkwell Ideas, who also has programs for mapping dungeons (Dungeonographer) and, thanks to one of those successful Kickstarters, entire cities (Cityographer). The programs are Java-based, therefore platform agnostic, free for a basic version, and reasonably priced for an upgrade.

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