dispatches from terra incognita

Tag: 15mm Page 1 of 2

Outer Order, Inner Calm

The titular incantation is frequently chanted in my house whilst we scurry, returning errant objects to rightful positions. The house, I suppose, is thus generally experienced as a calm and ordered space. My Hobby Shack … not so much.

The desk, in particular, teeters towards chaos. Behold the entire ensemble —the middle bit is where work gets done and the peripheries serve as storage. Miniatures from 6mm to 54mm cohabitate in various states completion, a menagerie found nowhere in nature.

Prominent are 54mm plains Indian warriors from San Diego Toy Company. Nearby you find 20-year-old Old Glory pirates (28mm), 15mm Death’s Head hussars (possibly Old Glory 15s), Chinese civilians, and mounted British command (both Irregular Miniatures). There are 2 remaining mercenaries from the Mordheim boxed set and two sets of Reaper Bones goblins. Looking on from the green hillock in the background are Foundry Victorians and Old West, my oldest miniatures.

Nestled amongst the lead are some 3D printed arcade game cabinets and mdf ladders. A 15mm 3D printed tripod from Fast Dragon Games cries out to be completed. MDF “sprue” from TT Combat and Game Craft Miniatures buildings resists the garbage can because I’m certain I could do something with all the wood left in them.

It goes on…

Yet completion yields no comfort. The storage shelves alongside have already been partially redivided and are still nearing capacity.
Progress is marked as a slow spiral, I imagine, ticking off little bits of my many projects. I customarily console myself that I am preparing for my retirement (still 10-15 years away) when I will finally enjoy the harvest of my current toil.

 

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.

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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…).

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.

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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…

Paint Table Saturday

In the name of conjugal concord, I decommissioned my expansive paint table. As is the rule with all horizontal surfaces, it collected bits and bobs that only reduced its utility. Additionally, the higher purpose of my humble hobby space is to be a guest room. Though we don’t host guests frequently, I suppose those who do stay won’t want to bunk alongside a dusty profusion of hobbying detritus.

A dormer of his own

So, pressed back into service is a small oak table with two drawers, which does possess the distinction of being the only piece of furniture that my father has ever made for me. It’s positioned in a window dormer and thus features a nice view of our cul-de-sac. Immortalized squeaky-clean here, but that won’t last. And, it’s a a bit of a cheat really, as we shall see anon. The only apparent miniatures are a few of my Splintered Light “Faithful” Woodland Warriors.

I dulled the pain of disappointment over the diminution of digs by constructing a larger rack for my craft paints. This one holds the current inventory, including stray 4 and 8 ounce bottles, as well as a smattering of GW pots that persist. I actually broke out router and jig so that it has dovetail joints in the corners (!)

Here you behold the neat cheat. The continued health of my marriage also depended upon me moving the wargames table out of my sons’ room and, for the moment, it is a mound of wargames creations. I am haunted by the comment of a hobbyist years ago (which I likely read on the Miniature Page) who asserted that the critical first step of every project should be ascertaining where it will be stored. Well, I always trust that one to the angels, and like me, they get distracted before the job is finished… So, all my hobbying stuff is piled atop my wargames table, thoroughly defeating the goal of a tranquil guest room.

My current “project,” therefore, is to relocate the boxes of scratch building materials (which are some of the banker’s boxes beneath the table), box up newer projects currently homeless (and put them under the table), and create an attractive set-up on the tabletop, all before our next guest arrives in round-about a month’s time. Buena suerte, my friend, buena suerte.

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.

Microtactix

Microtactix was on the leading edge of creating terrain for wargames and RPGs that you could download immediately and print on cardstock. The company has been quiet for some time (viz. the moribund Microtactix website), but a plethora of products remain for sale at RPGNow.

The early buildings, such as Vulture Gulch, are primitive by today’s standards — they’re just line-drawn and you have to color them in yourself(!) Yet, they’re not correspondingly inexpensive…

“Newer” sets such as Twilight Street (added 10 years ago) are fully colored and useful. I have many, many of these sets and retain a fondness for carefully assembling cardstock buildings.

 

Whitewash City

In addition to all of the wonderful products that Eric Hotz has offered to the gaming community, his Whitewash City: Links page is the sine qua non of online Old West gaming resources. If you’re looking for miniatures, scenery, rules — Eric has sought them out and provides you with a link. Many Thanks!

 

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