dispatches from terra incognita

Tag: 54mm Page 1 of 3

Thrifting in NC

Here are the fruits of several recent sojourns to new thrift / antique / junque stores in my corner of North Carolina. The first find was a pair of pairs of Native American Indians. 54mm, metal, old-lookin’, but with no indication of manufacture on the base.

A different store had a bit of a trove, but the fellow wanted too much for them I was forced to be discerning. This chap is a Britains, complete with the swingy arm. I have yet to research who he might be — I don’t recognize the uniform, alas.

By their headgear, I’m assuming these are WWI infantry. They are marked “ENGLAND” in raised letters on the bottom. The kneeling soldier with field glasses has it tattooed upon his leg, as did my kneeling Highlander.

The next two are clearly marked Britains. Both suffer from broken rifle barrels — I haven’t decided on how to best repair the damage.

I wouldn’t usually go for 15s, as I have so many unpainted, but these fellows looked so lonely, jumbled in an old take-out food container (which I’ve already thrown out).

They proved to be a fascinating collection:

I wonder if some of them were home casts, as there were globs of metal and tags with letter markings. The biggest bit of metal was mysteriously marked E WINDS. Then there were gun carriages and limbers, and what I assume are 6mm tanks and trucks.

Then there were some Roman types:

And the majority were Napoleonics:

I figured if I ever wanted to do big battles in Ascaria, this would be an economical start. Tossed in amongst the 15mm mess was this 54mm knight:

He very nearly got binned because I assumed by his gaudy appearance that he hailed from a Safari Toob or some such. Astonishingly to me, he is a Britains figure, though made in China. I later ran across a blog post of someone staging a whole battle with these knights.

All in all, I have been moderately pleased with the “finds” I’ve made. Of course, most of the enjoyment comes from the hunt itself.

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.

Painting Progress

Here are my latest figures to go into the “completed” column:

An admittedly odd pair — a Blitz Bowl / Blood Bowl orc and a 3D-printed owlbear-skin rug from Fat Dragon Games.

Continuing with fantasy, we have two well-armed lasses from my horde of Reaper Bones.

And then I circled back to my goblin fetish, with two GW Night Goblin netters. I felt pretty good about adding them to the swelling ranks of my army:

Until I recalled that this is what remains to be painted:

The photo doesn’t do them justice, but these aged Reaper Bones turned out better than I expected. On the left is the iconic Deadlands cover boy by Brom; the skeletal fellow on the right had been a cavalryman, I decided.

“Blondie” was one of those metal figures I was too intimidated to paint for years. I don’t recall who made him. Flanking him are two Reaper Bones who turned out ok. I’m ever shocked that one can paint craft acrylics right on Bones plastic without primer.

And finally, to some 54mm denizens of my imagi-nation, Ascaria. First up are Zafrarian artillery. They came with both mortar and howitzer — I assume they wouldn’t man them both simultaneously.

… And their Ascodali counterparts. I’m getting in almost two hours of hobby time a day, which pleases me to no end. Alas, I’m soon to return to remote teaching, so I’ll likely have to forego one of the daily hobbying hours …

An Unexpected, Though Pleasant, Diversion

Looking for a break from … well, everything I have been painting, with the added incentive of reducing the pile of boxes of unpainted Armies in Plastic, I reached for a box of Indian cavalry. They were from the AiP “Boxer Rebellion” range, “1st Skinner’s Horse.” I thought they’d make a nice addition to my Zafrarian army.

Now, I believe I was conflating them with these fellows, who I got in the same haul. The cavalry box had some less-than-helpful, monochromatic AiP art. I was thinking it would be a quick, mostly-khaki paint job, and another unit in the “completed” column.

Though I intended them for Imagi-nation use, I do like to do a little research when a unit is specifically identified. So, into Google went “1st Skinner’s Horse.” To my chagrin, they were not khaki clad at all. However, their uniform was a beautiful, intricate surprise, presenting an unexpected challenge.

Here’s the lot, poorly lit. I did try to be faithful with the uniform, but they would be hopelessly anachronistic in the late 18th-early 19th centuries, as the Imagi-nation of Zafraria is fully integrated. Thus, a panoply of races are represented (which doesn’t show up well in the poor lighting).

Command
Trumpeter
Lancer
Lancer
… and, Lancer.

Research took quite awhile as there were a variety of renditions of the uniform. Then, they were somewhat elaborate to paint — particularly the headgear. I also replaced the lances with wire, as the originals were unacceptably bendy.

So, they went into the “done” column, though not as expeditiously as I had hoped.

Beefing Up the Band

Your Humble Correspondent has been suitably prolific on the hobby front, but not sufficiently strict about documentation. I have much to share.

Whilst in quest of identification of my Royal Marine Band, I found an Ebay listing for a quite reasonably priced partial set — specifically, trumpets and a bass drum, which would complement my fellows nicely. Purchased!

Well, even I could tell they were not from the exact band as mine, but my eyes weren’t yet keen enough to notice those bases …

These fellows, it turns out, are of a much later vintage — circa the 1990’s, apparently. Here they are with pre-war counterparts:

These modern kids are more static — their arms are cast in position, rather than (more-or-less uselessly) articulated. I haven’t as yet had an occasion to parade them ensemble; I’m sure they’ll know many of the same tunes.

On a subsequent visit to the same vintage shop where I found my original band, I fulfilled a long-standing quest for a type case.

I’ve passed on many of these, but this one was in especially excellent condition. My initial thought was to display it turned vertically with 28mm figures. The slots proved too short, alas, so Plan B was for my VSF 15s. Suddenly, however, inspiration struck!

I had been wondering how to best display my marching Britain’s. I would leave the case horizontal (it already had handy hangers on the back to mount it on the wall this way) and give the band — and the rest of my nascent collection — the pride of place they deserve.

In time, I look forward to completing this case and purchasing a second to fill …

Good to Know

Gadding about the internet, as one does, he daily encounters innumerable morsels of guidance and advice. Some are retained for later use; others flutter harmlessly through the void betwixt the ears.

My first-ever purchased 54mm figures from Armies in Plastic were Zulu War artillery (who, as I know check, are apparently no longer available from AIP [!]). I acquired them during my Square Pegs phase, in order to have a model for scratch-building a 6-pounder and Gatling gun. I’ll also note these fellows annoy me to no end due to their state of inexcusable deshabille. Even in the heat of Southern Africa, I firmly believe that no proper toy soldier should be seen sans tunic!

Anyhoo, when I spray varnished them, owing to some hopefully-unreproducible atmospheric vagary, they got a slight whitish “frosting.” Because they were so unloved, I decided to decide that the frost was dust and left them as such. (Note, I also slopped a bit when drybrushing of the base color on his left trouser leg hem. That, too, I elected to ignore).

While scanning the Miniature Page one day awhile back, someone asked for guidance with a similar varnish mishap. I regularly use Krylon Fusion grey primer, which I will attest is so good it almost jumps out the can onto miniatures without my help. I have gotten spoiled and thus a bit lazy about shaking the can — it’s that good.

Kyylon Matte finish is less amenable, however. It never seems to be very flat / matte, which usually doesn’t bother me overmuch as I like a lively, toy-soldiery look. The chap on the miniatures page asserted that one had to shake the can of spray finish for an inordinately long time in order for it to have the desired effect. When someone bemoaned a “frosting” such as my troops had, another chap remarked that he solved the problem by spraying them again with varnish!

Now, doing the same thing that caused a problem to resolve it seemed counter-intuitive to me, but I apparently filed it away. I did immediately begin shaking the can of varnish for a full minute beforehand, and periodically throughout the spraying, and my figures these days have been a bit “flatter.”

A month or so later, I decided to see what could be done with the artillerymen. I gave one a well-shaken spritz, resulting in the expected wet gloss. When it had dried, however, the frosting was gone! [The lighting in the picture is bad, and his hem is still stained, but the frost has vanished).

Thus, another hobbying trick for the bag. I hope that taking more care along the way won’t necessitate its use. But, should I frost them again, I know what to do.

“… 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 …

Reinforcements Arrive in Ascaria

Though I have yet to complete painting the soldiers I have on hand, I availed myself of the Spring Sale at Armies in Plastic ($8.95 sets and free shipping for a $50+ order [I see now it’s $60, so my impulsivity has been rewarded!]). This time I ordered whole boxes rather than random sets.

Zafrarian Infantry

First up, above are Zafrarian infantry. I already had a couple chaps on the left with that little roundy hat, who I’ll use eventually use as some other type of troop, I imagine.

Ascodali Command

A picked lot of these blue fellows will become Ascodali command. You see the drummer and the “donor” figure for my standard bearer. I’m intrigued by the headgear of the fellow to the left. A mitre sort of thing?

Serving a look …
The first gun.

What ho? Another branch of service makes its arrival! I think this will be Ascodali artillery.

Despite having created my “Armies in Plastic Concordance,” these fellows in blue were a mistake. When one dives into the cornucopia of codes at Armies in Plastic, he discovers that many represent the same figures, differing only by color of plastic. My eventual goal is to create my own illustrated AIP Catalog, occasionally substituting photos from re-sellers, as those on the AIP site are often blurry. For the present, I printed off the catalog and scrawled which codes included the same fellows. As I prime and paint them anyway, color of plastic matters not. “I call it my AIP Concordance.”

Now, AIP Napoleonic artillery provides an extra challenge, as AIP now also has codes with two sets of crew and no guns, and other sets with two guns and no crew, and then regular-old codes with a gun and 5 crew.

When placing my order, I neglected to note that these fellows were manning a howitzer and mortar. “Size matters not,” ’tis said, but that stubby little thing perched atop a full-sized carriage seems embarrassing. Oh, well … I still haven’t decided on which side these fellows will serve. And, I suppose I ought to vow to paint them before I invest in cavalry?

Ascodali Infantry

The final box will beef up the Ascodali infantry. I’ll have to find another purpose for that telescope-wielding commander. While likely realistic that command would be “scoping” out the sitch, I consider the pose to be inexcusably unheroic. These chaps, for example, could be birding.

The Brit is an artilleryman, so I suppose long-distance viewing is appropriate.

This, my friends, is what proper leadership looks like.

Great tit fancier? Perhaps. Stalwart commander? YES!

Zafrarian Infantry

Paint has dried on the first Zafrarian infantryman and thus he is ready for service.

Embodying the national colors.

I had returned to Battledress for inspiration. I believe these two fellows may have risen to the top:

An infantryman from Wurttemberg…

… and a grenadier from the Kingdom of Bavaria.

I went for a lighter jacket, a bit horizon blue-ish.

And smart, black patent leather kit with bright gold accents. I painted over the front cross strap (you can see in the picture on top) as I wanted more blue to show. Looking at him now, I think I painted the epaulette on his right shoulder incorrectly. I’ll need to fix that …

More About Zafraria

As promised, here are the first two Zafrarian troops, painted. Also as promised, it is a bit of a cheat.

Through the process of an apparent convergent evolution, the troop type “Zouave” arose separately both in Algeria in 1831 (according to Wikipedia) and in a distant, little travelled corner of the ocean on the island of Ascaria.

The more prosaic explanation is that among the bags in my Christmas Haul were two zouaves, and I am determined to use as many of these random fellows as possible. Camels are going to be indigenous to Ascaria, as Armies in Plastic gave me any number of those.

The free-association words I came up with for Zafraria were “heterodox, effective, alloy, agglutinative.” One difference from Ascodal and historical Napoleonic troops is that the Zafrarian army comprises soldiers of several races. The capital city is Fora, written “????;” other cities include Pruih Frain, Ushtar, Nochia, Achal, and Aiqozoth. (These were randomly generated and I suspect contain some tricky sounds to represent with Cyrillic…)

And finally, the flag:

This is the Zafrarian national flag. The red “crescent” actually represents the sun, refusing to be concealed by the smaller (implied) white moon. The flag commemorates a myth from the Zafrarian past.

This is the battle flag. Being mostly white, it makes a significant statement, as the standard bearer commits to keeping the colors spotless throughout the battle.

I went back to the Napoleonic section of Battledress for inspiration for the Zafrarian infantry. Until next time …

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