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 …
I am ever envious when miniatures bloggers — most often those living in the U.K. — post about how they stopped by a “charity shop” or “car boot sale” and come away with a bag full of vintage Britains, or dust collectors that just happen to be sized perfectly for 15mm terrain, or a beautiful Matchbox Models of Yesteryear car… Well, I’m here to tell you that such felicity does occasionally befall a yank as well.
A few weeks back, my wife and I visited a local “junque” shop by name of Grandaddy’s Antique Mall, nestled between my home and Guilford Courthouse. “Two acres of antiques,” claim they, and it was truly something. There were several booths engorged with die cast vehicles, but mostly of the modern-era. Alas, nary a Gault ceramic. However, tucked away on a shelf, I espied a plastic bag marked $6 with a motley assembly of real tin soldiers!
Their sole opponent was a flat (or possibly semi-flat) zulu.
Slender, yet undaunted
Bearskins at the ready
Overall, I believe I am what one calls “chuffed” at my lucky find. I’ll do a bit of research about restoration and see if I can’t return these fellows to splendor.
Post Script: Next to the bag was a plastic case with what looked to be about three unpainted 15mm WWII miniatures. “Granddaddy” was asking $24 for them, which was too rich for me as I don’t game WWII and I couldn’t ID the minis. I do plan to go back, so perhaps I’ll offer them a bit less in cash.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, a possible British ally or thorn in its side are the plucky US Marines.
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.
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.
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” aÂ 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.
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 someÂ islands. The top of the lighthouse is in need of repair.
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-goodnessÂ 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…
This is a parable concerning craft paints, real guitars, and pretend pianos. I wrote a bit in my essay on the GULP that I paint both terrain and miniatures with inexpensive craft paints. This wasn’t always the case.
When I was new to the hobby of collecting and painting miniatures, I did a lot lot of research online. Rather than serving as inspiration, all those meticulously painted miniatures served as intimidation and generally hindered the process. I started out buying Testors acrylics (because those were available at my local hobby shop, Hungates) but soon fell under the spell of Æheric fiends asserting that only Games Workshop pigments were worthy. But nothing I painted with those expensive paints looked like those I saw online.
I eventually stopped painting miniatures entirely, focussing instead on terrain, which, of course, I daubed with craft paint from Walmart, Michael’s, and A.C. Moore. When I embarked upon the Square Pegs project, it seemed obvious to use craft paints, as those cylindrical warriors boast a lot of surface area. Plus, for awhile there, GW kept changing around their paint names, pot types, and generally confused me. When the big box o’ Reaper Bones arrived all bendy-plasticy, craft paint kept flowing.
Now, if you’re wondering, or just bored, this is when I get to the parable part with musical instruments.
For way longer than I’ve collected miniatures — about 30 years, in fact — I’ve played guitar. Or rather, I’ve attempted to play guitar;— I am an auto didact, not a particularly perspicacious one, and it took me about 26 years of making noise to realize that it’s difficult to teach yourself how to do something that you don’t know how to do…
So, I carried my son for guitar lessons for a year or so, and worked up the nerve to take some myself. My teacher was a professional musician who had been involved in jangle-pop music in the 80’s North Carolina music scene, contemporaneous with rise of R.E.M. His band wasn’t similarly successful, but he loved to play guitar, so he made a life of working in the studio, teaching guitar, and playing in local bands. His especial gift is a connection between ears, brain, and fingers. In addition to the encyclopedia of songs he knows, he can simply listen to a song, figure out what the guitarist is playing, and transcribe it for the student.
Back in the 80’s, I had a serviceable guitar purchased by my parents. But I too was under the spell of the young R.E.M. and decided that an expensive electric guitar would certainly improve my playing. I got a bank loan (!) to purchase a Rickenbacker 330, which cost the equivalent of $3700 in today’s dollars (!). The short and obvious conclusion to this part of my tale is that this dear beauty didn’t bring me any closer to Buck. I was just a lousy guitarist with an expensive axe. I’ve collected a few more here and there, and as recently as a few years ago bought a Squier Telecaster (at least I didn’t bite for the real deal) because I thought that would make me better… [Since writing this, I traded up the Squier for a made in Mexico tele.]
The main guitar I practice on to this day is that serviceable Yamaha dreadnought bought for me by my parents circa 1984. One afternoon, my teacher Brad was adeptly unravelling some tune for me on his beat up, Willy Nelson-looking classical guitar, and I fumbled along behind pathetically. Bothered by some sort of string buzz emanating from my guitar, he asked if he could play it for a moment. Music erupted like you hear on the radio. There was still some sort of buzz owing to the vagaries of 30 year-old frets, but he could minimize it by how he held his fingers.
Some days later, while painting clothespins to look like 19th century Victorian soldiers, I was visited by epiphany. Brad sounded great on his old practice guitar, he sounded great on my middling Yamaha, and he sounded great on his expensive Les Paul; he is a gifted musician and would sound great on a tissue box with rubber bands stretched across it. He is a living equivalent of Schroeder in Peanuts, who can coax classical music out of a piano with the black keys painted on.
Great miniature painters can go on for as long as they like about the necessity of expensive paints, but I’m fairly certain they could knock out superb work with daubs of mud and a stick. I’m not saying that only a gifted few can do great work;— rather, that the amount of practice one puts in trumps the quality of the tools.
So, I plan to plod on with craft paints and an inclination to improve my technique. I won’t try anything too hard; I’m satisfied with a base coat and shading with future wash. After 20-odd years and a modest accumulation of guitars, I have learned to Travis pick and can sound like a coffee house folk singer should I want to. In all of my hobbying, I attend to people who have practiced more than I (and are likely more talented than I), incorporating what I can.
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, andÂ 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 fewÂ 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.
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 mightÂ 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.
Despite the seriousness with which many pursue the cause of wargaming — devoting hours to painting figures and constructing terrain; then devoting hours more to arguing over the proper number of buttons or color of facings — one should never lose sight of the fact that the hobby is, in essence, little more playing with toys.
I particularly appreciate those who embrace this reality and take the hobby in new directions.
Sawyer’s Playmobil is a website devoted to gaming the 18th century using Playmobil figures and terrain. The website contains abundant eye candy and a lovely, complete set of rules: Three Inch Glory II.
Along with the venerable Garden Wargaming site, it may become necessary for me to create a separate section for Playmobil warriors!