Monday, June 17, 2019

The Forbidden Tower

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I've been three times to the enormous folly known as the Forbidden Corner

It's a weird little place tucked away in the Yorkshire Dales, a personal fantasy land of a wealthy businessman, opened to the public a couple of decades ago.  I wouldn't like to spoil to much of the place, but if you enjoy mazes, fantasy worlds, whimsy and a dash of horror, and have children between the age of 6 and 90, it is well worth a visit.

 
  
On my latest visit, a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a souvenir with obvious gaming potential:

Stan for scale
This is a moneybox based as you may guess on one of the folly features, cast in a thick and firm plastic that reminds me of the resinated plastic used for some modern games miniatures.  Aside from the garish facial details it also has a slot in the roof and a plug in the base for the insertion and extraction of your (modest) savings.  It was the princely sum of five pounds.

Which is peanuts really for something like this.  Most hard plastic or resin castle towers seen to retail from wargame companies around the £20+ mark, and lack much in the way of fantasy features (except GW of course, who instead have probably too many fantastic elements!).  Of course you may not find the retail outlet especially convenient to reach, but these can be purchased online for £10 with postage in the UK, which still seems good value.  Moreover, the model is perfectly scaled for 28-32mm models (and it would look okay with 20mm too I guess).

However, as nicely detailed as this is, I was not happy with the paint job, that needed improving.  And once I got to looking at the details I decided I wanted to add a small stockade to the model too.

Ready to paint
 I cut a hardboard base and then built up a parapet in card.  Then a small gateway with a bastion atop it.  The walkway was in part to make the door on the tower seem less tall and better protected.  Buy the model and you will see why.  Wooden coffee stirrers provided all the woodwork.  The gatehouse is modelled with a simple gangplank type bridge, but access to the tower is only by clambering up the inside of the wall with help from footholds on the battlements!

I.e. I forgot to add a ladder.

Painting was a simply affair.  I spray undercoated in black to seal everything, and then hit the base and woodwork with a deep chocolate.  Then it was a simple case of building up the layers of drybrush.  Greyish brown for the stockade wood, sandy brown for the soil, stony grey for the walls.

Note the steps behind the tower - they were a bugger to do! 
Then I did the wooden door and window panels a more reddish brown; suggesting better cared for, oiled wood.
Not the ajar gate in the wooden tower 
Lastly, I did the face, wanting it to look less goofy than it originally did.
Face now looking considerably more demonic
The interior was done a darkish brown flesh, the teeth then started from a lighter shade of this, toned up to white.  The eyes are about 6 or seven layers from a blood red up to an orange, with a few detail points, to give a flaming appearance.  I added a little off-source lighting to the brickork around the eyes - no more than a drybruash of midrange reds - which came out really well.

This looks great, and I'm really pleased with the overall result.  Although reasonably generic, I think the thematic place for this model sits with my Knights of Derpabury (fantasy-enhanced Feudal English).

I would urge you to check the source out, and if you like what you've seen here, picking on of these up whilst you are there, or online would be a great investment!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Upper Canada Militia

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These miniatures are now ready:

 
They represent typical, if well appointed, Canadian Militia of the period 1813-14.  In particular they are inspired by accounts of the issue of surplus red jackets for the 41st Regiment to militia troops in Upper Canada.

 
These are constructed, as I may have mentioned before, from a pile of Victrix Miniatures spares I had lying around.  The conversion work is relatively extensive, with webbing for knapsacks being carved away, cross-belts re-sculpted, and tall hats made in Blue Stuff moulds from Green Stuff!

all angles view
I wanted these to look like regulars, but it is also clear from the sources that regularised equipment issue was incomplete, and not always consistent with standard uniform.  As is clear these wear red, but green jackets with red facing were probably issued just as often, and reports of other colours also show up.  Here I added grey trews and a white and red plume to the officer, who also has sourced himself some crimson for a sash; he cannot be very senior however, otherwise he would probably have purchased himself a dark blue coat.

They are a charismatic little unit for Rebels and Patriots, offering something distinct from my Peninsular War British.  I need at least one more militia unit of Canadians, and so green jackets may well appear too; although a mash-up of Perry ACW figures may better represent the non-uniform attire of civilian volunteers. 

Stay tuned for more...

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Monday, June 03, 2019

UK Games Expo 2019

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For the fourth year in a row, I made the trip down to Birmingham, with friends in tow, for UKGE.

Huuuge. 
I would guess only Salute can even hold a candle to the size of this event in the UK for gaming.  UKGE boasts footfall in the tens of thousands over the weekend (21-39,000 in 2018 depending who you count, compared to 9,000+ for Salute in the same year).  The event fills two halls of the Birmingham NEC, along with the Hilton Hotel across the way from it.  As a result there was a lot to see on our one day at the event, and the camera ended up sitting resolutely in the pocket for most of the day.

I know most of my readers are primarily miniatures gamers, so I will make mention of that field first.  The show caters for the Out the Box, complete world already made, skirmish game mostly.  If you have a licensed property for miniatures gaming, or are building your own IP this is the place to be to see the newness.  Games Workshop, Fantasy Flight, Ares Games and many others in attendance, with the likes of all that's new for Warhammer, Star Wars, Film, TV and Video game licences and beyond.

Historical fan?  Well, Warlord Games were there, and Rubicon, showing off new 1/56th scale Panzer IV variants, but beyond that, you'd be pretty much out of luck.  UKGE is not the place to go to pick up boxes of Perry plastics or some additions for your 15mm Marlburian French army, but if you need another 35mm heroic scale Orc or an enormous resin demon, it'll offer you all the choices under the sun.

Also, whether miniatures or board/card gaming, if you want to try before you buy, you couldn't ask for a better event.  Though again for the former, don't expect any huge display games.  Literally every stand will have playtest or demo stations for the games on show, or at the very least someone capable of explaining it to you.

Personally I am at UKGE for this, I was looking for new games and something a bit unusual, to go with my various gaming groups, so the chance to get hands on with games beforehand is great.  Essentially it was a massive shopping experience, in a big relaxed shop, with endless chill-out room space (open play areas and a games library you can borrow more or less anything from, if you've time), and extortionate food prices (£8 for a sandwich, bag of crisps and a coke; thanks NEC!).

This said, we also found an hour to spend in the playtest section, trying games that had not yet reached publication (or even Kickstarter).  It's a nice giveback, and you may hit upon a gem, though looking at some of the prototypes on display you have to wonder if the 'designer' has even paid attention to where gaming has gone in the past thirty or forty years.  We tried a weird computer themed flicking game that looked more like hockey played on a Jackson Pollack painting, and a fun little card game based around a flying in a hang-glider race.

After the main show finished, we went to the Shut Up and Sit Down Podcast for some entertaining game related banter.  The convention has numerous free and paid for seminars and shows, another feature few wargames shows can or will offer, and it makes for a nice break of pace.

'Internet famous' 
Listening to Matt and Quinns discussion a bizarre book of solo imaginary role playing was a particular highlight, as it threw a spotlight on an author who could only be described as deeply, deeply strange.

As for purchases, buoyed up by petrol money from my companions I did pick up several bits and pieces:
Monty's Haul
Only 6 miniatures amongst that lot, but good picks for the price I paid, destined for Star Wars and Dragon Rampant.

As an aside, of sorts, I was pleased to discover after the event that Rebels and Patriots won 'Best Miniatures Game' at the show. 
 
A great endorsement for the rules, not least being at a show mainly concentrated on fantasy and sci-fi miniatures gaming (it's competition being star-ship fighter combat and fantasy viking skirmishing).

In conclusion, another great and greatly worthwhile day out, if you've never tried it before, I would urge you to give it a try; if like me you are underwhelmed by the experience of most wargames shows, this is a revelation.

However, convention funk is still very much a thing....

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Monday, May 27, 2019

Rebels & Patriots - the War of 1812 test games.


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A little while ago, myself and Gav had a chance to play another test game of Rebels and Patriots; and with my newly finished Americans raring to go, it was a chance to get the War of 1812 ball rolling again.

The main issue was going to be the rather more limited British forces I would be able to present.  I obviously had a handful of Natives and some Glengarry Rifles, but for the time being at least any other models would need to proxy from my Peninsular British.  Thankfully the lights companies of my original British regiments were singly based, and with the addition of a commander and some artillery, one of the scenarios in the rules was easy to play. 

We set up for the Mendenhall's Battery scenario, with the British placing two guns on a hill in the centre of the board, which the Americans were to storm. 

Our field of battle
The battery was accompanied directly by a platoon of Light infantry, with the Glengarry militia and Natives in reserve.
The battery and camp to the rear
Natives and militia
The Americans placed their main force of a large platoon in the fields aiming to cover their advance.  Ohio Militia  were nearer the far itself, whilst two sections of the 4th Rifles were in open ground close to woodland.  

The Ohio militia  ruin some Canadian potato seedlings
I took command of the Americans, and Gav the British.

Mid game
It was, as it turned out, not a success for America.  If ever a scenario required two things, more cover and cavalry, this was it.  As it was the battlefield played into the hands of the British, with the artillery raking the American ranks with fire before they were able to close even to musketry range.  

The US rifles were unable to make a significant dent in the British light troops, meanwhile the Ojibwe pounced on the militia and defeated them in a swift exchange.
New model syndrome
Which was about the point I conceded.  In less than an hour we had thoroughly break-tested the scenario, and perhaps found it wanting (short of forcing them to set up 6 inches in from of a forest, I can't see how one wins as the attacker).
Time to go!
That however meant we had plenty of time on our evening for a second go.  I quickly adjusted the British list to a couple of sections of good quality Light infantry, and a single gun, and set up a version of Lament ridge, as the bridge over the Lament river.
Deep in the woods, a river runs...
Potential for a similar American disaster was apparent, when Gav deployed his cannon to the road, with the bridge effectively covered by its' fire.
Scary.
However with the river deemed fordable along its' length, much denser woodland, and the priority not being the gun itself, it would be possible to circumvent it's threat.

Gav hurried for the Bridge, whilst I had to redeploy to avoid gifting his gun with soft targets.  The Ohio militia used the hill to cover themselves and laid withering fire into the natives, who eagerly advanced on them across an open field.
Give fire!
US rifles crossed the river and held up the British left flank.  Their fire kept the light infantry at bay and diverted the British artillery, whilst the US line conducted a largely unassailed advance on the bridge.
Cross now, they are unguarded
The US line swept over the bridge and in a succession of attacks took the Glengarry, Light infantry and Artillery by turns.  Delivering a spectacular blow to the British.  the natives by this point had charged the Ohio militia, and been thrown back, only to find their way barred by a flanking section of Rifles.  Who effectively finished them off.
A last hurrah!
So the bridge fell easily to American hands.  Overall we shared honours for our evening.  Rebels and Patriots like many of the Rampant engine games can stand or fall based on how balanced your force selection is to the scenario in hand.  For this second game the armies were well matched, but luck went more the direction of the Americans.

So far I'm really linking the way the rules play, and they operate at an ideal scale for both the smaller battles of 1812, and for my intended sizes of forces.

Very pleasing.

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Boduria: Volkzima, God of Winter

I wanted a centerpiece for the Bodurian army, and I likewise wanted to tie it in to the wolfen theme that is an intended part of the force.  This was an opportunity to dip in to one of my favorite sources for excellent value fantasy models; Schliech:

As it comes the Eldrador Ice Wolf is a nice looking model, well cast considering it is technically just a toy.  Being designed to go with three inch figurines, it's a substantial model, and being intended for children, it is also reasonably priced.  About a tenner.

But it did need a repaint to fit in with my other models, and more importantly perhaps, to cover up the artificial, plastic ice.  I think the ice as made looks pretty good, but at the same time only part of the model has it for the ice parts, so overall it needed a repaint.

Volkzima
On repainting it I was not going to be able to get quite the same transparency, but I managed a fairly cold looking solid blue for the back and the legs.  The paint jobs for the Bodurians are just flat colours, but for Volkzima I added further levels of highlight before giving it a shaded glaze.


Reaper sorceress, for scale
The other piece of work here is in the base, which is pretty large.  140mm x 80mm.  I wanted the model to appear to be bringing winter with it, so at the front ofthe base it is summer, but where Volkzima steps frost appears, and to the rear of the base, deep snow lies (subsequently given a layer of snow flock over the top of a 50/50 PVA glue - Bicarbonate of Soda mix),

Raaarh!
As for in game usage, I can't decide yet what is most appropriate in Dragon Rampant.  Monsters are too brittle but they could reflect the fickle nature of a summoned god.  Otherwise, Elite infantry or Elite riders with spell caster or other similar abilities may work.  The beauty of the system is that it will accommodate all sorts of specialist troops within the template of a single type.

Either way, it's another 6-10 points for the army.

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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Imperial Assault - Princess Leia

Another quickie post, following on from the IA reinforcements I got a couple of months' back.  Here is the (slightly annoyingly, Hoth version) Princess Leia miniature.  Super easy to do, and a really good capture of the character.

Leia Organa
 Less easy to do, and mainly because I had to try and match the colours of the three I'd already done, were these Rebel navy troopers.

We're surrounded
In fact these are a little darker in shirt and trews than their forebears.  But not so much that I am concerned.

Building up quite the skirmish forces now.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Bavarian 4th Light Infantry

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My first light infantry regiment for the Bavarians is actually their 4th; the Theobald Regiment.

In line
 As ever, Warrior Miniatures, and for 15mm and about 20p each, absolute crackers!

In column
I really like this combination of dark green, blue-grey and red details.  I think this is my favourite regiment of the army so far.

Next up, some more cavalry...

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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Bodurian Levies begin to be 'Raised'

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My Bodurian project is a mash-up of Napoleonics, with a heavy Russian slant, and Werewolf/Supernatural themed fantasy, for Dragon Rampant.  What started as a small diversion, is now growing apace, and has seen enough command figures for a second elite infantry group to be formed:

New Elites
The intention is to mix these across both command groups to produce two suitably diverse parties.  Three of these miniatures are from my Reaper Bones supply, with the sorceress being modified with Green-stuff to wear a less revealing outfit.  The Officer is from a second Perry Russian command Sprue I picked up for this purpose, modified with an arm from the unending supply of Perry spares I have.

The Werewolves are from the Wizards of the Coast D&D range.  A clear attempt to provide D&D specific equivalents to the Reaper Bones range.  At £5 for two the price was good, but the quality of the mouldings was not great, and a lot of filling and trimming was needed before painting; which kinda made their being pre-undercoated in the factory, pointless.

Anyhoo.  This lot will be commanding a second battalion of Bodurian troops.  But whilst the first Battalion are already formed of elite, loyal, human soldiery, this group will be the dregs of the state.

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The Obchenyi is a levied militia, formed of a sub-human race.  Foreign states have referred to these as goblins, but in truth, their distorted, mutated forms have more to do with twisted attempts some centuries ago to create a super race of golems; malleable living clay created by cultic priests, mated with vastly enlarged homunculus grown by alchemists.  The net result was a race of beings with no wholly consistent form, and only a limited intellect, but who could reproduce from little more than the grubby soil and organic matter found in swamps across the realm.

Obchenyi proved useful as slave labour, but were far from supermen.  Physically durable though they may be, they proved slow witted, and little able to conduct more than routine tasks.  More often than not they served on farms, as willing labour, fed from the scraps pigs would reject.  Their use in battle being limited to use for simple headlong assaults, as human shields, garrison troops, or as rearguards; they permit the more flexible and powerful elements of the Bodurian military to be released for more tactical demands.

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To make the models I had a simple idea in mind, to use the GW Hobbit Goblin set.

Nicked from their website
 These are, by GW standards, a pretty good value set, being 36 models in 18 one-piece poses for a reasonable £30.  They have a suitably rabble-like appearance, and are not overly encumbered so will make for a speedy paint job.  It's a set I've seen used inventively before, and they certainly have something of a grotesque look to them.  Ideal as a base.

However I did want to fit them better to my theme, so some Napoleonic accoutrement was called for.  This meant adding a selection of muskets and shakos to a portion of the models.

Mid-process on my hi-tech setup
 It turns out most of the models could have a simple trim to fit a hat, and with them they look suitably thematic, and slightly comedic.  Fitting muskets meant cutting away old weapons, and some careful trimming, which is time consuming.  About a third of the goblins received each modification, randomly distributed so that just over half the models were in some way augmented.  I also did a few weapon swaps to vary up the other poses.

Three companies
Lastly, they had their slottabases replaced with 20mm squares, to fit the rest of the army.  I'm no fan of the GW bases, simply too thick for my eye.

I think these will be one big painting session, but there's a couple of other projects to get out the way first.

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Thursday, May 02, 2019

Blue Stuff - Wonder Stuff!!

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 I have known of Blue Stuff for a while, but it almost seems implausible.  Here is a material that can cold cast a number of modelling mediums, basically anything not reliant on high heat to cast, can easily be shaped and worked with, and can completely be reused.

It all seemed too good to be true.

Still I eventually got hold of some.

Boy was I impressed!

Now bearing in mind I've never used this stuff before, it was incredibly easy to use.  Simply soften a strip of the stuff in hot water until malleable, and then either press the parts you wish to mould into the material wholesale, or for more complicated parts create a two part mould.  I was attempting to make tall hats for my Canadian militia, so used these as a test subject.  The first attempts used a mix of one piece and two piece moulds with hats converted from Victrix French Shakos as a test.

First attempt
 I tried both methods of moulding first, and then filled the moulds with Green Stuff, though for particularly complex moulds a cold-cure pouring resin would be much better.  Nevertheless the results came out well, it was just that the French shako based hats, were huge!

Inevitably, I scrapped the hats, but the Blu stuff went into hot water and was soon ready for a second try.

For the next version I switched to prototypes based on Belgic shakos, trimmed of all details.  I made six of these, but then made a pair of simple push moulds so I could mass produce them.  Thus I was able to make 12 hats in in one swift go.

Mark II in mass production
 Some I removed from the mould after about 4 hours, at which point they were basically firm, but the brims could be folded up.  The rest had some 24 hours in the moulds by which point they were solid.  Some trimming of excess green left me with more than a dozen usable hats.  As we can see below:

So overall, an incredibly useful product.  You can pick it up for a few £/$/€ on ebay, or via this fine store:

http://www.greenstuffworld.com/en/reusable-blue-stuff/8-blue-stuff-mold-8-bars.html

Lastly, if you want to know more, this incredible modeler (who I subscribe to on YouTube) clued me up on the product with this neat little video; showing how it's done:


True, you may balk at wholesale cloning of parts, but the potential is there to be exploited or not, depending on what you do with it...

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Ohio Militia - Stage 2: painted (that makes an army!)

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I was super enthusiastic to get these conversions ready for the table, and so they bumped up the paint schedule and a quick job was made of them.

Statesmen-like
Accounts generally describe militia clothing, especially that of frontiersmen, as browns and greys, and so I largely stuck to that palette, with stockings in a variety of lighter shades, and a couple of dark waistcoats poking through.  I elected to go for an issued look to equipment to give a semi-regular feel; it also sped up the painting!  The drum is based on period equipment and illustrations which suggest fairly plain equipment for militia troops.

With these done I can field a legitimate 24 points of Rebels & Patriots Americans for 1812:

Murica!
Most of the models above being converted plastics, the majority of those being Perry Miniatures, the metals being mostly Knuckleduster except for the mounted officer, who is an old Hinchcliffe one-piece casting.

All told, technically ten years work; I painted the first of these in 2009!  The latter troops finished in the last couple of months, quite a gap.  Still, it means I can get these to the table soon.

In the mean time, I guess I need to work on British and Canadian troops now; so to that end I've started some Canadian Embodied Militia:

Kit bash...
Mostly made from a batch of Victrix Waterloo British donated to me years ago, with a few Perry parts and some custom Green Stuff to remove their packs and add tall hats.  These will get painted soon, but before then I'll discuss a little one specific new tool I used to help make them..

Stay tuned...

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