Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Card Models from Summer 2014

Introduction

I've mentioned this before (here, for example) that I like to take paper models on holiday with me.  They're light and easy to transport, don't require a whole box full of tools or paints and can be built in small increments.  For these reasons, they're useful for filling some of those small periods of otherwise dead time that always occur when away from home.  Of course, I could just as easily have watched television or read a book and I did a little of that too.

It should be fairly obvious from the pictures below that I'm talking about small items here: vehicles and furniture rather than entire buildings.  These smaller pieces are often a chore when built in long bursts, but fit very well into the odd 10 or 15 minute period.

So, what did I make during this year's summer fortnight away?  Read on...

Vehicles


Most of the cardboard vehicles I have come from various WorldWorks kits (and I'm deeply regretting that I never bought the warehouse model with the 18-wheel trucks before they withdrew it!).  However, this pair come from Stoelzel's Structures instead.  They can be found in the Auto Park Playset, which has dozens and dozens of vehicles with it.  Admittedly many of these are repaints, but even so there are enough basic body shapes to populate a large freeway or two!

I already have many cars, so I only took 2 more such models to build on holiday.  The rusty saloon will be useful for games with gangers or as decoration for a slightly unsavoury part of town.  I really like the station wagon, though I can't help feeling that it needs some flashing lights on top.  Maybe I'll find a light-bar from another kit and add it to this one?

Incidentally, the Stoelzel's vehicles are very nice, but I have some issues with the curves where the windscreen meets the bonnet (for those readers in the USA, where the windshield meets the hood).  I can't get this joint to work smoothly; it always seems to end up as nearly a straight line, so maybe the kit would have been better just made that way in the first place?

The SWAT armoured personnel carrier and the police motorcycle are WorldWorks kits, from the Mayhem Police set.  This is one of their older sets, but I prefer these over the more recent kits for the buildings.  All the newer WorldWorks structures use the TerrainLinX modular system, which is much more labour-intensive to build; it doesn't suit me at all.  Of course, props and vehicles aren't affected by this anyway (just buildings).

Despite the relative sizes, the SWAT truck was rather easier to build than the motorbike.  They're both more complex kits than a basic saloon or estate car, but the bike has a lot of components and they're mostly quite fiddly as well.

Furniture

I've mentioned recently (here) that I am working on a hospital in which to set games of All Things Zombie.  Well, the shell of Ward 1 is about 80% finished (so only another 3 wards, canteens or operating theatres to go, plus entrance lobby, corridors, roofs, fire escapes and so on).  The Grekwood hospital kit provides the fabric of the building, (exterior and interior walls), but no furniture.  I could have bought the Grekwood bed models as well (they're very nice indeed), but I figured that the quantity I'd need would be rather extravagant.

Instead, I've started to build beds from the old Ebbles Miniatures Derelict 2 Megaset.  Ebbles Miniatures closed down some years ago, but I believe the kit can still be found in the archive section of the Genet Models catalogue.  Derelict 2 is really a collection of components for a SciFi spaceship or outpost, but the beds from the barracks will just about work for my hospital.  I'll still need to find some compatible models for a bedside locker and a visitor chair though.

As an afterthought, I also built one of the conference room tables from Derelict 2.  For a table, this is a surprisingly complex model but it fits together well and is quite robust.  I'm not sure that I'll need it in the hospital, though...

The Bar

The final picture shows the fittings for Germy's bar.  I've had the printouts for this free model for a long time, but somehow it never made it to the head of the model-making queue.  I figured that if I built the furniture then maybe I'd find enough enthusiasm to produce the building to house it on my return from holiday.  So far that plan hasn't worked; the exceptionally hot weather has reduced my modelling mojo considerably!

Right, I've got to go and watch the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games now, so see you all later...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Arran: Prehistory to Vikings

Introduction

Once again it's the summertime and my family and I have been on our holidays.  This time we decided to go to the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde.  Although this island is quite close to my home (30 miles/50 Km, as the crow flies?) and to the city of Glasgow, it is a very different place.  Culturally and physically it's much closer to the Hebridean islands than it is to the big city or to the rolling farmlands of Ayrshire on the mainland just to the east.  Instead, Arran has rugged hills, woodlands and deer-infested moors.

This geographical distinctiveness, together with its strategic location in the middle of the Firth of Clyde, has made Arran important over many millennia.  As tourists, we spent a lot of time hillwalking (though we did have time to visit the distillery as well :-) ) and everywhere we went there were traces of past generations.  So, in the hopes that some of these will be of interest to my (mostly wargamer) readership, here are a few moments from history.

Neolithic

It's hard to step out of doors in Arran without treading on a hut circle, chambered cairn or standing stone!  Before our visit I didn't know much about the island and it was a big surprise to discover just how important it is as a location for prehistoric monuments.  Actually I suspect that the hut circles are the traces of Iron Age dwellings rather than Neolithic, but all of these were pretty much invisible to an amateur like me anyway, so let's just ignore them.

The "Giant's Grave" chambered cairn
Here's the remains of one of the chambered cairns; this probably dates from around 4,000BC .  That's over 6,000 years old, or perhaps 1,500 years older than the oldest of the famous Egyptian pyramids at Giza.  I don't know about you, but I find that very impressive!

The stones that remain form the walls of one of the chambers in the tomb.  Originally the whole structure would have been covered with a huge mound of soil.  It's not obvious from the picture, but this is a "Clyde pattern" cairn: it would have had a large courtyard with entrances to a number of chambers that were built into the mound.


Above are a couple stone circles that can be found on Machrie moor. While they may not be individually as large as Stonehenge, they're part of a group of ancient remains that includes at least 5 circles within a few hundred metres of each other.  And you can get right up to the stones to study or play with them, or just gawp in wonder.  Eat your heart out, Salisbury Plain!

A very rough date for the stone circles would be 2,000BC - so maybe 2,000 years later than the burial cairns.

Dark Ages

Pictish snake carvings inside King's Cave.  Move your mouse over this to see the outlines more clearly
On the west coast of Arran there are many small caves.  The largest of these is known as "King's Cave", after a (Victorian?) association with Robert the Bruce.  Apparently it was known as "Fingal's Cave" before that.

Inside King's Cave there are a number of carvings from (loosely) around 1,000 years ago.  I saw a line of Irish Ogham writing as well as what looked like early Christian crosses.  I don't know how to read Ogham, but I suspect that it would have read "Máedóc was here" or something like that!

There are a number of Pictish animals in the cave as well; the picture above is of an area where someone had been practising his snakes.

Medieval

Lamlash Bay from the north.  Note the steep-sided Holy Isle at the mouth of the bay.  The building on Holy Isle is a Tibetan Buddist retreat, I kid you not!
This is Lamlash bay, on the east coast of Arran.  It is particularly associated in my mind with the Vikings.  In 1263, the elderly King Hakon IV of Norway led a fleet to enforce his claim to large parts of western Scotland.  Lamlash was used as a harbour by the Norsemen whilst they stripped Arran of food and supplies, so at that time this harbour would have been full of Viking ships.

Eventually, an autumn gale drove part of the Norwegian fleet onto the shore of the mainland at Largs.  When the Scots army of King Alexander III tried to capture or destroy the stranded ships, this precipitated the Battle of Largs.  I was brought up to believe that this was a very significant Scottish victory that sent the Vikings packing, but it seems that the modern opinion regards it as an inconclusive skirmish.  Instead, it was the death of Hakon later in the year that caused the Norwegians to retreat; his successor wasn't as interested in the Scottish isles and basically sold them to Alexander III in the Treaty of Perth (1266).

Lamlash bay was also used by the Royal Navy during World War II.  Amongst other things, it was the location for the "Lily" experimental floating airfield.  I haven't been able to find out anything much about this, though it sounds interesting!

Lochranza castle
At the far north-west tip of Arran is the small town of Lochranza.  As well as being home to the island's only whisky distillery, it also has the remains of Lochranza castle.  Like many such ruins, what you see today is the last phase of development (in the late middle ages, so maybe 1500 to 1600 AD).  However there are still traces of the earlier versions, if you know how to interpret the evidence.  I was particularly struck by how many times the main entrance to the castle had been moved and the earlier doorways blocked up.  From memory, the first entrance was on the north side and in an upper level that would have required a (wooden?) stair or ladder.  The current door is on the south side and at ground level.  I think there was also an intermediate entrance in the east wall?

Wildlife

I'm not going to say much about the wildlife we saw on Arran, but this beauty caught my eye.  He's a large dragonfly, perhaps 4" (10cm) long.  One of these flew into the car whilst we were driving - the windows were all down because of the heat - and caused consternation for 5 seconds or so until it found its way out.  Final thought, for pulp or fantasy gaming: imagine if this insect was 4 feet long instead of 4 inches...

I'll be back to more directly-relevant gaming articles soon, but I hope you've enjoyed this interlude as much as I have.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

EXTERMINATE !

Introduction

One of my many gaming interests is Doctor Who, mainly inspired by the free Doctor Who Miniatures Game (DWMG).  As an aside, DWMG is a precursor to Crooked Dice's very popular 7TV and related games, so if you're considering buying 7TV and want a tester first then this is worth a look.

So, within my Doctor Who collection I have a fair number of 28mm U.N.I.T. soldiers (1970s uniforms and weapons, not current) as well as various forces of aliens including Sontarans, Cybermen, Sea Devils and the Family of Blood.  However, I could hardly write my first post on Doctor Who models without showing everyone's favourite adversaries: the Daleks!

Black Tree Design

These 5 models are metal models from Black Tree Design.  Once upon a time, BTD had a very bad reputation for customer service, but by all accounts that has changed dramatically over the past few years and I've never had any problems when ordering from them.  They still have by far the largest range of wargaming-scale Doctor Who models of any manufacturer, though their models are firmly based in on the 1st to 8th Doctors (i.e. up to the Paul McGann movie of 1996, but not including any of the newer BBC TV series).  By all accounts, BTD haven't had a license to cast new models for many years, but they do seem to have a lot of old stock lying around and most of the range is still available!

Micro Universe

In contrast, here are 2 models from the short-lived Micro Universe series; an engineer and a regular dalek.  These were pre-painted soft plastic models (something like Heroclix), but the range was quite small and some of the models in it were a bit obscure.  Still, they did some nice daleks.

Note that I've rebased these; the models originally came on simple black bases with stats for the (very poor) Micro Universe game printed on the underside.  I collected a lot of the Micro Universe models when they were available, though since they came in semi-random packaging I didn't always get enough of some things I really wanted.

Comparison

Micro Universe on the left, Black Tree Design in the centre and right.
This is a simple comparison shot; it shows that the Micro universe and Black Tree Design models are very close in size.  There are differences in the details, but I'm not at all bothered by those and I'd happily mix these models in the same game.

Also in this shot is my model of Davros, the inventor and sometime leader of the daleks.  He's got to be one of the creepiest Doctor Who villains of all time, I think!

i-Dalek

iDalek on the left, "classic" dalek on the right
In some of the most recent Doctor Who episodes, a re-styled Dalek model has appeared; they are known as "iDaleks" to fans.  Hard plastic models of these have been available as "free gifts" with some issues of the British children's magazine "Doctor Who Adventures".  They've appeared more than once, so I suppose that the iDalek models might reappear at any time as long as the magazine is still running...

As you can see from the picture, the iDalek is quite a bit larger than the classic model (and remember that unlike the painted model, the iDalek isn't on a base).  This is appropriate for the TV show, as the newer design was easily the height of a man whereas the older version was rather shorter.

Finally

This my collection of spare Doctor Who models, just as they came out of the packets.  None of these are based or painted by me, though some of the pre-paints could be used in a game just as they are.  I think that all of these models are either Micro Universe or have come from Doctor Who Adventures magazine, though some of the latter are very crude and are hardly more than blobs of plastic.

Note the iDaleks in the centre-top and classic Daleks bottom left.  I hope I've got enough!

There is another dalek model available in this scale; some of them can (just) be seen in the top, centre-left compartment, in gold-coloured plastic.  These were also hard plastic toys that came with Doctor Who Adventures, but the detail on them was quite soft and the weapon and "plunger" arms were very thick indeed.  However, the size is quite compatible with the other "classic" dalek models.  I'm still debating whether they're worth painting and basing or not.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Vikings, Apes and stuff

Introduction

Just a quick round up of my gaming-related activities for the last few days:

Great Apes

I mentioned in my last post (The Jungle Lord) that I had a bunch of plastic animals that came from a cheap toy set.  Here are some of the apes, exactly as they come.  I'm a little unsure which type of ape they represent, as the head is somewhat like a chimpanzee or bonobo but the posture and body is closer to a gorilla.  Mind you, neither is a particularly good match.  Anyway, let's see what happens when I paint up one of these as an experiment...

Here's the 4th ape, painted and based.  I haven't converted him (or her?) in any way, though when/if I paint the other 3 then I might make some changes.  Perhaps I'll make one's head face a different direction, open the mouth on the second and reposition the arm (and add a torn-off tree branch as a club?) for the 3rd?

Finally, here's the painted ape beside Tarzan.  The animal is probably a bit too big, but maybe that's OK in the pulp world?  After all, a great ape should presumably be larger than life...

Now that I see these 2 models side-by-side, I'm annoyed to discover that I used my "dark" scheme for the ape's base, forgetting that Tarzan has the "light" scheme on his base.  That's careless!  I don't really feel like repainting it, but if I don't then it'll stand out like a sore thumb.

Vikings

As promised in the title, here are some Vikings.  These exceptionally hairy warriors are from Foundry's "Svava's heroes" set.  They're the last 2 models from the pack that I bought at Salute 2014, so at least that's one thing I can cross off my "to do" list!

My "fine detail" brush was becoming a bit ragged recently, so the names on these models are a bit rough.  I gave up using that brush and got a new one just after this, when I saw how the lettering had turned out.

Bavarian Generals

Finally, I've completed 2 brigade commanders for my 6mm 1809 Bavarian army.  I realised recently that I only had a commander in chief and no subordinates, so I rummaged around for mounted figures in my spares box.  Fortunately, Heroics & Ros packs typically have an abundance of mounted officers and foot command groups.  I've added standard bearers rather than the more likely aides, simply because it's easier to remember who is who if the base has a national flag on it.  Also, H&R supply far more flag wavers than I've ever needed, so I have plenty available!


That's all for now, folks!  I'd like to post a new game report soon, but it looks like it'll be a while before I have time to do this.  If that's what you want to see then be patient; it will happen eventually!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Jungle Lord

The Lord of the Jungle

This'll be a one-figure post tonight.  I don't think I've ever done that before; all my other "showcase" posts have been displaying at least several models.  Still, you'll just have to put up with this for now...

"This is a knife!"
So here he is: Tarzan, the jungle lord.  He's a 28mm figure from Reaper.  The description in the Reaper catalogue suggests that he comes with a chimpanzee, though I don't remember getting an ape with this model.  Mind you, it was a long time ago and I may just have mislaid the sidekick...

Since Tarzan has little clothing, no warpaint and few artefacts, he's very straightforward to paint.  Just a basecoat of flesh with a wash over it, then a little detailing.  Possibly I made his chin a little heavy on the stubble, though?  Still, this is probably more realistic than the normal well-shaved and groomed Hollywood image (with just a hint of tangled hair to show that he's a wild man!).

Easy or not, this model has been languishing on my workbench for many, many months.  It was only really when I saw the responses to my recent article on Explorers that I decided to finish him off.

I've got a tub of 40 or 50 rubbery "wild animals" that I bought from a B&M store (a large discount warehouse, for those who haven't encountered the chain before) for £2.99 some time ago.  Although these are a wide variety of scales, perhaps half the creatures are usable for 28mm with a stretch of the imagination.  There are 4 oversized "chimpanzees" (?) in the collection; I hope to use these as Great Apes to back up the jungle man.  The first of them is undergoing experimental basing and painting even now, but isn't ready to be seen yet.

Awful Green Things

Actually, there's a good reason why this post is a bit rushed and I haven't got much to show.  I've spent a bit of time recently playing games with my sons instead of making models r writing blog posts.  Yesterday and tonight my middle boy and I played "The Awful Green Things from Outer Space" - a real blast from the past for me.

In the first game, my son was doing really well as the crew, until he tried to trap a whole load of my things with an electric fence.  Unfortunately, the random effect for the fence was "1d6 fragments" and I rolled a lot of very high dice.  Suddenly, there were green things spilling out of the cargo hold in huge numbers!  2 of his crew eventually escaped in the scout boat, only to wander for 10 years before vanishing into a black hole...

Tonight's game was slightly different.  I took the crew and pretty much every weapon I tried just turned the green things into multiple fragments.  My son had me completely outclassed, but decided to let me rally my remaining people and escape just so he could see what happened next.  I set the self-destruct and abandoned ship with enough crew to score a technical win.  The 8 survivors then stole supplies from hostile natives on one planet before losing 6 of the crewmen to 2 bouts of disease.  The remaining pair did reach their home planet in due course, which is quite an achievement - even if the victory was a gift!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Graveyard kit

Introduction

I don't normally write articles about work-in-progress, though occasionally I have shown incomplete models as part of a blog post.  On this occasion I'm going to go even further, though: I'm going to outline some plans I have for a model which isn't even started.

Recently (well, for several years, at least) I've been thinking about expanding my terrain collection for 28mm gaming.  I have so many plans, but I never seem to get around to executing any of them.  Here are just some of the projects for which I have already acquired the materials, but haven't begun any work:

  • Modern hospital (for All Things Zombie)
  • Pictish/Scot village (for SAGA)
  • Paths, streams, coastline, forests (for 28mm Robin Hood, 28mm SAGA, 6mm Napoleonic...)
  • Old West undertakers & yard (for The Rules with No Name)
I could go on - there are so many more things that I'd like to do - but this small list should give an indication of my hopeless megalomania :-( .  Rather than agonise over how I'll never finish it all, I've decided that the best thing to do is just to start on one project.  Maybe it won't be as difficult as I imagine and can be done quite quickly?

The Gothic (?) Graveyard

Right, let's see.  I have (I think) all the parts that I need for my graveyard model.  Ideally I'll be able to use it for any European setting from witch-hunting in the 17th century up to the zombie apocalypse in the 21st century.  As with all wargaming models, it must be practical: I need to store it when not in use and be able to move figures around on it easily, without causing damage, when it is in use.

From a model-making perspective, the cemetery should be a place that gives a slight sense of fear.  It needs to add to the story that the game is telling, but how does one achieve the right atmosphere?  What makes a graveyard "Gothic"?  Does it need mist and fog, or should it be heavily overgrown?  Or maybe something else altogether?

I've already decided that my model will be made from modular tiles.  This is partly to make the model easier to store, but it will also allow me to vary the size of the cemetery from a token area to a sizeable necropolis.  It also means that I could add a church, crypt or similar features later on, just by constructing extra tiles.

So, here's the first part of the "kit": I've cut out a number of 6"x6" and 6"x12" pieces of 3mm MDF.  These will be used as the bases (obviously), though I might use some polystyrene foam to add slight rises to some parts of the graveyard.

I hunted for suitable fencing for a long time before I came across these lengths from Fenris Games.  Some of the pieces also have pedestrian gates in them, so I'll add a few small openings at various points on the boundary.  Mind you, I'm not at all sure how to make the fence look broken down and falling apart in places.

Note that I could have used a wall for the enclosure, or even a short wall topped with a fence.  Both are quite appealing from an aesthetic point of view, but I've gone with the fence alone.  Although a short wall topped with my fence does sound good, now that I reflect on this...

The lych gate (covered approach) is from Petite Properties; I mentioned it in a very recent post and there's not really anything new to say about it.  I'll use it as the main entrance to the cemetery, though I'm just wondering if I also need a separate vehicle entrance for hearses?

The last components for this project are some gravestones.  I've got 4 metal ones from Black Tree Miniatures, bought so long ago that I don't even remember, and a pair of the much newer sprues from Renedra.  In addition, I can probably find a few Games Workshop gravestones from my spares box.  Mind you, I haven't done the sums but I'm beginning to think that this won't be nearly enough for my project.  Perhaps some parts of the graveyard are as yet unused?

Conclusion

I'm comfortable when painting figures, whether they're 6mm, 15mm, 28mm or larger.  However, realistic scenery is not something I've practised much and I do feel quite daunted by the graveyard project.  I'm particularly concerned about how to make it look slightly overgrown and unkempt, without it being lost to the wilderness.  I don't want to end up with a perfect rectangle of completely flat ground with neat rows of headstones and smooth, monochrome flock for ground covering!

So all of this goes to show that I'm feeling very nervous about this project.  I can see it in my imagination but  I'm afraid that in reality it won't look anything like as good as I wish it to be.  If anyone has any good ideas, whether on model-making techniques or on overcoming psychological hangups, then I'd be delighted to hear from you!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

12 Syntha Prosthene Marines

Introduction

Back in the day, there were 4 human factions for the VOID 1.1 Science Fiction game, as well as 1 alien race.  When the manufacturer, i-Kore, went bust, I bought heavily into 3 of the armies: the Junkers (despotic, brutal dictatorship), Viridians (fervent ecologists) and also the Syntha (technologically-boosted cyborgs).  Many people were selling off the VOID miniatures cheaply, which was great for those of us who just wanted to collect metal!  Note that these ranges are still available; they're now owned by Scotia Grendel.

Many of my figures from this period are still in blisters or shrink-wrapped.  However, recently I thought it would be useful to paint up some Prosthene Marines since my Syntha force is probably the smallest of the three armies.  No, I've no idea what "Prosthene" means.  I'm also unsure what makes these guys "marines", though I suspect strongly that the guys at i-Kore just thought it sounded cool...

Prosthene Marines

So here we have it: 12 Syntha Prosthene Marines.  These are fully-armoured, though I'd rate this as "light" protection in most sets of rules as it doesn't look especially thick.  Of course, a couple of soldiers have taken off their helmets, just to show that they are sergeants.  At least, right up to the point where a shell splinter or stray plasma bolt to the head turns them onto "ex-sergeants".

I've painted these up to "table" standard rather than my more usual "detail" level.  Mainly this is because I lost a lot of interest in the mini-project almost immediately after removing them from their blisters!  By that time they were taking up a lot of space and I have a new house rule (since January) that any model which goes on the workbench may only be removed when it is completed.  Consequently, I rushed the painting for these models a bit and skimped on some parts.

8 of the 12 marines are armed with the "pulse rifle"; a fairly standard oversized sci-fi weapon.  Arguably the background fluff makes this plausible, since these soldiers are supposed to be technologically-boosted humans with above average strength.  Make of this what you will...

If it wasn't for the rather large guns then I'd say that these models could quite easily be used in a hard sci-fi game, or even as near-future combatants.  Actually, there is another variant of the Prosthene Marines who are armed with the somewhat less bulky gauss rifles, so they'd work even better as "realistic" futuristic troopers.

The remaining quartet consists of a pair of rocket launchers and also a couple of "targeteers".  Now, having forward observation officers (FOOs) isn't in itself a particularly radical concept.  It does make a refreshing change from the normal sci-fi infantry support weapons of machine guns, rockets and maybe a flamethrower, though.

For me, the things that make the targeteers rather more interesting are that firstly they are part of the regular squad, as opposed to being a rare, attached asset from a different branch of the service, so they're very common.  Secondly, once they have "painted" a target, the massively parallel communications network in the Syntha army allows anyone or anything with smart weaponry to fire at that target immediately, whether they can see it or not, without any indirect-fire penalties.  That capability could lead to some very interesting tactics!