Final Frontier – The Rules

Having only limited time this week, it was a toss-up between painting something that I hadn’t decided upon yet or typing up a first draft of the Final Frontier rules. As I discovered that the word processing application I’d installed onto my tablet was far superior to the free one my wife had decided to download to our home computer (Open Office), which meant I could take my tablet to work and type up bits at lunchtime, the rules won out.

Image result for uss enterprise starship

So, quite a brief post this week, which belies the amount of work I’ve actually done. However, attached you will find a copy of the Final Frontier rules, including rules for designing your own ships, all the systems that you can install, how to fight your battles and rules for building space stations and sending ‘away teams’ aboard derelict vessels or down to the surface of a planet.

They may not be to everyone’s taste, as they are hex-based and relatively simple, so if you’re used to recording every hit scored on your vessel by crossing off a box (like in Battletech) or placing numerous tokens on your space mat to record the current status of your vessel, you may find them a little too simplistic.

However, if you want a straight-forward game of spaceship combat, that does not require a huge amount of record-keeping and allows you to indulge your inner Kirk, then they may very well be up your street.

The first play-test/batrep can be found here.

And here they are: final-frontier.

Feel free to download them, read them and maybe give them a bit of a play-test yourself. Any feedback will be gratefully received, as previous feedback to the rules as described in the play-test led to a few improvements, so thanks to StuRat for his suggestions.

Please bear in mind that this is only the first draft, so has no templates or ship roster cards yet. I intend to include these in the next draft as appendices, including a template that will allow those who prefer to play unfettered by hexes to play the game in ‘naked space’ (which sound like a very dodgy sci-fi movie).

So, download a copy, get out your spaceships, engage your engines and boldly go to…The Final Frontier!

Final Frontier – “Out of Time”

“Stardate 301709.017 – Captain Andrews of the HMS Nash recording… A distress signal has been received from the Victoria-class Deep Space Station Awdry, stationed on the border of the Shimmering Zone. A probe was sent into the Zone and when it returned, the crew were unaware that it had been infected with a Karrian virus, which shut down all but basic life-support systems on the station. The virus has now been purged from their systems, but Commander Michaels has reported that a Karrian Marauder has been detected approaching his currently defenceless station. Both the Nash and the HMS Webb have been dispatched to defend the station until such time as their defences are brought back online. Whilst we have already arrived, the Webb is still en route…”

Regular visitors to my blog will have realised that there has been a break in my normal schedule of posts, with last weekend’s post not actually appearing. Various external factors and lack of time prevented me from; A) actually gaining access to the shared computer and B) having the time to actually do something to feature on the blog. Hence the double meaning of this blog’s title.

However, normal service has been resumed, mojo recovered and I have typed up enough of my scribbled notes to actually play-test my Star Trek inspired hex-based starship combat game…Final Frontier!

So, having now play-tested them, I thought I’d present the play-test as a batrep, to give an idea of the rules and how they work, with an overview at the end to see whether they did what they were supposed to.

So, the introductory fluff above gives the basic set-up and the picture below gives the layout of the playing area.

As I do not own a space combat mat marked out in hexes, but do own three sets of Marvel Heroscape tiles, I’ve used the Asphalt tiles to create my playing area. the single concrete hex in the middle represents a small moon (“That’s no moon…”).

To the right of the picture you can see the currently vulnerable DSS Awdry and the HMS Nash (Hoorah!)and to the left the Karrian Marauder (Boo!). Due to a slight disparity in the points costs of the two opposing forces, the HMS Webb will be ‘warping in’ at the end of Turn 2, adjacent to the DSS Awdry. Now, let’s take a look at stats of the ships involved…

First, we have the HMS Nash, which is a Unicorn-class Corvette operated by the New Albion Royal Navy (or NARN, for short). Corvettes have 6 Bays and therefore fall into the Light category of ships.

Of course, now you’re wondering what a Bay is… A Bay is what I’ve called the spaces each starship has available to mount additional systems. Each starship rolls off the production line with three standard systems built in – a long-range scanner, a shield generator and a forward-facing high energy weapons array, more commonly known as Scanners, Shields and Weapons. Each ship then has a number of additional spaces, known as Bays. These are most commonly filled with impulse engines (or Engines), each Bay of which produces a Power dice, which are then spent on powering other systems. However, they can have other systems in as well…

Anyway, back to the HMS Nash. As it has 6 Bays available, I decided to fill these with 5 Bays of Engines (producing 5 Power dice) and the final Bay with a Torpedo Rack. The advantage of a Torpedo Rack is that it does not require Power dice to operate, they do a set amount of damage (3 Hits) and they have a set Range (6 Hexes). However, the disadvantage is that you can only fire Torpedoes once and then it takes 4 Turns for the rack to recharge. I’ve decided that as this is a Unicorn-class, the Torpedo rack will be front facing.

Next, we have the HMS Webb, a Bulldog-class Frigate, which has 8 Bays, meaning it falls into the Medium category. I decided to fill all 8 Bays with Engines, so when it finally arrives, it will have 8 Power dice available each turn.

Finally, we have the Karrian Marauder, which is effectively a Dreadnought, meaning that it has 12 Bays and falls into the Heavy category. As the Karrian Collective are not the most adventurous of souls, all 12 Bays are filled with Engines, meaning t has 12 Power dice to assign each Turn.

The points cost of each ship is based on the number of Bays it has, so the NARN have a Corvette (6) and a Frigate (8), which equals 14 ‘points’. The Karrian Marauder has a value of 12, so the NARN player has a 2 point advantage. To offset this, the HMS Webb begins play off the board and will ‘warp in’ at the end of Turn 2. The DSS Awdry will reboot its systems and go back online at the end of Turn 10, so the Karrian player needs to get to it before Turn 10, whilst the NARN player needs to prevent this from happening, by delaying or destroying the marauder.

Right, let’s boldly go where no-one has gone before…because this is the first time the rules have been used.

So, first thing to do is determine who goes first. As these rules only use d6’s (and a fair few of them) each player rolls a d6 and adds the number of ships they currently have in play. Whoever rolls highest goes first. The Karrian player rolled a 2, +1 for their Marauder, for a Total of 3, The NARN player rolled a 5, +1 for their Corvette, for a total of 6. The NARN player therefore goes first.

As both ships were at a fair old distance, the NARN player decided to assign 1 die to Scanners (otherwise it won’t know where anything else is. This is space, which is big, so you can’t just look out of the windows to see what’s there – unless it’s very, very close). The remaining 4 Power dice he assigns to Movement. As the Corvette is a Light vessel, it can move 1 Hex for each Power dice assigned. You can only change facing by 60 degrees for each Hex moved, which means that every ship moves in lovely little arcs. As the HMS Nash is a little bit smaller than the Karrian vessel, the NARN player decides to move towards the small moon (“That’s no moon…”) to use this as cover, and lay in wait for the bigger vessel.

The Karrian player, realising that the Nash is nowhere close, assigns 1 dice to Scanners. As the Marauder is a Heavy vessel, each hex of movement costs 3 Power dice – the marauder has 12, so after the 1 spent on Scanners, it uses 9 for 3 hexes of movement and assigns the last die to Shields. As all ships have used up their Power for this Turn, the Turn is over.

Turn 2: Initiative is determined as before, with the Initiative rolls favouring the NARN player again (a trend that would continue throughout the game).

The NARN player assigned 1 dice to Scanners, 2 to movement, 1 to Shields and 1 to Weapons, and began to creep around the moon, with the intention of attacking the Karrain Marauder from the side and therefore outside of its forward firing arc. (Each ship has four firing arcs – Front, Left, Right and Rear. As the majority of the ships in Star Trek only fire from the front, the standard built-in Weapons fire in a 90 degree arc from the front of the vessel. If you want additional Weapons covering the other firing arcs, this costs a Bay for each additional array.)

The Karrian player, realising the danger posed by the Nash, assigns 1 dice to Scanners, 9 to movement (moving 3 hexes) and 1 each to Weapons and Shields, and brings his Marauder about, towards the Nash.

With a bit of technicolour stretchy- space visuals, the HMS Webb drops out of warp, on the edge of the playing area, just behind the DSS Awdry. Thus ends Turn 2.

Turn 3. This is where it started to get fun… The Initiative roll once again favoured the NARN player and he assigned the HMS Nash’s 5 Power dice; 1 to Scanners, 2 to Movement and 2 to Shields and swung out from behind the moon, directly in front of the lumbering behemoth that was the Karrian Marauder. Suicidal? Nope, Captain Andrews had a cunning plan…

Captain Rogers of the HMS Webb assigned his 8 Power dice as follows; 1 to Scanners, 1 to Shields and the remaining 6 to Movement. As the Webb is a Medium vessel, it costs 2 Power dice for every hex moved, so he moved slowly forward towards the Karrian vessel, hoping to catch it unawares.

Channelling his inner Vader, with a cry of “I have you now!”, the Karrian player assigned 1 dice to Scanners, to ensure he could see and fire upon the Nash, 6 to movement, to move the final three hexes in front of his prey, 2 to Shields (just in case) and 3 to Weapons. Every dice assigned to Weapons not only allows you to roll that number of dice to Hit your opponent, but also adds to the Range of your Weapons. Basically, the more power pumped into your weapons array, the more damage it can potentially do and the further it can reach. As the Karrian player had put 3 Power dice into Weapons, he got to roll 3 dice and could fire at the Nash, which was within 3 hexes of his firing arc, as shown in the picture below;

And if you look closely, you can see that the the Karrian player rolled a 2, a 5 and a 6, which counts as 2 Successes (i.e. 4+ on a d6), meaning that the Nash had taken 2 Hits. The Nash, if you remember, had assigned 2 Power dice to Shields in anticipation of this kind of attack, and was hoping that this would block any damage. Rolling his 2 dice, the NARN player rolled a 2 and a 5, so only 1 Success, meaning he took 1 hit.

The way the rules work is, that for each Hit you take, you lose 1 Power dice from you total, so the Nash was now reduced from a total of 5 dice to a total of 4. Oops!

Turn 4: Due to first blood having been drawn by the nefarious Karrian against the stalwart members of Her Britannic Majesty’s navy, I got a bit excited and was halfway through blowing the crap out of the marauder with both naval vessels, when I realised I’d forgotten to assign dice to their Scanners, meaning that they couldn’t actually have fired upon the marauder…so  I started the Turn again.

Turn 4 Redux: Luckily for Captain Andrews and the crew of the HMS Nash, the NARN player won the Initiative again. Was it the presence of the HMS Webb, adding another +1 to the roll? No, just the Dice Gods favouring the true sons of Albion and not the cyber-insects of the Karrian Collective…

Captain Andrews stared at the rusty-looking dreadnought filling the viewscreen directly in front of them. Whilst it had damaged the Nash, there was still plenty of fight left – “Ahead full” he commanded, and watched as the enemy vessel got closer “and…wait for it…fire torpedoes! Now hard to starboard!”…

Having assigned 1 of 4 remaining Power dice to Scanners to ensure he can fire on the Marauder, and calculated the distance involved, the NARN player fires his torpedoes, then using his last 3 dice, veers off just in front of the Marauder, ensuring that the Nash ends up outside of its forward firing arc. As the Torpedoes do an automatic 3 hits, the Karrian player rolls the 2 dice he had assigned to Shields, but only manages 1 Success. So, the marauder takes 2 Hits and loses 2 Power dice, meaning that it now only has 10 Power dice remaining. God save the Queen!

The HMS Webb, having watched this exchange, assigned 1 of its 8 Power dice to Scanners, 1 to Shields and the remaining 6 to Movement, meaning it drew closer to the marauder, creeping up on its right hand side.

The Karrian player, shaken by the damage caused by such a tiny vessel, assigned 1 dice to Scanners, and the remaining 9 to movement, the intention being to put the moon between itself and the two NARN vessels, then come down towards the Awdry…and eat it.

Turn 5: Once again the NARN player won the Initiative (and this was not due to having a +1 advantage for ships in play – the Karrian player was just rolling crap…)

The Nash assigned 1 Power dice to Scanners, so it knew where its enemy was, and the remaining 3 Power dice to manoeuvre back around behind the Marauder.

The Webb assigned 1 dice to Scanners, and 6 to Movement, deciding to go over the top of the moon (“That’s no moon…”), as this costs less in movement than going around it, but does mean that other ships can see you.

The Karrian player, realising that both ships were attempting to chase it down and it only had 5 Turns left until the Awdry became invulnerable, assigned 1 of its remaining 10 dice to Scanners, so it knew both where its prey and its enemies were, 6 to movement, moving 3 Hexes closer to the Awdry, and the remaining 3 to Shields.

Turn 6: Once again the NARN player won initiative.

The Nash assigned 1 dice to Scanners and, as the marauder was in its front firing arc and withing 3 Hexes, the remaining 3 to Weapons. The Nash rolled 2 Hits, but the Karrian player with his 3 dice worth of Shields blocked all of them.

The Webb assigned 1 dice to Scanners, 4 to Movement, moving two Hexes and behind the marauder, and the remaining 3 to Weapons…and opened fire. However, whilst the Webb scored 2 hits, the marauder’s Shields manged to block 1 of them, so only suffered 1 Hit, reducing its Power dice to 9.

The Karrian player, realising he was rapidly running out of both Power and time, assigned 1 of its remaining 8 Power dice to Scanners, 3 to Movement (moving a measly 1 Hex), and used the remaining 4 on Shields, anticipating that the NARN player would throw everything at it next turn.

Turn 7: Yet again the NARN player won Initiative! The dice just kept falling their way…

The Nash assigned 1 of its remaining 4 Power dice to Scanners, 1 to Movement and the last 2 to Weapons…and fired. However, whilst the Nash scored 2 Hits on the marauder, its superior 4 dice worth of Shields blocked them all.

The Webb, having 8 Power dice to play with and being directly in the rear of the marauder, assigned all but 1 of its dice to Weapons, the remaining dice being used for Scanners. However, whilst the Initiative dice favoured the NARN player, his Weapons dice didn’t, meaning that he only scored 3 Hits out of a potential 7, all of which the Karrain player blocked with his Shields.

Turn 8: The next Turn followed a similar pattern – the NARN player won Initiative, fired on the marauder with both ships and had their Hits deflected by its Shields, as all three ships moved closer to the Awdry.

Turn 9: Once again the NARN player won Initiative. The Nash assigned 1 Power dice to its Scanners, the remaining 3 to Weapons and, as 4 Turns had passed, fired its Torpedoes again. It only scored 1 Hit with its Weapons, but the additional 3 automatci Hits from its Torpedoes took this up to 4. The Karrian player, having assigned 4 dice to Shileds the previous round, only managed to block 1 of these, taking 3 further Hits and reducing its overall Power dice to 5.

The Webb used 1 dice of Scanners, 2 on moving 1 hex closer and the remaining 5 on Weapons, scoring an impressive 4 Hits, 2 of which were blocked by the marauder’s Shields. However, this reduced its overall Power dice to 3! Oh dear…

The Karrian player, realising that he probably wasn’t going to last much longer, assigned his remaining 3 dice to Shields.

Had this game been part of an ongoing campaign, rather than a play-test, the Karrian player would have had the option of using his Power dice to  ‘warp’ off the board (but would have only needed 2 Power dice to do this), effectively running away, but this battle was going down to the wire.

Turn 10: This was it – the final turn. Unsurprisingly, the NARN player won the Initiative once again.

The Nash assigned 1 of its remaining 4 dice to Scanners, and the remaining 3 to Weapons. Rolling the maximum possible 3 Hits, the NARN player was surprised when the Karrian player managed to block 2 of these with his Shields. It still took a single Hit, so would be reduced to 2 Power dice…if it survived until next turn.

The Webb assigned 1 dice to Scanners and with a cry of “This is what you get for messing with the New Albion Royal Navy!”, opened up on the marauder with its remaining 7 dice. Scoring an impressive 4 Hits, the NARN player cheered as only one of these was blocked and the Marauder exploded!!!

As I didn’t have a suitable explosion marker, this is how it was represented on board;

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!!!

So, the idea was to try and design a set of space combat rules, that were simple to use and easy to learn, that had a degree of strategic play, both in manoeuvring and assigning resources, included a simple starship design system and had the flavour of Star Trek. But, most importantly, were fun.

Whilst there were a few minor issues with remembering that every ship HAS to assign at least one dice to Scanners or they’re flying blind, and that to ensure you don’t forget when ships have had their dice reduced, some kind of ship card would be helpful, they pretty much worked the way I’d hoped.

I’d just like to thank Simon Moore of Fantorical for getting me started on this project and my friend Chris Holroyd, who listened to my crazy ideas regarding this and made some very pertinent and useful suggestions. Hopefully, within the next week I’ll have the rules typed up and available from here, for others to try them out themselves

For regular followers, thank you for your patience and I hope that this post was worth the wait. I have no idea, as yet, what next week will bring, but can guarantee that it probably won’t be spaceships, as I’ve run out of flight stands and need to order some more…

To Boldly Go…

As you’ve probably gathered by the title of this post, I’ve been seriously bitten by the Star Trek bug recently, due to Simon’s stated intention that September would be “Star Trek” Month on his blog Fantorical.

So whilst he’s been painting the minions of Nurgle and I should have been painting Samurai and Ashigaru, I’ve been building starships instead…

In my last post, I introduced the first three vessels of the New Albion Royal Navy – the HMS Scott, a Dragon Class Dreadnought; the HMS Moore, a Lion Class Cruiser and the HMS Webb, a Bulldog Class Frigate, as shown below  – left to right.

As I’d decided to write my own set of rules (currently known as Final Frontier), I decided to keep things simple by only having four initial starship sizes, the three mentioned above and the smallest vessel – the Corvette. So I obviously needed a Corvette in the same style as those above. so off I went to the Carrion Crow Shipyards and built one. And here it is;

This is the HMS Nash, a Unicorn Class Corvette, cunningly constructed from a GW plastic shield, two GW lasguns and a small length of cotton bud stem. And to give you all some idea of how it compares size-wise with the other vessels, here it is with the HMS Moore.

As you can see, I’ve also decided to paint the standard transparent flying stands black, with black ink over the top, as I felt this was a more appropriate colour.

Now, in a response to one of the comments made on my previous post, I stated that I would be constructing a space station as well, the DSS Awdry. I’d saved a ‘spinner’ from the Doctor Who collectible miniatures game (which was rubbish – although the figures weren’t bad…), which was in the shape of David Tennant’s Tardis console. Upside down, I thought this would make a pretty good space station, once mounted and repainted. I’d put it to one side for this purpose – but when I went to make a start on it, I couldn’t find the bloody thing! Very annoying. So I had to have a bit of a rethink…

Now, as regular visitors will know, I tend to debase Heroclix miniatures, mount them on 2 pence pieces and repaint them as other characters. Which means I have rather a lot of Heroclix bases knocking about, as being a packrat, I never throw anything away that could be useful. Someone recently asked what to do with these ‘spare’ bases and whilst the first thing that springs to mind is using them as proxy poker chips, that’s not very ‘hobby’.

Now, if you take two of the ‘Oreo’ style bases, take them apart and glue two of the bottoms bottom-to-bottom, you get a chunky ‘wheel’ with knurled edge. Drilling a hole into the centre of one of the flat sides and mounting it on a flight stand, you now have a sort of flying saucer. A suitable paint job (which took bloody ages, as I kept changing my mind – so it’s been white, grey, blue-grey and silver, before I decided on what I wanted) and you end up with something like this:

This is the DSS Awdry, with the HMS Nash and HMS Webb nearby, to give an idea of scale. It was given an undercoat of GW Chainmail, followed by a GW Brown Ink wash except for the centre of the topand the knurled edge, which received a GW Blue Ink wash instead. It kind of reminds me of a cross between Deep Space 9 and the BT tower…

So, we have four starships from the New Albion Royal Navy and a space station. But we can’t actually have a space battle unless we have some suitable foes. So, heading back to my box of GI Joe accessories, I selected a couple of suitable backpacks, snipped off the pegs and drilled holes in them so they could be mounted on flight stands. Then I painted them in suitable colours and I now have three ‘enemy’ ships as well.

The first is a Dendrassi Raider, equivalent in size to a Frigate. Dendrassi are pirates, but refrain from killing their victims, merely stripping them of their valuables.

Next we have a Rhodian Dartship, also equivalent to a Frigate. The Rhodians are a militaristic and war-like race, who truly believe that the other inhabitants of the universe would fare better under their ever-expanding Empire.

Finally, we have a Karrian Marauder, equivalent to a Dreadnought. The Karrian are the scourge of the universe, their factory ships devouring all in their path and churning out more Karrian ships and troops.

And here’s a shot showing the three ‘enemy’ vessels alongside the NARN Frigate.

Of course I now need a few more ships for each of the ‘enemy’ races, otherwise the New Albion Royal Navy will always outnumber their opponents. The problem is, I need to follow the ‘look’ I’ve already established for each race, which could prove to be a challenge…

However, next week should see a batrep, as I run the first play-test of my Final Frontier rules, where a distress signal is received from the DSS Awdry and the HMS Nash and HMS Webb are sent to investigate…

‘S’ is for…

Whilst thinking about this post, I noticed that everything I was planning on including either began with, or had some connection to, the letter ‘S’. And that gave me my Sesame Street inspired post title. Let us begin…

S is for…’Sai’

In a reply to one of Andy’s wonderful Bushido posts over at Da Gobbo’s Grotto, I stated that all my Oriental figures appeared to be male, with only the monstrous denizens of Japanese myth and legend being of the female persuasion – namely my Onryo, Kitsune, Oni and Jorogumo. To rectify this imbalance, I scoured my collection to see if I had any suitable figures, and came across this:

Image result for elektra heroclix

This was the first sculpt of Elektra from the Heroclix Infinity Challenge set. As she is armed with her signature weapon, namely a pair of Sai, I thought she would make a suitable addition to my Oriental fantasy project and even out the male/female ratio.

However, I felt that she was maybe a little under-dressed and a simple repaint would just make her look like a different coloured Elektra, so I decided to repaint her with a bit more clothing.

As I’d already decided that Clan Chouda’s colours were light green and black, and Clan Karasu’s were blue and yellow, to make her stand out as a mercenary who would fight for either faction, I decided to paint her green and gold, as you can see below:

It wasn’t until I’d finished painting her main colours that I realised that I’d used the same colours as Iron Fist’s classic costume. Go figure. She’s not quite finished, but I’m quite pleased with how I’ve managed to make her outfit a bit more concealing, although her skin colour is a little dark – so I might be repainting it.

S if for…’Samurai’

I’d previously given my rebased Heroclix Samuroid (from the Heroclix Flash subset) an undercoat of GW Goblin Green, as the intention was to turn him into an animated jade statue, under the control of whichever Onmyoji activated him.

He was then given a wash of GW Salamander Green, followed by being dry-brushed with GW Ghoul Grey, followed by GW Rotting Flesh, both of which are effectively different shades of green. I then pained his base Goblin Green, and washed this with a 50/50 mix of black and Salamander Green, then dotted in his eyes with GW Sunburst Yellow. And here he is;

Unlike Simon’s Weeping Angels, you will see this statue move, but he’ll be sending you to see your ancestors, rather than back in time…

S is for…’Sakura’

Whilst I’d already decided on the main colour scheme for my ‘Heroclix Ironclad-to-Rikishi’ conversion, i.e. flesh, I was undecided as to what colour I should paint his traditional kesho-mawashi (decorative apron). I was considering doing a variation of the ‘Rising Sun’ motif, but felt that this was a little too modern.

Looking at my paints, I thought that a good counterpoint to the sheer physical might of a Rikishi would be to use…pink, specifically GW Tentacle Pink, which is the same colour as candy floss. And, coincidently, cherry blossom! A base coat of Docrafts Chocolate Brown, followed by GW Brown Ink gave a lovely dark brown apron, which I then dotted with GW Tentacle Pink, to represent cherry blossom.

And Japanese for ‘cherry blossom’ is Sakura…so thus was born Sakura, the professional rikishi. Although he does also look a little Samoan too…

Finally, S is for…’Starships’

Due to Simon’s WIP on his Irregular Miniatures 6mm Star Trek proxies, I’ve been bitten by the Star Trek bug, as shown in my last post, wherein I constructed my own interpretation of a Federation starship.

Having scoured the web, I have found (so far) three companies that sell either ‘official’ Star Trek starship miniatures or proxies.

The official models can be found on the Amarillo Design Bureau website, of which there are two ranges, Starline 2400 and Starline 2500. The former is the larger range, and covers most of the races mentioned in the Original Series, so if you’re looking for Ferengi Marauders, Klingon Birds of Prey or Romulan Warbirds, you’re out of luck. The Andromedan range of fancy saucers remind me of the spaceship that appears on the covers of E.L.O. albums…

Andromedan Dominator

There is no copyright text…you did not see it…besides, this isn’t strictly a website…

Obviously, we also have Irregular Miniatures, as mentioned before, where you will find a range of pretty nice proxy Federation starships under their 6mm ranges.

Finally, we have Ground Zero Games, who have an extensive range of starships for their own Full Thrust game (which is freely downloadable from their website). The range of starships for the Out Rim Coalition are those that look most like Federation starships.

However, if you happen to have some sprues of Warhammer 40,000 weaponry, some GI Joe 3 3/4″ weaponry and a box of buttons, you can make your own…

As I’ve built a couple more starships since last week, both of which are larger than the first, I’ve had to downgrade my first ship. I’ve also decided on some background fluff for my ships, as whilst they are inspired by Star Trek, they aren’t in the same universe…

The planet of New Albion was colonised by Great Britain and is ruled by a hereditary monarchy, the current incumbent being Victoria the Third. As such, all starships in the New Albion Royal Navy receive the designation ‘HMS’, signifying ‘Her Majesty’s Starship’. Currently, the NARN fields Corvettes, Frigates, Cruisers and Dreadnoughts.

This is the HMS Webb, a Bulldog class Frigate.

This is the HMS Moore, a Lion class Cruiser.

And this is the HMS Scott, a Dragon class Dreadnought.

And here are a couple of pictures showing all three ships, to give an idea of relative size.

I still need to construct the smallest starship, which will be a Unicorn class Corvette, the HMS Nash, but the fleet is coming along.

All three ships were initially undercoated in Docrafts Light Grey, then given two coats of watered down Rust-Oleum Gloss White. This is quite a thick paint, so watering down means that you don’t get brush marks and the light grey shows through, meaning you don’t have to give it a wash afterwards. I then picked out various bits and bobs with my own Orange mix. They are pretty much done, although I think some decals would make them ‘pop’ a bit more.

I do have another ship currently under construction – a Tarot class Frigate – from the notorious Dendrassi race, known for their lush green home-world and their piratical ways…

That’s all for this week. Next week I will be continuing in a similar vein, so there will be more Oriental fantasy figures, possibly more starships, maybe a visit to the Super Chibification workshop…

Unless I get distracted by something else, of course – like my proposed game of heavily armed and armoured narrow boat combat “Pirates of the River Thames”…

A Good Solid Base

I tend to base all my figures on circular bases, which can range from the standard 25mm ‘slottabase’ which is mainly used for metal figures, to the humble 2 pence piece, which happens to be approximately 25mm in diameter, gives heft to re-based Heroclix figures and is cheaper that a similar sized metal washer.

However, there is further medium that I have used, as its properties do lend it to basing specific types of figures – rubber tap washers:

The above pack of three set me back the grand total of 75p. Whilst the packaging does state that the washers are 3/4″, they are actually 25mm in diameter and 5mm thick. This means that they are the same diameter and height as a standard 25mm ‘slottabase’, but have a lot more heft due to the material they are made from.

So far, so good, but why use them when both 2 pence pieces and plastic slottabases are more economical to buy? Well, because they are made from rubber, it is quite easy to make holes in them without having to find the smallest drill bit in your toolbox – a simple bradawl will suffice. So, should you have one of the earlier Heroclix flying sculpts, where a small peg was molded onto their foot and then attached to those awful flying stands, all you need do is make a hole in your washer, then simple insert your figure into the base. Your lightweight plastic figure now has a substantial base attached, without having to resort to molding putty around the peg and hoping it won’t pull free.

But, more importantly for me, should you happen to be sculpting a trio of Chibi adventurers who currently have about 15mm of wire extending from the soles of their feet, once the sculpting has reached the point where you are considering basing them, you can remove them from their corks, force the wire into the rubber washers and then snip off any wire that extends below the bottom. You now have three figures on hefty rubber bases, which is necessary for Chibi figures, as their heads are so freakin’ large…

But before you can actually do that, you need to prepare the washers, as otherwise any figure you are attempting to rebase will look like they’re standing on a tyre.

Obviously, you can cover the top of the washer with the basing medium of your choice, but this may get damaged when making the hole (or holes) to insert your figure. So, ideally you need a material that is thick enough to cover the top of the washer and the central hole, but thin enough that it can be pierced without deforming. And if that material also happens to be textured in some fashion, then you’ve saved yourself a bit of work later. Something like this:

So, what we have here is a piece of coarse sandpaper and a sample of textured wallpaper, both of which I am going to use.

I’m using coarse sandpaper, but any grade will do, depending upon how ‘rough’ you want your base to be. I’ve previously used this to make an asphalt base, as once you have your first base coat on, the sandpaper loses its ability to ‘sand’, but still retains its texture. A single base coat and a darker wash and you’re pretty much done.

The textured wallpaper has a kind of canvass-y look to it, so I’m intending on using this as bamboo matting.

First order of the day is to glue the washers to your topping. The best glue for this, due to the materials involved, is PVA, although it does take a while to set. Once the glue is set, cut as close to the end of the washer as you can, so you get your circular base ‘topper’. There will probably be a slight overhand, but this can be tidied up with a file – however, remember to draw the file down, otherwise you risk pulling your topping off. They will end up looking like this;

And to give a better view of the textured tops:

Other than adding the figures and painting, these are ready to go.


Now, for something a little different. In a couple of his recent posts on his blog Fantorical, Simon aka Blaxkleric has been showing some ‘work in progresses’ for some Irregular Miniatures 6mm ‘Imperial Fleet’ miniatures, which are heavily influenced by the Federation starships of Star Trek. I always liked the design of the Federation starships, so had a quick browse through their range and noted that the prices were pretty reasonable. However, as the Gaming Fund is currently a bit low, purchase of starships would have to wait. Besides, I didn’t have any rules to play starship combat with anyway…

But, like a strawberry pip caught between my teeth, it wouldn’t go away. So, hastily scribbled notes were made, crossed out and rewritten. Then my bits box was raided, along with a few more esoteric places, things were glued to other things and the end results were;

1 – A very rough first draft of a hex-based starship combat game in the vein of Star Trek (i.e. big Capital ships, rather than one-man fighters, shifting of power between shields, engines and weapons systems and lots of screaming of “The engines cannae’ take it, Captain!” in a Scottish accent), and;

2 – This:

Using a GW plastic heavy Lascannon, a GW plastic shield, part of a plastic coffee stirrer and a massive button, I now have the first of my fleet, a Scorpion Class Cruiser. And it cost me nothing.

Once I have constructed another ‘enemy’ ship, out will come my black HeroScape hexes (“Asphalt? Asphalt?  I think you’ll find that’s actually Deep Space, my good man…”) and the first play-test of the rules that will be called…Final Frontier.

That’s all for this week. I’ve set myself a deadline of the end of September to complete all my Oriental Fantasy stuff, the Way of the Crow rules and my Chibi figures, but there’s also a high possibility that a couple of starships may show up, and possibly a batrep/play-test of Final Frontier. We shall see…

Oriental (Mis-) Adventures

For those of you who regularly follow my blog, you will no doubt have noticed that last week did not provide any new content. This was because the Sunday after my last posting until the following Tuesday, I was in Cardiff and the remainder of the week was spent ‘making up’ the time at work, due to some draconic rules they have about taking holiday during the first few weeks of employment – the joys of being a contractor…

Anyway, having not had any hobby-time, I made sure that I spent some time with brushes and paint this week, although things did not go quite to plan, as you may have gathered from the title of this post…

We are still staying in the Land of the Rising Sun for the foreseeable future, so my first offering is an addition to a figure I began during my last bout…

I’d previously decided to rebase and repaint Lady Deathstrike from the  ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ Heroclix sub-set as a Kitsune and realised that whilst this represented this creature from Japanese legend in human form, I did need a miniature to represent its fox form. Whilst at Warfare last November, I managed to pick up a two-pack of foxes from Rapier Miniatures, for the very reasonable price of £1.00, which can be found under their Familiars range for this exact purpose. However, it languished in its plastic baggie for months…until now.

Having been based on a two pence piece, I built up the base with Milliput and gave it an undercoat of White. Then using the same Orange I’d used on the human form’s hair, I began to add a little colour to the miniature. But that’s as far as I’ve got with this one so far, as you can see below:


The human form of the Kitsune also needs finishing off, but once they are both finished, I’ll be able to field this character in either form.

Next up we have my Ironclad to Sumo conversion and the first Samurai from Clan Karasu, the latter of which has caused me some issues. I had already painted up one of the Izumi Samurai and two of each of the Ashigaru with Yari and Ashigaru with Harquebus (their spelling, not mine) from the HeroScape game as members of Clan Chouda (dishonourable  dogs that they are) for a friend, and as his chosen Clan colours were green and black, I needed to choose different colours for Clan Karasu. (NB: If you want to see the current state of Clan Chouda, who are almost finished, see this post).

As Master Crow is attached to Clan Karasu, I had decided that the colours should reflect the colouring of the Muppet who inspired him, so yellow and blue. However, I chose the wrong yellow and blue the first time and it looked rubbish, so out came the nail polish remover and cotton pads and buds, as I attempted to remove the ‘wrong’ colours. This resulted in less painting being done than I had planned for the week.

Anyway, below you will find the Izumi Samurai I had chosen to represent a Samurai from Clan Karasu, who currently only has the yellow parts of his outfit completed (the yellow being GW Orc Brown, which is actually a dark yellow).

Next to him, is my Sumo wrestler conversion, or to use the correct term, Rikishi. So far, all he’s had done is his flesh in Docrafts Linen, hair in GW Marine Dark Blue and ‘skirt’ in Docrafts White. As this is a relatively uncomplicated sculpt, this one shouldn’t take too long to finish off, although I’m currently undecided as to what pattern the Rikishi should have on his ‘skirt’.

Next up, we’re getting a little…mystical. Whilst buying the foxes noted above, I also bought what Moonraker Miniatures called a ‘Shugenja’, as they had fallen into the same trap that most role-playing and miniature companies have done, by following on from someone’s incorrect first designation.

A Shugenja is a practitioner of Shugendo, which is a religion that originated in Heian Japan and centred on an ascetic, mountain-dwelling existence. The Yamabushi practiced this particular religion, so a Shugenja should be a warrior monk or, to put it in D&D terms, a cleric. For some reason, all companies dealing with Oriental Fantasy have decided to use the term Shugenja to denote an Oriental wizard – which is wrong and very, very annoying. The closest thing from Japanese myth and legend to what the West would consider a ‘wizard’, is an Onmyoji – practitioners of Onmyodo, which is a mixture of natural science and occultism. For more details on this, and Abe no Seimei, the most famous Onmyoji, read this Wikipedia article.

Rant over.

So, I have chosen to use this figure as an Onmyoji and as the outfit he is wearing is very similar to that worn by Miko (Shrine Maidens), I’ve decided to mimic the colours, so given him red trousers.

Next to him is the Heroclix Samuroid, who I’ve decided to paint up as an animated jade statue of a Samurai. So far, all I’ve done with this one is given it a base coat of GW Goblin Green, but additional washes and sponging should make him look like he’s made of jade.

Finally, we have my Master Crow conversion, which started out as a Heroscape Izumi Samurai, before I decapitated it and gave it the head of a Kroot.

As this figure has wide, sweeping sleeves, I decided to paint these the same colour as his hands and face, to suggest these were wings, using GW Elf Blue, his leggings/legs with GW Sunburst Yellow and his main robe with GW Marine Dark Blue.

Yes, my paints are that old that the colours I’m mentioning no longer exist in the GW catalogue…

His sash will also be Sunburst Yellow, and I have a feeling that the robe will end up with some kind of pattern (possibly tiny little crow’s feet) in gold.

So, not a huge amount of progress to show, but at least I’m back in the game…

Next time, I believe we may be returning to the Super Chibification Workshop, as I show you a use for rubber tap washers that probably hadn’t occurred to you…

Full of Eastern Promise…

For those of a certain generation, the post title will evoke memories of rose-flavoured purple jelly coated in milk chocolate, but I’ve chosen it to describe the contents of this post.

We continue with the Oriental Fantasy theme and I thought it high time that I actually got some figures onto the painting table. However, as three of the figures I was intending on painting had not been completely based, out came the Milliput…

The first two figures are both from the Wizkids’ Heroclix range, namely Scarab from the Indy Heroclix subset and Samuroid from The Flash subset. Having detached the pair from their ‘clix bases, I glued Samuroid to a 2 pence piece, but found that Scarab wide-legged stance precluded me from doing the same with her. However, having used some HeroScape figures for other purposes, I did have a spare Heroclix base, which was the right size. I then smoothed some Milliput onto each base and then stippled it with the end of blunt toothpick.

Currently, the intention is to repaint Scarab as a Ninja or Kunoichi (although traditionally the kunoichi were spies disguised as courtesans, amongst other things) and the Samuroid will either be a Daimyo, as he is rather impressively large, or possibly a demonic Samurai. I’m not sure yet.

Next up, we have another Heroclix figure – Ironclad from the Web of Spider-Man subset. This particular character is one of the quartet of villains known as the U-Foes, who gained their powers in a similar fashion to the Fantastic Four. However, I’d bought this particular figure for one reason only – to turn him into a sumo wrestler! The figure was already suitably muscled and sported a ‘skirt’ around his nether regions, which I have seen sumo wrestlers wearing, but his hair was wrong. However, a Milliput topknot and even without paint, he’s starting to look a bit more sumo…


As anyone who works with any kind of two-part sculpting putty will know, when you’re mixing it up, you either end up with too little for the job in hand, or too much. In this instance, I mixed too much, so rather than waste it I got of my Chibi armatures and used the remaining putty up on them.

First up, ‘Pulp Avenger Hil’. Not a great deal has been done to this figure since last time, the only real addition being her right foot, which was bare metal last time. I’ve also decided to take the WIP picture from behind, so you can see the definition of her calves, feet and…er…bum.

Nest, ‘Clockwork Mage Stevie’. As I need to complete the lower parts of this figure first, before I can sculpt his coat, I needed to make the feet/shoes bigger, as they were far too small. As you can see they are now more ‘shoe-like’.  I also bulked out the head a little more, but it would appear I didn’t smooth out the finger-prints, so it now looks like he has a thumb for a head…

Finally, ‘Shrine Guardian Tarot’. I must have really hit my sculpting groove when I got to this figure, as not only did I manage to sculpt pretty good tabi (Japanese split-toed socks), I’ve managed to make a start on the tunic. Whilst my original intention was to follow the traditional Miko outfit, I think I may have been subconsciously influenced by this image of Sailor Mars…

But with a bit more cleavage on show, as you can see below…

Either way, I’m feeling pretty positive that all three figures will end up looking like I envisioned them.

As next week sees quite a heavy workload, I may not get any new hobby stuff done, so we may have another tale, or possibly some resurrected articles from my old blog. Who knows…😉

“Who Ya Gonna Call?”

The answer, of course, is…

GHOSTBUSTERS!

Given my previous postings on my ongoing Ghostbusters Project, which started back on 4th December 2015 and ran until 27th February 2016, you may be forgiven for thinking that I’d decided to drop all things Oriental and return to it. However, this is not the case.

On 15th July 2016, the ‘reboot’ of the Ghostbusters franchise was released upon the viewing public of the UK. Even though I don’t often venture to the cinema, as I find the prices extortionate, I had vowed that I would see this film. And last Friday, I did.

Whilst I had been aware of the controversy surrounding the ‘reboot’, from the casting of an all-female crew of Ghostbusters to the choice of director, AND I could honestly say that the original 1984 film is my favourite film of all time, having given it some considered thought, I put myself in the box marked “cautiously optimistic”.

As the release date got nearer, the trailers and images seemed to support the fact that the makers were striving to ensure that the fans of the original were going to be well-served by the new movie. Even the new logo was just a slight tweaking of the original:

As people who followed my posts during the Ghostbusters Project on here will know, I have very strong views on what does and doesn’t constitute “Ghostbusters”. Just because something has the official logo on it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it IS Ghostbusters. And the reverse can also be true, as I discussed in my “Beyond Ghostbusters” series of posts, which suggested addition non-canon entries into what I dubbed the “Expanded Ghostbusters Universe”, the first of which can be read here.

So, being an opinionated and self-confessed ‘expert’, IS the new movie ‘Ghostbusters’?

To sum it up in a nutshell, Yes.

 

 

It’s not perfect – the plot will seem very familiar to those who’ve seen either of the first two movies and it does represent a ‘reboot’, rather than a continuation of the film series. However, having said that, it manages to match the original’s balance between the supernatural elements and the comedy without swinging too far either way.  And it IS funny – I wasn’t the only one in the cinema laughing out loud,

There are several new additions to the Ghostbusting arsenal, all provided by McKinnon’s Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, and the way these are introduced and tested will remind many role-players of trips to R&D in Paranoia.

The ‘ghosts’ are wonderfully realised and come in a variety of shapes and sizes (including a couple of very familiar faces), and whilst comical looking for the most part, there are a couple of pretty creepy moments. The ‘big bad’ is particularly well-done, being both cartoonish and nightmarish at the same time.

So, it may not be the ‘Ghostbusters III’ that die-hard fans were clamouring for (which was actually covered off by 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game, featuring a script partially written by Ackroyd and Ramis and the vocal talents of all the original cast), but is does represent the ‘Ghostbusters’ for a new generation.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the original. As soon as it’s released on DVD, it will be joining Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, Freddy vs Ghostbusters and the Return of the Ghostbusters on my shelf – more details regarding these rather good fan-films can be found by clicking the links.

“Cunningly Fashioned from Pure Green!”

As regular followers of both my blog and Roger’s Rantings from Under the Wargames Table blog will be aware, Roger very kindly crafted a Chibi ‘Master Crow’ for me as a surprise thank you gift;

CC chibi (8)

Details on how he made this wonderful figure can be found here. However, Roger also kindly sent me a small amount of Green Stuff, as he knows that I’m too cheap to buy my own (and also as a dig for not buying tea for him and Simon at Salute, as promised.)

The reason I mention this is that we are returning to the Super Chibification Workshop and my initial experiments with Green Stuff. Do not expect the level of expertise and craftsmanship evidenced by Roger, as I’ve never used this medium before and found it a somewhat challenging experience. And that was after Roger had provided me with some detailed tips.

However, after two sessions using it (and a variety of colourful profanities whilst doing so), I believe I may have now got its measure…

Anyway, when we last saw the armature that is hopefully going to be transformed into “Clockwork Mage Stevie”, it looked like this;

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Realising that the arms were a little on the chunky side, I filed these down and then moved on to the forearms. As these are going to be big-ass steampunk gauntlets, I thought I’d lay down the initial shape of them, to give me some idea as to what they’ll end up looking like. Whilst I had the Milliput out, I also added a bit more bulk to the figure’s head.

The next session involved purely Green Stuff, and I’d decided that the best thing to do was use it to smooth out the figure’s thighs, as it gives a much smoother finish. As the figure had no feet as yet and this particular character would be wearing trousers, I needed to make a start on the feet before sculpting the lower legs. And this is where we’ve got to now:

Next we have “Shrine Guardian Tarot”, who looked like this last time;

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As mentioned in my previous post, I wasn’t entirely happy with the proportions of certain…*ahem*… “aspects” of this figure, so out came the needle files to tidy up and reshape the anatomy. As with the previous figure, I then moved onto the forearms.

This figure proved particularly troublesome in respect of the left forearm. I tried on three separate occasions to sculpt this, first with Milliput, then Green Stuff, but for some reason it just wasn’t playing ball. I finally managed to get complete it on the fourth attempt. The right forearm was a doddle in comparison.

I then moved onto the figure’s thighs, using the putty to smooth out the previously rough Milliput, with variable results. As this figure will be having flappy Japanese trousers, as with the previous figure, I needed to sculpt the feet first. As the intention was that this figure should be wearing sandals, I started with the soles first, with the intention of adding the feet after these had cured.

The remaining Green Stuff was used to bulk out the figure’s head a bit more and this is where I ended up with this one;

For some reason, when looking at the picture above, I’m reminded of Bruce Lee…but with breasts…

Moving swiftly on…

Our final figure is “Pulp Avenger Hil”, and this is where we left her last time;

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As with Tarot’s figure, this one also needed some cosmetic surgery, in order to reshape the anatomy. I then decided to add the left foot, as this character will be wearing knee-high boots. The Green Stuff came out for the next session, and the forearms were added, the top part of the figure’s trousers and the remaining putty used to bulk out the head a bit more. And this is where we are with this one;

I know it doesn’t appear that I’ve done very much, but a large proportion of the time was familiarising myself with the properties of Green Stuff…in other words, moaning about it sticking to stuff I didn’t want it to and not sticking to things I did want it to stick to, getting it jammed under my finger-nails and refusing to come out, and leaving green smears across my cutting mat. More practice is definitely needed until I’ll consider myself proficient, so I’ll probably finish the figures off with Milliput, as I’m more familiar with its properties.

Next week it could be more sculpting, more Way of the Crow rules or maybe some painting. Depends on what type of time I have available.

Eye of the Beholder

Over the past few weeks, my posts have been coming thick and fast, due to the fact that I was between contracts, which meant I had quite a bit of spare time. However, last Monday I started a new contract, which whilst closer to home, is regular office hours.

This has resulted in the bare minimum of ‘hobby time’ this week, none of which is fit to be shown. This presented me with a slight quandary, as I felt I should post something, but didn’t have any concrete ideas about what I should be posting. Should I resurrect one of my old posts from my previous blog, dust it off, tart it up and post it as revised content? Whilst this is something I do intend on doing, I haven’t really had any time this week, so I’m going to do what I did the last time this happened.

That’s right, it’s story-time…

Long-term followers of my blog will know that the last time this happened was at the end of February, when they had the dubious honour of reading the first short story I ever wrote that I considered was fit for public consumption. This particular piece of humourous fantasy, heavily influenced by the late, great Terry Pratchett is entitled “A Bad Day for Murakh T’arr” – which you can read by following the link.

The short story I’m using as a filler piece for this post was originally written for the ‘Pulp Idol’ writing competition, that the sci-fi magazine SFX ran on an annual basis. The story had to fit within the genres covered by the magazine and had to be 2,000 words or less. This was quite a challenge, as when I write, the story takes as many words as it needs and whilst 2,000 words sounds quite a lot, it isn’t.

So I beavered away at it, trimming extraneous words where I could and when I was finally happy, submitted it.

Then I forgot about it.

A couple of month’s later, the issue containing the final ten runners-up and the winner was published. I knew I hadn’t won or fallen within the top ten, as they would have contacted me. However, the magazine did publish a list of the names of those who had submitted stories that had made it through to the final 50.

And there was my name.

Out of the 5,000 odd people who had entered, I had made it through to the final fifty. I may not have won, or come within the final ten, but they did think my story was better than 4,950 other stories that had been submitted. As far as I was concerned, that was a win. So, here it is. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it.

Eye of the Beholder

By

Jeremy Winstanley

Carla was impressed. The way the artist had captured the hesitancy of the creature, as it cautiously stepped from beneath the overhanging trees, dappled sunlight patterning its flanks, was breathtaking. The detail was amazing too. She could see each individual hair on the creature’s coat, the small soft wrinkles along the lips, the soft delicate eyelashes surrounding the deep brown eyes.

Behind the creature, in the depths of the wood, shafts of sunlight from the canopy above struck motes of dust, or possibly small insects, giving the whole picture a sense of realism that was usually lacking from this type of art. It was almost as if the artist had stepped into another world, armed with a digital camera, and taken photos of the wildlife.

But that was impossible, as the creature depicted in the picture was a unicorn and they do not exist. Yet, the picture almost made you believe that they did and that they should…

The rest of the pictures in the gallery were similar, each showing a creature of myth or legend, depicted in such a way that it was like walking through a room of windows, with each picture showing a different view of a world not our own. Here a faun perched on a tree stump, his face ruddy with drink, proposing a toast with an overflowing tankard to a group of shadowy figures gathered round a campfire. There a scaled wyvern curled protectively and alertly around a clutch of eggs, their shells the colour of a summer sky…

The exhibition was called ‘From Life?’ and, according to the pamphlet she had been given by a girl wearing too much make-up on the door, ‘showcased the amazing skills of an artist who has mastered the nuances and subtleties of the medium of digital art.’ As she had meandered about the gallery, examining the pictures, she had overheard the phrase ‘photo-realistic’ mentioned several times. She had to admit, the phrase fitted.

Whilst she had admired each picture individually, there was something about the unicorn that kept drawing her back. She stepped closer, her lips pursed.

A deep male voice interrupted her thoughts, ‘I’m guessing that you quite like my picture, then?’ it asked.

Carla turned. Standing behind her was a tubby, bearded man in an obviously hired suit. He looked slightly uncomfortable, as though he was not used to talking to women, or people, for that matter.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I do. It’s perfect. Exactly what I imagine a unicorn would really look like. You’re very talented.’ The man looked even more uncomfortable.

‘It’s nothing, really’ he said, flushing slightly, ‘Anyone could have produced this picture, with the right equipment.’

Carla turned back to the picture.

‘But to actually produce a picture like this, and the others on show here, takes more than just “the right equipment”.’ She said, ‘You have to be able to see something in your mind, before you can transfer it into another medium, surely?’

The man looked even more uncomfortable, if that was possible, and started to nervously sidle away.

‘Sometimes, they just come to me…’ he muttered, before making a hasty exit.

Carla turned back to the picture of the unicorn. Yes, she decided, I must have this…

At the front desk, an eager young girl in a baggy white t-shirt explained that ‘due to the versatility of this particular digital art form, whilst the artist keeps the original files, we can produce copies of the artwork at any size and for considerably less cost than buying an original piece of art’. She then launched into a detailed explanation of the type of computer equipment necessary to produce work of this nature.

Carla gritted her teeth as the techno-babble washed over her. She thrust her credit card like a talisman at the eager young thing, an action that caused the girl to finally stop talking and produce a typed order form.

Carla selected the size of her copy, chose the type of frame and arranged delivery.

Her apartment was sleek and clean, almost utilitarian, and a picture like this would offer an ideal counterpoint to the modernistic space she dwelled in. Besides, she had a large blank wall space that needed filling.

A few days later, the picture arrived and, true to their promise, the people form the gallery professionally mounted the picture exactly where she wanted it. She stood back and admired it, which at 6’ x 4’, was considerably larger than the one shown in the gallery. It suited the space perfectly, looking like it had always meant to hang there. Now it looked like her fourth-storey apartment had a window into a sylvan glade, occupied by a mythical beast.

Who needs a wardrobe, she thought, smirking.

Over the next couple of days, every time she passed the picture, she paused. There was something about the picture that was niggling at her, like a loose tooth. Something out of place, slightly off kilter, like a warm toilet seat in an empty house.

But, for the life of her, she could not work out what.

Night after night, she found herself sitting pensively in a chair opposite the picture, scouring it with her eyes, trying to see what her mind was trying to tell her was wrong…

Finally, after spending many sleepless nights tossing and turning, as it preyed on her mind, it came to her. She quickly threw back the covers and padded barefoot into the lounge. Flicking the lights on, she rummaged through her desk drawers, searching until she found what she was looking for. A magnifying glass.

Moving across to the picture, she dragged an armchair close to the wall beneath the picture and clambered up onto its soft, yielding surface.

The eye. There was something different…no, not different…more…about the unicorn’s eye. Balancing unsteadily on the arms of the chair, Carla peered through the magnifying glass at the picture. There was a shape there, very small, but she could just make out what it was…

Realisation struck her like a blow and the magnifying glass fell from her now numb fingers. She slowly collapsed into the soft embrace of the chair, hugging her knees tightly.

She then recollected the exact words the artist had said to her, what seemed like such a long time ago, and realised that every word he had spoken was true.

For what she had seen, reflected in the eye of the unicorn, was the tiny figure of a bearded man, holding a camera…