Buffet of the Daleks

Hobby time this week has been limited and taken up with the super-special secret project I mentioned last week, so I’ve not actually got anything new or any progress to show you.

However, when has they ever stopped me from posting before?

So, as you may have gathered from the title, this week we will be looking at Daleks, as whilst you could play a Doctor Who game without them, at some point you going to want/need some.

Now, since their introduction in the aptly named First Doctor serial The Daleks in 1963, the actual design of the Daleks has not varied all that much. Yes, they may have had rings or slats on their mid-section or a slightly bigger skirt, but the basic design remained pretty much unchanged right up until the end of the classic run in 1989.

The only variation we got during the classic run was the Special Weapons Dalek, which appeared in the 1987 Seventh Doctor serial Remembrance of the Daleks, which had a single high-powered energy weapon and no eyestalk.

Obviously, when the series was re-launched in 2005, it was felt that the Daleks required a bit of a re-design and our first look at what has become known as the ‘Time War’ Dalek was in the  Ninth Doctor episode Dalek in 2005.

Then, in the 2010 Eleventh Doctor episode Victory of the Daleks, we were introduced to the controversial design that has become known as the ‘iDalek’.

Lots of fans kicked off about this design, so much so that it’s quietly been ‘retired’, last appearing in the 2012 episode Asylum of the Daleks.

For a full guide to Dalek designs, hierarchy and, more importantly from a miniature gamer’s point of view, colour schemes, your best resource is the very comprehensive “Dalek Colour Schemes and Hierarchy” guide on The Doctor Who Site, which can be found here.

However, this is a miniature gaming site, so let’s talk about miniature Daleks.

If you want the ‘iDaleks’, your only option are those that came as free gift attached to the front of the Doctor Who Magazine here in the UK. They were pretty well-detailed, the right size to scale in with 28mm figures and pretty inexpensive. You may be able to find these on eBay, if you weren’t lucky enough to pick some up at the time – like me. So, if anyone’s got half a dozen of these knocking about spare and would be willing to sell them on, I would be quite prepared to give them a new home.

For ‘Time War’ Daleks, you will be able to buy multi-part plastic ‘Time War’ Daleks from Warlord Games when they finally decide to release them. Obviously, they still have to release a couple of boxes of obscure monsters that only appeared in one episode first, because these are so much more useful…

So, until these are released, you will have to track down the Doctor Who Micro Universe figures if you’re desperate for some new-style Daleks.

Which leaves us with the classic style Dalek. Luckily these are readily available from our old friends Black Tree Design.  And as I took advantage of their 30% off sale, I can do a review of them!

So, first up the classic style Dalek;

As you can see, they come in three parts; the ‘skirt’, mid-section and head, which means that you can rotate the head to provide variation in ‘pose’. As they are metal, you can also ‘adjust’ the gun and plunger arms for further variation. The detail is very crisp, although they did come with quite a bit of flash, but this was mainly on the underside of the skirt, so didn’t obscure any of the detail. The other thing I noted was that as the ‘skirt’ is a solid piece of lead, these figures do have a bit of heft to them.

As I got the Dalek Patrol set, this also came with a Special Weapons Dalek;

The SWD comes in two parts; the skirt and mid-section/head. As you can see, the skirt comes with a square platform on the top, so it’s fairly obvious which of the skirts belongs to the SWD. Detail is also very nice, with minimal flash and the same heft that the normal Daleks have.

Now, showing you the components is all well and good, but what do they look like assembled and how do they scale with say, a Crooked Dice Third Doctor 28mm figure?

Like this…

So, accurate, ‘official’ classic style Daleks which are nicely detailed and scale well with modern 28mm figures. I really like them and as the Dalek Patrol set offers six normal Daleks and a Special Weapons Dalek for just over 21 quid, they’re pretty good value too.

That’s all for this week – join me next time for more Doctor Who…in miniature.

Mobile Stones

This week I was blessed with quite a bit of hobby time, but due to a number of factors, it actually doesn’t look like I’ve achieved that much. The first reason is because I’m working on a super-special secret project, which I can neither divulge nor show you until such time as it is finished AND the recipient has received it – we don’t want to spoil the surprise now, do we? The second reason is due to the particular material I was working with, which I will explain about below. But first, a little background…

Back in 2007, the Doctor as portrayed by David Tennant, first encountered the alien race known as the Weeping Angels in the superb Stephen Moffat scripted episode “Blink”. These creepy ‘quantum-locked’ predators utilise time paradoxes to feed on the potential temporal energy of people by sending them back in time to a point before they were born and usually manifest as stone angels, similar to those found in Victorian graveyard statuary.

Image result for weeping angels

But this is not the first time that the Doctor has faced off against animated statues, as the Third Doctor had to contend with a gargoyle animated by the Daemon Azal in the 1971 story The Daemons, who went by the name of Bok…

Image result for bok doctor who

However, my favourite ‘mobile stone’ from Doctor Who are still the Ogri from the 1978 Fourth Doctor serial The Stones of Blood, which were essentially mobile semi-sentient blood-drinking monoliths.

Image result for ogri doctor who

Now, unlike Bok and the Weeping Angels, you cannot currently buy 28mm miniatures of Ogri – Bok can be purchased from Black Tree Design for £2.75, whilst a pair of ‘Angels of Sorrow’ can be purchased from the Reaper Bones range for $4.99 (or from Miniature Heroes in the UK for £4.38).

But as they’re just monoliths, they should be relatively easy to make, right?

Yes they are, but would have been even quicker if I’d been able to get the right material.

Ideally, you want blue insulation foam for this, which seems to be a popular choice for hobby builds but, for some reason, doesn’t appear to be readily available in my local DIY shops. So I went for something cheap and readily available, namely ‘oasis’ foam.

This is basically the stuff used by florists and flower arrangers to stick the stems of flowers into. It’s very lightweight and a block about 12″ tall by 4″ square only costs £1.50. It also comes in two colours, the standard green you associate with this product and a nice sandstone-y brown. I obviously went with the brown.

So, the first thing I did was to cut several ‘blocks’ about 20mm square and 35-40mm tall out of my foam. This can be easily done with a sharp craft knife and this leads to the very first problem with this material – when cut or knocked or even lightly brushed against, it sheds little particles everywhere, a bit like sand, as you can see from the surface of the cutting mat below, along with my ‘stones’.

The second issue is the weight. This stuff is remarkably light, so sneezing would send these blocks flying. However, I had anticipated this and prepared some bases made from 2 pence pieces, to which I superglued a flat-headed drawing pin/thumb tack, like so.

Having doused the tops of the drawing pins with superglue, I impaled each block onto the spikes, then carved bits off each ‘stone’ until I had a shape I was happy with – obviously creating more dust as I did so.

As the ‘stones’ currently looked like they were floating, the Milliput came out and the base of each ‘stone’ was given a scenic base. As the Ogri, when active, glow from within a golden light and have distinctive circular patterns around their midriffs, I used the handle of a needle file to make some circular depressions on each ‘stone’ with the intention of painting this gold. I only did this on one side, so that it’s not so obvious what they are if you’re approaching from behind. And here are four of them with one of my UNIT troopers, to give a sense of scale.

So far, so good, but it’s called ‘oasis’ foam for a reason – it’s because it’s designed to be porous. Good for plants inserted into it, but not so good for painting.

Seriously, if you’re going to make some of these yourself, only use this stuff as a last resort, as whilst it’s really easier to work with, actually getting it to the stage where you can apply paint takes a lot or preparation.

So, whilst I was happy with the size and shape, it was still shedding particles and would drink paint like a thirsty man in a desert. The solution to both of these problems was to use some watered down PVA glue as a sealant. This stops the material shedding everywhere and also creates a thin ‘skin’ over the top of the material, which will take paint. What actually happens is that the material absorbs the watered down PVA, so whilst it does allow  for painting, it also doesn’t obscure the texture of the foam and also makes the foam slightly heavier.

I then gave each ‘stone’ an undercoat of Docrafts Linen, then another coats of watered down Linen to fill in the holes. This was followed by a coat of Revell Beige, with a further coat of watered-down Beige for the same reason. Basically, all those little holes mean that whilst you do get a texture like stone or concrete, which will be a joy to dry-brush, it will need one or two washes to ensure that the colour covers the whole ‘stone’. And that’s as far as I’ve got with this so far, as can be seen in the picture below.

The Third Doctor looks a little concerned that he is surrounded by the blood-drinking Ogri – I don’t think his Venusian Aikido will get him out of this one…

It was only after I’d compared the photos from the unpainted to the beige-painted stones that I realised that they don’t actually look that much different, as the Beige paint is actually very similar in hue to the original colour of the foam. Oh well…

The next stage will be to paint in the golden glowing circles on each Ogri, then give them a darker wash, then several dry-brushes to bring out the detail.

Possibly a little more work than I had originally anticipated, but once they’re done I’ll have five Ogri miniatures, which can also double up as ‘normal’ standing stones, for £1.50.  And I’ve still got about 90% of the original block left – perhaps I’ll use it to build a replica of Stonehenge for a rock band or something…

That’s all for this week – join me next time for some more Who-inspired goodness.

View From the Crow’s Nest: Year Two

Can it really have been two years since the very first post on this blog? Whilst, strictly speaking, tomorrow is the official two-year anniversary of this blog, what’s a couple of hours between friends, eh?

Over the last year there have been Ghostbusters, Masters of the Universe, Super-Clowns and Oriental Fantasy. I’ve scratch-built buildings, hamburger carts, starships, road tiles and a rather nice pumpkin patch. I’ve published several short stories and introduced people to my own rules – Final Frontier for Star Trek-inspired space combat and Way of the Crow, an all-genre skirmish rules.

We also had the very first Forgotten Heroes event, in which fellow bloggers on three continents produced a 28mm costumed character, of which a figure has either not yet been made or the official figure was a bit pants, which was a great deal of fun.

I also attended my very first Salute, in which I had the pleasure of meeting some of my fellow bloggers face-to-face and the displeasure of trying to eat a Cornish pasty hotter than the sun with just my fingers…

I want to thank all of those who’ve visited my blog and a bigger thank you to all those who took the time to post a comment – I know from personal experience that you don’t always get the time to comment on every post on every blog you follow, so those who’ve chosen to comment on mine, many thanks.

Right, that’s the retrospective bit, so what have you got to look forward to in the next twelve months? Will you see me pandering to the needs of a wider audience, featuring the next ‘big thing’ and tailoring my content to increase the number of visitors? Will you see me ‘bigging up’ a company’s products because I’m in their pocket? Will you see me covering genres or games systems that I have no interest in just because I feel I should?

Of course you bloody won’t.

What you WILL see is; more Way of the Crow, as I finish writing up the rules so that it can be used for every genre. More AARs, as I’ve decided that I really should play with all these figures and terrain I’ve collected, otherwise what’s the point? Plus it’ll give me the chance to play-test the rules in a variety of settings. More inventive scratch-building, from the long-promised fire hydrants to inexpensive and simple trees. More Oriental Fantasy, more starships and more superheroes, as Forgotten Heroes WILL return in June 2017, so get planning!

But wait, there’s more! Final Frontier will get a 2nd Edition, as I incorporate the various suggestions and ideas I’ve had regarding it (for those of you that missed it the first time around, you can find it on this post). There will also be another set of rules published which will allow you to fight riverine engagements between armed and armoured narrowboats and barges, along with articles on how to scratch-build the craft needed for this, as the long-planned Pirates of the River Thames finally sees the light of day! There will be strange, unusual and possibly bonkers diversions (one such ‘secret project’ is currently under way as we speak…). And I’m hoping to have the pleasure of hosting some guest articles from some very good friends – so you might actually end up with something worth reading…

And there will be, of course, more Doctor Who…

In fact, here it comes now – cue the theme tune…

As I was surprised to get a little more hobby-time this week, I decided to base up some of my Games Worskshop Cybermen, along with my Black Tree Cyber Controller, reasoning that if they were based, the actual painting of them shouldn’t take that long, as they’re essentially one colour. I was right and this is the result:

So, they were initially undercoated in GW Chainmail, a pot of which is still going strong, then painted with GW Black Ink. I then drybrushed them with GW Mithril Silver, then painted in their chest panels and the ends of their Cyberguns with Docrafts Black, and the rings on their guns with GW Imperial Purple. The bases were painted Docrafts Chocolate Brown, with a wash of Burnt Ochre.

And now I have a five ‘man’ squad of Earthshock Cybermen, with a Telos Cyber Controller. I did consider altering the pose of the GW Cybermen, but felt their uniformity actually suited them better.

Now, for those of you who prefer the newer version of the Cybermen, I give you a Cybus Industries Cyberman:

This Mirco Universe figure was painted in exactly the same way as the Cybermen above, but as the standard base for these figures looks more like starship decking, I undercoated it in GW Chainmail, then washed it in Brown Ink. I think it looks like slightly oily decking, which was the look I was going for.

Finally, as I’d based the Master and he’d threatened to use his Tissue Compression Eliminator on me unless I built him a TARDIS, that’s what I did:

The Master’s TARDIS is simply a 30mm lipped base, with the plastic casing from a fluorescent light actuator glued onto it, which was then undercoated in Light Grey, painted in GW Chainmail, with a further coat of Chainmail mixed with a tiny amount of black.

As both my sons took one look at it and identified it as an uncloaked TARDIS without any prompting, this means two things; it looks like what it’s supposed to and, more importantly, I’ve brought my kids up right.

That’s all for this week – join me next time for more Who-related goodness.

Blobby Aliens

Once again, various external factors have conspired against me to reduce the amount of hobby-time I had available this week, including a stinking cold which is starting to really annoy me.

So whilst I have been able to get some stuff done this week, it’s not a huge amount.

Firstly, I decided to slap some paint on my TARDIS, but the initial blue I chose was not the ‘right’ blue, so resulted in me having to repaint the entire thing a darker shade. As you can see in the picture below, it now looks like it should. Certainly the Third Doctor thinks so, as he’s loitering around outside it, in the hopes that this TARDIS has its dematerialisation circuits intact.

If you look at the windows, you can see the original blue I used, which was a little too light.

Now, one of the good things about Doctor Who, in my opinion, is the aliens. True, the majority of the aliens that appeared in the original series were men in reasonably unconvincing costumes, but no-one can deny that the design of the Daleks was not only iconic, but also different from anything else that had appeared up until that time.

But not all the aliens that have appeared in both the classic series AND the new series are as complicated, design-wise, as the Daleks. The Rutan, from the 1977 Fourth Doctor serial The Horror of Fang Rock was essentially a big green glowing blob, the Ogri from the 1978 serial The Stones of Blood were mobile blood-drinking standing stones and the Vashta Nerada from the 2008 Tenth Doctor two-parter Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead manifested as additional shadows attached to their victims.

The point I’m trying to make here is that if you want Doctor Who aliens, you don’t actually have to buy them. With a bit of ingenuity, you can make your own.

And to prove this, I will show you how.

Back in 1972, the writers on Doctor Who had the bright idea of creating a story where the current incarnation of the Doctor, which was Jon Pertwee, would be joined by his two previous incarnations, played by Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell, to face a foe that required more than one Time Lord to defeat. This story, in a flash of originality, became the 4-part serial The Three Doctors.

Now, the villain of this particular story was the renegade Time Lord Omega, who had created servants out of the anti-matter universe he was occupying and sent them to Earth to kidnap the Doctor. These ‘blobby aliens’ are known as Gel Guards and look like this:

Related image

So, how do you go about making your very own Gel Guards? Well, a while ago I discovered a rather interesting product called Floam. Floam consisted of small airtight tubs, containing a substance that was essentially tiny polystyrene balls in a gel-like medium. This could be moulded into whatever shape your heart desired and, if left out to dry, set hard overnight. The ‘sculptures’ made from this could then be painted, as the Floam would accept standard acrylic paint with no problem. The only slight disadvantage with this substance was that the ‘balls’ were all the same size, so if you wanted to create a shoggoth, for example, you’d need to add additional different sized balls to make it less uniform.

Now, the major stumbling block for all of you is that they apparently don’t make this stuff anymore – not sure why, perhaps children were eating it or something.  However, I found a website that provides a ‘recipe’ for you to make your own, should you be so inclined. Think of it as mouldable polystyrene, but with the little balls going everywhere, so ideal for bulking out large structures, but without increasing their weight.

I had a tub of own-brand ‘Floam’, which I moulded into suitable ‘Gel Guard’ like shapes on 25mm circular plastic bases, then inserted a small faceted bead into the ‘head’ to act as an eye, then left them to dry overnight.

As I had an imperfect recollection of what the ‘Gel Guards’ looked like when I made these, they were then painted bright orange, with yellow eyes. These were then popped in a box and forgotten about.

I came across them recently and decided to repaint them in the correct colours, so gave them an undercoat of white, then painted them gold. I then had terrible issues with trying to find a suitable brown wash – I though Burnt Ochre would work, but it still left them looking too gold. I finally decided to overpaint them with Brown Ink in the hopes that this wouldn’t make them too dark. Once this had dried, I painted in their eyes with GW Imperial Purple, which is actually a dark pink colour and this is as far as I’ve got:

Now, they need a bit more variation on their colouring, with patches of orange and brown, but I do think they’re recognisable as ‘Gel Guards’.

To give a sense of scale in relation to a 28mm figure, here they are next to a Copplestone-sculpted Trooper, who is currently on his way to become a member of UNIT.

“He’s behind you…!”

So, if you’re planning on gaming Doctor Who (or any other sci-fi game), don’t feel you have to limit yourself to ‘official’ figures. Even if you want specific aliens, a little bit of thinking outside the box can get you inexpensive substitutes, the added advantage of which is that you now have something totally unique.

That’s all for this week. Tune in next week for more Doctor Who – what it will be only ‘Who’ knows…

“Definitely a Madman with a Box”

As I mentioned in my last post – Thinking Outside the (Blue) Box – I am now the proud owner of not one, but nine incarnations of the Doctor – First through Seventh, with the Eleventh and Twelfth as well. However, in order for whichever incarnation of the Doctor I decide to use to be able to travel through time and space, I found myself in need of a TARDIS.

Now, there was a time (pun intended) that if you wanted a 28mm model of a police box, you had a variety of options. You could buy one from Fenris Games, Hasslefree Miniatures, Black Cat Bases and best of all, the option of having both an opaque and a transparent one from Ainsty Castings, who also did a TARDIS control console. However, this is no longer the case, and believe me I’ve looked. Whether this is due to ‘cease and desist’ letters being issued or the companies concerned sensing that it would be in their best interests to withdraw their products from the market, I don’t know. The end result is the same – you have very few options left if you want a 28mm TARDIS.

So, Option 1 is to purchase an ‘officially licensed’ TARDIS model from Black Tree Design.

Now, as far as I am aware, the set only comes with the TARDIS and the control console, rather than the figures shown in the image above (or the walls). It’s not the most inspiring of models, but my main problem with this set is the price – it’s £26.49! Even taking advantage of one of Black Tree’s 30% off sales, that’s still eighteen and half quid! Outrageous…

Which brings me on to Option 2 – Reaper Miniatures Bones range. In this range you will find 80037: Telephone Box:

I think we all know what this model is supposed to be and at $4.29, it’s a much more affordable alternative, What’s more, it’s also a nicer model. For those living in the UK, it can be purchased from Miniatures Heroes for £3.66.

However, having blown my gaming budget on Doctors and monsters AND being me, I went for secret Option No. 3 – make your own.

Now, having previously built a small model TARDIS many years ago, which was so good (apparently) that someone decided to steal it, I knew I could make one. However, what I failed to take into account during my initial attempts was that the previous TARDIS was not in scale with 28mm figures, being about one and half times bigger. Which meant that when I attempted to use the same materials and technique for a 28mm scale TARDIS, it didn’t go entirely to plan…

The results of this first attempt were duly consigned to the bin, but I did keep a note of the measurements I’d made. As 1mm Greyboard proved too thick for the particular technique I was planning on using, I cast about for a suitable material and found one in my sketch pad.  This A5 pad is “135gsm Pure White Cartridge Paper”, which is similar in thickness to thin card, and as I had a pad of approximately 50 pages, plenty of ‘material’ available, should I muck it up. I actually only ended up using one sheet…

So, the first thing I did was to transfer my dimensions to the cartridge paper and create the initial internal structure, like so:

After scoring the creases, I used a Pritt stick (other glue sticks are available) to assemble the main ‘box’, which you can see below with the Eleventh Doctor, to give a sense of scale:

Obviously a Type 40 TT Capsule, or TARDIS as it is more commonly known, does have a ‘chameleon circuit’ which allows it to blend in with whatever surroundings it might find itself in, but the ‘uncloaked’ TARDIS are a little less exciting, being essentially a silver column with a door, like below:

Related image

However, it’s still a bit more interesting than my plain white box, so we need to add more detail in order to make it actually look like the TARDIS we all know and love. And this is the fiddly and time-consuming bit…

Having previously marked out four further rectangles the same size as the sides of my box, I marked each of these with eight smaller panels, to represent the panels and windows in each side of the TARDIS. Then using a steel rule and a sharp craft knife, I preceded to cut out these panels, leaving me with the sides as shown below:

You may be wondering why I would go to all this trouble…and about halfway through I was wondering exactly the same thing. However, if you’re going to make a three-dimensional model of a TARDIS, you might as well do it properly, otherwise you might as well just print out a papercraft TARDIS ‘box’ with all the detail printed on…which of course IS another option, should you be inclined that way.

After these side panels were completed, the glue stick came out once more and they were attached to the internal box structure, like so:

And now you can see why I bothered, as it now gives depth to the model. Starting to look a little more TARDIS-like now, isn’t it?

Having referred to my reference material, I then cut four strips of paper the same height as the box, to act as corners, four panels to go just above the ‘doors’ and four further strips to act as the central ‘spine’ down each side. More gluing ensued and the additional detailing was added to the model, like so:

Now, as I was getting close to completing the model, I got a bit excited and didn’t take any further ‘work in progress’ pictures, so you’ll have to imagine the remaining interim stages.

The next step was to add four panels at the top of each side, which is where the ‘Police Public Call Box’ signage will go. As these are thicker than the other features, these were cut from 1mm Greyboard (or Brownboard in this case) and glued on.

As I’d decided to not try and replicate a particular version of the TARDIS (as there have actually been about eight different designs), I referred to various pictures to try and get a sense of what I wanted MY TARDIS to look like, utilising the materials I had to hand.

The next step was to add a square of 2mm Greyboard onto the roof, to provide a ‘stepped’ roof. This looked fine, but the next and final ‘step’ on the roof needed to be taller and shaped. A rummage through my bits box uncovered an unused 25mm square slottabase with angled sides, which was duly dry-fitted and turned out to be exactly what I needed. I widened the slot in the exact centre of the base slightly, then covered this with a square of cartridge paper, with a circular hole in its centre. This was then glued into place with superglue.

Into this hole was inserted an appropriate length of transparent plastic tube (could have been a cotton bud stem or an empty ballpoint pen tube – the amount of bits I keep “because they could be useful” is staggering…), which was then super-glued into place. To finish the whole thing off, a GW plastic ‘shield boss’, after filing down, was added as a cap to the roof light.

The final touch was to glue the whole structure to a 40mm square GW base and this is what I ended up with:

And to give a better view of the roof, here’s an overhead view:

Not bad for an evening’s work and the only thing it cost me was time, which is appropriate given the subject matter. All that needs to be done now is to paint it and print out suitable signage for the illuminated panels and external phone door. Thinking about it, I may need to insert a further panel where the external phone door will be, as I think this is not as recessed as the other panels. Oh, and add a door handle.

That’s all for this week, but there will be more Doctor Who goodness next time. The Master is a bit miffed that I’ve only built a TARDIS for the Doctor, so I’ll probably have to build him one to, unless I want to end up on the wrong end of his Tissue Compression Eliminator.

Thinking Outside The (Blue) Box

A quick apology to those who’ve been visiting this site and not found any new content over the last couple of weeks. January always seems to be rather busy for me and I’ve not had much opportunity to indulge myself hobby-wise. On those occasions that I did, things didn’t go quite as planned, so  rather than post for the sake of it, I thought I’d wait until I’d actually got something to post about.

So, the focus of my blog for the next couple of weeks (or possibly months), as you may have guessed from the title, is Doctor Who miniature gaming. As I took advantage of Black Tree Design‘s 30% off sale on their Doctor Who line, I am now the proud owner of the first seven Doctors, as well as the Roger Delgado version of the Master. Then they went and extended the sale…

So, I now have additionally winging their merry way to me a set of seven classic Daleks (including a Special Weapons Dalek), a Cyberleader to join my Games Workshop Cybermen, an Ice Warrior and Aggedor, the Monster of Peladon – because who doesn’t need a big hairy monster with a horn? And for those of you not familiar with this character, here he is:

Image result for aggedor

Ah, bless…

Now, you might be currently thinking to yourself, “Actually, I quite fancy the idea of doing a bit of Doctor Who gaming, but I don’t have any suitable figures or rules…” and this is where the title of this post comes from.

Whilst it’s nice to have every version of the Doctor and all his iconic baddies (and those funky weird ones, like Aggedor), you don’t actually need them to do a bit of Doctor Who-esque gaming.

As far back as 1965, we were introduced to another renegade Time Lord, specifically the character who became know as the Meddling Monk, played by Peter Butterworth. Here was another Time Lord interfering with the course of history who had his own Tardis – on which the Chameleon Circuit actually worked. Then in the 1969 adventure The War Games, we were introduced to another renegade Time Lord, the War Chief. Then in 1971, The Master turned up, followed by the Rani in 1985. Even if you’re a fan purely of the new series, the 2011 episode The Doctor’s Wife introduced us to a character called the Corsair, another renegade Time Lord and friend of the Doctor, who had unfortunately already fallen foul of the entity known as House.

My point is that just because you currently haven’t got a miniature of Jon Pertwee or David Tennant, this doesn’t mean that you haven’t got a figure in your collection that could be a Time Lord.

Take this figure, for example;

This is 0763 Eccentric Individual from Moonraker Miniatures, available from their website for £1.50. A suitable ‘eccentric’ paint job and you’ve now got yourself your very own Time Lord, whose sobriquet you can come up with yourself.

Similarly, as Doctor Who has introduced us to a vast array of alien races, if you have some alien miniatures, or even some of the more weird and wonderful D&D monsters, you’ve got yourself some ‘aliens’.

The other wonderful thing about gaming in the Doctor Who universe is that you have no restrictions on time or place. If you’re primarily a historical gamer, it doesn’t matter which period of history you prefer and collect, you already have the rest of your cast for your Time Lord to interact with. The same applies for pulp, modern or science fiction gamers.

Basically, all you need to game in the Doctor Who universe is a Time Lord, his Tardis (which could be anything, if the Chameleon Circuit is working), an alien threat of some description, a supporting cast of locals and some scenery and terrain. Which is probably stuff you’ve already got.

“Okay, you’ve convinced us,” I hear you cry, “but what rules should we use?”

Well, as Warlord Games official “Doctor Who – Into the Time Vortex” miniature gaming rules have failed to materialise yet (see what I did there?), probably your best bet is the 7TV rules from Crooked Dice, either 1st or 2nd Edition. The profile for the ‘Unearthly Traveller’ from 7TV2 basically IS the Doctor and you can find a profile card to match most, if not all, of the various monsters, aliens, allies and companions that you could want.

Another option would be a copy of the original, unlicenced “Doctor Who Miniatures Game” which was the first published ruleset by Crooked Dice, and was available free to download on the Internet. Obviously, these have now been removed, so you will have to find someone who has a copy lurking on their hard disk and is willing to send them to you. After an extensive search, it would appear my own copy has vanished into the Time Vortex. I blame the Master…

I, of course, will be using my own rules The Way of the Crow, of which the basic rules were introduced back in June of last year (here, here and here). This year will see the completion and collation of these rules, and they will then be available to download from here for FREE!  Previews of the rules in action for gaming Doctor Who will appear on my blog as AARs, so you can get a feel of how they work.

So, during the next couple of months, you will see a variety of Doctor Who figures, both official and seconded, along with some classic and Nu-Who monsters cunningly fashioned from easily available resources and some AARs featuring the above as I fine-tune my rules.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to build a scale model of a quarry…

Stocking Chillers

Whilst the Christmas period is more commonly associated with festive cheer, overindulgence on comestibles both solid and liquid and the time-honoured tradition of acknowledging distant friends and relatives who you haven’t talked to or thought about for the previous twelve months, for me, Christmas is also about…the Ghost Story.

Of course, I am not alone in this, as the earliest and most well-known Christmas story (after that one about the homeless couple giving birth in a shed, that is) is the tale penned in 1843 by a certain Mr Charles Dickens, namely “A Christmas Carol”.

Or to give it its full title “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas”.

And the ‘tradition’ has continued down through the years. Montague Rhodes James was best known for his ghost stories, many of which were written as Christmas Eve entertainments read aloud to friends whilst he was at King’s College, Cambridge.

A similar tradition was upheld by the Canadian author Robertson Davies, whose collection High Spirits (1982), was made up of eighteen ghost stories he himself wrote and told at the annual Christmas party at Massey College, Toronto. If you like your ghost stories to have a little bit of tongue in their cheek, this collection is for you.

However, whilst there have been many unsettling supernatural tales written over the years, not many of them were actually about Christmas. Yes, they may have been set amongst snowy climes, such as August Derleth’s wonderful 1939 tale “The Drifting Snow”, but that was merely the set dressing.

As a connoisseur of things both Christmassy and macabre, I set out to find tales that fell solidly into both camps. A tale that you can read online, which I believe has never been published, is “Anti-Claus” by Graham Masterton, who is better known for his Dream Warriors trilogy. This explains the real story of Santa Claus – and he’s definitely more naughty than nice. Additionally, in Neil Gaiman’s 1999 short story collection Smoke and Mirrors, you will find “Nicholas Was…”, a short tale and unsettling explanation of Father Christmas and in Terry Pratchett’s 2012 A Blink of the Screen you will find “Twenty Pence, With Envelope and Seasonal Greeting”, which explains why you should justly fear Christmas cards…

Which actually brings me on to the ‘meat’ of this post. When I was younger, one of the banes of my existence was the annual writing of Christmas cards, as my mother insisted that each of us children should write and send a card to our various relatives. The usual fracas would happen as we each tried to secure the ‘best’ cards out of the bargain box of fifty and, although I was the oldest and biggest, I always seemed to end up with the crap ones. You know the ones – the ghastly festive candle, the Victorian carol singers or the pastel-shaded Nativity scenes.

Being of a mischievous and inventive nature, I decided to…improve…these cards, by adding captions and speech bubbles, to make them less crap. Whilst this didn’t last with my relatives (apparently some of the more strongly religious felt I was putting my immortal soul in jeopardy by “mocking the celebration of the birth of Our Lord”), I continued this with friends until I left school.

As I was preparing to send out cards this year to some of my blogging colleagues, I had a bit of brainwave. As I dabble in short stories, would it be possible to write a short story in the limited space available on the inside cover of a Christmas card, inspired by the terrible cards of my youth, that was both Christmassy and slightly unsettling? I set myself this challenge, with the images of Christmas Cards Past to guide me, and succeeded. The problem, I discovered, was that whilst the stories I had written fit nicely within the assigned space, they don’t make those sort of cards anymore…

So, the cards (and tales) were dispatched, but without the correct images. So, to rectify this flaw in my otherwise extremely cunning plan (and to share them with a wider audience) I present my three (very) short tales, but now with the relevant images.

I hope that you enjoy them, as I spread a little festive cheer fear.

Image result for Father Christmas cards

Once he’d been Grim – Now he was ‘Jolly’. Once he’d been showered with gifts – now he gave gifts to others. Once he’d had a steed with eight legs – now he had ‘eight tiny reindeer‘. Once he’d been worshipped, yet feared, by an entire nation – now he was believed in and loved by every child in the World…

Upon reflection, it wasn’t all bad.

And at least they’d let him keep the beard… 

Image result for candle Christmas cards

“As long as you eat by the light of this candle, you will never grow fat.” She held it out. “But only when you eat, understand?” He grunted and took the ugly thing, willing to try anything. However, it worked – he could consume as much as he desired by the light of the candle, never gaining any additional weight. In fact, he discovered, if the candle was left to burn for a few moments after he had finished eating, he actually lost weight! Which gave him an idea…

When the Police broke in, they found the smoking remnants of a candle and a corpse which appeared to have too much skin, yet not an ounce of fat…

Image result for coach Christmas cards

The coachman was the first. Concerned for the horses, he had stepped into the night and rather than the moonlight bleaching colour from him, it seemed to intensify it, making him look almost…artificial. As he approached the coach, his movements slowed, as though wading through treacle, until they faltered completely, next to the now un-moving horses.

One by one, each passenger rose silently and left the inn, flaring brightly under that terrible moonlight, then locking into place.

I am the only one left…but I feel it calling me. How long before I too join that frozen tableaux, like an insect trapped in amber for all Eternity?

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Fright Night!

You Look Like You Need a Doctor…

This week, I’ve been mostly drawing snowmen…

Due to agreeing to help with the ‘best decorated Christmas area’ competition at work this week, I found my ‘spare’ time being consumed by drawing cartoon snowmen to populate a frieze (or should that be ‘freeze’) for the wall. This, of course, meant that whilst I was being arty and creative, it wasn’t hobby-focused, so no further progress has been made on the figures I showed you last week.

But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to show you, as I’ve been venturing once more into the wilds of the Internet and have discovered a few choice items, all related to my current focus – Doctor Who.

Now, we all know that Warlord Games have managed to secure the official licence to make Doctor Who figures and that certain manufacturers have received ‘Cease & Desist’ letters regarding miniatures they produce that were inspired by or resemble characters or creatures from the series. We also know that the Warlord Games Who figures are not 28mm, which means that they won’t fit in with majority of the figures I own.

However, all is not lost for the 28mm Who gamer, as I will now show you.

Okay, first up is obviously Black Tree Design, who produce the original Harlequin range of Doctor Who figures, which run from William Hartnell’s incarnation right up to Paul McGann’s – so 1st through 8th Doctor. Their licence to produce these figures appears to still be in place and they have a wide selection of characters and monsters, including the Peter Cushing movie Doctor and companions. The sculpting varies in accuracy and quality, with some being less convincing than others. However, they do provide at least one additional version of each Doctor from the 1st to the 7th, with the exception of Colin Baker’s incarnation, which only gets the one. The other bonus with Black Tree is that they run weekly sales, in which at least one or two of each Doctor’s sub-ranges has a discount, so if you’re after characters from a specific era of Classic Who, it might be worth waiting until that particular range is on offer.

In the previous post, Back to the Future, I featured the Retro Sci-Fi range from Miniature Figurines, which has a rather nice version of Peter Cushing’s movie Doctor and the spin-off character Abslom Daak, so follow the link for fuller details on that.

And waaaay back in December of last year, during the Ghostbusters Project, I flagged up this miniature from Ironclad Miniatures:

This is Dr How, from their 28m Victorian Sci-fi range, retailing at £3.00.  Whilst to me he looks more like Parker from ‘Thunderbirds’ than the 1st Doctor, it does give you another option.

Of course, everything I’ve shown you so far is from the ‘Classic’ era of who, so if you want characters and creatures from Nu-Who, where do you go?

The 2005 9th Doctor two-parter Aliens of London/World War Three introduced the Slitheen to the Whoniverse – large, bug-eyed, clawed hunting aliens, who could disguise themselves as humans by compressing themselves into ‘skin-suits’. A creation of then-showrunner Russell T Davies, they were used and re-used in both the first series of Nu-Who and also in Sarah Jane Adventures, although these were yellow ones called Blathereen. Not one of my favourite Nu-Who inventions, but the 28mm Who gamer might want some, so should pay a visit to C P Models, who have five variations of their big-eyed alien at £1.65 each, or £6.00 for four.

They even do a ‘youngling’ at £1.00.

In series three, a Paul Cornell 7th Doctor novel called Human Nature, was adapted for the 10th Doctor, in which the Doctor was hiding out at an Edwardian boys boarding school, having placed the majority of his memories and Timelord-ness into a pocket watch via a device called a ‘chameleon arch’, making him, for all intents and purposes, human. The reason for this was that he was being tracked by The Family of Blood, a group of aliens who wanted to steal his Timelord essence for themselves. These aliens possessed various local humans in an effort to locate the Doctor and animated scarecrows to act as minions.

If you want to replicate this 2007 two-parter, which featured a battle between armed Edwardian schoolboys and the aforementioned scarecrows AND have the entire supporting cast, pop along to Gripping Beast, who under the Woodbine Design Company Specials range, have four sets of figures, each containing 4 figures, at £6.00 each.

TWDCSP07 Squire and family (4)

TWDCSP08 Schoolmaster set (4)

They even do the scarecrows…

TWDCSP10 Scary Scarecrows (4)

Plus if you need some armed or unarmed Morris Men for the 1971 Jon Pertwee serial The Daemons (or for any other reason, for that matter), they do them too.

Finally, we move on the 11th incarnation of the Doctor and some of his foes. During the 2011 two-parter The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People, we were introduced to the “Gangers” – doppelgänger made from ‘programmable matter’ controlled by their progenitor and used for hazardous work. Of course, something went wrong and they became independent and attempted to kill and replace their ‘originals’.  As they became more fanatical, their matter deformed, turning them into monsters.

To populate your tabletop with some Gangers, we need to turn to Attica Games, who within their ‘Shiver’ range, have the Plastic Population;

Attica Games: - The Plastic Population - jpeg image

£3.50 each or £6.00 for a pack of two, although some of the bigger figures are a little more expensive.

Matt Smith’s Doctor also had to contend with the Silence during 2011, who first appeared in the Series 6 opener The Impossible Astronaut. Whilst Warlord Games do a pack of three Silence for £11.99, they are not the most dynamic of poses, not really conveying the creepiness of this race. However, Attica Games also have the ESPchers:

Attica Games: - The ESPchers - jpeg image

£4.00 each, £10.00 for a pack of three or £17.00 for all six. So a similar price to the Warlord Games ones, but certainly more creepy.

As far as I am aware, all of these figures have so far managed to stay off the BBC’s radar, but that may not last, so if you want them I’d order sooner rather than later.

Hopefully my next post will show some progress on the figures I featured last week, but as Christmas is creeping ever closer, I’m not entirely sure when that will be.

So Merry Christmas to All, and to All A Good Night!

It’s About Time…

Knowing that I had a second evening to myself this week, I contemplated the many possibilities that such a ‘gift’ could be utilised for. Do I finish watching Jessica Jones on Netflix, as I’m woefully behind on my Marvel tv? Watch the last episode of the rather good Doctor Who spin-off – Class? Or possibly add some more pigment to some of my miniatures?

As the rest of the weekend was going to be a washout, hobby-wise, I thought the best use of my time would be to update my loyal readers on what I’m currently doing and what I have planned over the coming weeks.

So, having made a few purchases at Warfare at the end of November, I got around to basing them and giving them an undercoat and a touch of colour. Here are the first three in the painting queue;

So, starting from the left, we have a Heroclix Jackal from the Web of Spider-Man subset. As this is a particularly bestial version of the character and reminds me of the vampires from Penny Dreadful, he will become some form of undead predator – perhaps a ghoul or feral vampire.

Next up we have Mad Jim Jones from the Black Scorpion Pirates range, who is currently on his way to becoming Bastian Stone, a rogue, scoundrel and implacable foe on the undead, who will, once finished, be winging his way across to Ireland to feature in a Ravenloft campaign run by the estimable owners of The Game Cupboard blog.

On the far right, we have a Butler from Moonraker Miniatures’ Investigators range, who will become the first character for my Carry on Screaming! project, namely Sockett the butler, played by Bernard Bresslaw.

Now, I’ve always wanted a ‘headless horseman’ figure, and whilst several companies do them, Rapier Miniatures one is only £3.00, so I snaffled him up. Here he is:

Maybe not the most dynamic figure, but it’s a good solid and nicely detailed figure. And unlike some of the other offerings, he’s actually carrying his own head, as can be seen below:

Looks pretty pissed off, doesn’t he? And yes, the horse is currently blue…but won’t stay that way. Did I mention it’s only £3.00?

As regular readers will know, I like double use titles, and the second use of this title relates to the next batch of figures in my painting queue, namely some Timelords…

So, at either end we have the 3rd and 12th incarnation of the Doctor, from the sadly retired Crooked Dice range, with Heresy Miniatures Steve Buddle sculpt of the 11th Doctor in the centre, also out of production.

As far as I’m concerned, these are the definitive versions of these characters in 28mm, as they look like the actors concerned. And whilst they may not be ‘officially licenced’, at least they match the scale of the rest of my figures, unlike Warlord Games’ offerings.

And if you have Timelords, you need baddies, so here are those that have made it into the painting queue so far:

Could those be a couple of the original plastic Games Workshop Cybermen, released waaaaay back in 1987? I do believe they are! I have a handful more of these, which I’m planning on slightly converting, as the figures only came in the one pose and are all carrying the same…weapon? truncheon? something bought at Ann Summers? I will have to do a little bit of research on this, as I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to be.

The figure in the centre is a Heroclix Cardinal Raker from the Galactic Guardians subset. I removed his silly two-pronged sword and replaced it with a ‘chronostaff’ made from a length of paperclip and a small bead. He will end up as a renegade Timelord, in the vein of Omega, as his outfit does resemble the ornate ceremonial robes of the Timelords, but without the peripheral vision blocking big collars.

So, expect to see these progress over the coming weeks, accompanied by some more retro-sci-fi goodness, including both blobby and non-blobby aliens and hopefully some suitable terrain, which definitely won’t be a quarry…

Back to the Future – Part II

Should you own a copy of 7TV (or indeed 7TV2e) or just have a hankering to recreate the adventures of your favourite spy-fi or science fiction shows of the 1970’s, your first port of call in respect of suitable miniatures would be Crooked Dice. With their range of figures, you can adventure in the fictional worlds of Blake’s 7, Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, Captain Scarlet, Life on Mars, James Bond, Austin Powers or Danger 5.

Sadly, you can no longer populate your tabletop with figures resembling characters from Doctor Who. For that, you’ll have to go to Warlord Games and their ‘officially licenced’ range…

If the spy-fi aspect of this genre appeals to more than the science fiction part, you also have the option of the ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ ranges, produced by both Artisan Designs and Copplestone Castings respectively.

However, if the Science Fiction aspect appeals more, whilst Crooked Dice’s range is quite comprehensive, there are a few characters missing. It’s all very well giving us Cylons, but we can’t recreate Battlestar Galactica without some Colonials as well.

Luckily for you, my unending search for the ‘right’ figure on the Internet has turned up some more hidden gems. So, buckle your seat-belt and accelerate to 88mph, as we travel Back to the Future once more. However, be warned, this post may have you reaching for your wallet…

As regular followers will know, I’m a big fan of the original Ghostbusters movie and it’s sequel, and found that the recent 2016 ‘reboot’ failed to crap all over my childhood, so the fact that Crooked Dice produces a variety of Ghostbusters of both sexes makes me happy. However, 9 years before the release of Ghostbusters, in 1975, the children of America were exposed to the exploits of ‘The Ghost Busters’, a trio of bumbling paranormal investigators who used their ‘ghost dematerializers’ to defeat supernatural threats to their city. The trio was made up of Kong, Spencer and Tracy, who was a gorilla. Yes, you read that right.

The series was quite popular and ran for 15 episodes, but wasn’t quite popular enough to be renewed for a second season. Whilst I was aware of the series, due to the fact the Columbia had to pay its producers for the right to use the name Ghostbusters for their movie, I’ve never actually seen the show. However, I do know what the main characters look like.

Whilst hunting for Teen Angels, I paid a visit to Nexus Miniatures website, who you may be familiar with due to their Super Dinosaur Zombie Apocalypse range of figures, which includes Battlestar Galactica Colonials, the visitors from V and Mulder and Scully from The X-Files. It would appear that since my last visit, they’ve been rather busy and I was delighted to find these on their site:

The Real Ghost-Facers

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, it is our intrepid and original Ghost Busters. Currently, they are priced at £11.45 for the three, as part of a pre-order deal, with the price going up to £13.50 once they are on general release, which appears to be in the second quarter of next year.

Impressed with the sculpting, I perused the remainder of the catalogue and found some more familiar faces…

The New Defenders (Major John Colt, Mike Chicane, and Patti Pretty)

Whilst these are listed as the ‘New Defenders’, I think we can all recognise that these might actually be Avengers rather than Defenders. £12.50 at the moment, rising to £13.50 when on general release.

And whilst Crooked Dice may have one Tomorrow Person, Nexus Miniatures have a full set…

The Morrow Men

Currently £16.50 for the four, rising to £18.00 when on general release.

Finally, the set that almost made me reach for my own wallet, which is very unlike me.

Future Force

Could it be the bird-costumed defenders of the Earth known as G-Force? I think it could! Currently £20.00 for the five, rising to £22.50 once on general release. And you can’t have G-Force without their enemy, Zoltar.

Sub-Finem & Imperatorem - Machine Empire Commanders

Or the ubiquitous masked goons.

Equitum Troopers of the Machine Empire

Now, all these miniatures were sculpted by the very talented Carl Stoelzel, of Stoelzel’s Structures fame. Looks like card models are not his only forte. From what I can gather, the pre-order prices apply to the figures they currently have in stock, prior to the general release of these next year, so if you want them at these prices, I suggest you get ’em quick. Think of it an early Christmas present to yourself.

The Nexus Miniatures site is well worth a look, as they also have Varian from The Fantastic Journey (him with the ‘tuning fork’ weapon), all the ‘interdimensional operatives’ from Sapphire & Steel and, oddly, the cast of Gilligan’s Island.

So, now that the retro sci-fi bug has bitten me, expect some Doctors, aliens and scenery over the coming weeks here at the Buffet, along with a few leftovers from The Long Halloween…

Edit: Apparently, according to WordPress, this is my 100th post. Go me!