View from the Crow’s Nest – September

Whilst I know it’s not strictly September yet, as it’s Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK and the weather, as usual, is pretty miserable plus I’m currently in my wife’s good books, I thought I’d take the opportunity to produce my monthly statement of intent a day early.

As previously mentioned, I’ve managed to tempt Roger Webb into another round of Masters of the Universe conversions, so future posts for this month will feature my efforts, whilst Roger’s far superior versions can be viewed on his blog – Rantings from Under the Wargames Table.

However, as the conversions I will be attempting this month are not quite as straightforward as last time, I am only going to pledge three completed figures from the Masters of the Universe franchise this time around.

So, who’s on the cards? Well, when the Masters of the Universe toy range came out, they only released four action figures in the initial wave, namely He-Man, Skeletor, Man-at-Arms and Beast Man. As I was (and probably still am) a proud owner of the last character and have already produced versions of the other three, it seemed a relatively easy decision to try to have a go at Beast Man.

However, not having a suitable figure for conversion, it was time to scour the internet to try to find a relatively inexpensive proxy. It took me a while, but I eventually found this little beauty, the Bugbear Beserker from the Dungeon Command and D&D Miniatures range:

Pretty much already there – just needs the axe replaced with a whip, a suitable paint job and we will have my version of Beast Man.

Number Two will be Fisto, another heroic warrior, whose right hand has been replaced with a giant mechanical fist, hence the name. I’d already found a suitable proxy for this, namely the Mammoth character from the DC Heroclix line;

The advantages of this figure were that; 1) He’s got a beard and, 2) his outfit resembles that of Fisto. Obviously, we need to replace his normal hand with a big mechanical hand and he needs a belt and some hairy pants (or shorts, if you’re Stateside), but other than that, I think he’ll be relatively straightforward.

However, Number 3 is the one that’s going to be a poser, as I am attempting to recreate Orko from a “dolly” I’ve cobbled together from a GW plastic skeleton, which I’m intending to sculpt the requisite detail onto. This is how far I’ve got so far:


“But Jez”, I hear you cry, “Other than the straps you added to your He-Man proxy, we have no evidence that you can sculpt…” Exactly, which is why I’ve given my self a bit of extra time this month. However, this won’t be my first attempt at creating a figure from scratch – way back in 2006 I wanted a particular miniature, which no-one made, so had a go at making my own. Here he is:


Yes, it’s the crytozoological critter known as Mothman. Here’s another shot of his rear:


More recently, I had a go at sculpting a ‘classic’ ghost, as the one’s that were commercially available weren’t quite “Scooby-Doo”-ish for me;


Based on the above, I have a feeling that the major figure manufacturers won’t be hammering on my door, offering me commissions…

Anyway, that’s the plan for September, so feel free to visit both here and Roger’s site to see how we’re progressing. It should be entertaining and may inspire you, certainly in my case, to do better!

Comments and feedback appreciated, as always.

Safe as (Store) Houses…

In the spirit of the final post for Oriental Fantasy month, I present the topic of this week’s post in the form of a haiku;

Sweet little kura

how can you protect my grain

when you have no door?

As the initial impetus for Oriental Fantasy month was painting a Bushi Buntai to oppose my Nezumi (re-purposed Jes Goodwin Skaven, which I will get round to painting at some point), I needed a reason for them to fight. Rats eat grain and, in medieval Japan, grain (amongst other things) was stored in storehouses known as kura.

Japanese dwellings had limited storage space and were constructed mainly from wood, so to limit losses caused by fire, essential foodstuffs and important personal possessions were stored in separate buildings, built far enough away from the homestead to prevent the spread of fire. The greater your possessions, the larger your kura, so this was a good way to tell who was the most affluent in the village.

So, needing a kura, I did some research online and found Oshiro Modelterrain, who do a lovely range of 28mm Japanese buildings. However, I also found this article on the Mura Miniatures site, on how to construct 28mm Japanese buildings. As the amount of materials I had to hand far outweighed my hobby budget for the month, I decided to use the images from Oshiro and the tutorial from Mura and have a go at making my own. And this is what I came up with:


The four walls are 5mm foamboard, with mitred corners, so cut from one continuous piece with a single join. The lower parts of the walls were than clad with lengths of “hobby wood” (no idea what this stuff is – it’s not balsa) for the frames provided by a friend, which were then filled with cut lengths of coffee stirrers provided by McDonalds. The top half of the walls were then covered with a ‘sample’ of textured wallpaper kindly provided by my local DIY.

Originally the roof was going to be removable, but as I was having ‘issues’ (i.e. it wouldn’t bloody work the way I wanted it to) with the structure, I decided to glue it in place. This ridge is another length of hobby wood, the supports are more coffee stirrers and the actual roof is made from an insulated cup holder (i.e. single-sided corrugated cardboard) provided by Starbucks.

So, other than the foamboard, everything else used to construct this building was FREE!

Once I’d built it, I decided that the front of the building looked a little bare compared to the other four walls, as they had the high windows associated with this kind of structure (used for ventilation). Having squirreled away a metal tag/medallion that had been worn by a chocolate rabbit from Aldi and remembering the Japanese folk tale regarding Tsuki no usagi, the Moon Rabbit, I decided to use this as a decorative plaque above the door. Rather than leave it in its natural brassy colour, I was inspired to attempt to paint it to resemble jade, inspired by this object;


This was a gift from my mother, who I believe was trying to assuage her guilt in spending my inheritance cruising up and down the Yellow River in China with the rest of the Saga-Nauts.

The corrugated card roof was scored with a metal ruler, in attempt to resemble courses of tiles, then painted with GW Marine Dark Blue, then GW Blue Ink. This was to try to give the impression of glazed porcelain tiles.

The wood had several coats of a GW brown, whose name has been lost to the mists of time, and the walls were painted with Docrafts Linen. And this is what it looks like now:


And here’s a close-up of the plaque;


However, as the haiku above notes, it has no door, so it’s not the most secure of buildings…

To finish off Oriental Fantasy month, I thought I’d provide a group shot of the figures I’ve actually finished;


So, a male and female Oni, an Onryo, a Jorogumo, a Basan, a Kyonshi and a Ryu, which have all had the final detail added to them (including eyes! Finally managed to successfully do this. Hoorah!). The Bushi Buntai that started this all off is still waiting a few final details, as are the Kitsune  and Tengu conversions, but I’ve run out of time!

Next month I’ll be returning to Eternia, or R-Eternia as I like to call it, and will once again be joined by Roger Webb over at Rantings from Under the Wargames Table. We will be attempting, once again, to recreate iconic characters from the Masters of the Universe franchise, with varying degrees of success. If you want to see our earlier attempts, take a look at our posts from July, which was officially dubbed “He-Month”.

Thanks for visiting. Comments and feedback appreciated, as always.

A Fistful of Yen

As this week’s post does not have a specific theme, other than a continuation of Oriental Fantasy month here at the buffet, and contains a handful of different figures, I settled on the above title.

Our first port of call this week is to check the current status of the Ronin Buntai that started the ball rolling on this whole project. When we first saw the Buntai back in July, they looked like this:


At the end of July, due to a visit to Eternia, they only looked like this:


Now that I’m focusing on one theme, I’ve managed to get some more paint onto them, and they’re almost finished and look like this:


A bit more detail, including the Clan Mon on the Ashigaru’s helmets, and I feel they will be done.

Now, on various threads on The Miniatures Page, I have been promising to show my Tengu conversion, so here it is:


Only kidding… This is actually a rebased and repainted plastic rooster, appropriated from a box of toys that my children no longer play with. What’s it doing here, you may ask, as surely it has no place in Oriental Fantasy month? Actually, it does.

As I have said in previous posts, Japanese Myth is full of weird and wonderful creatures, including what the figure above has been painted to resemble, namely the Basan. You can read more about this creature here, but basically it’s a giant, spectral fire-breathing chicken. When I showed this to a friend of mine, he burst out laughing, then decided it should be named Kerrogg the Basan, due to its resemblance to a certain corporate mascot.

Okay, having digressed slightly, this is actually my Tengu conversion:


As I’ve opined in several threads regarding this, the commercially available Tengu figures do not convey what I think a Tengu should look like. Whilst I’m aware that Tengu can look like winged, long-nosed humanoids, I prefer my mythical beasties to look a little more beast-like. As the bird or birdman form of the Tengu are based on raptors, specifically the kite, this should be represented in the figures. Unfortunately, for some reason, the commercially available Tengu have beaks that resemble blackbirds or chickens. Not wanting a Tengu that looked like an Orientalised version of Foghorn Leghorn, I decided to make my own.

The observant amongst you will no doubt realise that the base figure for this is a GW Kroot. Once I’d selected the relevant body parts, to this was added a robe made from a piece of PVA saturated cleaning wipe, which gives a rough fabric look to his robe. A GW Tyranid bonesword supplied the blade to his katana and the wings were sourced from a plastic vulture, which I believe came with a 3 3/4″ G.I.Joe figure. A lick of paint and we have a Tengu that meets my vision of what one should look like. Needs a little more detailing to finish him off, but he’s almost there.

Our final figure is another re-purposed vampire from West Wind Productions. Amongst their Vampire Wars range is a pack called Ancient Vampire from Across Time. This pack contains 4 miniatures, each depicting a vampire from different periods of history. You get a Roman vampire, Egyptian vampire (both pictured on the site), a Colonial vampire and an Oriental Vampire, which is the one I’ve used. Here he is:


Whilst Japanese myth doesn’t specifically have vampires, they have borrowed the Jiangshi, also known as the Chinese Hopping Vampire, from China and renamed it the Kyonshi.  Unlike the standard pose of these creatures, which usually have outstretched arms, this one has his arms crossed across his chest.

The problem I had with this particular figure is that, compared to my other miniatures, he’s quite short. So I decided to mount him on a transparent plastic washer, so as to increase his height, the idea being that this would make him appear to be floating. It didn’t – it made him look like he was standing on a perspex podium. My next idea was to use a dyed pipe cleaner to create a ring of mist, so it looked like he was rising from the fog. This, unfortunately, also did not work out how I’d anticipated. Luckily, I remembered an article I’d read on the Irrational Number Line Games site…

If you have a spare hour or so, go and browse the Idea Archive on this site, as it’s well worth a visit and you will no doubt pick up a few ideas that are worth…borrowing…for your own projects. The specific article I’d read was this one,  detailing various pose conversions of the character Hellboy. However, I was more interested in the scenic elements he’d used for his ‘fire-walking’ variant.

Long story short, the mystical green flames surrounding the base of the vampire above was created using translucent silicone bathroom sealant. A thinnish ring of the stuff was piped around the base, which I’d already painted in a pale sickly green. Using a toothpick, I then teased the sealant up into flame-like shapes, being careful not to get any of it on the figure. I then left it to dry overnight, then dry-brushed the resultant rubbery flames with the same colour I’d painted the base. And voila! my Kyonshi now looks like he’s rising from a ring of mystical green flame.

I was quite surprised how well this came out and am now considering what else I could use it for. A couple of broken toothpicks painted to resemble a campfire, with a blob of this teased up and dry-brushed with regular fire colours is the first thing that sprints to mind, but should anyone else try this technique, I’d love to see what you come up with.

Thanks for visiting – comments and feedback appreciated, as always.

Deadlier Than the Male

I’m a big fan of pre-painted plastic miniatures, as they’re readily available to buy as singles, easy to re-paint and convert and, best of all, they’re pretty damn cheap. However, as the majority of them are aligned to either fantasy or superhero gaming, you would think they would not provide much in the way of suitable figures for Oriental Fantasy month here at the Buffet. However, this is not the case…

As part of the Indy Heroclix range, several subsets were included depicting characters from various independent comics set in fictional ‘oriental’ realities, such as the Kabuki comic by David Mack and the Shi comic by William Tucci. Whilst the majority of these characters were female and display a little more flesh than is customary for medieval Japanese characters, they are still of use with a little ingenuity. Combine this with the handful of Oriental-themed characters lurking amongst the DC and Marvel Heroclix ranges, such as the Silver Samurai, Elektra, Hand ninjas, Katana, Samuroid, etc. and you have a good selection of cheap figures to populate your table.

As so far Oriental Fantasy month has been more Yang than Yin, it’s time to get in touch with our feminine side…

Our first figure, whilst still monstrous, is definitely female, being the Leech Troll from the MageKnight CMG.

Whilst I’m not completely au fait with the background for MageKnight trolls, from looking at the figure, I know that she’s big, muscular, horned and red.  Pretty much the definition of an Oni, in my book. After re-basing and re-painting, including a reasonable attempt at re-creating tiger-skin for her clothing (as Oni’s are famous for wearing this), this is the result;


A touch more detailing and she’ll join my male Oni (see Oni the Lonely) as an additional threat to the human inhabitants of Mythical Japan.

Next we have Yukio from the Indy Heroclix range. It took me a little bit of digging to find out where this character came from – apparently she’s from the CrossGen title The Path, which is set in a fictional Japanese-themed world:

I had been craving this figure for a while, with no real idea what I was going to use it for. However, when the Mythical Creatures supplement for Ronin came out, I realised that to be able to use all the creatures listed, I would need physical representations of them. Yukio, with her monstrous right hand and spiky hair, seemed the ideal choice for the human form of the Jorogumo. For those of you not familiar with this creature, it is a giant spider that can assume the form of a beautiful maiden, in order to seduce, bind and devour unsuspecting mortals. The kanji for Jorogumo can be written two ways, the first meaning ‘binding bride’, the second meaning ‘whore spider’ – lovely.

As this is quite an unassuming figure, other than the deformed hand, I needed a way to indicate that this was a Jorogumo, so noting that the Jorogumo is also the name of an actual spider native to Japan (Nephila clavata) with a rather distinctive colour-scheme, I decided to replicate this on the kimono of the figure:

JorogumoAs with the Oni above, still needs a little detailing and shading to finish her off and I still need a suitable giant spider miniature to depict “her” in “her” more monstrous form.

Next we have Lady Deathstrike, from the Marvel Heroclix Wolverine and the X-Men sub-set:

Whilst this is not the only version of this character released as a Heroclix miniature, it is the character’s most oriental-themed costume. Re-based and re-painted and she is Lady Deathstrike no more, but now a Kitsune:


Unlike the remainder of my female Orientals, who all have lustrous black hair, my kitsune has hair painted to resemble the fur of a fox, complete with white tip. This immediately gives a visual clue, along with the distressingly long finger-nails, that all is not as it seems with this female warrior…

Our final female hails from West Wind Productions, and is a female vampire from their Vampire Wars range, purchased for an aborted Victorian horror project. The figure was depicted wearing a long, low-cut dress and brandishing a cavalry sabre. The filing down of the hand guard and re-emphasising the fingers, along with the addition of a cord “sash”, transformed her from a Victorian vampire into a Katana-wielding Onryo, or vengeful ghost. Then I just had to paint her…


Now, this caused me a few headaches, as I wasn’t entirely sure the best way to depict her skin colour to emphasise that she was no longer one of the living. I tried white skin with grey, dark blue, purple and brown washes and pale green skin with a grey wash and they all looked rubbish. Reading up on the vengeful dead in Japanese myth and looking at pictures online, it appeared that shades of purple were usually used to depict the more demonic and monstrous female “undead”. So, a combination of a GW Mithril Silver base coat with a GW Purple Ink wash and we get this:


A little bit of GW Red Gore for the eyes, and this unpleasant female is ready to take vengeance upon those who have slighted her. I’m really pleased how this came out eventually, especially bearing in mind how many times I’ve repainted her skin until I got it right.

Join me next time, when we’ll finally be seeing my Tengu conversion, my progress on the Buntai and an oriental vampire who is refusing to hop…

Comments and feedback appreciated, as always.

Big in Japan

As regular followers of my blog will know, whenever I start a new project, I always check my existing collection of figures to see if I have anything suitable, prior to making any additional purchases. Not only does this prevent me from accidentally buying duplicates of figures I already have, it also prevents my wife from shouting at me for making “unnecessary” purchases.

As we’ve seen so far, I have a Ronin Buntai that I’m painting up for my friend, which was sourced from the Heroscape base and expansion sets and an Oni that I converted from a Marvel Heroscape Hulk.

Whilst the rules I have don’t cover Japanese Dragons, I still wanted one, so went looking on the Internet to see what I could find. In my opinion, the best Oriental Dragon currently available is this one:

IWM-01-129 : Celestial Dragon

A Dennis Mize sculpt, available from Iron Wind Metals for $15.95 in the US, or Miniature Heroes, here in the UK for £13.60. However, as I didn’t have the funds available to make a knee-jerk purchase of this figure, I had a rummage through the games cupboard to see if I had anything that could be re-purposed.

Now, as most people will be aware, several dragons were released as part of the Heroscape game, including one that appeared in the base set. This particular figure is named Mimring and from what I can gather of the fluff surrounding him, is a typical fire-breathing Western dragon, possibly hailing from the Nordic lands. Here he is:

Now, I was never really a fan of Mimring as he came out of the box. For a Western dragon, whilst he was pretty big, he wasn’t bulky enough, his wings were too large for his body and his wing-joints just reminded me of Kentucky Fried Chicken…

Japanese Dragons are wingless, have three toes on each foot, barbels like a catfish and, for some reason, hair. This seems to be a recurring feature in Japanese monsters, as even the Kappa, an aquatic turtle-beast, sports a tonsure like a monk. So, as Mimring already has three toes and his wings are removable, we were halfway there, as once his wings have been removed, you do get a long, serpentine dragon.

After removing the frankly ridiculous cheek-horns, my box of bits provided me with some more short lengths of pipe cleaner to provide my dragon with the necessary hair and a length of paper clip to provide the barbel. This was simply pushed through his upper jaw, once I’d made a suitable diameter hole with a push-pin (the advantage of plastic figures).

After looking at various pictures of Japanese dragons, I settled on a suitable paint scheme and this is the result;


Still needs some detailing, but I’m pretty happy that I managed to transform a figure that I had little use for into something that will force any opposing Samurai to reconsider the vows they made to their Daimyo.

Unfortunately, that’s all I have to show for this week’s “work”, due to discovering that the other miniatures I was planning on working on were partially painted during the period when I was convinced I didn’t need glasses for detail work, which is turns out that I do. I have now completed the remedial work on these figures, which will allow me to do some “proper” painting during the coming weeks.

Thanks for your visit – comments and feedback are always appreciated.

Oni the Lonely…

Japanese myth and legend is populated with a wide variety of weird and wonderful creatures, from shape-shifting fox spirits to giant fire-breathing chickens. Unfortunately, as the majority of these beasts do not lend themselves to wargaming, they tend to be ignored by miniature manufacturers, who seem to think that slapping some Samurai armour on a goblin and calling it a ‘Bakemono’ is acceptable (it’s not).

Similarly, those who write rules set in Mythical Japan follow suit, possibly influenced by the figures available. So it came as a pleasant surprise when Craig Woodfield, author of the Ronin skirmish rules, released his Mythical Creatures supplement for the game, it was obvious that he had done his research properly, as all the creatures described were as they should be. Unfortunately, Osprey appear to have removed this from their website, but through the wonders of modern technology, you can download a Word copy wot I made of it here:

Mythical Creatures

However, whilst you’ve now got the rules, you still need the figures. I did a rather lengthy post on my previous blog listing all the Oni, Tengu and Kappa miniatures that I was able to find (to read this scholarly work, go here), but wasn’t entirely happy with the Oni available.  So in true Carrion Crow style, I decided to make my own…

My base figure for the conversion was a spare Heroscape Hulk that I had knocking around, as who needs more than one Hulk? (Unless you’re Marvel, of course, who have them in a variety of sexes and colours…a bit like M&M’s). This has to be one of the best 28mm Hulk sculpts out there, as it’s suitable imposing and looks like the Hulk is supposed to:


To change the Hulk into an Oni, however, we need to add, at the very least, horns and slightly more hair. My bits box provided me with; horns made from a GW Skeleton Horde bow, a length of wool for a twine belt, a hunk of meat hanging from the belt from the GW Kroot boxed set, a large mallet culled from a Mega Bloks knight and a mullet made from short lengths of pipe cleaner. A lick of paint, and this is where we are currently:


Not completely finished, but I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s starting to look a little more Oni than Hulk-i.

Now a confession – whilst I’d assigned August as Oriental Fantasy month, the siren call of Eternia is far too strong and I am only made from weak, weak flesh…

In other words, I’ve made a start on my Orko for the Masters of The Universe project, which started out as ‘He-Month’ on both this blog and Roger Webb’s – Rantings from Under the Wargames Table. Go there for superior sculpts of recognisable characters from the Masters of the Universe franchise, including the new additions of Teela and Evil-Lyn.

As for Orko, all I’ve managed so far is to butcher a GW skeleton and stick it to a flight stand, to act as an armature which I’ll be (hopefully) adding sculpted detail to, with the end result a semi-recognisable version of Orko. This is what it looks like so far:


Not particularly inspiring so far, but it can only get better…right?

Comments and feedback appreciated, as always.

View From the Crow’s Nest – August

July, and ‘He-Month’, is behind us and it’s time to take stock of what I stated I was going to do and what I actually managed to get done…

So, my intent for July was to complete a Buntai for Ronin for my friend and complete two recognisable characters from the Masters of the Universe franchise, as part of the combined madness that Roger Webb and I had dubbed ‘He-Month’. At the beginning of the month, this was the state of play;

The buntai;


And the sons of Eternia;


So, how did I get on? Well, this is the current state of the buntai;


However, as those who follow this blog on a regular basis will know, there is a reason I didn’t get very far with the buntai, and that’s because the siren song of Eternia was more compelling. We ended up with five recognisable or re-imagined characters from Eternia, as shown below.


From left to right, we have my versions of Teela, Man-at-Arms, He-Man, Zodac and Skeletor. As this was so much fun, I will be returning to Eternia in the near future, but need to buy some more proxy figures for conversion.

However, being of a Dragonfly mentality (which is like Butterfly mentality, but more masculine), this wasn’t the only wargaming stuff completed during July…

Due to a particular system outage at work, I found myself at a loose end and posed myself this question “Is it possible, using only the standard drawing options and textures supplied with Word 2007, to create a 28mm paper model for superhero gaming?” Well, it turns out the answer is Yes…


Zodac is disappointed that the Rocket Comics store appears to be closed…


And someone has been spray-painting graffiti on the back wall…


The building has a footprint of approximately 6″ by 7″ and is about two and half inches tall. The four walls and roof were all created using Word 2007 and printed on three sheets of A4 paper, then cut out and glued (via gluestick) to greyboard. Roof supports were added using offcuts of greyboard and the sign was made using 5mm foamboard. Assembly took less time than fannying about on the computer creating it…

Initially, I thought it looked a little bit crap, but once I’d stuck some figures on and around it, it looked pretty good. Could do with a bit of weathering, but as the only cost to me was my time (the greyboard was acting as dividers in the boxes of envelopes we use at work, and would have been thrown away), I can’t really grumble too much.

Anyway, statement of intent for August is…Oriental Fantasy. I will finish the Buntai mentioned above for my friend, a Nezumi buntai to act as opposition, and several mythical beasties from Japanese folklore, including a Kitsune, Oni, Jorogumo, Japanese Dragon and a Basan, which is a man-sized fire-breathing rooster. Yes, really…

And along the way, I’ll be showing you how, with a little imagination, you need not have to rely on over-priced Spanish miniatures (you know who you are…) to field creatures from Japanese folklore.

Comments and feedback appreciated, as always.