Way of the Crow – Part Two

I would just like to start by thanking everyone for their positive comments regarding the first part of my skirmish rules, which, if you missed it, can be found here.

Now, I did state in my last post that I would be looking at Abilities next, which covers all the other capabilities of your individual characters, bar their basic attributes.

However, as people seem to be keen to give the rules a test drive, what I thought I’d do with this post was detail the basic combat Abilities, which includes weapons, armour and fighting skills AND give a brief overview of the rules themselves. That way, should you want to stat up some of your figures and have them battle each other across your tabletop, by the end of this post you should be able to.

However, bear in mind that whilst I will be detailing the system and the basic combat Abilities, all the other bells and whistles will have to wait for a future post, so ‘crunchy’ Abilities such as Leadership, Reactions and Tough, and supernatural and Ki Abilities, such as Fear, Flight and Blast will not be available…yet.

However, you should be able to replicate a skirmish between two opposing forces, or host arena combat between a group of players each controlling a single character.

Karasudo – Units

So, to start with, let’s look at what I call Units. Units are a measurement of distance, which are used to determine how far a character can move and the ranges of various missile weapons. “That’s a bit vague,” I hear you cry, “what exactly does a Unit represent?” Well, as the rules were designed with 28mm miniatures in mind, a Unit is nominally 1 Inch. So, as detailed under Attributes, an Average human with an Agility of 3 can therefore expend 1 Action during a round and move 3″. Similarly, a character armed with a matchlock, which has a range of 10, can shoot at anything within 10 inches of themselves.

However, now comes the clever part – Units don’t have to be defined as inches. If you prefer to play your games on gridded battlemaps, such as those used by the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures rules or the Heroclix rules, a Unit is 1 square. If you use HeroScape hexes to build your battlefield, then a Unit is 1 hex. And if you play in any other scale other than 28mm, then a Unit is whatever suits your scale – for example, if you play using 15mm figures, you can decide that a Unit is 15mm. As long as what a Unit represents is decided before the game begins, it can be whatever you want. Just make sure that all the players know beforehand. I like to call this ‘Universatility’ (new word – tell your friends!)

Combat Abilities

As the majority of tabletop skirmishes are fought between troops who have at least some degree of combat training, this is represented in the rules by three basic combat Abilities – Brawl, Melee and Marksmanship.

Brawl covers all forms of unarmed combat, from bar-room brawlers to highly trained Martial Artists. If you’re hitting someone with part of your own body, then you use Brawl.

Melee covers the use of a weapon designed to inflict harm in close combat. This can be a sword, spear, mace, axe, etc. If you’re hitting someone with something sharp, pointy or spiky, you use Melee.

Marksmanship covers the use of weapons designed to inflict harm at a distance, such as bows, crossbows, arquebus, shuriken, etc. If you shooting or throwing something at someone, you use Marksmanship.

All three of these combat Abilities are rated from 1 to 5, with a 1 representing minimal training and a 5 representing mastery. The shorthand recording of these abilities is the Ability followed by a +X, so a character with minimal training in unarmed combat would have ‘Brawl +1’ listed under their Abilities. Each point of combat Ability costs its value in points, so a master sniper, with Marksmanship +5, would add an additional 5 points to the overall points cost for the character.

To clarify this, let’s take our Average human from the Attributes section, give him a name and train him up a bit. So, ‘Axel’ has the Average human statline and points cost, as follows:

Axel: V3 A3 W3 Aw 3 S1 / H6 #2 K6 – Abilities: None  (13 points)

However, if we decide that Axel is a bit handy with his fists and a pretty good swordsman, his stats and points cost now looks like this:

Axel: V3 A3 W3 Aw3 S1 / H6 #2 K6 – Abilities: Brawl +1, Melee +2 (16 points)

Looking a bit more capable now, isn’t he? But whilst he may have the skills, he has no protection or actual weapons, other than his fists, so let’s give him some kit…

Arms & Armour

We’ll start with armour. Armour is any kind of physical protection that is worn by the character. However, it also covers thick hide, tough skin or being made out of rocks.

Armour is defined as Light, Medium or Heavy. Light armour offers minimal protection, such as a  formed leather breastplate or a shield. Medium armour offers better protection and coverage, such as a chainmail hauberk and Heavy armour offers the best protection and coverage, such a full suit of plate mail. However, whilst all three armour types have different names, they are recorded in the same way – as Armour +X. Light armour is +1, Medium armour is +2 and Heavy armour is +3. You can specify exactly what type of armour the character is wearing for ‘colour’, but this has no actual effect on the actual rating. As with the combat Abilities above, each point of armour costs its rating in points, so an Armour rating of +3 costs an additional 3 points.

As a shield is a separate piece of equipment, it can be combined with any of the armour types above to give an additional +1, so Medium armour AND a Shield would cost 3 points, the same as Heavy armour on its own. However, as you could lose your shield during melee, it is recorded under Abilities separately, so in the above example, it would be listed as ‘Armour +2, Shield +1’.

Note that these are the basic ratings for armour, as enchanted or technologically advanced powered armour would have better ratings – and a higher cost.

So, going back to Axel, let’s give him Medium armour and a shield. He now looks like this:

Axel:      V3 A3 W3 Aw3 S1 / H6 #2 K6 – Abilities: Armour +2, Shield +1, Brawl +1, Melee +2 – (19 points)

Not too bad, but he still needs a weapon…

Melee weapons, similar to armour, are defined by three separate categories – Small one-handed, large one-handed or two-handed. Small one-handed weapons are such things as knives, daggers and coshes. Large one-handed weapons covers any weapon that can be used comfortably in one hand and has some reach, such as swords, axes, maces, etc. Two-handed weapons can only be used in two hands – such as spears, halberds or naginatas. Obviously, a character with a two-handed weapon cannot also use a shield. Unsurprisingly, the ratings and points costs for weapons follows the same format as that for armour – small one-handed weapons cost 1 point and are +1, large one-handed weapons cost 2 points and are +2 and two-handed weapons cost 3 points and are +3. As characters may carry more than one weapon, the actual weapon is recorded under their abilities, so a character with both a dagger and sword would have it noted as ‘Sword +2, Dagger +1’.

Going back to Axel, as he already has a shield, we can’t give him a two-handed weapon, so let’s give him an axe, as it fits in with his name. He now looks like this:

Axel: V3 A3 W3 Aw3 S1 / H6 #2 K6 – Abilities: Armour +2, Shield +1, Axe +2, Brawl +1, Melee +2 – (21 points)

And now Axel is ready to venture out and cleave some enemies!

As this post is already quite lengthy, I will leave detailing Missile Weapons, Line of Sight and Cover for a future post, as otherwise I won’t have time to explain the actual rules!

THE BASIC RULES

To play a game, you will require: two opposing forces of miniatures of roughly the same points cost – suitably statted up on whatever bit of paper you have to hand,  a playing surface of your choice, a measuring device of some sort and a handful of ten-sided dice.

Yes, for this game we use the humble d10, currently unloved by games designers, who seem to think that rolling multiple d6’s is the way forward. And you won’t need a bucket-load, just a couple for each player.

Set up your playing area, with whatever terrain you want. Each player then rolls 1d10, with the player with the highest roll choosing where to set up his forces first. The opposing player then sets up his forces on the opposite side of the playing area. If you are playing with more than two players, then the procedure is the same, but each player should ideally be placed an equal distance from each other player, with the highest roller placing first. For the remainder of this explanation, I will be assuming that there are only two forces in play.

Play is divided into a number of Rounds, with each Round being defined as the period it takes for every model in play to use all their Actions. A round is divided into three Phases – Initiative, Action and Recovery.

The Inititave phase simply determines who goes first, the Action phase is where all the models complete whatever Actions their player has decided they will do and the Recovery phase is where any characters that have healing or regenerative powers gain back any lost Health.

Initiative Phase

To determine which player goes first, both players roll 1d10 and add the Awareness score of the character or model designated as their ‘Leader’. Usually, this will be the character with the highest Awareness rating, but should any character have the Leadership Ability, that particular model is automatically considered that player’s ‘Leader’ and may use either the character’s Awareness or Leadership score as the modifier, whichever is highest. Whoever rolls highest goes first.

Action Phase

The player who won the Initiative then selects which of their models goes first. Each character may perform a number of Actions up to their Action score. For the majority of characters, this will be two Actions.

An Action can be anything, but the most common Actions will be moving or performing an attack of some description. So, a character could move twice, attack twice, move once and attack once or attack once and move once. The latter usually only applies to missile combat, as once you’re in melee combat, unless your attack has downed your foe, you probably want to stick around and finish them off.

Moving – A character can move up to their Agility score in Units by expending 1 Action. So, a character with an Agility of 3 could move 3 Units in whatever direction they choose. If they wish, they could use both Actions on movement and move 6 Units.

However, if a character has expended all their Actions on movement and this brings them in base-to-base contact with an opposing model, they are considered to have Charged into combat and not only get a free attack Action, but also get a +1 modifier to their attack roll for every additional move Action above the first. So, if a character with an Agility of 3 uses both their Actions on movement, which puts them in base-to-base contact with an opposing model, they may immediately launch an attack on the opposing model with a +1 modifier. Had the character’s Agility score been 5, and consequently 3 Actions, which were all used on movement, not only would they have moved a massive 15 Units across the board, they would also have launched an attack on their opponent with a +2 modifier!

Melee Attack – Once a character has moved into base-to-base contact with an opposing character they are considered to be in Melee (or Unarmed) combat and may launch an attack.

The attacking character rolls 1d10, adding their Agility score and any relevant combat Ability and this is their Attack roll.

If we use Axel above as an example, he would add his Agility of 3 and his Melee of +2, for a total of 5, to his dice roll. Axel rolls a 6, so his total Attack roll is 11. His opponent, who we’ll call Brad, has exactly the same stats as him, now rolls his Defence, which consists of 1d10 plus his Agility of 3 – Brad has no defensive Abilities, so that’s all he gets. Brad rolls a 7, for a total of 10, which means the attack gets through his defence by a single point.

We now take this +1, add Axel’s Vigour of 3 and the +2 from his axe, for a total Damage roll of 6. From this total, we deduct Brad’s Vigour of 3 (representing his ability to soak any damage) and his Armour of 3 (Armour +2 and Shield +1), meaning that the overall damage taken is…zero. Looks like Brad’s armour saved him this time!

Had Axel rolled a 10, his Attack roll would have been 15, beating Brad’s roll by 4. Adding his modifiers, this would have resulted in a Damage roll of 9. Deducting Brad’s combined Vigour and Armour of 6 would therefore have resulted in the actual damage being taken as 3 points. This would have been deducted from Brad’s Health score of 6, meaning that he was reduced to 3 Health points – half his overall Health, but still standing.

Once the player that won Initiative has completed all the Actions of their first chosen character or model, play then shifts to the other player, who then activates their chosen first model. Play then alternates between each player, until both players have activated and performed Actions for each model they have in play. Should a player have more models than their opponent in play, they would then continue with their remaining models after their opponent had finished.

Once both (or more) players have activated all their models, the Action phase is over.

Recovery Phase – During this phase, any characters that have healing Abilities would regain any lost Health points, depending on the Ability used. This will be explained in greater detail when I detail the remaining Abilities that characters can have.

After the Recovery phase, the Round is over and both players then dice for Initiative once more. Should either player have lost their designated ‘Leader’ during the Round, they would then declare which of their characters has stepped into the breach, and use this character’s Awareness (or Leadership Ability) as their Initiative modifer.


Okay, that’s a very rough and ready version of the basic rules, but should give you all a flavour of how they work and enough information to enable you to run a few test combats between heavily armed and armoured combatants in melee combat.

Once you’ve given them a go, please feel free to ask any questions or give constructive feedback, as this can only improve them.

Next time, we’ll be looking at Missile Combat, including Line of Sight and Cover, other Movements Actions, such as dealing with rough ground, obstacles and climbing, and some of the more interesting Abilities, such as Regeneration, Dominate and Snare.

The Way of the Crow

It is said that the House of Crows can only be found by those seeking wisdom. It is also said that its form matches the desires of the supplicant – for those seeking Truth and Justice, it is an Art Deco hall adorned with the Torch of Liberty, for those seeking frights and scares, a Gothic mansion framed by lightning and for those seeking the wisdom of the East…

A seemingly abandoned dojo?

The supplicant shouldered his rucksack and crunched his way up the gravel path. Easing open the sliding door, he cautiously entered. The dojo seemed less dilapidated inside, but it was hard to make out the details in the gloom.

“What do you seek?” Came a deep voice from the shadows.

“I seek to learn of the Way of the Crow…” the supplicant said nervously.

A shadowy figure stepped forward into the light…

“I am Master Crow.” Said the figure, “I see you are startled by my appearance. Were you expecting a rat in a dressing gown, perhaps? Besides, big eyebrows are a sign of wisdom – haven’t you seen ‘Kill Bill’?”

Master Crow eased himself down onto a tatami in the circle of light cast from one of the many holes in the roof.

“So, you seek to learn…The Way of Crow. What do you offer in return?”

The supplicant thrust forward a brown paper bag and a glass bottle.

“Hmm,” said Master Crow, “a sausage and egg McMuffin and a bottle of West Indies Porter? That’ll do nicely. “

A lot of the current figure manufacturers, in order for you to bankrupt yourself buying their figures, cunningly post the rules for their games for free. Whilst we all like free, once you’ve downloaded and read their rules, you realise that in order to fully utilise them, you do actually need to buy their figures, as each character comes with a pre-printed stat card that details that particular figure’s capabilities. This seems to be a current trend in wargaming and one that I’m not keen on.

Secondly, the rules themselves seem to be overly complicated for what is essentially pushing little tin men around on a table. You have reams of charts and tables, modifiers for this and that, status tokens to stack like pancakes to indicate whether your character is on fire/mind-controlled/exhausted/terrified/having a bad hair day and authors whose grasp of English seems to have been learnt via Google translate.

And because they want you to use their figures (and stat cards), there are no character creation rules, so if you wanted to use Bananaman in The Batman Miniatures Game (and who wouldn’t), you can’t. And trying to work out the system by which they derived the points cost for individual characters by analysing existing characters is an exercise in futility, as they have used some arcane formula known only to members of the Esteemed Order of Dice…

Now, having entered the hobby via AD&D 1st Edition, I am not unfamiliar with complicated rules (THAC0 anyone?), but the advantage of learning a role-playing game is that it’s a group activity and there’s always someone on hand who knows the rules better than everyone else and is happy to teach you – because role-playing tends to be co-operative, with the party all working towards the same goal.

With wargaming, it’s slightly different, as usually you have two players opposing each other and your opponent wants to win – so will use his or her superior knowledge of the rules to give you a bloody good thrashing. Unfortunately, saying “Dude, chill…it’s just a game…” is usually met with derision. I’m not saying all wargamers are like this, but should you be confronted by someone telling you that you can’t field your Napoleonic infantry because “their uniforms are not historically accurate for the time period”, I suggest you punch them. Hard. You’ll feel better and you’ll be doing the World a favour.

Anyway, enough ranting, on with the Way of The Crow…

As I was not enamoured of the various rules that I had perused, I did what I always do when I want something and either don’t have the funds or am not happy with the available options…I made my own.

Now, my home-brew rules are something that I’ve been tinkering with for a number of years, with the intention of typing them up at some point. They were originally designed with Superhero skirmish gaming in mind, so had to cover all aspects of that genre. They were also designed to reduce the number of dice you need, the over-reliance on tables and charts and to be relatively easy to pick up. As I also disliked that fact that in most miniatures games you could field a character or model that was essentially untouchable by other troops, I tried to build into the rules that any character had a chance to damage any other character. True, the chances that a peasant armed with a sling could hurt a dragon were pretty slim, but it should at least be possible.

So, over the next month or so, I will be presenting my home-brew rules in easily digestible chunks, to not only get them out of my head and down onto ‘paper’, but also to give people a chance to try them out and give me feedback. I think they’re pretty good, but I may be a little biased…

Think of it as reading through a set of annotated rules, with the designer not only explaining them, but also why they have done things in a certain way. At the end, the ‘rules’ will be gathered into a single document, which then be available to download from here as an embedded document. You will have to provide your own illustrations, though. And crayons…

The rules do not (yet) have an overall name, as each genre they have been play-tested in has been called something different – for Superheroes it was Liberty Force, for zombie gaming – Survival Instinct and for fantasy gaming – Battleaxe. As we’re currently doing Oriental Fantasy, it will go by the name of Karasudo, which very roughly translates as ‘Way of the Crow’. (NB: According to StuRat, ‘Way of the Crow’ actually translates to ‘Karasu no hoho’, but that just sounds like the crow is not amused.)

Let us begin…

Karasudo – The Attributes

All characters (and the majority of objects) are defined by the same five basic attributes – Vigour, Agility, Will, Awareness and Stealth. These attributes are rated from 0 to 10, with a zero rating meaning that particular character (or object) doesn’t have that attribute. A rating from 1 to 5 is within the realms of normal human ability and 6 to 10 is beyond normal human ability. I know I said I disliked reference tables, but I’m going to use one here to explain the ratings and their points costs:

Rating

Definition

Points Cost

0

Inapplicable

0 points

1

Weak

1 point

2

Below Average

2 points

3

Average

3 points

4

Above Average

4 points

5

Peak Human

5 points

6

Exceptional

10 points

7

Superhuman

20 points

8

Metahuman

30 points

9

Demigod-like

40 points

10

God-like

50 points

As you can see, once you go above ‘Peak Human’, the points costs increase substantially, reflecting that these characters are more capable. I probably should explain that the system utilises a single d10 for resolving ‘Tasks’, so you can understand that a character with a rating of 8 is going to have a decided advantage over one with a rating of 3.

Vigour defines how strong the character is, how resilient to damage they are and how much damage they can deal in combat. It also gives a rough indication of how big the character is. All characters and all physical objects will have a Vigour rating, unless they have no tangible form, such as a ghost. Vigour is also used to derive the secondary attribute of Health, which is how many points of damage the character can take before they are rendered unconscious and/or dead. Health is equal to double the character’s Vigour rating. An Average human would therefore have a Vigour of 3 and a Health of 6.

Agility defines how quick the character is, how far is can move in a single Action and is used in combat as the base for the character’s attack and defence rolls. Agility is also used to generate the secondary attribute of Actions, which is how many ‘things’ the character can do in a single Round. The number of Actions a character has is equal to half their Agility rating rounded up. An Average human would therefore have an Agility of 3 and 2 Actions per Round.

Will defines the character’s mental strength and fortitude and is used for resisting mental abilities and attacks, such as Dominate or Fear. Will is also used to generate the secondary attribute of Spirit, or as we are doing Oriental Fantasy, we shall refer to it as Ki. This secondary attribute is a limited resource used when casting spells or activating Ki powers – when you’ve used up your Ki, the character is mentally exhausted and can no longer gather the necessary concentration, so strategic use of your Ki points is recommended. The character’s Ki is equal to double their Will rating. An Average human would therefore have a Will of 3 and 6 Ki points.

Awareness defines how aware of their surroundings the character is and their mental agility, and is used when rolling Initiative, detecting concealed objects and characters and for working out puzzles or other tests of mental acuity. An Average human would therefore have an Awareness rating of 3.

Finally, Stealth. This defines, unsurprisingly, how good the character is at sneaking about unnoticed and concealing themselves or objects from other characters. Unlike the other Attributes, this is more like a skill than an actual Attribute, but as surprise and sneak attacks are part and parcel of skirmish wargaming, it’s part of the basic statline for every character, although it is rated lower. An Average human would therefore have a Stealth rating of 1, representing the fact that everyone has the ability to tip-toe about.

So, to bring it all together, an Average human would have the following shorthand statline and points cost:

Average Human – V3 A3 W3 Aw3 S1 – H6 #2 K6 – 13 points

This represents an Average human with no training, armour, weapons or special abilities of any kind, so basically an Estate Agent. Or to stay more genre-specific, a peasant or villager.

In contrast, the basic statline and points cost for an Oni (Japanese ogre), without any weaponry, armour, skills or supernatural abilities would be:

Oni –                              V8 A3 W4 Aw3 S1 – H16 #2 K8 – 41 points

So, an Oni is equivalent (points-wise) to three Average humans in a bare-knuckle fight. However, unless you’re playing a tabletop version of Fight Club, every character will have at least some fighting ability or equipment. These and all other options, be that highly ornate lacquered armour, three-section staffs, the ability to summon the elements or a ‘hundred-hand slap’, fall under the catch-all term of ‘Abilities’, which we will be looking at next time.

Comments, feedback and malty ales both welcome and appreciated.

 

BUDGETO!

Hodo Tanaka strode forth into the mist-shrouded bamboo grove, katana gripped firmly in his hand, his brow furrowed in concentration. Furtive movements in the undergrowth signalled that the thrice-cursed dogs of Clan Chouda were skulking – dishonourably – amongst the greenery…

The mist parted and revealed Toshiburo Chouda, his lacquered armour glinting with moisture and his face set in a perpetual sneer. “So, Tanaka, you have come to defend the honour of your clan” he spat, “such a shame that the purse-strings of your clan are so tight, for as you can see…I have brought some of my friends.” 

The mists disgorged many forms – ashigaru armed with yari, yuma and tanegashima, shaven-headed monks, shugenja and the lumbering form of a red-skinned Oni. Tanaka swallowed nervously….

If only he’d taken advantage of the the special offers at Salute, he would now not be so seriously outnumbered…”

The problem with a lot of modern miniatures games is that not only do you have to purchase the rules, but the companies that publish the rules also produce the “official” miniatures, which usually come with a full-colour stat card, detailing that particular figure’s abilities within the game. And these are usually quite expensive.

Not such a problem if you have a healthy gaming budget, but for a lot of us (myself included), we can only enviously look on at the beautiful miniatures and wish for winning numbers on the lottery.

However, with a little bit of lateral and out-of-the-box thinking, you can still play the game, if you’re prepared to be a little…inventive.

As from now until the end of July, the Buffet will have a distinctive Oriental flavour, the game I will be looking at in this post is Bushido, from GCT Studios. The reason I’ve selected this particular game is that Andy, over at the da Gobbo’s Grotto, has been waxing lyrical about the game and has graced us with lots of wonderful eye-candy, scratch-built scenery and some batreps, which has made a lot of people sit up and take notice.

Now, should you wish to ‘invest’ in this game, a copy of the rules will set you back £24.95 and a faction starter set, containing 5 miniatures, has a recommended retail price of £29.95. So, your basic outlay is £54.90. Additional faction specific ‘characters’ retail at £7.95 each

As regular followers of my blog will know, as my gaming budget is quite small, I like to find alternative options, so what if I tell you that you can have a copy of the official rules, the necessary official faction cards and a reasonably sized ‘faction’ for less than £25.00? Intrigued? Read on…

Okay, first things first – the rules. If you go to the GCT Studios website and click on the ‘Bushido’ option on the top banner, on the far right you will see a menu entitled ‘Downloads’. The first item listed is ‘Bushido Rules’ – click on this and it will bring up this page. The first available download is the official Bushido rules – for free! Boom, just saved you £25.00…

At the bottom of the same menu is an option entitled ‘English Cards that can be downloaded from our Store.’ Following this link takes you to the GCT Studios Store, but doesn’t really give you any indication as to what you do next…

It’s very simple – click on the particular character whose card you want, then click on the small image of the card below the picture of the model. This will pop up in a separate window. Now simply copy this image and paste it into the word processing application of your choice, then save and print as many copies as you want. Here’s one I prepared earlier…

There, you’ve now got the rules and whatever cards you want for a grand total of…nothing! Now, that’s what I call a bargain.

“But Jez…” I hear you cry, “It’s a miniatures game. We may have the rules and the cards, but we can’t play unless we have some figures…” And you would be correct, so now it’s time to get a little inventive.

Unless you’re playing in an officially sanctioned Bushido tournament, who says you have to use the official miniatures? That’s right – no-one. As long as your opponent is happy for you to use a ‘proxy’ figure in place of an official figure, utilising the same stat card and playing under the same rules, you can use whatever you want. However, it’s probably best to stick to 28mm Japanese figures, although a game of Bushido using just ‘My Little Pony’ figures would be pretty amusing…

Okay, so the last part of this post is to point you in the direction of inexpensive Oriental figures, all of which are definitely less than £7.95 each.

First up is the small range of Oriental Blades figures from Moonraker Miniatures. Whilst there are only 10 figures in this range, we have armoured and unarmoured samurai, ronin and shugenja and it does included two female figures. Each figure is £1.50 each and oozes character, as you can see below.

Next we have Black Hat Miniatures, who have two ranges of interest – the 25mm Samurai range and the 28mm Tales of the Dragon Kings range. Do not be fooled by the listed scales, as they are both roughly the same size.

The 25mm Samurai range has 14 packs, covering ninja, peasants with bamboo spears, unarmoured samurai with a variety of weapons and ronin in piecemeal armour, also variously armed. The ronin would make good bandits. Now the sculpting has been described as slightly ‘cartoony’, but looking at the pictures, I think this just adds character. Best of all, each pack is £3.00, for which you get 3 figures – that’s right, they’re a pound a figure! Even if you only use one of the figures from the pack, you’ve still saved yourself £4.00 in comparison to buying an official miniature. Here’s a picture of one of the Ronin packs, with a particularly characterful bunch.

Sam09 Ronin with Katana

Next up is the 28mm Tales of the Dragon Kings range. Now, this is primarily influenced by Chinese myth and legend, but does have a few specific Japanese creatures, such as the Oni below, who retails at £7.00.

DK020 - Japanese Ogre

The figures can be bought as packs of 4 for £9.00, such as this pack – Chinese Heroes III, which works out as £2.25 a figure:

Or about 60% of the range can be bought as individual miniatures, at £2.50 each, such as this one – Chinese Wizard 5:

Whilst not strictly Japanese, they’re Oriental enough that with some careful figure selection and an appropriate paint-job, who will know?

For really cheap, we turn to Heroclix, which has a surprisingly number of useful figures. You might be thinking “Ah, yes…Silver Samurai…um…that’s all I got…”

Well, we also have DC Heroclix Flash #010 – Samuroid:

DC Heroclix Flash #010 Samuroid

Currently retailing at 29p on Blue Rat Games. Yes, you read that right…29p. We also have, from left to right; Indy Heroclix Tomoe #005 (29p), Indy Heroclix Arashi #031 (29p), Marvel Heroclix Xplosion #019 – Typhoid Mary (49p) and DC Heroclix Justice League Trinity War #004 – Katana (49p).

Indy Heroclix Tomoe #005Indy Heroclix Arashi #031Marvel Heroclix Xplosion Typhoid Mary 019DC Heroclix Justice League Trinity War #004 Katana

And that’s just a brief selection – not taking into account Hand ninja’s, Psylocke, Elektra or Gorgon. Browse with an open mind and who knows what you’ll discover.

Finally, we shall be looking at one of the older manufacturers of Samurai figures – Dixon Miniatures. This company has been around since 1976 and has quite a comprehensive range of samurai, warrior monks, ninja, Oriental goblins, Oni, Dai-Oni and Naga. And whilst their catalogue is a little archaic and their figures are quite ‘stocky’, you can’t argue with the prices. This Sumo Wrestler retails for £1.30.

Whilst this Dai-Oni is £2.25.

So, hopefully this post has opened your eyes to being able to play Bushido without breaking the bank, or as I like to call it, ‘Budgeto! (pronounced ‘Bud-Gee -To‘), hence the post’s title.

That’s all for now – join me next time, when we’ll either be back in the Super Chibification Workshop, attempting to reduce the stack of Oriental figures I still have to paint or looking at the highly mysterious…Way of the Crow.

The Super Chibification Workshop

As mentioned in my previous post, having created a Chibi version of Vampifan for Bryan Scott, fellow bloggers and contributors to the wonderful The Gamer’s Cupboard blog Steve and Hilary Gilbert and Tarot Hunt were both complimentary of my efforts and envious of Bryan’s gift. And because I’m an all-round good egg and love a bit of a challenge, I’ve sort of agreed to create Chibi versions of the three of them…

Steve very kindly provided photos of the three of them for reference purposes, and based on these images and my (apparently) instinctive ability to know what sort of Chibi character they should be, I will be attempting to create the following; Clockwork Mage Stevie, Pulp Avenger Hil and Shrine Guardian Tarot.

Now, the challenges I will be facing regarding this are that I’ve never sculpted a Chibi figure from scratch before and I’ve never sculpted a female character before. But will I let that stop me? Of course not!

So, I thought I’d document exactly how I’m going to do this. Not because I’m an expert and providing a tutorial, but because I’m a semi-talented amateur – which means I’ll be showing my mistakes and proving that anyone with opposable thumbs can do this.

The first thing I do when planning any kind of project is to get out my sketch pad and doodle some designs – unless I get distracted, in which case I’ll draw cartoon stick figures of Harry Potter characters…

This is mainly to get an idea of the pose of each character and a rough idea of what they’re going to look like. Usually, they don’t end up looking like the initial sketch, but it serves as a starting point. Below you’ll find my initial ‘designs’ (Hah!) – be warned, I’m no Michelangelo…
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Once I’ve got the initial idea on to paper, it’s time to get out my ‘tools’, which is what I use to sculpt with, and my modelling putty;
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I use Milliput, rather than Green Stuff, because I always have some knocking about, I’m familiar with its properties and best of all, it’s cheap! It’s about £4.50 for 113 grams, rather than about the same price for 20g of Green Stuff, but you can usually find it cheaper online. We also have some toothpicks, a couple of tablet styluses, a Boots tooth probe, a couple of craft knives and a set of silicon-tipped colour detailers bought from The Works for £3.00. Not ‘professional’ tools, but they work fine for me.

The next thing to do is create your armature. Various companies do produce ‘dollies’ in a variety of scales, but I make my own…out of paperclips! I am sooooo cheap…

For each 28mm figure, you will probably need two paperclips. The first thing to do is straighten them out, by hand and pliers, then bend the first in half, so you have two parallel lengths of wire – this is the head, body and legs. The second paperclip will be attached at ‘shoulder’ height, to create the arms.

Now, I’ve tried various ways of attaching the second length of wire, from soldering, wrapping in fuse wire and even tape. However, the easiest way to do it is to bend the paperclip around the tip of a pair of needle-nosed pliers until you have a loop, you then feed this over the top of the body, until it’s at the correct ‘shoulder’ height, then squeeze it hard. This will then ‘lock’ it into place, although it will move slightly, which means you can reposition it, if necessary. I have an article from Harbinger magazine, which gives the exact measurements of where the waist, hips and knees should be, but it’s in the loft somewhere, so I’ll just show you some WIPs for normal 28mm figures, which give a rough idea of what the armature looks like with a bit of putty on.

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As you can see, the ‘feet’ of the armature has been pushed into a cork, as this gives you something to hold the figure with when sculpting. Usually, you don’t need the whole cork, as a standard wine bottle cork (or Champagne cork, as above) can be cut in half to provide two ‘bases’.

So, for this project, I needed suitable Chibi armatures. Now, based on my measuring of the few Chibi figures I own, they are roughly 28-30mm tall, and the ratio is that the head, body and legs are roughly one-third of this measurement. So, from the top of the head to the shoulders is 10mm, from the shoulders to the hips is 10mm, and from the hips to the soles of the feet is 10mm, with the knee being roughly halfway between the two. Bearing this in mind, I created my first two armatures for the ladies (ladies first, obviously…), and here they are, with the normal armature behind, to give a sense of scale:

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Now, as you can see, I did try using tape to secure the arms on the armature on the left. However, whilst this did work, once I’d started adding putty to it, the body ended up looking rather barrel-like, as the tape made it too ‘thick’. So, I removed the putty, sliced the tape off and re-added the arms using the technique on the right.

The two armatures are in the poses I have selected for each figure, with the ‘arms’ roughly bent into their almost final positions. I then mixed up my putty and got to work, adding the chest first, which secures the ‘arms’ in place. I tend to work on more than one figure at a time, because this allows the Milliput to cure somewhat on the first figure whilst you’re working on the second, meaning that the next parts can be added without it all melding into one big blob. Next came the hips, which was just a case of a small sausage of putty being wrapped around at the correct height, then blended in.

I then decided to add some putty to the ‘head’, as Chibi characters tend to be a bit top-heavy, just to ensure that I’d got the proportions right. Next came the thighs – I’ve found it’s better to do the individual parts of the legs and arms separately, as it enables you to get the shapes right.

And then I stopped. The reason for this is that Milliput only has a finite working time, after which it assumes the consistency and flexibility of hardening chewing gum, which is not an ideal sculpting medium.

And this is what they currently look like:

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Whilst the heads look a bit oval at present, they will fill out as additional putty is added. I’ve also trimmed the ‘arms’ down to the correct length – the figure on the left has slightly longer ‘arms’, as the kinked parts are actually where her guns will be.

Not too bad a start, in my opinion. 🙂

Forgotten Heroes – Final Issue! (For now…)

When I first conceived the idea of ‘Forgotten Heroes’ back in April, my initial idea was that it would be a bit of fun for people who don’t usually get involved in this sort of thing – no pressure, no ‘competition’ – just a group of like-minded individuals all having a go at making figures of characters that the commercial companies haven’t got around to yet. Little did I know it would prove so popular!

I would just like to personally thank Roger Webb of Rantings from Under the Wargames Table fame, without who we would not have had a central site to display the hard work, ingenuity and inventiveness of those who’ve taken part. If you’ve yet to visit the site, go there now and marvel at the cornucopia of characters  created!

Right, having had some additional hobby time available this week, I’ve managed to complete my three ‘Forgotten Heroes’ and a certain side project I’ve been working on…

So, my ‘Extra Credit’ Forgotten Hero was Stegron the Dinosaur Man, who I made from a Godzilla collectible miniature released to coincide with the 2014 film of the same name. All I needed to do to finish him was paint his base, so not  a lot different from last time we saw him.

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Yes, it’s a big orange lizard…wearing jewelry. I think he’s come out very well and matches the most recent depictions of the character.

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Not someone I’d want to meet in a dark alley…

Next was Super-Soldier, from the DC/Marvel crossover ‘company’ Amalgam Comics, who is an amalgamation of Captain America and Superman. This was originally a Heroclix Captain Atom, who I gave a belt, fancy boots and a shield to.

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Whilst the conversion work was minimal, I’d forgotten that the details of his costume included painting a white star on his chest and back, red and white stripes around his mid-riff and the iconic ‘S’ shield, which took a lot of concentration and a steady hand.

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I’m pretty happy that I’ve managed to capture the look of the character, but have just remembered that I failed to paint the straps on the rear of his shield, which luckily you can’t see in the photos above. Might need to get the paints back out…

Finally, we have the Man of Peel himself, Nutty comic’s Bananaman, who was created from a Heroclix Bizarro. This figure required the most conversion, as I had to shave his head, trim his cape, add banana boots and gloves and sculpt his cowl.

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As you can see, he now has his red ‘B’ belt buckle and the banana skin lines on his gloves, boots and cape.

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Given that I was quite worried about whether he would end up looking like he was supposed to, I think I’ve managed to pull it off and now have a one-of-a-kind Bananaman figure. Which is pretty cool.

And to finish with, here’s a group shot of all three figures.

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So, my work on ‘Forgotten Heroes’ draws to a close…until next time. As this was so popular, it will definitely return at some point…I’ve still got several figures I want to do, but have other fish to fry over the next couple of months.

Talking of frying…I have also finished the Jwar Islands ‘Cupid Burgers’ franchise, which sounds more impressive than what it actually is, which is a cart and a grill.

This was a side project for Andy of da Gobbo’s Grotto, who has been beavering away at populating his gaming table with factions and terrain to play games of GCT Studios Bushido. But he hadn’t made a burger cart and grill, so I offered to make him one. And here it is:

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The cart was looking a little bare, so I added some decoration along the side, and a couple of hunks of meat hanging from the cart, as the burgers have to be made from something, right? And you would also need to slice the meat, so there are a couple of knives on the cart.

Here’s another shot of the side of the cart, showing the decorations a bit more clearly;

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I built the cart separately and was intending on attaching it to the scenic base, but decided it would be more useful as a separate piece. Here’s the scenic base, with completed grill:

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As you can see, the flag is in place, but this is also removable, for ease of transportation and storage. The grill itself has been put into place, which unfortunately covers the work I spent on the charcoal – making sure it looked right and was the right colour – but what can you do? As you can see, we have two burgers cooking away – looking pretty much done to me – and a kama resting next to the grill, to discourage those who want a burger for free.

And when you put it all together, it looks like this:

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Andy has already hired a feisty Oriental cook to man the grill, so all that needs to be done is for the above to be packaged up and sent winging its way down to him. Looks like the Jwar Islands Cupid Burger stand will be opening soon – down by the docks.

So, as the burger cart and grill is complete and my Heroes are no longer Forgotten, what’s next for the Buffet? Well, having been inspired by Andy’s Bushido posts, I shall be returning to Oriental gaming for July, but Carrion Crow style…

Like the idea of Oriental Fantasy gaming, but your budget cannot currently stretch to buying the rules and miniatures for Bushido? I will be showing you how you can still play the game without shelling out for ANY official products.

AND I will be finally revealing my own set of skirmish rules, which I will be using to run a game in which a Samurai and his retainers attempt to cross a bridge, as an alternative to using the Bushido rules…

AND there will be more Japanese-inspired goodness, as I try my hand at sculpting personalised Chibi-style figures, after some people got a bit excited (and jealous) of this

Bring your chopsticks, as it’s an Oriental Buffet next month!

Super Dinosaur Banana Forgotten Heroes!

Since my mid-week announcement that I was adding another character to my ‘Forgotten Heroes’ roster, I have managed to progress quite well with all three characters. When we last saw Super-Soldier, he looked like this:

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I would just like to say that the quality of this ‘photo is down to the frankly crappy photo-editor App on my phone. The actual photo was in focus, but wasn’t particular close, so I fiddled with it using the App and it ended up looking like this. In future, I will take better pictures.

Anyway, Super-Soldier now looks like this:

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And from the rear:

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So, he just requires some washes and a bit of detailing, including the ‘S’ on his shield, which I’m not looking forward too.

Next, when we last saw Bananaman, he looked like this:

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I was a bit concerned that he didn’t really look like he was supposed to, but colours do make a difference, so a little bit of paint and he now looks like this:

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Certainly looking like he’s supposed to now. And a rear view, showing his split cape;

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I’m pretty pleased with how he’s come out. As with Super-Solidier, he just needs a few washes and some detailing, including a tiny red ‘B’ on his belt buckle.

Now, my last post introduced you to my ‘Extra Credit’ Forgotten Hero’, Stegron the Dinosaur Man, for which I had decided to use this Godzilla collectible figure as a base:

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As I knew not only how I was going to paint this one, but also how I was going to add the extra details to make it truly Stegron, work has progressed well, as you can see below:

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So, as Stegron is a stegosaurus-man, one of the defining attributes of this particular dinosaur is the spinal plates, which the base figure already had. However, The other defining attribute is the tail spikes, which the model didn’t have. So, out came a push pin (a very useful tool for making holes through plastic figures) and two holes were made through big G’s tail. I then inserted two pre-cut and pre-bent lengths of wire paperclip, the ends which I’d filed to points. And we now had the necessary tail spikes.

Now, Stegron also sports a couple of gold bracelets – no idea why. For these, I used the same method I used when creating He-Man’s wristlets way back in July 2015. Taking a cotton-bud stem, which is essentially a thin plastic tube, I cut two sections the length of the bracelets I wanted to create. Once these teeny tiny bits of plastic tube were cut, I then cut the tube length-ways and pried them open. I then clipped these two ‘bracers’ to Stegron’s wrists, adjusted them so they were in the right place, and then glued them. Then I painted him, as can be seen from the pictures above and below;

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I think he’s come out rather well. He just needs his base tidying up a bit and he’s done.

That’s all for Forgotten Heroes, but as I’ve also been working on Andy’s burger cart and grill for his Bushido games, I thought I really ought to show my progress so far with it.

Whilst it has mainly been painting, I did ask whether Andy wanted the ‘flag’ to be in English or Japanese Kanji – he obviously went for Kanji, so I had to do a bit of Internet research to find the appropriate ones. The model below is assembled for photographic purposes only, as the flag is a separate piece which plugs into a socket on the base and the cart is actually a separate piece too, as this made it easier to paint;

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So, the top two kanji are for ‘beef’, the third one is for ‘bread’ and the heart is the corporate symbol of Cupid Burgers, as are the beautiful shades of pink!

The cart requires some decoration, as it’s a little bare at present, the grill needs another coat of Linen, then the necessary symbols added. The actual grill itself, which will sit on top of the cylindrical base, still needs painting and adding, but I need to finish off the charcoal coals first. Then just comes a few bits and bobs to finish it off, such as burgers, buns and maybe some cooking utensils.

So, everything appears to be progressing well and looks like it will all be finished by the end of June – unless I have another ‘brilliant idea’ and decide to do another character…

Forgotten Heroes – Extra Credit

Even though I went off at a tangent last week and built Andy from Da Gobbo’s Grotto a burger cart and grill for his Bushido games, I am well on my way to completing my two pledged ‘Forgotten Heroes’ – Super-Soldier and Bananaman.

Having slapped some base colours on both figures, I am happy that Bananaman does not require any further trimming of his banana ‘horns’, as once the paint was on they looked fine. However, referring to my copy of Super-Soldier #1, I realised that my version needs a haircut, as his mask cover the back of his head, so I need to file down his hair before applying the next coat of paint. However, you will have to wait until the weekend for pictures of that…

As I have some extra time, which is always a blessing when it comes to hobby stuff, and everyone else seems to be either further ahead than me or producing more characters (for details of their progress, check out the official Forgotten Heroes site), I thought I’d try an earn some ‘extra credit’ by doing an additional figure. I did have a couple of potential back-up figures, but the first I’m still not entirely sure how to do and the second I wasn’t particularly enthused about.

Luckily, an additional figure I purchased on a whim when ordering my last batch of ‘clix from Blue Rat Games gave me an idea. A quick bit of online research and I realised that this figure, suitably repainted, would make an ideal proxy for the more recent depictions of this character.

So, the ‘Extra Credit’ character I will be attempting to complete before the end of June, which will especially please Michael Awdry of 28mm Victorian Warfare fame, is…

Stegron, the Dinosaur Man!

Stegron first saw print in Marvel Team-up #19, published in March 1974 and was created by Len Wein and Gil Kane. In his first appearance, Vincent Stegron was hired by S.H.I.E.L.D. to work with Dr. Curt Connors (better known as the Spider-Man foe the Lizard) to analyze dinosaur DNA sourced from the Savage Land. Inspired by the experiment that transformed Dr. Connors into the Lizard, Stegron stole some of this DNA and injected himself with it. As you do. Unsurprisingly, he was then transformed into an orange-skinned dinosaur-man, who was mentally able to control dinosaurs. Transporting several of these to New York from the Savage Land, he planned to take over the world by transforming the human race into dinosaur men like himself. It took the combined efforts of Spider-Man, the Black Panther and Ka-Zar to stop him.

Even though Stegron is very derivative of the Lizard and decidedly funky, he has regularly popped up on many occasions since then, primarily as a foe of Spider-Man, but also acting as the protector of the Savage Land in concert with Ka-Zar on a number of occasions. Initially, his appearance was more stream-lined and human-looking, but more recent depictions show him more bulked out and dinosaur-looking and this is the version that I’m going to try to replicate.

So, what was the additional figure I picked up that will be (hopefully) transformed into Stegron? This one:

This is the 2014 movie version of Godzilla from NECA’s tie-in range of collectible miniatures, specifically the ‘Atomic Breath’ variant. It’s a nicely detailed miniature and cost me a grand total of £2.49, which given that’s it 2″ tall, is a bit of bargain. To give some idea of scale, here he is next to a 28mm HeroScape Spider-Man figure:

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He’s a bit of monster, isn’t he? As you can see, I’ve removed his ‘Atomic Breath’, which was just a case of tugging it free. This has joined my bits box, as I’m sure I’ll find some nefarious use for it. To complete his transformation from iconic Kaiju into orange-hued Spider-Man villain, he ideally needs tail spikes and a couple of bracelets, which all the best ‘dressed’ dinosaur-men are sporting this season. I have some ideas on how to achieve this, but we shall see exactly how successful I am. Other than that, it will be just a case of repainting him.

Join me at the weekend for updates on all three ‘Forgotten Heroes’, as well as a further update on Andy’s burger cart. As Stegron would say “When I’ve got a monster appetite, only Cupid Burgers can satisfy my primal urges.”

 

Forgotten Heroes – Super-Soldier & Bananaman

I blame Andy…

Along with most of my peers, I have been enjoying the regular posts from Andy on his Da Gobbo’s Grotto blog regarding the game Bushido from GCT Studios. Not only has he been beavering away painting up miniatures from the two factions he has chosen, but he has also been producing some lovely scenery, objective markers and ‘control zones.’

Having complimented him on his last such post here, I jokingly said that the only thing he was missing was a “Cupid Burgers” franchise (for more details regarding this purveyor of fast food advertised by a fat winged baby, go here), but given the historical period, this was more likely to be a ‘burger cart’ rather than a building. I then (stupidly) suggested that I ought to make him one. As he got rather excited at this prospect, I felt that I really should actually do so. I get the feeling that letting Andy down is a bit like kicking a puppy…you’ll feel really bad afterwards.

And that’s why I blame Andy…

So, there will be some ‘Forgotten Heroes’ action later in this post, but let’s see what I managed to come up with…

The first thing I did was a little bit of online research, as I felt that I should try to be somewhat historically accurate. Traditionally, the Japanese did not eat a lot of meat, as being an island nation, they had access to rather a lot of fish. Obviously, as we’re inserting a historically inaccurate burger vendor into Edo era Japan, I needed to find out how the vendor would prepare the burgers he was going to be selling. Which led me to this:

This is a shichirin, which is a small portable charcoal grill, typically made from ceramic. They have, apparently, remained largely unchanged since the Edo period and come in a variety of shapes, with cylindrical, square and rectangular being the most common. Basically, it’s what we Brits refer to as a barbecue, but looks so much…cooler.

So, having now worked out how the vendor would cook the burgers, I set out to gather the materials for a little vignette, which would consist of the shichirin, the vendor’s cart and an Uma-jirushi, which were the flags used to identify the daimyo on the field of battle, but which we’re going to use for advertising purposes.

And here’s all the bits…

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So, the black plastic circle will be the base, which is 3″ in diameter; the coffee stirrers will be the shafts of the hand-cart; the toothpicks will be the frame for the flag; the poppers, cup washers and length of paperclip will be the wheels and axle for the cart; and the circular object on the far right will be the shichirin.

But what of the cheap plastic tea strainer and cobblestone sheet, you may ask? Well, a section of the cobblestone sheet will be cut out and inserted into the shichirin below the rim, to create the coals and a section of the tea strainer mesh will become the grill.

Now, sometimes when doing a build like this, what you thought was a brilliant idea doesn’t actually work in practice. I had intended using the thin piece of balsa in the picture above as a curved ‘canopy’ over the base of the cart. However, even though I’d soaked the balsa for a long period of time, it didn’t bend, it snapped. Twice. So I had to re-think. And what I came up with as an alternative I actually prefer, which is a tiled roof supported by bamboo ‘poles’. This is currently what the whole thing looks like;

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The flag pole is removable, with a ‘socket’ in the base, for easy transportation and storage. I just need to paint it up, install the grill and maybe make some teeny-tiny burgers and buns. And then it will be winging its way down to Kent, so Andy’s monks and samurai can get their fill of Cupid Burgers. Andy will be providing his own cook, however…

Right, enough digressing, on with the ‘Forgotten Heroes’…

When we last saw my two base figures, they looked like this:

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For my Super-Soldier, I removed the figure from his Heroclix flight-stand, drilled a hole in a two pence piece the same size as his ‘peg’ and using Milliput, created a scenic base that looks like paving slabs. As the majority of his costume will be created during the painting phase, I just needed to add his boot-tops, shield and belt buckle, as this actually sticks out.

The boot-tops were relatively simple, just Milliput ‘sausages’ wrapped around and then teased into shape, although I did have to prise his legs apart a bit, to allow me to access the whole of his left leg. The shield was cut from a small piece of plasticard and took two attempts to get the shape right and make it symmetrical. For the belt buckle, I had the genius idea of using a small slice of cotton bud stem. However, actually getting this the right thickness and gluing it in place proved to be a chore. But, I managed it and he now looks like this:

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Still needs some straps on the back of his shield, but after that he’s ready for some paint.

Next up is Bananaman. Having cut down the plastic molded tab, I glued the base figure to a two pence piece, and using Milliput, created a scenic base representing ‘rough ground’. I intend on adding some rubble or bricks to this, as Bananaman is renowned for (inadvertently) destroying buildings. I then cut a section out of the cloak, as Bananaman has a distinctive two-pronged ‘banana-cape’ and filed down the mohican that the base figure came with.

I then carefully attempted to sculpt his ‘banana-gloves’, ‘banana-boots’ and his cowl. However, having started with the gloves, I failed to notice that whilst I was doing the boots, I was holding the figure by his hands, so had to go back and do some remedial work on the banana ‘tufts’ a couple of times. As the figure’s head was a bit rough from filing, I decided to add the back part of his cowl, with the intention of painting his mask on afterwards. As my sculpting skills weren’t up to the task of creating the banana ‘horns’, I cheated and used some tiny curved pieces of plastic, which were positioned in place whilst the Milliput was still slightly tacky…which promptly fell off. These were then superglued in place, which took a while, as I couldn’t find any tweezers, so ended up trying to pick up the tiny bits of plastic with a pair of pliers and then position them correctly. I chased each ‘horn’ across my work surface and onto the floor a number of times. (Note to self: Buy tweezers.) So, this is what he currently looks like:

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Unfortunately, due to the ‘horns’ being a little longer than anticipated and the fact that he’s not been painted the correct colours yet, he doesn’t look like Bananaman – in fact he looks like this obscure Marvel villain…

This is Aries, part of the Zodiac Cartel, each of which is based on a sign of the zodiac. Yes, a supervillain who is essentially a goat. Scary…

I’m hoping that once I’ve got some paint on ‘Bananaman’, he will start to look like he’s supposed to. If not, I may have to trim his horns a bit. Or just remove the cape, add a tail and claim that this is what I intended all along…

Until next time…

Forgotten Heroes – Secret Origins

Forgotten Heroes month is finally here, where myself and a group of like-minded individuals will be attempting to recreate in 28mm those superheroes and villains who have been sadly overlooked by the purveyors of gaming miniatures. For a detailed explanation of the ‘rules’ and an explanation of what’s going on, please pay a visit to the official Forgotten Heroes site, which was kindly put together by Roger Webb of Rantings from Under the Wargames Table fame.

As I was the instigator of this little project, I thought you might like an insight into how this came about. Back in July last year, Roger and I decided to indulge our childhood love of the Masters of the Universe franchise and recreate characters from Eternia in 28mm. Almost a year later and there have been three ‘He-Month’s and about a dozen or so characters created. Roger was keen to return to Eternia, specifically so he could call it “Masters of the June-iverse”, but I had an altogether different cunning plan in mind…

As recreating He-Man and crew is a little niche for most of those within my immediate blogging circle, I suggested to Roger that by choosing a different subject matter, we might get a larger number of people involved, especially is the subject matter was those superheroes or villains that had not yet had an official or unofficial miniature made for them yet.

To be honest, the response I received was lukewarm at the time, but as with most of my ideas, they have a way of worming their way into your mind and taking over, so a couple of days later Roger was an enthusiastic supporter. I put together the rules, but Roger came up with the name, as my original suggestion was a bit…pants. He also put together the ‘official’ website, to allow those who wanted to take part, but did not currently have their own blog to do so. So, massive thanks to Roger for that.

As for the subject matter, when I started miniature gaming, the only superhero miniatures available were the Living Legends range from Lance & Laser. These were true 25mm figures and were decently sculpted, but weren’t the heroes and villains I was reading about. So, in true Carrion Crow fashion, I made my own. My first forays into converting commercially available figures into something else started with making my own versions of Captain America and Spider-Man from figures from the Living Legends range. They weren’t perfect, but at least I had the heroes I wanted. I next converted a GW Imperial Guard commissar into Marshal Law and could see an improvement in my ‘skills’. The last ‘super-conversion’ was to make the version of Devil Dinosaur who appeared in issue #12 of NextWave, complete with smoking jacket, revolver and champagne glass;

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Yes, it is bonkers, but also kind of awesome. Full details on this particular version of this character and how I made him can be found here.

So, having done one or two of these before, I thought I’d offer some advice to those of you starting your first conversion or contemplating having a go.

Firstly, don’t underestimate your own abilities. Just because you haven’t done a full conversion yet, doesn’t mean you can’t. If you can paint figures (which I’m assuming everyone who’s reading this can), the simplest ‘conversion’ is to repaint an existing figure, such as the DC Heroclix Blue Beetle into the obscure Marvel villain Goldbug – the costumes are almost identical, it’s just the colouring that’s different.

Secondly, don’t make too much work for yourself. Try and pick a base figure that has most, if not all, of the features you want your planned conversion to have. If your chosen character has a cape, choose a figure with a cape. You have to get used to looking beyond the paint job, to the figure beneath.

Thirdly, if you’re doing a conversion, try to pick an inexpensive figure as a base. That way, if you do muck it up beyond recovery, you won’t have invested too much money in it. I tend to use Heroclix or other collectible pre-painted figure for my conversions, as they’re cheap (the cheapest I’ve bought being 29p!) and easily available.

Fourthly, do not limit yourself to just using the modelling putty of your choice to add details to your figures. Not all of us are blessed with the ability to tease putty into the features we require (unlike Roger, who’s a bit of a dab hand). I’ve used shirt buttons, paper, lengths of cotton bud shafts, paper clips, plastic bags and the odd limb or appendage ‘donated’ from other figures. A good example of a simple yet effective conversion is the transformation of the DC Heroclix figure Triplicate Girl into the Marvel character Marvel Girl, done by Kaptain Kobold here and here. I actually prefer his version to the official Heroclix version!

Now, conversions aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the satisfaction you get when you end up with not only a version of the character that matches your vision of the character, but also a figure that no-one else has got or will ever have is worth it, in my opinion.

Right enough rambling, time to reveal my ‘Forgotten Heroes’…

The first character I will be doing comes from the 1996 DC vs Marvel event, which was a 4 issue limited series collaboration between the ‘big two’. The basic premise of the series was that heroes from each universe were pitted against once another, with each victory scoring a point for that universe, with the losing universe being erased. The victor of the majority of the battles had been pre-decided by the writers, but a few match-ups were decided by the fans voting for who they wanted to win.

However, between issues #3 and #4, in April 1996, due to events within the storyline, both universes were merged, and out of this was born the Amalgam universe, in which characters from each universe were ‘amalgamated’ into a new character which shared aspects of both existing characters. Wolverine was combined with Batman and became the vigilante Dark Claw, Ghost Rider and the Flash (with elements of the Demon) became Speed Demon and Dr. Doom and Doomsday became, unsurprisingly, Dr. Doomsday. And my favourite character from this event and the first of my ‘Forgotten Heroes’, Captain America was combined with Superman, to become…Super-Soldier.

For those of you who want to know more about the Amalgam universe and the characters it contained, this Wikipedia article is strangely more accurate than the one on the Marvel Wiki.

The second character I will be doing first saw his exploits published in the inaugural issue of the British comic Nutty in 1980, then went on to appear in both The Dandy and The Beano. In 1983, he also got his own televised cartoon, courtesy of the BBC, with the voice talents of Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie, better known as the comedy trio The Goodies. I am, of course, referring to the costumed superhero described as having “the muscles of twenty men, and the brains of twenty mussels”, the Man of Peel himself…Bananaman!

For those unfamiliar with this character, a detailed history of Bananaman can be found here.

So, one sensible character and one daft one, which will be crafted from these base figures:

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Both from the DC Heroclix range, we have Captain Atom on the left who will become Super-Soldier and Bizarro on the right, who will become Bananaman. As noted above, I tried to pick figures that were as close a match to the end result as possible. The pose, lack of fussy detail and hair made Captain Atom ideal for Super-Soldier, whereas the physique, cape and awkward pose of Bizarro made him ideal for Bananaman.

Captain Atom will require careful trimming of the star on his chest, which is raised, sculpted boot-tops, a belt and the addition of a shield, whereas Bizarro requires a haircut, reshaping of his cape and the addition of ‘banana’ gloves, boots and cowl. The rest will just be down to painting.

A relatively modest goal compared to the various iterations of He-Month, but this allows me the time to get them right. Depending on how much time I have available, I do have a third possible figure in mind, but I have been receiving threatening messages from Wayne Enterprises regarding the delayed opening of the Gotham City branch of Cupid Burgers (see my last post)…

“Yes, I am Batman and I know what you’re thinking…the answers to your questions are, yes, I do want fries with that and yes, the Batmobile does have a cup-holder…”