Unhallowed Ground

In a break from my normal tradition of posting at the weekend, this week’s post is a little early – due the fact that I shall be celebrating my birthday. Not quite a Halloween baby, but close enough…

Now, I have a feeling that this post will be rather lengthy, as not only will you be getting the start of my Halloween-themed terrain, but also an explanation as to what led to its conception, along with an insight into my thought process. So, put the kettle on and pull up a pew…

As my thoughts always turn to the macabre at this time of year, I’d already decided that I was going to finish off my supernatural protectors of the Liberty Force universe this month, as shown in my last couple of posts (Monsters Unleashed!,  All Hallow’s Evil and No Evil Shall Escape My Sight…).

However, as I thought that this would not take up the whole of October (and we all know how that panned out), I was trying to decide what else I could post, whilst continuing the theme. I then remembered I’d seen a downloadable ‘pumpkin patch’ gaming mat during one of my regular browses on the internet and decided to see whether it would be suitable.

Now, one of my main problems is that I do spend an inordinate amount of time browsing hobby stuff online, and whilst I subconsciously retain a lot of this information, I don’t always recall exactly where I saw certain things. So, it took me a good couple of hours to finally locate the product I was looking for, from my vague recollections.

AllPic Template

This is ‘The Pumpkin Field’, published by a company called Heroic Maps. This company initially started producing printable maps, marked out in inch squares, for use with the HeroQuest boardgame. The idea was that you could download and print out the maps they produced and then use this to expand your HeroQuest game, allowing your heroes to adventure in new and exciting locales.

Whilst this is still true of the products they sell, the package you get also now includes a full size JPEG image of the map concerned, both gridded and ungridded, that should you have access to a larger scale printer, you can print out full-size. There is a wide variety of terrain maps available, from Egyptian catacombs to pirate islands, and the quality of the artwork has improved significantly since their first dungeon geomorphs.

However, until the end of October they are having a Halloween sale, with several suitably themed maps being half-price, including an abandoned village, a vampire’s castle, two ghostly pirate ships (ideal for Rum ‘N’ Bones, perhaps?) and the aforementioned pumpkin field. As it was only $1.95 (or £1.62) in the sale, into my basket it went.

Now, this particular product comes both as a PDF file, allowing you to print a gridded version of the map on normal A4 or letterhead sized paper, which you then assemble, and  a file containing a full-size JPEG image of the whole map, both gridded and ungridded. As this is 20 x 20 ‘squares’, this is a 20″ square, so just under 2 feet square. What I liked about this particular map is that it comes in ‘Night’ and ‘Day’ versions, so you can have the choice of when your fearless group of adventurers venture into the pumpkin field.

So, having downloaded the file, this was transferred to a memory stick, as my intention was to take this to my friendly local professional printers and get it printed out. Having done a little bit of research, I knew that you could have your image printed not just onto a variety of papers, but also onto vinyl banner material, which seemed an ideal material for a gaming mat. So I phoned up the printers…

Having established with them that the size of the image (20″ square) would have to be printed on A1 sized material, that their printers could handle an image at 300 dpi resolution, and that it could be printed on vinyl banner material, I was told the price of this would be just over £20. Which, to be fair, given the material and finish, I didn’t think was too bad. However, being a frugal gamer, I went away to think about it…

I then decided I’d try my hand at printing the 8 pages that make up the map on my home printer, as this wouldn’t cost me anything. This led to the discovery that there’s a reason we have professional printing firms, as your standard home printer is sadly not up to printing the detailed image provided by Heroic Maps.

So, back to another printers I went, figuring that whilst a full-size image was £20 on vinyl banner material, it should surely be less than that on glossy poster paper…which just goes to show you how wrong you can be. The other printers would quite happily print my image, on A1 glossy paper, for…£20?!

Not knowing anything about large-scale printing, I’m assuming that you’re paying for the size of the image and the amount of ink it will use, rather than the material it’s printed on.

As both Mantic Games and Battle Systems both do 24″ square pre-printed gaming mats on mousepad material for between £15-£20 quid each, you can see that whilst neither of them may yet have a ‘Pumpkin Field’, I couldn’t really justify the expense.

So, having now got it into my head that I not only wanted a pumpkin patch, but I also needed one, my precious, what was I to do?

What I normally do, of course – make my own.

Carrion Crow’s Pumpkin Patch – Part One

So, as my available gaming areas are a 3′ x 2′ rectangular coffee table and a just under 4′ circular dining table, I needed something that would ideally suit both areas. As all gaming stuff MUST return to the cupboard after use, whatever I created must also be modular and easily stored. So, given the spaces concerned, 1′ square tiles would be ideal.

Now, Secret Weapon Miniatures do 12″ square injection molded plastic tiles, in several different types of terrain, but don’t sell them individually – you have to buy packs, the smallest being a 4 pack which will cost you $79.99. So, roughly $20 per tile. Still too expensive.

So, what are the cheaper alternatives? Well, Andy of Da Gobbo’s Grotto uses 2′ square artist’s canvasses for his Bushido terrain, which works very well, is relatively inexpensive and produces beautiful results. Follow the link and marvel at his dockside market board…

However, 2′ is a little large for me – I still wanted 12″ (1 foot) square modular gaming tiles. Depending on how thick you want your tiles, an inexpensive alternative is cake boards or ‘drums’, as they are known for some reason. A 12″ square cake ‘drum’ will set you back about £2.50 in Hobbycraft and £3.00 in Wilkinsons – one of those rare occasions when Hobbycraft is actually cheaper! They’re about half an inch thick, so an ideal ‘base’ for a gaming tile. However, I went even cheaper…

This is a 4 pack of self-adhesive 12″ square vinyl floor tiles from Poundland. I won’t insult your intelligence by stating how much they cost…

They come in a variety of patterns, including some nasty looking parquet flooring, but this doesn’t matter, but we’re not going to use the tops – we’re going to use the bottoms!

So, I’d decided that my ‘Pumpkin Patch’ was only going to be 12″ square – a focal point, rather than a whole playing area, so I only needed one tile. Placing this face down on my spotty wipe-clean vinyl tablecloth, I removed the backing paper. This left me with a pre-glued 12″ vinyl square, which I then proceeded to scatter a good couple of fistfuls of Builders Sand all over. Builders Sand has the advantage of not just being sand, but also little stones and pebbles, as it’s used for mixing cement, so we get a nice variegated  texture, like so…

This is very messy, so I would suggest you do it outside. As you can see from the picture above, it hasn’t given an equal covering to the whole tile and in some spots you can see the underlying grey tile through the sand. However, it has given the tile a nice texture, reminiscent of earthy ground, which was the intention. Besides, we’re going to paint it anyway.

I next took some Docrafts Chocolate Brown acrylic paint (available from The Range for £1.25 for 2oz, which is about 26ml – so twice as much paint for half the price of the GW equivalent) and squirted some into a plastic cup, I then added water until I got a thinned down paint and taking an old decorating paintbrush, painted the whole tile, so it ended up looking like this:

It now looks like a dry and dusty field. However, it was a little to light and a bit too even in colouring for me, so once this coat had dried, out came the Chocolate Brown again, which was mixed with some Docrafts Noir (yeah, I know…) and watered down even further, then liberally washed all over the tile.

This was a better colour, but still too even, so I rinsed out the brush and used it to take some of the excess paint off in random areas, until I had an area of randomly muddy ground, like so:

Now, you will probably note that there are a few lighter grey spots on the tile. This is where the small stones were knocked off during the painting stage, showing the grey of the tile beneath. I might paint over them, I might leave them – I haven’t decided yet. We shall see.

And to finish off this post, I thought I’d provide a close-up of the texture of the tile, with a suitably sized figure. This particular figure is 28mm scale, but is home-made (or should that be ‘home-baked’?).

Pretty convincing looking mud, in my opinion. There is a noticeable pattern, which I didn’t spot until I looked at the picture, but I think that’s due to the closeness of the view. From the distance at which it will be normally viewed, you probably won’t notice it, especially as they’ll be other stuff on it.

So, a 12″ square textured muddy tile (or vacant lot) which, if you take into account that I already had the sand and paint and I’ve only used one of the four tiles from the pack, has cost me 25p. Bargain!

That’s all for this week’s instalment of Carrion Crow’s Long Halloween. Join me next week, where we will hopefully see the ‘patch’ become more ‘pumpkin-y’…

Happy Halloween!

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No Evil Shall Escape My Sight…

A little bit of an announcement before we launch into this week’s Noctober post – I was originally intending to complete all my Halloween-themed painting by the end of October and then join Michael Awdry of 28mm Victorian Warfare fame in Dinovember this year.

However, I’m having a bit too much fun with Noctober this year, so I’m declaring it a “Long Halloween”, which will last as long as I have figures to paint and scenery to build (Sorry, Michael…). So, to paraphrase the tagline from the Jurassic Park novel, “In the future, there will be dinosaurs…just not next month”.

So, what can you expect during my Long Halloween? More supernatural superheroes and villains, more creepy critters suitable for “Scooby-Doo” style games, more Ghostbusters, and some inexpensive scratch-built scenery suitable for all types of horror games. It’s going to be a lot of fun for me and hopefully for all of you too.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

This week the intention was to complete the final two members of the Night Brigade and their arch-nemesis, the techno-witch known as Spectra. And I did manage to do this. However, upon reviewing the figures prior to their photo-call, I was not entirely happy with the paint jobs for Nocturne and Spectra. As there was not enough time to repaint them prior to posting, their debut has been postponed until such time as I’m satisfied with them.

Luckily, the final figure of the trio I was intending to post about more than makes up for the lack of female company, so without further ado, let me introduce you to the most recent recruit to the Night Brigade, the costumed vigilante known as…Jack O’Lantern.

The base figure for this character is a Marvel Heroclix Jack O’Lantern, from the Sinister subset. The Marvel Jack O’Lantern first appeared in 1981 as a foe of Machine Man in issue #19 of his own title and was (and still is) a bit of a second-string villain. However, he does have one of the coolest costumes ever, so when I saw that Baron Von J of The Baron’s Blog had used this particular figure as a Golden Age superhero, I decided to pinch this idea myself.

Whilst I do try to give my own superhero characters ‘original’ names (or at least the same name as obscure superheroes and villains), as DC Comics also has a character named Jack O’Lantern (first appearance Super Friends #8 in 1977), my self-imposed “rules” meant that I could use the same name without any issues.

I decided to repaint the original figure, as whilst the pre-paint was quite good, with a little bit of effort, it could be better. I’d also deliberately saved some translucent orange plastic beads from when my daughter was clearing out her ‘kiddie stuff’,  to give my version of Jack O’Lantern a bit more armament. Each bead had a small length of gardening/florist’s wire (thin wire wrapped in green paper) glued in as stalks, and then each completed ‘pumpkin bomb’ was glued into his already open hands.

As he was originally on a standard Heroclix flight stand, I had to trim the peg off, then make a new hole in the base of the “pogo platform” (Marvel’s name for it – not mine), so I could mount it on a proper flight stand.

Whilst it was a relatively simple re-paint, with the addition of a bit more kit, I’m really pleased with how he came out.

And here’s one final picture, giving a criminal eye’s view of Jack O’Lantern, just before he unleashes his explosive brand of justice.

That’s all for this week, but join me for the next episode of Carrion Crow’s Long Halloween, where we will be building some Halloween-themed scenery that Linus would be proud to call his own. Beagles are optional.

All Hallow’s Evil

Whilst the shambling dead are taking their rightful place on blogs across the Internet during what most bloggers know as Zomtober 2016, here at the Buffet we like to do things a bit differently…

So, welcome to week two of Noctober, where I will be completing (where possible) figures that have been assigned to various supernatural projects.

Last week I introduced you to the first three members of the Night Brigade, my team of supernatural protectors in the Liberty Force universe (my own superhero universe).

The intention of the preceding week was to complete the final four members, but one required re-basing and the other needed more work than I had time to complete, so this week you get two more members of the Night Brigade and a supernatural villain, who may bedevil the Night Brigade, terrify Enigma Investigations or end up facing the Ghostbusters. I like multi-use figures…

Many cultures have myths or legends of water spirits, such as the Rhinemaidens, nereids, Jenny Greenteeth or Vodianoi, Strangely, the majority of these tend to have female characteristics, as does the member of the Night Brigade known as Undine. Some say that ‘she’ was once a marine biologist who was involved in an industrial accident, reborn as a being of animate water with no memory of her previous life. Others say that Doc Kraken used the Conch of Poseidon to summon one of his many daughters to serve him. The truth is unknown, but since joining the Night Brigade, Undine has proved her worth against the myriad foes they have faced.  

The base figure for Undine is Solstice, from the DC Heroclix Teen Titans subset. I have no idea who this character actually is, but as the model was both nicely sculpted, appeared to be translucent and was only 29p, she was snapped up for a potential ghost figure for my Ghostbusters project.

However, when she arrived, it turned out that she wasn’t as translucent as I first thought. A chance comment from a friend saying that he thought the figure would make a good dryad led me down the path of elementals and thus was Undine born.

After re-basing her, I used Milliput to blend her into the base a bit more, then she got a base coat of Goblin Green and her ‘hair’ was painted Woodland Green. A wash of Salamander Green was then followed with a liberal dry-brushing with Rotting Flesh. A relatively simple, yet effective, paint job.

The heroine now known as Catspaw was once a dabbler in the Dark Arts. However, when attempting to make a pact with one of the Dark Powers, the being in question took her request a little too literally and she was merged with her familiar, creating a being with the knowledge and features of a human woman, but the feral nature, fur and abilities of a feline. Now an outcast, Catspaw joined Doc Kraken in his crusade, hoping at some point to reverse her transformation. 

Another DC Heroclix figure, this one Cheetah from the Cosmic Justice subset. This is probably the most feral looking of the Heroclix Cheetah figures and when I saw it I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.

Another relatively straightforward paint job – base coat of Marine Dark Blue, followed by a coat of Blue Ink on her body and Black Ink on her hair. Eyes were painted in with Bogey Green, then the pupils with Chaos Black.

Our final figure for this week is a character I have dubbed Samhain.

In a change from the other two, this is actually a Dreamblade figure, specifically the Knight of Autumn Gate (whatever that means). The figure came with a slightly silly looking flaming sword in its right hand, so this was removed and it was re-based. The armour was initially painted with Chainmail, followed by Brown Ink. The head was painted Sunburst Yellow, then Pumpkin Orange, with the stalk being Goblin Green. The whole figure was then given a wash in Bogey Green, with additional high-lights of both Sunburst Yellow and Pumpkin Orange on the head, where the Bogey Green was a bit too green.

And I now have a particularly well-armoured personification of Halloween in the form of Samhain, Demon of the Gourd.

And to give you some idea of scale, here’s a group shot with our two lovely ladies going up against the armoured squash.

And that’s all for this week. Next week, I will hopefully be posting the final two members of the Night Brigade and one of their foes. And a group shot of all seven members.

And for the final week of Noctober? Hopefully something a little more…Peanuts?!

Monsters Unleashed!

October is once again upon us, which means that the cry of “Braiinnnsss!!!” will be echoing around the internet, as blogs become ‘all things zombie’ for the month they dub Zomtober

Once again, I will not be taking part. Whilst I do love October because it is the ‘Season of the Witch’ (and also the month of my birth), which means that the shops are decked out in black and orange and filled with Halloween goodies, I have to admit that I haven’t really ever been into to zombie gaming. So no ‘cold meats’ at the Buffet this month…

However, as with last year where we went all ‘Scooby-Doo’, I shall be  celebrating in my own unique style.

The Midnight Sons, the Legion of Monsters, the Howling Commandoes, the B.P.R.D., the Trenchcoat Brigade – nearly every comic book universe has a group of supernaturally powered individuals who have banded together to protect the world from arcane and mystical threats. Whilst some of these are practitioners of magic, for the most part, those who hunt the night are considered monsters themselves, such as Man-Thing, Werewolf-by-Night, the Living Mummy, Morbius the Living Vampire and Ghost Rider.

Inspired in part by the Amalgam comic Dr. Strangefate, in which the good doctor employed supernatural agents to do his bidding and the Tangent Comics title Nightwing, I decided that my own comic book universe required a team of ‘Accursed’ heroes, essentially monsters who have banded together to fight the real monsters of this world. Thus was born…The Night Brigade.

The Night Brigade has seven members, but only three of the seven have previously been finished, so during Noctober, I shall be completing the remaining four, and probably their main adversary, the techno-witch known as Spectra. As the majority of them are almost done, there may be time near the end of the month to paint up the figures I’ve found to represent Dr. Fettle and DC Slobotham from the classic 1966 movie Carry on Screaming!

So, without further ado, let’s introduce the first three members of the Night Brigade…

First up we have the founder and leader of the Night Brigade, known as Doc Kraken. This particular hero has been fighting against the rising tide of darkness, since his unfortunate encounter with cultists lurking in Egyptian catacombs in 1925, which resulted in his deformity and his virtual immortality.

This particular figure was from the Chaos in Cairo range and came as part of a double-pack with a character called Husk. This figure was called Shaitan, and within the background of the game I believe he(?) may have been some kind of mutated cultist. However, the figure just screamed weird pulp hero to me – who doesn’t want a tentacle-faced hero armed with a machine gun?

Realising that he would need allies to continue the fight against creatures that would prey on humankind and those that sought to break through the barriers between our reality and their own, Doc Kraken chanced across a clay jar securely fastened with the Seal of Solomon. After some research, he broke the seal and gained the services of the entity which came to be known as Djinn.

This is a Reaper Clay Golem from their Dark Heavens Legends range, which is also available from their Bones line. I’ve had the miniature for quite a while, as when I first started superhero gaming, their wasn’t a great deal of choice, so you had to make do with figures from other ranges. This was my ‘Hulk’ proxy at one point, although he was a radioactive purple previously and known as The Behemoth. However, needing some muscle for the Night Brigade and inspired by the sand golems from the 2011 Conan the Barbarian movie, he was repainted as though made from sand.

It is alleged that the vigilante known as the Wraith was once a crusading lawyer, who angered a gangland lord and was gunned down in cold blood. Now, when the moon is dark, his spirit rises up and continues his crusade for justice from beyond the grave – or so it is said.

This figure, converted from a Heroclix Black Panther from the Infinity Challenge set, has appeared on this blog before, but as he’s now part of the gang, I felt justified in showing him again. A relatively simple conversion, which was just a case of removing his ‘ears’, then a suitable repaint.

And here are the first three members of the Night Brigade together, in a suitably ‘Charlie’s Angels’ kind of pose.

That’s all for this week. Next week more super-powered supernatural protectors, as I hope to introduce you to the final four members of the Night Brigade – Catspaw, Jack O’Lantern, Nocturne and Undine.

A Sky Full of Ships

Whilst I did have vague plans for some additional spaceships, as I only had one remaining unused flight stand, I believed that once I’d published my Final Frontier rules, that would be it for the time being in respect of spaceships.

However, as I’d been regularly browsing the web looking at various UK manufacturers for starships in a scale and style compatible to my ideas for the factions within my own universe, returning to the plastic spaceships on offer from eM-4 Miniatures. Was it that several of the 12 individual sculpts suited the design aesthetic I was going for? Was it that the models ranged from 10mm to 37mm, meaning that they were roughly the size I wanted? Or was it because they cost £2.55 for all 12 and they came with 12 black plastic flight stands?

Actually, it was a combination of all three, but mainly the last one. £2.55 for 12 ships WITH flight stands? That’s just over 21p per ship including the flight stand. Even if I decided that I was only going to use one or two of the ships, I could still use all the flight stands and wouldn’t have to paint them, as they’re already black.

So, I ordered two packs, as I had specific plans for certain ships and needed more than one of them.

So, what do you get for your money? Well, they come unboxed (as it says in the description on the website) and you get two sprues of 6 spaceships, injection molded from hard plastic. The detail is a lot better than the poor picture on the website suggest, and whilst there are a few obvious mold lines, flash is minimal. However, I did note on a couple of the ships depressions in the body of the ship, where obviously the plastic did not quite reach.  May be due to the age of the molds.

As the ships are not all the same way up, I’ve provided pictures of both sides, so you can see the details better;

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