Back to the Future

Unlike the majority of my blogging peers, I do not enjoy either the acceptance or support of my partner in respect of my devotion to our wonderful hobby. My wife considers any time spent on ‘that role-play crap’, as she terms it,  as a waste of time – time which could be better spent elsewhere. Bless her…

So, in order to continue doing what I enjoy, I have to make certain…concessions. I don’t make extravagant hobby purchases (so no Kickstarters for me), keep my hobby spending to an ‘acceptable’ minimum and try to limit my time spent on my hobby to short periods or when she’s not around. Not an ideal situation, but it has made me a master of cost-effective gaming and given me the ability to use my time constructively.

Anyway, there are times when due to work, planned events or the reasons stated above, I find the weekend has crept up on me without anything to show for my efforts. Some would sulk in the corner and rail against the unfairness of an uncaring and cruel Universe.

I, however, am not one of those people.

So whilst I may not have any of my own work to display, that doesn’t mean I have nothing to show you…

A comment made on Roger’s most recent post from his ‘Ranting from Under the Wargames Table’ blog, sent me scurrying to the Internet, searching for suitable 28mm figures to represent Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels…

Image result for captain caveman and the teen angels

The reason for this was that as I felt this would make a fun ‘cast’ for 7TV, as Captain Caveman regularly produces various prehistoric solutions from the interdimensional space concealed by his body hair. Now there’s a sentence you didn’t think you’d read today. I thought this ability was a pretty good match for the Gadget cards used in the  7TV rules. And it’s also a bit silly, which is a good thing for a hobby that can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously.

However, whilst I did find potential figures for Cavey and Brenda, Taffy and Dee Dee proved somewhat elusive. This combined with the cost of the figures I did find shelved this vanity project for the time being.

But my research did not prove a total loss, as I came across a nice range of miniatures I was previously unaware of, the contents of which will explain the title of this post.

The company concerned is Miniature Figurines & Matchlock Miniatures, which is part of Caliver Books. I was aware of the company before, as they do a small but interesting 28mm range called “Winter of 79  – Living on the Frontlines” which has armed British policemen, grenadiers and, more importantly, Wolfie Smith from Citizen Smith.

You have no actual need for this figure, but you want him anyway… and he’s only £2.25.

The range that I was not aware of, however, can be found under the title Wayne’s World of Wonder, with the innocuous title of Retro Sci-Fi 28mm. Now, there are only nine figures in this range, but when I came across them, five of the nine immediately went onto my wishlist. Not because they’re £2.75 each, which is very reasonable for a 28mm miniature, but because I recognised them…

So first up is RSF 01 – Retro Space Pilot – Spacesuit:

And RSF 02 – Retro Space Pilot – Uniform:

As Crooked Dice have recently released a not-Mekon and our very own Mr Webb’s Retrovians from his Dick Garrison range make very passable Treens, you’re certainly going to need a Dan Dare, and now you have the option of having him in both sets of his ‘work clothes’.

Next up we have RSF 04 – Pepperpot Hunter, and this is where I think I may cost Simon (aka Blaxkleric) some money…

I think it’s fairly obvious that this is the infamous Abslom Daak – Dalek Killer. As the BBC have (allegedly) sent a badly written ‘cease and desist’ letter out to those companies that they have been made aware of who were producing what Paul from Warlord Games has referred to as “rip-off ‘not’ Doctor Who figures”,  you may be concerned that this too may disappear. However, I believe that the rights to this character are currently owned by Marvel, so he should be safe for the time being.

Next we move on to RSF 07 – Mercenary:

Now, this one may not be as familiar to the majority of my readers – this is a character called Grimjack, who first appeared in Starslayer #10 in November 1983, published by First Comics. If you are curious about this character, this Wikipedia link will fill in the blanks. To be honest, whilst I was able to identify the character, that was about all I did know about him – other than he looks cool. Because of this, two other figures in this range, namely RSF 05 – Young City P.I. and RSF 06 – Demon Hunter, may be other versions of this character, but someone more knowledgeable than me would be able to tell you.

For the final figure added to my wishlist, we return to the Whoniverse, but the alternate reality version as presented in Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., in which the Doctor was portrayed by Peter Cushing:

This is RSF 08 – Chrononaut Grandfather and is a far better sculpt, in my opinion, than the one produced by Black Tree Design. I’m not sure if the movie version of the Doctor falls within Warlord Games’ licence to solely produce Doctor Who figures, so if you want this figure, it might be wise to get it sooner rather than later.

Whilst I’ve touched on two of the other nine figures in the section on Grimjack, the other two figures in this range – RSF 03 Freelance Assassin and RSF 09 Psycho Cyborg (which is £3.99) – I wasn’t able to identify, so if anyone does know who these are supposed to be, I’d be grateful if they could shed some light.

The moon has now set on the Long Halloween and the pumpkin pies, candy and cinder toffee have been cleared from the Buffet…

You’ll have to wait until next time, to see what’s next on the menu!

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Welcome to Easy Street

Having spent so long concentrating on getting my pumpkin patch ‘just right’, as can be seen in my last post, this left me a little bit spent in regards to what to post next, as the majority of the other projects for the ongoing ‘Long Halloween’ required a bit more time than I had available.

Yes, I could have posted pictures of the half-painted Black Pharaoh and his Scarab Warriors or the Pumpkin King or the ‘sorcerer supreme’ of the Liberty Force universe, but they weren’t really in a fit state to be shown. So, in order to have something to post, I needed something quick and simple.

Now, in my first post regarding my pumpkin patch build, I mentioned that I wanted some 12″ modular gaming tiles and that I had plans for the remaining three self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles from the pack I bought from Poundland. I think you can see where I’m going with this…

So, this week I will be showing you how to create a good-looking 12″ modular gaming tile of a city street for less than £1.00. Yes, you read that correctly – the material components for this cost me less than a quid!

Let us begin…

So, in the picture above, you will see the materials I used for this ‘build’. We have a pack of self adhesive vinyl floor tiles from Poundland, 4 for £1.00 and as we will only be using one of these, the running total is 25p so far. To the right of the picture we have a pack of Poundland wet & dry assorted sandpaper, 16 sheets for £1.00. We only need one sheet of this, so we add another 6.25p, call it 7p, to our running total, which makes 32p. Our final component is a foam sheet in light grey from Hobbycraft at 55p each. We only need one of these as well, so the grand total for our components is 87p – see, less than a quid, like I said.

Now, the first thing I discovered during this project is that both packaging and labels lie.  The packaging for the sandpaper implies that the sheets are the same length as the tiles, i.e. 12″. Similarly, the label on the shelf at Hobbycraft states that the foam sheets are 30cm on their longest side. Both of these are incorrect, which meant I had to rethink my assembly.

The second thing I discovered was that cheap sandpaper does shed everywhere, so if you’re planning on using it for anything, make sure that your work area is covered and that you have a cloth on hand, as the sand gets on everything.

Having done some planning and sketches beforehand, I had established that for my first ‘test’ piece, I was going to make a straight road 6″ wide, with two 3″ pavements either side. So, I needed enough sandpaper to cover a 6″ by 12″ area for the road and enough foam to cover two 3″ by 12″ areas for the pavements. A bit of measuring and marking with pencil and we ended up with these bits:

The white square beneath the ‘bits’ is the reverse of the floor tile, with the backing paper still on.

Next, after removing the backing paper, revealing the glue, I carefully attached the two ‘road’ parts, ensuring they were centrally located. I then took each pair of ‘pavement’ parts and stuck these either side of the ‘road’. As the glue is already on the tile and is of uniform thickness, it was quick, simple and mess free. And this is what it looked like at that stage:

Actually, I was a little further on in the picture above and forgot to take an interim photo. The next stage, as you’ve probably gathered, was to use a standard HB pencil, not too sharp, to score lines into the foam to create the paving slabs. As my steel rule is exactly an inch wide, I decided to go for inch squares. As you can see in the picture above, once you’ve drawn your lines, you can’t actually see the join between the two separate pieces of foam which make up the top pavement.

However, the line between the two pieces of sandpaper is pretty obvious, due to the fact that the edges of the paper show. The other problem is that the sandpaper is still shedding crap everywhere. And the pavements are a bit too clean.  The next stage solves all of these problems in one fell swoop.

As the sandpaper was a little too black for blacktop and the pavements were a little too light, I mixed equal amounts of Docrafts Light Grey and Black and watered it down until I had a dark grey wash, which I liberally painted over the whole tile. This tones down the black sandpaper, covers any cut edges that can be seen and dirties up the foam.

However, a couple of issues with this. Until it dries, the wash will easily come off the foam, so try not to touch it until it dries. Secondly, cheap wet and dry sandpaper, when sodden, will start to lift in places and if pushed back down, will leave your fingertips covered in what looks like soot. The best thing to do is retain the backing paper and place this shiny side down on the sandpaper part only, then load it with heavy books of similar. This won’t leave an entirely ‘smooth’ surface, but what road is without some kind of imperfections? Once dry, the end result looks something like this:

As you can see, the wash has dried patchily, with some areas darker than other on both the road surface and pavement. The break between the two individual pieces of sand paper can still be seen, but is not so obvious and just looks like they’ve cut this part of the road and relaid the tarmac. And other than the drying time, the whole thing took less than an hour including painting. For 87p…

Now, the advantage of these materials is that they’re inexpensive, easily available and with a little bit of time and effort, give pretty good results. I’ve not put any road marking on yet, but a simple card stencil and a cheap sponge is all it would take to add whatever markings suit your roads. As the foam and the sandpaper are different thicknesses, you also get a definite ‘curb’ without it being too much, like the MDF pavements I’ve seen for sale. This can be seen in the picture below:

Yes, that is a scratch-built fire hydrant and yes, I will be showing you how I made it in a future post.

Finally, I thought I’d show you what it looks like with a bit of scenery and a couple of figures on it. As I’ve not only failed to finish the shop-fitting of my Cupid Burgers restaurant (see here for details), but also been repeatedly using the phrase ‘Long Halloween’ without permission, it was inevitable that Batman would turn up. However, as the Batmobile was having its MOT, he had to get a cab. With violence in his eyes, he paid the cabbie and stalked towards me shouting “Someone’s about to be Bat-tered!”

Sometimes, Batman is a bit of a Dick.

Luckily for me, Spider-man showed up, so whilst they were trading quips and scowls, I bid a hasty retreat.

That’s all for this week. Next week, we’ll be back on track with more spooky shenanigans, as the Long Halloween continues.

The Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch…

The title of this post comes from the 1966 Peanuts TV special, entitled “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”, in which the character Linus spends Halloween night in what he believes is “the most sincere pumpkin patch”, in the hope that the Great Pumpkin will manifest to bestow gifts upon deserving children.

So, is my pumpkin patch sincere enough to draw the attention of the Great Pumpkin?

Well, in the first part of this build, it was just a patch. The second part of the build made it a pumpkin patch. So, in this, the third and final part of my pumpkin patch build, I apparently need to add ‘sincerity’. As my local grocers do not appear to stock this (I’m assuming it comes is a small container, like glitter or spices, so it can be sprinkled), I’m just going to have to do what I always do – wing it – and hope that the Great Pumpkin approves…

So, when we last saw the patch, it looked like this.

We have the patch, we have the vines and we have the pumpkins. However, whilst it’s looking pretty good, it’s missing the vegetation that will make these pumpkin plants actually look like plants – so we need some leaves. And where does the cost-effective wargamer look for suitable vegetation? Anywhere that stocks plastic aquarium plants, of course.

Now, small caveat here – shop around. Whilst the component parts of aquarium plants – plastic vegetation, tiny stones and resin – are cheap in themselves, for some reason when they are combined into a  single product, this increases the price. So, eBay is your friend here, as ordering directly from China means cheap prices and free shipping. You may have to wait a little longer for them to arrive, so balance your temporal need against your budget.

Anyway, having found an aquarium plant with suitably shaped leaves, I removed several stems from the main plant:

Now, these ‘stems’ are approximately 4 inches long, so they are more like trees, so we obviously need to do a little bit of trimming. Taking 4 of the 7 stems, I cut just above each set of leaves, which resulted in several separate ‘leafy stems’:

Plenty of vegetation for my pumpkin patch – it was now just a case of attaching the leaves to my vines. This particular part took twice as long as it should have, and put my patience, ingenuity and vocabulary of expletives to the test. Luckily, I was able to rise to the occasion on all counts, although I possibly shouldn’t be proud of the last one.

Plastic aquarium plants are made of a flexible plastic which doesn’t like glue very much – PVA, polystyrene cement and superglue were all tried and failed to stick the leaves to the vines, or anything else for that matter. My next cunning plan was to use a soldering iron to melt the ends of the ‘stems’, then quickly attach them whilst still ‘melty’ to the vines. This also failed to work.

I then remembered that the majority of builds I’ve seen utilising plastic aquarium plants used ‘hot glue’ to attach them to the basing material…

Do I have a hot glue gun? Of course I bloody don’t.

However, to give insight into how my pinball mind works, I’ll show you how this led to a solution:- “Hot glue? No. Hot glue is transparent – looks like silicone sealant, which we do have. Don’t like the look of it and it’s annoying to paint, but would work. Have white sealant too, which would be better, Ah, also have own brand ‘no more nails’, if it can stick dado rails to walls, it should stick this…”

So, using a small scrap of cardboard, a generous amount of own brand ‘no more nails’ adhesive was squirted out, and each stem was dipped into this and then positioned where I felt it looked best. And it stuck everything in place, with no problems.

When this had dried overnight, the parts of the stems which still had adhesive residue on were painted with GW Goblin Green, then all the leaves were gives a wash of GW Salamander Green. I then painted over the dark patches of the base board with more Docrafts Chocolate Brown, mixed up a wash of more Chocolate Brown with Docrafts Black, and used this to blend in the two existing browns, to give a more ‘realistic’ looking transition between differing coloured parts of the ground. And this is what I ended up with.

And to show how effective the leaves look with the vines, here’s a close-up showing a bit more detail.

And whilst it may not be sincere enough to attract the attention of the (possibly mythical) Great Pumpkin, it does seem to have attracted the attention of Samhain, Demon of the Gourd and his pumpkin-headed minions…

That’s all for this instalment of Carrion Crow’s Long Halloween – as the patch is now complete, next week will bring something different…

On a final note, next weekend sees Warfare 2016 taking part in my home town of Reading, which I will be attending on Saturday 18th, so should any of my regular readers be attending, keep your eyes peeled for some one who (apparently) looks like this:

Image result for combat elite small soldiers

It’s disturbing how much I actually look like this action figure of Chip Hazard from Small Soldiers, even down to the expression. I am taller, though…

Pumpkin Patch Panic!

As most regular readers will know, I always try to use appropriate and, where possible, dual-purpose titles for my posts. This one is no exception.

“Pumpkin Patch Panic” was the title of an adventure published by West End Games for the Ghostbusters International RPG, way back in 1990.

Whilst this scenario was one of the better published adventures, it did still suffer from attempts to shoehorn in unnecessary pop-culture references. Yes, it does feature a pumpkin patch, but does that mean we really have to have thinly veiled Peanuts characters as part of the supporting cast?

I do plan on reviewing both the original Ghostbusters RPG and the 2nd edition, which went by the name of Ghostbusters International, along with all their supplements at some point, but that will have to wait for now…

The second meaning of this post’s title is the Panic I experienced when I realised that I wasn’t actually going to get my Pumpkin Patch finished by the weekend. However, rather than rushing it (and potentially ruining it), I thought I’d take the time necessary to do it justice. Which means that this slightly delayed post is another ‘work in progress’.

So, when we last saw the patch, it was just a muddy field. All well and good, but in order to have a pumpkin patch, we need pumpkins. Now, I was initially going to use ‘Putka Pods’, which are seed pods that look like miniature pumpkins. However, as these appear to be from a plant native to India, they aren’t that readily available in the UK. I did find one UK seller, but it was going to cost 4 times the cost of the pods in postage, so that was the end of that!

My next plan was to buy some of these:

Opaque acrylic pumpkin shaped beads, £1.64 for 50, with about the same cost in postage, from a company called PandaHall. However, PandaHall are based in China (hence the low cost), which meant that, at best, they would be with me in four weeks. Combine this with the fact that they were all the same uniform size and shape and it would end up looking like a ‘cartoon’ pumpkin patch, I decided they were also unsuitable for this project.

Luckily, I’m not one to give up so easily, and eventually purchased a small pot of ‘pick-n-mix’ beads from Hobbycraft for £3.50. Seems rather expensive, but I believe I got about 100 beads for this (I lost count) and they are of varying shapes and sizes, ideal for my nefarious purposes, as can be seen from the picture below:

Whilst they look like they’re made of metal, they are in fact plastic. Obviously, the next thing to do was to paint them the correct colour, so I threaded half a dozen or so onto pipe cleaner ‘stands’. These were then given an undercoat of Docrafts Flesh, followed by a coat of ‘Pumpkin Orange’ (no manufacturer, as this is a colour I mixed myself). A final wash of Docrafts Cherry Red, as only hollowed-out and illuminated pumpkins have that yellowy tinge to them, and we had this;

Now, you might be thinking this is quite a clever idea at this point. And whilst it did kind of work, there were a few issues – the paint obviously went onto the pipe cleaners, which went all stiff and hard, which proved to be a bit of a problem getting the bloody things off them! The larger ‘pumpkins’ came off with their paint jobs largely intact, whereas the smaller ones (to the right of the picture) left their paint either on the pipe cleaners or all over my fingers. Suffice to say, I didn’t use this technique again.

So, we now had some pumpkins, but as this was supposed to be a patch, we needed some plants to attach the gourds to.  On a rummage through one of my cupboards, I’d come across what I call ‘gardening wire’, by which I mean the coated green wire which you usually find in garden centres. Not sure why we had it, as it’s never been used to my knowledge. Anyway, rather than the dark green plasticised stuff, this had a light green papery coating, so it was spirited away to my games cupboard, as I knew I’d have a use for it.

And use it I did, creating several ‘armatures’ of vines, to which my pumpkins would be attached, as shown below:

The next thing to do was to attach the ‘vines’ to the ‘patch’. For this, the Milliput came out and each armature was attached by its ‘stem’, then left to dry overnight. The mound where the stem came out of the ground was then painted with the base Chocolate Brown colour I’d used for the ground and the vines bent into a more natural looking shape, like so;

It does kind of look likes it’s growing out of a mound of poo, doesn’t it?

Moving on…

It was now time to add the pumpkins, with each gourd being added to the end of each stem, with the wire being bent as and where necessary. Having checked various online sources, I ensured that the round pumpkins were on their sides, as this is how they actually grow.

Each stem had its gourds attached and then a dab of superglue was put beneath each pumpkin, to ensure they stayed in place. In some cases, for particular stubborn fruit, a bit more than a dab was necessary, which is why you can see a few white patches beneath some of them in the picture below:

The darker patches you can also see are where some wandering gourds decided to roll across the field, spilling their orange hue all over my lovely patch, which resulted in a bit of a repaint, but the colour didn’t quite match the the original hue, so a further repaint will be required, or at least a bit more blending in. However, I have to say I’m pretty pleased with it so far.

The next stage is to add some leaves to my bare stems and make the patch a bit more bushy. And as I’ve only used quarter of the beads I purchased for this project, to get this far has cost me about £1.13.  Not bad, eh? And not to worry, I have plans for the smaller beads, as they’re approximately the same size as the head of a 28mm figure…

And to finish, an atmospheric close-up shot, showing everything in a bit more detail.

Join me next time, as Carrion Crow’s Long Halloween continues with more pumpkin-y goodness!