On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine

I had been merrily beavering away, gathering the necessary troops, fauna and terrain to get everything ready for my first game in mine and Steve’s shared world project entitled The Age of Unreason, when I was made aware of some information that effectively scuppered my plans.

Apparently, Steve had already prepared and been playing a long-term campaign based in and around Maine and Massachusetts, set in this particular era, and had detailed locales, characters and adventures on file.

And did I find this out from Steve himself? Nope. A mutual friend made me aware of this, as Steve was far too polite to tell me himself, although he did try and drop various veiled hints regarding this…

People who know me well are aware that subtlety is wasted on me. I’m a pretty straight-forward guy and if you want to say something to me, just say it. Understandably, these ‘hints’ went over my head.

So, here was me, waxing lyrical over what my plans were for my Dark Haven thread, not realising that I was effectively breaking into his house, making myself at home and tracking mud all over his nice clean carpets.

Not cool, Jez, not cool at all…

Now, I could continue as I had initially planned, but that would be both inconsiderate and selfish of me, and that’s not who I am. The whole point of a shared world is that it’s shared, so everyone collaborating within it should respect the work and effort put in by other parties and not tread on their toes.

So, what does this mean for my part of this project? Well, it means that you will no longer see a small detachment of the Massachusetts State Militia being sent to into the North Maine Woods, to investigate the strange happenings in the township of Dark Haven.

Instead, Captain Nathaniel Hunt will be leading a small unit of the Virginia State Militia on various missions across the state – dealing with escaped slaves from tobacco plantations who have ‘gone native’, cursed coal mines in the Blue Ridge Mountains, raids from members of the Powhatan Confederacy, Appalachian black panthers, sasquatch and the most famous cryptid of the region…Mothman.

Whilst the latter has not yet had a figure made by any of the various companies out there, I do own my own scratch-built miniature of this creature;

And now I have an ideal excuse to use ‘him’ in my games! Yay!

Now, whilst tomorrow brings the beginning of the creative juggernaut that is Forgotten Heroes 2018 (details of this can be found here), this does not mean that I will be solely focused on creating my ‘Forgotten Hero’ – I have Virginia State Militia to assemble and paint, in their hand-me-down Virginia State Regiment uniforms. Good thing I have plenty of red and blue paint… 😉

Until next time…

Advertisements

Where Be Monsters?

When I start a new project, especially one based on a specific genre, historical period or location, I always try to base the mythology of the world I’m building on relevant myths, legends and folklore.

For example, my Tales of the Black Museum is my version of Victorian London, viewed through the lens of Gothic literature, but sprinkled with appropriate creatures sourced from British folklore.

It’s sufficiently familiar for people to feel that these adventures might come from the lost notebooks of Doyle, Stoker or Wells, but also different enough to exist in its own right. I like to subvert expectations, but always strive to ensure that whatever world I create has its own internal logic and that any thing that does appear is appropriate to the setting.

I am approaching the Age of Unreason project in the same vein. I could be lazy, as some of the ‘Weird West’ games that are currently popular have done, and just ‘re-skin’ the standard horror tropes – the vampire, the werewolf and the zombie – in suitable attire for the setting, but given that the mythology of the Native American tribes has a vast panoply of strange creatures and entities that could be used, where’s the fun in that?

Of course, the problem with straying off the beaten path is that it can be slightly tricky to find a suitable model to represent the particular creature you want to include in your game. Plenty of options for depicting creatures from Greek mythology, but Mythic India…not so much.

Luckily for me, there is a company that specialises in producing a range of tribal warriors and ‘spirit beasts’ from the Americas and Pacific Islands…and that company is Paymaster Games.

Their range of figures is for their own set of wargames rules – Going Tribal: Warpath – which pits various pre-contact indigenous tribes against one another, and includes rules for 82 ‘spirit beasts’ with which to bedevil your tribal warriors. Both the rules and associated miniature range can be viewed and bought from their eBay store, which can be found here.

Now, as my fellow blogger Harry of the War Across the Ages blog, wanted to express his gratitude for the support, encouragement and inspiration that my own blog had given him, by sending me a small gift, this was an ideal opportunity to get a couple of figures from their range.

However, whilst I may crave Uktena, the Great Horned Serpent or Mishibizhiw, the Underwater Panther, you don’t take the piss when offered an unsolicited gift, so I went with smaller models, namely the Deer Woman and the Basket Woman.

The Deer Woman or Deer Lady is an entity primarily associated with fertility and love, but whilst mostly benign, it does have a reputation for luring promiscuous men into the woods to kill them. Ideal for my nefarious purposes. Whilst not specifically associated with the tribes located in Maine, the Iroquois have stories of this creature and that’s close enough for me.

The model is a one piece metal casting, supplied with a lipped plastic base. Naked from the waist up, but modesty preserved by her long hair, her voluminous skirt swirls away from her deer legs beneath. Available for $7.00 (about £5.22) from the store.

The Basket Woman or Basket Ogress is a bogeyman figure of the Northwest Coastal tribes, a hairy marauder that preys on naughty or careless children, scooping them up in her claws and carrying them off in a back-mounted basket to be devoured at her leisure. The tribes of Maine have a similar creature called a Kukwes, which seems to be the male equivalent, but that’s also close enough for me!

Available from the store for $8.00 (about £5.97), the figure comes in three parts and is cast in flexible resin, like that used by Black Scorpion Miniatures. The Ogress comes in two parts – main body and right arm, with the left arm holding a snatched child as a separate part. The third part of the set is a fleeing Indian child, which can be based separately or used to create a vignette.

A couple of interesting, well-sculpted and, above all, different figures to add to my menagerie of horrors of the North Maine Woods. A generous and appreciated gift from Harry, for which I thank him.

So, if you’re planning on venturing into the mythic vistas of either North or South America, or paddling your canoe to one of the Pacific Islands, and want suitable creaturs to menace your adventurers, look no further. However, bear in mind that as Paymaster Games is based in Seattle, you will have to factor in shipping costs on any order.

Paymaster have just closed their fourth Kickstarter and I’m already eyeing up some figures from this expansion – including Maui, the Polynesian Hercules, recently made more well-known by appearing in Disney’s Moana, voiced by Dwayne Johnson. I mean, who doesn’t want the Rock on their tabletop?

Until next time…”You’re welcome”*

(*Moana gag, for those who’ve seen the movie.)

In a Dark, Dark Wood…

After a flurry of emails back and forth between myself and my co-collaborator Steve on our Age of Unreason project, we discovered a slight flaw in our plans…

My initial idea was to use the time-frame of the French Indian Wars (1754 – 1763) as the overall setting for this project, as my Dark Haven thread required an isolated location in what would become Northern Maine and I thought this period offered the best options for the type of thing I was looking for. However, Steve had a slightly different period in mind, approximately 30-40 years further on…

Now, whilst both periods share a similar level of technology, you couldn’t really say they were the same campaign/project and it would mean that the shared location of St. Gilbert’s couldn’t really be shared – unless it exists in some strange pocket universe, time warp or a geographically shifted Bermuda triangle. Although, as Varian from The Fantastic Journey WAS initially disguised as an Arawak native, that could be a possibility…

So, we could have split the two threads into two separate and semi-related campaigns, but what would be the point in that?

As Steve possessed the lion’s share of the existing figures and mine were currently ‘on sprue’, it seemed more sensible to shift my time-frame forward, as my thread was not really event or time-specific.

So, we have decided that the Age of Unreason will be set in the 1790’s. America has fought and won its independence and the new government of the United States has decided that it doesn’t need a standing army, so the Continental army has been disbanded and replaced with individual state militias. But whilst revolution is no longer on the agenda of the American people, this doesn’t mean that other nations are immune to its effects, as the French monarchy are soon to find out.

The latter aspect of this will be where Steve will be concentrating his efforts, dealing with the French Revolution and those conflicts that arose from it. He will no doubt provide a bit more information on what exactly he will be doing, so I’ll leave that up to him to explain.

For me, as Dark Haven now actually exists IN the State of Maine, rather than one of the other innumerable names it laboured under as its borders shifted back and forth, I don’t have to worry about what the actual name of the province/colony/etc. was where the town is situated or who owns it.

《Edit: As rightly pointed out by Bob in the comments below, Maine didn’t actually become a state in its own right until 1820. During the time selected for this campaign, it was still part of Massachusetts and was known as the District of Maine. I must check my sources a bit more thoroughly in future.》

Whilst my plans and themes have not altered – if you’re thinking a cross between Sleepy Hollow and Twin Peaks, you’re pretty much there – the make-up of my small group of hardy soldiers sent to Dark Haven has. As the area is now part of the United States, I can’t be really sending British redcoats into the woods – it will have to be Maine Massachusetts state militia, wearing a mix of hand-me-down Continental army uniforms and buckskins. As I had not yet assembled my troops, this doesn’t represent an issue for me.

So, no redcoats will be showing up in the Dark Haven thread.

Well, not living ones anyway…

But before I can send anyone into the woods, I do actually need to have some woods to send them into. Having already secured my remarkably cheap trees from China, I decided it was time to dip and base them.

I mixed up a jug of very thinned down PVA, to seal the flock on the trees and prevent any more shedding. The consistency needs to be slightly slimy to the touch, which means that it will seal, but not end up in big gloopy lumps all over your trees. The slight problem with this is that as the clump foliage/flock is absorbent, it will take a bit longer to dry. And it’s a bit messy.

I decided to do this outside on Saturday, thinking that I could peg the trees up in the sun and they would dry nice and quickly. Of course, the weather decided to take a turn for the inclement and it began to rain. Not being one to let the weather dictate what I can and can’t do, I did this:

That’s right – twenty dipped trees, suspended under my patio table, out of the rain. Where they stayed for the rest of Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and a bit of Sunday morning.

Sunday, being a day of Sun, hence the name, was a bit nicer. After dispensing with the outside jobs that required Man (as all the gardening tools are stored in a place where the spiders live – which is a no-go zone for my wife), I commenced basing my trees.

Selecting one, two and three hex Heroscape tiles and the relevant diameter drill bit that matched the trunks of my trees, I drilled twenty holes in the centre of each hex. I then pushed the trees through the holes, adjusted the rotation of the trees to get them to sit nicely together, then flipped each tile over and hot-glued the protruding trunk underneath. Unfortunately, some of the holes were slightly bigger that the trunks – whether this was the drill moving or different sized trunks, I’m uncertain – but it meant that not every tree is perpendicular to the ‘ground’. Plus some of the protruding trunks are a little too long to enable them to sit flush on top of other Heroscape hexes, so will have to be trimmed down a smidge.

But, this is what the entire ‘forest’ looked like once they’d been based, all crammed together:

And a low-level shot, showing what they look like from a miniature’s point of view, which also shows the wonky trees and bases that need trimming.

So, once they’d based in this fashion, you can then move them around to your heart’s content, combining them with other Heroscape hexes, to create a modular, robust and reasonably convincing landscape or battlefield, like so:

Now, I appreciate that these may not be particular ‘Dark’, but I think you’ll agree that I’ve covered the the ‘Woods’ part pretty well.

Whilst I shall be gaming in 28mm, imagine what these 10cm tall trees would look like with 15mm figures! Heroscape hexes are 1 3/4 inches across, for those of you unfamiliar with them, so the clearance between each trunk is just under this distance, so a fair bit of space to manoeuvre your figures about in or fill with shrubs and low-lying vegetation. Or Jackalopes…

Until next time…

Spirits of Vengeance

“Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise…” – Isaiah 26:19

As we’re within a transition period here at the Buffet, with my Tales of the Black Museum being temporarily shelved as the focus shifts to the new Age of Unreason campaign, I find my hobby-time is split between finishing off a few odds and ends for TOBM and preparing the miniatures, terrain and fauna for the new project. And, for some reason, an urge to paint Daleks…

However, whilst there are no Daleks on show in this post, it does highlight the juxtaposition between the previous project and the new, with figures from both, which do happen to have a rather coincidental link…

First up, the most recent recruit to the forces of the Black Museum, the Penny Farthing-riding Constable Jack O’Lantern.

Constructed from various odds and ends from my bits box, including a plastic GW skeleton, who was then clothed in a Milliput uniform, when we first saw him, he looked like this:

As my intention was to have him as a Victorian version of the Marvel character Ghost Rider, he would not only require painting, but the addition of mystical flames boiling forth from his skull and a trail of fire behind him…which is why his base was made that long.

The painting wasn’t an issue, other than the wash I’d applied to his hands, feet and skull leaking on to his uniform, requiring a bit of touching up.

The flame effects were a bit trickier. Having previously used transparent silicone bathroom sealant to create a ring of mystical fire around an Oriental vampire model, mainly to hide the fact that he was a bit shorter than the other models he was going to be used with, I knew that it was possible. But it proved a little troublesome, as teasing the blobs of sealant into suitable flame shapes takes a steady hand and a medium that behaves itself – both of which were slightly lacking on the day.

However, I persevered and finally got what I wanted. Once dry, it was just a case of dry-brushing the ‘flames’ with a light blue, followed by a coat of blue ink, as the type of flames I was going for were similar to gas flames.

And this is the tinal result:

I’m pretty pleased with how the completed figure came out, bearing in mind that, other than the skeleton, it’s completely scratch-built.

Next up…imagine you’re a member of his Majesty’s armed forces, dispatched across the Atlantic to the New World, to protect the hardy colonists who have chosen to make a new life in a new land. You and your colleagues are thrust into a completely different environment, required to fight against natives whose tactics seem alien to the ordered warfare you are used to.

Imagine that due to being far from home, some of your colleagues resort to behaviour that goes against your very nature and values and, when you rebel, your supposed friends and companions turn on you, murdering you and leaving your body in a hastily dug shallow grave…

Would you rest easy? Or would your soul be consumed with vengeance against those who betrayed you?

If the latter, you may become a Revenant, dispensing your own form of justice from beyond the grave. You may become…a Deadcoat.

I appreciate that is a tertible pun, but it suited the figure that I’ve been working on;

This is a figure from Black Cat Bases, part of their Pirates of the Skeleton Seas range. However, as this particular figure was bought many moons ago, whilst they still do a similar figure, this particular sculpt is no longer available – which is a shame, because it is rather nice.

I believe it’s supposed to be a member of the Royal Navy, resurrected to serve an undead master, but I decided to paint it in a uniform similar to that of the British Regular Infantry, as worn during the French Indian War. I’ve not got very far, as yet, but I think you get the idea.

Until next time…

The Road to Forgotten Heroes 2018

As we’re nearing the first third of May, the means that the creative madness that is Forgotten Heroes is sliding inexorably closer.

For those of you not familiar with this ‘community art project’, this now annual event is where a group of like=minded gamers create one or more gaming miniatures of characters who have yet to have an official or unofficial figure made of them. In essence, they have been “forgotten.”

Or at least that’s what it started out as…

However, as with most of these types of challenges, these things do have a tendency to evolve over time. As one of the questions we regularly get asked is “I know it’s a little outside the rules, but can I do this character?” I think it’s time to redefine the rules somewhat…

Don’t worry though = whilst the rules have now evolved, they’re actually broadening the scope, so should make deciding which character(s) you’re going to create a bit easier.

1. The character or characters you create must have a definitive look or image. In other words, we should be able to recognise the character from the original source material.

2. The base figure used for your creation must not be an official or unofficial sculpt of the character. Repainting a DC Heroclix Blue Beetle as the obscure Marvel villain Goldbug is acceptable, painting the Copplestone Castings ‘Kentucky Davis’ as Indiana Jones is not.

3. The figure must be in the 28mms to 32mm range. This takes into account those manufacturers whose scale is slightly larger, so if you want to create a hero or villain to fit in with your existing Knight Models or Warlord Doctor Who collection, you can.

4. The figure must be completed during the month of June 2018.

5. In your first post, you should provide a bit of background detail in the character you’ve chosen, ideally with an illustration, so we know what you’re aiming for.

Other than that, the choice of character is entirely up to you. In previous years we’ve had Masters of the Universe, Transformers, costumed heroes and villains from comic books, and characters from both the small and big screens. 

For details of previous year’s entries, please take a look at the official Forgotten Heroes site, which can be found here.

Let’s make this year even better than the last!

Jez

Île des Mortes

The Island of St. Gilbert, St. Gilbert’s Isle or, more commonly, just St. Gilbert’s is a small volcanic Caribbean island, situated approximately halfway between the territories of the British Virgin Islands and the island of Anguilla. As such, it belongs to both the Lesser Antilles and Leeward Islands.

Unlike the other islands in this chain, whilst both the Arawak and Carib indians were aware of the island, neither settled it, as the lack of natural harbour and sheer rocky coastline made it difficult to access. As those native explorers that did ascend the black cliffs never returned, the island was considered taboo by both peoples.

When Columbus ventured forth on his voyage of exploration, he felt that the inaccessible nature of the island made it more trouble than it was worth to explore, and merely recorded the island on his charts as Roccia nera, for that was all it appeared to be.

The first actual settlers were members of the Order of St. Gilbert, a Roman Catholic order founded in Britain in 1130. Whilst it was believed that the order came to an end in the 16th century, at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it had survived in splinter form and the remaining adherents took ship and sailed for the West Indies in the early 17th century.

Whilst the other islands of the Lesser Antilles offered greater scope for settlement, the inaccessibility of Roccia nera, and the fact that no nation seemed to want to claim it made it an ideal refuge for the order.

Over the next couple of decades, work began on construction of both the convent and monastery, as the Order of St. GIilbert was fairly unique at the time in allowing both male and female lay members to worship and live together in harmony.

Utilising the natural basalt that made up the majority of the island’s composition , the order constructed their compound high above sea level. The quarrying of the stone for these buildings had the added benefit of creating an artificial cove, that made the island more accessible for supply ships from the neighbouring islands.

Whilst life was fairly harsh on the newly renamed Island of St. Gilbert, the order appeared to flourish, subsisting on locally cultivated crops and regular supply drops from British owned Anguilla.

This came to an end in 1666. The French had occupied Anguilla and sought to extend their holdings in the Caribbean, so sent a warship to St. Gilbert’s with the intention of securing it for the King. However, the marines sent to occupy the island were met with a scene of carnage. The monastery grounds were littered with slaughtered bodies of the lay brothers and canons regular. Of the lay sisters there was no trace, other than a few blood-stained and torn habits.

Whilst they had not formally occupied St. Gilbert’s, the French insisted that it be ceded to Britain in the Treaty of Breda in 1667. All record of their discoveries the previous year were suppressed, other than veiled references to St. Gilbet’s as Île des Mortes.

The island has remained a British territory ever since.