Unnatural History

Anyone who has visited one of the big museums, such as the British Museum or the Natural History Museum in London, will know that not only are they filled with cool and interesting things, but they…are…HUGE. I’m not just talking about the exteriors, but once you walk in through the front doors, you find yourself within a cool, marble-floored hall, whose ceiling and walls stretch away from you – almost to infinity. This sense of scale, of grandeur, is deliberate, as it puts you in the right frame of mind to full appreciate the artefacts that you will shortly be viewing.

Now, back in 2009, Sony released Ghostbusters: The Video Game across various home console platforms, including PS2, PS3, Xbox 360 and the Wii. There were two ‘versions’ of the game – realistic and stylised – depending on which console you had, but the general plot was the same.

It was set in New York in 1991 and the Ghostbusters, with the addition of a new “Experimental Weapons Technician” (controlled by the player), attempted to thwart the convoluted plan of Ivo Shandor to return from beyond the veil and complete the work he had begun back in the 1920’s.

Now, unlike a lot of the games published under the Ghostbusters banner, the script and story for this had been created by Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis, and featured the actual vocal talents of the majority of the original cast, including the notoriously reclusive Bill Murray.

And it was awesome, especially on the Wii, as you actually felt like you WERE a Ghostbuster.

You may be wondering how this video game and my introduction regarding museums are related to one another…or to wargaming, which is the purpose of this blog and probably why you’re here in the first place. All WILL be explained, so read on.

So, one of the levels of this game featured the American Museum of Natural History, star of the first Night in the Museum movie and novel Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (NB: the movie based on the latter – The Relic (1997) – whilst not too bad, moved the action to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, so not the same place.) You got to explore various parts of the museum and bust a variety of supernatural menaces along the way.

This got me thinking that having a tabletop representation of a museum – a museum ‘board’ if you will – would be a great location to play a variety of games on. A heist of a valuable artefact could be thwarted by costumed vigilantes or uniformed police; a group of stalwart, square-jawed adventurers could sneak in to prevent cultists from opening a portal to another dimension and releasing some squamous horror; paranormal exterminators or meddling teens could investigate and eliminate a haunting, whether real or faked. Just think of all the movies you’ve seen that have featured a museum or art gallery as a major location and think of what fun YOU could have with your figures, if you had one yourself…

Now, I am aware that Sally 4th does as part of their Terra Blocks range, under the sub-heading of Exotic Locations, The Museum of Antiquities, which is constructed from 17 100mm cubes, that can be rearranged to your heart’s content, for £17.50.

However, whilst nice, this doesn’t really convey the scale of the big museums to me, so I sat on this idea for a while until I had one of my unbelievably genius ideas. You may be somewhat sceptical at this point, but just you wait and see…

Right, first thing you need is a box, but not just any box. You need a box that is pretty big, robust and deep. I was initially going to use a box file for this, as they’re pretty cheap and easy to get hold of wherever you happen to be in the world, but then remembered that Ikea do black storage boxes for a very reasonable £2.00 each. Obviously, being Ikea, you’ve got to build them yourself, but no tools are necessary, as these are the only parts you get:

As you can see from the instruction sheet, this box is called ‘Tjena’, and comes in three parts; the pre-assembled lid, the sides and folded bottom and a flat insert to go in the bottom of the box for added stability. The box is 13 3/4″ long, 9 3/4″ wide and 4″ tall (or 35cm, 25cm and 10cm, if you use Metric) and looks like this once you’ve built it;

You can now see why you have a insert, as the folded part of the base of the box means it hasn’t got a flat bottom.

Each one of these boxes will represent one hall within our museum, so depending on how large you want your museum to be depends on how many boxes you buy. As each ‘hall’ is only £2.00 (in the UK at least), your playing area and budget will dictate how many halls your museum has.

Once you’ve decided how many halls you are going to have and the approximate layout, you need to cut openings in the relevant walls of your halls, so that the visitors can move between halls. Make sure that the openings in each hall are the same size, so that when you put them together, they marry up. I have decided that as my museum may have exhibits such as prehistoric animals or modern art in the form of giant plastic pigs, the openings need to be 3″ wide and this hall will have three openings, so I cut these out.

The reason I did this first is because whilst the box, insert and lid are coloured black, the card it’s made from isn’t, so the cut parts show the original colour of the cardboard it’s made from. As the next stage involves paint, it’s better to have all the bits you’re going to paint on show at the same time.

As museums tend to have neutral coloured walls, out came my £4.00 can of Wilko ‘Soft Taupe’ spray paint and the interior walls (and the cut parts showing the base card colour) were given a liberal coat, then left to dry whilst I moved on to the next part. And this is what it looked like once it was dry.

However, whilst it was drying, I tackled the ‘floor’. The idea here was to cover the card insert with suitably patterned self-adhesive decorative vinyl. Having found a role of said product that featured 1 inch squares, that looked like floor tiles (and is actually fairly similar to the tiled floor of the British Museum) in Poundland, I thought it would be ideal.

So, I cut a section big enough to cover the insert and overlap the edges, peeled of the backing paper and carefully applied the sticky-back plastic to my card insert, like so;

As the walls of my hall were now dry, I simply dropped my floor into place and had the first of my basic museum halls completed;

And to give a sense of scale, here’s Jake Hudson of the local Ghostbusters franchise facing off against some Oriental beastie stalking the halls of the Rookhaven Museum of Natural History;

Now, it’s not complete, as I am intending on adding skirting boards, light switches and power outlets to the walls, to make it look more ‘real’, but I wanted to get this up on the blog so others could see just how simple, quick and inexpensive creating a large interior space to play in was. It doesn’t need to be a museum – it could be ANY interior. And it doesn’t need to be a room this size – it could be easily divided up into smaller rooms, to represent a secret base or a prison or…well anything YOU need.

And, once you’re done playing, pop the lid on and stack it up with the other halls you’ve built. Robust, quick and easy to build and store, and cheap.

Genius.

‘Nuff said.

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Size of a Cow…

Like the other seasonal holidays, whilst Easter does see the shelves of our favourite discount stores filled with suitable bits and bobs, unlike Halloween, these don’t tend to be of any use to the average wargamer.

Having purchased a small wicker basket from Poundland, with the intention of filling it with a veritable cornucopia of small chocolate goodies for my wife, I found that I’d left it a touch late to buy the ‘goodies’, so had to buy normal eggs instead.

This left me with an unwanted and unnecessary item. As I detest waste and have absolutely no shame, I took it back to Poundland and exchanged it for something else…because that’s how I roll.

And what I got was these:

Five injection-moulded hollow plastic bath toys, representing various farm animals, in suitably restrained colours. For a £1, so that makes them 20p each. Bargain!

Now, you might be wondering why on Earth I bought these in the first place and why am I featuring them on the Buffet. Well, in typical Jez fashion, I saw these and immediately started thinking outside the box. The cartoon-like styling of these, their size (they are approximately 3 inches long and 2 inches tall) and their weight (being hollow, they don’t weigh very much) means that I immediately started thinking they could be used as parade balloons, fibre-glass restaurant signs, or corporate mascots brought to unholy life and unleashed on the Ghostbusters…

This give a better idea of how big these toys scenery items are, compared to a standard 28mm Crooked Dice figure. The horse/pony and the chicken are a bit taller, being 3 inches tall and the chicken certainly looks like it should be gracing the roof of a “Chicken Shack”…

However, looking at the pig next to my Ghostbuster figure….

And remembering the beginning of the second Toy Story, where the evil Dr. Porkchop has a vast pig-shaped spacecraft, I thought that this would make a good shuttlecraft for….Pigs in Space!

Of course, in order to do that you’ll need some 28mm Space Pigs…

Luckily, Interloper Miniatures has some;

Join me next time, when we’ll be off to the museum…

 

Ghostbusters – Down Mexico Way

The Universe works in strange ways…

I’d previously posted about my intention to add an Aztec-inspired villain to my Ghostbusters games on 1st April – and this was not a prank, although the subject matter may have led people to believe it was… You can read all about “The Jewelled Fowl” here.

Bearing in mind that I had already made a start on this project when I posted on 1st April, the fact that on 28th March I was notified from my Blog feed that Antediluvian Miniatures had just released their Conquistadors of Mictlan range in their shop, which contains Conquistador Zombies, Mictlan Zombies, Mictlan Jaguar Warriors and Mictlan Liches, seemed rather…serendipitious.

And then, on the 6th April, I attended Salute 2019 and although I failed to attend the “Bloggers Meet” (as I thought it was at 1pm, rather than 12pm) and didn’t actually buy anything (as nothing within my price range grabbed my interest), there were a couple of things that caught my eye…

Firstly, the American laser-cut MDF building company Things From the Basement are now working with 4Ground in the UK and one of their new ranges is The Lost Archipelago range, which I suspect was inspired by the Frostgrave – Ghost Archipelago game, but is suitable for all your Incan, Mayan and Aztec needs.

Then there was the injection-moulded plastic scenery from Archon Studio, who have some kind of link with Prodos Games. This system, called “Rampart” is a modular scenery system that was launched on Kickstarter and has a delivery date of May 2019, but you can enter a late pledge via the Archon Studio shop, the lowest level being the $49.00 starter pledge.

Now, I normally wouldn’t look at a Kickstarter, but having actually handled the components of this one, I was suitably impressed, especially as the second theme of the initial release is the Kazumi Temple, which looks like this:

As I am a big fan of plastic terrain items, especially stuff of this nature, this bears keeping an eye on, as I can see several uses for this kit. However, we will have to see if they deliver on their promised shipping date and how soon after this the items appear for general release.

All items that could enhance my intended venturing into the realms of Aztec horror…and all still with their manufacturers, as I have a tiny budget at present.

However, when has that ever stopped me in the past? Let’s see how the project is (slowly) progressing so far.

The “Blighted Reavers” from the Arena of the Planeswalker boxed game had most of their mold lines removed and a generous (perhaps a little TOO generous) layer of sharp sand added to their bases, then were undercoated in white. They were then given a couple of thin coats of grey, then their loincloths were painted beige and one of them (as a test) had his torc and bracelet painted gold.

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Still a little darker than I originally envisaged, but a touch of high-lighting will sort this out.

With my human form Chalchiuhtotolin, he’s now been based and undercoated, but only his head-dress currently painted, as I was waiting for his base to dry properly.

I have got significantly further with his turkey from, as you can see below:

I decided to go with a the standard turkey colouration initially, which appears to be blacks, whites and greys for the plumage, with a red and blue head. I will be introducing a hint of green to the proceedings, as he is the “Jade Turkey” and am considering whether this would be better done as a green ink wash over his feathers, giving a slightly shiny, metallic look to them. Currently undecided on this, but was suitably impressed with the detailing on this cheap plastic toy, as it has come out rather nicely.

And finally, a group shot;

Coming along nicely and should you see these – or anything else strange in your neighbourhood – you know who to call…

Until next time…

Ghostbusters – Evil-ution

Having watched with interest as Steve Gilbert has taken a bunch of 54mm plastic figures (including cheap plastic army men and cowboys and indians sourced from China at 4p a figure) to re-fight the Anglo-Zulu war, over on his new blog Reveille, this has got me out of my gaming “funk” and re-focused my mind on what I want to achieve for the fourth year of Carrion Crow’s Buffet.

As you can probably gather from the title, I have returned to one of my true loves, that of the boys in beige themselves, the best, the beautiful, the only…Ghostbusters!

So, 2019 will see a return to the Ghostbusters project, as I complete painting up all the figures I have bought specifically to play GB games with and actually play some games with them. As my gaming budget has taken a bit of a hit, everything “new” for this project will be re-purposed from elsewhere or some of my usual innovative and inexpensive build solutions.

But it’s all very well talking the talk, but you’ve got to walk the walk as well, otherwise it’s all just hot air…

Let us begin with an insight into my fevered imagination, as I show you just exactly how my mind works. You have been warned…

So, the underlying premise of Ghostbusters, as a horror/comedy, is that whilst the ‘baddies’ should be somewhat horrific, they should also be a touch ridiculous. Take the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man – he’s quite cute, being the mascot of a confectionary company, but as the avatar of a “moldy Babylonian Sumerian God”, dedicated to destroying the World, he is pretty terrifying too.

Therefore, in order to create a new foe for MY Ghostbusters franchise, I need to embrace this premise and come up with something that is in equal parts terrifying AND amusing. I have done this once before, for the tabletop Ghostbusters RPG, where a franchise based in Reading, Berkshire had to deal with various Christmas-themed entities – The Ghost of Cows Past haunting a McDonalds, the Ghost of Christmas Presents – a giant jack-in-a-box trying to wrap the world and, finally, the big bad himself, Father Solstice – the Ghost of Christmas As It Should Be, the spirit of a Druid burnt at the stake trying to return the winter festival to its pagan roots. It was very silly, but a huge amount of fun, as the players embraced their pre-generated characters and just went for it.

One thing that had stuck in my mind from a visit to one of the farm parks that masquerades as a zoo, because it has a few things that aren’t strictly farm animals, such as otters (which absolutely reek) and penguins (which are pretty stupid, from my experience), was an encounter with a turkey. Having only ever seen pictures of them or as a Christmas dinner, I wasn’t prepared for the real thing. This was the grandaddy of all turkeys, being a good four feet tall and this bird slowly stalked forward, a malevolent look in its eyes that caused me to back away from the flimsy looking fence separating me from it. It was faintly ludicrous looking, but gave of a palpable aura of menace, as though it was thinking “you’re lucky that fence is there…”

So, when looking for a suitable villain, I was thinking along the lines of something turkey related and one of my bizarre google searches led me to Chalchiuhtotolin, the Jewelled Fowl, an Aztec God of disease and plague.

The idea that there was an evil Aztec turkey God, whose presided over disease and plague, started ideas bouncing around in my head – would he manifest just after Thanksgiving, having taken over the local dump and animated all the rotting turkey carcasses to plague the living? Where could I find 28mm zombie turkeys? And similar thoughts…

I picked up a Mayan Chief figure from Gringo 40’s 28mm Mesoamerican range to use as the human avatar of Chalchiuhtotolin at Salute, but that’s as far as I got…

However, with my recent purchase of the Arena of the Planeswalker game (as detailed in this post) and the realisation that three of the torc-wearing zombies would make pretty cool Aztec Ghouls, this encouraged me to revisit this idea. Of course, I needed an avatar of Chalchiuhtotolin in turkey form, so needed a big freaking turkey, so a quick rummage in my loft uncovered this:

Super-glued to a pre-puttied two-pence piece base, which, for our non-UK readers, is a copper coin approximately 25mm in diameter, this hard rubber toy is about 2″ (50mm) tall. Quite nicely detailed, it just needed a few mold lines removed and is now ready for painting.

To give a sense of scale, here is Chalchiuhtotolin in full-on turkey avatar mode (a sentence you never thought you’d ever read) with his Aztec ghoul minions, which are about 30mm tall, so pretty beefy themselves.

I need to base up his human avatar form and then we’ll be into painting him and his minions up, to bedevil my Ghostbusters.

Weird, unique, yet interesting content…I’m back, baby!