It’s About Time…

Knowing that I had a second evening to myself this week, I contemplated the many possibilities that such a ‘gift’ could be utilised for. Do I finish watching Jessica Jones on Netflix, as I’m woefully behind on my Marvel tv? Watch the last episode of the rather good Doctor Who spin-off – Class? Or possibly add some more pigment to some of my miniatures?

As the rest of the weekend was going to be a washout, hobby-wise, I thought the best use of my time would be to update my loyal readers on what I’m currently doing and what I have planned over the coming weeks.

So, having made a few purchases at Warfare at the end of November, I got around to basing them and giving them an undercoat and a touch of colour. Here are the first three in the painting queue;

So, starting from the left, we have a Heroclix Jackal from the Web of Spider-Man subset. As this is a particularly bestial version of the character and reminds me of the vampires from Penny Dreadful, he will become some form of undead predator – perhaps a ghoul or feral vampire.

Next up we have Mad Jim Jones from the Black Scorpion Pirates range, who is currently on his way to becoming Bastian Stone, a rogue, scoundrel and implacable foe on the undead, who will, once finished, be winging his way across to Ireland to feature in a Ravenloft campaign run by the estimable owners of The Game Cupboard blog.

On the far right, we have a Butler from Moonraker Miniatures’ Investigators range, who will become the first character for my Carry on Screaming! project, namely Sockett the butler, played by Bernard Bresslaw.

Now, I’ve always wanted a ‘headless horseman’ figure, and whilst several companies do them, Rapier Miniatures one is only £3.00, so I snaffled him up. Here he is:

Maybe not the most dynamic figure, but it’s a good solid and nicely detailed figure. And unlike some of the other offerings, he’s actually carrying his own head, as can be seen below:

Looks pretty pissed off, doesn’t he? And yes, the horse is currently blue…but won’t stay that way. Did I mention it’s only £3.00?

As regular readers will know, I like double use titles, and the second use of this title relates to the next batch of figures in my painting queue, namely some Timelords…

So, at either end we have the 3rd and 12th incarnation of the Doctor, from the sadly retired Crooked Dice range, with Heresy Miniatures Steve Buddle sculpt of the 11th Doctor in the centre, also out of production.

As far as I’m concerned, these are the definitive versions of these characters in 28mm, as they look like the actors concerned. And whilst they may not be ‘officially licenced’, at least they match the scale of the rest of my figures, unlike Warlord Games’ offerings.

And if you have Timelords, you need baddies, so here are those that have made it into the painting queue so far:

Could those be a couple of the original plastic Games Workshop Cybermen, released waaaaay back in 1987? I do believe they are! I have a handful more of these, which I’m planning on slightly converting, as the figures only came in the one pose and are all carrying the same…weapon? truncheon? something bought at Ann Summers? I will have to do a little bit of research on this, as I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to be.

The figure in the centre is a Heroclix Cardinal Raker from the Galactic Guardians subset. I removed his silly two-pronged sword and replaced it with a ‘chronostaff’ made from a length of paperclip and a small bead. He will end up as a renegade Timelord, in the vein of Omega, as his outfit does resemble the ornate ceremonial robes of the Timelords, but without the peripheral vision blocking big collars.

So, expect to see these progress over the coming weeks, accompanied by some more retro-sci-fi goodness, including both blobby and non-blobby aliens and hopefully some suitable terrain, which definitely won’t be a quarry…

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!

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!