The Best Laid Plans

I don’t know which evil entity decided July would be the month in which it would attempt to unravel all aspects my life, but someone obviously failed to inform it of exactly who it was dealing with…

So, having been lashed to the mast, screaming obscenities into the teeth of the gale, I have weathered all that July has thrown at me and returned, if not unscathed, at least unsunk.

However, it does mean that my ‘best laid plans’ have gone awry. No rules have been written, no games played, no figures painted…nothing even remotely hobby-related has been done.

But when have I ever let that stop me from posting, eh?

Regular visitors will know that I constantly keep my eyes open for inexpensive items that can be re-purposed for gaming. They will also know that, given the choice, my personal material preference for wargaming structures is hard plastic, rather than MDF.

So, if I happen to come across an injection-moulded plastic building that is not only approximately scaled to 28mm, but also only £4.00, I’m hardly likely to leave it on the shelf now, am I?

Zomlings in the Town” is a range of collectible plastic figurines made by Magic Box Toys, representing cartoon-like monsters that are just under an inch tall, which are sold blind-packaged to encourage multiple purchases. However, we’re not interested in the main range, but an ‘expansion’ from Series 5, known as Parking.

This expansion consists of three buildings, approximately 3.5″ by 2.5″ in area and 2.5″ tall, moulded in single colour hard plastic and sold separately accompanied by two ‘themed’ zomlings. The buildings are hollow and have a hinged door at one end, as each building is supposed to be a garage for the appropriately themed ‘zom-mobile’.

There is a red fire station, a blue police station and a green ice cream shop, as shown below:

Image result for zomlings series 5 parking

Stylistically,  the buildings are somewhat cartoony, with the kind of slightly wonky architecture you’d expect to see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, so these are probably best utilised with either Chibi figures, such as those from Super Dungeon Explore or Ninja All Stars, or with Heroclix TMNT.

“But Jez”, I hear you cry, “You don’t own any Chibi figures or any Turtles, so what use are these to you?” Patience, dear reader, I will explain…

Whilst both the fire and police station certainly wouldn’t fit in with any of the figures I currently own, the ice cream shop is another matter, as the ‘style’ of this building can be rationalised away. Most ice cream parlours are somewhat stylised anyway, so having examined the item in question in detail, I bought one.

And here it is:

So, an injection-moulded plastic building with plenty of surface detail and texturing for £4.00. As you can see, the detailing covers the entire exterior, including the roof. I’ve shown it with its ‘door’ open, to give an idea of how this works.

Of course, I did claim that this was approximately 28mm scale, let’s stick a couple of figures in front of it, to show what this looks like:

“I am the Master…and I do want a flake with that.”

To the left we have one of my repainted Heroclix figures and to the right, my Black Tree Design Master, which gives a good indication that, whilst the door might look a touch small, generally speaking it doesn’t look too out of scale.

As the roof is flat, what with it being a box, there is enough room to place at least one figure on the roof, depending on base size.

“I am the Master…of all I survey. Oooh! I can see you house from up here.”

And, as the building is hollow, this mean that it can be opened and figures placed inside.

And what would you expect to find inside an ice cream parlour? I don’t know about you, but mine appears to be full of Daleks…

“Refrigerate! Refrigerate! Refrigerate!”

Bloody things get everywhere

A very useful addition to my urban scenery and I can see this being used in a variety of genres, from Scooby Doo to Ghostbusters, superheroes to Doctor Who. I am actually quite looking forward to giving this a lick of paint, but feel it probably needs an undercoat of spray primer first, as all buildings, even small ones such as this, do seem to take a looooooong time to paint.

That’s all for this time and whilst this may not have been useful to all of you, I hope its been of use to some of you.

Next time…at present, your guess is as good as mine. Could be Doctor Who, could be Victorian adventurers, could be superheroes, could be something really weird

But there WILL be something here. And July can go fuck itself.



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!

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!

A Good Solid Base

I tend to base all my figures on circular bases, which can range from the standard 25mm ‘slottabase’ which is mainly used for metal figures, to the humble 2 pence piece, which happens to be approximately 25mm in diameter, gives heft to re-based Heroclix figures and is cheaper that a similar sized metal washer.

However, there is further medium that I have used, as its properties do lend it to basing specific types of figures – rubber tap washers:

The above pack of three set me back the grand total of 75p. Whilst the packaging does state that the washers are 3/4″, they are actually 25mm in diameter and 5mm thick. This means that they are the same diameter and height as a standard 25mm ‘slottabase’, but have a lot more heft due to the material they are made from.

So far, so good, but why use them when both 2 pence pieces and plastic slottabases are more economical to buy? Well, because they are made from rubber, it is quite easy to make holes in them without having to find the smallest drill bit in your toolbox – a simple bradawl will suffice. So, should you have one of the earlier Heroclix flying sculpts, where a small peg was molded onto their foot and then attached to those awful flying stands, all you need do is make a hole in your washer, then simple insert your figure into the base. Your lightweight plastic figure now has a substantial base attached, without having to resort to molding putty around the peg and hoping it won’t pull free.

But, more importantly for me, should you happen to be sculpting a trio of Chibi adventurers who currently have about 15mm of wire extending from the soles of their feet, once the sculpting has reached the point where you are considering basing them, you can remove them from their corks, force the wire into the rubber washers and then snip off any wire that extends below the bottom. You now have three figures on hefty rubber bases, which is necessary for Chibi figures, as their heads are so freakin’ large…

But before you can actually do that, you need to prepare the washers, as otherwise any figure you are attempting to rebase will look like they’re standing on a tyre.

Obviously, you can cover the top of the washer with the basing medium of your choice, but this may get damaged when making the hole (or holes) to insert your figure. So, ideally you need a material that is thick enough to cover the top of the washer and the central hole, but thin enough that it can be pierced without deforming. And if that material also happens to be textured in some fashion, then you’ve saved yourself a bit of work later. Something like this:

So, what we have here is a piece of coarse sandpaper and a sample of textured wallpaper, both of which I am going to use.

I’m using coarse sandpaper, but any grade will do, depending upon how ‘rough’ you want your base to be. I’ve previously used this to make an asphalt base, as once you have your first base coat on, the sandpaper loses its ability to ‘sand’, but still retains its texture. A single base coat and a darker wash and you’re pretty much done.

The textured wallpaper has a kind of canvass-y look to it, so I’m intending on using this as bamboo matting.

First order of the day is to glue the washers to your topping. The best glue for this, due to the materials involved, is PVA, although it does take a while to set. Once the glue is set, cut as close to the end of the washer as you can, so you get your circular base ‘topper’. There will probably be a slight overhand, but this can be tidied up with a file – however, remember to draw the file down, otherwise you risk pulling your topping off. They will end up looking like this;

And to give a better view of the textured tops:

Other than adding the figures and painting, these are ready to go.

Now, for something a little different. In a couple of his recent posts on his blog Fantorical, Simon aka Blaxkleric has been showing some ‘work in progresses’ for some Irregular Miniatures 6mm ‘Imperial Fleet’ miniatures, which are heavily influenced by the Federation starships of Star Trek. I always liked the design of the Federation starships, so had a quick browse through their range and noted that the prices were pretty reasonable. However, as the Gaming Fund is currently a bit low, purchase of starships would have to wait. Besides, I didn’t have any rules to play starship combat with anyway…

But, like a strawberry pip caught between my teeth, it wouldn’t go away. So, hastily scribbled notes were made, crossed out and rewritten. Then my bits box was raided, along with a few more esoteric places, things were glued to other things and the end results were;

1 – A very rough first draft of a hex-based starship combat game in the vein of Star Trek (i.e. big Capital ships, rather than one-man fighters, shifting of power between shields, engines and weapons systems and lots of screaming of “The engines cannae’ take it, Captain!” in a Scottish accent), and;

2 – This:

Using a GW plastic heavy Lascannon, a GW plastic shield, part of a plastic coffee stirrer and a massive button, I now have the first of my fleet, a Scorpion Class Cruiser. And it cost me nothing.

Once I have constructed another ‘enemy’ ship, out will come my black HeroScape hexes (“Asphalt? Asphalt?  I think you’ll find that’s actually Deep Space, my good man…”) and the first play-test of the rules that will be called…Final Frontier.

That’s all for this week. I’ve set myself a deadline of the end of September to complete all my Oriental Fantasy stuff, the Way of the Crow rules and my Chibi figures, but there’s also a high possibility that a couple of starships may show up, and possibly a batrep/play-test of Final Frontier. We shall see…

Super Dinosaur Banana Forgotten Heroes!

Since my mid-week announcement that I was adding another character to my ‘Forgotten Heroes’ roster, I have managed to progress quite well with all three characters. When we last saw Super-Soldier, he looked like this:



I would just like to say that the quality of this ‘photo is down to the frankly crappy photo-editor App on my phone. The actual photo was in focus, but wasn’t particular close, so I fiddled with it using the App and it ended up looking like this. In future, I will take better pictures.

Anyway, Super-Soldier now looks like this:


And from the rear:


So, he just requires some washes and a bit of detailing, including the ‘S’ on his shield, which I’m not looking forward too.

Next, when we last saw Bananaman, he looked like this:


I was a bit concerned that he didn’t really look like he was supposed to, but colours do make a difference, so a little bit of paint and he now looks like this:


Certainly looking like he’s supposed to now. And a rear view, showing his split cape;


I’m pretty pleased with how he’s come out. As with Super-Solidier, he just needs a few washes and some detailing, including a tiny red ‘B’ on his belt buckle.

Now, my last post introduced you to my ‘Extra Credit’ Forgotten Hero’, Stegron the Dinosaur Man, for which I had decided to use this Godzilla collectible figure as a base:


As I knew not only how I was going to paint this one, but also how I was going to add the extra details to make it truly Stegron, work has progressed well, as you can see below:


So, as Stegron is a stegosaurus-man, one of the defining attributes of this particular dinosaur is the spinal plates, which the base figure already had. However, The other defining attribute is the tail spikes, which the model didn’t have. So, out came a push pin (a very useful tool for making holes through plastic figures) and two holes were made through big G’s tail. I then inserted two pre-cut and pre-bent lengths of wire paperclip, the ends which I’d filed to points. And we now had the necessary tail spikes.

Now, Stegron also sports a couple of gold bracelets – no idea why. For these, I used the same method I used when creating He-Man’s wristlets way back in July 2015. Taking a cotton-bud stem, which is essentially a thin plastic tube, I cut two sections the length of the bracelets I wanted to create. Once these teeny tiny bits of plastic tube were cut, I then cut the tube length-ways and pried them open. I then clipped these two ‘bracers’ to Stegron’s wrists, adjusted them so they were in the right place, and then glued them. Then I painted him, as can be seen from the pictures above and below;


I think he’s come out rather well. He just needs his base tidying up a bit and he’s done.

That’s all for Forgotten Heroes, but as I’ve also been working on Andy’s burger cart and grill for his Bushido games, I thought I really ought to show my progress so far with it.

Whilst it has mainly been painting, I did ask whether Andy wanted the ‘flag’ to be in English or Japanese Kanji – he obviously went for Kanji, so I had to do a bit of Internet research to find the appropriate ones. The model below is assembled for photographic purposes only, as the flag is a separate piece which plugs into a socket on the base and the cart is actually a separate piece too, as this made it easier to paint;


So, the top two kanji are for ‘beef’, the third one is for ‘bread’ and the heart is the corporate symbol of Cupid Burgers, as are the beautiful shades of pink!

The cart requires some decoration, as it’s a little bare at present, the grill needs another coat of Linen, then the necessary symbols added. The actual grill itself, which will sit on top of the cylindrical base, still needs painting and adding, but I need to finish off the charcoal coals first. Then just comes a few bits and bobs to finish it off, such as burgers, buns and maybe some cooking utensils.

So, everything appears to be progressing well and looks like it will all be finished by the end of June – unless I have another ‘brilliant idea’ and decide to do another character…

Forgotten Heroes – Super-Soldier & Bananaman

I blame Andy…

Along with most of my peers, I have been enjoying the regular posts from Andy on his Da Gobbo’s Grotto blog regarding the game Bushido from GCT Studios. Not only has he been beavering away painting up miniatures from the two factions he has chosen, but he has also been producing some lovely scenery, objective markers and ‘control zones.’

Having complimented him on his last such post here, I jokingly said that the only thing he was missing was a “Cupid Burgers” franchise (for more details regarding this purveyor of fast food advertised by a fat winged baby, go here), but given the historical period, this was more likely to be a ‘burger cart’ rather than a building. I then (stupidly) suggested that I ought to make him one. As he got rather excited at this prospect, I felt that I really should actually do so. I get the feeling that letting Andy down is a bit like kicking a puppy…you’ll feel really bad afterwards.

And that’s why I blame Andy…

So, there will be some ‘Forgotten Heroes’ action later in this post, but let’s see what I managed to come up with…

The first thing I did was a little bit of online research, as I felt that I should try to be somewhat historically accurate. Traditionally, the Japanese did not eat a lot of meat, as being an island nation, they had access to rather a lot of fish. Obviously, as we’re inserting a historically inaccurate burger vendor into Edo era Japan, I needed to find out how the vendor would prepare the burgers he was going to be selling. Which led me to this:

This is a shichirin, which is a small portable charcoal grill, typically made from ceramic. They have, apparently, remained largely unchanged since the Edo period and come in a variety of shapes, with cylindrical, square and rectangular being the most common. Basically, it’s what we Brits refer to as a barbecue, but looks so much…cooler.

So, having now worked out how the vendor would cook the burgers, I set out to gather the materials for a little vignette, which would consist of the shichirin, the vendor’s cart and an Uma-jirushi, which were the flags used to identify the daimyo on the field of battle, but which we’re going to use for advertising purposes.

And here’s all the bits…


So, the black plastic circle will be the base, which is 3″ in diameter; the coffee stirrers will be the shafts of the hand-cart; the toothpicks will be the frame for the flag; the poppers, cup washers and length of paperclip will be the wheels and axle for the cart; and the circular object on the far right will be the shichirin.

But what of the cheap plastic tea strainer and cobblestone sheet, you may ask? Well, a section of the cobblestone sheet will be cut out and inserted into the shichirin below the rim, to create the coals and a section of the tea strainer mesh will become the grill.

Now, sometimes when doing a build like this, what you thought was a brilliant idea doesn’t actually work in practice. I had intended using the thin piece of balsa in the picture above as a curved ‘canopy’ over the base of the cart. However, even though I’d soaked the balsa for a long period of time, it didn’t bend, it snapped. Twice. So I had to re-think. And what I came up with as an alternative I actually prefer, which is a tiled roof supported by bamboo ‘poles’. This is currently what the whole thing looks like;


The flag pole is removable, with a ‘socket’ in the base, for easy transportation and storage. I just need to paint it up, install the grill and maybe make some teeny-tiny burgers and buns. And then it will be winging its way down to Kent, so Andy’s monks and samurai can get their fill of Cupid Burgers. Andy will be providing his own cook, however…

Right, enough digressing, on with the ‘Forgotten Heroes’…

When we last saw my two base figures, they looked like this:


For my Super-Soldier, I removed the figure from his Heroclix flight-stand, drilled a hole in a two pence piece the same size as his ‘peg’ and using Milliput, created a scenic base that looks like paving slabs. As the majority of his costume will be created during the painting phase, I just needed to add his boot-tops, shield and belt buckle, as this actually sticks out.

The boot-tops were relatively simple, just Milliput ‘sausages’ wrapped around and then teased into shape, although I did have to prise his legs apart a bit, to allow me to access the whole of his left leg. The shield was cut from a small piece of plasticard and took two attempts to get the shape right and make it symmetrical. For the belt buckle, I had the genius idea of using a small slice of cotton bud stem. However, actually getting this the right thickness and gluing it in place proved to be a chore. But, I managed it and he now looks like this:


Still needs some straps on the back of his shield, but after that he’s ready for some paint.

Next up is Bananaman. Having cut down the plastic molded tab, I glued the base figure to a two pence piece, and using Milliput, created a scenic base representing ‘rough ground’. I intend on adding some rubble or bricks to this, as Bananaman is renowned for (inadvertently) destroying buildings. I then cut a section out of the cloak, as Bananaman has a distinctive two-pronged ‘banana-cape’ and filed down the mohican that the base figure came with.

I then carefully attempted to sculpt his ‘banana-gloves’, ‘banana-boots’ and his cowl. However, having started with the gloves, I failed to notice that whilst I was doing the boots, I was holding the figure by his hands, so had to go back and do some remedial work on the banana ‘tufts’ a couple of times. As the figure’s head was a bit rough from filing, I decided to add the back part of his cowl, with the intention of painting his mask on afterwards. As my sculpting skills weren’t up to the task of creating the banana ‘horns’, I cheated and used some tiny curved pieces of plastic, which were positioned in place whilst the Milliput was still slightly tacky…which promptly fell off. These were then superglued in place, which took a while, as I couldn’t find any tweezers, so ended up trying to pick up the tiny bits of plastic with a pair of pliers and then position them correctly. I chased each ‘horn’ across my work surface and onto the floor a number of times. (Note to self: Buy tweezers.) So, this is what he currently looks like:


Unfortunately, due to the ‘horns’ being a little longer than anticipated and the fact that he’s not been painted the correct colours yet, he doesn’t look like Bananaman – in fact he looks like this obscure Marvel villain…

This is Aries, part of the Zodiac Cartel, each of which is based on a sign of the zodiac. Yes, a supervillain who is essentially a goat. Scary…

I’m hoping that once I’ve got some paint on ‘Bananaman’, he will start to look like he’s supposed to. If not, I may have to trim his horns a bit. Or just remove the cape, add a tail and claim that this is what I intended all along…

Until next time…

Living in a Box

For the last post in ‘Buildings’ month here at the Buffet, we will be looking at the final, and probably most common type of building, what I like to refer to as the Shoebox. Basically, this type of building is a hollow shell with integral floor and removable roof, to allow access to the interior – exactly like a shoebox. To illustrate this type of building, we will be using my scratch-built ‘bar’, which when we last saw it, looked like this;


Previously owned by a gentleman of Polish extraction, who ran the place as a bar, this particular property stood empty for a number of months, until recently purchased by Harry Valentine, owner of the restaurant chain Cupid Burgers. Repairs have been made and the initial company livery applied to the shell. The contractors still need to install the doors, complete the interior and add the signage and fibre-glass “Cupid” mascot…


So, the walls of this particular building are made from a single piece of foamcard, with the corners mitred. This results in stronger walls, as the exterior is a single strip of card, and all the walls are attached to this, rather than individuals ‘walls’. The windows and door holes were cut out whilst the strip was still flat.

Once glued into the exterior shell shape, this was mounted onto the base, which was made from a piece of self-adhesive vinyl floor tile, sticky side up. The advantage of doing this is that you don’t need to glue the walls in place, as the glue is already there and as it’s designed to stick the tile to the floor, its pretty strong. However, the disadvantage is that the parts of the base where the wall isn’t attached are sticky, so need to be covered with something or they’ll attract dust, cat hairs, etc. A quick coat of paint or a piece of card cut to the right size can solve this issue.

As the external walls were a bit too smooth for my liking, I decided to clad them with sandpaper, to create texture and give the impression of stucco walls. Next, the window and door holes were lined with lengths of wooden coffee stirrers to create window frames and doorjambs, with additional lengths of coffee stirrer used to create the external half-timbering.

The drainpipe was made using the internal plastic tube from a ballpoint pen, cut to the relevant length and shape, with the end bent. And when you remove the ‘roof’, this is what the inside currently looks like;


Here’s a close up of the drainpipe and details of the textured wall;


The roof was made from a further piece of foamcard, with the roof edge created using ‘hobby wood’ and the roof texture created using a further piece of self-adhesive vinyl floor tile, which had the added advantage of giving the roof some heft. A plastic generator from a G.I. Joe action figure was then added to the roof, as it looked like an air conditioning unit.

And then Batman showed up, as he does…


Apparently, he’s quite partial to Cupid Burgers and had heard there was a new restaurant opening soon.  However, as they’d not actually finished the installation, whilst Alfred had provided him with his lunch money in his Bat-Purse, he couldn’t actually buy his favourite Cupid Burger – the Big Eros. Looks like he’s not too happy about it…


Luckily, Bats heard a scream in the alley behind the restaurant – “No Cupid Burger for Bruce!” he snarled, “Someone’s about to enter…A…World…Of…Pain!!”


For a more comprehensive guide to making foamboard buildings, check out this playlist from The Terrain Tutor – Mel knows his stuff and is a very entertaining host.

As most of you should now be aware, June is;


month, where myself and some of those within my blogging circle are creating 28mm versions of superheroes or villains that have yet to have a figure made of them or have, but it wasn’t very good. There is still time to join in, all you need to do is visit the ‘official’ site here, and make a comment on their stating your intention to take part. Even if you haven’t got a blog, Roger (who set up this site) has taken it upon himself to post entries from non-bloggers, details of which can be found in the ‘Contact’ section of the site. Some of those who’ve expressed an interest have yet to formally ‘register’ (such as Vampifan…tsk, tsk!) so if you haven’t done so yet, go and do so!

As this particular project will involve the conversion of a quite a few Heroclix figures, if you prefer them in their unaltered state, I would suggest you take a look at the latest post on the All Things Dungeon Crawl blog, which features a comprehensive overview of the Heroclix brand and a rather interesting batrep.

That’s all for this month – join me next week, when I will be taking a selection of cheap Heroclix singles and attempting to turn them into completely different heroes!

Building Blocks

As I have had the week from Hell AND have been working on an extra-special secret gaming project, the actual progress on the buildings this week isn’t that much.

However, as this post was going to be mainly about “building materials” and the example building I’m using for this week’s post does look sufficiently different from last time, it’s all good.

So, this week we’re looking at the type of building I refer to as the ‘Block’, and we’re using my scratch-built bank as an example, which looked all Gotham City last time…


But has had a bit of a face-lift and now looks all…purty. Don’t worry, it won’t be remaining like this, as this looks like it needs gingham curtains, window boxes and unicorns with rainbows coming out of their asses…


Back at the Dawn of Wargaming, if you wanted a building for your battlefield, your only option was the Block. This was a solid, one-piece resin casting, usually of a half-timbered building of some sort. They were pretty well-detailed and usually just required painting, but they were heavy and they smelt…funny. I had some Torchlight (remember them?) dungeon terrain, which I got rid of  due to not getting used to the smell. Each to their own, I guess…

So, the Block is essentially a solid cube or block, with no access to the interior. Mainly used as a LOS blocker, but athletic figures can climb the walls and scamper about on the roof, especially if flat like the bank above.

The bank is made mainly from corrugated cardboard, so is hollow and therefore quite light. “Corrugated cardboard?”, I hear you cry, “But that’s a crap material to use to build wargames models!” True, it has its issues, but it also has its advantages. There are two main problems with corrugated cardboard, both related to the corrugations – firstly, any cut end shows the cavities between the corrugations and secondly, once painted, as the cardboard sandwiching the corrugations is quite thin, this shows through the paint as pretty obvious lines. However, both of these problems can be dealt with and corrugated cardboard is a lot cheaper than the equivalent in foamboard.

The cavities showing on cut ends can be filled with putty or covered with a variety of sticky tapes. A good example of this is the back two edges of the roof above and the front steps shown below.

The lines showing through the paint can be dealt with by either covering the top layer with another layer of card or textured paper, such as wallpaper samples or sandpaper. Alternatively, as with the bank, choose a ‘double-skinned’ box. These are the sort of boxes that have a further glossy layer over the normal corrugated cardboard, such as those that office printer cartridges come in or large children’s toys. The additional layer, being pre-printed, takes a few more layers of paint to cover (use car spray primer, it’s cheaper), but prevents the ‘lines’ showing through your wonderful paint job.

The other advantage of ‘double-skinned’ cardboard is the outside layer is thick enough to allow scoring of detail, without breaking through the surface, as shown below:


As you can see, the detail of the stone ‘blocks’ was scored on, prior to additional details being added. The windows were cut out completely, and a piece of semi-textured plastic glued behind the hole. Greyboard, which is used as dividers in boxes of envelopes supplied to offices (and is therefore free!) strips were used to create the lintel and windowsill, with cut-down toothpicks used for the uprights.

The base of the building and the detail above was created simply by gluing further lengths of greyboard to the sides, with each layer being slightly smaller, to give the impression of carved stonework.


The door was built up in a similar way, with successive layers of greyboard, The decorative plaque above the door is actually a button and the porch roof is a small piece of textured plastic, bent and then stuck onto the building. The decorative ‘molding’ around the top of the building is merely a strip of corrugated cardboard with the top layer removed. The best way to do this is to wet it first, then carefully peel it off.

Moving “up on the roof…”


The whole roof was covered with a layer of coarse sandpaper, which was then painted black. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT use a brush you intend to paint anything else with on painting large areas of sandpaper, as it will f*ck it up. Use a cheap decorating brush. You have been warned.

Adding details to an essentially large stretch of nothing is a good way to give your building character. The roof ‘furniture’ above was made from a square nut, cup washer and plastic fitting from some flat pack furniture for the chimney and a square GW base and a small offcut of plastic coffee stirrer for the hatch. The vent below was some kind of DIY fitting, but made a good roof vent.



When looking for building materials, remember the Womble mentality, i.e. make good use of the things that you find. Pins, pop fasteners and buttons from the sewing box, plastic bits and bobs left over from flat-pack furniture, the remains of your used-up ballpoint pen – all of these can provide materials for converting an empty box into something a little bit special. Give it a go – you might surprise yourself with the results.

Next week – the Shoebox building. And hopefully more painting.