Theatre Studies

So, as it’s my birthday weekend and I’m usually gallivanting around the country at this time of year, this weekend doesn’t usually see much in the way of hobby-related activities being completed. However, what with the reduction in overall salary coming in, a jaunt to far-flung places couldn’t really be justified this year – so I was treated to a surprise lunch at an Ascot restaurant, followed by a trip to the cinema. And because my family like to surprise me, it wasn’t until the title card came up on the screen that I knew which movie I was about to see…

It was the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, which, for a long-term Queen fan such as myself, was a treat in itself. Not strictly 100% historically accurate, but an enjoyable celebration of Messrs Mercury, May, Taylor and Deacon, with some spot-on performances by the actors concerned. And plenty of cracking music.

Anyway, birthing-day stuff aside, I found my modelling talents called upon this weekend to assist my daughter, who is studying Drama at A Level. She was required to produce a model of a theatre set to show to her teacher how she would stage a specific play.

There she was, sitting in the middle of the lounge, surrounded by cardboard boxes, mouth turned down at the corners and getting stressed due to the fact that she had a few rough sketches of what she wanted to achieve, but no real idea of how to go about it.

My wife turned to me and said, “Jeremy, Can you help her?”

I, of course, being a responsible parent, immediately said “Yes, of course,” whilst rubbing my hands together inside my head with glee.  So, I cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war…gaming.

She needed the ‘black box theatre’ main building, the set – which must have two working doors and a large picture window – and a variety of scale furniture, including a filing cabinet, desk, two chairs, a coat-stand and what she described as an ‘old telephone’, i.e. a rotary dial ‘phone.

So, having talked it back and forward with her, we began work and it was finally completed about 10.30pm last night. And this is the result;

To give a sense of size, it’s approximately 1: 24 scale, so 1 inch equals roughly 2 feet. This is a bit of a departure for me, as I usually work at 28mm, which is approximately 1:56-ish.

I was responsible for the all the furniture and have to say I’m pretty pleased with how it came out, as everything is immediately identifiable as what it was intended to be. Whilst not obvious in the picture above, the filing cabinet does have individual handles on each drawer.

So, a weekend where I was treated to lunch out, a visit to the cinema and actively encouraged by my wife to unleash my inner geek for the benefit of my daughter.

Can’t really complain now, can I?

Until next time…

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In a Dark, Dark Wood…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, not living ones anyway…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…

Into The Woods

Regular visitors to the Buffet will have noted a distinct lack of content relating to the stalwart members of the Black Museum.

Whilst I still have tales to tell (and games to play) of their adventures, we have reached a plateau and other projects have been singing their siren songs, encouraging me down other avenues.

So rather than ‘force’ my hand and produce additional content that might not be up to the standard I’ve already set for this project, I thought it best to take a respite and move on to something a bit…different.

My simple mass combat rules – Feast of Crows – are complete and have been passed on to a third party, in order for them to be tested and (hopefully) not broken. The results of this will probably be published here, with a review and AAR done by someone other than me, with the rules available as a download, so you can try them for yourself.

And as June is fast approaching, this will see the return of spandex-clad shenanigans, as Forgotten Heroes returns for the third year running. Once again we offer you the chance to exercise your creative muscles and create a 28mm miniature of a costumed hero or villain who has yet to be produced, or has, but the figure was a bit rubbish. Details of the previous two years outputs can be found on the ‘official’ Forgotten Heroes website, set up and run by my glamorous assistant, the lovely Roger Webb. Come join us – it’s a lot of fun!

So, what other things can you expect to see on the Buffet for the remainder of the year?

Well, the main project will not only be something new, but also a new era for me, as we travel back to the 18th century, a time of horse and musket, drums and shakos and Sean Bean shouting “Bastard!”…

And for this I blame Steve Gilbert. However, he has redeemed himself regarding this, as I shall explain.

We’d been discussing various topics and Steve had expressed a desire to do some kind of joint project, where we shared a ‘world’, to which we could both contribute, adventure and play within. I’d said I was quite keen on doing something involving pirates and highwaymen, flintlocks and powdered wigs, where if your hat had less than two corners, you weren’t taken seriously. Steve like this idea, as it was an era he was interested in and had a fair few existing models which he could use.

However, I didn’t. Steve then kindly offered to send me a few sprues of suitable figures from Warlord Games‘ AWI range, so I’d have the necessary core figures to do this.

Now that obstacle was removed, ideas began to flow and the world began to take shape…

So, this joint sandbox project will have three threads. Each of us will have a dedicated personal setting or campaign, with the third part being a shared location we both utilise.

The project as a whole will fall under the umbrella title of “Age of Unreason”.

Steve will be following the exploits of a group of ‘chosen men’, as they take to the field in various conflicts and will follow their globe-trotting career. This may feature here or may end up on a new blog of Steve’s. This will be entitled “Sharpe’s Progress.”

The shared location will be the small Caribbean island of St. Gilbert, located in the Lesser Antilles. Whilst entirely fictional, it was originally colonised by the very real Order of St. Gilbert, hence the name. For more details on this unique order, follow this link. This part will be entitled “Île des Mortes.”

As for my setting, I will be concentrating on a small British Colonial township located in the deep woods of what will become the state of Maine. And this part will be named after the town itself – “Dark Haven.”

Understandably, given who’s involved, you can expect a wealth of historical detail and a big dollop of the macabre. This is an era where the major powers of the World are expanding past their borders into regions filled with unfamiliar cultures and belief systems. Whilst the majority of what they encounter can be dismissed as mere myth and superstition, not every tall tale is untrue…and some things are best left undisturbed.

Now, as with every ‘new’ project I start, the first thing I do is to work out what I’ve already got that can be used/re-purposed for the nascent project, before deciding whether I CAN do and what else I will need.

As Steve had provided me with troops and my collection of HeroScape hexes would provide the terrain I needed, it was time to decide what else I needed.

Short list consisted of; North American fauna, suitable settler’s dwellings and trees…lots and LOTS of trees.

I’d already picked up some wolves from Warbases at Salute (see my post ‘Sa-Loot 2018’ for details) and Roger very kindly offered me a toy bear he had, that he felt was the right scale. When this arrived, it was not only the right scale, but also a better sculpt than the metal figures I’d been looking at, as you can see from the picture below;

Rather cool, ain’t he? Big thanks to Roger for this (as well as the other figures, you bad man).

Due to miscalculating exactly how much of my Salute budget I had left (it was more than I thought I had), I failed to pick up the Renedhra Noeth American Farmhouse, which was on offer at Salute, so don’t yet have any buildings. However, as I do have a crapload of coffee stirrers, some wooden cabins are on the horizon.

This left the trees…

Now, gaming trees are not the cheapest item you can buy. True, they do look rather nice and usually come pre-based, but you’re looking at roughly £15.00 for three, which if you’re trying to plant a forest, is a substantial outlay.

Having dismissed this idea, I watched various online videos on how to make your own, which whilst is a cheaper option, does require a fair outlay of time to do.

And then I had a brainwave and went to eBay. I remembered that Andy had picked up some inexpensive trees for his ATZ terrain and thought I’d see if they did something similar for my needs.

After a browse, I came across a listing for “10 pieces 10cm plastic model trees”…for £1.80 including shipping! The pictures looked pretty good and 10cm tall was a good size – tall enough so they didn’t look too small, but small enougb that stiorage wouldn’t be an option. So, I took a gamble and ordered two packs.

Six days later (yes, it only took six days for them to ship them from China) they arrived, and this is what they look like;

Each tree IS actually 10cm tall and consists of an injection molded plastic tree, to which has been attached ‘blobs’ of flock to represent the foliage. The coverage is a little uneven, with a few bare branches, but this means that whilst each tree is effectively identical, there is a bit of variation. As the soft plastic of the ‘frame’ is easily cut, if you want to trim a few branches here and there, I can’t imagine this would be a problem. There was also a bit of shedding of the flock, but a quick dip in a solution of thinnned down PVA will solve this issue.

All well and good, you say, but how do they compare to a standard 28mm figure?

Like this;

Not had a chance to base them properly yet, so I just used a temporary solution to get them upright.

So, twenty trees for £3.80 – which is less than a pint of beer! Bargain!

Whilst mine were £1.80 for a pack of 10, this has now gone up to £1.95 for a pack of 10…but that’s still less than 20p per tree. And they can be found here.

A fair bit of assembly and basing to be done, but soon I shall be able to send some Redcoats into the woods. What will they encounter? Native tribes? Indigenous fauna? A French raiding party? Or something far more inexplicable? Hopefully you’ll have as much fun as me finding out.

Until next time…

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something…Orange

Initially, the title of this post was going to be a time-related quote, but as I’d already used “It’s About Time” which would have been perfect, I had to think of something a bit different, hence the above. All will become clear as you read on…

So, let us start with Something Old

When I first started my Gothic Victoriana project (which became Tales of the Black Museum) way back in August of last year, the first structure that was shown for the London borough of Blackwell was the Chapel of St. Gilbert, with accompanying churchyard and scenery. The build for this particular terrain piece can be found in the post For Whom the Bell Tolls, which is probably worth a look so you can do a comparison, as it was pointed out at the time that my church was a little too clean…

So, I decided to do a bit of work on it to see whether I could make it look a bit more soot-stained and grimy, and this is the result:

Certainly looks a bit more worn than before and the roof tiles are now the appropriate colour. To be frank, the picture makes it look brighter than it actually is. The same applies to the tree in the churchyard, which was originally undercoated black and has had various shades and washes applied to it, but now looks a bit ‘spectral’ – although it is darker to the natural eye.

I still need to finish off the remainder of the churchyard and add a few details to the church doors, but when you progress a large terrain piece from ‘half-done’ to ‘almost done’, you do have a sense of achievement, as large terrain pieces do take a fair while to paint compared to figures.

Next up – Something New. As my last post did state that the churchyard was where Lord Edmund Blackadder’s time machine had ended up, I thought I’d best show it in place – as I’ve finally got around to finishing the bloody thing!

Trying to create tiny clock hands out of very thin plastic that were the right shape AND symmetrical proved quite tricky. Also discovering that I really should have made the trench surrounding the dial slightly wider to allow me to write the numbers around the dial more clearly was an annoyance, but it IS finished now, so I’m quite pleased.

And yes, this close-up of the time machine revealed that I’d missed painting one of the chapel’s buttresses, which is why it still has the warm toffee colour of the original paint job.

Now, we’ve got Blackadder’s time machine complete, but where is the man himself? He is our Something Borrowed.

So, I finally managed to get the figure I’m using for my version of the 1999 incarnation of Lord Edmund Blackadder based, undercoated and some paint on him. Strangely, the bit that took the longest was mixing up the colour for his velvet jacket, as I did not have a suitable colour pre-mixed – Imperial Purple being too pink and Worm Purple being too purple. So, “Blackadder Plum” was tinkered with until it matched what I thought the colour should be.

Still a bit of work to go, but he’s coming along and at least he can now appear in physical form for his adventures in Blackwell.

So, something old (the church), something new (the time machine), something borrowed (Edmund Balckadder), which leaves…something blue. Or in my case, something orange…Zygons!

I took advantage of Black Tree’s post-Christmas sale to add some classic characters to my Doctor Who collection, including a couple of the classic Zygons from the 1975 Fourth Doctor serial Terror of the Zygons.

Now, I know that the modern re-design of this alien race has changed their colouration slightly, so that they look more crab-like in colour, but my recollection and online images from the original story, showed they were a greeny-orange colour, so that’s what I went with. Both figures were given an undercoat of white, followed by a coat of GW Bogey Green, and then a coat of my ‘Pumpkin Orange’ mix. And that’s it.

As the orange paint is quite ‘orangey’, but also quite thin, it kinds of acts like a glaze, pooling in the right places and allowing hints of the underlying green to show through. I think it works really well and am now tempted to buy some of the new Warlord Zygons and paint them exactly the same way. May not be exactly canon, but neither’s painting their hands black…

Hopefully, this post signifies a return to more regular posting. The next post will be my regular post-Salute report, as it’s now less than a week away, and will be from an ‘insider’s’ point of view, as I’m helping out on the Wargames Terrain Workshop stall and demonstration tables this year. So, please feel free to drop by and say hello.

Until next time…

The Greatest Breakthrough in Travel..

…since Mr. Rodney Tricycle thought to himself “I’m bored with walking, I think I’ll invent a machine with three wheels and a bell, and name it after myself.

Behold, the time machine…

As I am now the proud owner of the surrogate figure I’m planning on using to represent Lord Edmund Blackadder (circa 1999), in order for him to visit the London borough of Blackwell, I decided that some additional work was needed to complete his time machine.

However, as I’m sadly lacking in my very own Baldrick to delegate this task to, I’ve had to do it myself…

When we first saw the machine, it looked like this;

The initial box was crafted from an Amazon cardboard ‘envelope’, with a circular hole cut in the front and the drawbridge-like door cut into the left side. A smaller disc of card was then covered in baking foil (dull side up) to create the clockface, then glued to a larger disc of card and fixed behind the hole, giving a bit of depth to the model.

All four sides and the top were then given a covering of textured wallpaper, to represent the canvass sides of the machine. A rubber washer, topped with a smaller plastic washer and then a plastic cap were glued together and added to the top of the device, to represent the viewing port of the original machine.

This made it look a bit like a washing machine with a hatbox on top of it, but as with most modelling projects, it’s all in the details…

The machine needed four decorative ‘spires’ on each corner of the roof, some feet, a cog or fly-wheel protruding from the right-hand side of the device and some rungs on inner surface of the door, so our intrepid time travellers had stable footing when alighting – so my bits box was raided and various beads, screws and washers were affixed in the relevant places, resulting in this;

And another shot showing the fly-wheel;

I also decided to add several cut down cotton-bud stems to represent the frame that the canvass is attached to.

It’s not exactly the same as the original design, but it’s a pretty good match and I’m happy with it.

Now, as it was fairly evident that it was cobbled together from a variety of disparate parts, I decided to give it an undercoat of Docrafts Linen, in order to blend them all together.

The bases and feet were given a coat of Docrafts Burnt Umber and the frame a coat of Docrafts Classic Gold. Referring to the Blackadder: Back and Forth, I then painted the roof spires, viewing port and clockface in GW Shining Gold, and the shallow trench around the clockface with Docrafts White. And this is the result;

The exerior requires dry-brushing with a dark pink, the ramp needs a coat of brown and I need to add the numerals, decorative marks and hands to the clockface, but it’s progressing well and should be finished…in good time.

I just need to base and paint Blackadder himself and he will then be meddling in the affairs of the residents of Blackwell.

Until next “time”…

A Visit to the Workshop

As previously mentioned, I will be attending Salute again this year, but will be doing so on the other side of the fence, as I will be assisting Dave Stone of Wargames Terrain Workshop on his stand. So, I felt that I really should meet Dave in the flesh prior to April and therefore arranged to visit him in Gloucester last weekend.

Dave was a very welcoming host, plied me with copious amounts of coffee and treated me to a very interesting insight into the creative process behind the models he creates for WTW. We also managed to get a game of Death Match in, in which my Revilli Gladiator managed to slay her Ceratid opponent, TWO of the released beasts, then got pounded into the dirt by a Horned Hominid. If you haven’t had a chance to play this game yet at a show, make sure you visit the stand at Salute, where we will be running demonstration games for most of the day.

When I left, I was presented with a few items to take away with me. Some I was expecting, as these were prizes from the Death Match competitions run on The Game Cupboard last year, but Dave had very kindly added some extra items – namely a few bits that I’d enthused about when he’d shown them off on TGC.

Now, as a beneficiary of Dave’s generosity, I thought I’d take the opportunity to show some of the items Wargames Terrain Workshop does or will be releasing in the future, but with a standard 28mm miniature in the pictures, to give you some idea of scale. As the majority of the time, we gamers buy online, its always good to know exactly how big some of these models actually are…

First up, one of my competition prizes, the Creminisci;

This aquatic race was designed by Tarot Hunt for the Death Match universe, and are a race of fish-like mystics, who can harness their mental power to produce a variety of effects. As the DM range is nominally 32mm scale for standard humanoid races, you can see that the Creminisci are roughly the same scale as a DM Human, but are larger than the 28mm figure in the picture.

I asked for mine to be cast in translucent blue resin – because I’m an awkward bugger – but I believe the general release figures will be in opaque grey resin.

Next up, my winning contribution to the Death Match universe, the Nisari;

The Nisari are a sect that believes that ‘The Games’ are an abomination and have dosed their most fanatical warriors with a potion that increases their effectiveness as warriors, but also burns them up from the inside, hence the bloodstained bandages.

As you can see from the picture, the Nisari tower over a normal 28mm figure and are still pretty big in comparison to a standard DM human. But they are supposed to be, as they are Traventians, who are bigger than the humans in the game. The two figures shown are the Nisari male and the Nisari Priestess, currently milking a Dust Viper for its venom. The Nisari female comes with separate arms and as I’ve not attached these yet, I decided not to show her.

Now, as you may not be a Death Match player, you might be thinking why would I buy these models? The Creminisci would quite easily fit into any fantasy or sci-fi game of your choice. As for the Nisari…could you imagine Conan facing this in the wastes of Stygia? Or your Pulp Alley league being menaced by this because they opened the wrong tomb? Or maybe your Tomb Kings army needs a giant freaking insane mummy, because…well, who doesn’t?

Now, these aren’t on general release yet, but I’m sure Dave will let everyone know when they will be available.

Next up, the Venucian Man Eating Plant, which has been released;

The figure in the picture is one of my Victorian thugs from Ironclad Miniatures, which gives a good indication of the size of this terrain piece. Three open ‘traps’ and one currently digesting an unfortunate victim. If you play Congo, Pulp Alley or, to be frank, ANY game that ventures into the jungle, be it terrestrial or off-world, get this piece. It’s well-detailed, versatile and only £6.00.

Next, a model that came about from a conversation I had with Dave about monstrous pigs…the Grice;

I had mentioned in my ongoing Tales of the Black Museum a previous case featuring the ‘Black Pig of Awdry Gardens’. Now, I quite fancied having a model to represent this, and mentioned to Dave that I had not yet found something suitable. He queried what sort of beast I was after and after much to-ing and fro-ing, he’d got a good idea of what I was after. Thus was born the Grice. The name is actually that of an extinct Iron Age pig that was common in Scotland, but as this beast was supposed to represent a monstrous swine, either demonic or primeval, artistic licence was employed. The Grice is now an official part of the Death Match universe, but can be used wherever you need a bloody great porker. Available now for a very reasonable £7.00.

Next up, the Digestion Pool;

Designed for the Exuvium race in Death Match, which they use to break down the bodies of the animals they catch into a delicious and nutritious soup, this terrain piece has so many other uses. It’s reminiscent of the architecture in the Alien movies, but what the fluid bubbling away in it is, is entirely up to you and your paints to decide. As you can see from the picture, this is currently being scanned by one of my Ghostbusters, so it may contain psycho-reactive ectoplasm of ‘mood slime’. A nice solid bit of terrain for £5.00.

Finally, a lovely surprise for me – the Falcon Interceptor. Now, this is actually a “off-cast” (not sure if that’s the correct term). Basically, this was a model that Dave couldn’t sell, as it was mis-cast. You can’t see it from the picture, but there are a few cavities on the underside that will require filling. I’d commented that it would make an ideal alternative mode of transport for my Vin Diesel inspired Ghostbuster, especially with the tanks at the rear, but would need a light bar for the roof. Dave was already in the process of creating one of these for a new futuristic car, so Vin-Buster is now the proud owner of his very own Ecto-V8;

“It’s got, like, a cup-holder and…everything.”

He looks pretty pleased with it and it’s going to look awesome once painted in the appropriate livery.

Hopefully this post has given you an idea of how these particular items scale up against standard 28mm figures and maybe added a few items to your online or Salute shopping list.

Next time, we will definitely be back in Blackwell…

The Ladies and Gentlemen of Blackwell

Over the last week and a bit, the majority of my ‘free’ time has been eaten up by social occasions, necessary jobs about the home and the usual preparations for the upcoming festive period. Combine this with issues with one of my teeth, which resulted in its removal after a week of pain, and you can see why I may not have been as active as I usually am.

However, I did manage to get a little bit of painting done. Now, I don’t usually post half-painted figures, because this shows that my painting style is a little slapdash. But, as I haven’t got anything else to show for the last week and a bit, this is what you’re getting.

It actually gives me an opportunity to show some of these figures in colour, as previously they’ve only been shown in black and white, plus as I’m using The Red Lion as a backdrop, I can show off the ‘warm glow’ I achieved on the lower windows, which I am quite pleased with.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the first group, our brave boys in blue – the Blackwell branch of the London Metropolitan Police, also known as the Black Museum;

So, from left to right, we have Sergeant Doyle with his basket of Wysps, Inspector Neame and Speckled Jim, Constable Moore, Sergeant Webb, Constable Rowan and Constable Nash.

Next the nefarious forces of criminality;

Left to right, we have Captain Haggard, Mitchell, Sir Byron Carpenter, Jessop and Collins.

Next, the ladies…

As before, left to right, we have Miss Tabitha Hunt, Miss Verity Smith, Miss Victoria Timms and Jenny Greenteeth, who is the only figure fully painted. I can see that her base needs a bit of touching up, but I was particularly pleased with how I managed to get a lovely mottled effect on her garments, suggesting algae floating on stagnant water.

So, that’s a few denizens of Blackwell and a few interlopers, both mundane and mythical, but I haven’t finished quite yet…

After a recent discussion with Stevie of The Game Cupboard, I remembered a particular online retailer that could possibly provide him with some rather nice 20mm scaled laser-cut MDF buildings for his upcoming Alterni-War campaign. And this company also does 1/48th scale buildings, which are pretty much the right scale for 28mm. And this company is Petite Properties.

Now, this company specialises in laser-cut MDF doll houses, but the advantage they have over gaming specific structures is; 1 – they are a lot more detailed and, 2 – they are actually cheaper than the equivalent same size structure from a gaming company. Need proof? This is the Raven’s Perch, a three-storey Gothic mansion with playable interiors for £37.99!

Raven's Perch

Of course, I was looking for suitable structures with which to populate Blackwell, so could this be the Blackwell townhouse of Sir Alexander Crowe?

Havisham Hall 1/48th

And is this the famous L. Dodsgon & Sons of Milliner’s Court?

1/48th Buttons & Bunting Haberdashery kit - Part of Memory Lane

So the first is Havisham Hall from the Dolls House Collection at £39.99 and the second is the Buttons & Bunting Haberdashery from the Memory Lane Collection at £19.99.

I think they’re pretty good value and they give you an additional resource for a variety of periods. They have just released a range called Cobblestone Snicket, which would suit both Tudor London or Diagon Alley, depending on your particular needs.

Join me next time to find out what’s occurring in our favourite fictional London borough…

 

 

 

 

The Heart of Blackwell

Having seen A Study in Grey posted earlier today, you could be forgiven for thinking that was this week’s post.

It wasn’t.

That was, in DVD terms, ‘bonus content’. This is the actual post for this week.

Now, in The Blue Lamp, I introduced a particularly important location in the fictional London borough of Blackwell, namely The Red Lion public house, chosen watering hole of the estimable Sergeant Webb and renowned for its delicious home-made meat pies, guaranteed to not contain anyone you know.

It was always my intention to build this structure for my boards, and to base it on the actual Red Lion pub here in Reading, which looks like this:

Image result for red lion reading

At least, this is what it looked like before it closed down. I felt that it looked suitably Victorian in style and would make a good model on which to base my fictional pub.

So, having examined the pub quite closely, I used an empty cereal box to construct the basic structure, making sure to copy the specific profile, which has a flat lip at both the front and back, from which the roof rises from, like so;

Now, as I was concentrating on building the detail up on my blank building structure, I didn’t actually take many Work in Progress pictures, so what I intend on doing is showing you the front and rear of the building, prior to painting, and explain what I used to make it.

So, here’s the front;

So, the front of the pub was coated with textured wallpaper, the same stuff I used as my ‘grass’ for the Chapel of St. Gilbert (see For Whom the Bell Tolls). The idea behind this was this will represent the plastered front wall. Prior to gluing this to the front of the pub, I cut out rectangles where I intended to have the door and windows.

Matchsticks of various sizes were then cut and glued into place as window sills and the front step. 2mm brown card, similar to Greyboard, was used to create the sign and the first layer of front wall’s base, which then had another layer of cereal packet card glued on top, to create the ‘lip’ you see on these kind of buildings.

A cut down bamboo skewer was glued midway down the front to represent decorative moulding and cut down coffee stirrers were glued at the top of the wall to represent the soffit.

Both the front and rear roof ledges were covered with strips of sandpaper, as flat roof ledges on these sort of buildings do tend to be filled with gravel ( for drainage, I’d guess). The roof tiles themselves were made from an old greetings card, suitable scored, then cut into strips and glued in place, saving the crease of the card for the roof ridge.

The chimney was a carefully measured box made from cereal packet card, with three push pins…um…pushed in and glued into place.

The front door was a suitably sized and score piece of ‘Brownboard’, with a panel cut out for the window, and a picture pin with a rather nice swirly head used as a doorknob.

And round the back;

Not a great deal of variation here – the textured wallpaper used on the sides and rear wall is one continuous piece, as the pattern looks remarkably like brickwork and I wanted to have the building look like it was built, rather than made from individual panels.

The rear door has no window, but does have a lintel, created using a small strip of card. The rear wall to the left of the back door was left intentionally blank, as I may build a wooden cellar hatch to place up against this wall.

So, once it’s been given an undercoat of grey primer, I can paint it up in the appropriate colours, adding the window details and signage as I go. I am considering whether I should try and construct some gas lamps to attach to either end of the sign, but will definitely be printing out, resizing and pasting some suitable Victorian handbills and music hall posters to the blank side wall…maybe for Li H’sen Chang – Master of Magic and Mesmerism or Colonel Brewster’s Wild West Show?

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Welcome back to the next instalment in my ongoing ‘Gothic Victoriana’ project!

Before we start on this week’s topic, a request was made in the comments of my last post ‘Let There Be Light…’ to show the inexpensive O Gauge Victorian lamp posts I found after I scratch-built my own, so here they are:

Currently available on eBay from here. Now, I know theses are designed for model train networks and do have an LED built-in, so they can light up, but from an aesthetic point of view, I think the gas mantle at the top is too big. But that’s a personal opinion, if you like the look of them, they work out at approximately 75p each including shipping.


“The London district of Blackwell, although not as infamous as St. Giles, Limehouse or Whitechapel, does have an unsavoury reputation. The streets are not safe, for not only do the criminal element prey upon its populace, it also seems to attract those predators of a more…unnatural nature.

However, all who reside in Blackwell know that there is one place that is considered inviolate, a sanctuary against the darkness, and that is the Chapel of St. Gilbert.

And woe betide any evil that dares trespass on its grounds, for St. Gilbert’s is…protected.”


As discussed in ‘Let Me Take You By the Hand…’, whilst I had created three of my four tiles for my small slice of London, I still needed a fourth. I could have created another cobbled road tile, but decided I needed something a little…different.

Regular readers will know that whilst as Salute earlier this year, I picked up some of Renedhra’s ‘new’ iron gates and railings, as I’d been after some for a while and wasn’t happy with the MDF ones I’d seen. I also had a Plasticville O Scale ‘cathedral’, which looks like this:

Image result for plasticville cathedral

Not exactly what I’d describe as a ‘cathedral’, but given its size, it would make a good village church or small chapel. I also had a plastic ‘tomb’ from the HeroQuest game and some assembled Games Workshop plastic trees from their woodland terrain set, which keeps changing its name, depending upon which edition of Warhammer is ‘current’. Look at all these disparate elements, it seemed fairly obvious that my final tile would be a churchyard with chapel, railings and tomb, so having done a few preliminary sketches, I began work.

First stage was to flip one of my Poundland self-adhesive 12″ floor tiles and remove the backing paper. Then, using my assembled chapel as a template, I cut out a ‘T’ shape from the mosaic textured wallpaper I had left over from doing the pavements on my cobbled road tiles, to form the path and ‘foundation’ of the chapel. This was centred in the tile.

I then cut half-inch strips of another tile and laid these face up around the sides and front of the tile, to form a foundation for the railings. I then glued the gate columns and five of the railings to these strips, to form the front and left hand side perimeters of the churchyard, like so:

Now, a couple of things regarding this; firstly, the gate columns are designed so that the railing are supposed to come out of the corners of the columns and have moulded parts on the column opposite the hinges that you’re supposed to attach the railings to. However, I didn’t like this set up, so decided to have my railing running from the centre of the side of the column. This has the added advantages of taking up less space and puts the hinges at back of the column, rather than in the middle.

Secondly, the width of the gates, their columns and a railing each side was a little short of 12″. Rather than cut down another railing to fit this gap, I decided to make some brick columns from some rubbery dense packing foam, which I had in my bits box. This stuff is lightweight and pretty dense, but takes surface detail well, so two columns were cut to size and brickwork inscribed with a ballpoint pen.

The next stage was to find a suitable material for the rest of the grounds, as I’d decided that it was going to be grass. I considered foam sheets, felt, towelling and microfibre cloths, but they just weren’t doing it for me.  On one of my regular wanderings around my local DIY, I came across some textured wallpaper that had a random swirly pattern that I felt would, when painted and dry-brushed, would look suitably ‘grass-like’, so helped myself to a free sample.

This was then cut to size to go around the already existing paving, with a slight overlap. However, I forgot that this wasn’t going to be an 11″ square, as one side was longer, so cut the wallpaper too small. So, I had to cut cut the paper in to three sections and use some putty to cover the joins.

As I wanted the tomb and tree that were going to decorate the front of the churchyard to look as though grass was growing around their bases, I glued two pipe cleaners to the wallpaper in the relevant places, to act as ‘sockets’ for these terrain elements to plug in to.

Using some more of the dense foam, I created a small brick wall to complete the left-hand perimeter and a very long brick wall and end column to make the right-hand perimeter. And this was the result:

I popped the gates on for the photo, only to discover that I’d glued the columns a teensiest bit too close together, which means the gates overlap by a couple of millimeters. I was initially annoyed, but actually feel that it makes it a bit more realistic, as I’ve seen several wrought iron gates where the settling of the foundations, etc. has shifted the columns so the gates don’t…quite…fit.

As I wasn’t sure if the foam would take my cheap grey primer without melting and didn’t want to have to repaint my ‘grass’ from a grey undercoat, out came the paints and the paving and brickwork was given a coat of Docrafts Dark Grey (which isn’t very dark at all), whilst the grass was given an initial coat of Docrafts Chocolate Brown.

“What? Brown grass? Are you insane?” I hear you cry. Don’t worry though, there is method to my madness, as you will see, but this is what it looked like after the initial undercoats.

The next stage was to build up my ‘grass’ on my Chocolate Brown basecoat (representing the mud beneath the grass), by the application of three different shades of Games Workshop green, namely Woodland, Goblin and Bogey. These were put into my mixing tray – a metal tin lid – and using a decorator’s brush, were stippled on to the brown, one after another. The pipecleaner templates were given a thorough soaking of Woodland Green, but I wasn’t able to drybrush these at the same time, as they take bloody ages to dry.

I then went back and tidied up the edges of the paving by giving it another coat of Dark Grey, and decided to paint one set of railings black, just to see what they will end up looking like. And this is how it turned out;

Now, ideally, I would have liked to have finished this piece in its entirety, but I had run out of time and my ‘rings’ of grass were still wet. I need to paint all of the brickwork properly and cover up some of the parts where I got a bit messy with my stippling, paint all of the railing black, give the paving a darker grey wash and dry-brush my ‘rings’ with lighter shades of green to make them more grass-like.

However, to give you all an idea of what the completed tile WILL look like, I thought I’d put the tree, tomb and chapel in place. All three items do need to be completed, but it should give an idea of what I have in mind.

And could that be the mysterious protector of the Chapel of St. Gilbert, hiding in the shadows?

That’s all for this week. Next time, MORE ‘Gothic Victoriana’ – might be another build, might be an AAR. Depends on what kind of time I have available during the week.

Let There Be Light…

If you’re building a small slice of Victorian London, there are two things that you really need to have to make it have that ‘Victorian’ feel – cobblestones and gaslights. So, as my last post dealt with the cobbles, this post will deal with gas lamps.

Now, those who regularly trawl the Internet will know that a search engine is only as good as the parameters entered.  So, should you enter “28mm Victorian lamppost” or “model railway Victorian lamppost” you will discover that those gas lamps made specifically for wargaming can be a little on the pricey side and the majority of model train lighting is similarly expensive, as they are designed to actually light up. Based on this, you would conclude that it would probably be within your hobby skills to make your own for the fraction of the price.

However, if you’d remembered that 28mm is approximately O Scale/Gauge and put in “O Gauge Victorian Lampposts”, you would have found you could actually get a pack of 10 Victorian gas lamps (with integral lighting) 73mm tall, for just under £7.00 including shipping. The key word in that previous sentence is the word “if”…

Annoyingly, I only found the cheap model gas lamps AFTER I’d built my own. I could claim that showing you how will save you money in the long run (these actually cost me nothing but time, as I already had all the components) or that the same principles could be used to make street signs or lamp posts for other eras (which it obviously can), but the real reason I’m showing you this is because I spent several hours slaving over the ruddy things, so the least you can do is read the bloody post.

*ahem*

Right, first you need a few components, as shown below:


What we have are some cup washers, some dressmakers pins, some cotton buds (or Q-tips), some small nails(which didn’t get used) and the most important component, some ink cartridges for pens. You can get a pack of thirty of these for £1.99 here in the UK, and these can be used as shell casings for howitzers, jet engines for space craft, missiles, gas canisters, etc. so quite a useful little item.

So, the first thing we do is prepare some bases to attach our components to, which consists of some 2 pence pieces (or 25mm washers) to which I glued some textured wallpaper, the same that I used for the pavements on my cobbles boards:

These would also make pretty good bases for dungeon-crawl figures, be they monsters or adventurers.

Next, we need to prepare the ink cartridges, as we’re only going to be using part of them, so we need to cut them up without getting ink everywhere. The easiest way to do this is to actually just cut them on a wad of kitchen towel and let that soak up the ink. For our lamp posts we need the top 20mm of the cartridge, with the tapered end. Once you’ve cut you cartridge down to size, rinse both parts out with clean water and use one of your cotton buds to dry out the inside.

The cotton buds need to be stripped of their cotton before they can be used, but once they are, using a bradawl or similar pointy object, break the seal at the top of the ink cartridge and push one end of your stripped cotton bud into it. Then glue it onto the cup washer.

You will now have a post 90mm tall. Using your judgement and/or eye, push a pin through the post at the correct height to make the cross-bar typical for Victorian gas lamps. As the whole length of the pin will be far to long, snip of the pointy end at a length that is pleasing to the eye (mine are about 20mm long). You will then end up with something that looks like this:

And yes, one of them is a bit wonky. Next I decided to paint each one of my six lamp posts with GW chainmail, as I know metallic paints do tend to give a much better coverage than non-metallics, so they looked like this:

Now, I apologise that there aren’t that many WIP shots during the next part, as how I had intended on making the gas mantles for the tops of my lamp posts didn’t quite go according to plan, so I had to come up with an alternative, which I actually think worked out better, but I’ll leave that for you to judge for yourselves.

I had intended on carving rhomboid gas mantles, the standard shape for Victorian lamps, from a partially transparent pencil eraser, then pushing these onto the tops of my posts. However, cutting six rhomboid gas mantles that have exactly the same dimensions AND straight sides is not as easy as I thought it would be – in fact, it was an absolute nightmare, so back to the drawing board I went.

After giving it some thought and rummaging through various different boxes of bits, I came up with what I hope would be an elegant solution.

First, I shortened the off-cuts from the ink cartridges to approximately 15mm in length and made a small hole in the base (now top) of each one. Taking another dressmaking pin and half a small popper/snap fastener, I fed the pin through the popper with the ‘knob’ upwards, then through the hole in the top of my off-cut. I now had a transparent mantle with knobbly decorative top and a pin shaft that could be fed into the hollow stem of the cotton bud, meaning that it could be glue in place without the superglue further frosting the ‘glass’.

My lamp posts were then painted matt black, followed by black ink to give them that shiny black paint look common to Victorian ironwork, except for the top 15mm, which was painted with a bright gold, to represent the lit gas lamp. The mantles were then glued on top, and the top of each mantle received its Chainmail base coat, matt black mid coat and black ink final coat. The end result was this:

So, they may not be exactly 100% accurate, but I think they look pretty damned good and they cost me nothing! 

And as you’re probably wondering exactly how big they are compared to a standard 28mm figure, here’s everyone’s favourite grumpy Victorian monster hunter, Lancelot Grimm himself, taking an evening stroll:

Of course, we can’t really finish off the post without showing what the lamp posts look like on my cobblestone boards, now can we?

Look pretty good from GEV (Gamer’s Eye View), but here’s a closer shot;

And there’s the wonky lamp-post again…apparently this was damaged when an orangutan dressed for the opera used it to escape the peelers, after he’d brutally cut up a dolly mop with a straight razor. Can’t trust those damned dirty apes…

So, yes, you can buy inexpensive scale Victorian gas lamps which work out at roughly 70p each, but you will have to gut the electrics and they are about 25mm shorter than the ones I’ve built. Or, if you’ve got the mind to do it, you could have a go at making your own, as I did. They may not be exactly right, but as you can see from the pictures above, once in place, they do add to the overall Victorian ambience, which is what I’m trying to achieve.

Next time, more ‘Gothic Victoriana’, as I complete my quartet of tiles with the Chapel of St. Gilbert and it’s attendant graveyard. It’s “Gothic” Victoriana…gotta have a graveyard…