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…

 

 

 

 

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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…

 

 

Let Me Take You by the Hand…

…and lead you through the streets of London…

As announced in my last post – Eliminating the Impossible – the Buffet will be travelling back in time to the Victorian era.

Now, whilst I have both a selection of suitable figures and some suitable buildings, what I didn’t have was anything to put them on.  I could go out and buy a suitable ‘cobbled streets’ gaming mat, but having had a look at these before, the smallest I’ve found is 3′ square and about £40. As my usual gaming surface (my dining table) can just about cope with a 2′ gaming mat, the smallest available mat was a bit too big, not to mention a bit too expensive…

However, I have actually been planning this particularly project for a while, working out exactly not only how I was going to do it, but how I was going to do it cheaply.

Way back in November, in the post Welcome to Easy Street, I showed how I made a remarkably cheap and easy 1′ square modern road tile, using self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles, sandpaper and hobby foam. This post will show you how to do the same thing for Victorian streets, but with a few variations.

So, at the end of this project, I intend to have my own small slice of London, represented by four 1′ square gaming tiles, a selection of street furniture and buildings and a handful of suitable dressed civilians and personalities…and a bunch of monsters.

First things first, we need some Victorian streets and nothing says Victorian like cobbles. Now you can buy both resin and plastic sheets of cobbles, which can then be attached to whatever basing material you choose, but here at the Buffet, we like to show you how to do things more cost effectively. So rather than spending money on these, take a stroll down to your local DIY shop and walk into the wallpaper section.

Wallpapers come in a wide selections of styles, colours and prices, but we don’t care about this, because we’re looking for texture. Probably about 30% of the wallpapers on offer in any DIY shop will have some kind of texture on them, but the kind you’re looking for will have lots of little bumps on it that, when suitably painted, will give the impression of cobbles. And the best thing about this wallpaper is that the shops actually encourage you to rip off a sample and take it home. That’s right, boys and girls, it’s free! (I do have to admit to always feeling a little bit guilty when walking out of the shop with my tightly rolled sample, which is probably a good 18-20″ in length, knowing that I have no intention of every buying a roll of the stuff, but that won’t prevent me from going back if I haven’t got quite enough…)

So, we have our ‘cobbled’ paper, a pack of Poundland special self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles and some Poundland grey primer spray paint. After some measuring, cutting, sticking and spraying, you end up with something that looks like this;

The figure in the picture above is a West Wind Productions Victorian policeman, from their Vampire Wars: jack the Ripper 28mm range, which gives an idea of scale.

The next picture gives you a better idea of what the ‘cobbles’ look like in close-up.

Whilst one of my friends felt that a proper representation of cobbles should have the cobbles closer together, this isn’t a diorama, but a gaming tiles to give the impression of cobbles. As the three tiles I made took a couple of hours and cost me a grand total of £2.00, I think they look pretty good.

However, whilst they looked pretty good as a base, they needed a bit more detailing to match my idea of what I wanted to achieve. And this is where things didn’t go according to plan…

So, having got my base tiles, I decided that I was going to scribe pavements onto the inch wide strips, scoring these into the vinyl floor tiles with a bradawl. Once this was done, I would wash the whole tile in a brown ochre wash, which should not only ‘fill’ the scribed lines between the paving slabs, but also dirty up my road a bit, making them look more realistic.

However, whilst the scribing looked good, all it actually did was remove the top layer of spray paint, so when I applied the wash, all it did was show up the underlying colour of the tiles. And it made the tiles look a bit crap. After a bit of rethinking and a further visit to both Poundland and a different DIY shop, I had another can of grey primer and some different textured wallpaper, this time what was described as ‘mosaic’, which was basically lots of little squares.

As approximately two and a bit of these squares covered about an inch, I cut several strips an inch wide of my sample, then glued these down over the sections I had previously scribed as pavements, then re-sprayed the tiles. The end result was this;

Whilst they may not be offset paving slabs like I had originally intended, I think they look a lot more effective than if I’d tried to either paint the paving slabs on individually or tried to paint the lines on freehand.

As I’ve only completed three of the intended four tiles, I dug out my pumpkin patch tile I made last October, to show what the completed playing area will look like;

I decided to cut out the pavement on the bottom left tile to make them more modular and give me more options in layout. The final fourth tile, which will replace the pumpkin patch, will be a churchyard, utilising the iron railings I got at Salute from Renedhra and a Plasticville ‘cathedral’, which is a little too small to be a cathedral, but does make an acceptable small church.

I still need a few rows of Victorian housing and probably a pub, which will be scratch-built, along with some gas lamps. Having looked online at the various gas lamps available, I will probably be scratch-building these too – I know roughly how I’m going to do these, just need to work out the best way to do the actual lamps, as the bases and posts will be a cinch.

So, that’s how far I’ve got with my Gothic Victoriana tiles, and so far it’s cost me just under a fiver, which is pretty good going.

Join me next time and we’ll hopefully see my small slice of London look a bit more built-up.

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.

Jez

 

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!