“These ARE the Droids I’m Looking For…”

Regular visitors to this site may have noted that I haven’t been particularly active over the past few weeks.

Well, gaming-wise, at least…

I have been busy doing other stuff. Like making my first visit to Scotland and the town of Edinburgh. This was a planned trip, probably the last holiday I’ll have with my entire family, as my oldest has now moved out and my daughter has just started university.

So, four days in Edinburgh, during which I climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat (251m) getting to the top before every member of my family…

“Smug? Me? Naahhh…”

And on the suggestion of Stevie, booked an excursion BELOW Edinburgh, into one of their famous underground vaults, which was very atmospheric and mildly spooky, as you can see from the picture below:

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I also took a fair few photos, mainly for reference purposes, but shan’t bore you with lots of pictures of interesting buildings, bits of Edinburgh Castle and Potter-eque alleyways, until such time as they become ideal for whatever tale I’m telling. However, this warrants showing – a genuine hexagonal Victorian postbox:

Not only did I have a nice break in Edinburgh, this was followed by moving my daughter into her halls of residence down in Portsmouth, which was a full-on busy day, so you can understand why I may not have been particularly active hobby-wise.

However, I have managed to get a few bits done on my ongoing alternate Star Wars project.

I realised that whilst I had my Dominion and Union troops, I needed a few characters to make my universe more rounded. So, looking through what multi=part plastic figures I did have, I created a ‘Protocol Droid’ by taking off the distinctive handlebar from one a Warlord Games Cyberman, combined various components from both a Void 1.1 Viridian Marine and a Junker with a few other bits to make a ‘bounty hunter’ and put together my free Legion of the Black Sun Necromancer to be a corrupted ‘adept of the Dark Side’. Once these have been fully painted, they will receive full in-universe designations, but for now this gives an idea of where I’m going with them;

But wait, there’s more!!!

Having found myself with an unexpected free evening, rather than waste it trying to find something specific for this project online (which I finally managed to do – see later in this post), I bit the bullet, got the paints out and sat down for a bit of an undercoating session – and achieved a fair bit.

The Union Militia were all undercoated in Docrafts Linen, their weapons in Docrafts Noir and a couple of them had their armour painted in Docrafts Jungle Green, as I’d decided that the Militia colour scheme would be predominantly tan and dark green, so inspired by the Rebel Commandoes, but not an exact copy. Skulking in the background is a GW Adeptus Arbites, which I intend on becoming another ‘bounty hunter’ for this universe.

My Dominion Legionnaires had an undercoat of Docrafts Noir, then were spirited off into my garage and were sprayed with some Poundland Gloss White, to try and give a bit of fast shading – which kind of worked. It does give a better indication of how they will end up – and yes, there are a couple more than there were last time. Remember, the Dominion IS Legion…

Incidentally, the ‘corridor’ I’m using as my backdrop is the free sample of the Dungeons & Lasers modular scenery that I mentioned in my previous post. I decided to de-sprue it and have a bit of a play. It’s good stuff solid, robust, well-detailed and how it goes together is really clever and simple. I’ll definitely be getting some of this stuff when it’s released, but if anyone wants to ‘late pledge’ for the Kickstarter, go here.

My Dominion Outriders were also given a similar treatment to their more heavily armoured brethren. I also shortened the Sharpshooter’s rifle, as once it had a lick of paint, it was obvious that it was too long. I still think they’re pretty cool and am looking forward to painting them, although for a full squad, I need to build three more Outriders, as the Sharpshooter doesn’t count.

Finally, I added some paint to my character models, although things did not go quite according to plan with some of them.

My ‘bounty hunter’ got an undercoat of Docrafts Dark Grey with his gun then being painted Docrafts Noir. The ‘protocol droid’ I had issues with – it had an undercoat of Docrafts Bronze, then a coat of Docrafts Shining Gold. However, for some reason the silver-grey plastic it was made from was still showing through the paint, so I then undercoated it again with Docrafts Noir and it now is the dirty brass colour you can see below. Archon Corax, my Vader surrogate, I tried to be clever with, by undercoating him with Gunmetal spray.

This was NOT a good idea, as this type of metallic paint relies on small particles to reflect the light and whilst this works fine on a larger model, like the bunker, it obscures the detail on figures, so I had to get out the nail polish remover and cotton buds to remove most of the spray paint. I left it on the lightsabre blade, as I thought this would help making it ‘shiny’. However, the rest of the figure got an undercoat of Docrafts Noir.

The final figure was the corrupted ‘Dark Side Adept’, who got an undercoat of Docrafts Dark Grey (which is actually quite light, as you can see from the pictures) and his pistol painted in Docrafts Noir.

Having read this far, you might be wondering how the title of this post relates to any of the preceding subject matter.

It doesn’t.

However, I will now explain. As this project progresses, I find myself populating my Star Wars-inspired universe with various figures to serve as proxies for the various troop types and ancillary characters. I have my Rebel trooper proxies and I have my Imperial Stormtrooper and Scout Trooper proxies. I also have Jedi proxies, both Dark and Light (although you haven’t seen the light one yet) and a couple of bounty hunters. I also have my first droid, but this was, up until recently, a bit of a stumbling block.

Humanoid robots are relatively common from several manufacturers, so finding figures for protocol, assassin or combat droids is quite easy. However, if you want proxy Astromech-style droids, you would have to buy either Fantasy Flight Games or the old Star Wars Miniatures game ones – which could prove a bit pricey, or make your own – which could prove to be a bit fiddly. I did find and download a template to make 1:50 scale papercraft R2 Units is a variety of colours, but this looked like it would try the patience of a saint – which I am not.

But Master Crow’s Web-Fu is strong…

Way back in May of 2018 Michael Awdry, of 28mm Victorian Warfare fame, was painting up some of his Imperial Assault figures and happened to mention a company called Combatzone Scenery, who made/make resin-infused plaster scenery for Imperial Assault, with which you can replace the cardboard tokens that come with this game. As I was not involved in a Star Wars-y project and did not own the game, I didn’t pay this much attention at the time.

However, my extensive practising of my Web-Fu in search of suitable proxy Astromech droids flagged up this picture:

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Following the link back, I found that this was the Robot Accessory Set from, you guessed it, Combatzone Scenery, in which you get 14 robots cast in resin “compatible with 28mm skirmish games such as Star Wars Legion, Warhammer 40,000 or Infinity”, available to purchase for £15.00. That works out at about £1.07 per robot. The cheapest official Star Wars Miniatures Astromech droid (R5-D4) I could find was £2.99. Okay, so they’re not exactly right if you’re a Star Wars purist – the MSE droids are too big, the GNK droids have their legs in the wrong place and the R5 units have the wrong number of eyes – but for my purposes, they’re ideal. They look close enough to the source material that you will be thinking Star Wars, but fit in with my slight tweaking of the universe. And they’re £1.07 each…

Incidentally, if you play Imperial Assault, Legion, X-Wing or Armada, check out Combatzone Scenery, as they have a wide selection of products that will enhance your games. Similarly, if you play Super Dungeon Explore or other Chibi style games, they have a whole section devoted to this genre too, so well worth a look and very reasonable too, compared to the cost of the actual official game components.

Join me next time for more Star Wars inspired fun and remember, just because you happen to bump into me at a wargames show, doesn’t mean I’ll let you take my photo…

Never Break the Chain

One of the problems with being a wargamer is that you can be influenced by other gamers, be it in person  – at your FLGS or local club – or online – in a forum or on a blog such as this.

Whilst the majority of the time, this can be a positive experience, where you gain insight into a new painting style or have a manufacturer brought to your attention that you weren’t aware of, who stocks items that fulfill a specific need in your current project, there are times when something catches your eye or imagination and you suddenly find yourself having shelled out for a new game or figures from a new genre or scale, which are sufficiently different from your normal wargaming fare that you either put them to one side and promise you’ll look at them “later” or you stutter to a halt, as the overwhelming nature of the new project causes your brain to spasm

In other words, you broke the chain.

In my experience, in order to be successful and productive in our wonderful hobby, you do need to maintain momentum, as a two-week “break” from the hobby can easily slip in to a month or even a year if you’re not careful. This hobby momentum I refer to as the chain, so I can cheekily use lyrics from the Fleetwood Mac track of the same name for the post’s title, but also because is IS a chain – if you use it correctly.

Now, this is just MY theory on how to maintain momentum in your hobby pursuits, so feel free to disagree, but it works for me, so I’d thought I’d share it with you.

If you concentrate on a single genre or project for an extended period of time, unless it is something you are committed to or are extremely passionate about, you will experience burn-out. This can lead to a loss of momentum or, in the worse-case scenario, a loss of “love” for that particular project or genre.

Which is not good.

I find that having a small handful of different projects, which share a similar scale, means that I can easily transition from one to another when I start to become jaded with one particular project. It does help that the majority of my projects have an element of the macabre, so whilst I game Victorian Fantasy/Horror, Japanese Medieval Fantasy, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters and the current Alternate Star Wars project, some of the figures I use will turn up in multiple genres. And as Superhero gaming covers every possible permutation of genres and this was my first ‘love’ when I returned to gaming from the wilderness, it has kind of influenced the way I look at every other genre – so most of the projects I do are a blend of more than one thing.

Because there is this transition, this ‘sharing’ of resources and figures, I can easily slide from one project to another if I feel myself becoming “bored” with a particular project, so I don’t fall out of love with it, lose hobby momentum and break the chain, which, according to Fleetwood Mac, you should NEVER do.

Now, this transitioning can also be used in writing posts for your blogs. Sometimes, I’ll read a post which covers so many different projects or genres that it as though the author has just opened his head and spilled the contents on to the screen, without any concern or forethought as to how all these disparate parts come together. It can be somewhat jarring and reduces my enjoyment of reading that particular post. But, if there is some underlying theme or link between everything you’ve included in your post, then you can cover multiple genres or projects in one post without anyone even realising.

I’ll show you what I mean and you can judge for yourself how successful I’ve been…

So, way back in April of this year, I trotted off to the Excel Centre for the annual Salute wargaming convention and, being one of the first 5,000 through the doors, got my goodie bag with various freebies.

As a gamer with a limited budget, I am a fan of free wargaming stuff, although I sometimes can’t think of a particular use for the item when I first receive it. This happened with last year’s freebies, which ended up being sent to Stevie, as he’d missed on on Salute that year and was drooling over the free figures – and I had no use for them.

We’re gamers – that’s what we do.

Anyway, one of this year’s freebies was this;

This was a promo figure for Archon Studios new planned game Starcide, a sci-fi skirmish game, namely a Necromancer from the Legion of the Black Sun faction.

At the time, I had no real use for him. However, as I considered the various factions within my Star Wars-inspired project, I speculated on what would happen if a member of the Order of the Sentinels fell completely and started using their powers to siphon off the life-force of others to prolong their own life. I think they’d end up looking like a Legion of the Black Sun Necromancer…

Now, Archon Studios also had some promo examples and leaflets for their next project to be launched on Kickstarter at Salute, a hard plastic modular scenery system called ‘Dungeons & Lasers’, which allowed you to build either dungeons or sci-fi complexes out of set of interlocking components. Looked pretty cool and exactly the kind of thing I’d be interested in, so I grabbed a couple of leaflets to read up on it.

After the show, I visited their website and signed up for their email newsletter, so I could be kept in the loop. Prior to the launch of the Kickstarter for this new project, anyone who’d signed up for the newsletter received an email asking if they’d like a free sample of the new kit…

As I’ve stated before, I LIKE free wargaming stuff… so said yes.

This is what I got;

So, this sprue/frame contains enough components to create a small corridor with two walls… and an animal companion. It’s a fairly substantial bit of kit, as each floor section approximately 3mm thick and each wall section about 5mm thick. Floor sections are single-sided, with tabs that the rectangular connectors on the sprue clip on to, to ensure they don’t shift about. The wall sections are double-sided and in the production version will have different styles of either the fantasy or sci-fi decor on, so you can chooses which side you want showing. The way the bits clip together is really straightforward and the product is pretty robust.

The Kickstarter launched on 13th August 2019 and has now been successfully funded, but late pledges can still be made here. Lowest scenery pledge is $99, for which you get one base set of your preferred genre choice AND three extra rooms of your choice.

I know that I’ve previously stated that I’m not a fan of Kickstarters, but on this occasion, having seen the stuff in the…er…plastic AND if I had the cash, I would definitely buy in to this. Have a look yourself, as it might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

I also received another unexpected email recently, from Keith aka the Angry Piper from Dead Dick’s Tavern & Temporary Lodging. He’d sent me a photo of an item he thought I might like and asked if I wanted it.

Free wargaming stuff? Oooh, yes please…

Anyway, this is the item, which arrived yesterday morning.

Yeah Baby… you know who to call..

28mm Outrider figure for scale purposes, as my Ghostbusters are currently packed away… somewhere. (There was something else in the box, but the less said about the better, right Keith?) A very generous gift, especially when taking into account the shipping costs, and one that I am extremely grateful for.

Just need to find a way to pay him back somehow…

Right that’s all for this post, which not only had tied into my current project, but also a once and future project and was all linked together with a single theme.

It’s almost like I planned this…

“He says there’s a secret entrance… On the other side of the ridge.”

As the end of August can be seen lurking in the distance, creeping ever closer, and this is when The Angry Piper’s TerrainTime 2019 challenge finishes AND my Star Wars-inspired terrain piece was almost complete, I decided to crack on with the roof. Once this was completed, all I’d need to do was give it a couple of passes with some spray paint and job done.

So, first order of the day was deciding on what to use. Looking at the original inspiration for this terrain piece, the Endor Shield Generator Bunker;

Related image

the roof is pretty thick and also stepped, so the first order was to scout out some 5mm foamcore to make the lowest tier of the roof. As my intention was to use an aerosol spray paint on the entire model, the exposed foam along the edges would have to be masked, otherwise the spray paint would melt it. Potentially useful if trying to replicate a weird energy weapon attack, not so good when just attempting to undercoat a model.

A rectangle that matched the approximate footprint of the model was cut out, and the sides covered with clear sticky tape, angled at the corners to avoid overlap.

The next stage was to add an additional tier, slightly smaller, cut from mounting board and a third and final tier, the corners of which were trimmed, as were the centres, to give a bit more interest to the basic roof structure, before adding any external greeblies.

A quick raid of my box of bits and two end caps from flat pack furniture, two push pins, a plastic flanged nut of some description and a spare token from HeroScape (which has the HeroScape emblem on) were dry-fitted, then stuck in place, once I’d decided where they were going.

All well and good, but what did it look like in situ?

Not too bad…

Not too bad at all…

But obviously, as it stood at this point, all the disparate elements were clearly visible, so out into the garden it went and was given a liberal coat of matt black primer.

yes, I did say matt – the only reason this is looking shiny is that the picture was taken when the paint was still wet.

As I wanted a playable interior as well, the inside was given a coat too. The interior will gain some detail, possibly utilising some of the decals from Diorama Workshop. These are designed for 3.75″ actions figures, but re-scaling them and printing them out on sticky-backed paper and you’ve got instant Star Wars “wallpaper” for whatever environment you wish to re-create.

The next step was to use some Wilko Gunmetal Spray Paint, which gives a nice subdued dark grey-ish metallic effect. The idea was to try and utilise the technique known as zenithal shading, to try and create some simple highlights without too much effort. However, I don’t think I got it quite right, so my bunker model appears to be the same colour across its entirety, except for some possible darker shading in the doorway.

However, my Dominion troops seem to like it and for a relatively simple and inexpensive project, I think it’s come out looking pretty good.

If you’d seen the finished article prior to seeing how it was built, would you have guessed what it was made of? Or just assumed it was 3D printed or something?

That’s all for this build, but join me next time as this project continues. I think we may be off to the Droid workshop…

Jez

“Chewie and me got into a lot of places more heavily guarded than this…”

So, my intention for the month of August was to continue with my Alternate Star Wars project AND take part in the TerrainTime 2019 challenge being run by the Keith (aka The Angry Piper) over on his blog Dead Dick’s Tavern and Temporary Lodging. I had already bought one of these;

Wilko Half Size Propagator Lid 17.5 x 21cm Image

which is a Wilko Half Size Propagator Lid (17.5cm x 21cm) for the absolutely HUGE amount of…75p! Bargain!!

The idea was to use this vacuum-formed plastic cover as the basis for an Imperial-ish bunker, similar to the ones found on Endor or Scarif. Relatively simple plan – trim the rim so it was flush with the ground, tart up the exterior a bit, spray the whole thing, weather it a bit – shouldn’t take too long and should be pretty simple, right?

If I’d stuck to my initial plan…yes. However, I overthought this little project and ended up trying to make a recessed door (like the one on Endor). Over the next two and bit hours there were indications that things were not going according to plan, but rather than listen to these subtle hints from the Universe, I struggled gamely on – until I realised I had well and truly Fucked. It. Up. 

Once you’ve reached THAT point, all you can do is sigh and consign your efforts to the bin, because no amount of remedial work will miraculously resurrect your idea.

However, lessons were learnt from this;

  1. Don’t overthink or over-complicate your builds,
  2. Cheaper is not necessarily better, and
  3. Vacuum-formed plastic can be a pain in the arse to cut straight lines out of.

Of course, in between my epic fail with my first attempt at a Star Wars-inspired terrain piece and this post, this was previewed by FFG;

Image result for star wars legion bunker

Yup, the OFFICIAL Star Wars Legion Imperial Bunker – RRP seems to be about £69.99…

As we all know my particular opinion on FFG pricing, I won’t reiterate that here, but seeing this item reminded me that I had seen a plastic object with similar detailing knocking about the house somewhere – namely this;

This is a hard plastic fitting wedge, used when installing laminate flooring. It’s usually used to offset the ‘planks’ when laying the flooring, to ensure that it’s square with the walls…or that’s the general idea. Anyway, these wedges are 30mm wide and 70mm long/tall and I thought I could use them to clad a simple box, to make a substitute bunker. However, I only had a couple left over that I could locate, and needed a good 20 or so.

A quick search online and I discovered that B&Q were currently selling off packs of the Diall brand of these wedges, as they were being discontinued, for the low price of £1.00 for a pack of 22. So I bought 2 packs.

Now I had my ‘cladding’, I just needed my walls, so the remains of a cereal box was press-ganged into service and a basic structure built – with the recessed doorway being pre-planned this time, rather than an afterthought.

That’s one of my Dominion Outriders to give an idea of scale – the structure has a footprint of 18cm x 12 cm and is 7cm tall, so as to fit in with the multiples of the individual wedges.

After a certain amount of gluing, the exterior of the structure was clad, as shown below.

As the reverse of each wedge is divided into a 3 x 5 grid of oblongs, I decided to use two of these reversed to create the inner walls of the recess, with the intention of adding a control panel at some point, once I’d found something suitable.

Which then looked like this;

Looking at the original wedges that had started this train of thought and project rolling, I realised that they were from a different manufacturer AND had a different pattern on the reverse – which looked like blast doors to my eyes, so these were glued in place, like so;

All in all, it took about 40 minutes to do this, including building the cardboard structure. Cheap, simple and, in my opinion, looks pretty good.

So, the next stage is to build a roof, add a few external bits and bobs – such as the afore-mentioned control panel and some sensor domes – then give it a liberal coat of black spray primer, followed by a spray of Gunmetal (bought to refurbish a mirror frame, but gives a nice subdued metallic finish) and it will be done.

The interior will have to wait, as the end of August fast approaches and it needs to be usuable/finished by then, so I’ll just concentrate on the exterior.

And I’ve still got another pack of these wedges and am wondering whether they could be used as internal walls, if they were glued back to back…

There should be another post to finish the bunker off, before we move onto how I’ve worked out how to cunningly and cheaply make my own Astromech droids.

You KNOW it’s going to be another potentially Genius idea, so make sure to tune in…

Jez

Carpathian Kitten Loss

The title of this post is a phrase used by Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters II, referring to what Vigo the Carpathian is suffering from and why he looks so grumpy in his painting.

It’s also… The. Best. Title. Ever.

After my brief diversion to announce the Forgotten Heroes 2019 event, we return to my ongoing Ghostbusters project and something that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but not got around to yet.

As I’d previously built the first room of my museum ‘board’ (go here if you missed this genius idea) and discussed in the comments that it could be used for any large internal space, including an art gallery, this started those insidious cogs turning in my brain…

As the villain of the second Ghostbusters movie spent the majority of the film as an oil painting, to have a ‘complete’ collection of 28mm Ghostbusters and related characters, I really needed a scale representation of this. I mean, I’d just built a museum hall, so how difficult could it be?

Turns out there were some teething issues, but as I’ve now overcome these, I can show you the best way to create scale paintings for your scenery, that are; 1. easy to make, 2. dirt cheap and, 3. with the right bits, can be added and removed from your scenery without any issues.

So, the first thing to do is to find the relevant images that you want to replicate. I decided that my portrait of Vigo should not hang alone, so decided to source some other images of like-minded folk. Having selected my ‘Rogue’s Gallery’, I used Google Images to find the largest, most detailed version of the picture I wanted, then simply copied and pasted these into a blank Word document.

Using the Formatting facility, I then reduced these images in size to what I felt was the correct proportions, ensuring that the aspect ratio was locked, so it didn’t distort the image. Using the ‘Picture Styles’ Formatting option, I then added a “frame” to each picture, using ‘Compound Frame, Black’. Having done this, I then printed this out on a piece of A4 paper, using my colour printer, along with one other image, like so:

So, Vigo is at the bottom left of the portraits and above him is a portrait of Ivo Shandor’s mother, which features in Ghostbusters – The Video Game, which I’ve mentioned before. As for the other three portraits, they are all historical personages and anyone who can name all three gets bonus points and my everlasting respect.

The final image is the actual logo for Stay-Puft Marshmallows that appeared in the first Ghostbusters movie, on the packet that Dana had on her kitchen counter. Yes, I am THAT much of a geek…

Interestingly, the image of Mr. Stay-Puft is a bit more angular than the one that manifested in the final reel and I’m tempted to try and recreate this…but maybe not full size.

Anyway, as I had printed this out on A4 paper, I decided to cut out the pictures and glue them on to thin card using a gluestick…

This was a mistake, so don’t do this.

The glue make the colours run and you get weird lumps everywhere. Instead, print the images straight on to card, as most home printers will take the sort of white card they give to kids to make greetings cards from and is therefore available from most stationers and handily comes in A4 size. (As a side note for any overseas readers, A4 is a standard paper size in the UK, equivalent to 8.27 × 11.69 inches, because having it 9 x 12 would be FAR too easy…)

Once you’ve done that, use a steel rule and a craft knife (as even with the best will in the world AND a steady hand, you won’t cut ’em straight) to cut out your paintings, like so:

You will then need to colour the edges of your ‘paintings’, as otherwise when viewed from the side, you’ll see the white card they’re printed on. This can easily be done with a black felt tip such as a Sharpie, although someone’s wandered off with mine, so I had to paint the bloody things. Don’t do this – it takes too long and you can end up with paint, ironically, on your ‘paintings’.

The next stage is to cover the paintings with transparent sticky=backed plastic. I used a 50p roll from Wilko, intended for covering school books. This is to protect the images when being handled, as ink from an inkjet printer will wear off if treated too rough and gives the ‘paintings’ that sheen that you see on oil paintings. Once you’ve done this, flip them over and glue 1 pence pieces to the back of each one, like so;

It doesn’t have to be a 1 pence pieces, you can use any coin of your choice, or a washer, although washers do tend to be more expensive than a penny each. The important thing is that the coin (or coin substitute) be of a composition that is ferromagnetic…

And the reason for this is because that way, by placing a strong enough magnet on the reverse of the wall you are intending hanging the ‘picture’ on, it can be placed anywhere on the wall and removed just as easily, so will not be a permanent fixture.

To show you what I mean, here’s Dr Floyd Petersen of the Rookhaven Ghostbusters franchise, examining a portrait he has discovered hanging in the museum, which appears to be giving off a significant amount of Psychokinetic Energy…

“There are no strings on me…”

Did I hear someone say… ‘genius’?

Until next time…

Unnatural History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genius.

‘Nuff said.

Size of a Cow…

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

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

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

And what I got was these:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily, Interloper Miniatures has some;

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

 

Re-Scaping

In my last but one post (I’ll Put a Hex on You…), I discussed my plans regarding re-purposing my Heroscape hex terrain to make it less ‘cartoon-y’ looking. I have decided to christen this “Re-Scaping” because…I can.

Now, I am aware that not everyone is as familiar with Heroscape as myself, so I thought I’d do a quick history bit first. It was originally published/released in 2004 by Milton Bradley and was a complete turn-based miniature wargame, which came with 30 pre-painted miniatures. The main difference from other games of this ilk is that it came with interlocking hex tiles, which could be combined in whatever fashion you chose, to create your battlefield. Lego for wargamers, essentially.

Until it was discontinued in 2010, several expansions were released, introducing different coloured tiles to represent different types of terrain, including dungeon, snow and lava field tiles.

At one point, I had a copy of every terrain expansion released, bar the castle set, but various financial issues resulted in me selling off the Volcarren Wasteland (lava-themed), Thaelenk Tundra (snow and ice-themed) and the Battle for the Underdark (Dungeon-themed) sets.

This still left me with a fair amount of tiles of varying types of terrain, which are shown below:

Starting from top left and going clockwise, the green/brown tile is a Grass tile and the grey/brown is a Stone tile, both from the Rise of the Valkyrie base set. Grass tiles are those you get the most of. Next we have a cobbled Road tile, from the Road to the Forgotten Forest set. You get about 20 of these, so not enough to cobble the entirety of Blackwell. The black tile is an Asphalt tile and the light grey is a Concrete tile, both from the Marvel base set The Conflict Begins. I ended up with three of these sets, as The Entertainer was selling them off at £10 a set. The two-tone green tile is a Swamp tile, from The Swarm of the Marro set and the yellow tile is a Sand tile from The Arena of the Planeswalkers set.

Typically, each type of terrain comes in 1-hex, 2-hex, 3-hex and 7-hex tiles, with certain variations, like the 24-hex Grass tiles.

Those who are fully conversant with the game and the sets I have mentioned will have noticed that one type of terrain tile is missing – the cream/brown Sand tile which featured in the base set as well as a few other places.

This is because I took ALL my Sand tiles and with a can of ‘Soft Taupe’ Gloss Acrylic Spray from Wilkinsons (£4.00 for a 400ml can), re-coloured them all. However, whilst the spray gave a nice coverage, it did teach me two important things regarding doing this type of re-colouring. Firstly, don’t apply the spray too thickly, otherwise your interlocking tiles will fit a bit TOO snugly together and it will be a bugger to get them apart and, secondly, the colour of the can’s lid and the sample board showing the spray applied will not match the actual paint that comes out. Both the lid and sample board suggested that ‘soft taupe’ was a browny-grey colour. It is…but it’s not as dark as it appeared, as you can see if the picture below:

The bottom tiles are a light grey concrete tile on the left and a dark grey Road tile on the right. Above them is the ‘soft taupe’ tile, which is a pretty similar colour to the Concrete tile.

After some gnashing of teeth and a bit of compound swearing, I resorted to Plan B – in which the B stands for ‘Burnt Umber’. Utilising a bottle of Docrafts Acrylic of this hue, I grabbed the 24-hex tile that I’d sprayed with ‘Soft Taupe’ and gave it a liberal coating of this, as a test piece.

And do you know what? It came out rather well, as can be seen from the quick scene I set up below, featuring some of my other ‘Re-Scaped’ hexes that had cheap trees from China attached and a Time War Dalek, who is hunting squirrels…

So, as I now have a solution, I just need to give all my ‘Soft Taupe’ sprayed tiles a coat of Burnt Umber and I will have my first set of Re-Scaped tiles, which I think shall be dubbed Mud tiles. Should double up as patches of earth, dirt roads in the countryside or possibly compacted dirt roads in urban environments.

Of course, the comparison with the original Grass tiles now shows that they need Re-Scaping too. Luckily, Wilkinson’s does have at least 3 different shades of cheap green spray paint, so hopefully at least one of them will be a closer match to the colour I want.

I shall finish up with a small piece of good news – it appears I will be attending Salute this year after all, so keep your eyes peeled for the grumpy old crow stalking the aisles and descending upon the Bloggers Meet in a flurry of feathers.

Jez

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…

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…