View From the Crow’s Nest: Year Two

Can it really have been two years since the very first post on this blog? Whilst, strictly speaking, tomorrow is the official two-year anniversary of this blog, what’s a couple of hours between friends, eh?

Over the last year there have been Ghostbusters, Masters of the Universe, Super-Clowns and Oriental Fantasy. I’ve scratch-built buildings, hamburger carts, starships, road tiles and a rather nice pumpkin patch. I’ve published several short stories and introduced people to my own rules – Final Frontier for Star Trek-inspired space combat and Way of the Crow, an all-genre skirmish rules.

We also had the very first Forgotten Heroes event, in which fellow bloggers on three continents produced a 28mm costumed character, of which a figure has either not yet been made or the official figure was a bit pants, which was a great deal of fun.

I also attended my very first Salute, in which I had the pleasure of meeting some of my fellow bloggers face-to-face and the displeasure of trying to eat a Cornish pasty hotter than the sun with just my fingers…

I want to thank all of those who’ve visited my blog and a bigger thank you to all those who took the time to post a comment – I know from personal experience that you don’t always get the time to comment on every post on every blog you follow, so those who’ve chosen to comment on mine, many thanks.

Right, that’s the retrospective bit, so what have you got to look forward to in the next twelve months? Will you see me pandering to the needs of a wider audience, featuring the next ‘big thing’ and tailoring my content to increase the number of visitors? Will you see me ‘bigging up’ a company’s products because I’m in their pocket? Will you see me covering genres or games systems that I have no interest in just because I feel I should?

Of course you bloody won’t.

What you WILL see is; more Way of the Crow, as I finish writing up the rules so that it can be used for every genre. More AARs, as I’ve decided that I really should play with all these figures and terrain I’ve collected, otherwise what’s the point? Plus it’ll give me the chance to play-test the rules in a variety of settings. More inventive scratch-building, from the long-promised fire hydrants to inexpensive and simple trees. More Oriental Fantasy, more starships and more superheroes, as Forgotten Heroes WILL return in June 2017, so get planning!

But wait, there’s more! Final Frontier will get a 2nd Edition, as I incorporate the various suggestions and ideas I’ve had regarding it (for those of you that missed it the first time around, you can find it on this post). There will also be another set of rules published which will allow you to fight riverine engagements between armed and armoured narrowboats and barges, along with articles on how to scratch-build the craft needed for this, as the long-planned Pirates of the River Thames finally sees the light of day! There will be strange, unusual and possibly bonkers diversions (one such ‘secret project’ is currently under way as we speak…). And I’m hoping to have the pleasure of hosting some guest articles from some very good friends – so you might actually end up with something worth reading…

And there will be, of course, more Doctor Who…

In fact, here it comes now – cue the theme tune…

As I was surprised to get a little more hobby-time this week, I decided to base up some of my Games Worskshop Cybermen, along with my Black Tree Cyber Controller, reasoning that if they were based, the actual painting of them shouldn’t take that long, as they’re essentially one colour. I was right and this is the result:

So, they were initially undercoated in GW Chainmail, a pot of which is still going strong, then painted with GW Black Ink. I then drybrushed them with GW Mithril Silver, then painted in their chest panels and the ends of their Cyberguns with Docrafts Black, and the rings on their guns with GW Imperial Purple. The bases were painted Docrafts Chocolate Brown, with a wash of Burnt Ochre.

And now I have a five ‘man’ squad of Earthshock Cybermen, with a Telos Cyber Controller. I did consider altering the pose of the GW Cybermen, but felt their uniformity actually suited them better.

Now, for those of you who prefer the newer version of the Cybermen, I give you a Cybus Industries Cyberman:

This Mirco Universe figure was painted in exactly the same way as the Cybermen above, but as the standard base for these figures looks more like starship decking, I undercoated it in GW Chainmail, then washed it in Brown Ink. I think it looks like slightly oily decking, which was the look I was going for.

Finally, as I’d based the Master and he’d threatened to use his Tissue Compression Eliminator on me unless I built him a TARDIS, that’s what I did:

The Master’s TARDIS is simply a 30mm lipped base, with the plastic casing from a fluorescent light actuator glued onto it, which was then undercoated in Light Grey, painted in GW Chainmail, with a further coat of Chainmail mixed with a tiny amount of black.

As both my sons took one look at it and identified it as an uncloaked TARDIS without any prompting, this means two things; it looks like what it’s supposed to and, more importantly, I’ve brought my kids up right.

That’s all for this week – join me next time for more Who-related goodness.

Blobby Aliens

Once again, various external factors have conspired against me to reduce the amount of hobby-time I had available this week, including a stinking cold which is starting to really annoy me.

So whilst I have been able to get some stuff done this week, it’s not a huge amount.

Firstly, I decided to slap some paint on my TARDIS, but the initial blue I chose was not the ‘right’ blue, so resulted in me having to repaint the entire thing a darker shade. As you can see in the picture below, it now looks like it should. Certainly the Third Doctor thinks so, as he’s loitering around outside it, in the hopes that this TARDIS has its dematerialisation circuits intact.

If you look at the windows, you can see the original blue I used, which was a little too light.

Now, one of the good things about Doctor Who, in my opinion, is the aliens. True, the majority of the aliens that appeared in the original series were men in reasonably unconvincing costumes, but no-one can deny that the design of the Daleks was not only iconic, but also different from anything else that had appeared up until that time.

But not all the aliens that have appeared in both the classic series AND the new series are as complicated, design-wise, as the Daleks. The Rutan, from the 1977 Fourth Doctor serial The Horror of Fang Rock was essentially a big green glowing blob, the Ogri from the 1978 serial The Stones of Blood were mobile blood-drinking standing stones and the Vashta Nerada from the 2008 Tenth Doctor two-parter Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead manifested as additional shadows attached to their victims.

The point I’m trying to make here is that if you want Doctor Who aliens, you don’t actually have to buy them. With a bit of ingenuity, you can make your own.

And to prove this, I will show you how.

Back in 1972, the writers on Doctor Who had the bright idea of creating a story where the current incarnation of the Doctor, which was Jon Pertwee, would be joined by his two previous incarnations, played by Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell, to face a foe that required more than one Time Lord to defeat. This story, in a flash of originality, became the 4-part serial The Three Doctors.

Now, the villain of this particular story was the renegade Time Lord Omega, who had created servants out of the anti-matter universe he was occupying and sent them to Earth to kidnap the Doctor. These ‘blobby aliens’ are known as Gel Guards and look like this:

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So, how do you go about making your very own Gel Guards? Well, a while ago I discovered a rather interesting product called Floam. Floam consisted of small airtight tubs, containing a substance that was essentially tiny polystyrene balls in a gel-like medium. This could be moulded into whatever shape your heart desired and, if left out to dry, set hard overnight. The ‘sculptures’ made from this could then be painted, as the Floam would accept standard acrylic paint with no problem. The only slight disadvantage with this substance was that the ‘balls’ were all the same size, so if you wanted to create a shoggoth, for example, you’d need to add additional different sized balls to make it less uniform.

Now, the major stumbling block for all of you is that they apparently don’t make this stuff anymore – not sure why, perhaps children were eating it or something.  However, I found a website that provides a ‘recipe’ for you to make your own, should you be so inclined. Think of it as mouldable polystyrene, but with the little balls going everywhere, so ideal for bulking out large structures, but without increasing their weight.

I had a tub of own-brand ‘Floam’, which I moulded into suitable ‘Gel Guard’ like shapes on 25mm circular plastic bases, then inserted a small faceted bead into the ‘head’ to act as an eye, then left them to dry overnight.

As I had an imperfect recollection of what the ‘Gel Guards’ looked like when I made these, they were then painted bright orange, with yellow eyes. These were then popped in a box and forgotten about.

I came across them recently and decided to repaint them in the correct colours, so gave them an undercoat of white, then painted them gold. I then had terrible issues with trying to find a suitable brown wash – I though Burnt Ochre would work, but it still left them looking too gold. I finally decided to overpaint them with Brown Ink in the hopes that this wouldn’t make them too dark. Once this had dried, I painted in their eyes with GW Imperial Purple, which is actually a dark pink colour and this is as far as I’ve got:

Now, they need a bit more variation on their colouring, with patches of orange and brown, but I do think they’re recognisable as ‘Gel Guards’.

To give a sense of scale in relation to a 28mm figure, here they are next to a Copplestone-sculpted Trooper, who is currently on his way to become a member of UNIT.

“He’s behind you…!”

So, if you’re planning on gaming Doctor Who (or any other sci-fi game), don’t feel you have to limit yourself to ‘official’ figures. Even if you want specific aliens, a little bit of thinking outside the box can get you inexpensive substitutes, the added advantage of which is that you now have something totally unique.

That’s all for this week. Tune in next week for more Doctor Who – what it will be only ‘Who’ knows…

“Definitely a Madman with a Box”

As I mentioned in my last post – Thinking Outside the (Blue) Box – I am now the proud owner of not one, but nine incarnations of the Doctor – First through Seventh, with the Eleventh and Twelfth as well. However, in order for whichever incarnation of the Doctor I decide to use to be able to travel through time and space, I found myself in need of a TARDIS.

Now, there was a time (pun intended) that if you wanted a 28mm model of a police box, you had a variety of options. You could buy one from Fenris Games, Hasslefree Miniatures, Black Cat Bases and best of all, the option of having both an opaque and a transparent one from Ainsty Castings, who also did a TARDIS control console. However, this is no longer the case, and believe me I’ve looked. Whether this is due to ‘cease and desist’ letters being issued or the companies concerned sensing that it would be in their best interests to withdraw their products from the market, I don’t know. The end result is the same – you have very few options left if you want a 28mm TARDIS.

So, Option 1 is to purchase an ‘officially licensed’ TARDIS model from Black Tree Design.

Now, as far as I am aware, the set only comes with the TARDIS and the control console, rather than the figures shown in the image above (or the walls). It’s not the most inspiring of models, but my main problem with this set is the price – it’s £26.49! Even taking advantage of one of Black Tree’s 30% off sales, that’s still eighteen and half quid! Outrageous…

Which brings me on to Option 2 – Reaper Miniatures Bones range. In this range you will find 80037: Telephone Box:

I think we all know what this model is supposed to be and at $4.29, it’s a much more affordable alternative, What’s more, it’s also a nicer model. For those living in the UK, it can be purchased from Miniatures Heroes for £3.66.

However, having blown my gaming budget on Doctors and monsters AND being me, I went for secret Option No. 3 – make your own.

Now, having previously built a small model TARDIS many years ago, which was so good (apparently) that someone decided to steal it, I knew I could make one. However, what I failed to take into account during my initial attempts was that the previous TARDIS was not in scale with 28mm figures, being about one and half times bigger. Which meant that when I attempted to use the same materials and technique for a 28mm scale TARDIS, it didn’t go entirely to plan…

The results of this first attempt were duly consigned to the bin, but I did keep a note of the measurements I’d made. As 1mm Greyboard proved too thick for the particular technique I was planning on using, I cast about for a suitable material and found one in my sketch pad.  This A5 pad is “135gsm Pure White Cartridge Paper”, which is similar in thickness to thin card, and as I had a pad of approximately 50 pages, plenty of ‘material’ available, should I muck it up. I actually only ended up using one sheet…

So, the first thing I did was to transfer my dimensions to the cartridge paper and create the initial internal structure, like so:

After scoring the creases, I used a Pritt stick (other glue sticks are available) to assemble the main ‘box’, which you can see below with the Eleventh Doctor, to give a sense of scale:

Obviously a Type 40 TT Capsule, or TARDIS as it is more commonly known, does have a ‘chameleon circuit’ which allows it to blend in with whatever surroundings it might find itself in, but the ‘uncloaked’ TARDIS are a little less exciting, being essentially a silver column with a door, like below:

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However, it’s still a bit more interesting than my plain white box, so we need to add more detail in order to make it actually look like the TARDIS we all know and love. And this is the fiddly and time-consuming bit…

Having previously marked out four further rectangles the same size as the sides of my box, I marked each of these with eight smaller panels, to represent the panels and windows in each side of the TARDIS. Then using a steel rule and a sharp craft knife, I preceded to cut out these panels, leaving me with the sides as shown below:

You may be wondering why I would go to all this trouble…and about halfway through I was wondering exactly the same thing. However, if you’re going to make a three-dimensional model of a TARDIS, you might as well do it properly, otherwise you might as well just print out a papercraft TARDIS ‘box’ with all the detail printed on…which of course IS another option, should you be inclined that way.

After these side panels were completed, the glue stick came out once more and they were attached to the internal box structure, like so:

And now you can see why I bothered, as it now gives depth to the model. Starting to look a little more TARDIS-like now, isn’t it?

Having referred to my reference material, I then cut four strips of paper the same height as the box, to act as corners, four panels to go just above the ‘doors’ and four further strips to act as the central ‘spine’ down each side. More gluing ensued and the additional detailing was added to the model, like so:

Now, as I was getting close to completing the model, I got a bit excited and didn’t take any further ‘work in progress’ pictures, so you’ll have to imagine the remaining interim stages.

The next step was to add four panels at the top of each side, which is where the ‘Police Public Call Box’ signage will go. As these are thicker than the other features, these were cut from 1mm Greyboard (or Brownboard in this case) and glued on.

As I’d decided to not try and replicate a particular version of the TARDIS (as there have actually been about eight different designs), I referred to various pictures to try and get a sense of what I wanted MY TARDIS to look like, utilising the materials I had to hand.

The next step was to add a square of 2mm Greyboard onto the roof, to provide a ‘stepped’ roof. This looked fine, but the next and final ‘step’ on the roof needed to be taller and shaped. A rummage through my bits box uncovered an unused 25mm square slottabase with angled sides, which was duly dry-fitted and turned out to be exactly what I needed. I widened the slot in the exact centre of the base slightly, then covered this with a square of cartridge paper, with a circular hole in its centre. This was then glued into place with superglue.

Into this hole was inserted an appropriate length of transparent plastic tube (could have been a cotton bud stem or an empty ballpoint pen tube – the amount of bits I keep “because they could be useful” is staggering…), which was then super-glued into place. To finish the whole thing off, a GW plastic ‘shield boss’, after filing down, was added as a cap to the roof light.

The final touch was to glue the whole structure to a 40mm square GW base and this is what I ended up with:

And to give a better view of the roof, here’s an overhead view:

Not bad for an evening’s work and the only thing it cost me was time, which is appropriate given the subject matter. All that needs to be done now is to paint it and print out suitable signage for the illuminated panels and external phone door. Thinking about it, I may need to insert a further panel where the external phone door will be, as I think this is not as recessed as the other panels. Oh, and add a door handle.

That’s all for this week, but there will be more Doctor Who goodness next time. The Master is a bit miffed that I’ve only built a TARDIS for the Doctor, so I’ll probably have to build him one to, unless I want to end up on the wrong end of his Tissue Compression Eliminator.

Thinking Outside The (Blue) Box

A quick apology to those who’ve been visiting this site and not found any new content over the last couple of weeks. January always seems to be rather busy for me and I’ve not had much opportunity to indulge myself hobby-wise. On those occasions that I did, things didn’t go quite as planned, so  rather than post for the sake of it, I thought I’d wait until I’d actually got something to post about.

So, the focus of my blog for the next couple of weeks (or possibly months), as you may have guessed from the title, is Doctor Who miniature gaming. As I took advantage of Black Tree Design‘s 30% off sale on their Doctor Who line, I am now the proud owner of the first seven Doctors, as well as the Roger Delgado version of the Master. Then they went and extended the sale…

So, I now have additionally winging their merry way to me a set of seven classic Daleks (including a Special Weapons Dalek), a Cyberleader to join my Games Workshop Cybermen, an Ice Warrior and Aggedor, the Monster of Peladon – because who doesn’t need a big hairy monster with a horn? And for those of you not familiar with this character, here he is:

Image result for aggedor

Ah, bless…

Now, you might be currently thinking to yourself, “Actually, I quite fancy the idea of doing a bit of Doctor Who gaming, but I don’t have any suitable figures or rules…” and this is where the title of this post comes from.

Whilst it’s nice to have every version of the Doctor and all his iconic baddies (and those funky weird ones, like Aggedor), you don’t actually need them to do a bit of Doctor Who-esque gaming.

As far back as 1965, we were introduced to another renegade Time Lord, specifically the character who became know as the Meddling Monk, played by Peter Butterworth. Here was another Time Lord interfering with the course of history who had his own Tardis – on which the Chameleon Circuit actually worked. Then in the 1969 adventure The War Games, we were introduced to another renegade Time Lord, the War Chief. Then in 1971, The Master turned up, followed by the Rani in 1985. Even if you’re a fan purely of the new series, the 2011 episode The Doctor’s Wife introduced us to a character called the Corsair, another renegade Time Lord and friend of the Doctor, who had unfortunately already fallen foul of the entity known as House.

My point is that just because you currently haven’t got a miniature of Jon Pertwee or David Tennant, this doesn’t mean that you haven’t got a figure in your collection that could be a Time Lord.

Take this figure, for example;

This is 0763 Eccentric Individual from Moonraker Miniatures, available from their website for £1.50. A suitable ‘eccentric’ paint job and you’ve now got yourself your very own Time Lord, whose sobriquet you can come up with yourself.

Similarly, as Doctor Who has introduced us to a vast array of alien races, if you have some alien miniatures, or even some of the more weird and wonderful D&D monsters, you’ve got yourself some ‘aliens’.

The other wonderful thing about gaming in the Doctor Who universe is that you have no restrictions on time or place. If you’re primarily a historical gamer, it doesn’t matter which period of history you prefer and collect, you already have the rest of your cast for your Time Lord to interact with. The same applies for pulp, modern or science fiction gamers.

Basically, all you need to game in the Doctor Who universe is a Time Lord, his Tardis (which could be anything, if the Chameleon Circuit is working), an alien threat of some description, a supporting cast of locals and some scenery and terrain. Which is probably stuff you’ve already got.

“Okay, you’ve convinced us,” I hear you cry, “but what rules should we use?”

Well, as Warlord Games official “Doctor Who – Into the Time Vortex” miniature gaming rules have failed to materialise yet (see what I did there?), probably your best bet is the 7TV rules from Crooked Dice, either 1st or 2nd Edition. The profile for the ‘Unearthly Traveller’ from 7TV2 basically IS the Doctor and you can find a profile card to match most, if not all, of the various monsters, aliens, allies and companions that you could want.

Another option would be a copy of the original, unlicenced “Doctor Who Miniatures Game” which was the first published ruleset by Crooked Dice, and was available free to download on the Internet. Obviously, these have now been removed, so you will have to find someone who has a copy lurking on their hard disk and is willing to send them to you. After an extensive search, it would appear my own copy has vanished into the Time Vortex. I blame the Master…

I, of course, will be using my own rules The Way of the Crow, of which the basic rules were introduced back in June of last year (here, here and here). This year will see the completion and collation of these rules, and they will then be available to download from here for FREE!  Previews of the rules in action for gaming Doctor Who will appear on my blog as AARs, so you can get a feel of how they work.

So, during the next couple of months, you will see a variety of Doctor Who figures, both official and seconded, along with some classic and Nu-Who monsters cunningly fashioned from easily available resources and some AARs featuring the above as I fine-tune my rules.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to build a scale model of a quarry…

Stocking Chillers

Whilst the Christmas period is more commonly associated with festive cheer, overindulgence on comestibles both solid and liquid and the time-honoured tradition of acknowledging distant friends and relatives who you haven’t talked to or thought about for the previous twelve months, for me, Christmas is also about…the Ghost Story.

Of course, I am not alone in this, as the earliest and most well-known Christmas story (after that one about the homeless couple giving birth in a shed, that is) is the tale penned in 1843 by a certain Mr Charles Dickens, namely “A Christmas Carol”.

Or to give it its full title “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas”.

And the ‘tradition’ has continued down through the years. Montague Rhodes James was best known for his ghost stories, many of which were written as Christmas Eve entertainments read aloud to friends whilst he was at King’s College, Cambridge.

A similar tradition was upheld by the Canadian author Robertson Davies, whose collection High Spirits (1982), was made up of eighteen ghost stories he himself wrote and told at the annual Christmas party at Massey College, Toronto. If you like your ghost stories to have a little bit of tongue in their cheek, this collection is for you.

However, whilst there have been many unsettling supernatural tales written over the years, not many of them were actually about Christmas. Yes, they may have been set amongst snowy climes, such as August Derleth’s wonderful 1939 tale “The Drifting Snow”, but that was merely the set dressing.

As a connoisseur of things both Christmassy and macabre, I set out to find tales that fell solidly into both camps. A tale that you can read online, which I believe has never been published, is “Anti-Claus” by Graham Masterton, who is better known for his Dream Warriors trilogy. This explains the real story of Santa Claus – and he’s definitely more naughty than nice. Additionally, in Neil Gaiman’s 1999 short story collection Smoke and Mirrors, you will find “Nicholas Was…”, a short tale and unsettling explanation of Father Christmas and in Terry Pratchett’s 2012 A Blink of the Screen you will find “Twenty Pence, With Envelope and Seasonal Greeting”, which explains why you should justly fear Christmas cards…

Which actually brings me on to the ‘meat’ of this post. When I was younger, one of the banes of my existence was the annual writing of Christmas cards, as my mother insisted that each of us children should write and send a card to our various relatives. The usual fracas would happen as we each tried to secure the ‘best’ cards out of the bargain box of fifty and, although I was the oldest and biggest, I always seemed to end up with the crap ones. You know the ones – the ghastly festive candle, the Victorian carol singers or the pastel-shaded Nativity scenes.

Being of a mischievous and inventive nature, I decided to…improve…these cards, by adding captions and speech bubbles, to make them less crap. Whilst this didn’t last with my relatives (apparently some of the more strongly religious felt I was putting my immortal soul in jeopardy by “mocking the celebration of the birth of Our Lord”), I continued this with friends until I left school.

As I was preparing to send out cards this year to some of my blogging colleagues, I had a bit of brainwave. As I dabble in short stories, would it be possible to write a short story in the limited space available on the inside cover of a Christmas card, inspired by the terrible cards of my youth, that was both Christmassy and slightly unsettling? I set myself this challenge, with the images of Christmas Cards Past to guide me, and succeeded. The problem, I discovered, was that whilst the stories I had written fit nicely within the assigned space, they don’t make those sort of cards anymore…

So, the cards (and tales) were dispatched, but without the correct images. So, to rectify this flaw in my otherwise extremely cunning plan (and to share them with a wider audience) I present my three (very) short tales, but now with the relevant images.

I hope that you enjoy them, as I spread a little festive cheer fear.

Image result for Father Christmas cards

Once he’d been Grim – Now he was ‘Jolly’. Once he’d been showered with gifts – now he gave gifts to others. Once he’d had a steed with eight legs – now he had ‘eight tiny reindeer‘. Once he’d been worshipped, yet feared, by an entire nation – now he was believed in and loved by every child in the World…

Upon reflection, it wasn’t all bad.

And at least they’d let him keep the beard… 

Image result for candle Christmas cards

“As long as you eat by the light of this candle, you will never grow fat.” She held it out. “But only when you eat, understand?” He grunted and took the ugly thing, willing to try anything. However, it worked – he could consume as much as he desired by the light of the candle, never gaining any additional weight. In fact, he discovered, if the candle was left to burn for a few moments after he had finished eating, he actually lost weight! Which gave him an idea…

When the Police broke in, they found the smoking remnants of a candle and a corpse which appeared to have too much skin, yet not an ounce of fat…

Image result for coach Christmas cards

The coachman was the first. Concerned for the horses, he had stepped into the night and rather than the moonlight bleaching colour from him, it seemed to intensify it, making him look almost…artificial. As he approached the coach, his movements slowed, as though wading through treacle, until they faltered completely, next to the now un-moving horses.

One by one, each passenger rose silently and left the inn, flaring brightly under that terrible moonlight, then locking into place.

I am the only one left…but I feel it calling me. How long before I too join that frozen tableaux, like an insect trapped in amber for all Eternity?

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Fright Night!

You Look Like You Need a Doctor…

This week, I’ve been mostly drawing snowmen…

Due to agreeing to help with the ‘best decorated Christmas area’ competition at work this week, I found my ‘spare’ time being consumed by drawing cartoon snowmen to populate a frieze (or should that be ‘freeze’) for the wall. This, of course, meant that whilst I was being arty and creative, it wasn’t hobby-focused, so no further progress has been made on the figures I showed you last week.

But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to show you, as I’ve been venturing once more into the wilds of the Internet and have discovered a few choice items, all related to my current focus – Doctor Who.

Now, we all know that Warlord Games have managed to secure the official licence to make Doctor Who figures and that certain manufacturers have received ‘Cease & Desist’ letters regarding miniatures they produce that were inspired by or resemble characters or creatures from the series. We also know that the Warlord Games Who figures are not 28mm, which means that they won’t fit in with majority of the figures I own.

However, all is not lost for the 28mm Who gamer, as I will now show you.

Okay, first up is obviously Black Tree Design, who produce the original Harlequin range of Doctor Who figures, which run from William Hartnell’s incarnation right up to Paul McGann’s – so 1st through 8th Doctor. Their licence to produce these figures appears to still be in place and they have a wide selection of characters and monsters, including the Peter Cushing movie Doctor and companions. The sculpting varies in accuracy and quality, with some being less convincing than others. However, they do provide at least one additional version of each Doctor from the 1st to the 7th, with the exception of Colin Baker’s incarnation, which only gets the one. The other bonus with Black Tree is that they run weekly sales, in which at least one or two of each Doctor’s sub-ranges has a discount, so if you’re after characters from a specific era of Classic Who, it might be worth waiting until that particular range is on offer.

In the previous post, Back to the Future, I featured the Retro Sci-Fi range from Miniature Figurines, which has a rather nice version of Peter Cushing’s movie Doctor and the spin-off character Abslom Daak, so follow the link for fuller details on that.

And waaaay back in December of last year, during the Ghostbusters Project, I flagged up this miniature from Ironclad Miniatures:

This is Dr How, from their 28m Victorian Sci-fi range, retailing at £3.00.  Whilst to me he looks more like Parker from ‘Thunderbirds’ than the 1st Doctor, it does give you another option.

Of course, everything I’ve shown you so far is from the ‘Classic’ era of who, so if you want characters and creatures from Nu-Who, where do you go?

The 2005 9th Doctor two-parter Aliens of London/World War Three introduced the Slitheen to the Whoniverse – large, bug-eyed, clawed hunting aliens, who could disguise themselves as humans by compressing themselves into ‘skin-suits’. A creation of then-showrunner Russell T Davies, they were used and re-used in both the first series of Nu-Who and also in Sarah Jane Adventures, although these were yellow ones called Blathereen. Not one of my favourite Nu-Who inventions, but the 28mm Who gamer might want some, so should pay a visit to C P Models, who have five variations of their big-eyed alien at £1.65 each, or £6.00 for four.

They even do a ‘youngling’ at £1.00.

In series three, a Paul Cornell 7th Doctor novel called Human Nature, was adapted for the 10th Doctor, in which the Doctor was hiding out at an Edwardian boys boarding school, having placed the majority of his memories and Timelord-ness into a pocket watch via a device called a ‘chameleon arch’, making him, for all intents and purposes, human. The reason for this was that he was being tracked by The Family of Blood, a group of aliens who wanted to steal his Timelord essence for themselves. These aliens possessed various local humans in an effort to locate the Doctor and animated scarecrows to act as minions.

If you want to replicate this 2007 two-parter, which featured a battle between armed Edwardian schoolboys and the aforementioned scarecrows AND have the entire supporting cast, pop along to Gripping Beast, who under the Woodbine Design Company Specials range, have four sets of figures, each containing 4 figures, at £6.00 each.

TWDCSP07 Squire and family (4)

TWDCSP08 Schoolmaster set (4)

They even do the scarecrows…

TWDCSP10 Scary Scarecrows (4)

Plus if you need some armed or unarmed Morris Men for the 1971 Jon Pertwee serial The Daemons (or for any other reason, for that matter), they do them too.

Finally, we move on the 11th incarnation of the Doctor and some of his foes. During the 2011 two-parter The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People, we were introduced to the “Gangers” – doppelgänger made from ‘programmable matter’ controlled by their progenitor and used for hazardous work. Of course, something went wrong and they became independent and attempted to kill and replace their ‘originals’.  As they became more fanatical, their matter deformed, turning them into monsters.

To populate your tabletop with some Gangers, we need to turn to Attica Games, who within their ‘Shiver’ range, have the Plastic Population;

Attica Games: - The Plastic Population - jpeg image

£3.50 each or £6.00 for a pack of two, although some of the bigger figures are a little more expensive.

Matt Smith’s Doctor also had to contend with the Silence during 2011, who first appeared in the Series 6 opener The Impossible Astronaut. Whilst Warlord Games do a pack of three Silence for £11.99, they are not the most dynamic of poses, not really conveying the creepiness of this race. However, Attica Games also have the ESPchers:

Attica Games: - The ESPchers - jpeg image

£4.00 each, £10.00 for a pack of three or £17.00 for all six. So a similar price to the Warlord Games ones, but certainly more creepy.

As far as I am aware, all of these figures have so far managed to stay off the BBC’s radar, but that may not last, so if you want them I’d order sooner rather than later.

Hopefully my next post will show some progress on the figures I featured last week, but as Christmas is creeping ever closer, I’m not entirely sure when that will be.

So Merry Christmas to All, and to All A Good Night!

It’s About Time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the Future – Part II

Should you own a copy of 7TV (or indeed 7TV2e) or just have a hankering to recreate the adventures of your favourite spy-fi or science fiction shows of the 1970’s, your first port of call in respect of suitable miniatures would be Crooked Dice. With their range of figures, you can adventure in the fictional worlds of Blake’s 7, Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, Captain Scarlet, Life on Mars, James Bond, Austin Powers or Danger 5.

Sadly, you can no longer populate your tabletop with figures resembling characters from Doctor Who. For that, you’ll have to go to Warlord Games and their ‘officially licenced’ range…

If the spy-fi aspect of this genre appeals to more than the science fiction part, you also have the option of the ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ ranges, produced by both Artisan Designs and Copplestone Castings respectively.

However, if the Science Fiction aspect appeals more, whilst Crooked Dice’s range is quite comprehensive, there are a few characters missing. It’s all very well giving us Cylons, but we can’t recreate Battlestar Galactica without some Colonials as well.

Luckily for you, my unending search for the ‘right’ figure on the Internet has turned up some more hidden gems. So, buckle your seat-belt and accelerate to 88mph, as we travel Back to the Future once more. However, be warned, this post may have you reaching for your wallet…

As regular followers will know, I’m a big fan of the original Ghostbusters movie and it’s sequel, and found that the recent 2016 ‘reboot’ failed to crap all over my childhood, so the fact that Crooked Dice produces a variety of Ghostbusters of both sexes makes me happy. However, 9 years before the release of Ghostbusters, in 1975, the children of America were exposed to the exploits of ‘The Ghost Busters’, a trio of bumbling paranormal investigators who used their ‘ghost dematerializers’ to defeat supernatural threats to their city. The trio was made up of Kong, Spencer and Tracy, who was a gorilla. Yes, you read that right.

The series was quite popular and ran for 15 episodes, but wasn’t quite popular enough to be renewed for a second season. Whilst I was aware of the series, due to the fact the Columbia had to pay its producers for the right to use the name Ghostbusters for their movie, I’ve never actually seen the show. However, I do know what the main characters look like.

Whilst hunting for Teen Angels, I paid a visit to Nexus Miniatures website, who you may be familiar with due to their Super Dinosaur Zombie Apocalypse range of figures, which includes Battlestar Galactica Colonials, the visitors from V and Mulder and Scully from The X-Files. It would appear that since my last visit, they’ve been rather busy and I was delighted to find these on their site:

The Real Ghost-Facers

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, it is our intrepid and original Ghost Busters. Currently, they are priced at £11.45 for the three, as part of a pre-order deal, with the price going up to £13.50 once they are on general release, which appears to be in the second quarter of next year.

Impressed with the sculpting, I perused the remainder of the catalogue and found some more familiar faces…

The New Defenders (Major John Colt, Mike Chicane, and Patti Pretty)

Whilst these are listed as the ‘New Defenders’, I think we can all recognise that these might actually be Avengers rather than Defenders. £12.50 at the moment, rising to £13.50 when on general release.

And whilst Crooked Dice may have one Tomorrow Person, Nexus Miniatures have a full set…

The Morrow Men

Currently £16.50 for the four, rising to £18.00 when on general release.

Finally, the set that almost made me reach for my own wallet, which is very unlike me.

Future Force

Could it be the bird-costumed defenders of the Earth known as G-Force? I think it could! Currently £20.00 for the five, rising to £22.50 once on general release. And you can’t have G-Force without their enemy, Zoltar.

Sub-Finem & Imperatorem - Machine Empire Commanders

Or the ubiquitous masked goons.

Equitum Troopers of the Machine Empire

Now, all these miniatures were sculpted by the very talented Carl Stoelzel, of Stoelzel’s Structures fame. Looks like card models are not his only forte. From what I can gather, the pre-order prices apply to the figures they currently have in stock, prior to the general release of these next year, so if you want them at these prices, I suggest you get ’em quick. Think of it an early Christmas present to yourself.

The Nexus Miniatures site is well worth a look, as they also have Varian from The Fantastic Journey (him with the ‘tuning fork’ weapon), all the ‘interdimensional operatives’ from Sapphire & Steel and, oddly, the cast of Gilligan’s Island.

So, now that the retro sci-fi bug has bitten me, expect some Doctors, aliens and scenery over the coming weeks here at the Buffet, along with a few leftovers from The Long Halloween…

Edit: Apparently, according to WordPress, this is my 100th post. Go me!

Back to the Future

Unlike the majority of my blogging peers, I do not enjoy either the acceptance or support of my partner in respect of my devotion to our wonderful hobby. My wife considers any time spent on ‘that role-play crap’, as she terms it,  as a waste of time – time which could be better spent elsewhere. Bless her…

So, in order to continue doing what I enjoy, I have to make certain…concessions. I don’t make extravagant hobby purchases (so no Kickstarters for me), keep my hobby spending to an ‘acceptable’ minimum and try to limit my time spent on my hobby to short periods or when she’s not around. Not an ideal situation, but it has made me a master of cost-effective gaming and given me the ability to use my time constructively.

Anyway, there are times when due to work, planned events or the reasons stated above, I find the weekend has crept up on me without anything to show for my efforts. Some would sulk in the corner and rail against the unfairness of an uncaring and cruel Universe.

I, however, am not one of those people.

So whilst I may not have any of my own work to display, that doesn’t mean I have nothing to show you…

A comment made on Roger’s most recent post from his ‘Ranting from Under the Wargames Table’ blog, sent me scurrying to the Internet, searching for suitable 28mm figures to represent Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels…

Image result for captain caveman and the teen angels

The reason for this was that as I felt this would make a fun ‘cast’ for 7TV, as Captain Caveman regularly produces various prehistoric solutions from the interdimensional space concealed by his body hair. Now there’s a sentence you didn’t think you’d read today. I thought this ability was a pretty good match for the Gadget cards used in the  7TV rules. And it’s also a bit silly, which is a good thing for a hobby that can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously.

However, whilst I did find potential figures for Cavey and Brenda, Taffy and Dee Dee proved somewhat elusive. This combined with the cost of the figures I did find shelved this vanity project for the time being.

But my research did not prove a total loss, as I came across a nice range of miniatures I was previously unaware of, the contents of which will explain the title of this post.

The company concerned is Miniature Figurines & Matchlock Miniatures, which is part of Caliver Books. I was aware of the company before, as they do a small but interesting 28mm range called “Winter of 79  – Living on the Frontlines” which has armed British policemen, grenadiers and, more importantly, Wolfie Smith from Citizen Smith.

You have no actual need for this figure, but you want him anyway… and he’s only £2.25.

The range that I was not aware of, however, can be found under the title Wayne’s World of Wonder, with the innocuous title of Retro Sci-Fi 28mm. Now, there are only nine figures in this range, but when I came across them, five of the nine immediately went onto my wishlist. Not because they’re £2.75 each, which is very reasonable for a 28mm miniature, but because I recognised them…

So first up is RSF 01 – Retro Space Pilot – Spacesuit:

And RSF 02 – Retro Space Pilot – Uniform:

As Crooked Dice have recently released a not-Mekon and our very own Mr Webb’s Retrovians from his Dick Garrison range make very passable Treens, you’re certainly going to need a Dan Dare, and now you have the option of having him in both sets of his ‘work clothes’.

Next up we have RSF 04 – Pepperpot Hunter, and this is where I think I may cost Simon (aka Blaxkleric) some money…

I think it’s fairly obvious that this is the infamous Abslom Daak – Dalek Killer. As the BBC have (allegedly) sent a badly written ‘cease and desist’ letter out to those companies that they have been made aware of who were producing what Paul from Warlord Games has referred to as “rip-off ‘not’ Doctor Who figures”,  you may be concerned that this too may disappear. However, I believe that the rights to this character are currently owned by Marvel, so he should be safe for the time being.

Next we move on to RSF 07 – Mercenary:

Now, this one may not be as familiar to the majority of my readers – this is a character called Grimjack, who first appeared in Starslayer #10 in November 1983, published by First Comics. If you are curious about this character, this Wikipedia link will fill in the blanks. To be honest, whilst I was able to identify the character, that was about all I did know about him – other than he looks cool. Because of this, two other figures in this range, namely RSF 05 – Young City P.I. and RSF 06 – Demon Hunter, may be other versions of this character, but someone more knowledgeable than me would be able to tell you.

For the final figure added to my wishlist, we return to the Whoniverse, but the alternate reality version as presented in Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., in which the Doctor was portrayed by Peter Cushing:

This is RSF 08 – Chrononaut Grandfather and is a far better sculpt, in my opinion, than the one produced by Black Tree Design. I’m not sure if the movie version of the Doctor falls within Warlord Games’ licence to solely produce Doctor Who figures, so if you want this figure, it might be wise to get it sooner rather than later.

Whilst I’ve touched on two of the other nine figures in the section on Grimjack, the other two figures in this range – RSF 03 Freelance Assassin and RSF 09 Psycho Cyborg (which is £3.99) – I wasn’t able to identify, so if anyone does know who these are supposed to be, I’d be grateful if they could shed some light.

The moon has now set on the Long Halloween and the pumpkin pies, candy and cinder toffee have been cleared from the Buffet…

You’ll have to wait until next time, to see what’s next on the menu!

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.