Welcome to my blog. Here you will find an irregular record of my haphazard progress through an eclectic mix of projects, games and other assorted wargames-related nonsense.

You came here looking for toast and tea? Pop in a couple of slices and put a brew on. This blog is best enjoyed with hot buttered toast and a mug of strong, hot tea*.

*Warning - may contain puns.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Bank Holiday Bits and Bobs

I've been stuck indoors today due to the typically sh*t Early May Bank Holiday weather - high winds and heavy rain. The upside is I've had a bit of a hobby day, in between drinking copious amounts of tea. Yes, there was toast too.

I don't often post uncompleted stuff on the blog, but it's been a while - and, well why not.

Currently on the painting desk are a bunch of Star Wars: Legion Imperial Stormtroopers. I love painting endless shades of pale grey and white. Not. They are great figures, just not very inspiring to paint, which is my way of excusing myself for my usually glacial painting progress. Don't tell their boss, or he'll find some "new ways to motivate" me! Still, I'm happy to have done some more work on them. One step nearer to completion.

"and over here we have... more unpainted miniatures!"

While I painted away, the 3D printer has been humming quietly in the background. Fresh off the build plate today; another terrain piece for Mythic Battles:Pantheon board game. It now joins the painting queue behind the Stormtroopers.

The ruination that is Mythic Battles.

I like some background listening while I'm painting - a chance to catch up on a backlog of podcasts. Queued up today and in no particular order were:

WSS Podcast - The Wargames Soldiers and Strategy crew. Always worth a listen.

The Grognard Files - The inimitable and eminently listenable Dirk the Dice. This one scratches my RPG itch, though it's a good few years since I last role played anything. (TSR's 1980's vintage 'Top Secret' revisited briefly in a fit of old school nostalgia in 2018). Sadly, it didn't last.

Lead Pursuit Podcast - Blood Red Skies (and other aviation wargaming topics). Usually something interesting, though I tend to 'tune out' when they get too much into 'the meta'. Great website too.

The Mad Axeman Podcast - I tend to skip through the chatter about about ADLG (Art De La Guerre) rules and competition games (not my thing at all), but there are usually some gems in amongst the general chatter, not least the now regular 'I'm sorry but I think you're an arse' feature. Check out Episode 77 if  (like me) you have never seen the attraction of wargaming the American Civil War.

I've also been busy making cards - specifically a Fortune deck for Pulp Alley. I've had a PDF copy of the 1st edition rules for a long time, but never had the opportunity to try them out. Cue an email from my cross-channel gaming buddy Ian, hatching another game idea and asking whether I had the rules. Well, we are going to need a Fortune deck, so I got busy with the printer, card and hobby knife. 

Pulp is on the cards

Over the past few weeks, Ian and I have been battling it out with Bolt Action via Skype using Ian's DAK and 8th Army forces. We have another game lined up this week, so I spent a bit of time re-reading the rules, the next scenario and pondering whether I'd made a good choice with my force selection. 

Speaking of Bolt Action, Warlord Games recently had a Spring Sale, so I took advantage and a couple of books came winging my way; Close Quarters for Cruel Seas and Air Strike! for Blood Red Skies. I've not done much with either game recently, but I like the simple pleasure of flicking through rule books - so I was able to indulge myself a bit today.

Light reading for a rainy day.

All-in-all, a pretty good day hobby-wise. 'Every cloud...' as they say.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

New Adventures In The Third Dimension

I finally caved in and bought a 3D printer. I'd been dithering about it for some time, but when I spotted that Anycubic were running a brief promotional offer I decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. It was my birthday too, so I had an extra excuse to splash out and treat myself. 

So now I'm the proud owner of a Photon S resin SLA printer.

I'm still experimenting with different print settings, support configurations, slicing software (Anycubic's own, plus Chitubox and Meshmixer), but I'm rather enjoying the whole process. This is like a whole new hobby!

As with every hobby, the list of tools and 'essentials' soon grows. Top of the list was a big 5-litre bottle of IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol, not India Pale Ale) which is a must for cleaning the prints, print bed and resin tank. I will soon have to sort out a UV lamp to speed up curing times. I'm using good old sunlight to cure the finished prints at present, which is a less than reliable resource here at this time of year. I would really like to get Anycubic's all-in-one Wash and Cure machine, which seems to get favourable reviews, but that is an expense that will have to wait for a bit.

Amazon - free sample by Francesca Musumeci / ArtizanGuild

I fancy trying some different resins too. Anycubic bundle a 'random' 500ml bottle of resin with the printer, but from what I can tell its always of the transparent green variety, which is exactly what I got. I'm happy with the results so far and being transparent, the prints probably cure faster in natural sunlight than they would do with opaque resins. Still, some grey resin and Anycubic's water-washable, low odour Eco resin are on the shopping list.

Kingdom of Mercia, Praying Hero - free sample by Lost Kingdom Miniatures

Of course, a 3D printer is useless without files to print, so my web wandering lately has taken me in search of free files to try. I'm not short on choice, but the amount and quality of paid-for content has also opened my eyes. I suspect that nascent 3D hobbyists like me are in danger of "Ooh shiney" syndrome every bit as much as we were with traditional metal and plastic miniatures. The amount of new Kickstarter and Patreon content offering 3D files for home printing is relentless. Having looked at a few of these, they are generally bundles offering a collection of 3D files, rather than single miniatures. Some subscriptions add new bundles monthly and I have to wonder how anyone is supposed to print, let alone paint and play with all this stuff. We wargamers are used to lead mountains and even plastic mountains, but I forsee that the STL mountain will become a new thing, if it isn't one already. 

Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral by MiniWorld 3D

3D files are, of course, even more dangerous to our wallets than their 'physical' counterparts since the digital files are intangible and it is easy to convince one's self that they don't count as a hobby purchase. When the postman or courier delivers that heavy package full of all those new miniatures you ordered or backed on Kickstarter, you know you've spent your hard-earned cash and have something to show for it (or perhaps something you need to hide from your better half if you are in the habit of explaining away your hobby addiction). With 3D files, you click 'pay', receive your download in seconds and feel - nothing.  And you still want more. Very dangerous indeed.

HMS Grey Goose - fresh out of the printer

I shall no doubt be returning to the topic of 3D printing in future posts, but for now I need to go pull on my rather fetching blue nitrile gloves, strap on my mask and goggles, wield my plastic scraper and break open the IPA as another completed print awaits my attention.

Till next time.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Mythic Battles: Pantheon - Scenery

These are the terrain pieces from Mythic Battles: Pantheon - a selection of 'Broken Columns', 'Crow Trees' and 'Lugubrious Trees'. Lugubrious, huh? That's the first (and probably the last) time I've ever heard any gaming piece described as lugubrious. Anyway, they are suitably twisted and gnarled as befits Mythic Battles rather dystopian vibe. 

The trees were modified a bit. Some of the 'Crow Trees' had their avian occupants clipped off so they don't look quite so identical. The 'Lugubrious Trees' all had an animal skull and a Spartan shield moulded on, most of which I carved off. A couple of the trees had replacement shields added, scrounged from the bits box. I think they were from Foundry miniatures originally. As the shields had identical patterns cast on, I filed one smooth for variety and painted a Classical Greek style dolphin on it freehand. This took a bit of trial and error, not made any easier by the fact that I had already glued the shield in place before I decided to paint the design, meaning the overhanging branches kept getting in the way of my paintbrush. Hopeless planning on my part, but the final result was worth the effort

The trees all come with integral bases, but the columns don't. As they are plastic and very light, they are rather prone to being accidentally displaced when in play, especially the taller ones. To give them a bit more stability I decided to base them.  They are intended to be individual pieces on the game board, so that heroes and monsters can pick them up and hurl them about, but I decided the taller columns would be based in pairs as they are most at risk of being toppled inadvertently. There are still enough single column pieces to replace a 'double' piece when one gets thrown and removed. The bases were built up using thin plasticard and textured with a mix of PVA glue, filler and fine grit. Small stones were used to represent rocks and rubble. After painting, the addition of  some grass tufts completed the bases.

As a bonus, the trees and the broken columns will do double-duty in other games, but it did make me realise just how little usable table-top terrain I have. I suspect that the focus of my efforts in the New Year will be to rectify that.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

The Perfect Captain - A Farewell

We take many things for granted. Things that have been around for so long that it feels like they have always been here - and always will be. But, my friends, all good things must come to an end.

If you follow any of the popular wargames forums, it probably hasn't escaped your notice that The Perfect Captain's website is set to close sometime this month (October 2020). We can only hope that all the files will be available in another format, but that isn't very certain right now. TPC do have a Facebook group, (I will refrain from expressing my views on FB for fear of upsetting someone) but I shall miss the webpage.

I can't remember now how I first stumbled across The Perfect Captain, but it was the discovery of their Red Actions! rules that first kindled my continuing interest in the Russian Civil War. 

What I do remember is being struck by the quality of presentation, with graphics that would not look out of place in a commercial rule set.

And here's the thing. These are not commercial products. Everything on the Perfect Captain's website is available 100% free, gratis and for nothing. Their only request is that if you download the rules you make a donation (or give up some time) in support of a charity of your choice. Undoubtedly some will have ignored this request, but I like to think most wargamers are basically decent and willing to give something back. I can't help wondering how much all those donations have amounted to over the years. So apart from providing us with a wonderful and inspirational wargaming resource, perhaps The Perfect Captain's enduring legacy is also a humanitarian one. It's a heartwarming thought.

Thanks and farewell, TPC.

Love this artwork

Unit cards for Ironbow - perfectly capturing that period feel

The Perfect Captain channels Blue Peter.
Make your own sanides-style tablet for the Hoplomachia rulebook 

Red Actions! cards and counters. 
Where have I seen that face before comrade?

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Rebel Scum!

And proud of it!

Some figures almost paint themselves. Others are a real trial of patience. These guys fall into the latter category. Truth be told, they were a real b✽✽✽✽r to paint, but they turned out right in the end.

These are the Rebel Troopers from FFG's Star Wars: Legion core set. They've been sitting on my painting desk in various stages of completion for months now. They are nice figures and I was looking forward to painting them, but first I had to make some decisions about the kind of scenery I intend to use and some appropriate colour schemes. I know there are people who happily mix Snowtroopers with Shoretroopers, or forest-camo clad Rebel Commandos with Tauntauns - but I am not one of them.

Early on I decided that my Star Wars: Legion forces would be operating in arid to semi-arid environments. At a stretch they would also have to look okay in more tropical or temperate settings, but they would not be seen (dead or alive) on Hoth.

With that in mind I decided to go with lots of pale sandy and earthy tones suitable for arid settings, with some green shades and a three-tone camo pattern to fit in better with more vegetation-rich scenery. It was a bit of a compromise, intended to get the most utility out of the figures, but I was happy with it.

I had expected the camo pattern to be the most difficult part of the painting process. Certainly it was time-consuming but it went fairly smoothly. Perversely,  some of the 'simpler' areas turned out to be the most difficult and frustrating. This was mainly because I struggled to achieve the blend of colours and tones that I wanted. As soon as I got one part right, it made another look 'off'. In my head I knew exactly the look I was after, but achieving it meant a seemingly endless round of trial and error that I had not anticipated. There were moments when I came close to chucking it in, or stripping everything back to the bare plastic. 

The whole process took so long that by the time I finally finished them I was really fed-up with the project and they were quickly packed away out of sight. There they stayed while I moved on to other things. Several weeks later I remembered them, dug them out and with the benefit of fresh eyes,  I looked at them again and thought "hang on - they look rather good!" 

Here they are, so you can judge for yourselves.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Motorcycle Emptiness

This little beastie is a companion piece to the MDF shed model in my previous post. It came in the same kit, but I had set it aside for another day.

It is a very basic kit; just a bare motorbike silhouette with a few extra bits added to give some detail.

It only took a few minutes to glue the handful of components together, but it still looked quite 2-dimensional and I wasn't very satisfied with it.

I could have let it be, but being me I couldn't resist tinkering with it to add some more detail. This is probably one of the reasons why my projects take so long, but I know that if I had just left it 'as is' it would have bugged me.

It would have been easy to go completely to town on detail, but I restricted this to the barest areas around the wheels and frame. These were built up with thin strips of plasticard.  The frame and forks should really have a round profile. In reality they would have been tubular, but I decided this was just too much effort when every other part of the model was 'square'. My only concession to this was to file some of the sharp edges off the MDF components, the exhaust pipe being the most obvious area. 

Detailing begins. The basic kit with additional rear mudguard added.

More detailing. Forks, frame, mudguards and supports added.

The exhaust pipe filed to a rounder profile.

As I'm no expert when it comes to vintage motorcycles I scouted around for some useful reference photos as a painting guide. The model is probably quite generic anyway, but a search of the internet produced a few useful examples of which the BSA M21 seemed to be the closest match - so I based my colour choices on an example of that.

Painting the model was quite straightforward. The whole thing received a base coat of matt black and then the various details were picked out in appropriate colours. As if to prove that I make things up as I go along, half way through painting I decided that the fuel tank looked wrong without a filler cap. This was remedied with a thin sliver of round plastic, glued on top of the tank. It's a small but important detail - at least I think so. 

The finishing touch was to add the registration number to the front plate. A hunt through the bits box unearthed some micro-scale decals that were just the right size. Each of the letters and numbers were added individually. This was by far the fiddliest bit of the build but I think it sets off the whole thing a treat.

I did have a look through my collection for a suitable rider, but have no appropriate figures for an early to mid-20th century motorcyclist. However, I did find an old Citadel fantasy 'Arabian' horseman who was begging for a chance to swap his steed for something with a bit more horsepower. Please excuse my silliness. I just couldn't resist :-)  

"Nice bike, but I still prefer my chopper"

Until next time...