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Salute 2017 part 1

April 26, 2017

It’s that time of the year again! Salute 2017 is now behind me, and I’m sitting at an AirBnb in Dublin – the city I’ll be spending the next three months in. As I noticed I haven’t posted in a long while (and the blog is at its slowest in terms of views since January 2010), I figured it’s about time for a post-Salute post. This post will focus on what I bought, I’ll make another one with photos from the show itself. If you can’t wait for the show photos, I suggest you hop on over to this blog for example.

Salute was fun as usual! I spent time with old friends and made new ones. I was especially hanging around the Random Platypus games, which were great fun. If you’re not on the forum yet, you should be.

My Salute haul was quite reasonable, for a given value of reasonable.

Random Platypus dice

Cute Random Platypus dice that I bought to support the forum and because they’re cute random platypus dice.

Plastic Banner Saga miniatures

Plastic miniatures from the Banner Saga boardgame that I was kindly given by Ian of Fenris Games, who I talked into Banner Saga. They’re surprisingly nice miniatures, and should be a nice change from my usual 18th century fare, speaking of which…

© Blue Moon Manufacturing

© Blue Moon Manufacturing

The Duelists and the Duelists booster pack from Blue Moon Manufacturing. I’ve been eyeing these for ages so I grabbed them when I had the chance. Lovely assortment of 18th century civilians here, and really characterful sculpts.

© Wargames Foundry

Balthazar’s Marauders by Foundry was a purchase inspired by three things: my reading up on slavery, visiting the brilliant London, Sugar & Slavery exhibition at the London Docklands museum and my long-standing need to add maroons to my pirate project. Differing from the picture, the pack actually had eight individual miniatures instead of six. They are lovely, lovely sculpts and will give me a great chance to work on different skin tones.

© Wargames Foundry

Three miniatures from this Gun crew by Foundry, that were given to me in the Random Platypus pre-Salute meet-up, as well as a bag of cannon!

© Hasslefree Miniatures

This Random Platypus from Hasslefree Miniatures, that I received as a gift. He’s brilliant, isn’t he?

Sailor and two native miniatures

Three unknown miniatures given to me by Phil of Slug Industries. They’ll find service in my pirate project obviously. Does anyone know where they’re from?

© David Wood

A full Political Parody Party from Dave of Dear Tony Blair. Love these foul little creatures!

North Star pirates

I had lost hope in finding these North Star pirates, but was given them as a gift by Andy from Ainsty Castings. I was super, super happy to have my hands on these.

I got the latest two Hounds of the Dagsterville from Jon who was working the Ainsty stand. They’ll be running around the streets of Port George soonish.

28mm bunny miniatures

And last but not least, these adorable Bunnies from Bad Squiddo Games. I bought them as a gift, purely on their cuteness factor.

Looking back at that list, I was given a lot of miniatures. Either everyone sees me as being really poor, or I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends in this hobby. I’d like to think the latter is the case.

 

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Visualising

April 4, 2017

The pirate book thing is slowly but happily becoming reality. Now, one of the most important things in this project for me is the opportunity to turn imaginary characters and places into something a little more concrete. Sure, vague concepts of characters exist, as do miniatures representing said characters. However, there is something very special in not only writing up a character, but having that piece of fiction turned into a picture.

With this introduction, I present to you the two character portraits I’ve commissioned so far. First up is the pirate queen Maricruz Aguilera de Cartagena described in my previous post:

The second one is another familiar character to regular readers. He is none other than captain Jonathan Pemberton-Smythe of His Royal Majesty’s army:

Both are the work of the incredibly talented Gabriella “Sayara-S” Bujdosó. She will (for obvious reasons, just see the pictures above) be doing the rest of the character illustrations as well. You can see more of her work on her DeviantArt page, as well as in the Song of Shadows and Dust game. I’m really happy to have her on board this little project!

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Sneaky peeky like

March 26, 2017

In a fit of inspiration, I’ve started working on the pirate book I outlined in my previous post. The first character I’ve written about is the pirate queen who has been appearing in various gaming scenarios. This is an early draft, unless everyone loves it at which point it becomes “nearly finished”. I’d love your commentary: is the description and the background interesting? Are there enough hints and hooks to spark the imagination? Does this feel like a character you could built a gaming scenario around? No need to be too gentle, I want to make this as good as possible. If something is rubbish, let me know!

As you can see in the piece below, several details are intentionally fuzzy. I haven’t set an exact date – it’s sometime in the early 1700s. The geographic location of the small, fictitious island Port George is located on isn’t set in stone. It’s somewhere in the West Indies. Things like ship types aren’t defined either. A few characters are mentioned in passing, but not really detailed. This isn’t laziness on my part, but rather an effort to make the material easy to modify and adapt. I have tried to keep the details historically plausible.

The Pirate Queen
Maricruz Aguilera de Cartagena

Few people on the island command as much respect as Maricruz Aguilera, known as the Pirate Queen of [to be defined] Bay. The daughter of a wealthy criollo merchant family from Cartagena on the Spanish Main, her turn to piracy remains shrouded in mystery. In their parlours bitter men speak of hysteria, ill humours and a mind seduced by piratical tales. For all their talk, they come up short when trying to give a credible explanation as to why and how years back the crew of merchantman Santa Estrella de la Esperanza violently mutinied and gave a female passenger command of the ship. Some claim it was the Devil’s work, others that she simply knew how to stoke the anger of the flogged and hungry sailors.

Whatever the truth of the matter is, Aguilera has since mercilessly raided shipping in the West Indies and the Spanish Main. Rumour has it her disgraced family has put a sizeable bounty on her head, and several pirate hunters have made it their task to track her down. The Vindictive, sailing under the infamous captain Oxley, is the only one to even come close, at a heavy cost to both the captain and his ship.

In Port George Aguilera holds a strong position. She has a hand in most of the contraband that passes through the town, while her ship, the sleek Espíritu del Viento sits at anchor in the bay. The queen drives a hard but fair bargain, and she is well-liked. Aguilera surrounds herself with a fiercely loyal multi-national crew of thirty, with her first mate, the Welshman Davies having sailed with her since her early days as a rover. The close bond the rakish Davies shares with his captain is a constant source of rumour.

Lately the pirate queen has been preoccupied. While illegitimate trade and piracy still flourish, she can see the tide slowly turning both on the island and the West Indies. With the recent calls to purge Port George of its unsavoury elements, it will soon be a time to decide whether to fight or to slip away into a comfortable life of anonymity while still ahead. The first carries with it the risk of the gallows, the second would mean throwing away years of struggle against the rich and the powerful and abandoning her crew to their fate.

I’ve also contacted a very talented artist for some character portraits, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with. Here’s a 19th century painting by Gustave Courbet that I sent to her as part of the character description, for visual reference.

So, fire away! Hit or miss?

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A book of pirates? 

March 7, 2017

Long, lazy days on sunny Gili Air have left me toying with an idea of doing something new regarding my pirate project. Namely, I’ve been thinking of turning it into a book of sorts! 

Now, I’m not talking about an epic novel or anything like that, but simply collecting the fiction and fact around Port George into one something like a compendium, providing fellow gamers – whether RPG or minis – with a ready-made fictional early 18th century town somewhere in the Caribbean. NPCs, plot hooks, historical facts and so on. Nothing system specifix, just things that spark the imagination and maybe provide inspiration and ideas for gaming and painting. 20-30 pages maybe.

This would of course give me a great opportunity to commission art from friends (I definitely want a map and some character illustrations), write some scraps of fiction and do some more pirate research. What I want most of all, though, is to create something, to make those minis, buildings and these blog posts into something more than just their sum. Who knows, maybe someone else might find it interesting or inspiring as well!

So, dear readers, what do you think? Cool idea or silly waste of time and effort? Something you might consider getting once finished, as a pdf maybe? What would you like to see in something like this? Any other comments or ideas?

Article picture by the great Howard Pyle, public domain.

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On the road again

March 1, 2017

I’m currently vacationing in Indonesia after spending a few weeks in Malaysia. I’m missing my toys, but the surroundings do help! I haven’t forgotten about my pirates even out here, so here’s a blog post on how the project is travelling with me despite no miniatures. I’m cleverly writing this on my smartphone after equally cleverly leaving my laptop at Bangkok airport. 

Inspiration is readily available here and in many forms. Not only is the area known for its piracy, the East India company and colonisation have left their stamp on many things. The tropical sights serve to spark the imagination, with palm trees, white sands and turquoise waters.

The local architecture in George Town, Malaysia, has a strong Georgian (well, duhh) feel to it. Many of the houses are from early 19th to early 20th century, and at times it felt like walking around in an actual pirate town milieu. A couple of photos to illustrate below.

Also, many of the buildings show the ravages of time and the weather, which gave me plenty of ideas.

We also visited a lovely old graveyard from the 19th century, and now I want to build one. 

George Town also featured an actual, late 18th century fort named Fort Cornwallis. While the fort never saw combat, it was really inspiring to visit. I even bought a mug – a sure sign of a good sight!

I brought along some appropriate reading, namely two books by Marcus Rediker (the second one co-written with Peter Linebaugh): The Slave Ship and The Many-Headed Hydra. As tends to happen, the project has sparked a wider interest in the period. I’m currently reading the latter book, and it’s super interesting.
I picked up some really cheap (less than 0.50€ each) nylon brushes at the local bookstore. Even if the quality doesn’t turn out to be special, these will undoubtedly find use, and at that price they were a steal.

As for Indonesia and pirate inspiration, well, let’s just say we’re on an island that looks like something out of a film.

And last but definitely not least, we got engaged yesterday. Apparently my pirate fixation is adorable…or at least tolerable.

Until next time, dear readers!

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From the painting desk #48 – The Unkillable Frenchman

January 30, 2017

Another miniature finished, this time a pirate from Hasslefree. I’ve been putting off painting him for a while, and the reason is the Hasslefree curse: I love HF minis, but because of the high quality of the sculpts they always feel intimidating, and I find myself thinking I can’t give the mini enough attention. In the end I’ll paint them, enjoy it and love the end result. It has happened before (notice how I’m talking about the same thing on that post, and that was in 2012) and this time was no exception.

The miniature being very characterful, I once again found myself concocting a background story, as I tend to do while painting. So was born Jean Blanc – the Unkillable Frenchman. Pirates like Blackbeard would often count on their fearsome reputation to do their work for them as, after all, it was always better if you could take a ship without firing a shot. I applied this theme to the portly French pirate as well. He was wearing a padded coat and heavy armour, so I assumed these had obviously saved his life more than once, contributing to the legend of the Frenchman impervious to pistol balls and blades. I painted his hair grey to suggest he has been surviving on the seven seas for some time. This nicely tied in with his name, which in turn was a nod towards the original inspiration for the sculpt.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

“The Devil takes care of his own!” say the British merchants.

“Non. C’est simplement une abondance d’armures” thinks captain Blanc according to Traducteur nommé Google.

The captain was great fun to paint. A well-sculpted miniature will do that! No guesswork on facial features, no lacking definition or the usual annoying little problems often found on minis. It’s much easier to paint a nice miniature to a good standard. There were some quality issues uncharacteristic of Hasslefree, namely some pitting of the metal on the sword and the back of his coat, but nothing serious.

I went for a combination of bright and subdued tones, and picked a darker skintone than normal. After complaining in my previous post about laying paint on too thick, I paid extra attention to thinner layers and utilized my wet palette to what I think is good effect. For once, I’m really, really happy with a finished mini! I even painted some freehand wood grain on his peg leg, and I all but hate painting freehand.

As the lightbox tends to have really harsh lighting (note to self: might need a thicker filter), here’s a more natural, warmer shot of Blanc as part of the Queen’s crew. As you can see, he’s a big, bulky guy:

Pirate crew

Click for a larger version

That’s miniature #4 of 2017 finished. I’m going on a six week trip to Malaysia and Indonesia starting next Sunday, so that will sadly put an end to my painting for a month and a half. Still, I can think of far, far worse distractions, and obviously I’ll be taking a bunch of pirate books along for some holiday reading.

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From the painting desk #47 – Governor’s retinue

January 23, 2017

Port George finally has a crown-appointed governor and I have my first painted minis of 2017! I finished painting a trio of miniatures I started in late 2016, representing the governor, his son and their manservant. All three are from different manufacturers, with the governor being a Front Rank gentleman, his son a Galloping Major sailor character and the manservant a Black Cat Bases bounty hunter.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Governor Weatherby is a classic, stylish gentleman. I’ve yet to decide whether he’s a governor of the pirate hanging type or the pirate embracing type. The mini was good fun to paint. I went for a bright blue for the jacket, but otherwise kept the palette fairly muted. I wanted the governor to look well-off but not ostentatious, leaving the latter for his son. Being a Front Rank miniature, he is fairly small, but I think that actually works quite well here, as it does make him look a little older. That’s also why I decided to make his hair grey.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

I wanted the governor’s son to be something of a foppish dandy, so I gave him a purple jacket combined with a yellow waistcoat. The emerald green bows on his plait and hat add even more touches of colour, and obviously all of his button are bright brass. I botched painting his left eye, and decided to make it into an expression. I think the end result makes him quite characterful, as he is glancing sideways somewhat nervously and reaching for his sword. The expression, the large hands and smallis head make him look young and awkward, which is exactly what I wanted. Well, initially I didn’t know that it was exactly what I wanted, but I love the end result.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Stylistically the manservant, Mitchell, is an entirely different case from his employers. “Manservant” is obviously just a polite expression for “bodyguard and muscle”, and the mini’s huge size (typical of Black Cat Bases sculpts) works in this regard. I’ve always loved the look of a greatcoat with the collar up, so this was a real treat. I wanted Mitchell to look properly badass, so I kept the colours dark with the exception of the boots and the pistols. For some extra diversity and to spark the imagination regarding his background, I gave him dark skin. I’m really happy with the greatcoat and the miniature in general, I think he looks hard as nails.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

I had a lot of fun painting these three, as they’re all very different both in style and colour scheme. While the governor and his son are really bright and colourful, their servant is dark and menacing. As it is, I think these three minis manage to create a nice little narrative. It’s stuff like this that really keeps up my enthusiasm and motivation for a project! These three have been waiting for me to finish them for a while, so finally getting them done is extra rewarding to boot.

I’ve been thinking that I need to improve my painting. While I’m fairly happy with my basic level, I tend to get lazy with thinning paint, layering and blending. I think there’s plenty of space for improvement there. Of course taking massive closeup photos of minis doesn’t help either! Feedback on this front much appreciated.

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