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Jolly good!

October 14, 2017

This is another quick piece I finished some time ago. Whether pirates or redcoats, you can’t stay on your ship all the time, so you’ll need a boat to reach the shore.

It’s a Playmobil boat that came with a larger ship I bought. I’d been meaning to make something out of it, but it just kept slipping to the back of the queue until one day I just happened to pick it up and finished it fairly quickly. After chopping off all the Playmobiley bits and making a new deck from cardboard, I added planking from coffee stirrers. I then put in a small swivel gun I picked up as part of a pirate lot earlier this year, and…that’s it, actually. Nice and simple.

The finished jolly boat looks quite decent and comfortably fits six miniatures on 28mm bases. I kept the style very neutral, so it works equally well with pirates and more legitimate types.

Picture of a playmobil jolly boat

Click for a larger version

Picture of pirates in boat

The pirate queen makes her landing

Picture of boat with soldiers

Captain Pemberton-Smythe and his troopers accompany the governor

I’m currently working on my new gameboard that has plenty of shoreline, so this boat will definitely see use, and I’ll likely get a few more. Maybe I’ll be able to recreate this wonderful scene from Black Sails:

 

 

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Bark bark bark

October 12, 2017

It’s terrain time! Lately I’ve been working on a variety of fairly low intensity scenery builds – pretty much things I can work on while watching Killjoys and The Expanse.

I picked up the idea for these somewhere online, as these things happen. Someone had used bark to make rocky outcrops, and as I was about to head to our summer place, I figured I’d pick some up and give it a try. Pine bark is plentiful in Finland, and after a few days without rain it was easy to gather up more than enough dry pieces.

The whole process was delightfully simple. I chucked the bark pieces into the oven for a 20-30 minute bake at 200°C. This not only dried them out and got rid of all sorts of teeny tiny little critters, but it also gave my apartment a lovely wood-fired sauna smell.

I glued the pieces to large oval mdf bases I picked up at a local convention, and went to work. After sealing the bark with watered-down PVA, I started painting them. Using mainly cheap craft acrylics, I first painted the pieces black, and then followed it up with progressively lighter shades of grey, drybrushed on, up to pure white. A quick Agrax Earthshade wash followed, as well as a few licks of green wash here and there.

Before and after

Finishing touches were done by adding in a variety of decorative stones, sand, tufts and shrubs, some undergrowth cut from an Ikea plastic plant and static grass. The end result is…surprisingly nice! I feel these just might be some of the nicest scenery bits I’ve ever produced. I snuck in a secret hatch in one of the pieces, made out of coffee stirrers. An old, battered hatch hidden in the bushes under a rocky outcrop – it just screams “pirate” or “smuggler” to me.

Rocky outcrop made from bark

Click for a larger version

Rocky outcrop made from bark

Click for a larger version

Rocky outcrop made from bark

Click for a larger version

Hidden hatch under a bark rock

Click for a larger version

Captain Pemberton-Smythe leads his men on a hunt for pirates

A special mention goes out to Tajima1 Miniatures, who manufacture wonderful tufts and shrubs for miniatures. Fellow blogger Paul of sho3box fame somewhat gushingly recommended these to me, so I decided to give them a try. I’m happy I did! They’re the first tufts I’ve tried that actually live up to the claim of being self-adhesive, and they look lovely to boot. I’ll definitely be using plenty of these.

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From the painting desk #56 – Dragon

September 9, 2017

There comes a time, when we heed a certain call

and we finally pick up that dragon that we bought when we were 20 or so.

This awesome dragon has been sitting in my cupboard for years and years and years and years. I originally bought it way back when I was designing my own Reign of Fire inspired skirmish game of dragons vs. humans. As the movie was released in 2002, I assume that’s pretty much when the dragon was bought – meaning it has sat unpainted for 15 years. That’s the time it takes for a newborn baby to grow up and go through the Finnish public education system, or for a 20 year old, fresh out of high school geek living with their parents to become a 35 year old dissertation writing geek. Time flies, doesn’t it?

This was the result of yet another Random Platypus painting challenge, this time titled Old and mouldy. It was intended for people to finish pieces that have been mouldering away, so this was a perfect pick. It is a Reaper Miniatures dragon sculpted by Sandra Garrity, and should you want one, it’s still in production. I loved it back then, I love it now. The pose is dynamic and very dragon-y and makes the creature very imposing.

I don’t paint dragons very often, so I wanted to have fun with this one. I wanted to capture the feel of the old red box Dungeons & Dragons cover art by Larry Elmore, with the red dragon leaning over its piles of gold. I’m sure you’ve seen it.

I had originally based him on a 40mm square base, which was pitifully small. I had also propped him up with a piece of wire. Those had to go, as I wanted a more impressive base. A I was documenting the process for the forum painting challenge, here is a before-and-after photo.

Click for a larger version

The new base was a car mount for a cell phone holder – you can still make out the Nokia text in the centre. I had kept it lying around for ages, as you tend to do with stuff like this, in case it’s ever useful. The original store photos show the dragon leaning back on its tail, which I didn’t like. That’s probably why I propped it up with the wire originally. As I wanted to get rid of the wire, I had to gently bend the dragon forward to bring the balance up a bit. Once I’d done this, I pinned it to the base and secured it with ProCreate putty (not shown in the photo).

Painting the dragon was a fairly straightforward process. I knew that my patience for such a large piece would be limited, so I just washed and drybrushed away for the most part. I did do some layering on the belly, claws and teeth, but this was definitely not very delicate painting. The sculpt however is very forgiving, and I’m very pleased with the look.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Obviously the dragon needed treasure. I built small mounds out of ProCreate to represent piles of treasure, and sculpted in a bit of stonework to depict a dungeon floor. The treasure is painted ballast with some decorative jewel beads and painted over with cheap glitter nail polish – I definitely recommend both if you’re ever making miniature treasure stuff!

Click for a larger version

There you have it! A dragon to look nice in my glass cabinet and hopefully to terrorize adventurers in years to come. It would only be fitting for him to actually make it to a game of Dungeons & Dragons, so dear GM, if you’re reading this…

Things have been quiet on the blog front lately, as I’m doing some home renovation stuff and that’s taking up a big part of my time. I’ve still been plodding away at miniatures stuff, so hopefully I can show some of those soon.

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Diana and me

August 20, 2017

It’s my birthday today, and I got a wonderful present a day early. Emmi had booked us a two hour coastal cruise on Diana, a reconstructed late 18th century cannon sloop that sails from Suomenlinna. It was super fun, with the crew dressed in period clothing and in character, with the main actor playing the part of Swedish shipbuilder and scientist, vice admiral Fredrik Henrik af Chapman. Now, this sort of thing can be cheesy and awkward, but I’m happy to report that it wasn’t – the crew played their parts well, the dialogue was witty and funny and they managed to cram a lot of historical information in there as well. The passengers got to help with some of the easy tasks in hoisting and lowering sails, and we got to try our hand in rowing the ship as well. There was also flag signaling and teaching of maritime knots as an additional bonus.

The cannon sloop (or gun sloop) was a type of small vessel designed in the latter half of the 18th century. From Wikipedia:

A gun sloop (Sw. kanonslup) had two collapsible masts and carried chase guns in both bow and stern. They were 15 to 19 meters in length and 3.5 – 4 meters in width while having draft of slightly less than one meter. The sloops had 10 to 12 oar pairs with two men on each oar and two collapsible sloop-rigged masts. Armament consisted of a 12 or 24-pound gun at both bow and stern, though some of the first gun sloops carried only a single gun in the bow, and a single 3-pounder swivel gun on each side. Some sloops carried carriages to allow their guns to be used as a shore battery. When not in combat, the guns were secured at the bottom of the vessel. Crew complement was from 50 to 64 men.

While not exactly a pirate vessel, it definitely gave me a lot of perspective on ship size. I’ve always thought many miniature gaming ships much too small, but they actually seem to be quite accurate! I might need to buy a few for shoreline duty and dedicate the two bigger ships to boarding action scenarios – knowledge can be an expensive thing. Anyway, here are some photos of the cruise, you can click for larger versions. Also, Emmi reminded me to write that she’s the best – she most definitely is.

 

 

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Table thoughts

August 4, 2017

Some time (quite accurately a year) back, I had problems with my gaming boards. I eventually got around those, but I’m now faced with another. While I quite like the look of my current two boards, they’re causing me all sorts of problems. They’re difficult to store, for one, plus there’s a nasty gap between them. They’re the wrong shape, and making some more would only increase the storage problems. Soooo, I’ve decided to get rid of them, and start over. Yeah.

Now, I made it sound a tad more dramatic than it actually is. I have a renovation of my gaming room coming later this year, and as part of that, I sort of want to get rid of the “all corners filled with junk” chic that’s fairly prevalent at the moment. As such, I’m looking to build a more permanent gaming table that can be neatly stored when not in use.

Crafting a gaming table isn’t an easy task at this point in my hobby career. For one, it needs to be really nice. No more random junk strewn over the dinner table. Second, it needs to be gentle on miniatures. I used to have these big Warhammer boards, coated with a mixture of PVA and fairly coarse sand. Yes, it could withstand a hammer (I assume), but it also chipped every single miniature that was knocked over, or placed lying down and accidentally touched. Third, as mentioned above, it needs to be able to be stored fairly easily.

I was thinking that neoprene/mousepad mats might be the solution. Having seen a few very nice ones, I figured I’d just buy one of those and be done with it. Gentle on minis, easily stored, looks nice. The only problems are lack of a suitable print and flatness. There just isn’t a Caribbean beach gaming mat. The few beaches there are, are more Normandy, so they’re too dark. Flatness is also something of a problem, as I definitely want to create at least a small level difference so I can have a beach with some piers on it.

I’m currently experimenting with different materials for covering a gaming table. These are a bit out of the box, as I’m trying a yoga mat and a camping pad. Both have a good balance of softness and firmness, and can hopefully be textured decently with sandpaper. It remains to be seen how well they take glue, paint and static grass. If they do, that’s my gentle-for-minis problem solved. Plus they’re dirt cheap when compared with some craft materials. I’ll let you know how the tests turn out! If you’ve tried this, do tell.

What I’m looking to build eventually, is a loose MDF sheet that I can place on a separate simple table stand. To solve the storage issue, I intend to drill in some discreet holes so I can hang it on the wall. As a terrain board isn’t the nicest decorative element, I’m thinking of attaching a nice print or some lovely printed fabric on the backside of the board. This means that when it’s on the wall, it’s a nice, large piece of interior decor, and can swiftly be taken down for some gaming. It won’t take up floor space either, and should actually look pretty nice. At the risk of tooting my own horn, I’m quite proud of this idea. Even my fiancée was sold on it, which is no mean feat when it comes to interior design…

One of the nicer things about being an adult is that you can actually make something like this. I wouldn’t have dreamed of anything of this sort when starting out as a teenager. Oh, glorious(ly approaching) middle age!

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From the painting desk #55 – Big guns

July 21, 2017

A special double feature this time, somewhat shoehorned into matching a theme! So, big guns it is! Sadly, there’s no sexual innuendo here, nor is it an AC/DC reference. Instead there are just two big guns and a rambling intro.

Click for a larger version

First up is a cabin boy from North Star. That’s not even a very big gun, except in relation to his tiny frame. This was a quick mini to paint and fairly fun to boot – although poses with anything lifted in front of the face are usually a bit irritating. The model also had a really unfortunate mould line running through his hair, and I couldn’t get it out entirely as I didn’t want to destroy the hair texture.

I figured that the cabin boy would be a little runt with little respect shown to him. That meant no fancy clothes, although he appears to have been given a mighty fine pistol – or maybe it’s just something for him to play around with, with no powder or shot? Or maybe, just maybe there’s action going on and all hands on board are needed.

Small minis are quite fan to paint, on account of being, well, small. Very little surface to paint, and with no fiddly details, excessive pouches or suchlike, this was a delightfully easy paint. I’m quite happy with him.

Click for a larger version

The second one is a highwayman by Outpost. I loved, loved, loved painting this one and I like to think it shows. You know how sometimes everything just seems to click, the mini is a joy to paint and you pretty much get everything right on the first go? It happened with this one, and I think it resulted in one of the nicest pieces I’ve painted this year.

I kept the palette simple, with the red scarf and exposed skin acting as focal points in an otherwise muted mini. He wields a blunderbuss – an early form of shotgun that for some reason I can’t articulate is one of my all-time favourite weapons – so definitely fits the big guns theme. The sculpt is nice and clean and lends itself well to painting. If you’re into the genre, I definitely suggest picking up some minis from Outpost.

While originally a highwayman, I intend to use the character as a lackey of the merchant shown in the previous post. Just like with the governor’s henchman, the distinct look of long coat, raised collar and tricorne hat gives out a nice, faceless menacing feel perfect for hired thugs.

They bring this year’s painting count up to 14.

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From the painting desk #54 – Foul capitalist

July 12, 2017

I recently finished another civilian to inhabit Port George, a wealthy man from Blue Moon Manufacturing. He’ll likely be one of the main antagonists, a rich trader with ambitions for extending the sugar industry to Tyburn island. He’s another characterful sculpt, something I appreciate in Blue Moon’s output. His haughty, grumpy look fits the character concept well.

Click for a larger version

I went for rich, clean colours to make him pop. As the red coat is reminiscent of the colour scheme of my soldiers, I threw in some additional colour to distinguish him from those.

While painting him, I had a very distinct mental image of the kind of person he is. A main inspiration is the character of Cary Warleggan from the highly recommended Poldark tv show. He’s a cruel, greedy banker and utterly despicable.

The picture says it all, really

My time here in Dublin is drawing to an end in a few weeks, and that’s crazy! Seems like we got here just a few weeks ago…

Oh yeah, the merchant is painted miniature #12 this year.

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