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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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From the painting desk #53 – A cloaker

June 25, 2017

Like most hobbyists (I assume), I tend to buy miniatures that I like. Why bother with rubbish, when I have a backlog of unpainted minis that I’ll never get through? Occasionally I will make an exception, though. This is one of those cases.

What is a “cloaker”? So nice of you to ask, it is a super silly, old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons monster. Its schtick? To disguise itself as a cloak. Quoting from Wikipedia:

The cloaker clings to a wall, hiding among actual cloaks and blankets, resembling a semi-circular cape with a long mace-like tail, and has two claws at the ends of the “cape”. Numerous round black, button-like eye spots help complete the illusion; when the cloaker conceals its tail and claws it is hard to distinguish it from a real cloak.

Yeah.

For the reason I ended up painting a cloaker, we have to backtrack several years. I tended to frequent the Frothers forum, where people would post new miniature releases for often harsh but honest commentary. Up came the Black Tree Design cloaker:

“Wear me, human.”

As you can see, the sculpt is a bit rough, to be extremely kind. From pretty much that day on, “cloaker” became shorthand for a terrible miniature – “That’s dire. A real cloaker.”

Skip forward years and years, and a discussion on the Random Platypus forum – a haunt of many former Frothers – starts. The forum has paint-alongs, where various members paint miniatures that fit a common theme (“Villain” or “Giant”) and share their progress. Thus began the cloaker paint-along.

I’ll be honest with you, the cloaker miniature is terrible. It’s soft, it looks unfinished, it has a weird lumpy base…yet there’s something there. It might be the goofiness of the concept, or the legendary status the miniature has attained, but there is something endearing about it.

The sculpt immediately made me think of this:

With that in mind, I went for a very traditional Dracula cape look, painting the inside a deep red and the rest of the cloak(er) black. As one description of the monster says its claws resemble a clasp made of bone, I painted the claws white. I don’t know if it’s just my imagination or a feature of the sculpt, but I saw a definite widow’s peak and painted that in to further enhance the Dracula look.

Click for a slightly larger version

My paintjob was fairly quick and rough. Yeah, it’s an endearing mini and all, but it was something of a chore to paint, as minis lacking definition can be. Still, I’m pretty happy with the result. With the concept, the big lumpy claws and the buckteeth it was never going to be menacing, so I gave it a goofy, somewhat awkward expression which I think turned out well. The deep red makes the inside look disturbingly fleshy.

So there you have it, a little cloaker of a cloaker and it’s funny and awful and glorious. I kind of love it.

Should you want one of your own, go get it here.

 

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From the painting desk #52 – Maroons

June 18, 2017

Maroons were former enslaved Africans who had escaped captivity. The latest character I wrote for my pirate sourcebook  is a maroon leader, and writing that piece of fiction inspired me to paint a few of my Foundry maroons. I’m glad I did!

They’re great examples of the things I love in Foundry minis, as they were easy and fun to paint, simple but not boring, somewhat uniform but still characterful and unique. Formerly enslaved, I kept their clothing drab and a little dirty. They should contrast well with both the neat, colourful look of wealthier citizens of New Port George and the bright, sometimes showy clothing of my pirates.

Two Wargames Foundry maroons with muskets

Click for a larger version

While the maroons will eventually be their own faction, they’ll be a part of my pirates for now. They’re this year’s painted minis # 9 and 10, and I’m starting to see why my unpainted minis pile keeps growing.

Oh yeah, Maroons was a pretty awesome hip hop group as well.

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Outpost highwaymen size comparison

June 14, 2017

Last week the postman brought me some lovely new minis by Outpost Wargame Services. They’re part of their highwaymen range, which also includes victims as well as characters from the City of Vice TV show. As the range features plenty of suitable minis for my pirate project, I’ve been eyeing them for a year or two now. One thing that has kept me from taking the plunge is the lack of comparison pictures available. While there are some here and there on various blogs, I wasn’t able to find a proper size comparison. This post will obviously remedy that and hopefully help out other people who might be wondering about the size.

Now, this isn’t a comprehensive thing by any means, as I’m just using the miniatures that I happen to have at hand here in Dublin. It does cover a fair few of the most typical pirate ranges though. Also of note is that there is no lovely, handy measuring tool here, nor have I standardized the minis in any way – they are just plonked down on 25mm slottabases with their integral bases intact. The exception to this is the Black Scorpion pirate who doesn’t have an integral base.

Click for a larger version

As you can see, the best matches are Blue Moon and North Star, as Outpost minis are on the chunkier, more cartoony side. This means that Galloping Major and Redoubt 18th century stuff should fit nicely. You can see my previous size comparison with those two manufacturers in this post. Like usual, I will happily use them all together as I’m not picky about 100% size or style matching.

Short and sweet this time, I hope this is of use! I might offer this to OWS just to save others some trouble.

 

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Looking ahead

May 26, 2017

Billy Bones by NC Wyeth

Last night I got to thinking about the future of my pirate project, and figured I’d share some of my plans with you. That way I’ll have them down in writing, too. Having the book project on the go really helps – miniatures inspire me two make up fiction and characters, and vice versa. This stuff might and probably will change as new ideas come up, as these things tend to do. In no particular order:

Port George and New Port George

Instead of having a nice side of town and a shady side of town, they will be two different towns in the fiction. After the original Port George was struck by a heavy epidemic of yellow fever, the better-off residents fled to somewhat higher, drier ground and re-founded Port George, leaving the old town to those too poor or ill to build new houses. In time, pirates and other types settled in and made the old town their own. While the towns are near each other, the residents of New Port George rarely have reason to visit the old town, unless there’s more or less shady business to be done. Even then, they’ll bring protection.

Modelling-wise, I’ll keep on as before. New Port George will have larger, plastered brick houses and a small fort, whereas the old town will have more wooden plank houses, as well as more dirt and decay in general. This way I don’t have to worry about fitting two different styles together.

Maroons

Another faction on the island is a group of maroons – escaped slaves – who have taken up residence in the old, ruined Spanish mission. They mostly keep to themselves, although they do some trading with the pirates. With the new industry plans for the island (see below), the maroons are more than a little riled up, and are bound to cause all sorts of trouble. For miniatures I’ll be using the Foundry minis I bought at Salute a month ago:

© Wargames Foundry

They’re sweet minis, and will find double use as pirates too. My voodoo queen will likely be tied in with them too.

The Spanish mission

Spanish Caribbean buildings with their red pantile rooves are a staple of pirate visuals. I wanted to include them, but also wanted a British town. The solution? Put in an old, deserted 17th century mission town. Not only is this historically plausible, it also gives me the chance to build some Spanish style houses and model an overgrown, somewhat ruined town now inhabited by the maroons mentioned above.

Horrible capitalists

These will be some if not the main antagonists in the setting. They’re wealthy traders who are looking to set up sugar plantations on the island, with all the horrible things they bring along. While I want to address the concept of slavery in the project, I don’t want to dwell on it too explicitly. However, having the drive for building plantations – or maybe the plantations being built – creates suitable tension in my opinion. The traders are trying to pressure the governor, the pirates are disrupting slave trade, the maroons are attacking traders and under construction plantations…there’s plenty here! I have some great minis from Blue Moon that I also bought at Salute, they look haughty and rich and should be a great fit for the job. I might need some henchmen for them as well.

While I don’t want the book to be overtly political, in reality a lot of the pirate issue was about class and race, trade and capital, and I want the book and the project to reflect that – not only for ideological reasons, but historical accuracy as well. It also allows me to posit pirates as the protagonists, which is something I want to do. And of course rich slave traders make for wonderful antagonists.

So, that’s what’s in store. Over two years with this project, and more and more hyped – wonderful!

Pirate illustration: Billy Bones by NC Wyeth, public domain

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