Archive for the ‘18th century’ Category

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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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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

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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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X marks the spot

January 6, 2017

The first thing of 2017 painted! I bought this Giant Doom Track Marker from Fenris Games, as to me it definitely fits a trope prevalent in pop culture pirate map imagery – the skull shaped rock (see this or this). Most likely known as Dead man’s rock, Skull rock, Cursed rock or something equally imaginative, this is one of the usual checkpoints when looking for hidden treasure, and as such it fit the project perfectly.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

The paintjob was super simple, and the plentiful texture made this an easy piece. I gave it a black basecoat followed by a highlight layer of grey (I used an airbrush for this, as this is pretty much the level of complexity I can manage at the moment), then followed with progressively lighter drybrush layers and a black wash to dull it down a little. The rock features small, literally beady eyeballs in its sockets. I painted these black, put in a dot of white and gave them a gloss varnish. Onyx stones or the soul of a dead pirate? Who knows.

All in all this probably took less than thirty minutes from start to finish, so it was very rewarding and a nice and easy start to the painting year. In games it will function as a lovely little piece of thematic scatter terrain, like this:

"This is where the magick points?" "Yes ma'am." "Dig, ye scallywags, dig!"

“This is where the magick points?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Dig, ye scallywags, dig!”

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Prime real estate

December 30, 2016

I’ve finally finished the first of my new buildings, a townhouse from TTCombat. It’s part of my nicer part of Port George and will help set the tone for the rest. I’m thinking of doing the buildings in colourful pastel tones as it’s both historically fairly accurate and just looks nice. I have added a fair bit of grime though, to suggest an environment where the humid climate takes its toll on buildings.

28mm town house front

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28mm town house rear view

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28mm town house side view

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The painting process was very straightforward, and I used cheap craft store acrylics. I stippled the paint on fairly thickly with a sponge, which gave the walls some extra texture. After that it was just drybrushing. I gave the roof tiling by using the now familiar roof tiling strips by Warbases. They are a lovely, lovely product, and I really like the result produced.

28mm town house first floor

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28mm town house second floor

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As the building features a fully playable interior, I gave it some attention as well. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should do with the floors, and eventually settled on printing out some suitable textures on thick paper and gluing them in place. While I could have been more careful with the sizing (there are some small gaps), I’m really pleased with the end result and it save me a lot of time and money compared to building the floors myself from coffee stirrers or textured plastic. The inside walls I simply left the same shade of blue as the outside ones. There wasn’t really a need to work a lot on the interior, as I assume it won’t be used that frequently. Some furniture came with the house set, so that will probably get thrown in there at some point.

"Do you like it, darling?" "Oh Francis I love it!"

“Do you like it, darling Emily?”
“Oh Francis it is most agreeable! I much prefer it to Dorset.”

Overall I was positively surprised by the finished building. Painting helps distract the eye and hide the jigsaw effect often prominent in laser-cut mdf buildings and the additional texture helps make the walls pop. The door is still massive, but it’s a very minor gripe. Looking forward to painting more of these! Next question on my mind: what kind of terrain board should I build for these?

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The nicer part of town

November 26, 2016

Work on the pirate-y town of Port George continues! You’re likely aware that I have a fair few run-down buildings for my town already, so it’s time for something different. My grand vision is to have two distinctly different sides to Port George. One is the grimy, pirate side that I’ve been building so far, with mainly wooden buildings, plenty of sand and all in all a hive of scum and villainy. The second is a “proper” side – a fairly prosperous British colonial town, with brick buildings, less sand and marginally less villainy, or at least of a different kind.

The idea is that both of these halves should work as standalone towns as well as combining into a larger whole – maybe separated by a river or something similar. With limited time for building terrain, the more uses I can find for things, the better.

Finding suitable buildings was surprisingly challenging, everything looking either too modern, too old or just stylistically off. As with all the historical accuracy in the project, I wanted to strike a balance between accuracy and pleasing aesthetics, with the latter taking precedence if the first wasn’t jarringly off. Again, “what would this look like in a pirate movie?” was a key question.

Eventually I settled on the following:

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Sarissa Precision Chateau. I’ve been eyeing this piece for ages. It’s super impressive, with lovely detailing. A bit too lovely, as I managed to snap some fiddly bits while putting it together. Nothing catastrophic, luckily! This will serve as the mansion of Port George’s governor and will be the centrepiece of the fancier part of town. I’ve added Warbases roof tiling to the roof, obviously not shown in the catalogue image. The levels are separate, so the inside is playable too.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

TTCombat Venetian house. A nice, simple and suitably generic piece. I bought a pitched roof to go along with it. Both roof styles are removable, so if I want to use the building with a roof terrace, that’s possible as well. The line of Venetian buildings – intended for the game Carnivale, I assume – is really nice, and provides me with excellent choices for expanding the town.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

TTCombat Old Town townhouses. Some more TTCombat pieces, these are intended for Malifaux. Both are large, impressive pieces. The TTCombat stuff is much chunkier than the Sarissa building, meaning it’s both clunkier and sturdier – you win some, you lose some. All the TTCombat buildings have separate floors and the interiors can be used for gaming. There are even stairs connecting the two floors in the townhouses, as well as some super chunky furniture. My only gripe with the TTCombat stuff is the massive size of the doors. Even on a very large 28/32mm miniature the doorknobs are around shoulder height. It’s a minor thing and could be easily fixed, but I don’t think I’ll bother. Warbases roofing tiles will be added to the townhouses to unify them with the rest of the buildings.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Warbases modular #5. The Warbases modular buildings are super simple (and super cheap). I’m thinking of modding this with a portico and some nicer windows and doors. I think it has a tavern look to it, so it could function as a sort of go-between uniting the two halves of the town.

My attitudes towards laser-cut mdf buildings have changed in the past year or two. I used to think very little of them, but after climbing on board the mdf train, I’m definitely seeing the appeal. There’s a huge variety, ample chance for customising and the prices are very decent. Putting them together can be quite satisfying, too!

So, what do you think? Does this look suitably colonial? What do you think of mdf? Does it show that I’ve been alone, writing my dissertation at our summer place in the archipelago, and am starting to crave human interaction?

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