Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

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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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Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2016

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Looking back on 2015

December 31, 2015

Photo by Anna Langova, public domain

There’s six hours of 2015 still left here in Finland, so just enough time for a quick look back on the year miniature-wise.

I had yet another lovely trip to Salute, and this one set the pace for my mini projects for the year. I bought a pack of Foundry pirates, and off I went!

As you’ve no doubt noticed, this year has been pirates, pirates, pirates. Building a ship, building a town, building a terrain board and occasionally even painting a pirate. Most of the things I’ve done this year have related to pirates, like the civilians (see here and here) that I painted for our Halloween game but will be used in pirate gaming as well.

My pirate fever doesn’t seem to be going away, so expect plenty of pirate-y fun next year as well. While the blog updates have been much more sporadic than in the blog’s heyday, rest assured that it’s not going anywhere. Dissertation work, sappy love stuff, video games, role-playing games and the like can be real distractors sometimes – although luckily fun ones.

What’s up for 2016? In no particular order:

  • Painting up pirates, 18th century civilians, navy types and colonial soldiers
  • Building a second terrain board as well as a few different extra pieces
  • Modifying and painting a bunch of houses
  • Basing and touching up loads of palm trees
  • Building and painting plenty of scatter terrain
  • Most likely sneaking a few RPG miniatures in as well
  • Salute 2016 as well as visiting plenty of awesome sights and people in the UK and Ireland
  • All the things I forgot

I’m actually quite happy with the year seen through hobby glasses. I could’ve painted more minis (I count 33 but there may be more), but that’s true for pretty much every year. I actually managed to finish quite a few things and keep a project steadily going. Certainly looking forward to next year!

As a final thing, all the best to all you regular readers (both old and new) as well as random wanderers. I always enjoy reading your feedback and it’s a major part of making this whole blog thing an enjoyable experience. Hope to see you in the future as well.

Long story short, happy new year 2016 everyone!

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Gifts for a miniature hobbyist

December 11, 2015

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It’s December 11th and Christmas is less than two weeks away. I assume that in many homes two things are happening:

  1. A miniature hobbyist is wishing for a present related their hobby, knowing that they’ll almost certainly not get one.
  2. A miniature hobbyist’s significant other, parent or sibling is desperately wanting to give said hobbyist a hobby related present, but doesn’t have a clue where to start.

So I figured I’d write up a little something to help potential gift givers, so all you hobbyists can just nonchalantly leave this blog post visible. Of course, this isn’t in any way a hint to anyone I know…

Do note, that this isn’t too serious a post. You don’t need to get anything for Christmas. But hey, for those interested here goes.

First of all, if you don’t know what the whole miniature hobby is about, buying presents related to it can be a chore. It’s obviously a dear activity to someone close to you, so you want to get it right. Then again, if you’re not familiar with the various aspects of the hobby, the amount of stuff on offer can be overwhelming. Here are some general guidelines:

Miniatures

I think this is the most risky choice. Most miniature enthusiasts, especially if they’ve been doing their thing for years, have more than enough miniatures filling their cupboards, closets, garages and so on. Adding random miniatures to the “lead pile” (as it’s affectionately known as) might actually cause extra stress. If they’re playing fantasy and scifi games, getting them a few Napoleonic soldiers may give them Present Face:

Even if you do know what they’re gaming, there’s still the question of factions. If they’re collecting the Dark Brethren of the Axe then the Shadowy Brethren of the Sword miniatures you bought them…oh well. If they collect historicals, it’s worse, believe me.

One way to get around this is to just buy something that you like and ask them to paint it. There are plenty of hobbyists who buy miniatures simply because they look nice. Enter “wargaming miniatures” or “roleplaying miniatures” into Google and off you go!

There are also a lot of miniatures out there that draw inspiration from books, films and so on, so if you know their favourites, go for it. It’s easy too, just type “[favourite fiction] miniatures” into Google and go crazy. You’ll likely end up with forum discussions in the search results, so just check the first few links to see what people have thought to be best fits. If you’re in luck, there are official, licensed miniatures available.

While miniatures are indeed a risky choice, they do send a loving message: you not only approve of the lead pile, but are willing to contribute to it. This really isn’t something to underestimate.

Terrain

Much easier than miniatures, and hobbyists always need more so this is a safe choice. Just check the general style and size of whatever they’re currently working on, and buy something that more or less fits. You’re even safer with generic things like walls, rivers, rocky outcrops, ruins and the like. Size/scale is the most important thing, but even that’s not a huge issue with rivers and such.

Tools and supplies

Another very safe choice, and easily acquired. Hobbyists need a lot of things, and hoard a lot that they obviously might need in the next ten years or so. Paints, brushes, fake grass and the like are nearly always welcome. These keep for years, so even if there’s not an acute need, they’re still useful. There are also plenty of tools that get worn with use, so drills and craft knife blades and the like are quite handy as well. You can also just buy something like sculpting clay or putty such as Fimo, ProCreate or Kneadatite, wooden craft sticks or the like from the local craft or hardware store, as the recipient will surely find a use for them eventually.

Books

Another fairly safe choice, and one that overlaps with non-hobby gifts as well. Art books and films’ “making of” books especially are often very useful for hobbyists as visual guides. If there’s a favourite subject that you know of, you can just pop over to a book store either physically or online, and look for “The art of [movie title]” or something similar. You’ll find things like this or this, for example. Historical books are also often useful, and as there’s a huge variety, there’s probably plenty that haven’t been read yet by the recipient. Just make sure to check the bookcase first! If you’re looking online, Osprey Publishing has a huge selection.

Vouchers

The safest and the most boring choice. Stores often offer different gift cards, and hobby stores are no exception. If you want to play it safe but get something hobby related, this is the way to go. As many miniature stores are mainly online affairs, this is especially useful for last minute gifts.

Now, these suggestions might seem like strict instructions, buth they’re not. Gifts should be a thing expressing love and appreciation for the other person, not just a way to get stuff we want for free – something especially important to remember around Christmas time. While wargamers and miniature hobbyists love stuff, from my own experience I can tell that we love our hobby and our craft even more. Showing respect and genuine interest in the things we build and paint and even offering help every now and then is often more important than any physical thing you can get. It’s often said that with presents it’s the idea that counts, and while we hobbyists may be a nitpicky lot, it holds especially true in this case.

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Zest-it brush cleaner – a review

August 13, 2015

I have a confession to make: I’m rubbish at cleaning my brushes. I never wash them with anything more than water and if they start drying up, I’m quick to relegate them to drybrushing, basecoating or glue spreading. I’m sure I’m not the only guilty one – you probably have a few of those brushes that you really, really used to like, but which are all but useless as they’re clogged up with old paint. Every now and then (once every six years or so) I get the idea of trying to revive my old brushes, dunk them in turpentine for very little result, gag at the stench and eventually chuck the old brushes in the bin.

On one forum or another I ran into a product called Zest-it. It was labeled “Acrylic Brush Cleaner and Reviver”, and piqued my interest, especially as a lot of positive things were said about it. Why not, I thought, and put in an order for a small, 125ml bottle.

zestit

In a week or so, a plastic bottle filled with clear, yellowish liquid arrived, and a trip to our summer cottage (hence the phone camera photos) provided me with some extra time to try it out. I chose an em-4 synthetic brush, that I had been using for a year or two, subjecting it to some pretty harsh conditions as it has been my go-to brush for basecoating, inking/washing large surfaces and painting sandy bases. As a result of this loving treatment, the brush was clogged with dry paint from the ferrule up, leaving only a few millimetres at the very end pliable. In other words, it had one foot in the brush grave already.

I poured out some Zest-it into a glass jar, and was surprised with its fairly pleasant odour. Zest-it is made out of orange terpenes, making it basically a sort of orange turpentine. While it’s not something you’d want to spread around your room as a refresher, it’s far more pleasant than turpentine or mineral spirits.

I started by simply sloshing the brush around in the liquid for a while. Sadly, this did nothing – either more time was needed or I’d bought something completely useless. Hoping for the former, I built a high-tech brush cleaning setup from masking tape, allowing me to submerge the whole of the bristles in Zest-it without crushing them against the bottom of the jar:

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An hour or so later, I removed the brush and wiped it on a piece of tissue paper. I was happily surprised to see streaks of black paint left behind, so proceeded to wash the brush with shampoo and warm water. There was significant progress, as half of the brush had gone from stiff-dry to soft and pliable. Encouraged by this, I left it in Zest-it overnight. Here’s the result:

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Click for a larger version

As you can see, the difference is huge. While any semblance of a sharp tip is long lost, 24 hours ago this was a brush on the verge of being thrown out, basically a lump of dry paint, and now it looks like it will serve for another year or two. Based on this small sample, I can say with conviction that Zest-it works and is well worth its price, especially if you have a lot of old dead and nearly dead brushes. As a disclaimer, I haven’t yet tried it on non-synthetic brushes, and will amend this review if there’s a big difference.

I bought mine through Amazon UK, and the 125ml bottle which should last me a while was a little under £7. Larger quantities are much cheaper per litre, but I wanted a small bottle to test the product. Do note that there are several different Zest-it products, so be sure to choose the one for acrylic paints.

Overall verdict: Zest-it Acrylic Brush Cleaner and Reviver is very useful for the miniature painter and you get good value for your money. It revived a brush that I thought was long gone, and I assume it will save me plenty of money in the future in terms of getting more service out of my brushes.

For more information, you can visit the manufacturer’s site.

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Bless those Swedes #3

July 21, 2015

I’ve noted in previous posts that IKEA is often a very nice place for a wargamer to visit, so here’s my third instalment of Bless those Swedes (see here and here for the previous ones).

Recently the photo quality on the blog has deteriorated, mainly due to me not focusing that much on lighting. As I like quality photography as much as the next person, I wanted to do something about this, and the solution was quite simple. I just bought one of these TJENA boxes:

tjena

Photo © IKEA

Combined it with a set of these DIODER led strips:

dioder

Photo © IKEA

And ended up with this (with an added A4 sheet):

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Now as you can see, the light is fairly yellow in tone, and the brightness isn’t the best possible – which was a bit of a letdown. However, this was easily remedied by using my desktop lamp with a daylight bulb:

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

As a result I can shoot fairly nice pictures using my old pocket camera, spending very little time on colour correction and achieving lovely, even lighting. The shade at the lower edge was caused by the camera itself due to poor positioning.

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

The wires are neatly hidden behind the separate bottom plate of the box, and there’s a convenient hole in the back for the power cord. All in all this cost me 25 euros, which isn’t a bad price. If you’re looking for a lightbox on the cheap, this might be a way to go. Of course if you can pick up brighter, whiter led lights, all the better! While the difference in photo quality may not appear to be huge, the amount of time saved in post processing is very significant – a lot of my photos have needed a lot of tweaking in Photoshop to make them presentable.

There you go, a lightbox on the cheap which took all of 15 minutes or so to make. Good enough for me!

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Running for my life – Zombierun Finland

June 8, 2014

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While the blog’s zombie content has dwindled in the last few years, I still love the genre. As it happens, I also like running – or rather, jogging. When the opportunity arose to combine these two, how could I possibly miss it? I didn’t.

If zombies and jogging sounds like a familiar idea, you may have run into the game Zombies, Run! (see my review here) which is basically an audio adventure you listen to while running, and has zombies chasing you at random times meaning you have to pick up your pace. Well, Zombierun Finland was basically this but as a live action version: a group of runners sets off for an approximately five kilometre run, with the route infested with zombies of both the shambling and the running variety. Every runner has three “lives” represented by plastic streamers attached to their clothing, and the zombies try to grab these streamers. If a runner loses all of their lives, it’s game over for them.

A group of six from our kung fu school entered as a team (“The Rage Monkeys”). The happening was advertised as a combination of exercise and pop culture experience, and it most certainly was. It was a warm day and it had rained earlier, so it really turned out to be a sweaty evening. I wasn’t just because of the weather, though…

Zombierun Finland was mostly an excellent event. There were some glitches with the biggest being the whole group running off-route before the organizers managed to turn the runners in the right direction. Some runners lost all their lives very early in the run, which was obviously a letdown for them. However, considering that it was a fairly large, first time event produced by volunteers, it was very well executed! The zombies had excellent makeup and props, as you can see from the photos. This really added a lot to the feel of the event.

With the glitches dealt with, on to the good stuff. For me the absolute best thing about the event was the way it created many of the things I love in the genre. The whole run started with a very authentic mass panic. I think a fair few people were expecting an easy start with the zombies steadily trickling in along the way. I know I was. Instead the horde attacked us right off the bat and it was full-on chaos. I was just going along with the crowd when it started parting and it seemed there were zombies everywhere. People were screaming, zombies were moaning…awesome! When we got our group together a few hundred metres later, there was a genuine “is everyone ok? Did you lose any streamers?” dialogue very much in the vein of “did anyone get bitten?”

There were plenty of other genre moments. The slowly starting panic as a runner zombie attacked a large group from behind and created a sort of stampede where you couldn’t see who’s a zombie and who’s a human runner. That was very much 28 Days/Weeks Later. There was the solidarity between strangers in the lull between attacks (“So, where are you from? Man, I was expecting something far easier…”), the cruel logic of letting the runners in front of you distract the zombies to allow you to pass, the tired desperation of not wanting to run another step and seeing zombies up ahead and that feeling turning time and time again into determination to survive. At one point I was genuinely happy to catch up with my two remaining teammates and we had a great “so we’re the last ones alive?” moment.

For me a memorable moment was one near the end of the run, when we entered an abandoned factory. It was dark inside, and I made the mistake of staring into a bright window for a moment, causing a blinding afterimage to obscure most of my vision. Through the afterimage I could vaguely make out zombies shambling in the dimly lit room, adding a good touch of genuine panic to my escape.

So, how did I do? Fairly well, although I didn’t survive. Like plenty of others, I met my end in the murderous final room of the factory – a small enclosed space with too many of the undead. Of our team of six, only one made it to the end alive. Afterwards, with no need to run anymore, we sat at the end zone sweaty, tired, happy and fake-bloody, munching on the donuts, apples and canned pineapple chunks provided by the organizers. Not a bad way to spend time with your friends.

All in all, it was an awesome, fun evening and a really memorable experience. I’m really looking forward to attending next year, and maybe helping the organizers to make it even better. If any of the organizers are reading this, a huge thank you from both me and our whole team for creating such an event and doing a great job with it!

Here’s a bunch of photos lifted (with permission) from the event’s Facebook group. I hope they manage to convey some part of what made Zombierun Finland 2014 great. You can click on any image for a larger version – they open in a new tab. The second photo has our team, clad in black. Yours truly can be seen in the back, entering the underpass.

Photos by Matti Tervonen:

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Photos by Ritva Savonsaari:

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Photos by Anna Eskelinen:

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